County Commission votes to apply for expansion of Fort Deposit Enterprise Zone

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2013

By Fred Guarino
Thg Lowndes Signal

Steps are being taken that could lead to millions in investments and new jobs in Fort Deposit.

The Lowndes County Commission unanimously voted at its regular fourth Monday meeting to apply to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs ADECA to expand the Enterprise Zone in Fort Deposit to help bring to fruition two projects that could mean up to $8 million in investments and up to 250 new jobs.

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The Lowndes County Commission approved the application to ADECA, subject to the approval of the county attorney, at the request of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission (LCEDC).

David Hutchison, executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development, was joined by Fort Deposit Mayor Fletcher Fountain and Thomas Ellis, co-owner of Priester’s Pecans and Chairman of the LCEDC, to ask the county to make the application, which he said the LCEDC will submit on the county’s behalf to ADECA.

Ellis told the Lowndes County Commission there are some projects in Fort Deposit that could bring some jobs. “But one thing we realized,” he said, was, “ that we have an issue with is the Enterprise Zone designations in the county.”

Hutchison said, “We feel that expanding the Enterprise Zone specifically at this point in the Fort Deposit area will benefit the projects that we’re working on in terms of adding incentives to the projects.”

He said the total capital investment anticipated from two potential projects in Fort Deposit is $6-$8 million along with the creation of 200-250 new jobs.

However, as the projects are in negotiations, he told The Lowndes Signal, details are confidential at this point.

Hutchison told the Lowndes County Commission that when companies look at expansion, they always have choices. “And,” he said, “we want that choice to be, at this point, in Fort Deposit in Lowndes County.”

He said after the Fort Deposit Enterprise Zone expansion, the rest of the county will be looked at and recommendations made for other expansion of the Enterprise Zone.

Hutchison said the process has already begun to get available buildings listed on the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama website so that companies looking in Lowndes County can be aware of that.

Hutchison said that in addition to the jobs, benefits to the county from the Enterprise Zone would include revenues from the non-abated portion of taxes and potential sales tax revenues from the purchase of goods and services.

Hutchison said he would manage the Fort Deposit Enterprise Zone in collaboration with the Lowndes County Commission, the town of Fort Deposit, the town of Fort Deposit Industrial Development Board and the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission.

He said the South Central Alabama Development Commission and the Butler County Commission for Economic Development would also play a support role.

However, Hutchison stressed, “I have no authority to do anything… All I would be doing is recommending.”

According to Hutchison, Lowndes County had 164 total acres in an Enterprise Zone in Fort Deposit and a couple of other areas of the county.

He said the 520 plus acre expansion in the Fort Deposit Enterprise Zone would include the industrial park, the old American Apparel building, the Cummings Sign building, airport and property on the east side of Interstate 65 at Exit 142.

He said, “The Enterprise Zone incentives (the opportunity to apply for tax credits or tax abatements or both but not educational taxes) can be used by either existing industries or new companies as long as they qualify.

Hutchison said the action by the commission means, “They are very progressive in their thinking” and will work “to help the Lowndes County (Economic Development Commission) continue working to bring new industry and help existing industry expand in Lowndes County.”