Deputy Jefferson County Manager Cal Markert talks about the cooperative effort between the county and the city of Bessemer to make upgrades to Academy Drive. The project aligns with the ongoing construction of the Amazon Fulfillment Center. Watch the video.
Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley was re-elected in municipal elections Tuesday, and it appears three of the six City Council seats on the ballot will go to runoffs, along with two of the seven school board seats.
Several other cities in the state also had municipal elections Tuesday, including Gadsden, Huntsville and Montgomery. Find links to vote results.
The television cameras were in action and the local politicians were all smiling at the recent announcement of a huge new distribution center in Bessemer for Amazon, the online retail behemoth. It’s a project that will bring an estimated 1,500 jobs, and it makes for a great picture of a down-on-its-heels part of Alabama that is remaking itself for the digital age.
But in fact, the Bessemer Cut-Off area — the traditional name for the separate division of Jefferson County that has its own courthouse and other separate government functions — has been in transformation from steelmaking, mining and heavy manufacturing for the past decade or so. Unless you’re involved in recruiting businesses to locate in an area – or you glimpse a part of Bessemer when you travel to the legendary Bright Star Restaurant – that transformation may have slipped under your radar.
Jimmie Stephens has seen the area’s heyday, the downturns and its recent rebirth. The president of the Jefferson County Commission, as a lifelong Bessemer resident, remembers when the nickname “Marvel City” came to be, because of explosive growth in the first half of the 20th Century, when the economy rivaled that of Birmingham itself. In his current position, he’s trying to restore the Cut-Off to better days.
“As a youngster growing up here in Bessemer, it was a vibrant mining and steel town,” Stephens said. “Bessemer was a hub of commerce and employment. But the mines shut down in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the Pullman Standard (rail car manufacturing) plant closed in the ‘80s. Things just dried up, with 30 percent unemployment. But during that time, the economy began to diversify.” Read more.
Read more about economic development in the western area:
Touchdown! Bessemer Celebrates Scoring Deal to Secure Amazon Center
After Years of Tumult, Alabama Splash Adventure Is on the Rebound
Bessemer OKs Tax Rebate, Fee Reductions and Transit Services to Bring in Amazon Center
The Way Things Used to Be: Officials Recall Bessemer’s Heyday While Approving Incentives to Lure in Amazon
Shhh! Amazon ‘Consolation Prize’ Appears Headed to Bessemer
Several members of the “team” assembled at Bessemer City Hall Friday morning to celebrate crossing the goal line with the official announcement that an Amazon fulfillment center is coming to Bessemer.
Rick Davis, senior vice president of economic development for the Birmingham Business Alliance, explained the secret to the success that is bringing 1,500 full-time jobs and an 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center to Powder Plant Road property previously owned by U.S. Steel.
“It’s all about the team,” Davis said. “People who are making decisions to bring companies here tell us one thing: ‘We love working in Alabama because you guys are a team.’ That’s what we have to do. What we’ve learned over the years is this only works when we all pull together.” Read more.
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.”
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 Amazon.com 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. The project could employ more than 1,500 people. Read more.