Plans for a large agriculture center in central Alabama have fallen through, with leaders unable to agree on final details about a project that was delayed during the pandemic and projected to cost about $150 million.
First announced in 2019, the Alabama Rural Economic Center, a joint effort between the city of Clanton, Chilton County and the Alabama Farmers Federation, was projected to attract more than 900,000 visitors annually to Clanton for agriculture shows, festivals and other events. Leaders said it could create about 400 jobs.
But Chilton County Commission chair Jimmie Hardee said Tuesday the project was off after negotiations to reach a final agreement failed. He blamed the Federation for adding late demands and making changes to the project.
"We are indeed disappointed that the farm center is not going forward. However, the commission has other sites and properties we are promoting for economic growth and opportunities in our county," Hardee said.
"Local officials refused to sign a non-binding agreement aimed at keeping the project going by delaying some decisions until the center began producing revenue," said Jimmy Parnell, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, which was backing the project through the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation.
“We remain committed to building the Farm Center and have begun evaluating other locations. The work we’ve done over the last two years has strengthened our resolve to develop a premier farm center and event complex in our state,” Parnell said in a statement.
Initial plans for the project included a 5,000-seat air-conditioned arena, 150,000-square-foot (13,900-square-meter) exhibition building, and a 400-stall horse barn. Clanton is located roughly halfway between Birmingham and Montgomery, making it an easy drive from either city.
Danny Jones, who owns Durbin Farms Market just off Interstate 65 in Clanton, said the center would have brought a lot of money to the area.
“It creates more business for everybody. Not just us because we’re a market and you know we’re already a tourist stop but everybody needs more,” Jones told WBMA-TV.
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