Industry Growing Despite Economy

For the second year in a row, announced industrial projects totaled more than $100 million, Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority executive director Mike McCain said.

Six announced projects representing a capital investment of $148 million will retain 520 jobs and create up to 287 jobs.

“Statistically, it was a good year,” McCain said, “but we know that there are people out there that are unemployed and underemployed, and we can’t really, truly be pleased until those problems are solved.”

The largest industrial project was Keystone Foods, which is moving from its East Gadsden location and investing $118 million in a new 184,000-square-foot facility at Airport Road and Steele Station Road.

The new facility is expected to be open next fall, company officials said in July, when the announcement was made. The firm annually processes 70 million pounds of chicken and beef. That will increase to 120 million to 140 million pounds.

The Keystone project preserves 520 jobs and brings 150 more.

As a companion project, Southern Cold Storage will build a $9 million distribution center at the Keystone site, creating 40 jobs.

The expansion at Goodyear announced in 2007 also began producing tires this year. The $125 million expansion is expected to be completed in 2010.

No jobs were created, but company officials said the investment was necessary for the plant to remain viable for the future.

McCain said 2008 became frustrating toward the end because the downtown in the economy and the credit crunch cost IDA a couple of projects that otherwise would have located here.

“Obviously, that’s frustrating,” McCain said.

He said a prospect made an offer to purchase the Dixie Pacific building, and that project would have employed 175, but he said an agreement could not be reached with the out-of-state building owner

Coosa Valley Coatings chose a building in West Gadsden for a new plant that would have employed 65, but the company could not obtain financing.

IDA has been working on an electrical products manufacturing project, involving a capital investment of $50 million and the creation of 150 jobs at an average wage of $17 per hour plus benefits, but the company recently postponed further action because of national economic conditions.

McCain said the four-laning of Airport Road, which is being done as part of the incentive package offered to Keystone, will open up hundreds of acres for development.

That will help in recruitment. Etowah County, because of geography and topography, is “land poor” regarding industrial development property, he said.

“This will be absolutely critical to our ability to create good, high-wage jobs in the future,” McCain said.

2008 Industry Scorecard
Keystone Foods — 520 jobs retained; 150 new jobs; investment, $118 million
Southern Cold Storage — 40 new jobs; investment, $9 million
Prince Metal Stamping — expansion; 10 to 12 new jobs; investment, $7 million
Five Star Industrial Service — 55 new jobs within five years; investment, $8 million
S and H Holding research, diagnostic and treatment center — 10 new jobs; investment, $5 million
RC Mold and Machine — up to 20 jobs; investment, $1 million
By Andy Powell
Times Staff Writer