Bibb, Chilton and Dallas counties, in west central Alabama, are steeped in history and heritage but also moving ahead with jobs creation and ambitious community development projects. Rich in natural resources, the region capitalizes on them for agriculture, commerce and tourism and carefully preserves them as one of the best reasons for living here. And history is as rich as the land. Visitors come from around the world to Selma to explore its role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Each of the three counties is working hard to recruit new enterprise. Bibb County is focusing on a new, privately owned industrial park in the unincorporated area of the county, says Mark Tyner, Bibb County administrator and industrial development authority director. The Scott G. Davis Industrial Park is only six miles from the Mercedes automotive plant in Vance, and only three miles from I-59.
The park has one tenant so far, ThyssenKrupp, a metal fabrication company that recently located here, but officials expect more, as the park has rail access as well. It also sits near the Bibb County Industrial Park. “One thing we really are trying to do is locate more jobs here, ” Tyner says. “About 60 percent of our workforce commutes outside the county.”
Also working to draw jobs, Chilton County has developed two new business and industrial parks in the past five years in an effort to open commerce along the I-65 corridor, says Fred Crawford, of the Chilton County Industrial Development Board.
The Central Alabama Business Park is built around the Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s west operations center. A partnership with the cooperative, Chilton County and the county industrial board, the park, at Exit 200 from I-65, has been designated an AdvantageSite by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
The Chilton Interstate Park offers 530 acres just off I-65. “It is right where development should be, since we are so centrally located, ” Crawford says. “We are making major improvements to our airport, and that will also help.” Chilton County also is getting a new hospital that will be managed by St. Vincent’s.
In Dallas County, in an effort to combine resources and offer a one-stop shop for those who are looking to locate a business in the county, a former Carnegie Library was repurposed for the Centre for Commerce, says Wayne Vardaman, president of the new venture and executive director of the Selma Dallas County Economic Development Authority. The EDA shares the building with the chamber of commerce and tourism departments.
Dallas County has four industrial parks, and the Craig Field Industrial Park, with 700 acres, offers plenty of opportunity for more businesses to locate there. Economic development also extends to the schools, where entities partner to build the workforce among not only high school students but also adults. The Craig Field Airport is undergoing major improvements.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
text by Lori Chandler Pruitt