Officials with the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance said there is a limited number of available buildings for industry in the area. To solve part of the problem, it is seeking help from the Tallapoosa County Commission to build a spec building and to get a certification to appeal to the food industry.

“There is no spec building in the local inventory,” LMAEDA’s Denise Walls said. “There is also very little inventory for an industry wanting to come to the area.”

Walls and LMAEDA board member Marshall Griffin said the buildings at Aprinta are for sale and available as is a building near the Robinson Foundry but nothing else.

Both Walls and Griffin agree more inventory is needed to recruit industry to the area.

“You need to have buildings to show,” Griffin said. “It’s hard to visualize in a green field. A spec building is great even if it does not totally match the exact needs of the industry looking.”

Griffin and Walls said an available building gets first looks for prospective industries.

“An empty building is kind of bait for looks,” Walls said. “They get online and look. If you have a building they look more and the conversation can start.”

“Once they start to look, we can deepen the conversation,” Griffin said.

If the commission approves a spec building, the LMAEDA is looking at a program through Alabama Power in which the county would provide 30% of the funding and the remaining 70% would be financed through Alabama Power with the first four years being interest free.

“Forty-eight months gives you time to find a tenant without having to pay interest,” Griffin said.

Walls said Sylacauga just sold a 60,000 square foot spec building to an industry for $1.35 million and LMAEDA is looking at a similar sized building.

LMAEDA is no stranger to this type of financing with a spec building. The building currently owned and occupied by Wellington in the Lake Martin Regional Industrial Park in Kellyton was constructed in 2002 according to Walls. It was financed under a similar scenario through Central Alabama Electric. While it sat vacant for nearly a decade, it was still an effective tool in marketing the area to industries and bringing many of them here in the decline of Russell Corp.

“It got us a lot of looks,” Griffin said. 

This building would most likely be built outside of Alexander City in this scenario as Alabama Power wants to be the power provider according to Griffin. Alabama Municipal Electric Authority services Alexander City. 

Spec buildings have previously been built in the William T. Thweatt Industrial Park in Dadeville.

“The county constructed their own building with their own financing many years ago,” Walls said. “It was bought by Kwangsung and used as a warehouse.”

At last week’s Tallapoosa County Commission meeting, commissioners inquired about the chances of renting the possible spec building out as a warehouse until it sold. While not against the idea, Walls said until the funds are needed to pay for the building renting it out is not recommended.

“Ideally for us, we want to keep it empty,” Walls said. “Most industrial spec buildings do not have a floor.”

The reason is so the floor and foundations can be built to the needs of the industry and equipment. Most equipment requires specialized foundations for its support.

“It needs to be a hollow shell,” Walls said. “(An industry) can finish it and expand it to meet their needs. We don’t want it be an issue to vacate because it has been sold.”

Both Griffin and Walls said the spec buildings are built on a site to allow for easy expansion.

The alliance also wants to update the Phase 1 studies for the Thweatt Industrial Park too.

“They are 10 to 12 years old,” Walls said.

They are required for many industries to come to any area and are also the base for a food service certification the alliance wants to get for a site in the park piggybacking off what Alexander City is looking at doing for a site on Elkahatchee Road and at the Avondale Mill property. The city is using Jay Garner and Primus Builders and the county can use the services at a discounted rate while they are in the area. The certification requires the Phase 1 study as well as geotechnical testing and an archaeological study.

“(Garner) will certify the sites then turn around and market them to companies he works with,” Walls said. “He will help market specifically to food and beverage companies.”

Walls provided documentation Garner and his company have worked placing Hillshire Farm, Sister Schubert’s, Russell Stover, Sysco, Hill’s, Bubba Burger, Sara Lee and other food industries in communities.

She said Alexander City is also appealing to the food industry like bottling companies because of excess capacity of treated water.

Walls said no contracts have been signed by the Alexander City or Tallapoosa County.

“The city is still working on it,” Walls said. “They are doing their due diligence. Both programs we are suggesting. It is up to the council and commission to decide.”

Griffin said LMAEDA is a tool for the county and municipalities to use.

“We are a marketing arm for everyone,” Griffin said. “They depend on our expertise. We share with them what we think they can do to support development. We are at their service.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.