2017 ending in a good way for Chambers Co.

Published 9:25 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

Calendar year 2017 is ending in a very good way for Chambers County. We have to be proud of what one of our local high school football teams, the Lanett Panthers, accomplished by going 15-0 and winning the Alabama 2A state championship. Congratulations Coach Clifford Story and staff, and especially the players. You did something this year you’ll always remember. You have bragging rights for life.

The big news that John Soules Foods will have their third production plant in Valley is fantastic. We have to commend  Valerie Gray, Kimberly Carter and Chris Busby of the Chambers County Development Authority, Mayor Leonard Riley and the Valley City Council and the Chambers County Commission for some tireless work, and  mostly, for being in one accord on this.

John Soules Foods’ coming here means a big new payroll turning over in the community. That will be good for local businesses and  local governments. It means an additional $2.4 million in sales and use taxes for local schools that’s not there now.

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Phase One could happen relatively fast. It involves $70 million in building improvements and new equipment for the former WestPoint Stevens distribution center off Towel Avenue. A state-of-the-art processing line will be going in and Valley, Ala. will be turning out up to 120 million pounds of chicken and 30 million pounds of beef in a single year.

People who will be working in the new plant will taking home some pretty nice paychecks. Management-level jobs will pay in the $70,000-a-year range, and maintenance jobs in the $22-an-hour range. Machine operators will make around $12 an hour and unskilled labor in the neighborhood of $11 an hour, which is well above minimum wage.

When Phases Two and Three are implemented over the next five to six years, there will be three production lines and around 500 employees in the plant. At that time, John Soules Foods will be up there with Ajin as the largest employer in the county.

Needless to say, we need to be fans of that John’s Soule Food. This recent announcement offers hope for better things ahead for the Greater Valley Area and Chambers County.

Things are picking up all around us. Norbord has been in full production since early November. This is employment for more than 130 local people. It’s also work for 14 Chambers County loggers and 22 more regional loggers. It sure is nice to pick up that smell of freshly-sawn wood driving through Huguley. Just across Phillips Road from Norbord, Knauf Fiber Glass continues to hum along.

At around one million square feet in size, Knauf is easily the largest production complex in the county. Several hundred people work there, having another nice payroll turning over in the county. Not far from Knauf is West Rock, another really good local company to work for.

As 2017 draws to a close and the curtain rises on 2018, there’s a lot to feel good about  the direction we’re heading. Also this year, it was nice to see Alabama’s largest solar farm come together in LaFayette, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bill Frazer’s articles about it. Thanks to Bill, I also got to see it up close a couple of times.