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Alabama Farm Center coming to county

The future of Chilton County has a heading, and it includes the development of the Alabama Farm Center at ALFA Centennial Park.

The plan to build the farm center was proposed during an announcement ceremony at Clanton City Hall on Feb. 26. The estimated cost of the project is $100-150 million.

“I feel like a kid at Christmas time with a package under the tree,” Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver said. “This is something that will benefit us beyond our lifetime.”

The timetable of completion is estimated in the next two to three years.

Chilton County was selected out of 11 sites throughout the state that were considered during the evaluation process.

According to state ALFA President Jimmy Parnell, it is time that Chilton County begins “exploiting our unfair advantage.” It is an advantage that exists due to its central location in the state and its proximity to the interstate.

“Every other county in the state would like to have this opportunity,” Parnell said.

The county’s “unfair advantage” played a major role in ALFA’s final decision.

The idea for the farm center came about during conversations pertaining to how ALFA could celebrate the state’s bicentennial.

According to Parnell, the conversation eventually swung from creating trinkets as giveaways at events to the creation of a farm center.

“We decided to aim higher,” Parnell said.

The farm center will sit on a 500-acre parcel of land that was purchased by the county and the City of Clanton three years ago. The property sits between County Road 145 and Interstate 65 at Exit 212 directly behind the east rest area.

“We’re [County Commission and Clanton City Council] working together for the first time in I don’t know when,” Driver said.

Not all 500 acres will be built on, but the acreage should allow for plenty of parking that can be used on event weekends.

The plan is for the complex to consist of 11 buildings, which will include a main exhibition hall, along with four enclosed structures and the rest being open-air.

The largest building will have a capacity of 6,500.

Once the facility is built, it will be the 10th such complex of its kind in the United States.

The farm center will be modeled after the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agriculture Center in Perry, Georgia, and a complex in Grand Island, Nebraska.

It will not only host agriculture events, but also have the ability to host car shows, RV shows dog shows, even the state fair.

“Anything you can imagine,” Parnell said.

The farm center is expected to bring in 120 new jobs and grow to 400 with the inclusion of jobs created through the addition of hotels and restaurants.

Parnell stressed the importance of RV hookups when hosting events at the complex. He stated that the RV sites could help bring in finances once the facility is operational.

According to Parnell, some financing has been secured, but they are still searching and in negotiations with possible future financiers.

“I look forward to the day when we can meet out at the facility and have some fun,” Parnell said.