CEDA, Cullman Regional Airport projects presented to commission

CEDA’s Dale Greer and airport’s Ben Harrison share details on several major opportunities

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Dale Greer is shown in an October 2019 photo from Wallace State.

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Director Dale Greer and Cullman Regional Airport General Manager Ben Harrison both addressed the Cullman County Commission at its work session and meeting Tuesday morning, bringing before the commissioners details on several major opportunities. 

The first project is actually a combination of two projects that would bring as many as 130 jobs to the area- 50 from one project and 70-80 from the other.

Greer explained, “It (one project) is being combined with a new project that is in Industrial Park II.” 

As an incentive, the industrial prospects have requested a traffic signal be added at the intersection of Alabama Highway 69 and 24th Street Southwest. The estimated cost to install the new signal is $250,000. 

“We’ve met with ADECA (Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs) and they will provide a grant of $100,000, based on the jobs,” said Greer. “We have met with the City (of Cullman) and with (the City of) Good Hope and both of those have pledged $50,000 each for the project.”

He told the commissioners the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has already conducted a traffic flow assessment and concluded a traffic signal is warranted, but there is no money in ALDOT’s budget to fund the traffic light. 

CEDA asked the commission to pledge the remaining $50,000 needed for the project.

Greer reminded the commissioners, “We’ve had a number of accidents there and a traffic death last year. It really is a safety issue and something that is important that will serve all those industries coming out of there.”

Greer estimated the projects would be a multi-million-dollar capital investment and that an official announcement of the projects could hopefully happen in the next couple of months.

The commissioners briefly discussed the matter later in the commission meeting.

Commissioner Garry Marchman opposed the commission providing funding for the traffic light.

“I understand it’s an economic development project, but I’m not in on it,” he said. “They can put their own red light if they want to put one up. How are we going to benefit from it?” 

Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker replied dryly, “Maybe, possibly, 70 jobs is all.”

Greer said CEDA is scheduled to meet with the Cullman County Industrial Development Authority Wednesday to discuss the project.

“I guess we will see what they say about it,” Walker said.

Two Cullman Regional Airport projects are also being negotiated. The first project, referred to simply as “Project Black,” is a competitive one that is being kept confidential due to the sensitivity of the details.

Harrison and Greer have been working for several months on the project that Greer said would be “a great potential to capitalize on Redstone Arsenal and the military work there.” 

Cullman Regional Airport being located at the halfway point between Huntsville and Birmingham puts the area in a unique position, especially as Huntsville continues to experience explosive growth, according to Greer, who said, “It is my belief that the airport is key to job creation for Cullman County in the future.” 

The commission said it would not take any action regarding funding for “Project Black” until more information could be presented. Greer said he will attend the Feb. 25 commission meeting with updates. 

The second airport project is an effort to keep the current mechanic, who holds an Inspection Authorization (IA).

Greer explained, “He is working out of a T-hangar right now and he either has to build a building or he is looking at relocating to other areas in the state that have offered to support him.”

The Airport Board met last week and agreed that keeping an IA-certified mechanic is worth the effort, according to Greer. By providing a 10,000-square-foot building, he said, two new mechanics could be hired to assist immediately, with the potential for more.

Greer said an IA-certified mechanic onsite at the airport, which is owned jointly by the City of Cullman and Cullman County, is a huge asset, as someone is there to service any aircraft coming in and out.

“We’ve talked to him, and he is open to us starting construction on the building and he would intend to take over and purchase it and be in it after that period of time.”

Greer estimated the cost to be less than $500,000. 

The Cullman City Council has voted to move forward with the structure and the commission did as well. The City of Cullman has agreed to provide the initial financing before the building is leased or sold to the new tenant. 

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