Chilton County is familiar to many people who travel Interstate 65 through central Alabama. It’s the peach capital of the state, producing more than 80% of the state’s peach crop. It takes that honor seriously with a huge peach water tower, a Peach Festival that has lasted the past 75 years and much more.
It’s also in a prime location in the geographic center of the state. It has three access points to the highly traveled I-65, has parks and waterways and many more assets that make it ideal for economic and quality of life success. It has a hospital affiliated with Ascension and with UAB’s tele-health services, and a campus of Jefferson State Community College. It is home to automotive suppliers; wood, paper and agriscience companies; and many diverse manufacturers.
The county and city own industrial sites along the busy I-65 corridor — the county owns more than 70 acres off exit 200 and the two together own more than 500 acres off Exit 212, all ripe for development.
“We have prime locations with easy access,” says Chilton County Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee. “We have high volumes of traffic on the interstate, we are known for agriculture and tourism, and we want to keep the growth going.”
The county also is known for excellent parks that it regularly improves and maintains. Minooka Park, for example, recently got more RV campsites, a playground and more. “It’s a beautiful place,” Hardee says.
The county and city have been acquiring land to expand the runway at the Chilton County Airport, officials say. Plans call for new lights and safety updates. And efforts to expand broadband in the county are continuing.
The city of Clanton, the county seat, has been working diligently to attract businesses as well. “The sky’s the limit,” says Mayor Jeff Mims. “We are working on what we would like to locate here, and I know we would like to see a large sports complex that colleges can use, with a campground, fairgrounds, hotels and retail. We’d also like to see a data center. We are truly open for business.”
The city recently reformed its industrial development board, with Alan Childress as chairman. Board advisers include representatives of business and industry throughout central Alabama to execute the city’s economic development agenda.
And economic development isn’t all about industry. Clanton formed a Peach Entertainment District that has proven popular downtown. On the first Friday of each month, specific streets are closed to allow food truck access near the city’s restaurants and Corner Park offers a venue for music and events. Officials expect the district to bring more money to local businesses and generate more development. The city has reached agreements for a Starbucks and a Milo’s franchise. The city hired a new director of parks and recreation and has many plans for its existing parks.
And the county’s schools offer plenty of technical programs and options to learn about local industry. “Not all our high school students are headed to college, and so we want to give them every opportunity to train and get good jobs,” says Clanton City Councilman Billy Singleton. “All that we are doing — our overall concept for the mayor, city council and the industrial development board — is to plant the seeds for future generations. We want to put the foundation in place to keep our kids here, with good jobs and a great quality of life.”
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a Birmingham-based freelance writer for Business Alabama.
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This story appears in the August 2022 issue of Business Alabama magazine.