Total grant funding approved for access road

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, October 9, 2008

The delegation representing Demopolis and Marengo County requesting funding for an access road for the Demopolis Airport Industrial Park was approved for 100 percent of its request yesterday at the Alabama Dept. of Transportation (ALDOT) building.

The money will come in the form of a grant from the Alabama Industrial Road and Bridge Corp. (AIRBC), which issues $11 million annually.

Originally, the delegation — led by Marengo County Economic Development Agency executive director Debra M. Fox — requested $2.1 million on Sept. 29, but after raising more funds locally, was able to whittle down its request to $1.53 million, which the AIRBC approved entirely.

Getting 100 percent of a grant request, especially one of more than $1 million from an $11 million amount for all requests statewide, is a rarity, as it represents so much of the available funds that several other counties and municipalities are seeking.

The AIRBC consists of only three members: ALDOT director Joe McInnes, who chaired the meeting yesterday as the corporation’s president; Kay Ivey, the state treasurer and vice president of AIRBC; and Jim Main, the state finance director and secretary of AIRBC.

“We are going in with two companies,” Fox told AIRBC of the industrial park. “For our area, in the Black Belt, these are substantial numbers. We have one company that will have 100 direct jobs and 38 other jobs added to that by the end of December 2009, and that’s a payroll of $6-million-plus with just one company. We have a second company that is going to be a supplier to an existing company and help with their expansion, and they will have 30 jobs at full capacity in January 2010, and by the multiplier of that, that would be 99 jobs. So, that would be another $2.4 million in payroll. These are good-paying jobs that pay in the 20’s ($20 or more per hour). They are industrial jobs that pay full benefits and full health; that’s very important right now.

“We have a full partnership on this. The Demopolis industrial board is putting money in, Marengo County is putting in-kind work in, the City of Demopolis is putting money in, the water and sewer board is working on infrastructure there. We have pooled together about $550,000, and for us, that’s substantial.”

After the AIRBC discussed the request, Ivey made a motion to approve the entire amount requested, which was approved by all three AIRBC members.

“For you other applicants, this is a classic example of how to get something done with city and county,” McInnes told the audience, which consisted of others seeking funds from all over the state, including larger municipalities. “These applicants have worked together and created a partnership with so many entities, and we appreciate that.”

Fox was joined by Demopolis mayor Cecil P. Williamson, Demopolis mayor-elect Mike Grayson, Chuck Smith of RockTenn and Phillip Guin of the engineering firm of Almon and Associates.

“We are very excited,” Fox said after the meeting. “We knew, with this industry going in, we had to have some road money, and we knew this was an avenue for it, and we knew the timeframe, so we had to come in here in a hurry and get it done, and we did it. Everyone worked on it; it was a true team effort.

“We really appreciate the two industries that are going in there, because they are putting in some in-kind and other donations as well, so they are part of our partnership.

“This is what a county development authority does,” she said, “is pull everybody together and pull together a team and pull together the right people at the right time.”

Williamson said it may be March before construction will begin, after the details and bids are hashed out.

“We will start designs and do geotechnical work,” Guin said. “Then, we will let the project out for bids and go from there.”

“This is very exciting,” Williamson said, “particularly for us to have an opportunity to get the entire funding, and it’s all based on our partnering with all the different agencies through both public and private partnering to make it happen.”

“I am just ecstatic about this,” Grayson said. “This is my first venture as an elected official, and I am certainly appreciative of everything that everyone did, all of the entities that came together on this. Like Mr. McInnes said, it is a classic example of what can be done when people work together.”