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FCDA reflects on 2015

When Franklin County Development Authority Executive Director Mitch Mays thinks back on 2015, there’s one economic announcement that clearly stands out: the development planned by Mar-Jac Poultry.

The Georgia-based company announced in April 2015 its plans to build a $25 million chicken feed mill in Spruce Pine. Mar-Jac recently upped that to $30 million and now plans to break ground in February 2016 to begin a year and a half to two years construction project.

The announcement for Spruce Pine, which represents 50-75 new jobs, was the highlight of a promising year, Mays said.

“What I can tell is we have been very busy … We’ve had good activity with companies coming to look in the county, and we hope to maintain that level of activity,” Mays said. One point of pride was that in addition to welcoming Mar-Jac into the county, “We were able to save Franklin Homes from leaving Franklin County,” he added.

Franklin Homes, which faced a mid-year bankruptcy, was bought out of its financial straits by C3 LLC.

“There was some serious discussion that they might move to Mississippi,” Mays said. “So we had to compete for it and were able to get the state involved.”

The state offered Franklin Homes a jobs credit rebate based on payroll taxes, and the county offered discretionary funding, “which is basically saying, once you create so many jobs, we’ll give you a certain amount of money,” Mays said. As part of these measures, the company is in the process of hiring 103 new employees.

Also figuring into the FCDA’s successes for the year was the acquisition of several million dollars for industrial access roads through ALDOT, making it possible for local industries to acquire materials and ship out products are roads built to support the traffic level.

As the FCDA looks forward into 2016, “we want to keep our activity level up with businesses coming to visit Franklin County,” Mays said. “The more that come to visit, the better our chance is.”

Mays said his office will continue marketing the county to potential industry, as well as supporting existing industries. Another focus is improving the FCDA’s Made in Franklin event, Mays said.

“Overall I though the event was very good this year,” he said. “We do want to improve the job fair part of it … I thought we would have had a better turnout for the job fair. But this is a learning process. This is only the second year. Our goal, our hope, is to improve it every year.”

May said his office wants to show students the opportunities here in Franklin County, for education, training and employment.

In looking to the future, the FCDA has begun work on its newest industrial park – the Northwest Alabama Industrial Rail Park, formed as the result of a land swap in August with Vulcan Materials Company, which comprises 60 acres on the railroad on Walnut Gate Road.

“I think it’s going to be a premier site in Alabama,” Mays said. “Of course we’re marketing this to companies that would need rail, which typically tend to be heavier type industries with good employment and large capital investment.”

The park should be ready by the end of the year. Mays said the current focus for the park is a TVA grant to assist in cleanup and other site preparation.