By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Nearly $500 million in capital investment has been announced over the past 18 months in Jefferson County and more projects are on the way, said Steve Ammons, chair of the County Commission’s Economic Development Committee.
Those announcements total 37 projects; 2,190 jobs and a capital investment of more than $485 million, according to data provided by the county.
The highlights include Landing’s corporate headquarters relocation to downtown Birmingham; Lowe’s distribution center in Bessemer and Amazon’s two new distribution facilities in Birmingham and Bessemer which will create over 1,200 jobs and over $150 million in capital investment in Jefferson County. The FedEx Ground and Buffalo Rock expansions have been the two largest expansions in terms of capital investment — $43.1 million and $75 million, respectively.
And, more impressive was that the successes came during a period when many economies slowed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the county. “The one thing that has not stopped is the level of projects that we’ve had to work and projects that we didn’t see before,” said Ammons.
He pointed to Landing, a company building a nationwide network of fully furnished apartments available to those in its membership model, which in June publicized its move to Birmingham from San Francisco, where it will create 816 new full-time jobs.
Landing’s move was made possible by a partnership with the State of Alabama, Jefferson County and the City of Birmingham.
“It’s projects like that . . . where we are continuing to expand the technology and entrepreneur ecosystem in area,” said Ammons, who he expects upcoming events– some short term, some long term – to keep the economy growing.
“We’re talked about the World Games coming in 2022. The World Police and Fire Games coming here in 2025 (that will bring more than 10,000 first responders). We’re going to strategically try to put together ways use that as an economic development tool.”
Ammons said he was also excited about the leadership at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), where veteran economic developer Ron Kitchens was named president and CEO in December.
“I like the changes being made there and how we look at economic development . . . it’s not just ‘let’s sit back and see what happens’, but we’re going to be aggressive about going out and working with site selectors on how can we change the landscape that helps us attract more folks . . . once you bring them here, you can normally sell them because they see what a hidden gem it is.”
“The county has a lot of really, really bright spots and with not only quality of life, but with cost of living that attract people here,” Ammons said. “And it’s more than just about a wage. It’s building a place where people want to live. [The parks and theatres] and the new Protective Stadium are all about a quality of life that our citizens can enjoy. And if we’re building it out then we can attract more people that will help us improve the clusters that we’re working on — technology, advanced manufacturing, bio sciences . . . it’ll have something for everyone.”