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The Etowah Recipe for Success: Size, Location, Access and Workforce

Featured in Trade & Industry Development - May/June 2018 Edition, Pages 62-63

Little Canoe Creek Megasite Takes Center Stage for Development

Located in beautiful northeast Alabama, Etowah County is the twelfth most densely populated county in Alabama. This growing region provides easy access to two international airports, local commercial air service, interstate access, and a Class 1 rail system from Norfolk Southern that runs to the port of Mobile. The high concentration of automotive manufacturers and proximity to aerospace facilities make it ideal for those industries, as well as metalworking and food processing.

Named for the Cherokee term for “edible tree,” Etowah County was established on December 1st, 1868, by a state constitutional convention. With 535 square miles of land and 14 square miles of water, it is the smallest county in Alabama by square miles, but it boasts one of the highest population densities in the state.

It is also home to the largest megasite in North Alabama, Little Canoe Creek Certified AdvantageSite. The industrial development site is ready for any industry and will provide growth opportunities for not only foreign industries, but local ones as well.

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Little Canoe Creek Interactive Timeline

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is set to visit the Little Canoe Creek AdvantageSite June 26, putting a bow on a decade of development at the site.

Now with the focus moving from AdvantageSite certification to marketing, the Etowah County Commission is hiring a full-time economic developer to head up the Etowah County Economic Alliance, a new position and department geared toward marketing Little Canoe Creek, with a side interest in working with existing industry.

Looking back at the project’s timeline, commissioners said that they were proud of what had been accomplished, even if there’s still plenty of work and time between now and the arrival of new industry.

“We had never ventured into any type of commercial property or advancement as far as land or buildings on a large scale,” said commissioner Larry Payne.

He and commissioners Tim Choate and Jeff Overstreet were commissioners when the project was first proposed, with a 675-acre purchase of land in 2008.

Overstreet said many associate the land with a proposed bingo facility, which 2008-era officials said would draw in 40,000 customers a week and create 2,000 jobs. However, the land wasn’t bought with that in mind, he said, and when that proposition faltered, it wasn’t as big of a blow in the long term as it might have seemed.

“We were looking for something that’s going to be more concrete and provide good-paying jobs, not based on disposable income,” Overstreet said.

Instead, the commission continued buying up acreage at the site, tucked into a southwest corner of the county along Interstate 59, amassing more than 1,100 acres by 2017. Economic development consultant Tucson Roberts was hired on a one-year contract in August that year, and he led the commission toward AdvantageSite certification and developing a new website, Payne said.

Overstreet cautioned residents to remember that the process of inviting industry takes time, with other, similar industrial sites seeing as many as 15 to 20 years pass from concept to sale.

Payne said biding time isn’t a disadvantage; his father once told him once that unlike some other investment options, land doesn’t lose value, he recalled.

“If you’ve got land, you’re never going to lose on it,” Payne said.

Overstreet laughed and responded, “They’re not making any more land.”

By: Benjamin Nunnally / Times Staff Writer

Published by The Gadsden Times on June 6, 2018

See the online version of this article at gadsdentimes.com for an interactive timeline featuring a decade of coverage on the Little Canoe Creek industrial site project.

Little Canoe Creek Industrial Park Receives AdvantageSite Designation

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., April 24 – Little Canoe Creek Industrial Park in Etowah County has received an Alabama AdvantageSite designation.

The AdvantageSite program requires that community economic development organizations provide documentation specific to a proposed industrial site, including a set of standard data related to ownership/control, environmental and geotechnical conditions, and infrastructure status. Sites must also meet size, zoning and accessibility requirements.

The Little Canoe Creek Industrial Park is a 1100-acre site located on U.S. 11. The site is approximately 3.4 miles from Interstate 59 via exit 174. The site has rail on the north end of the property and is 12 miles from the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport. The site is publicly owned.

The application process was managed locally by the Etowah County Commission.

"The Etowah County Commission had a vision over ten (10) years ago to purchase and develop a megasite that could bring in a large number of high paying jobs to our citizens,” said Commissioner Tim N. Choate. “With the AdvantageSite designation from the State of Alabama and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), we are now one major step closer to achieving this goal. This is indeed an exciting day."

Commissioner Jeff Overstreet agreed.

“Many hours over many years have gone into making this project a reality to this point,” Overstreet said. “The County Commission is proud to be contributing to the future prosperity of Etowah County and its communities."

AdvantageSite is a teamwork approach between the private sector and state and local governments geared toward having prepared product and materials ready for industrial prospects. The program is jointly sponsored by the Alabama Department of Commerce, Spire, Alabama Power Co., the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, and coordinated by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. Representatives from each of the entities actively participate in application reviews and on-site visits to prospective AdvantageSite designees.

“Sites that are awarded the AdvantageSite designation do have an advantage,” said Greg Blalock, EDPA AdvantageSite coordinator. “We’re getting inquiries from other state economic development organizations that are looking at creating similar programs for a reason – they’re effective. There is value in a site having a formal designation. It is visible evidence that a site has been looked at by a third party, or in this case, multiple parties, who can confirm that essential information on the site is readily available and correct.”

AdvantageSites are featured on EDPA’s buildings and sites database, the statewide database of industrial buildings and sites used by site selection consultants, state economic developers, and companies looking to expand in Alabama. AdvantageSite is a voluntary industrial site preparedness program created in order to make the state more competitive for companies considering a location in Alabama.

For more information on the AdvantageSite program, please visit www.edpa.org/bsc/advantagesites.asp.

Little Canoe Creek Certified Alabama AdvantageSite

The Etowah County Commission on Tuesday announced that the Little Canoe Creek megasite is now certified as an AdvantageSite.

The certification from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama provides potential incoming industries with a guarantee that the site is ready for major industrial use. That includes a detailed inspection of everything that a large company would rely on, including utilities, rail and highway access, down to the geological soundness of the land for the construction of a major manufacturing site. Qualifications also include proof of acreage and aerial surveys.

Achieving the approval has been a lengthy process, with construction firm Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood performing more than 50 bores into the ground to test for soil stability and overall land quality on the 1,100-plus-acre site last March. By September, the commission started meetings with the EDPA about certification.