Economic development leaders give industry and workforce updates at Industry Appreciation Night

County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons and Chamber Chairman Jeff Tolbert chat at Tuesday night’s event (Cullman Tribune file photo)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Industry Appreciation Night took place Tuesday at the Terri Pines County Club featuring the many industries in Cullman who got a chance to mingle and network with their supporting industry partners. Guest speakers congratulated the growing industry in Cullman. Presenting sponsors were the Cullman County Industrial Development Authority and the City of Cullman Industrial Development Board.

Premiere sponsors were Wallace State, Cullman-Jefferson Gas, Cullman Regional Medical Center, Cullman Electric Co-op, and Cullman Power Board. Corporate sponsors included R.E. Garrison Trucking, Alabama Specialty Clinic, James R. Smith Trucking, Alabama Technology Network, Warren Averett, Core Properties, Terracon and Quality Staffing Solutions. 

Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer introduced speaker Kenneth Boswell who was appointed the Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs by Governor Kay Ivey.

 Boswell stated that a total of $6.4 million in CDBG grants and ARC commission funds has been awarded in Cullman since 2017 just for industry incentives. He listed a few examples, saying, “$700,000 in combined CDBG and ARC grants to improve the 24th street in support of Rehau Inc., expansion creating more than 100 new jobs. Another example of that would be $600,000 in CDBG funds for road improvements to support the expansion of Reliance Worldwide Corporation and distribution center creating hundreds of new jobs. Just today, Governor Ivey announced a $300,000 CDBG awarded to South Vinemont in Cullman County for a turning lane to support Jack’s family restaurant.”

Boswell congratulated Senator Gudger on working to get the resources for his community. “There is not a week that I don’t hear from him some way, shape, form or fashion requesting dollars for his district.”

He added, “It’s incredible at how you pull together and how you recruit and not only recruit industry, but how you take care of it.”

Ted Clem, director of Business Development for Alabama Department of Commerce, also spoke, saying, “Cullman has always been a leader in the state when it comes to economic development. We at the Department of Commerce are your partners. All good economic development always comes down to the local community and you do a great job here.”

Dale Greer said, “The new and expanding industry in Cullman has invested over a billion dollars in this community in the last 10 years.” He gave an update on the recent investments made in the last couple of years, stating that while COVID held back development in 2020, with a capital investment of just over $60 million and 650 announced new jobs, Cullman had a remarkable rebound in 2021. “We reported to Commerce, three new projects, 36 expanding industries that created 459 new announced jobs. Those projects are in Cullman, Hanceville, Dodge City, Good Hope, Vinemont, some incorporated areas. That is an all-time high capital investment of more than 200 million dollars.”

Greer also discussed that the entities at the event who were not part of an industry were still there to help. He notes that while Cullman has the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama at 1.8%, one of the things needed most by industries is workers. Alabama Industrial Development Training, Wallace State, Alabama Technology Network and AlabamaWorks are organizations that can offer ways for businesses to upgrade skills when recruiting.

“The City, the County, the industrial boards, education and training facilities, all industries come in at whatever time they are needed to help with industries and support, so use the strength and expertise of all these, ask us for anything.” He adds that with this network, the future of industry is bright for Cullman.

Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Peggy Smith, who Greer introduced as The Economic Developer for Alabama, recognized Chamber Chairman Jeff Tolbert’s term ending on March 1. Stephen Parker will be his replacement. “He has been an outstanding chairman for our Chamber. He has led our Chamber through a year of a lot of incredible challenges.”

In closing, Smith gave her thanks to all of the participating industries, “I just want to say to each of our industries here, that you have played such an important role in the lives of our community and the lives of our citizens. You have improved their lives and our standard of living, and we are grateful for you.”

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