ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — With Phase 1 of improvements at or near completion, officials in Baldwin County are confident that the South Alabama Mega Site will soon draw big business to Baldwin County.
“Our ultimate goal is that we will have an announcement by the end of the year,” said Lee Lawson, president of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. “That has been our goal since this project started and I believe that we are closer than ever to achieving that goal.”
The Economic Development Alliance consists of Baldwin County’s five Chambers of Commerce, 13 municipalities, eight industrial boards and three airport authorities.
Located at the corner of Alabama 287 and Interstate 65 in North Baldwin County, the 3,000-acre site owned by the Baldwin County Commission includes 2,362 acres of developable property (the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers identifies 647 acres as “potential wetlands”).
The site has been certified as a Maga Site by McCallum Sweeney and an AdvantageSite by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
In 2019, BCEDA secured the $7 million Growing Alabama Tax Credit Program through a partnership with Alabama Power, CSX Railways and state legislative officials for the grading out of a 200-acre site pad, a 1 million square foot building site and a mile and a half railroad spur off the CSX mainline.
Phase 1 of the project, the 200-acre pad, was in the final stages of completion, Lawson said in a phone interview on Aug. 7, with the project poised to begin its next phase, the completion of the railroad spur.
In June, Lawson released a 6 ½ minute video through the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce’s Gateway Initiative stating that through the Mega Site, the average project has been about 1,500 jobs and a half a billion dollars in capital investment.
“This is true economic impact that truly can’t be housed anywhere else and that’s the tremendous impact that the South Alabama Mega Site can have in our region,” he said. “Projects that we’ve seen that we’ve been finalists for have really shown us what the impact can be economically not only to Bay Minette, not only to Baldwin County, but to the entire region and the state of Alabama.”
BCEDA has also produced a 2 ½ minute video which features a flyover of the site with details about the site and about the economic impact of Baldwin County as a whole, not just at the site.
“Economic Development is what we refer to as the long game and we are out there constantly pushing and marketing our community to corporate decision makers to consultants working with our existing business and industry to understand their connectivity and their value in the process of growing new jobs in our community and upping the economic well-being for all of our community and everyone in it,” Lawson said.
The development of the site puts Baldwin County into a different category or a different conversation with corporate decision makers, Lawson said, having one of the most shovel ready sites in the country for large-scale added advanced manufacturing and puts Baldwin County in a handful of other sites across the southeast competing for very large high economic impact projects.
Over the last five years, Lawson said, the Economic Development Agency, along with partners such as the Gateway Initiative have been working to focus on workforce development.
“Workforce has steadily risen from probably a Top 10 site location factor to the No. 1 site location factor over the last five years and within that we have partnered with our K through 12 system and our two-year college system here, the Baldwin County Board of Education and Coastal Alabama Community College, to address what those concerns have been in companies looking at, not only this site, but Baldwin County,” Lawson said, “and we believe we have one of the most innovative responses and solutions to long-term workforce preparedness and development at a K through 12 level and a 2-year college level and I couldn’t be more excited about how we’re answering the call for not only a prepared workforce but an available workforce.”
EDA has also address concerns presented by the current crisis in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak that has hit companies, not only in Baldwin County, the state of Alabama and the United States, but around the world.
“The individual whose company now says, you can work from anywhere or you can be anywhere as long as you can be near an airport within x-amount of time and get back to corporate office or a lot of it’s going to be a dispersed workforce,” Lawson said, “and for that we’re preparing some things and addressing our marketing message to not only corporate entities, we’ll always continue to message and market to those individuals but to the corporate individual now, whose employer says, you know what, you can live anywhere.”
The Alliance is working to address issues such as quality of life and quality of education that they feel gives Baldwin County an advantage when attracting big business to the region, Lawson said.
“Baldwin County’s quality of life will continue to remain supreme. Our education will continue to be a leader not only in the state but in the region,” he said. “We’ll be doing some innovative things that will set us apart from the rest of the country going forward and we look forward to addressing those challenges that come out of this unique time that we’re all facing.
“Working together through and with our partners at the Gateway Initiative, Baldwin County and all of our leaders at our municipal and state legislative, we know we have the greatest economic development team, not only in the country and our region and in our state and we’re addressed and prepared to meet those challenges.”
For more information about the South Alabama Mega Site, visit southalabamamegasite.com, baldwineda.com or call 251-970-4081.