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Regional industrial park proposed for I-65 corridor

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
A group of elected officials met in Hartselle Friday evening to discuss a proposal to establish a new industrial park in the I-65 corridor between Priceville and Falkville.
A consensus was reached that such a project would benefit the citizens of Morgan County and the resources of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, East Morgan County Industrial Development Association the North Alabama Industrial Development Association should be used to support the plan.
The meeting was held at Country Hearth Inn and was conducted by Bob Francis, chairman of the Hartselle Development Board. It was attended by Mayor Dwight Tankersley, Decatur Mayor Don Kyle, Falkville Mayor Roy Coley, Priceville Mayor Melvin Duran, Somerville Mayor Ray Long, Commission Chairman John Glasscock and District 2 Commissioner Richard Lyons.
Francis opened the meeting by distributing copies of a bound handout entitled "Morgan County's 21st Century Industrial Park -A Regional Initiative." He then reviewed the 14-page document and challenged the elected officials to step up with the leadership needed to make it happen.
He pointed to the Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park in west Decatur as the favorable outcome of an earlier similar venture.
"Now, Mallard-Fox is approaching tenant capacity and the loan which financed it is nearing payoff. If we are to learn from history, the timeline for the park tells us that we should be under way in planning its sequel," he said. "The time has come for blending old and new leadership to bring this about; to build on past experience and to once again call on many of those who helped bring Mallard-Fox to fruition.
"Success in this new venture is dependent on the same county-wide cooperation, vision, focus, energy and objectivity that brought Mallard-Fox to reality," he added.
Francis referred to a recent land use study of the I-65 corridor as an important first step in generating industrial growth.
"Now, we need an implementation plan," he pointed out.
He suggested I-65 frontage north and south of the Copeland Corp plant, totaling 937 acres, as a potential site for a new industrial park. He pointed out the area is near the geographical center of the county and is bounded by I-65, CSX Railroad and Highway 31. Also, existing utilities infrastructure can be reasonably extended to serve the area.
"The county is experiencing lots of contacts from industrial prospects but we are losing out because we can't accommodate their wants and needs," he pointed out. "Hartselle recently lost a prospect to Cullman because they had a spec. building of the size they wanted and we didn't. Also, a medical supplies manufacturer from Germany indicated an interest in Hartselle last fall. They wanted four acres for a $78 million plant. Had we been prepared, we would've had a good chance of landing them."
"We have 500 acres of open, undeveloped land on I-65, north of the city hall," said Duran, "and sewer is accessible. Does the park have to be inside the corporate limits of a municipality?"
Kyle pointed out a municipality would have an advantage as far as the ability to provide infrastructure is concerned.
Coley suggested each municipality with interstate frontage should be given the opportunity to make their best case for the location of the proposed industrial park. "We can get back together and decide and all get behind that particular site. Our community would support any project that benefits Morgan County," he pointed out.
Kyle said the niche of industries looking for I-65 locations should be identified first.
"If we can't identify the viable segment to go after, we won't be successful."
Lyons said segmented industrial sites might work better than one location.
"The location could vary depending on what type of industry we are going after," he pointed out. "A mixed niche might work better. Some industrial prospects may only want road access."
"We all want to bring good jobs into the county," said Long.
"It's not about who's getting the credit."
It was agreed the input of professional industrial recruiters, such as Jeremy Nails of MCEDA, is needed before a decision about location of the proposed industrial park is made.
Francis said he would contact Nails and request information pertaining to what types of industries are looking to locate on interstate frontage. The group agreed to meet again when that information is available.