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Etowah County receives funding to improve industrial mega-site

Brandon Moseley

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In December, the Renewal of Alabama Commission approved a grant application from the Etowah County Commission to further improve a thousand acre industrial mega-site.

The Etowah County Commission owns and is developing a thousand acre site on I-59 between Attalla and Steele. The Commission and the state hopes to lure a major employer or employers to the mega-site which has rail access through Norfolk Southern. Funding for the site improvement are being supplied by Norfolk Southern.

The $2.7 million project will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11 the Alabama Department of Commerce announced.

Economic developer and site selector Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “The ability to list rail access in marketing materials is an asset because it helps attract large companies that transport freight as part of their day-to-day operations.”

Marilyn Lott is the economic development director for Etowah County.

Lott said that the improvements will enhance the site’s marketability by reducing a company’s construction timeline, saving time and money. “The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” Lott said.

Assistant vice president of Industrial Development for Norfolk Southern, Chris Ingraham, said that the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site is designated as a Norfolk Southern Prime Site, having been thoroughly reviewed for rail access and certified by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.

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“Norfolk Southern is pleased to partner with Etowah County and the state of Alabama to develop a rail-served industrial site that will generate mutual benefits for all parties involved, including increased opportunity for new jobs and private investment across the region,” he said.

The Growing Alabama Credit program, administered by the Alabama Department of Commerce. This tax credit allows private companies and individuals to get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit up to 50 percent of their income tax liability for investing in approved projects, including site preparation for industrial sites.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “It also underscores how true collaboration can advance the goals of economic development in our state.”

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“This investment in our community will move us one step closer to seeing significant economic growth in the region as a direct result of the mega-site,” Lott added. “We appreciate the support from our elected officials, Gadsden-Etowah IDA, and other economic development partners. Working together, we will make the mega-site a success.”

“Recall in 2018 when Governor Ivey and the Etowah County delegation announced Advantage Site status for the property, which gives the site in Etowah County global exposure,” Dr. Jones said. “Located adjacent to I-59 with access to US Highway 11 and Norfolk Southern Railway, the Advantage Site is the largest tract of land available for Industrial development in northeast Alabama. The property is one hundred percent county-owned, with access to Alabama Power transmission lines, high pressure gas lines, fiber (high-speed internet), and has already completed environmental, endangered species, and wetland analyses. Many company leaders seek Advantage Sites because they know a good portion of due diligence has already been completed, which saves time (and money) in the decision rendering process and the project’s life cycle.”

The Etowah County Commission began purchasing the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site property in 2008.

“These types of partnerships are vital in helping the County Commission reach our long- standing goal of seeing high-paying jobs at the mega-site,” said Etowah County Commission President Jeffery Washington. “We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Economy

Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”

Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.

“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”

Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.

“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”

“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”

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“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”

“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”

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Economy

SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.

Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.

“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”

Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.

Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.

The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.

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More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.

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