State Rep Allen Farley: Arrival of Amazon Fulfillment Center will turn the city of Bessemer around
In an appearance on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday, Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) explained why he sees Amazon’s arrival in southwestern Jefferson County as what turns around a long-ailing Bessemer.
Presently, Bessemer has a 5.5 percent unemployment rate, which far exceeds the state average of 3.9 percent, according to statistics from the Alabama Department of Labor. Last week, public officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on the $325 million fulfillment facility located off of I-20/59 west of downtown Bessemer, which Farley signaled was the beginning of a positive direction for Bessemer and the surrounding area.
“We can’t overexaggerate how huge it is, for not only Jefferson County in Central Alabama but especially the city of Bessemer – where I was born, where I was raised,” he said. “At the ground-breaking, the Amazon representative stood up there and talked about the initial plant size. He compared it to 15 football fields, initially. And initially 1,500 jobs – starting pay $15 per hour.”
Farley explained how Bessemer was dealt a series of economic blows over the years, including the closure of the Pullman-Standard factory in the 1990s and the downsizing of U.S. Pipe’s presence over the past decades. He predicted Amazon’s arrival would help the once-industrial powerhouse of Bessemer turn things around.
“It’s going to turn it around,” Farley said. “They’re within eyesight – you can stand at their plant and see the flag at the new Bessemer High School that over the years has graduated less than 50 percent. This is a city, a town because of the unemployment, it’s in the top 10 nationally for violent crimes reported. This is going to be one of the things around Bessemer, Jefferson County that is going to turn it around. And it’s because of the cooperation. The [Jefferson County] County Commission, several years ago while they were going through bankruptcy – we’ve got a group I can’t speak highly enough of … they rolled their sleeves up, and they started the process that eventually got the eye of companies like Amazon and others.”
Farley also credited Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and certain members of the Jefferson County Commission, which he said made Amazon’s arrival possible.
“We have our current governor and her staff, Secretary Canfield, who is from Jefferson County … you know, Greg went to work and picked up on what had been started with David Carrington, Jimmie Stephens and Joe Knight with the county commission in Jefferson County. They kept that ball rolling and the end result is we got a plant that initially is 15 football fields in size, initially 1,500 employees – but as one person told me several months ago, he said, “Allen, when they build the parking lot for the employees, they’re going ahead and marking off 3,000 spots.”