“We’re happy to be in a position to partner with PowerSouth Energy Cooperative and the Geneva County Commission to bring this facility to Hartford,” said Brad Kimbro, WEC’s chief operating officer.
“This has the potential to change Geneva County. We’re always investing in opportunities to improve the health and well-being of our communities,” Kimbro added.
Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, commended the WEC and its partners for pursuing their strategic economic development goals through the construction of the spec building.
“Rural areas face their own specific challenges when it comes to economic development, so it’s critical that community leaders work together to provide smart solutions that can result in job creation,” Secretary Canfield said.
“In Geneva County, that is exactly what is taking place.”
Commerce has embraced rural economic development as a pillar in its overall economic development strategy for the state.
Over the past year, Commerce’s Rural Development Manager Brenda Tuck has worked with rural counties to emphasize the importance of having sites and buildings ready for occupancy so that they can better compete in the development process.
“We are always excited to see these projects coming together through the great partnerships that we have in our rural areas,” Tuck said.
“Many of Alabama’s great products are already being made in rural Alabama; with the addition of spec buildings like this one in Geneva County, rural Alabama continues to be poised for even more success.”
Economic developers know that most businesses considering a job-creating relocation or expansion project look for existing building space. Realizing the Wiregrass area lacked existing buildings, WEC utilized a program from its power distributor — PowerSouth — to initiate the construction project in Hartford.
PowerSouth has operated a Business Development Loan Program, which funds the construction of spec buildings, for more than two decades. The Geneva County facility will be the 23rd project funded through the program; all but one of the previous 22 buildings have been occupied.
“PowerSouth is committed to the communities it serves. We work with our members to educate them on the opportunities that are out there,” said Caleb Goodwyn, a PowerSouth community development and financing representative.
“The majority of companies that come to Alabama are looking for existing space. It’s exciting to see growth like this,” he added.
Under the program, PowerSouth will fund half of a building’s cost, up to $400,000. PowerSouth members like WEC must contribute 25 percent of the costs, up to $200,000, while other community interests fund the rest of the project.
“The Geneva County Commission has set economic development as one of its priorities, and one of our major goals was to construct a speculative building,” Seay said.
Birmingham-based Alabama Power also a spec building program, which it has operated since 1991. The utility joined with partners in Talladega County last year to construct a 60,000-square-foot spec building in Sylacauga