Southeast Alabama is open for business. As efforts to recruit more businesses to the Wiregrass continue, outsiders quickly learn what locals have always known. Southeast Alabama isn’t just home to beautiful scenery. It’s equipped with hardworking people, a low cost of living and turnkey sites ready for industry.
To help spur growth, Brad Kimbro led the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce as Chairman (DACC) from October of 2021 to October of 2022.
“Brad is a great champion for our entire region,” DACC President Matt Parker says. “He understands these economic and community development projects will transform our economy and create more opportunities. By working collaboratively with our business and government leaders, you learn the benefits aren’t just for today, but 20 to 30 years from now, we’ll see new possibilities from the foundation of these same projects.”
While there are many recent economic development efforts one can place in the win column, Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC) was integral in two major projects last year.
Geneva County Industrial Park
From reliable electricity, to water and sewer service and high-speed broadband, the Geneva County Industrial Park had everything needed to attract a new tenant — except a building. That changed with the help of WEC.
“Through our wholesale power supplier PowerSouth, WEC took advantage of a program where we can build a speculative building and cover it for four years, Kimbro says. Through this program, we partnered with Geneva County to build a 45,000-square-foot-facility.”
Now, equipped with the new building, Parker led the charge in finding a new tenant, but he didn’t need 4 years to market the space. The industrial park will soon be home to ISA Alabama Corporation. A manufacturer of nitrile and latex gloves, ISA will create 80 new jobs over the next 2 years.
“Projects like this will change the area for the better,” Kimbro says. “It’s a shell building now, but ISA will start to employ people mid-year 2023 and produce products by late 2023, early 2024. People employed by ISA will build homes and likely start other businesses. It’s going to be a positive impact for our service area and community.”
Sam Houston Industrial Park
WEC recently presented a check for a $207,553 commitment to the Dothan Industrial Development Board. The money will be used for lighting and road improvements around a 105,000-square-foot speculative building in the Sam Houston Industrial Park.
Funding for improvements is provided through the Growing Alabama Tax Credit, which is funded, in part, by WEC members. All nonmunicipal electric providers are required to collect a 2.2% state utility tax from customers, including WEC members. WEC engaged in a competitive application process and secured the funds to pay for improvements around Sam Houston Industrial park with the help of DACC Vice President of Economic Development Colton Cureton.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to keep these dollars in our local community,” Kimbro says. “Sam Houston Industrial Park isn’t quite in our service territory, but it’s right next to it. The jobs the spec building will deliver, an estimated 75 to 200, will positively impact our members and the communities we serve.”
Grateful For the Support
The goals of WEC and DACC mirror each other in many ways. Both are focused on improving the quality of life in the region, as well as spurring community growth through economic development and making sure businesses and residents can prosper.
“With our recent work, we have more capacity to grow,” Parker says. “It’s a great time to be in southeast Alabama.”
After years of service with the DACC and economic development projects, Kimbro is grateful for his opportunity to serve as Chairman of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We want the entire Wiregrass area to grow,” Kimbro says. “I knew Matt and his team did a lot behind the scenes, but I really saw the difference firsthand as chairman. I have a better appreciation for how they’re involved in everything in our region.”
Kimbro is also thankful to the WEC Board of Directors for allowing him the opportunity to serve as chairman and to WEC staff members for their help while he spent more time away from the office in 2022.
Additionally, as chair of the DACC, Kimbro says he’s grateful for the support of our elected officials Sen. Donnie Chesteen, Rep. Dexter Grimsley, Rep. Paul Lee, Rep. Jeff Sorrels, Rep. Steve Clouse, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, Geneva County Judge/chairman Toby Seay and IDB member Hayne Hollis.
“The positive relationships we are building are solid and lasting,” Kimbro says. “WEC is better prepared to provide for the community and help it grow because we are fully engaged in the economic development process. I’m really proud of what we’ve done and thankful for the opportunity to be involved. WEC is better off and our members are already benefitting from it.”
Most of all, Kimbro says he’s excited for how this work will impact the next generation.
“The jobs that are created today are also an opportunity for our children,” Kimbro says. “It’s one more reason they don’t have to leave to find work. Whether or not WEC serves the home or business now isn’t necessarily what’s most important. We want to see our Wiregrass community grow and prosper, and the future is bright for our region.”