New Industry Announced

Rigid Building Systems will bring Gadsden up to 200 new jobs.

The Houston-based company, which bills itself as the nation’s fastest-growing manufacturer of pre-engineered building systems, has already begun operations in the city and will make a $9.5 million capital investment.

Company officials joined with state and local government leaders Friday for an introduction. Rigid Building Systems will build a facility – and possibly two – at the Gadsden Airport Industrial Park.

They hope to have a grand opening by July 1 so that a Gadsden plant can alleviate “more sales than we can handle in Houston,” company president Fred Campana said.

Rigid Building Systems started 15 years ago with a small investment by two partners. Campana said his firm hopes to be the strongest metal building company, if not the biggest.

“We believe in offering customer service to each and every client that we deal with,” he said.

Alex Ghodsi, Rigid’s executive vice president, said he hopes the company will expand in the West in 2009.

Gov. Bob Riley, in town for the announcement, said Rigid’s decision to locate in Gadsden proves the business acumen of company leaders.

“I understand how you turned $5 into the company you have today,” he said. “You make very good judgment calls.”

Rigid also considered two sites in Tennessee. Cleveland, outside Chattanooga, was Gadsden’s final competition for the project.

“We really chose Gadsden because of the efficiencies that we’ve seen here with the people that we’re working with, and, quite frankly, the incentive package,” Campana said. “It was a good deal for us to come here.”

Mike McCain, executive director of the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority, said six incentives were given to Rigid, including a free industrial site “to match what the competition offered.”

He said that’s done for businesses when payback to the city through occupational license fee revenues is three years or less.

The city will give about $95,000 for site-preparation assistance, with the money to be repaid from a state

grant program that McCain said is certain to be refunded.

“These are not discretionary grants,” he said. “These are statutory grants. We know they’re going to be approved.”

The IDA will provide cost-reduction grants from a portion of the Horizons 2012 funds given by local businesses.

The Bevill Manufacturing Technology Center will offer free start-up space and support services in its building during plant construction, and the Bevill Center, Alabama Industrial Development Training Institute and Gadsden State Community College will offer employee training at no cost to the company.

Also, Rigid will enjoy state and local non-education tax exemptions.

“The tax incentives are all statutory incentives. If a project qualifies, a project receives,” McCain said. The only discretionary incentives are the free site, plus some site preparation assistance.

“What the city does is take a look at the payback,” he said.

Campana said Gadsden’s proximity to Birmingham and its steel industry helped make the decision. Rigid soon will move 1 million pounds of steel from Birmingham to a local warehouse.

Rigid has 370 employees in the United States and 75 more in Asia. Campana said wages in Gadsden will start at about $8 an hour, going up to about $16 or $17 an hour.
By David Clemons
Times Staff Writer