Spotlight on Cullman County
Clarkson Legg Covered Bridge, originally built in 1904, got regular use from farmers crossing Crooked Creek.
Photo courtesy of Alabama Department of Tourism/Meg McKinney
Cullman County, in north central Alabama, is centrally located on Interstate 65 and offers diverse manufacturing, top-ranked schools, robust workforce development, beautiful Smith Lake, a low unemployment rate, a great quality of life, stellar parks and a true spirit of cooperation.
“All of us have a good relationship with each other,” says Dale Greer, assistant director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency. “We all are very aware of what is needed for our county to thrive, and we all work together.”
Cullman County ranked No. 1 in new and expanding industry announcements in the state in 2014. In the state’s 2015 report, Cullman County had three new industries, 49 industry expansions, 411 new industrial jobs and $99 million in capital investment by industries. The city ranked No. 2 in Site Selection magazine’s annual micropolitan rankings for new and expanding industries in 2015. It is consistently one of the most successful cities in the state for industrial growth.
That happened with hard work and cooperation from government and agency officials, higher education, school systems, the chamber, existing industries and more, Greer says. “When a company is looking at recruiting, it’s really an elimination process,” he says. “They are on a fact-finding mission, and it is our goal to stay in it. We work together to stay in it. We have good infrastructure and our government works hard to improve services and purchase property that will help us.” The success is helping boost home building and sales.
Another example of cooperation is the response after the 2011 tornadoes. The downtown area suffered major damage, and the city of Cullman established a façade improvement program that allowed property owners to update or repair their exteriors with grants to match the owner’s investment. The city, in August 2015, received a Community Economic Development Award to rebuild and revitalize its downtown from the Southern Economic Development Council.
And the county’s economic development office is devoted solely to helping find, apply, win and manage state and federal grants for government, public safety, community and other projects that are eligible throughout the county.
More economic development is on the way. In January, the new $10 million I-65 Exit 305 (Interstate 65/County Road 222) opened in Good Hope. This new exit gives direct access for industrial parks and to Smith Lake.
Also, the Duck River Dam reservoir in Cullman is ready to fill. The project creates a 640-acre lake with a 32-million-gallon per day capacity in the northeast part of the county. It works with the area’s current water source, Lake Catoma. The $110 million project is expected to have an $8.5 million economic impact on the area.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.