OXFORD — The city of Oxford took a major step toward bringing new jobs to Calhoun County on Wednesday afternoon with a ribbon cutting for Oxford West Industrial Park.
The 130-acre site sits in Eastaboga in between Interstate 20 and U.S. 78, about a mile away from each, on John Wills Avenue, near the border between Calhoun County and Talladega County. Oxford city officials and representatives from economic development groups were optimistic about the site’s chances of drawing industry, and jobs with it.
“I can’t wait to see what kind of job opportunities this creates for residents,” said Lorie Denton, director of business development with the EDC.
The property is ready for developers to use almost immediately, should a prospect take interest in the site. The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama certified the land as an AdvantageSite in December 2015, a designation that gives interested developers assurance the land was vetted with geotechnical surveys and soil analysis, that it’s near major roadways and shipping lanes, and that the property is ready for utilities.
EDPA Vice President Ernie Cowart said that the certification makes it easier to get prospective developers interested, especially since they’re working with shrinking timetables.
“Companies are allowing less time for site selection and project construction, and they’re demanding more information up front,” Cowart said. “They don’t want any surprises, and sometimes that can knock you out of the process.”
Oxford West is the second AdvantageSite in Calhoun County; the first was the McClellan Industrial Park, certified in October 2013. There are 58 AdvantageSites in Alabama; Cowart said that the sites as a whole have generated over 6,400 jobs and $1.4 billion in development dollars statewide since the program’s inception in 2008.
Oxford Mayor Alton Craft said that he expects the certification will work for Oxford, too.
“Back 30 years ago when Mayor (Leon) Smith and I started together, you could bring (developers) out and show them pastures and trees and they would say, ‘I see your vision,’” Craft explained, “but they don’t see it anymore.”
The EDPA’s assessment is online at advantagealabama.com; area benefits listed include the proximity to Jacksonville State University, Gadsden State Community College and Regional Medical Center.
Keith Strickland, the site’s project manager from engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, said the land is ready for industrial use.
A developer “might have minor site grading to do for specific needs, but they won’t have mass grading to do,” he said. “It’s in excellent shape and ready for development.”
Hopper said that the EDC will work with the Alabama Department of Commerce, the city of Oxford, Alabama Power and natural gas utility Spire to market the site.
“We’ll do that with all of our allies,” he said. “The Alabama Department of Commerce’s job is to sell Alabama, and our job is to sell Calhoun County.”