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Officials break ground on ‘visionary’ Walker County economic development project

An economic development project at a defunct coal mine in southeastern Walker County will spark growth opportunities throughout the area, according to local and state officials.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held for Heritage Landing, a 50-acre, multi-purpose development site that will have the capacity to house retail, commercial and industrial tenants.

The property, which sits adjacent to the I-22 corridor connection between Birmingham and Memphis, is a 15-minute commute from downtown Birmingham and a 25-minute drive from downtown Jasper.

An investment in the site from Birmingham-based Drummond Company will serve to make the once-mined property commercially viable for prospective industry.

The site’s location is within the heart of historic Alabama coal mining communities that were established and flourished during the 20th century mining boom. A majority of the coal mining operations have ceased since the the industry’s diminishment in the region.

Numerous elected officials and private sector industry partners were on hand for the forward-looking ceremony, which represented a historic milestone for the region.

David Knight, executive director of the Walker County Development Authority, noted that the project would serve as a “launching pad” for future growth opportunities in the area.

“I believe today’s monumental announcement will be viewed long into the future as a launching pad to Walker County’s brightest days,” said Knight. “Upon completion, this property will be the premier site in Alabama for companies looking to relocate or expand their operations. Coupled with a strong regional workforce and an unparalleled team of cross-specialty partners, this project could be merely the start of generational growth for our area.”

Gov. Kay Ivey, who was also in attendance for the historic groundbreaking, hailed the collaboration among local and state partners on the “visionary project.”

“I was proud to join the Walker County Development Authority and Drummond Company to break ground on the new Heritage Park. No doubt, this visionary project is the result of teamwork and innovative thinking, both of which are necessary for Alabama to continue achieving success,” said Ivey. “As someone who is the proud daughter of rural Alabama, I will continue to champion growth for every corner of our state, and it begins with projects like Heritage Landing. Yet again, Walker County and Alabama are taking a major step forward.”

(SR Comms)

According to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), member of the House Appropriations Committee, securing funds for I-22 was a major point of emphasis for the North Alabama congressman.

“I’m excited about this new development coming to Walker County. When I was elected to Congress, I put a major emphasis on getting the funds to complete Corridor X, now I-22,” advised Aderholt. “Being from Northwest Alabama, I understood the impact this interstate between Memphis and Birmingham could have on the western portion of Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. We are seeing this come to fruition year after year as more development comes to this corridor.”

“I want to congratulate the Walker County Economic Development Authority and the Drummond Company for all their efforts in this development,” added the congressman. “These combined efforts will pay economic dividends for decades to come.”

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) touched on the community’s coal mining legacy and said that the project presented leadership’s focus on expanding industrial prowess for the rural area.

“This is an exciting day for Walker County, and I’m grateful to the partners who came together in a spirit of collaboration to make this possible,” asserted Reed. “We take a lot of pride in our community’s legacy in the coal mining industry, so the fact that Heritage Landing will bridge our unique history with the future makes it even more powerful. Our area is home to God-fearing, honest, hardworking men and women who want to provide the best possible life for their children and their children’s children.”

“Much like Huntsville has Redstone Arsenal and Tuscaloosa County points to Mercedes- Benz, I believe that this project will open the door to modern opportunities allowing families across Walker County and West Alabama to live, work, and worship in safe, strong communities,” continued the Senate leader. “I appreciate the exemplary leadership of Governor Kay Ivey, Senator Richard Shelby, and Congressman Robert Aderholt in partnering with our local officials to ensure that Walker County has the ability to grow and prosper for decades and decades to come. My colleagues in the Alabama Legislature and I will continue to proactively support Alabama’s 21st century mining industry and the ability of rural Alabama to blossom.”

According to Drummond Company CEO Richard Mullen, the company’s development of Heritage Landing further displays its commitment to the prosperity of the region.

“Today is a pioneering moment in the storied history of a place that helped power economic progress across our state, nation, and world,” remarked Mullen. “Walker County was where it all began for Drummond Company, and Heritage Landing exemplifies our continued commitment to cultivating a strong future for families and communities in the region. We wholeheartedly believe that this project represents a strategic investment in the latest evolution of Walker County and the surrounding area. Thanks to the group of partners involved in this endeavor, the best is yet to come.”

Phase 1 of the project is anticipated to be completed by the first half of 2024. In addition to supporting 16 full-time construction jobs, Phase 1 is expected to create 100 direct jobs and 30 indirect jobs, the announcement advised.

The 50-acre site will be fully graded. Due to Alabama Power Company and other partners, the site will have full utility access, from electric to water, sewage, and high-speed broadband internet access. The property is also near a Class 1 rail line, in addition to being a stone’s throw from I-22 and easy drives to I-65, I- 59/20, and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

Walker County District Four Commissioner Steven Aderholt spoke to what the groundbreaking meant for the rural area.

“I cannot emphasize enough how big of a day this is for Walker County and my district in particular,” proclaimed Aderholt. “Families in our area simply want a shot at the American Dream – they want to be able to work hard, earn an honest day’s living, and provide a good life with even better opportunities for their children. This project is a major step towards making that dream a reality, and I would like to personally thank Drummond Company for their legacy of investment in Walker County.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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