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Clanton-based agriculture center project canceled; ALFA to pursue other locations

A project to construct a multi-function livestock and event complex in Chilton County has fallen through amid strife between local stakeholders, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The Alabama Rural Economic Center was estimated to be worth $40-55 million in regional economic impact and create 300-400 jobs for the city of Clanton.

According to projections, the complex was anticipated to attract more than 900,000 visitors to the county annually for agriculture-centered events.

The 500-acre site, originally selected by the Alabama Farmers Federation (ALFA) and dually owned by the City of Clanton and Chilton County, will not become home to the complex after local leadership failed to reach a final agreement.

AP reports that the deal, estimated to cost nearly $150 million, had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation was the lead entity of the public-private partnership.

Chilton County Commission chairman Jimmie Hardie expressed his disappointment to the outlet over the plans being scrapped but conveyed optimism that other real estate could attract development opportunities for the rural county.

“We are indeed disappointed that the farm center is not going forward,” admitted Hardie. “However, the commission has other sites and properties we are promoting for economic growth and opportunities in [our] county.”

According to the Clanton Advertiser, Mayor Jeff Mims seemingly threatened to momentarily oversee the project’s decline during a city council meeting in August of last year, something to which ALFA president Jimmy Parnell took exception.

Parnell in September 2021 expressed concern that the mayor’s words would serve to harm stakeholders’ ability to raise sufficient capital for the project.

He made a public plea to local leadership and urged officials to “put the egos aside” and resolve outstanding issues that were inhibiting the negotiating process.

When debate took place over the project last year, ALFA cited permitting issues related to the site’s sewer and water infrastructure.

In a statement to AP, Parnell said that the federation remained committed to building a “premier” agriculture event center in the Yellowhammer State.

“We remain committed to building the Farm Center and have begun evaluating other locations,” Parnell advised. “The work we’ve done over the last two years has strengthened our resolve to develop a premier farm center and event complex in our state.”

The project’s plans called for a 5,000-seat air-conditioned arena, 150,000-square-foot exhibition building and a 400-stall horse barn.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL