Catfish plant sets $1.2m expansion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 16, 2002

UNIONTOWN &045;&045; The usual group of dignitaries had finished giving excited speeches.

Gov. Don Siegelman, state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, and Mayor Phillip White, among others, gathered here Tuesday to celebrate the announcement that Harvest Select, an 11-year-old catfish processing plant, was investing $1.2 million to expand the company and add 60 news jobs.

The dignitaries, along with other leaders in the Uniontown community, picked up gold-painted shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking.

That statement spoke volumes. White said he couldn’t remember the last time an industry expanded in his city. For that matter, Uniontown has never been considered a place for rising populations or expanding industries.

Jerry Whittington, president of Harvest Select, changed tradition in Uniontown with his announcement. The company will increase employment from 220 to 280 jobs after the expansion is complete.

Siegelman realized the importance of the announcement – not only for Uniontown, but for all of West Alabama. Siegelman deemed it so important that he scheduled the stop before traveling to Huntsville for an afternoon meeting and then back to Montgomery for an evening meeting.

No one knows that more than White, who has battled a negative perception of his city.

In a heated election against U.S. Rep. Bob Riley in the governor’s race, Siegelman used the engagement Tuesday to discuss his continued plans for Alabama’s Black Belt. He focused on oft-mentioned projects like Interstate 85, a north-south corridor for the state, and the four-laning of U.S. Highway 80.

Paul Bryant Jr., son of legendary football coach Paul &uot;Bear&uot; Bryant, owns a majority interest in Harvest Select.

Despite difficult times, Whittington said his company has been able to expand because his operation is fully integrated.

Harvest Select began operation in 1991 with 75 employees and produced 100,000 pounds of catfish each week. Today, the company employs more than 200 and produces 700,000 pounds of catfish each week. With the announcement Tuesday, those numbers will continue to increase.