The largest capital investment in Jefferson County history is currently underway, and the J.M. Smucker Co.’s new facility in McCalla is expected to open by 2025. The $1.1 billion plant, which will produce Uncrustables, the brand’s frozen sandwich treats, is expected to bring nearly 750 jobs to the area.
The Smucker’s plant is the latest addition to the Jefferson Metropolitan Park at McCalla, one of two industrial parks owned and developed by the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority; the other is the Jefferson Metropolitan Park at Lakeshore. According to findings reported in April by the Alabama SBDC Network in the University of Alabama’s Research and Economic Development Department, the two parks employ 4,878 people and have a direct impact of $14.5 million on the county each year.
Another new development at Jeff Met McCalla is the opening of Gulf Distributing Holdings in late 2022. The 170,000-square-foot warehouse, along with a new facility in Tanner, supports the company’s beverage distribution operations in Huntsville, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and beyond.
Job growth like this means Jefferson County is also ramping up efforts to make sure its infrastructure can keep pace with new development. The county is investing millions of dollars on roads, including three major projects on Old Tuscaloosa Highway, McAshan Drive and Bell Hill Road, sewer work and housing.
In April, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the start of construction on a 10-mile stretch of the Birmingham Northern Beltline that will connect Highway 31 near Gardendale and State Route 75 near Pinson. The project is supported by $489 million of federal funding and construction is expected to be complete in 2028.
The Jefferson County School System is the second-largest public school system in Alabama and serves 36,000 students in 57 schools. In July, the Jefferson County Board of Education accepted a bid to build a new Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School on the campus of the old Fultondale High School. Construction, estimated at about $68 million, is expected to be complete in two-and-a-half years.
Birmingham is already the largest economy among the state’s metro areas, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more growth.
A team of economic development specialists, airport leaders and government officials from the Birmingham area attended the 2023 Paris Air Show in June to pitch the potential growth of the aerospace and aviation industry in the metro area. An analysis made by the University of Alabama in Huntsville calculated that the defense sector in the Birmingham region generates an annual economic impact of around $580 million and supports 2,500 direct and indirect jobs, more than either Huntsville or the Fort Novosel area.
In July, the Choice Neighborhood Grant Program awarded Birmingham’s historic Smithfield Community $50 million that will go toward purchasing land for the construction of 350 affordable multi-family housing units and building 1,100 affordable housing units. Overall, the plan is expected to generate $242 million in economic activity in the community. In addition, the City of Birmingham has agreed to match the grant funds with $35 million over eight years.
In April, the Birmingham Housing Authority broke ground on the first phase of a $60 million redevelopment project. Edgehill at Southtown will be a mixed-income, mixed-use development. The first phase of the project — 60 housing units in a mid-rise apartment building and a 4,000-square-foot clubhouse — should be complete by December 2024. Next, construction of 143 affordable senior housing apartments will start later this year. The new development will also include 850,000 square feet of office and commercial space.
The 600, a luxury apartment community in the former AT&T City Center building in downtown Birmingham, opened this summer. In addition to more than 400 apartment units, the 700,000-square-foot property features 16 passenger elevators plus pool, firepits, dog park and more.
The Alabama Aerospace & Aviation High School (AAHS) in Bessemer welcomed its first class of ninth-grade students in August 2022 and accepted ninth and 10th graders for the 2023-2024 school year. AAHS is the first aviation-focused, free public charter school in Alabama and offers college preparatory core curriculum, dual enrollment opportunities, advanced placement courses, team sports, aviation and aerospace industry apprenticeships and internships, industry-aligned student-led organizations and courses in coding, robotics and cybersecurity.
In September 2022, the Bessemer Housing Authority received $1.5 million from the Department of Labor’s YouthBuild program. The funds will support development of a pre-apprenticeship program that provides job training and educational opportunities for at-risk youth while building and rehabilitating affordable housing for low-income or homeless families.
Almost a dozen new businesses opened in Gardendale this year and are expected to pump an additional $30 million a year into the local economy. New additions to the community include several restaurant chains and a new physical therapy facility; city officials are also negotiating with two hotel companies and other retailers.
The other big news in Gardendale is the $32 million redevelopment of Bill Noble Park, which opened in May. The park has facilities for baseball, softball, tennis, pickleball, football and basketball, plus a putting green and playground.
Construction is underway on The Edge, a family-friendly, walkable, multi-use dining and entertainment space located in the 800 block of Greensprings Highway in Homewood. The outdoor entertainment area will have about 7,000 square feet of leasable space for restaurants, bars and retail, as well as 12,000 square feet of co-working space. The project is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
In April, the City Council approved plans to replace the Econo Lodge on Oxmoor Road in West Homewood with 48 three-bedroom townhouses, 3 two-bedroom townhouses, 18 loft apartments and two restaurants.
Also in West Homewood, the former Weygand Surveyor property is being redeveloped into a mixed-use space that will include a combination of retail and restaurant spaces on the ground floor and office space on the second floor.
In June, the city, along with Regions Bank and Healthcare Resources, announced the development of Riverwalk Village, a 90-acre mixed-use community of medical offices, walking trails, green spaces, housing and retail areas.
In 2022, Hoover’s Building Inspections Department issued more than 6,000 construction permits valued at nearly $600 million, including 317 permits for new homes. The city also approved more than 1,000 new business licenses in 2022.
In September 2022, city officials and developer Stadium Trace Village broke ground on a 2.4-acre Village Green amphitheater and entertainment area with concert stages, food service area and play area.
In 2022, the city of Leeds received Main Street Alabama designation, joining 31 other Alabama communities in the organization that focuses on promotion, design and economic vitality. The Leeds Main Street program hopes to revitalize the historic downtown.
The second phase of the Lane Parke development in Mountain Brook is complete, bringing in new retail, services and seven new restaurants. Phase one of the retail portion opened in 2016, following the opening of the Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook and apartments. The luxury mixed-use development has been in the works for more than a decade and is the largest new development to date in Mountain Brook.
Jemison Park is currently undergoing a $2.7 million renovation to improve trails and walkways.
A renovation recently wrapped up at the athletic complex at Mountain Brook High School, improving ball fields and adding concessions and more.
The long-awaited replacement of the bridge on Caldwell Mill Road over Little Shades Creek is complete, and sidewalk projects on Brookwood Road and Locksley Drive are underway and should be finished this fall.
In November 2022, the Trussville City Council approved the purchase of 230 acres of Glendale Farms. A top priority for the land is a fourth elementary school; other business, industry, recreational and green space opportunities are also being considered.
Construction began in December to widen I-59 in Trussville from four to six lanes from the interchange with I-459 to Chalkville Mountain Road.
Vestavia Hills officially opened a 100,000-square-foot civic center in November 2022. The facility includes basketball, volleyball, badminton and pickleball courts; an indoor walking track; meeting and event spaces; a 10,000-square-foot banquet space; and office spaces.
The new civic center is part of the city’s Community Spaces Plan, which is wrapping up this year. The last remaining project is the final phase of extensive renovations to Wald Park, which include adding tennis and pickleball courts, more parking, a dog park and walking trail.
This article appears in the October 2023 issue of Business Alabama.