By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For the Birmingham Times
According to its website, the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority (JCEIDA), was formed in 1995 with the mission of providing an inventory of commercial sites for new and expanding businesses. Currently, more than 20 companies are operating in JCEIDA parks and lands, employing approximately 3,000 workers. Here’s a closer look at its two industrial parks—the Jefferson Metropolitan (JeffMet) parks at Lakeshore and McCalla.
The Lakeshore site consists of 337 acres located in the Oxmoor Valley area in the city of Birmingham. It is home to Southern Company (54.08 acres), Blue Cross Blue Shield (24.58 acres), Wells Fargo (70.48 acres), and Oxford Pharmaceuticals (23.4 acres). Businesses began to populate the park in the mid-2000s. Nearly all of the aforementioned JeffMet Lakeshore sites serve as a data centers for those companies. The exception is Oxford Pharmaceuticals, which produces generic pharmaceutical products. The extension of Lakeshore Parkway from Homewood to Alabama Highway 150 in Bessemer opened the door to untapped potential.
“There was nothing, I mean nothing, out that way,” said Ted vonCannon, executive director of JCEIDA since 2012. “This was a brand new, totally new property, virgin property. There hadn’t been anything done with it, except some mining back probably around the turn of the century. [There was] an inordinate amount of nothing happening, and this road cut right down the valley.”
The McCalla park is home to 13 companies: seven domestic and six international. Those companies include Publix (63.41 acres) and Home Depot (70.20 acres), as well as Plastipak Packaging (38.21 acres), which makes bottles for water, and Gestamp (45.02 acres), which makes parts for automobile manufacturers. Also in the park is auto supplier Yanfeng (23.30 acres).
Distribution centers like Publix are a key part of Jefferson County’s economic development strategy to use the network of interstate highways and railroads, including Interstate 20/59 and the Norfolk Southern Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility.
In 2018, the Jefferson County Commission voted to rezone land in the existing McCalla park to bring thousands of additional jobs to the Birmingham metro area and have a substantial impact on economic development in the region. The location of JeffMet McCalla, which opened in 2000 with approximately 720 developable acres, is a vital part of growth in the county, officials have said; it is adjacent to the Norfolk Southern Intermodal Facility, which has three miles of rail access available, and within a half mile of I-20/59. Only 140 acres remain for development: three industrial sites totaling 110 acres and one 30-acre commercial site. But while the authority deals in land, it is not in the real estate business.
“We’re trying to create jobs for citizens in Jefferson County,” vonCannon said. “At the end of the day, that’s our goal.”