By Mike Tomberlin
The Sylacauga Industrial Development Board is building a 60,000-square-foot spec building with the help of the Alabama Power Speculative Building Program.
The $1.35 million project will be built in the S.B. Pinkerton Industrial Park. Officials held a ceremony last week to break ground on the project.
“For a property like this, really for the area, what it does is it gives us an opportunity to attract companies,” said Calvin Miller, executive director of the TCEDA. “In a lot of cases, if you have a building available, they will give you a look. Otherwise, you’re just like 67 other counties and you have to differentiate yourself.”
Dalvin Marsh, SIDB chairman, said getting a company to come to Sylacauga to look is important.
“It’s easy to show a piece of land, but it’s also easier to show a piece of land with a building that’s already partially built on it,” Marsh said, adding that there have been a number of instances when a company came to look at a spec building but ended up picking another site in the same industrial park or in the city.
Marsh said the Alabama Power program “makes things happen.”
Shane Kearney, Economic Development manager with Alabama Power, said Sylacauga has demonstrated what it can do with a spec building, having filled four of them before with companies that now have created more than 400 jobs.
“They have a track record of filling these buildings,” Kearney said.
Sylacauga is a perfect example of the kind of preparation Alabama Power provides communities to be ready for when the opportunity comes.
“If you’re not prepared, you’re not going to win projects,” Kearney said. “That’s one thing our group has been doing for many years – not just with this program, but going into communities, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and helping them get strategic plans ready to prepare for opportunities to come.”
Laura Strickland, executive director of the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce, said industrial projects are one of the key drivers of an area’s economy and a community’s growth.
“If people are working, they’re going to be spending money in our community and we’re going to see other aspects of our community continue to grow as a result of this industrial development,” she said.
A speculative building is a proactive approach in which a city is saying it expects to lure new industry into the city.
“The city of Sylacauga is committed to bringing new, good-paying jobs to the city,” said Sylacauga Mayor Jim Heigl. “This investment is in the future of Sylacauga men and women who will someday work there to provide a better life for their families.”
Many companies looking to establish operations in an area want a facility that is close to ready for occupation. The new spec building will be easily modified for any number of industries that would choose to locate there.
“Having a site is a big step but having a spec building to show a company really puts you at another level when competing to win an industrial project,” Marsh said. “We’re fortunate to have the Alabama Power Speculative Building Program that helps communities like Sylacauga put our best foot forward with first-class properties.”
The Alabama Power Speculative Building Program began in 1991. It provides no-interest loans to qualifying entities with qualifying sites to finance a majority of the costs of constructing a spec building or, in some cases, preparing a site.
The Sylacauga project is the 29th spec building for the program. More than 1,500 jobs have been created with projects that have located in the spec buildings.
“Alabama Power’s commitment to economic development in this state isn’t limited to project recruitment,” Kearney said. “Much of what we do is helping communities be ready for economic development opportunities and the Alabama Power Speculative Building Program is a prime example of that.”
Miller said projects with a tight timeline for starting production often need a spec building they can quickly complete and begin operating.
“Having a speculative building gives a company an added reason to consider locating in Sylacauga,” Miller said. “We deal with companies all of the time who are looking for a building they can quickly customize in order to begin production as soon as possible. Sylacauga will now have a site to present to such a company.”
Miller said Sylacauga’s first spec building built with the program is expanding to twice its previous size.
“Hocking International Laboratories is doubling its size by adding 80,000 square feet,” Miller said.
He said the Alabama Power Spec Building program is vital to communities like Sylacauga.
“It’s very important because a lot of smaller areas could not build these things without the help of the power company,” he said. “Not only does their program come with the financing, it comes with the help of Alabama Power Company’s economic development group, which is one of the most effective and aggressive economic development groups in the state.”
Hogg Stone & Associates Engineers Inc. designed the new spec building, which is being built by Gaston Construction. The project is slated to be completed in January 2020.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama NewsCenter website.