Industries Set Up Shop

Agency brings variety of companies, hundreds of jobs to Etowah County

Three new industries added more than 100 jobs here in 2006, and more than 300 jobs will be added this year by industries, said Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority.

McCain said Cintas, the largest uniform supplier in North America, invested about $8 million in opening a new high-tech laundry facility in the Gadsden Airport Industrial Park. The company had a facility in East Gadsden that employed about 30. Cintas general manager Mark Hildebrant said the facility, which opened in August, employs 118 people, and the company still has a few positions to fill.

McCain said Tewana’s Specialty Foods in Glencoe opened a facility to produce candy, confectionery and other food. It is in the process of adding about 30 employees.

Rigid Building Systems hired some people last year and will begin hiring the bulk of its work force this year, company officials have said. The company is expected to employ 200. While the city has spent more than $1.5 million more than had been projected on site preparation work, McCain said payback on the project will be fast because the firm will collect sales tax on its pre-engineered buildings. McCain explained that most industries do not collect sales taxes because their products are not sold at retail.

Company officials have said they hope sales here will reach the level of its Houston plant, about $80 million annually. That plant employs 300. McCain said even if sales here do not reach that level and if some sales are tax exempt, the plant will produce a minimum of $400,000 in sales taxes annually for the city. The city also will receive revenue from the occupational license fees and other taxes. McCain said the only reason he recommended the city not put a cap on site preparation work costs for Rigid – which was the first time the city had done that – was because of the revenue the city would receive from sales tax collections. Because of the cost overruns, city officials have said future incentive packages should have caps.

More industries plan to move in, bringing more jobs.

An automotive stamping plant has selected Gadsden as the location for a second plant. McCain said NARMCO group will employ about 80 people, with wages averaging $13 an hour plus benefits. Prince Metal Stamping, which is part of NARMCO, located here in 2004. That plant also employs about 80.

Another industry set to open in Etowah County this year is Wimbish Enterprises, which bought the Progressive Plastics building in the Gadsden Commerce Center. It initially will employ 20, McCain said. The company will produce plastic injection molding of automotive parts.

The county’s jobless rate at the beginning of 2006 was 4.2 percent. By November, it had dropped to 3.2 percent, an all-time low. So, with unemployment at historic lows, McCain said his agency has been concentrating not just on jobs but on “better jobs.” “We’re going after jobs that pay more money,” McCain said, which also require more training and technical experience.

He said the Industrial Development Authority is close to sealing the deal on three other projects, and the city is looking to obtain additional industrial property.

One is a $15 million food products distribution center considering a site in East Gadsden. McCain said if geological testing is positive, the company will announce 40 jobs initially with wages of $36,000 annually plus benefits for skilled workers and $26,000 annually plus benefits for those with lesser skills. He said construction would start immediately.

He said another possibility is an automotive parts assembly operation that would create 30 jobs. McCain said company officials have recommended to the company’s president a site in the Airport Industrial Park. If selected, construction would start early this year.

A third prospect considering Gadsden is an automation equipment manufacturer looking at an existing building, McCain said. The company would create 20 jobs and grow from there.

Several prospects visited late last year, he said. Others will visit next week.


By Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer