By Michael Tomberlin
The Baldwin County Commission recently temporarily transferred ownership of the 3,000-acre property to the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. The BCEDA is authorized to participate in the new Growing Alabama state tax credit program. That Alabama Department of Commerce program allows private companies and individuals to get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for investing in preparation and infrastructure improvements to industrial sites.
Alabama Power and CSX are investing $5 million to:
- Create a CSX rail spur off of the rail line that runs along the southern border of the site.
- Grade 200 acres of the property.
- Create a 1 million-square-foot building pad.
“This is going to help the clients that we bring to the site visualize their location,” said Lee Lawson, president and CEO of the BCEDA. “The location that we’ve chosen to do all of the work on is really the sweet spot of our site where a lot of projects have gravitated toward, so we really feel like it will truly enhance our marketability.”
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the property stands out among what Alabama has to offer.
“The Baldwin County Mega Site is certainly in a class of its own,” Canfield said. “I think that these upgrades and infrastructure are going to do nothing but make it more marketable and create more opportunities for this part of Alabama. We’re very hopeful about its future.”
Patrick Murphy, vice president of Marketing and Economic Development at Alabama Power, said this fits into Alabama Power’s long-standing economic development mission.
“Something we constantly strive to do in the communities that we serve and work with is having prepared product, so by the additional investment being made in that community on that site just elevates that site to be one of the most marketable mega sites in the whole Southeast,” he said.
“We just want to continue those partnerships we have,” Murphy added. “We’ve been blessed to be in this state for 100 years doing economic development and working with our allies at the state and local level. It’s all about ultimate product you have and we’re confident this will enhance the opportunities for Baldwin County and the state of Alabama.”
The South Alabama Mega Site has been in the running for several big projects that ended up choosing other locations. Lawson said you can’t celebrate coming in second place in the site selection process, so the hope is the improvements will lead to a win.
“We’ve had a lot of great companies look at it,” Lawson said. “We’ve been close. That just gives us validation that we’re doing the right things and we’ve got the site in a great spot.”
Canfield said getting sites ready for development can be a challenge in some areas of the state and the Growing Alabama program is aimed at helping communities get assistance from corporate partners.
“There’s a lot of land in Alabama,” he said. “Sometimes not all of it is very cost-effective in terms of economic development products.”
The Baldwin County Commission purchased the property now known as the South Alabama Mega Site in 2012, bordered by Interstate 65 to the north and CSX railroad tracks to the south. That railroad gives a direct link to the Port of Mobile, a main economic and trade link to the rest of the world.
“The South Alabama Mega Site is a designated CSX Select Site, which is a development-ready property that has met a rigorous list of criteria,” said Shantel Davis, CSX vice president of Real Estate and Facilities. “Now with the site enhancements planned by BCEDA, the door is open wider for companies looking to build a rail-served manufacturing operation.”
The property is also a certified AdvantageSite by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, meaning all of the necessary steps have been taken to ensure it is ready for a company to start construction immediately.
The new improvements will build on the other certifications the site has earned.
“This is a win-win for Baldwin County in getting these enhancements that will also boost the profile, the value and the attractiveness of our site to potential companies looking for a new site,” Baldwin County Commission Chairman Skip Gruber said.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama NewsCenter website.