CEDA receives Excellence in Economic Development Award from IEDC for partnership with HomTex

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Left to right are Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) Director Dale Greer, CEDA’s Jamie Troutman, HomTex Founder Jerry Wootten, HomTex President and CFO Jeremy Wootten, CEDA’s Belinda Hyatt and CEDA’s Stanley Kennedy. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

Updated 11-19-20 at 5:38 p.m.

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) in a small ceremony at Cullman City Hall on Thursday revealed it won a gold category award for its public-private partnership to assist HomTex. This project was in the Public-Private Partnerships category of the International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC’s) 2020 Excellence in Economic Development Awards Program. The honor was presented at an awards ceremony in October during the IEDC Annual Conference, which was held virtually.

When the COVID-19 crisis struck, HomTex knew it could do something to help. HomTex, manufacturer of DreamFit sheets, is a leading innovator in the global textiles industry. Instead of sitting idly by, the leaders at HomTex engaged their entrepreneurial spirit. Because of its international relationships and domestic infrastructure, HomTex was able to locate automatic production equipment in China to produce masks to combat COVID-19.

The total cost of the equipment was $4.5 million. To secure this equipment, a deposit of $1.5 million was required. HomTex could not produce this amount immediately because most of its capital had been invested in new product lines that were ready to launch prior to the pandemic. HomTex contacted CEDA. The Industrial Development Board of the City of Cullman and Cullman County Industrial Development Authority met to discuss how they could help this local industry. These groups loaned HomTex the $1.5 million to secure the equipment. After a public hearing, seven days later, the City of Cullman repaid the boards and assumed the loan. Approximately two months after the public loan, HomTex repaid the full $1.5 million, plus interest.

Said Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, “The partnership with HomTex won this award because community leaders leapt into action and made this project happen. We didn’t sit around and talk about it for days and days. After being approached by HomTex, we found a solution.”

HomTex Founder Jerry Wootten said he believes one legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a better understanding of the strategic importance of the U.S. textile industry and its production capabilities.

“If anything good can come from this situation, it’s that the country begins to realize that our domestic textile industry has just about vanished, and that has caused a strategic disadvantage in our supply of PPE,” he said.

CEDA Director Dale Greer said, “Success of a local industry is good for everyone. It provides direct and indirect jobs, and capital investment in the community. This public-private partnership has served as an example to everyone that things can happen when we all work together.”

IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Thirty-five award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world, following a nomination process held earlier this year.

“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day”, said 2020 IEDC Board Chair and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald. “We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life.”

In his opening remarks, Greer acknowledged the project undertaken by HomTex’s Jerry and Jeremy Wootten and their staff, along with the contributions and/or presence of a number of people who have supported the project:

  • Congressman Robert Aderholt’s Office, represented by Paul Housel
  • Kristi Bain of Alabama Industrial Development Training
  • Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons 
  • Cullman County Commissioner Garry Marchman 
  • Mayor Woody Jacobs and the Cullman City Council
  • City and County Industrial Development Boards
  • President Dr. Vicki Karolewics and Kristen Holmes of Wallace State Community College
  • Peggy Smith and Kay Shabel of the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce 
  • Cullman County Economic Development Director Bradley Williams
  • CEDA, with special recognition to the work of Jamie Troutman

 

Greer told the audience, “The Cullman community has built a reputation of supporting and growing existing industry. Cullman County ranks among the best counties in Alabama every year for the number of expanding companies and the jobs they create. Today we are here to celebrate another existing industry/community partnership achievement. The International Economic Development Council has honored our community and HomTex for the HomTex project that resulted in the production of disposable face masks to combat the coronavirus. IEDC is the largest professional economic development group in existence with more than 5,000 members worldwide. Every year the organization reviews economic development projects around the globe and recognizes those of particular significance. The HomTex project was honored with a gold medal as a public/private partnership success story other communities should copy.”

He continued, “Out of all of the economic development projects in the world last year, Cullman and HomTex received a gold medal. Less than 100 projects were honored across the globe in communities, in major metropolitan areas to rural towns.”

Greer cited the work of the city and county industrial development boards in the HomTex project, saying, “The City wanted to provide the loan funds, but could not do it without a seven-day public hearing notice; HomTex would have lost the opportunity in that waiting period. The City encouraged the two boards to make the loan and said they would reimburse the funds the following week. The City IDB pledged $1 million, and the County the other $500,000. Neither board could have made the loan by themselves. It proved again: partnerships make things happen. We are more successful working together.”

About the International Economic Development Council

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a nonprofit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities, by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban and local to international, IEDC’s members are engaged in the full range of economic development experience. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. Learn more at iedconline.org.

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W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune
W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune
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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com