JeffCo Commissioner Hopes to Recruit Businesses With Japanese Ties

Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens. (Source: Solomon Crenshaw)

Jimmie Stephens went to the ends of the earth in pursuit of development opportunities for the county.

The Jefferson County Commission president returned from a recent trip to Japan with a cold and some hot leads toward reeling an international business development into the county.

Stephens said his trip Oct. 18-20 to Tokyo for the 41st annual joint meeting of the Japan-U.S. Southeast and Southeast U.S./Japan Associations was all about relationships.

“The Japanese government fosters their economic development through relationships,” he said after the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday. “That’s what this Southeastern U.S./Japan conference is all about, establishing those relationships and having that dialogue that’s needed and necessary to be able to do business with foreign countries.”

Stephens spoke of bringing two or three suppliers, some in the auto industry, to Jefferson County. One supplier would have ties to the University Alabama at Birmingham. That one involves technologically advanced processes that is in California now and affiliated with Japan,  which Stephens hopes to lure to Birmingham.

“It has to do with a new type of sensor that they’re developing,” he said, careful not to disclose specific brand information. “(The sensor) would be manufactured here. It’s a manufacturing process that would come here. They’re building over a million a day now.”

While that deal is still in negotiations, Stephens said it could bring 50 high-paying technological jobs in the beginning and perhaps grow to 200 jobs.

Asked about Hoover’s bid to lure UAB Medical Center West from neighboring Bessemer, Stephens said the county will not be pulled into a bidding war.

“The county has a position, which is we will not support any relocation within the municipal area with economic development funds,” he said. “You can’t move 10 miles down the road and expect that to happen. It’s really not a jobs-creating benefit.

“You can’t give one (city) an incentive to draw business from another,” he continued. “It’s a tenuous situation that appears to be a no-win situation for Med West. If you go once place, you’re going to make one area mad. If you go the other place, you’re going to make the other area mad.”

Commissioners also talked about a report given during a recent meeting of the Western Area Mayor’s Association. The presentation addressed a $3 million grant from the Army Corps of Engineers for a 3-year study of flooding in western Jefferson County.

“From this study, we would find a way to rectify the situation,” Stephens said. “It’s exciting. It’s a quality of life issue for residents of Birmingham, Fairfield, Midfield, Brighton, Hueytown and Bessemer.

Valley Creek is the focal point. The commission president cited flooding along Bessemer Superhighway near Brighton, specifically at a trailer park there. Additionally, he addressed flooding at the Bessemer Gardens subdivision in Hueytown off of Industrial Drive off and Brooklane Road and Bessemer’s Pipe Shop community.
“All of these are areas that greatly are in need of attention and this will be a means to address that,” he said.