Recent growth and investment is helping local officials get at least a first and sometimes a second look from retail developers.
Andalusia City Clerk John Thompson and Director of Planning and Development reported to the Andalusia City Council on their recent trip to a retail trade show. The event is designed to connect communities with retail developers and site selectors.
“What we are learning is that 2017 was the bottom of the brick and mortar reorganization,” Thompson said. “Brick and mortar alive and well and expanding, based on the numbers at that show.”
Thompson said Andalusia’s data was well received.
“One thing you’re asked to do is show growth,” he said. “We are able to document sales tax receipts since 2000. Even if you back out the sales tax increase we had, we’ve had a more than 65 percent increase in sales tax collections in that time.”
Thompson said developers are interested in what the city has done to attract revenue, and recent development on the west bypass.
“We are getting to be an easier sale,” he said.
Based on recent retail studies that capture the data of people who shop here, there are 150,000 people in the retail trade market, Thompson said.
“They don’t think anything about driving 30 to 45 minutes to shop,” he said. “As demonstrated in the information collected, we have a billion and a half dollar leakage into the bigger economies around us.”
Thompson said he and Wiggins are trying to connect with retailers who would not have a direct competitor here.
“Retail growth is important to our economy,” he said. “We have a nice body of work to show, with all of the recent investments in our community, including a quarter billion dollar investment at Shaw. We have a nice presentation to show these people, and we are on their maps. We will keep on the door, reminding them we are here”.
Mayor Earl Johnson said referenced the recent announcement that Jack’s will locate where Kentucky Fried Chicken once was.
“We have two or three more businesses in the queue,” Johnson said. “For all practical purposes, they are done deals.”
The council’s only action items on Tuesday were:
When it comes to superstitions about sitting in a certain spot for Friday night football at Andalusia High School, perhaps no one can top Bulldog super-fan Marianne Harper Thomason.
“Ever since I could remember, we were sitting in our old reserved seats,” Thomason said.
Still, she decided to move to the new, upper-level reserved seats that were added to the stadium this summer.
“I am a lifelong Bulldog fan,” Thomason said. “So I decided to go ahead and enjoy the advantages of the new seats, but it is a little scary. I have gotten used to being next to my friends and being in my spot.”
Thomason said that it making a decision to change was hard.
“But now we are excited to continue the tradition of attending games in our new seats,” she said.
There were approximately 314 new reserved seats added to make an upper level in the stadium, and according to AHS office secretary Gloria Adams, the new area is sold out.
Count Chrissie Duffy among those who decided to try a new spot.
“We always want to support the school whenever there is an opportunity like this,” the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce director said. “Now we have a great view to watch football, but we did it more importantly to support the school.”
Bulldog fan Melanie Day said that her husband, Dr. Tim Day, made the decision to make their move to the upper level.
“He always talked about how he wanted to be higher up,” Day said. “So once the opportunity came he went ahead and got the seats. We are so excited to watch football Friday night in our new seats.”
The man behind the original plan to have reserved seating in the AHS stadium was Jerry Andrews.
“When Ed Richardson was principal we went to a bunch of different games and saw that they had reserved seating in their stadiums,” Andrews said. “It made sense to me to have reserved seating and have it where fans pay for a whole season and get their own spot, so that is how it started.”
Andrews said that the idea was that reserved seating would also increase ticket sales. Like many other Bulldog fans, he’s moving up.
“I am very excited for this weekend and to see all of the renovations to the stadium,” Andrews said. “We got seats in the front row of the upper level section and the thing that I am looking forward to the most is seeing our amazing band.”
Andalusia Fire Chief Russell McGlamory said he actually went to the stadium to see the new seats before deciding to move to the upper level.
“I went to check the seats out before deciding to get them,” McGlamory said. “They still had a few available and the view was great so I knew it was the right decision to get them. I absolutely cannot wait until Friday night.”
Though the new seats may be tempting, not everyone wanted to change.
Tara Dalton decided to stay in what she calls the “rowdy” section.
“I like the freedom of not completely staying in my assigned seat,” Dalton said. “Because it is not actually a seat like in the upper level. Everyone sitting next to me can scoot together during the winter and spread out during the summer games.”
Dalton said that the lower level has a lot of fun and that is why she decided to stay in her original reserved seating.
“We have much more fun in the lower level,” Dalton said. ‘All my friends are there, and I can see the field fine, I’m high enough to enjoy the game.”
School board member Amy Dugger said that she is a creature of habit when it comes to her seat.
“I have been in my reserved seating since 2006,” Dugger said. “My parents can walk in and go straight to their seats and all of my friends are all around me.”
Dugger said that she is beyond excited for the game on Friday night.
“A lot of planning has gone into the whole renovation so I am ready to see the finished project,” Dugger said. “I am thrilled for our kids to be able to play and enjoy the new stadium.”
Adams said that there are still some reserved seats available in the lower level. Each seat is $78, which covers admission to all six home games, but does not include play off games.
Any one interested in purchasing a reserved seat can contact the Andalusia High School main office at 334-222-7569.
Making Alabama: A Bicentennial Traveling Exhibit, presented by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, will be on display in Andalusia at the arts center of the Lower Alabama Arts Coalition (LAAC), The Gallery, from September 4 through September 28.
The exhibit made its debut in Montgomery in March, displaying 200 years of Alabama history, and is on a 19-month tour of all 67 counties of the state.
The display blends artistic collages, interactive computer tablets and an audio medley of song and spoken word to tell the story of Alabama – from becoming a territory to achieving statehood. It also conveys a message of hope in its presentation about the future.
Organizers say AHF was a natural choice for coordinating the traveling exhibit with decades of experience through its partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit.
“Just like the Smithsonian, where not everyone has the opportunity to view a Smithsonian exhibit in Washington, not everyone can make it to Montgomery to see Alabama Department of Archives and History’s unparalleled ‘Voices’ exhibit,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “What we are putting together gives them that opportunity.”
In addition, host communities are assembling their own historical exhibits and collateral programming and activities to showcase their own history and put their signature on this event.
In Andalusia, the exhibit will open with a reception on Tuesday, September 4, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., at the LAAC’s arts center, 209 East Three Notch Street, and the public is cordially invited. The arts center will also offer at $10 a copy the companion book Past Port: A Time-Traveler’s Companion to Our Counties; it will be available as well at Springdale and the Three-Notch Museum. Purchasers can get their Covington County page stamped at any one of these locations.
Steve Hubbard, president of the Lower Alabama Arts Coalition, invites everyone from throughout the county, as well as visitors passing through, to see the exhibit. “I especially encourage teachers of Alabama and American history to bring their students,” Hubbard says. “The LAAC is very pleased to have been asked to host the exhibit.”
The schedule for the exhibit in Andalusia is Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. On three Saturdays, September 8, 15, and 22, the arts center will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Mondays may be available for groups by appointment; the number to call is (334) 222-3205.
To learn more about this statewide exhibit and scheduling, go to MakingAlabama.org.
10 local, 10 transfer employees to begin C-130 repairs
Yulista employees will be on site at South Alabama Regional Airport by the middle of next week, and expect to begin work there on Jan. 3 with 20 employees.
SARA director Jed Blackwell told board members in a meeting Tuesday that the company plans to employ 10 people between now and January, and will relocate another 10 from within their company.
Yulista is an Alaska Native Corporation with operations in 14 states, and doing business in 28 countires, CEO Josh Herren said. Its shareholders are of Yup’ik descent. The company has leased the twin hangars in the SARA complex, which were designed for C-130 and B-737 aircraft.
Blackwell said initially, Yulista will do maintenance and repairs for six C-130s, which is expected to take at least 16 months.
In a ceremony at SARA earlier this month, Herren said the company “is going to be very good for your community.”
Blackwell and Covington County Economic Development Commission executive director Rick Clifton said there has been renewed interested in the Standard Arrow/Vector facility. The company has ceased operations in Andalusia, but has a lease on its building until April.
SARA also has leased its warehouse facility – the original home of AcroHelipro, which later became Vector – to Joey Davis and Mark Sweiger.
The Andalusia City Council on Tuesday approved a $19.2 million budget than includes $17.8 million in expenditures in FYE 2018-19, which begins Oct. 1.
Mayor Earl Johnson said the budgeted expenses are approximately 2 percent over last year’s budget.
“That’s lower than the rate of inflation,” he said.
City employees will receive a one-time, 3 percent cost of living raise, the mayor said.
“We are happy to be able to do that. Our employees have been a couple of years without a raise, and our folks work awfully hard.”
By the next fiscal year, he said, the city’s new personnel pay plan and raises will be in place and will effectively do away with cost of living raises.
The budget also allows the city to maintain adequate reserves.
“That is necessary to maintain our excellent credit rating with Standard and Poor’s,” he said.
The budget includes $250,000 in contingency funds, and $1.16 million for its capital improvement account.
“If you take into consideration the great results from our audit, and being able to add to reserves, the City of Andalusia is in the strongest financial position ever.”
It is also the earliest the city has adopted a budget for the new fiscal year.