By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) announced a $250,000 grant to help the Marengo County Commission to purchase the abandoned Alabama National Guard Armory in Linden in order to convert the old building into a business incubator. Bentley informed Marengo County Commission Chairman Calvin Martin that the Country had been awarded the grant.
Governor Bentley said in a written statement, “Alabama’s small businesses provide jobs to about half of the private-sector workers in our state. Business incubators like this one in Linden help small start-up companies to get on their feet, grow, and create jobs that are vital to families and local economies.”
The Marengo County Commission plans to use the former Alabama National Guard armory to encourage and assist new small businesses in the county. The Commission has already signed up several new businesses to be tenants.
The 20,260-square-foot building is located off Alabama Highway 28 and includes several offices, a vehicle service area and a large kitchen. The facility was constructed in 1985 on a 10-acre site.
The incubator program will be managed by the Marengo County Economic Development Authority. The Authority is a 19-member board which includes representatives from each of the county’s eight municipalities. Day to Day operations of the incubator will be overseen by an executive director. The program will also be assisted by a countywide automobile license tag fee earmarked for economic development. The county has pledged to provide $50,000 of local funding for the project and the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission has also pledged to assist the program.
The CDBG funds are awarded to Alabama from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development allocates CDBG funds to Alabama. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) reviews the grant applications and determines which projects are worthy of being recommend to the governor for his approval.
The Alabama’s National Guard is closing armories across the state because the Pentagon is downsizing the force.
In 2011, The National Guard announced it would close 13 armories, including Linden. Major General Perry Smith said when he announced the closures, “We’re $12 million behind in maintenance, we have roofs leaking, commodes won’t flush, lights are flickering and they’re dangerous.”
In addition to Linden the Guard closed armories in Georgiana, Greenville, Grove Hill, Hartselle, Heflin, Lineville, Millport, Moulton, Ozark, Thomasville, Union Springs, and Wetumpka.
The Fort Hill McManus Boggs armory in Linden closed last year.
Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates tried to convince state officials not to close the armory. Gates told Dana Bayerle of the Tuscaloosa News, “We’ve had a military presence since the 1950s, and it’s part of the culture of our town, of course.” The armory had had 14 full-time employees in the small Alabama town.
~Ten years ago the Alabama National Guard had about 21,000 troops, but changing defense priorities have downsized the force to just about 11,000. The federal government dictates the number of Alabama National Guard slots and pays the personnel. The state of Alabama maintains the armories and a smaller, weaker force needs fewer armories.