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Ivey announces $30 Million for first SEEDS grants to accelerate the development of industrial sites

On Monday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced that the State Industrial Development Authority (SIDA) has approved over $30 million in grants under the new Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act (SEEDS). The purpose of the grants is to speed the development of much-needed industry-ready sites across the state.

The groundbreaking grant program is a key portion of the governor's "Game Plan" package of economic development bills approved by the Legislature last year. The program's intent to address the need for quality industrial sites in Alabama to attempt to make Alabama competitive with other states who are also spending heavily to expand their own site programs.

The $30.1 million in SEEDS funding will be matched by $38.4 million in local funds and will be dispersed to 29 different industrial sites encompassing nearly 8,400 acres.

"SEEDS represents an important tool that will allow us to keep winning those economic development projects that trigger lasting impacts for Alabama citizens," said Governor Ivey. "The awarding of the first grants under the program represents a milestone in our efforts to make sure Alabama remains competitive for game-changing growth projects."

At a meeting on Monday the SIDA approved 14 site assessment grants valued at $1.1 million. The grants were primarily for environmental and geo-tech surveys of early-stage industrial sites at communities including Ashland, Sulligent, Hamilton, Prattville and Montgomery. Local matches totaling a combined $629,000 are pledged.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones Wadsworth told the Alabama Gazette, "What a win for economic development in Alabama today. The approved SEEDs grants will help facilitate development in both urban and rural areas around our state. Site development is a multi-step process, and knowing sites are industry-ready can place Alabama at a competitive advantage over out-of-state competitors. The length of time it can take a company to complete construction and become operational is often significant factor in site selection criteria. Having completed geotechnical and environmental surveys funded through SEEDs grants, for example, can save businesses time and money in determining whether or not a particular parcel or area will work for a project. The grants will help state and local economic development authorities in knowing what types of companies they can recruit and be equipped with information for prospects."

SIDA also approved 15 development grants valued at $29 million for purposes such as infrastructure improvements, land purchases and site grading. Jasper, Atmore, Opelika and Mobile will provide matching funds totaling $37.8 million.

"We've been very successful in economic development during Governor Ivey's tenure - so successful, in fact, that we find ourselves with a shortage of fully developed sites," said Ellen McNair, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. "The SEEDS Act is allowing us to identify and develop sites as a critical function of our ability to recruit new industry and jobs. We must have to product to sell."

SIDA has contracted with the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA) to administer the SEEDS grant programs. Greenville, South Carolina-based Global Location Services (GLS) assisted in the evaluation process.

Cedric Colbert is the senior consultant at GLS.

"Over the past 10 years, economic development projects in Alabama have resulted in the creation of over 167,000 new jobs and $67 billion in capital investment," said Colbert. "To maintain this level of success, it is crucial that Alabama communities continuously work to identify, assess, and develop their inventory of sites toward investment-readiness."

The SEEDS application process opened in October 2023. Organizations across the state requested a combined total of $42 million in funding. Those not chosen for funding can apply for future funding, and some of them benefited from free feedback from GLS as part of the evaluation process.

"By enabling proactive site improvements that will minimize risk to future investment projects, these SEEDS Act grants will directly improve Alabama's ability to compete for economic development projects on a national scale," Colbert added.

The approved SEEDs grants will help facilitate the development of industrial sites in both large Alabama cities and small, rural communities. Both large-scale sites and smaller industrial parks will benefit from funding.

"Alabama is the best place in the country to develop and grow a business. As legislators, it is our job to make sure people and businesses have the resources they need to make a meaningful impact for their families and communities," said Alabama Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper). "The SEEDS Act does just that by allowing local economic development organizations the opportunity to help cultivate economic sites across our great state. I look forward to seeing how this exciting and groundbreaking legislation helps better Alabama so we can continue to be the best state to call sweet home."

"Our goal with the Game Plan was to ensure Alabama continues to have the necessary tools to compete and win on the national stage," said Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville). "The SEEDS Act positions our local developers to stand out from out-of-state competitors and is vital to our long-term economic development strategy. This legislation is already proving to be transformative for Alabama's economy, and I look forward to continuing to watch it work for our state."

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