The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation is prepared to invest an estimated $100 million in a new Alabama Farm Center in Chilton County that could create up to 400 jobs and have an annual economic impact of $55 million.
The plans for Alabama Farm Center at Alfa Centennial Park call for a four-building complex on a 500-acre parcel owned by the city of Clanton and Chilton County on the east side of Interstate 65 at Exit 212 between Alabama 145 and County Road 43. The site was chosen from a dozen in the state seeking to win the project.
The Alabama Farm Center will include a 5,000-seat air-conditioned arena, 150,000 square foot exhibition building, 400-stall horse barn, 400 recreational vehicle hookups and a variety of other barns and arenas.
At a time when economic development efforts in the state focus on advanced manufacturing like automotive and aerospace or on expanding the tech economy, Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation President Jimmy Parnell said there are other sectors worth investing in.
“The Alabama Farm Center will enhance the two largest industries in Alabama — agriculture and tourism,” Parnell told Alabama NewsCenter. “As a regional event center, it will attract visitors from across the country for a variety of activities, including livestock and horse shows, festivals, meetings and consumer expos.”
Parnell said the project will make other significant contributions to the state.
“The Alabama Farm Center also will support education and youth development by providing young people a first-class venue to learn, interact and compete,” he said. “While the Alabama Farm Center at Alfa Centennial Park will serve the agriculture community, it will have positive impacts for the entire region as a destination for gatherings of all types.”
Estimates are the Alabama Farm Center will create 300 to 400 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of $40 million to $55 million to the region.
“The Alabama Farm Center will be an exciting new development for Alabama and, in particular, Chilton County and the surrounding area,” said Mark Brown, vice president of business retention and expansion with the Birmingham Business Alliance. “The site for the new facility in Chilton County is near the center of the state, and it will provide easy access for travelers from Alabama and far beyond, which will generate a substantial annual economic impact. We congratulate the leadership in Chilton County for this outstanding success.”
Excitement among local leaders is palpable.
“We are excited to finally be bringing to fruition a project that will forever change Chilton County and Central Alabama,” Matt Mims, vice chairman of the Chilton County Commission, said at Tuesday’s announcement. “Today, we embark on a journey that will long impact the future generations of agriculture.”
The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation began exploring the economic feasibility of a large, multi-function event facility about two years ago. The foundation, which supports youth livestock shows, college scholarships and other agricultural education activities, hired Markin Consulting of Minnesota to evaluate the potential of a regional livestock and event complex. Markin estimates livestock shows, rodeos, dog shows, festivals and consumer events could keep the facility booked over 300 days each year.
Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver believes the facility will be a huge draw to the center of the state.
“With the potential average attendance around 800,000 per year, central Alabama is sure to see an influx from the hospitality industry,” he said. “This project will be a catalyst for growth and development for us all.”
Perhaps best known for its world-class peaches, Chilton County is a strong agriculture county.
“We would like to thank the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation for recognizing the value that Chilton County holds in the agricultural sector of our economy,” said Whitney Barlow, executive director of the Chilton County Industrial Development Board. “It is critical that we invest in our youth and enable them to reach their full potential with opportunities in career tech, workforce development, livestock skills, acquiring leadership responsibilities, as well as other experiences needed to be successful and productive.”
“There are few comparable ag centers in the United States, so this is a great opportunity for Alabama and Chilton County to attract visitors from across the region and country,” he said. “As the Alabama Farmers Federation prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2021, our board of directors has cast a vision to make the Alabama Farm Center the premier livestock and event center in the South.”