Gov. Kay Ivey and Topre America President Hideo Shimizu cut the ribbon on Topre’s new building and celebrated the company’s newly-announced $80 million expansion project, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (Cullman Tribune file photo)
CULLMAN, Ala. – Site Selection Magazine, which studies industrial development and expansion is cities across the country, ranked Cullman number seven out of 551 on its list of “micropolitans” for 2018. Among cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000, Cullman has ranked in the magazine’s top 10 for each of the last five years.
Looking for projects that create 20 or more new jobs, and create or add 20,000 square feet of facilities with a minimum $1 million capital investment, the magazine has ranked Cullman in its top five for the previous four years. In 2018, despite submitting 16 qualifying projects, the city dropped slightly to seventh place, but Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) officials remained happy with a fifth straight top 10 ranking.
CEDA Director Dale Greer told The Tribune that Cullman’s drop in rank does not mean that the area is slipping. He said the number of projects submitted for review is actually higher than before, but a booming economy and low unemployment nationwide mean that other cities have had the opportunity to catch up.
Said Greer, “We had more projects than we had in the previous years, but some of the other communities just had more, I guess . . . We had a ton of expansions. I think it was a better year than the previous years.
“I was pleased. I think it reflects very well on the community and on the workforce here. You know, I think part of that is reflected in that we’ve got the second lowest unemployment rate in Alabama.
“I think the entire economy has improved, and there are just a lot of opportunities, and growth, and expansions across the country. But being seventh out of 551, how can you truly be disappointed?”
POLICOM, which ranks cities across the U.S. based on economic growth including retail, government, construction, medical and agriculture, has also given Cullman high marks. Scores come not just from the number of businesses and industries, but from their impact on the quality of life of a municipality’s residents.
In 2016, the city ranked number 229 among 551 micropolitans on POLICOM’s list, and moved up to number 116 in 2017. In 2018, Cullman came in at number 82, a 147-place rise in just two years.
In 2018, Cullman County had 41 total projects (including many small projects that did not meet Site Selection Magazine’s criteria) adding up to $146,732,455 in capital investments. Of that, only $8,952,176 was in new industry. Expansions to existing area industries accounted for $137,780,279 in investments and 584 new jobs.
Topre America led the area’s industrial expansion with an announced $82,121,349 project that will add 98 new jobs.
CEDA Economic Development & Incentives Manager Stanley Kennedy said 2018 was a fantastic year to be in Cullman, sharing, “I mean one of the best years ever . . . and most of that was expansions. Most people don’t realize new projects get a little better press than expansions, but expansions over the past decade have been 90 percent of our growth here, and 81 percent of the new jobs. We’re very lucky to be here in Cullman where our companies are able to grow and have the confidence to grow here in Cullman, versus other communities our size who aren’t as lucky as we are.”
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