It’s not quite a case of Six Degrees of Separation, but this week there is a compelling web of connectivity between London, Auburn and Anniston’s favorite former Army post, McClellan.
It goes like this:
At the Farnborough International Airshow near London, Gov. Robert Bentley and his crew of merry Alabamians announced Tuesday that GE Aviation would expand its existing operations in the state — an expansion that carries a $50 million price tag and will involve 3-D printing of airplane parts.
The catch: GE Aviation already has a facility in — you guessed it — Auburn, which is nowhere near London but nonetheless giddy over the news. Phillip Dunlap, that city’s economic development director, told AL.com that “this is bringing a completely new type of manufacturing to Alabama, and the message that sends is we’re producing the future now.” (For what it’s worth, the state is forking over about $3 million in discretionary incentives in the deal.)
While the governor was hob-knobbing in England, and while Auburn’s economic developers were ecstatic, a few of the industrial areas of the former post are humming with activity. We firmly believe McClellan is one of Alabama’s unrealized gems, if for no other reason than its ability to incubate all sorts of industries, job-creators and money-making projects.
You needn’t travel to London or Auburn to hear about Alabama’s future.
Instead, drive into McClellan, roughly north of the Center for Domestic Preparedness and the Federal Emergency Management Agency facilities, and you’ll see road crews and construction workers turning more slivers of former Army property, to steal the Auburn economic developer’s phrase, into industries that are producing the future now.
An example: While Bentley is trumping his British success, one of the property’s signature industrial partners, International Auto Components, is rapidly expanding its McClellan footprint that could produce as many, or more, jobs than the governor’s London announcement. Other projects are underway, too: road improvements, industrial expansions, even last week’s blockbuster involving FEMA’s acquisition of 94 additional acres and 16 more buildings.
If you’re one who foolishly buys in to the notion that Anniston’s former Army post has been allowed to wither on the vine — that redevelopment hasn’t commenced to any noteworthy degree — then we ask, are you paying attention?
Bentley’s record as a jobs-creator is sketchy, even with his publicized European jobs-hunting trips. McClellan, meanwhile, the hub of northeast Alabama’s future, rolls on, small step after small step, toward its future.