Shhh! Amazon ‘Consolation Prize’ Appears Headed to Bessemer

An ad that appeared in Wednesday’s edition of The Birmingham News said what several politicians can’t – that Jefferson County, the city of Bessemer and the state of Alabama are considering an incentive package to lure an Amazon customer fulfillment facility to Bessemer.

“I tell people this is the best unkept secret in Jefferson County and the state of Alabama right now,” Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said. “We’re still under that non-disclosure agreement. Everybody can talk about it and say the name of it except those of us who signed that. We’re looking forward to making sure that we lock down the deal.”

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley (Source: City of Bessemer)

According to the legal ad, the Jefferson County Commission during its June 7 meeting will consider a resolution to enter a project development agreement with Services Inc. That agreement calls for the county to pay no more than $3.3 million for certain roadway improvements and/or reimburse Amazon for a portion of its capital investment.

The company is looking to develop about 133 acres on Powder Plant Road in Bessemer, on which it will build an 855,000-square-foot facility.

County Commissioner David Carrington said the Amazon facility is expected to employ at least 1,500 people. The proximity of the property to Bessemer City High School and nearby interstates, as well as the workforce in the area, made the property appealing, he said.

“We still haven’t finalized all the paperwork,” he said, adding that lawyers are involved. “Bessemer has to do their job. We have to do our job. The state has to do their job. There are a lot of moving parts but hopefully by mid-June, hopefully, we’ll have formal agreements.”

Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson is a member of the Jefferson County Mayors Association. He recalled having stood with a host of mayors – including then-Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox – in an attempt to lure an Amazon headquarters to the area.

“It wasn’t the big headquarters we had anticipated but certainly 3,000 jobs is going to be a big boost for our economy in this county and especially the western area of Jefferson County,” Richardson said, adding that there is happiness over this “consolation prize.”

“We’re not accustomed to getting these big, big projects around here,” Richardson said. “But that’s great, man. Three thousand jobs? That’s huge. We’re going to rejoice over a consolation prize.”

Gulley said the state of Alabama, Jefferson County, the city of Bessemer and Alabama Power produced an aggressive incentive package to secure the project. He added that the Bessemer City Council won’t vote on the package until June 12.

“At the very least, it’s a very, very positive project for the state of Alabama,” the Bessemer mayor said. “When you’re talking about the creation of jobs to the magnitude that this project will create, it’s not only about the city of Bessemer. Of course, we’re the greatest beneficiary of it because it’s in the city of Bessemer but it helps out the entire state of Alabama.”