The Etowah County Commission on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding that officially established a working relationship with Rainbow City regarding the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site.
“We’ve known for a long time that Etowah County needed a partner that could provide infrastructure and basic services so we could move to the next phase of development,” said Commission President Johnny Grant.
“Rainbow City is the perfect fit for Little Canoe Creek. This agreement shows this area and region that governmental groups can cooperate,” said Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor. “Being this close knit allows us to go back and refit the land we have in the county to best suit what we need.”
Taylor said he expected approval of the MOU by the Rainbow City Council on Wednesday.
The MOU will allow Rainbow City to help “facilitate installation of water and sewer and improve the marketability of the site.”
It also allows for groundwork to be laid for any future economic development agreements that may occur at the point of getting the site’s first industry agreement.
The MOU also will annex the site further into Rainbow City’s corporate limits, which will allow it to receive assistance from the city and give it access to first responders, such as the police or fire departments, when necessary.
“It will also allow this Mega-Site to be the economic development engine that will drive Etowah County forward,” Taylor added.
This move will also allow for a provision in the MOU for “reimbursement to Etowah County for its investment in the (Mega-Site).” This means that once a new industry agrees to locate on the site, Rainbow City will then commit to purchasing the project from the commission; Little Canoe Creek will continue to be under the commission’s ownership and marketing network until then.
“The commission, in the meantime, will continue to move forward with development and marketing of the site,” said Chief Administrative Officer Shane Ellison.
Ellison explained that the site’s current construction company, Waites Construction, is working to finish Phase 1 of the Growing Alabama Project that allows them to develop the site through the creation of a 70-acre pad. Bids on Phase 2 began last week, with a contract to be awarded later this month at the commission’s next official meeting.
“There are three projects going on as we speak, which makes for a lot of activity and attention,” he said. “The second phase will expand the pad size to 100 acres and connect a new industrial access road to Wesson Lake Road that will provide secondary access.”
Construction for both of these phases will have an estimated total cost of $5.7 million, which has been funded by Norfolk Southern Railroad via the Growing Alabama grant program. The company has marketed Little Canoe Creek as one of their “Prime Site” locations and said they will be marketing the site “aggressively.”
Members of the Etowah County Commission alongside Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor and representatives of their partners of Norfolk Southern, Alabama Power and Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood for the Little Canoe Creek Mega Site.
“I got my first email about this site eight or nine years ago and flipped it over to business development for their help,” said Elizabeth Lawlor, resident vice president of government relations at Norfolk Southern. “To see this collective energy and partnership on this level is impressive.”
Other companies have also become invested with the Mega-Site. Alabama Power will add onto the construction with a new power substation and relocating transmission lines to the site, while Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, the engineering consultants for the project, will be developing plans for installation of water and sewer lines.
“We will continue with our investments and our support. As a citizen, I thank you all for working together and pulling the cart in the same direction,” said Spencer Williams, community relations manager at Alabama Power.
Commissioners spoke highly in favor of the partnership, citing how “historic” this partnership would be in the future.
“This project is in my district, which makes me a little biased, but it’s a great step forward for our county,” said Tim Ramsey. “This will be a great partnership moving forward.”
Joey Statum added, “I am super excited for this partnership. This is bigger than people realize. Not only does it affect us, it affects the state, the Southeast and people will feel it’s effects nationwide. It is historic what is happening and will be impactful for generations to come.”
Taylor commended the commission on their leadership throughout the development of the site, citing the partnership as “proof” that their leadership was moving the county forward.
“This conversation was started through individual conversations between myself and other commissioners,” he said. “This is just the next move we have to make, and this partnership will allow us to get out there and start pulling the wagon with you all. We’re on the right path now to get us where we need to be.”