Friday, 02 March 2012 16:25

Decatur Named No. 1 in Business Development

Decatur named No. 1 in business development

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Decatur received a coveted award Thursday for its ability to attract business.

Site Selection Magazine named Decatur No. 1 nationally among metropolitan areas of population below 200,000.

“You can’t pay for that kind of advertisement,” said Jeremy Nails, president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association. “It will put us on the radar of people that may not have thought about us before.”

Alabama did not place in the state ranking. Decatur was the only metropolitan area in the state to receive a ranking.

The winner in the under-200,000 category last year was Lake Charles, La.

An official there said the recognition that came with it was invaluable in ongoing recruitment efforts.

“It’s bragging rights, but more than that it puts your community on the map,” said George Swift, president of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “It raised our profile, and I’m sure it will do the same for Decatur.”

The magazine’s feature on Decatur focused on its rebound after the April 27 tornadoes, with particular emphasis on the rebuilding of Independence Tube Corp.

The story also discussed Polyplex Corp., which is in the process of building a $185-million plastic film plant, and expanding United Launch Alliance.

“This is sure to attract attention from a lot of companies,” said Nails.

Decatur’s high ranking resulted primarily from the high number of qualified new industries and expansions begun in 2011. Decatur had 13 that met Site Selection’s criteria. The next highest was Springfield, Ohio, which had 12.

The award was news to the Alabama Development Office.

“That’s quite an accomplishment. Site Selection is a very prominent development magazine,” said Gerri Miller, public information officer at the Alabama Development Office. “That will really help them in their marketing efforts when they go calling on companies. It’s quite an achievement.”

For the year, Decatur-Morgan County had $420 million in announced capital investment projects that are expected to create 375 jobs. The geographical area considered by Site Selection did not include southern Limestone County, where Carpenter Technology in October announced it would build a $500 million plant.

Among the major Morgan County projects considered by Site Selection was an $85 million expansion at Bunge that will add 50 jobs, the reopening of Excel Door in Hartselle that will employ 70, and expansions at Hexcel, Daikin and Ascend.

Houston won first place among metropolitan areas with a population over 1 million. Baton Rouge, La., was tops among populations between 200,000 and 1 million.

Ohio ranked No. 1 among states, a fact the magazine attributed to its development of JobsOhio. The state turned its economic development process over to the nonprofit corporation, which focuses entirely on projects and job creation, in early 2011.

Southeastern states fared well, with North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana all making the top 10.

Miller hopes Decatur’s success will benefit the entire state.

“This gives our economic development team a new tool to use in marketing the state to businesses worldwide,” Miller said.

Swift said the honor improved his Louisiana community’s ability to attract attention of industries.

“When you talk to prospects, they will give you a second look because you’ve gotten the national recognition,” Swift said. “It gives you more credibility.”

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