CCDA releases annual report

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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On Monday, the Chambers County Development Authority released its 2022 annual report to the Chambers County Commission. As expected, the report shows several highlights from the past year, including the long-awaited opening of the Lanett Regional Airport and the City of LaFayette’s Main Street designation. 

The report also says $100,553,156 were invested into Chambers County, with 146 industrial jobs being created, which ranks third among rural counties in Alabama for job creation and investment.

The airport opened to air traffic to land on the newly renovated runway on Nov. 22, 2022. The seven-year project is one of Lanett’s largest undertakings, and it’s expected to drive business for the entire county.

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“This is only the beginning for the airport,” said Valerie Gray, Chambers County development authority executive director, in the report. “Hanger development and business recruitment will be next.”

Airport Manager Richard Carter says there has also been a lot of interest from private plane owners on being able to base a plane at the Lanett airport. 

“People come by the office to talk to me, or I talk to them on the phone almost every day,” he said.

Another long-term project that will be ongoing is the Main Street designation of the City of LaFayette. The process to obtain this designation took the city six years to complete and in June, that designation was awarded. Although the designation was awarded, that is just the first step in the revitalization process for LaFayette.

Since June, a board of directors has been formed, DeAnna Hand was hired as director and much work has been gone into setting up the organization.

Prior to hiring Hand, CCDAs Ansley Emfinger put in countless hours into this project and as a result of those efforts was awarded the Main Street Hero Award during the Main Street Alabama LAB 2022 Conference in August.

A partnership between Auburn University Outreach, the City of LaFayette and the Chambers County Commission brought a Community Health and Wellness Center to LaFayette.

The new OnMed telehealth station in LaFayette will have a grand opening on March 24. Starting this month, LaFayette citizens will be able to participate in demo runs for 60 days. Auburn University Rural Health program, Chambers County University Extension, Chambers County commissioners and the city of LaFayette have been partnered for the past two years for the project.

“Our hope is that this is an additional health resource for the community. We have limited access to health care here in LaFayette and the rural surrounding areas, and we know that transportation is an issue for our citizens. And this will be closer access for them to come for any sort of health care needs,” said Rachel Snoddy, Director of Chambers County Extension office. 

According to Hollie Cost, Auburn university assistant vice president of university outreach and public service, the OnMed station provides state-of-the-art technology for diagnosing and evaluating patients. Patients will be connected to a state-licensed healthcare provider who will be able to virtually evaluate and diagnose them. 

For several months, the development authority worked with Garner Economics and CDG Engineering to get the Valley Industrial Park South Food and Beverage Site certified. This certification indicates the site is ideal for food and beverage manufacturing and is expected to help attract other companies.

The City of LaFayette was also awarded a $119,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to install a two-bay electric vehicle charging station in downtown LaFayette on U.S. Highway 431.

Deputy Director Chris Busby continues to lead the county’s participation in the Rural Innovation Initiative through the Center for Rural Innovation. This initiative seeks to create an environment that fosters tech entrepreneurship in underserved populations in Chambers County.

“As of October, Chambers County is officially a member of the National Rural Innovation Network,” Gray said in the report.

The staff of the CCDA also continued to strengthen their knowledge by completing several certifications and participating in conferences throughout the state.

Emfinger and intern Andie Roberts received grant writing certifications through the University of Georgia’s grant writing course.

Other achievements noted in the report include 12 new businesses in the county, a $2,982 Alabama Power Foundation Grant awarded to Fairfax Elementary School to purchase both English and Spanish curriculum, a website update that allows the CCDA to list available properties as well as providing data on the community.

Busby was also appointed to the Board of Directors for the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA).

As Gray moves into her 24th year with the CCDA, she says she is amazed at the support and leadership the development authority receives.

“As I close out year 23 at the CCDA and begin year 24, I continue to be amazed at our local, regional and state leadership and support that our organization receives,” she said. “We could not do all that we do without the support of our partners. We continue to expand and pursue new opportunities because of these valuable partnerships.”

Gray also acknowledged the talented team the CCDA has working for the betterment of the county.

“Our team is the best it’s ever been,” Gray said. “A talent of mine is to surround myself with people who are smarter than me. I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”