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News Articles

Commission’s goal: Educate public on megasites

July 14th, 2015

(NOTE: To view more information about Etowah County's megasite development, go to http://www.gadsdenida.org/content.php?id_pages=56#.  There are links to a 35-page report about the development and marketing of this property as a megasite, as well as a one-page summary of site development options.)

The commission has voted to move forward with the project as a megasite, but now must decide other ways to proceed and how to pay for the project.

Clem said the state has a well-refined methodology of calling on companies with potential interest in the site. He said they can move forward, but commissioners already know the project “inside and out.”

“It’s Sales 101,” he said. “If you’re going to call on a customer, you have to have the complete product to sell.”

Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden/Etowah Industrial Development Board, said it is the commission’s role in industrial development to have the flexibility to travel and sell Etowah County as a place to visit, live and work.

The commission has spent about $2.6 million on land, and roughly another 100 acres is needed for the property to be named a megasite to qualify for state development funds. An estimated $450,000 is needed to purchase the property.

The commission has a contract with the IDA to market the property. McCain previously said it will cost about $21 million to have the property designated as a megasite and market or sell it for development. About half that cost could be reimbursed or paid through state development funding.

Clem said Gadsden and Etowah County are very important to the state, and development all along the I-59 corridor is important.

“We want to be there to partner with you,” he said.

Statum said he was excited to hear what Clem told the commission and is excited to move forward with the megasite project.

“This could be great, not only for Etowah County but our surrounding counties,” he said, “and not only our surrounding counties, but the state of Alabama.”

“It’ll be a good, drivable surface, but no asphalt,” Keith Strickland, with Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, said. “But there’s a tremendous cost savings by rebidding.”

Holmes Excavation submitted the low bid. The highest was $1.9 million.

Strickland said he has worked with Holmes Excavation. “I feel good about his ability to do the job and his ability to do the job well,” he said.

Now the property is 850 acres of pine trees. “That’s all (prospects) are going to see,” Ted Clem, director of business development with the Alabama Department of Commerce, said in a meeting Tuesday with the commission. He suggested cutting the trees and even making a section of the property pad-ready.

“You have to be able to visualize that property,” Clem said. “It has to have curb appeal.”

The commission has authorized someone to begin clearing the trees, but the process is going to take a while, Chairman Larry Payne said.

“In several months, it’s going to look like a place that something needs to be put on,” Payne said.

Clem said there are several things to consider to make the property marketable, but there must be a plan in place.

He said compiling details such as what it would take and how long it will take to get necessary infrastructure in place could be helpful.

“If you put it in a three-ring binder, it’s handy, but it’s not going to guarantee success if (the property) doesn’t fit the needs of the company,” Clem said.

He said the rail access is important, but it would be helpful to have an interstate exchange near the site as well. He said there is no funding available for the interstate exchange, but if a company such as Mercedes were to choose Etowah County, it might be a possibility.

The commission has voted to move forward with the project as a megasite, but now must decide other ways to proceed and how to pay for the project.

Clem said the state has a well-refined methodology of calling on companies with potential interest in the site. He said they can move forward, but commissioners already know the project “inside and out.”

“It’s Sales 101,” he said. “If you’re going to call on a customer, you have to have the complete product to sell.”

Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden/Etowah Industrial Development Board, said it is the commission’s role in industrial development to have the flexibility to travel and sell Etowah County as a place to visit, live and work.

The commission has spent about $2.6 million on land, and roughly another 100 acres is needed for the property to be named a megasite to qualify for state development funds. An estimated $450,000 is needed to purchase the property.

The commission has a contract with the IDA to market the property. McCain previously said it will cost about $21 million to have the property designated as a megasite and market or sell it for development. About half that cost could be reimbursed or paid through state development funding.

Clem said Gadsden and Etowah County are very important to the state, and development all along the I-59 corridor is important.

“We want to be there to partner with you,” he said.

Statum said he was excited to hear what Clem told the commission and is excited to move forward with the megasite project.

“This could be great, not only for Etowah County but our surrounding counties,” he said, “and not only our surrounding counties, but the state of Alabama.”

BY LISA SAVAGE
Times Staff Writer

 

State official advises commission on megasite project

Published: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 5:43 p.m.

Developing the Little Canoe Creek property as a megasite will be a long and costly process, but the result could be hundreds of jobs in Etowah County.

Ted Clem, director of business development with the Alabama Department of Commerce, met with the County Commission Tuesday to explain how the state can be involved and assist in the project.

The commission has 850 acres and is in the process of acquiring an additional 150 acres to meet the minimum acreage required for a megasite.

The property is between Interstate 59 and U.S. Highway 11, about 4 miles from the Steele exit on Interstate 59. The site will be accessible from Steele Station Road, U.S. Highway 11 and by rail.

The commission in 2008 voted to purchase the first piece of land — about a 200-acre tract — and gradually increased the acreage to the current size, making it the largest site of its type in Northeast Alabama.

“I want to congratulate you for the progress so far,” Clem said. However, there’s still much to be done to prepare the property for a company that needs a megasite.

“This is the unsexy part of economic development,” Clem said.

He said officials in Montgomery are well aware of the Etowah County site and its potential, but many questions remain.

It comes down, he said, to a company’s timeline to choose a site to meet its needs at the lowest capital investment.

“The site needs to be able to meet the timeline they choose,” Clem said.

To be ready for development, a site’s access to infrastructure such as electricity, water, gas and sewer already has to be determined.

“They want to know if you can meet the demands of the infrastructure,” Clem said. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be in place, but there has to be a plan in place. If there’s any question mark, you’re going to be eliminated from the process, because at the end of the day, it comes down to a real estate decision.”

He said quality of life, schools and similar issues mean nothing if the site isn’t what a company needs. “You should do a hard analysis about where your site stacks up against your competition,” he said.

Three other sites in the state describe themselves as megasites, Clem said, one each in Baldwin, Madison and Shelby counties. He indicated it’s also important to see what other states around the Southeast are doing.

Clem said it comes down to what the commission is willing to do to make the project a success, adding, “We’re here to partner with you to win a project.”

Common pitfalls in a project of this nature are what lead to failure, he said. It’s important not to make a promise that cannot be fulfilled.

“It’s a very deadly sin,” Clem said. “If you say we can get this sewer line in 12 months, you better move heaven and earth to make it happen.”

Confidentiality is another important issue. Clem said once the project proceeds and there are discussions with specific companies, non-disclosure agreements usually are signed.

“It (improper disclosures) can ruin a project in a hurry,” he said.

Clem cited a project in Madison County as an example of a group that did it right. He said officials there began working 10 years ago toward economic growth in an area between Interstate 65 and I-565. They moved forward with engineering studies, water, sewer, electricity and gas accessibility plans, and had other infrastructure in place.

A year ago, Polaris announced plans to build a plant that will bring hundreds of job to that area.

“A lot of hard work went into that,” Clem said.

He emphasized that any project takes time and money, and Etowah County officials must decide how to proceed.

“You have to decide what’s the best shot to put the best package together to win a project,” he said.

BY LISA SAVAGE
Times Staff Writer

 

 

 

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Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority One Commerce Square, Gadsden AL 35901 Phone.256.543.9423 Fax.256.547.2351