A McClellan road could soon receive a $1.7 million facelift, helping one industry hire hundreds more workers and possibly spurring future economic development.
The Alabama Department of Transportation awarded the money Tuesday to the city of Anniston to upgrade and expand Eglin Avenue in McClellan's industrial park, said City Manager Brian Johnson. City officials and economic developers say the road improvements will help International Automotive Components expand and hire 359 workers and offer a better infrastructure to entice new businesses to the former fort.
Johnson said the money came through the Department of Transportation's Industrial Access Road and Bridge Grant program and requires no matching funds from the city. Johnson said the money will be available immediately after the city advertises the project to bidders.
"I think we'll be able to start the project this year," Johnson said.
Robin Scott, executive director of the McClellan Development Authority, tasked with developing the former fort, said the grant is good news.
"It certainly allows us to improve the infrastructure and bring in new jobs and businesses," Scott said. "It certainly makes us more marketable."
Specifically, the road improvements will help International Automotive Components, which injects plastic molds to create auto parts, in its expansion efforts. The company plans to start hiring new workers in the next few weeks, said David Ludd, spokesman for the company.
Ludd said his company focuses on quick delivery of its products and so requires good roadways.
"We have a number of large semi-tractor trailers going in and out every day," Ludd said. "Often times, widening of a road is important to meeting our schedules."
The road project will cover a little more than a mile of Eglin Avenue, which crosses Pappy Dunn Boulevard. Johnson said Eglin was not built for heavy industrial use and is quickly wearing away. He said the improvements will include not just widening of the road, but a strengthening of its base, resurfacing and drainage upgrades.
"It will basically be a road that can take heavy truck traffic that an industrial park is meant to have," Johnson said.
The Eglin project is the latest of several efforts to improve infrastructure at McClellan's industrial park. In April, the Anniston City Council awarded $2.6 million to Holmes II Excavation of Munford for improvements to Pappy Dunn Boulevard. The improved route will be used by employees entering the industrial park and as a showcase entrance to the site, Scott said.
"They have notice to proceed and start on that Monday," Scott said.
Last year, all Calhoun County municipalities and the Calhoun County Commission entered into a compact to pool their money and spend more than $2 million on infrastructure improvements at McClellan. Anniston agreed to spend the most, $852,000.
Don Hopper, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Council, said infrastructure improvements help lure industry to an area.
"Access to industrial sites is always necessary, it’s near the top of the list for a potential industry," Hopper said. "You've got to have transportation, good infrastructure ... that means access to their markets ... so that makes it more advantageous for businesses to locate here."
Hopper said his organization also needs an improved Eglin, since it plans to build a speculative building by the road this year. The 30,000-square-foot building will allow an industry to quickly move in and get started, Hopper said. Having a high-quality roadway will further help sell the building, he said.
"A lot of times an industry, if they're looking to expand or grow, are looking for a building to get in in a timely manner," Hopper said. "The great majority of companies we see are looking for a building."