Chambers County 2016 scorecard: 119 new jobs, $171M investment

Chambers County 2016 scorecard: 119 new jobs, $171M investment
Last summer, Chambers County landed the largest solar energy project in Alabama history, a solar photovoltaic farm near LaFayette. (Origis)

Building on a solid period of rejuvenation, Alabama’s Chambers County attracted more than $171.3 million in new capital investment last year, spurring the creation of 119 new and future jobs, economic development officials said.

In addition, the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA) reported that it has developed an active pipeline for 2017. The group says it is working on 31 projects – 19 industrial, six retail and six commercial.

Valerie Gray leads the Chambers County Development Authority and headed a dramatic turnaround in a county wracked by textile industry job losses a decade ago. (Chambers County Development Authority)

During 2016, the CCDA says the east central Alabama county saw continued growth in its broad-based auto supply chain, improvements to its infrastructure, the development of a new industrial park, and other promising developments. Local schools will see $3 million in new tax revenues from the activity.

Last summer, Chambers County landed the largest solar energy project in Alabama history. A subsidiary of Miami-based Origis Energy, AL Solar A, is investing $140 million to build a 72-megawatt photovoltaic facility as part of a project put forward by Alabama Power and Walmart.

The Origis-operated solar farm near LaFayette will provide renewable energy to Alabama Power, which in turn will sell it to the retail giant. The facility is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year.

Georgia Plating Co., which provides zinc and nickel plating of metal parts for Tier 1 auto supplier Mando, announced plans for a $6.3 million manufacturing facility in the Huguley Industrial Park that will create 45 jobs.

Plastic injection molding company PSR Plastic Solutions announced plans last July to open a $1.7 million facility in LaFayette with 30 jobs.

Chambers County industries use the latest in technological innovations to manufacture products, producing high-quality goods with a skilled workforce. (Chambers County Development Authority)

Expansion activity was brisk, with Leehan America, Ajin USA, Great Lakes Metal Stamping and C&C Fabrication all launching 2016 growth projects. Total investment in these projects approached $19 million, with 31 new and future jobs.

“We always get excited when we announce new industries, but what is just as exciting is that here again we find our cities and county announcing the growth and expansion of our existing industries,” CCDA Executive Director Valerie Gray said.“As we continue with our growth it is always reassuring to know that our cities and county are committed to economic development and diversification for our area.”

Comeback county

Chambers’ unemployment rate – recorded at 5.2 percent in December – has long functioned as a key indicator of the county’s economic fortunes.

After experiencing unprecedented job losses with the departure of the textile industry, Chambers County now boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in Alabama. Thousands of jobs have been replenished thanks to strong economic growth over the past seven years. (Chambers County Development Authority)

Chambers, which borders the Georgia line and is 80 miles from Montgomery, suffered stiff job losses in its textile/apparel industry starting in 2007. By February 2009, the county’s unemployment rate approached 20 percent, with more than 2,800 people out of work.

The arrival of auto suppliers like Ajin and Leehan, as well as the restart of Knauf’s insulation plant in Lanett, have largely replaced the county’s lost textile plants. Only eight counties in Alabama had a lower unemployment rate in December, according to state Department of Labor figures.

Today, Chambers County officials are seeking to build on the momentum with new developments and initiatives:

  • Last year, the City of Valley purchased 400 acres to develop the Valley Industrial Park, which has received the state’s AdvantageSite designation, meaning it is prepared for industry.
  • The roads in Huguley Industrial Park were completely repaved for the first time in 20 years, representing a significant improvement in the county’s infrastructure.
  • The CCDA’s Small Business Grant program assisted 16 businesses with grants totaling $65,000 last year.
  • Plans are coming into shape for the development of a countywide business incubator that would facilitate growth among small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“The successes realized in Chambers County in 2016 came because of the unwavering cooperation between the CCDA and all of our governmental partners,” CCDA Board President Bobby Williams said. “Without this support and teamwork, Chambers County would not have seen the profound growth that so many of our neighboring rural communities have been lacking.”

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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