Jefferson County, Alabama approved a $31.8 million investment

In a sign of its economic development muscle, the Jefferson County Commission recently announced five projects in one day that will create hundreds of high-paying jobs and millions in investment and diversify the economy in the metro area, according to commission members.

Agreements were announced this month with Pac Health, a local healthcare company; Kratos, a national security solutions provider that recently acquired Southern Research’s engineering division; The Bray, a Liberty Park joint venture with the City of Vestavia Hills; Southern Research, a non-profit scientific research organization; and the Supplier Scale Program of the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA).

A total investment of $31.8 million is spread over two projects. The county is investing $750,000 in the study and project from the Birmingham Business Alliance. The three projects will create an estimated 401 combined jobs over the next five years.

Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons, chairman of the Economic Development Committee. (contributed)

“Each of these projects is the result of a regional collaboration of multiple agencies,” said County Commissioner Steve Emmons, chairman of the Economic Development Committee. “It’s important that we not only bring in new industry to diversify our economy, but continue to support agencies that are established and are an integral part of the community as we grow.”

Those are some of the projects that have helped make Jefferson County the statewide leader in job creation since 2019, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. In 2019 the county was fifth in the state for capital investment and fourth in the state for job creation. In 2021, the county was second in capital investment and first in job creation.

The key is building relationships, Emmons said.

“We have a strong relationship with the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), the Department of Commerce, our local partners in our seven-county region,” he said.

The focus is not only employment, “but it is employment with wages above the average, because we do not encourage work unless they meet certain criteria, which is above the average income. We need a minimum of $50,000 a year – which we should look at and maybe increase, ” he said.

He says that encouraging employment at above average wages will improve the overall economy. “It’s going to be a lot of people buying houses, or renting, if they’re going to be here for a few years. … Of course, once they’re here, they like it and they want to be here.

“In the grand scheme of things, once you buy a place and you’re buying a car, or you’re going out to restaurants, that has an impact. How much of that is discretionary spending? And how much are you spending in the community to improve your home? Or go to the Red Mountain Theater? Or one of the restaurants? … More money is added to the economy because we’re adding jobs.”

Emmons said he is pleased with the timing of the projects. “Some of these have been a long time coming. And they all just happen to land at the same time, but timing is everything, right? It takes a lot of work that people don’t see in the background to make sure these are good projects. It takes a lot of negotiation, a lot of work from our legal team to make sure those agreements are appropriate and in the best interest of the county. I am pleased with the level of interest in economic development, especially in the areas we have chosen.

Those areas, he said, include advanced manufacturing, including automotive and aerospace, bio and life sciences, and everything from genomics to biotechnology.

Here’s a closer look at projects recently approved by the Jefferson County Commission:

  1. Pack health

about: A local healthcare company with a capital investment of $5.2 million. Pack Health is an evidence-based patient engagement platform that changes health behaviors to close gaps in care and improve patient outcomes.

Estimate work: The expansion is estimated to create 120 jobs in three years and 200 jobs in five years.

Encouragement: Amount based on job creation.

  1. Kratos

about: A national security solutions provider that recently acquired Southern Research Engineering Division.

Plans: It will invest $26.6 million in the community.

Estimate work: 76 high-paying jobs over a five-year period.

Encouragement: Amount based on job creation.

  1. Bray

about: A Liberty Park joint venture with the City of Vestavia Hills.

Plans: It will develop on approximately 865 acres which will be the new headquarters for Medical Properties Trust and will also have residential, hospitality, healthcare, parks and schools.

Financial impact: $70 million in property taxes over the next 25 years for Jefferson County.

  1. Southern Research

about: a non-profit scientific research organization.

Plans: It will expand its facilities to develop commercialization capabilities with an enterprise studio and new 200,000-square-foot research lab space.

Estimate work: About 125 new well paying research related jobs.

  1. Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) Supplier Scale Program

about: Supply chain studies and programs to support business development.

Provincial investment: $750,000.

This story was originally published by the Birmingham Times.

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