LOXLEY, Alabama — Work is well underway on a project to improve the intersection at County Road 68 and the Baldwin Beach Express.
The project, which is being entirely funded and contracted through Texas-based travel center giant Buc-ee’s, is two-fold, according to Tyler Mitchell, construction manager with the Baldwin County Highway Department.
The first project, which was originally planned through the Baldwin County Highway Department, calls for the widening and resurfacing of County Road 68, including the installation of extra turn lanes, Mitchell said, while the second project, originally planned through the Alabama Department of Transportation, calls for the modification of traffic lights at the intersection to add turn signals.
Jeff Nadalo, general council with Buc’ee’s Ltd., said the decision to fund the project is all about the company’s continued commitment to serve its customers.
“Our main goal is always to provide the best possible experience for our customers,” he said. “If there are traffic concerns, that is a hindrance to providing the best possible experience and we’re going to do what it takes to rectify that.”
While Nadalo would not comment on the cost of the project, Mitchell said the project was initially estimated at just over $1 million.
It’s been nearly two years since the opening of the 55,000 square-foot facility which encompasses seven acres of concrete off of County Road 68 and the Baldwin Beach Express, near the Interstate 10 exit in Loxley, the first to be built outside the state of Texas.
Founded in 1982, Buc-ee's has approximately 40 locations in Texas. They recently opened their second facility outside of Texas, located in Warner Robbins, Georgia, and broke ground on a new facility in Florence, South Carolina, with plans to open two more stores in Florida, one in Daytona and one in St. John’s.
While he would not give specific figures on revenue generated by the Loxley store, Nadalo said the company’s continued expansion outside the state of Texas depends on the success of existing stores.
“I think you will see that as we continue to see success in new markets, we will continue plans to expand,” he said.
The impact of Buc-ee’s, along with other new and expanding businesses, has been evident over the last two years, said Loxley Mayor Richard Teal.
“It’s been great for us,” he said. “I was skeptical at first, but the more I talked to people I know who live outside our area, the more I came to realize that Buc-ee’s is a destination in itself. I’ve talked to so many people that say they are now planning their trips around Buc-ee’s. It’s made Loxley a destination.”
Just weeks after opening in 2019, the town of Loxley voted to grant tax incentives to the Buc-ee’s Travel Center as part of an agreement to annex Buc-ee’s into the Loxley Town Limits.
According to the agreement, within 30 days of annexation, the company agreed to a one-time payment to the town of $50,000, along with annual payments of $25,000 over a 20-year period.
In turn, the town will provide the company with a “tax-incentive payment” of 37.5 percent of the sales taxes collected by the company, and 25 percent of the fuel taxes collected by the company.
The agreement also states that the company agrees to maintain 125 employees and a 12-month rolling annual average payroll of at least $3.75 million.
While they would not provide specific tax revenue figures for Buc-ee’s, overall tax revenues in Loxley have nearly doubled since the travel center opened, going from just under $1.9 million in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, to around $3.2 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year.
“We’ve had an increase in tax revenue across the board,” Teal said. “In addition to Buc-ee’s, Piggly Wiggly expanded their facility and we’ve had other new businesses that have done well, but you can say that Buc-ee’s is a big part of that.”
The impacts of Buc-ee’s have gone beyond tax revenue. The travel center employs mostly local residents, maintaining more than 175 employees, Nadalo said.
“I can’t discuss individual salaries, but in general our wages are well above market in every area we go into,” he said.
Signs above fueling stations at the Loxley location tout “Buc-ee’s Minimum Wage” at $14 to $16 per hour for cashiers or gift associates, $16 to $19 per hour for team leaders, $21 an hour and up for assistants and $25 per hour and up for management trainees, along with 40-plus hour work weeks available, healthcare and 401K, and three weeks paid time off.
In March of 2019, the council voted to approve a policing service agreement with Buc-ee’s. Under the terms of the agreement, the town will provide, at Buc-ee’s request, policing services at the Travel Center, which will be paid for by Buc-ee’s at a rate of $35 per hour.
The town submits invoices for reimbursement on a quarterly basis, the agreement states, and payments are made within 30 days of receipt of invoice.
According to the agreement, the officer remains an employee of the town with insurance provided by the town and will only be required to perform duties that fall under his/her job as a police officer.
“Time and again, Buc-ee’s has gone above and beyond to support our community,” Teal said, “and we’re doing whatever we can to support them.”
The only bump in the road so far for Buc-ee’s was a lawsuit filed by the Oasis Travel Center in 2019 claiming the travel giant violated the state’s fair practices law by providing gas prices lower than their competitors could offer. That case has since been dropped, Nadalo said.