2014 going to be a banner year
by Jack McNeely
Jan 12, 2014 | 644 views | 0 0 comments | 41 41 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack McNeely
Jack McNeely
Ahhhhhh! I can already taste that sweet, maple syrup, buttermilk pancakes and hickory smoked bacon!

For years, my wife and I had a Sunday morning tradition of visiting the local Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Now it appears our weekly caloric intake will again be bolstered by a visit to our favorite breakfast stop.

Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey announced days prior to the 2012 municipal election that Cracker Barrel was coming to Jasper. Many folks since then have been critical of the announcement, or at least of its timing.

But those folks did not realize that Cracker Barrel has a system of targeting markets for new restaurants. It may take years after purchasing land for dirt to be turned. In our case, we should feel fortunate that construction has begun in less than 18 months.

I consider this a well-deserved vindication for Mayor Posey.

They say construction of our Cracker Barrel will take up to 180 days, or six months. I bet we’ll be dipping our sourdough toast by mid-May. At least, I hope.

In the meantime, the Alabama Department of Transportation is scheduled this quarter to shed some light on the I-22/Industrial Boulevard interchange. The lighting project is expected to lead to additional development, including a hotel next to the Love’s Truck Stop.

This development makes sense since the I-22/I-65 interchange just north of Birmingham is expected to be complete by year’s end.

Perhaps that’s another reason a California-based developer recently announced his plans to flip the vacant Jasper Square along old U.S. 78 here into a bustling retail center. T.J. Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Shoe Carnival and Petco are all on board and should be open by the 2014 holiday season.

Aside from retail growth, the new HTNA plant grand opening in late 2013 will give our employment numbers a much-needed boost. Our unemployment rate recently dipped below six percent for the first time in several years.

These are all good signs for an economic turnaround in 2014.

In the past two years I have witnessed teamwork between our county and municipal elected officials, their economic development counterparts and the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County. There is no doubt that with this continued collaboration among these critical movers and shakers, Jasper and Walker County are positioned for a brighter tomorrow.

Let’s enjoy the ride.

Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.