Alabama Power aids Craig Industrial Park’s spec building quest

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 6, 2005

Milling around the banquet rooms of the St. James Thursday night, a collection of some of the most powerful people in Selma gathered to hear the word of the latest success in the area’s industrial development.

Craig Field Industrial Park and Alabama Power are working together to provide the park’s fifth speculative building, designed to attract another industry to Selma and Dallas County.

“It’s so great to come to Selma. I get to see the progress you’ve made,” Alabama Power Company President and CEO Charles McCrary said. “I get to see the future, the hope.”

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With the help of Alabama Power, that progress will continue.

The company has loaned the Craig Field Industrial Park 70 percent of the cost of the building, interest free.

“It’s a project and a partnership that allows us to build the speculative building,” Chairman of the Craig Board John Pilcher said, noting the company’s willingness to share in the risk. “Because it is speculative, it has risk but the power company shares the risk with the community. We’re real excited about it.”

McCrary, however, said Alabama Power doesn’t see a risk.

“Is this really a spec building?” McCrary asked. “A spec building is speculative. It’s a gamble, something untried, unproven and unsure. We consider this building not a spec building, it was a sure thing for this community and the Black Belt.”

Based on the recent history of Craig Field, McCrary is right.

Since 1988, four spec buildings have been erected in the park. They all have tenants.

Probate Judge Johnny Jones said there were some skeptics before the first building, but even while unoccupied they proved to be a major tool in luring industry to survey the area.

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said Alabama Power is showing their faith in the area and continued growth.

“This was not a process that was not competitive,” Perkins said. “We had to show ourselves worthy because even though Alabama Power may have some money, they invest it wisely.”

And they did invest wisely, at least according to McCrary.

“I can remember not long ago the words were ‘I can’t.’ Now, the words are ‘we can.’

The words were ‘you lose.’ Now, it’s ‘we win,'” McCrary said. “The future was dim but now it’s vibrant and now it’s bright. Selma people have always tried to do something for Selma but progress was really unstartable. Now, it’s unstoppable.”

Jones expressed the community’s gratitude for Alabama Power’s support.

“Charles, I really want to tell you how much I really appreciate you and Alabama Power Company and those that have worked so closely with us in trying to get this spec building,” Jones said. “A dream is now becoming a reality because of your vision, your help.”

The new building is the latest in a series of successes in business development and recruiting over the past year.

EDA Chairman of the Board, Catesby Jones listed several of the achievements of the past year, including over 700 announced jobs.

“While 2004 was a good year for economic development in Selma and Dallas County, it didn’t just happen,” C. Jones said. “It took hard work, dedication and unselfishness and a spirit of cooperation.”

With the spec building announcement, the area is off to a strong start in 2005.

Several of the speakers addressed even more improvement in 2005.

“Yes there are some things happening now, that if we get them, will be very meaningful for this community, as meaningful as anything that can happen,” Judge Jones said before turning with a laugh to McCrary. “It probably won’t use a lot of electricity, but it will be a big plus.”

Alabama Power’s Billy Atchison, who played master of ceremonies for the night, summed up everyone’s hopes for the New Year.

“Selma is known as the heart of the Black Belt. I think it’s time for Selma to show the entire Black Belt how much heart we have. Let’s get strong and viable and push the blood through this heart to the veins throughout the Black Belt to touch and improve the quality of life for every citizen living in the Black Belt,” he said, “and I think we can do that if we continue to work as a team and a group.”