By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
In a sign of its economic development muscle, Jefferson County Commission recently announced five projects in one day that will create hundreds of high-paying jobs, millions in investments and diversify the economy across the metro area, according to the commission.
Agreements were announced this month with Pack Health, a local health care company; Kratos, a national security solutions provider that recently acquired the Southern Research Engineering division; The Bray, a Liberty Park Joint Venture with the City of Vestavia; Southern Research Institute, a non-profit scientific research organization and The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA)’s Supplier Scale program
A total investment of $31.8 million is spread across three of the four projects. The county is also investing $750,000 into a study and project from the Birmingham Business Alliance. Three of the projects will create a projected 401 combined jobs over the next five years
“Each of these projects is the result of regional cooperation across multiple agencies. It’s important that we not only bring in new industry to diversify our economy, but continue to support agencies that are established and an integral part of the community as we continue to grow,” said Steve Ammons, Jefferson County Commissioner, Chair of the Economic Development Committee.
Those are a few projects that have helped make Jefferson County a leader across the state in job creation since 2019, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. In 2019 the county was 5th in the state for capital investment and 4th in the state In job creation. In 2021 the county was 2nd in capital investment and 1st in job creation.
The key has been to build relationships, Ammons said.
“We have strong relationships with the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), the Department of Commerce, with our local allies in our seven-county region,” he said.
The focus is not only jobs “but it’s jobs with above average wage because we don’t incentivize jobs unless they meet certain criteria which is above a median income. We require $50,000 a year minimum — which we probably need to look at that and maybe increase,” he said.
Incentivizing jobs with above average wages improves the overall economy, said the commissioner. “That’s going to be more people buying houses, or renting, if they’re just going to be here for a couple of years . . . of course, once they come here, they love it, and they want to be here.
“In the grand scheme of things, once you buy a place, and you’re buying a car, or you’re going into the restaurants it has an impact. How much of that is discretionary spending? And how much are you spending in the community to improve your house? or to go to the Red Mountain theater? Or any one of the restaurants? . . . How more money is being infused into the economy because we’re adding jobs.”
Ammons said he is pleased by timing of the projects. “Some of these have been a long time coming. And they all just happen to land just about the same time, but timing is everything right? It takes a lot of work that people don’t see in the background to make sure that these are good projects. It takes a lot of conversation, it takes a lot of work from our legal team to make sure those agreements are appropriate and are in the best interest of the county. I’m happy that the level in the interest in economic development, especially in the sectors that we we’ve chosen.”
Those sectors, he said, include advanced manufacturing, which includes automotive and aerospace; technology, its bio and life sciences, everything from [genomics to biotechnology].
Here’s a closer look at projects recently approved by the Jefferson County Commission
- Pack Health
About: a local health care company with a capital investment of $5.2 million. Pack Health is an evidence-based patient engagement platform that changes health behaviors to close gaps in care and improve patient outcomes.
Job estimates: This expansion is estimated to create 120 jobs over three years + 200 jobs by year five.
Incentive: amount based on job creation.
About: a national security solutions provider that recently acquired the Southern Research Engineering division.
Plans: It will invest $26.6 million in the community.
Job estimates: 76 high-paying jobs over a five-year period.
Incentive: amount based on job creation.
- The Bray
About: a Liberty Park Joint Venture with the City of Vestavia.
Plans: It will develop approximately 865 acres that will be the new headquarters for Medical Properties Trust and also have residential, hospitality, healthcare, parks + schools.
Fiscal impact: $70 million in property taxes over the next 25 years for Jefferson County.
- Southern Research Institute
About: a non-profit scientific research organization.
Plans: It will expand its facilities to develop commercialization capacity with a venture studio + new 200,000 square foot research laboratory space.
Job estimates: approximately 125 new well-paying research related jobs.
- The Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA)’s Supplier Scale program
About: a supply chain study + program to support business development.
County investment: $750,000.