The meeting, which was hosted by the Walker County Economic and Industrial Development Authority and the Jasper Industrial Development Board, was led by officials from the Alabama Department of Commerce and Alabama Power.
“We felt like it was a good time to bring the city and the county together for this type of discussion,” said David Knight, director of the development authority. “We have several new council and commission members that we felt could benefit from this meeting.”
Gary Faulkner, senior project manager with the Alabama Department of Commerce, told area officials that patience is a key when competing for industry.
“You guys are right there where you need to be,” Faulkner said. You have all the assets here, and they need to be tempered with patience.”
Faulkner said the area has already seen success in recruiting industry.
“The amount of businesses that has located in your industrial park in the last 10 years is a great testimony to the work of the leaders in this community,” he said.
Knight said more than 700 direct jobs had been added through industrial projects since 2005. Development authority figures show more than 1,800 indirect jobs have been added due to the same projects, he said.
Patrick Murphy, senior project manager for Alabama Power’s economic and community development department, said the utility company has focused on economic development for 100 years.
“We support state and local efforts,” Murphy said. “We typically are involved with projects from beginning to end, and we don’t just participate in big power projects. We work statewide to help with economic development. These kinds of projects increase roof tops, and that is good for Alabama Power.”
District 1 Commissioner Keith Davis said asked if there was anything the county was missing to recruit new industry.
“If there is a missing element, we need to work hard and find a way to solve that,” Davis said. “I think we all got into politics to change lives, and the best way to change folks’ lives is jobs. We want to bring as many jobs as possible to our community.”
Knight suggested the city and county look at funding a new speculative building.
“We have had a lot of success with spec buildings in the past,” he said. “I think having a product to show is a positive.”
David O’Mary, chairman of the JIDB, said a good working relationship between the city and the county is also a selling point for the community.
“When I drive outside the city limits of Jasper, I don’t suddenly realize that I’m in the county,” he said. “We are one big community, and cooperation between the city and county is key. We always need to have a unified front when it comes to recruiting industry.”