HEFLIN — Last week the city of Heflin announced the sale of the old Cleburne County High School to developers who expect to create more than 35 jobs by transforming the historically valuable property into an assisted living facility.
The announcement of that $12 million project came on the heels of another business announcement — Southern Immediate Care, opening in Heflin later this year — which will create 15 jobs with a $600,000 investment, according to the city’s economic developer Tanya Maloney.
“That’s a big win for us,” Maloney said, “not only economically but also community-wise. We desperately need health care here in our rural communities because rural hospitals are dying.”
The two new businesses are part of a larger organized effort to successfully recruit businesses to Cleburne County, according to Maloney.
It wasn’t always this way.
Maloney said that less than five years ago there was no structured plan in place for the industrial board to recruit businesses.
“We started having meetings with different stakeholders in the state, communities that look like us and the Department of Commerce,” Maloney said.
Maloney said the Alabama Department of Commerce offered a community partnership program which helped public- and private-sector officials start a program called Accelerate Cleburne to help recruit businesses.
The Accelerate Cleburne consists of three committees:
— Recruitment, which is handled by the industrial board
— Retention, which is handled by the Chamber of Commerce
— Renewal, which is handled by the Heflin Main Street Board and tourism initiatives development.
Maloney said the Accelerate Cleburne and investment from the county are the reasons there is an uptick in businesses locating in Cleburne County.
Maloney admits that one of the biggest challenges facing business recruitment is the hilly landscape of Cleburne County.
“We’re topographically challenged here,” Maloney said.
Maloney said that most industries want property that is flat and “ready to go” so they can be up and running within six to eight months.
Maloney released a economic impact report for 2016-2017 which highlights the following industrial and retail/service recruitments:
Tree Brand of Ranburne, which makes shipping pallets, and Rusken Packaging of Heflin have a combined capital investment of about $4 million a yearly payroll of $2.5 million.
Rusken employs 45 and is hiring for a second shift and Tree Brand employs 20 but expects to double its staff over the next year.
In addition, Maloney said, a Dollar General in Fruithurst provides $70,000 in yearly sales tax there, and an O’Reillys Auto Parts in Heflin provides five jobs (sales tax records aren’t complete due to the newness of that store).