Expanding industry good news for Chambers

Published 11:47 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

The 2017 New and Expanding Industry Report released this week by Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Commerce had some very good news for Chambers County. Chambers ranked among the top five counties in terms of job creation last year. The four counties ranked ahead of Chambers – Jefferson, Madison, Montgomery and Mobile – all have a much greater population base than Chambers County. In the 2010 Census, Jefferson County had approximately 660,000 people, Mobile County over 400,000, Madison County was in the neighborhood of 335,000 and Montgomery County 230,000.

What’s our population? 34,000.

It’s an amazing feat for Chambers County to be on that kind of list. No doubt about it, we are doing the right thing when it comes to job creation. I think we’re on the cusp of even better days ahead.

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Much credit for this must go to our elected representatives and especially the staff of the Chambers County Development Authority, better known as the CCDA. Obviously, a great job is being done in the way of promoting Chambers County as a great place to live, work and raise a family. In the final analysis, that’s what attracts companies to come this way and for existing companies to grow.

Our CCDA executive director, Valerie Gray, credits a team effort for this.

“There’s no magic solution,” she said. “Hard work, effective communication and persistence all factor into this success.”

Gray said that it’s gratifying to be successful in something many doubters never thought we could do.

“We’re providing hope four our future,” she said.

Valley Mayor Leonard Riley made a very good point along these lines at Wednesday morning’s groundbreaking for a new 375,000-square-foot  distribution center in Valley Industrial Park.

“This is all about bringing jobs back to our community,” he said. “We want people to be able to live and work here.”

There were doubters who thought it folly for the City of Valley to purchase the WestPoint Home property behind the Lanier-Carter Mill site. As with any sizable investment, the city took a risk in doing this, but it’s already paying off. The new distribution center for WestRock is on pace to be in operation by January 2019. This will create around 50 jobs that aren’t here now. Most likely, most of those employees will be people from the local area. They won’t have to drive out of county to go to work.

It’s no secret that WestRock is a growing company and a great place to work. They have grown from 20 employees at tis start in 1996 to 382 today. There are five production lines making those paper cartons that soft drinks and beer come in. Make no mistake about it, when you buy packaged drinks you are helping the local economy.

The WestRock distribution center will be the first new tenant in the Valley Industrial Park. I think many more are to come. The city has finished second thus far in three major economic development opportunities. There’s bound to be our share of wins along the way. It’s only a matter of time before we have some announcements of new projects coming this way.

The I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Montgomery is growing like crazy, but nowhere is there a site like Valley Industrial Park. It’s the better part of 800 acres right off Exit 77. Access roads, water, gas and electricity are already in place. It’s truly a great asset to have.

It’s a good thing we didn’t have pessimists and nay sayers making decisions for us about investing in an industrial park.