MONTGOMERY — The State Industrial Development Authority (SIDA) approved over $30 million in grants under the new Site Evaluation and Economic Development Strategy Act (SEEDS) to increase the development of industry-ready sites across Alabama on Monday.

The grant program approved by the legislature last year provides state matching funds to local economic development groups to assess and develop quality industrial sites in Alabama at a time when other states are spending heavily to expand their site programs.

A total of $30.1 million in SEEDS funding will be matched with $38.4 million in local funds at 29 different industrial sites encompassing nearly 8,400 acres. Thirty-four local economic development groups applied for the program.

"SEEDS represents an important tool that will allow us to keep winning those economic development projects that trigger lasting impacts for Alabama citizens," Gov. Kay Ivey said. "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."

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) was the only member of SIDA to vote against the resolution approving the awards on Monday. Orr sponsored the legislation, creating the program in 2023. Orr said at the meeting he had concerns about some of the funding being used to purchase land.

Department of Commerce Secretary Ellen McNair said at the meeting the ability to purchase property for industrial sites was one of the most important parts of the program.

McNair succeeded former Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield on January 1. She was formerly the chief economic development officer with the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

"I can not address obviously what was represented by Commerce last year, but I can tell you, again, with my many years of local economic development experience, that the purchase of the site is critical. Very often the locals don't own it. They just have an option on it. It's very difficult to pull those options together. I have lost in the last two years, two mega projects to sites that were owned by states. One was a huge hit with Hyundai choosing Georgia over Alabama because the state owned that site. They were able to provide that as an economic development incentive. Very, very often the locals don't own the sites and they can only get options and there's no real partnership, there's no real program that allows state and locals to come together to secure land over a long term investment. So, to me as a former local economic developer, I think the purchase of the property is probably one of the most important parts," McNair said at the meeting.

Orr said the spirit of the legislation was about developing industrial development sites.

"We're going a bridge too far. Half of the money that the locals are putting up is the Mobile site at $18 million. We are embarking on draining the precious funds for helping with site purchasing that I think will leave us high and dry perhaps in the future when we need these precious funds to do site development which is the mission of the bill. If you read the bill, and it's not that long, you will come away with that understanding that it's to develop sites, not to provide purchase money or option money. I get it. I've been there. I understand about holding sites with options that are very expensive. I understand about purchases of good property for sites. I get all that. I understand there's a great need for that. I'm just pointing out the spirit of the legislation as it was working its way through the legislative process," Orr said at the meeting.

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Photo credit: Alabama Department of Commerce

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

List of Awards Resolution by Caleb Taylor on Scribd

The approved SEEDs grants will help facilitate the development of industrial sites in both large Alabama cities and small, rural communities. 

"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 State Senate President 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."

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said the goal of The Game Plan was to ensure Alabama continues to have the necessary tools to compete and win on the national economic development stage.

"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," he said. "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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