Gray gives CCDA 2019 annual report

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

LaFAYETTE — Valerie Gray, executive director of the Chambers County Development Authority (CCDA), talked to the Chambers County Commission Monday afternoon about the CCDA’s newly released 2019 annual report. One of the major findings in the report is that Chambers County was rated the state’s fastest-growing economy between 2013-15.

“We are able to compete,” she said.

In 2019 alone, just under $85 million in investments were made in Chambers County, 50 new jobs were announced, 150 acres of land were purchased, cleared and planted. The county has just under 14,000 feet of prime road frontage property ready for development. The county’s median income is approximately $40,000 per household and more than 80 percent of the county’s adults are high school graduates. Close to 3,500 county residents are college graduates.

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In 2019, eight existing industries created a total of 333 new jobs in the county.

“Our grassroots talent pipeline group continues to refine our workforce plan and to improve the pipeline,” Gray said.

Major new businesses in the county include Four Star Freightliner in Valley and Tractor Supply in Lanett.

Commissioner Charlie Williams thanked Gray for what she and her staff do in the way of promoting Chambers County, and its economic growth.

Commissioner Debra Riley discussed a recent trip she had recently taken to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Association of County Commissioners’ annual conference.

“We went there to learn about policies being sent to congressional committees and to participate in making policies that could become law,” she said. “We went to a great program on federal permitting by the USDA (Department of Agriculture). We learned a lot more about this than we’d previously known. We also heard about affordable housing from HUD Director Ben Carson. We also heard from David Bernhardt, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and we had a wonderful meeting with Congressman Mike Rogers. We talked to him for at least 30 minutes, and he was very encouraging about bills he would sponsor that would help us. The highlights of the event were hearing from Colin Powell and President Trump. We were told it was the first time a president had spoken to our organization.”

Riley recently represented the commission on an Alabama legislative committee. Discussion centered around Senate Bill 140, which would establish a statewide emergency notification system, and House Bill 224, which would streamline the equalization process.

“There’s a fight to repeal the Prison Reform Act of 2015, which requires counties to pay for the needs of state prisoners,” Riley said. “Last year, this took up $93 million statewide in local taxpayer funds. Counties shouldn’t be paying this kind of money for state prisoners. We need to be spending that money on other things.”

Commissioner James Williams asked county residents to be patient with getting road repairs.

“Our county highway department is affected by the weather,” he said. “Normally at this time of year we have gotten 13 inches of rain. So far, this year, we have gotten 22 inches. You can’t do a lot of road work when you have gotten a lot of rain.”

County Engineer Josh Harvill thanked him for that and said that his department would get to pending road work as fast as they could. Harvill asked for and was approved of declaring a box trailer as surplus equipment. It has gotten in bad shape over the years and will be replaced by a pre-owned 45-foot container/trailer combination that will be gotten for $1,500.

The commission approved a resolution authorizing Harvill to execute an agreement with Terracon Consultants, Inc. to do the geotechnical work needed for the replacement of a bridge foundation near Waverly. A new bridge will be replacing a bridge that crossed the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks. It will be 144 feet in length, and according to Harvill, will be much better than the old one.

The road crossing the railroad is currently closed.

County Attorney Skip McCoy said that Chambers County was ahead of the curve when it came to dealing with mental health issued involving inmates. Chambers is among only 515 counties in the U.S. to have a Stepping Up program.

“It’s not good to have repeat offenders, many times due to a mental health issue,” he said. “I was proud President Trump talked about this in Washington. I think we are on the cutting edge of this issue.”

McCoy reminded everyone that the Census cards will be going out soon.

“Please respond to this,” he said. “We need every person counted this year. We need to have the best count we can have in the county and in Alabama. We don’t need to lose any of our seven congressional seats.”

McCoy said he liked what Colin Powell said about leadership in his recent talk to county officials.

“He talked about a 13-step plan to build leaders,” he said. “We have a desperate need for that today, and the only way young people can learn to be a leader is to be mentored by an older person.”