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Officials look at industrial prospects

Even though the economy seems to be showing marginal improvement, job creation and retention is still a concern for officials and residents in the area.
Locally, the Franklin County Development Authority is responsible for recruiting new industry into the county and supporting existing industries.
FCDA Executive Director Mitch Mays said he sees promise in the local economic development prospects in the months to come if they can continue marketing the area and working with local officials.
“We are increasing our marketing of the county by attending tradeshows and meeting with site selection consultants at different events around the country,” Mays said.
“In addition we are taking an aggressive approach to identify Toyota and Navistar suppliers. We now have two speculative buildings to offer in the county and we have already been reaching out to prospective companies that would benefit by being in our area.”
Those two spec buildings are located in Russellville Industrial Park #1 and in Vina Industrial Park. In addition, the county offers four more industrial parks that are available for growing businesses: Russellville Industrial Park #2, Mike Green Industrial Park, Phil Campbell Industrial Park and West Franklin Regional Industrial Park located in Red Bay.
Mays said these sites are big marketing tools when it comes to negotiating with prospective industry.
“I’ve said many times that in order to sell our area we have to have a product to sell, and in economic development the products we sell are industrial parks and industrial buildings that have all the infrastructure available immediately,” Mays said.
“Incentives, education and quality of life are equally important factors, but without industrial facilities available, the prospective companies won’t even look here.”
Besides simply having sites available, Mays said it’s important to have each industrial park designated as an Alabama AdvantageSite, which is a marketing tool that basically means the site is “shovel ready” or ready for industry to move right in.
“We are currently working towards gaining an Alabama AdvantageSite certification for the West Franklin Regional Industrial Park in Red Bay,” he said.
“We have submitted the site and completed a great deal of work towards this designation and hope to wrap the process up in January or February.
“Eventually we will have all industrial parks in the county with this designation, but it requires a great amount of time and work to qualify for.”
Mays said the FCDA already puts in extra time and effort because they only have a two-person staff, but they also have faced an uphill battle in recent years because of the national economy, which they cannot control.
“Obviously the global and national economy are our largest challenges, but additionally, I see our national policy on energy, taxes and healthcare becoming an impediment to growth,” Mays said.
“I hope I’m wrong on that, but in my opinion the federal government has been causing more harm than good the last several years.”
To compensate for the factors they cannot control, Mays said the FCDA will continue to explore all industrial and economic options they can and they’ll rely on other county and municipal officials for support.
“I am looking forward to working with the new county commission and city councils so that together we can improve the quality of life in Franklin County,” Mays said.
“There are some really good and smart people serving in these capacities and as long as we all have cooperation, communication and a positive attitude, I really believe we have all the elements in place to market the county.
“Since we do have a small staff, it’s impossible to know everything and be everywhere at all times, so I encourage elected leaders to always be on the lookout for businesses that could locate in Franklin County and also to get to know their local companies and find out if they can help, and the FCDA will be here to support any way that we can.
“I know it will be a good year because we are progressing with what Franklin County can offer to prospective industry and I do believe we will have a few existing industry expand their operations.”