The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Athens & Limestone County Today

February 25, 2013

New local industry may depend on D.C.

— For the past two years, Athens and Limestone County have benefited from positive industrial growth during a fallow economic period.

In late-March of last year it was announced that Limestone topped the state in capital investments in 2011. A total of seven new industrial projects and existing companies’ expansions provided $539.2 million in total capital investment for Limestone County.

In the first two months of this year, however, industrial headlines have been nil as economic and political leaders here wait to see if a compromise is reached in Washington on cuts that could cost tens of thousands of jobs at Redstone Arsenal.

Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association said the weeks and months following a presidential election are typically slower than other times of the year. However, he’s also concerned about the uncertainty in Washington.

“There’s a lot of cash sitting on the sidelines wanting to go to work, but the sequestration that will take place March 1 affects people all over the country,” he said. “If there’s a budget in place, that might take away some of that uncertainty.”

Hill said while there are no new industry announcements to speak of, work continues behind the scenes to improve performance at existing industries.

Efforts to improve water pressure at the Elkmont Industrial Park North are under way. The park is home to Electricfil, an engine and transmission-sensor manufacturer, and Snap-on, a tool manufacturer.

Hill said the engineering work to install a 250,000-gallon water-storage tank has started, and construction could begin within 60 days. In addition to improving water pressure at the park, the tank should also satisfy fire mitigation efforts.

In Athens, officials are waiting to see if a planned oil re-refinery operation that would be located on 23 acres near the intersection of Airport Road and Alabama 127 gets off the ground. The project, which will refine used motor oil to produce a base component, received conditional-use approval by the Athens Planning Commission last summer. In September, the City Council approved non-educational property taxes in the amount of $1.039 million and non-educational sales taxes in the amount of $460,000. Both abatements are good for 10 years.

In turn, AGL will pay an estimated $850,561 in educational property taxes over 10 years and $321,0000 in education sales taxes during construction of the re-refinery. The total project is estimated at more than $32 million, which includes the cost of land, building and equipment and 25 to 27 employees.

Hill said all indications are that the project is still on, but project developer Alabama Green Lubricants LLC, may still be working to obtain bank financing.

“I think it’s due to the fact it’s a start-up company,” he said. “We still hear they’re working to get it finalized.”

In southern Limestone County, workers with Turner Construction continue to build what will become Carpenter Technology Corporation’s specialty alloys facility.

The project, which will employ 200 full-time workers, is slated to open in spring 2014. Officials with the company previously said a German-made forge will be delivered this spring via barge on the Tennessee River.

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