Annual reception celebrates Cullman industries

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Ted Clem, director of business development for the Alabama Department of Commerce, speaks at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Industry Appreciation Reception this week at Terri Pines Country Club. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Industry Appreciation Reception Thursday night at Terri Pines Country Club, giving industry, business and community leaders the opportunity to give progress updates as well as discuss new programs and ideas for 2019. The reception is also a way for the Chamber to thank local industries for their contributions to the community.

Ted Clem, director of business development for the Alabama Department of Commerce, gave a state workforce update. He said this year the state hopes to focus on workforce development needs.

The state recognizes and hopes to resolve the disconnect that exists between industry needs and K-12 schools, Clem said. He praised Cullman, saying, “Cullman is often the shining example of how you do it right.”

Chamber President and CEO Leah Bolin gave updates on what the Chamber has been working on and programs it has  planned for 2019, touching on Community Development (Housing needs assessment to identify how ways to attract and retain people; Rehabilitation and development of housing), Community Tours, Quality of Life (Grant for upcoming design feasibility study; enhancing arts and entertainment sector; creating a walkable and living core), National Marketing Campaign and Business Development (STEP -Student to Employee Pipeline: four-step plan beginning in eighth grade designed to expose students to local career opportunities while determining each student’s interests; specific training programs for students).

Dean of Applied Technologies at Wallace State Community College, Jimmy Hodges spoke about the many programs the college has available to help with workplace needs and specific training programs and opportunities available to students. Wallace State offers a variety of technical programs including machine tooling, welding, industrial maintenance and engineering technology among many others.

Hodges said, “We are about to start a brand new welding building this fall. It’s going to be the classiest and best equipped welding building in the South.”

Industries also benefit from the specific certification programs offered by Wallace State. Many of these certification classes can be taught on location. Career Services also helps place students and fill local industry workforce needs.

Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Director Dale Greer spoke about the many accomplishments in 2018 of local business and industry. He described the partnership between the city and county economic development agencies as “unique” and “the envy of other communities.”

He added, “Seventeen of the top 20 property tax payers in Cullman are industries contributing $1.4 million to our schools.”

Accomplishments for the Cullman area and its industries, noted by Greer, included:

  • No. 1 in total number of expansions in Alabama for the fourth straight year
  • 90 percent of capital investments and 80 percent of announced jobs in the last 10 years have been from existing industry.
  • While the numbers have not been made official, an estimated $180 million in capital investment for 2018 would be a record.
  • Site Selection Magazine ranked Cullman as the no. 5 micropolitan in the country for 2017.
  • Cullman was ranked 82nd out of 551 in POLICOM Corporation’s 2019 Economic Strength Rankings – Micropolitans, up from No. 229 in 2018.
  • Gold Award for Educators in Industry
  • Silver Award for AGCOR Steel expansion /retention project
  • Topre America AAMA Large Supplier of the Year
  • Birmingham Fastener BCA/ATN Medium Manufacturer of the Year
  • REHAU Automotive Runner up for BCA Alabama Manufacturer of the Year

In conclusion Greer said, “Other communities are jealous of the accomplishments that are here. I think that reflects on our workforce and your businesses themselves.”

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