5 years ago

Alabama leaders respond to massive mill closing while workers search for hope

International Paper mill, Courtland, Ala.
International Paper mill, Courtland, Ala.

Major industry comes to small-town Alabama

“An Act to Establish the Town of Courtland, in Lawrence County” was passed by the Alabama Territorial Legislature on December 13, 1819.

Wealthy planters quickly set up shop in the town. One of the South’s first railroads was built to run through Courtland so their crops could be shipped without having to traverse the hazardous Muscle Shoals of the Tennessee River. The railroad was mostly destroyed during the Civil War, but was rebuilt and became part of the southern rail system around the turn of the 20th century.
International Paper Logo
In the early 1970s, Champion International Paper, one of the largest pulp and paper companies in the world, erected a mill in Courtland. To say the mill has been a major source of employment for the town would be an understatement. It was bought out by International Paper in 2000, and today the mill employees more people than actually live in the town. Over 1,100 Alabamians count on the mill to provide for their families. Less than 1,000 people live in Courtland, which consists of a little over 300 households.

From undisputed paper king to borderline paper tiger

Around the same time the Courtland railroad was rebuilt and put back into operation after being destroyed during the Civil War, 18 pulp and paper mills in the northeast United States merged to form International Paper. At the time, IP supplied an incredible 60 percent of the country’s newsprint.

Their famed Hudson River Mill revolutionized the paper industry, serving both as the company’s headquarters and as one of its largest plants. After World War II, workers in the Hudson River Mill perfected the production of coated papers. They shifted the company’s focus off of newsprint and on to the growing coated papers market, which exploded with the rise of U.S. service industries and the growth of the American middle class.

Today, 115 years after its founding, International Paper remains the king of the paper industry, employing over 60,000 people worldwide with revenues north of $26 billion a year.

But in spite of its imposing size, significant assets and global workforce, International Paper is struggling to overcome simple free-market economics — supply and demand.

The market for uncoated paper in the U.S. has been declining since 1999. In recent years, that decline has turned into a free fall.

In 2005, International Paper implemented an aggressive restructuring plan that resulted in the sale of over 6 million acres of forestland in the United States. They also shed their coated paper and beverage packaging businesses, along with other holdings.

IP still maintains a massive global empire, but it’s hard not to see their shuffling as little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Sept. 11 hits home

9/11 is synonymous with tragedy for most Americans.

But for long-time IP workers in Courtland, 9/11 takes on an even more personal meaning.

“I went to work that morning like I have for just about as long as I can remember,” an IP worker told Yellowhammer. He asked to remain anonymous because he said he wasn’t interested in “more reporters calling [his] house after they read [his] name.”

We’ll refer to him as James.

James is in his mid-30s and has been working at International Paper’s Courtland mill since graduating from high school. He worked other jobs growing up, but IP is the only “career job” he’s ever had.

James and his wife have three kids. She works part-time, and they’ve never quite been able to reach their goal of her staying at home to raise the kids full-time until they graduate high school.

“They told us the morning of 9/11 that we were done — the plant was through,” James recalled. “My first thought was ‘my kids won’t be able to go to college.’ I mean, there are more pressing things than that, obviously. I’ve got to pay these bills. I’ve got to put food on the table. But every parent worth their salt is doing what they do in hopes of giving their kids a shot they never had — to give them the chance for a better life.”

With only a high school diploma and few manufacturing jobs available, James is facing the prospect of uprooting his family.

“I’ve got to find out where the work is,” James said. “I ain’t never took a dime from the government and I ain’t about to start now. Listen man, I didn’t know what stress was until Sept. 11, 2013. It’s a sad day for the whole country, and I ain’t trying to compare losing my job to people losing their lives, but this hit home.”

State leaders get the news

“These decisions are especially difficult because of the impact to long-serving and hard-working employees, their families and the surrounding communities,” said International Paper Chairman and CEO, John Faraci. “This decision to permanently close capacity is primarily being driven by demand decline for uncoated freesheet paper products in the United States.”

IP will begin laying off workers gradually over the next few months, with complete work stoppage set for sometime early next year.

There are two potential scenarios that could play out when a major employer decides to close up shop.

In the first scenario, the Department of Commerce is told in advance.

The state then uses whatever resources it can muster to convince the company to stay open. Sometimes that means economic incentives — whether they come directly from the state or in partnership with local governments — other times it means jobs training and recruitment.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield
Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield

“We’ll work with the company any way we can to help them remain operational,” Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told Yellowhammer. “We immediately launch an exploration to find out what conditions have led to the situation. We open a dialogue with senior-level management and find out if there is anything the state can do to assist them.”

In the second scenario, state government officials are given no advance notice — they’re blindsided.

International Paper’s closing falls into scenario number two.

But even though IP did not reach out to the state for assistance, Canfield said they engaged immediately after finding out about the company’s plan to close the Courtland mill.

“Governor Bentley reached out to IP’s CEO,” Canfield said. “[The CEO] made it clear that there wasn’t a pathway forward to keep the plant open.”

Canfield said the state also searched for scenarios in which the equipment at the IP mill could be repurposed to create a different, more sustainable business model.

No luck.

“The company had already gone through a repurposing exercise to find other uses for the plant. They looked at the life of the plant, the equipment and the costs of modifying what they had for another purpose. There was no business case to be made for doing that, even if the state offered incentives, which it did.”

Canfield said the Commerce Department even offered to pursue extraordinary measures, like seeking approval from the legislature to incentivize IP at a level higher than the Commerce Department is currently authorized.

“Even that went nowhere,” he said. “We’re fighting market forces that are out of everyone’s hands. Market conditions led to the situation IP Is in. We can’t help them get customers in a declining market that’s projected to continue to decline. They don’t need incentives, they need customers to buy their products.”

The ripple effect

Sen. Paul Bussman, R-Cullman, and Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, are Courtland’s current representatives in the Alabama legislature.

“What people don’t see is the jobs outside of IP that are affected as well,” Rep. Johnson told Yellowhammer. “There were contractors out there every day, people selling diesel fuel, the little lady selling biscuits every morning at the nearby gas station. This impacts everyone in the community, whether they actually work at the mill or not.”

Sen. Bussman echoed Johnson’s assessment of the ripple effect the mill’s closing could have on the local economy.

“You’ve got hundreds of people — loggers, truck drivers — they’re bringing in 175 to 180 loads every day. We have a tremendous forestry industry that now has no place in the area to sell its timber.”

The “wood supply chain,” as it is known, consists of loggers and wood dealers that supply wood to the mill, the truckers that deliver the wood, and the landowners who grow the timber.

An Alabama saw mill
An Alabama saw mill

In spite of the market conditions that led to the Courtland mill being shut down, the forest industry in Alabama is actually showing signs of growth. The Alabama Department of Commerce listed 31 new forestry-related projects with a total investment of $303 million, creating over 1,200 jobs in 2012 alone.

Still, there’s no way to sugarcoat the negative impact the closing of the mill will have on northwest Alabama communities and on members of the forestry community that depend on the jobs and markets created by the mill.

“This facility has been a vital part of the forestry community in northwest Alabama for decades and its closure represents a real loss for the local communities and for Alabama as a whole,” said Chris Isaacson, Executive Vice-President of the Alabama Forestry Association. “The impact will be felt not only by the employees, but also by the entire wood supply chain including forest landowners, loggers, truckers and all of the suppliers and vendors that provide support.”

A pathway forward

“We’ve started discussions with economic development people to see how we can make this a soft landing,” Sen. Bussman said. “Hopefully the state can help retrain some of the workers. We’re in discussions with Secretary Canfield, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and others who can help in those areas. Rep. Johnson and I are going to work every day on bringing new industries to the area.”

House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Rep. Johnson held a press conference last week during which they announced plans to provide resources to IP workers and other people in the area affected by the mill’s closing.

Governor Bentley’s “rapid response team” is set to visit the plant this week to help employees find new jobs and training.

“You may have people who have been employed out there such a long time that a high school education was not required,” Johnson said. “And now we may need to help them with their GED or we may need to help them with further training. That’s just part of what they’ll do. There’ll even be credit counseling made available to some who will need that.”

Secretary Canfield said the Dept. of Commerce has already begun looking at their existing book of projects to introduce them to Lawrence County. He also said they are “casting a wide net” to find companies considering projects that might find the current International Paper location suitable to their needs.

“These are longterm solutions, but we’re already working on them while the Department of Labor, ADECA and others on our team work to meet the immediate needs,” Canfield said.

Back in Courtland, James, the long-time International Paper employee, huddled with his family and friends at a local church and prayed for guidance.

“We’ve done all the crying we’re going to do, and believe me, there’s been a lot of that,” James said. “Now we’re crying out to the Lord and finding our hope in Him. There ain’t much hope to be found anywhere else right now.”


Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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10 hours ago

5 reasons to encourage your child to befriend the kid who’s ‘different’

“My mom said you are welcome to come to our home and play anytime!”

I turned, astonished, to look at who said this to my son as we were waiting to cross the street to go into school one morning. A sweet fourth grade girl, whom I recognized as another student with exceptional needs, was standing beside him smiling.

No child had ever said this to him before.

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I knew this kind gesture was for me and my son. I had shared some struggles with this little girl’s mom during a conversation at our public library a few weeks earlier because our children share similar traits and diagnoses. This thoughtful and friendly act warmed my heart and made me happy. There was, however, a flinch of pain as well. Deep down, while grateful for this new friendship, I longed for someone from the church to receive my son so openly. Sadly, I have found that these are the relationships that have been the most difficult to develop.

We, as parents, should become more purposeful about helping our kids get to know children with special needs.

It’s natural for our kids to gravitate toward a certain kind of person—someone with whom it’s easy to talk to and get along with. There is nothing wrong with that. Yet, I think we, as parents, should become more purposeful about helping our kids get to know children with special needs. They are the ones who stick out because they are always too loud or usually say something awkward— in all honesty, the ones that most kids think are weird or annoying.

Here are five reasons I believe we should encourage our child to be friends with the kid who’s different:

1. Evil can only be overcome with good

Kids that stick out because of disabilities, an awkward social awareness, or other things not perceived as “positive” are often singled out by bullies. It’s not enough to tell our children they shouldn’t bully. In addition, we need to teach them phrases to use that help stick up for a bullied child. We should teach them how to treat others the way they would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). We can even teach them to reach out to that child, and even give a compliment. Children who are teased regularly can store anger, but sweet words can restore (Prov. 16:24).

2. The kid who is different has a lot of offer

The children who are different are made in God’s image. And they usually have special traits to offer: Kindness, generosity, a learned resilience, creativity, a readiness to befriend, loyalty, and humor. We should teach our children to give them a chance. We can help them get over the initial awkwardness of developing a new friendship so that they see more of God’s beauty revealed through their distinctions.

3. It provides growth and maturity

Our hearts will expand as we see the world from the perspective of someone whose life experience is different than our own or whose brain shows them things we cannot see. My son has taught me how to be more gracious because he makes me ask “why.” His logic is so contrasting to my own that if I don’t ask why, I risk major misunderstanding. Our God sees hearts (1 Sam. 16:7), and we can learn more about others’ hearts when we simply ask questions instead of drawing conclusions based on our experience of what we perceive to be normal.

4. The parents are often hurting

The most pain I have ever experienced in is the pain of watching my child be rejected or teased over and over again. And life gets lonely for the parent of a child with significant needs. It can often be hard, exhausting, and frustrating. Depression is usually around the corner, waiting to swallow that parent in darkness. We can be a flicker of light in their midst. Seeing people, especially other children, enjoy our child is life-giving.

5. Talk means nothing without action

First John 3:18 tells us to love, not just by talking, but by doing. Actions that seem small to us can mean the world to a lonely, hurting child. We should be actively reaching out to those around us who are different. When we see them at church, we can tell them we’re glad to see them. Then, we can show interest by having a conversation. We can help create play dates. It’s okay if things get a little awkward for a bit. Our kids will learn through the experience. And let’s stop judging kids who continually act out, and their parents. Instead, we should pray for and encourage them. We, as parents, will be the ones to set an example of kindness to our kids by treating their friends with dignity and by befriending adults who are different than us.

One of the most loving actions a sister in Christ ever did for me and my son was to pray for God to give her a great love for him. Then, she encouraged a friendship between her son and mine. The genuine love she shows my child—one without annoyed tones or eye rolls—rubs off on her children, who also show kindness to my son. Her love shows the likeness of Jesus.

As a church, we should follow her example. We must recognize that children who challenge us to love more deeply are a gift. They teach us to love more like our heavenly Father who glady pours out his forgiveness over the depths of our sin. Because of our faith in our risen Savior, and his Spirit in us, we can love all people and teach our children to do the same.

(Courtesy ERLC)

11 hours ago

Alabama monuments: Preserving our history to protect our future

Doing the right thing isn’t always politically expedient, but a strong leader does what’s necessary regardless of her critics. Governor Kay Ivey exemplifies this kind of no-nonsense leadership.

Last year, our state faced a difficult decision: should we listen to the politically-correct, out-of-state pundits or do what’s best for the future of Alabama?

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All across Alabama, we have monuments and statues that tell our storied past. Many of these moments have affected our entire nation and shaped us to be who we are today. History doesn’t just tell us where we’ve been, it often provides signals and warnings for how to avoid repeating past errors. As George Santayana once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Nearly one year ago, I sponsored the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a law that protects historic monuments and memorials in Alabama from thoughtless destruction.

More specifically, the Memorial Preservation Act prohibits the destruction or alteration of public monuments older than forty years, and established a standing committee to hear waiver requests from cities and counties, while historic artifacts under the control of museums, archives, libraries, and universities were specifically exempted from the prohibition against
removal or alteration.

This law is the result of countless discussions with other legislators, historians, and interested citizens, and the intent is to preserve memorials to all of Alabama’s history – including the Civil War, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights movement – for generations to come.

We’ve seen a wave of political correctness sweep the nation, and too often, these attempts have resulted in re-writing of the American story. This politically-correct movement to strike whole periods of the past from our collective memory is divisive and unnecessary. In order to understand our complete history and where we are today, we have to tell it as it happened.

As a lawmaker, I believe it is incumbent upon us to preserve our state’s history, and I am grateful that Governor Ivey, in the face of criticism, stood up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history – the good and the bad. As father and grandfather, I am especially grateful she understood the importance of our children and grandchildren learning from the past, so they can create a better future.

State Senator Gerald Allen is a Republican from Tuscaloosa.

12 hours ago

Alabama working to become a top dive destination

Alabama already has the reputation as one of the best places in the nation to fish for saltwater species, especially red snapper.

Now, Alabama is striving to become one of the top destinations for divers to explore numerous wrecks, scuttled vessels and our state’s unparalleled artificial reef zones.

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The latest efforts to increase the awareness for dive enthusiasts occurred last week when the Alabama Marine Resources Division (MRD) scuttled a 102-foot tugboat, the Gladys B, in the Tatum-Winn North reef zone approximately 22 nautical miles south of Fort Morgan in 100 feet of water. The superstructure of the vessel is about 62 feet below the surface. The Gladys B was built in 1937 and donated to the MRD Artificial Reef Program by Steiner’s Shipyard from Bayou la Batre. The reef site coordinates are 29 53.635’N and 87 56.071’W.

On the same trip, MRD deployed approximately 200 concrete culvert pipes to enhance the old Tulsa wreck and the Radmore Pipe Number 1 site about 15 miles south of Dauphin Island and to create a new reef site about 25 miles south of Fort Morgan.

The next steps in the plans to provide habitat close to shore that may also attract dive enthusiasts from all over the U.S. will occur offshore and within yards of the Alabama shoreline.

The nearshore project includes circalittoral reefs, sometimes also called snorkeling reefs, that can be reached from the sandy beaches.

Craig Newton, MRD’s Artificial Reefs Program Coordinator, said bids were opened for the circalittoral reefs at three Gulf State Park beach access sites.

At those three sites, 166 reef modules will be deployed to provide habitat for a wide variety of marine life.

“We’re going to create four clusters of reef modules within the three circalittoral reef zones,” Newton said. “We anticipate we will have more activity at the Pavilion reef site, so we’re going to create two independent clusters of reefs at the Pavilion site. We will have one cluster of reefs at the Perdido site and one cluster of reefs at the Romar site.”

Walter Marine of Orange Beach won the contract to deploy the modules in the new zones, and that should happen sometime this year, Newton said.

“We were able to secure some more funds for this project and make it significantly larger than what the original grant proposal covered,” Newton said. “We are excited about that.”

Newton said the reefs, which will be about 475 feet from the shoreline, will be marked by large pilings on the beach. There will be no markers in the water. Signage on the beach will describe the project and include information on what marine life snorkelers might encounter on the reefs.

The offshore project will be the deployment of the New Venture, a 250-foot surveying vessel, which will be ready for final inspection by May 2018. Newton said the original plans included towing the vessel to Mobile to wait on a weather window to deploy the ship. Those plans have changed. Now the vessel will be towed to Venice, La. When the weather allows, the New Venture will be towed straight to the deployment site about 20 nautical miles south of Orange Beach in about 120 feet of water. The top of the superstructure will be 55 to 60 feet below the surface.

“We look to be about a month away from completing the deployment,” Newton said. “We had some engineering models on how the ship was going to sink. We had to add a couple of bulkheads within the interior of the ship to direct water to keep the ship stable as it’s going down. We want to do all we can to make sure the ship lands upright. We don’t want it to roll over.”

Creation of 15 acres of juvenile reef fish habitat is also scheduled. Limestone aggregate rocks from 8 pounds to 50 pounds in size will be deployed. Each reef site will be about an acre in size.

“The goal is to create habitat for juvenile reef fish,” Newton said. “We feel like there is a significant potential for production from this project. Hopefully, we can grow a few more reef fish. The juvenile habitat sites will go inside one of the 9-mile reef zones that were approved earlier this year. The timeline for this construction is about the same as the circalittoral reefs.

“We know we’re going to get some subsidence (sinking into the seafloor) with these rocks. But if we can get a decent amount of production from these reefs to offset the subsidence, then we feel like the project will be worth it.”

Marine Resources is also in the middle of an ongoing project to deploy 120 Super Reefs in the offshore reef zones. Two deployment trips have been made this year.

With all this reef activity progressing, the dive operators in Mobile and Baldwin counties hope to capitalize on this activity to increase awareness of the opportunities off the Alabama coast.

Several dive operators and tourism officials met recently at Orange Beach to work on a strategy to do just that.

In 2013, the dive business got a significant boost when The LuLu was deployed off the Alabama coast with much fanfare. Less than 24 hours later, divers swarmed the 271-foot vessel resting in about 110 feet of water.

“When we do something special, like this New Venture, the awareness and excitement starts all over again,” said Bud Howard of Down Under Dive Shop in Gulf Shores. “Just like when we sunk The LuLu. It was like ‘Wow.’

“With New Venture, we’ll get more advanced divers, technical divers and wreck divers. The interest in the New Venture has been burning my web page up.”

Down Under, which has a multi-passenger dive boat, has already made plans to dive the New Venture each Wednesday and Saturday, when weather allows, as soon as it is reefed.

Gary Emerson of Gary’s Gulf Divers in Orange Beach can carry six divers, the same capacity as Chas Broughton’s Underwater Works in Fairhope. Gulf Coast Divers in Mobile sells and rents equipment and refers divers to boat operators.

Emerson said an information campaign needs to be started to apprise boaters of Alabama’s dive-flag law, which requires a floating red-striped flag to be deployed in the area of the diving and snorkeling activity. Boaters are required to stay at least 100 feet away from the area marked by the dive flag.

The dive-shop owners expressed interest in adding more reefs in water no deeper than 60 feet to allow dive shops to offer more opportunities for new divers to gain certification. Certification dives are limited to depths no greater than 60 feet.

“We need locations with different depths to appeal to a wide range of divers,” Howard said. “We have people from all over the Midwest who come to Alabama because this is the closest place to them for diving opportunities. These people spend a lot of money when they’re here. I do think the snorkeling reefs are really going to help.”

Vince Lucido of the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef and Restoration Foundation echoed that last sentiment.

“When the snorkeling reefs get opened, that will be awesome,” Lucido said. “We’ll have access right off the beach.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

13 hours ago

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones could be a deciding vote in Pompeo confirmation

With Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) publicly opposed to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s confirmation to be Trump’s secretary of state, Pompeo is seeking to win votes from Democratic U.S. Senators to get across the finish line.

Among the possible Democratic targets for Pompeo are Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Alabama’s own Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

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At a town hall meeting for University of Alabama students in Tuscaloosa last week, Jones addressed the Pompeo matter and explained how he sought to follow in the footsteps of one of his predecessors, former Alabama Sen. Howell Heflin.

“I start with any presidential nomination with a needle in favor of the president,” Jones said. “I go back to my role as a staff member for the late Sen. Howell Heflin from Alabama.”

According to Jones, Heflin began with a view of the confirmation process in favor of the nominee.

“As chief justice [of the Alabama Supreme Court], he always felt constitutionally bound that his role and his view that the president should be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to nominations,” Jones said. “However, that does not mean that it would take a lot to move that needle back. If you do the appropriate work, you can figure this out and determine for yourself whether or not a nomination is qualified, whether or not they’re going to uphold the law. And that will mean voting for someone that I did not personally agree with and would not have personally appointed if I were king or I were president.”

At the time the Tuscaloosa event on April 13, Jones had not met with Pompeo. A representative from Jones’ office told Yellowhammer News Jones and Pompeo met on Thursday.

“He has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill,” Jones said. “He has not made it to my office yet. I fully expect him to at some point. I want to reserve my judgment on him. He has been confirmed once.”

Critics of Pompeo have opposed his confirmation on the grounds of his view on U.S. involvement in the Middle East and the use of “torture” as a means of interrogation.

“I have heard and understand the criticism and concerns and I want to talk to him about it,” Jones said.

For the time being, Jones remains non-committal on the confirmation, especially given he was not a U.S. Senator when Pompeo was confirmed to be CIA director in 2017.

“The jury is out for me at this point as a freshman senator that didn’t have the benefit of voting on him the last time,” he said.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

Editor note: This story was updated to reflect Jones had met with Pompeo two days earlier per Jones’ office.

13 hours ago

University of Montevallo breaks ground on new Center for the Arts

The University of Montevallo this week held the groundbreaking for its new multi-million-dollar Center for the Arts.

The 36,000-square-foot facility will allow the College of Fine Arts at UM to provide a more comprehensive teaching and learning space giving fine arts programs a location to collaborate more across disciplines.

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“This facility is to create a new kind of environment that draws together students and faculty from all of the departments,” said Dr. Steven Peters, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Our students and professors will have the opportunity for more conversations across disciplines in the arts and encourage more high quality, specific and interdisciplinary activity. This will be a creative engine for discovery and innovation.”

The Center for the Arts will provide opportunities for campus and community use with the following key features:

• Performance venues and hospitality space
• University art gallery
• Theatre Department offices and multipurpose classrooms and studios
• Multi-use digital fabrication lab
• Scene design and wardrobe shops along with versatile storage spaces

“I am thrilled that we, at Davis Architects, have been fortunate to work with the University of Montevallo and their outstanding theatre, music and art faculty and staff to bring to reality this wonderful new facility that they need and deserve,” said Don Cosper, Davis Architects.

The performance venue will include a 350-seat theater with state-of-the-art acoustics and technology for music concerts and theater performances, a 100-seat black box theater and a courtyard suitable for outdoor performances and receptions. Overall, the Center is a $25 million investment for the University.

“It’s exciting to be part of a historic project for the University of Montevallo,” said Ken Upchurch, TCU Consulting Services, LLC. “Working with Dr. Stewart on this project to connect the University, the arts, and the Montevallo community has been a true pleasure.”

The additional classrooms and labs will serve as a major asset for the University of Montevallo’s college’s recruitment program.

“This new Center for the Arts will be a state-of-the-art facility able to accommodate growth including up to 150 students in the fine arts programs over the next five years,” said Dr. John W. Stewart III, president of the University of Montevallo. “The cross function of disciplines under one roof will provide students with more marketable skills for their future occupations.”

Not only will the new Center for the Arts serve to promote integrated thinking within the University, it will also act as an artistic hub for the community.

“The facility will immerse students’ experiences in the arts,” said Peters. “The impact on the University of Montevallo, the Shelby County community and our university will be endless.”

The College of Fine Arts’ work focuses on creativity — but not only on creativity: the school’s mission includes integrating undergraduate education with arts advocacy and leadership, diversity and inclusion, engagement with social and cultural issues and partnership with individuals and organizations locally and regionally. University of Montevallo faculty and staff, as well as Shelby County leaders believe this new facility will prepare students to join the next wave of professional artists, performers, musicians, arts educators and communication experts.

“This beautiful new facility will benefit Shelby County and the State of Alabama as a whole,” said Alex Dudchock, Shelby County Manager. “We are taking the business approach to attract national and regional talent. Our goals include student retention and growth, as well as working to keep Montevallo graduates staying in Shelby County.”

Regardless of major, students are being guided to find their own creative signature, to discover what kind of independent thinkers they are, how they are uniquely creative, how they can become more thoughtful communicators and problem-solvers and how they can become more productive, creative collaborators. By doing so, the community is endeavoring to build the 21st century creative workforce at this beautiful place called Montevallo in the heart of Alabama.

“The College contributes to the development of intellectual curiosity, artistic depth and breadth. It provides a solid liberal arts foundation and professional training according to the highest standards to prepare our students to pursue the career trajectory they may choose,” said David Wheeler, Board of Trustees, University of Montevallo. “For us, an education in the arts is central to the academic mission of UM since it is a kind of liberation—a framework for creative interaction with the world.”