Commissioners reveal Phase Two of mega-site prep plan, get a donation from Norfolk Southern
Miranda Prescott
The Gadsden Times
November 17, 2021

Etowah County Commissioners announced during their regular meeting on Tuesday that the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site soon will be moving into Phase Two of the major site preparation plan.

This new phase, according to Commission President Jamie Grant, will be funded by a $3 million donation from Norfolk Southern, a longtime partner of the project in conjunction with the county and the state’s Growing Alabama Credit Program. Grant thanked the railroad and the state for helping make the improvements possible.

The funding from Norfolk Southern will allow the pad size of the site to be extended to 100 acres and will include a new road that connects Canoe Creek Road North and Wesson Lake Road. It adds another access point to and from the site, and also will include tree removal from the new pad and Interstate 59 to prepare the section for future development.

“The site improvements have resulted in increased interest from companies and site selection consultants,” said Economic Development Director Marilyn Lott, “Ten requests for information have been received this year, with an average of 1,500 jobs and $2.5 billion in capital investment.”

Lott added that the investments made by Norfolk will allow the site to become more competitive and more marketable. “We’ve definitely seen the benefits from the Phase One project,” she said, “It’s just a matter of time before we see significant economic growth in this region.”

The partnership with Norfolk Southern on the project began in 2020, when the company provided $2.7 million through the credit program. In Phase One, 70 acres were constructed and made pad ready. This also included a rail-served site, moving natural gas lines, installing railroad crossings and extension of the site’s industrial access road.

“Rail is a key component to long-term success of the site, where we provide sustainable and efficient transportation of freight,” Chris Ingram, group vice president of industrial development for Norfolk Southern, explained.

The mega-site is county owned and includes more than 1,000 acres. It has earned Alabama Advantage Site designation and Norfolk Southern acknowledges it as one of their “prime sites.”

“The site prep plan is part of a recruitment strategy to attract an industry with a large number of high-quality, high-paying jobs by being prepared to offer a development ready site,” said Lott. “With a shared vision and collaboration among community leaders, I believe the mega-site will generate significant economic growth in the region.”

Commissioners authorized another agreement for the mega-site for professional designs from Goodwyn Mills and Cawood as part of the second phase.

They thanked Lott for her involvement with the project, saying that she has done an “outstanding job” marketing the site for potential prospects and fostering relationships with the state.

“We appreciate her service to Etowah County and her work bringing us forward,” said Commissioner Joey Statum, “A lot of things are happening with the mega-site and this commission as a whole, and I really foresee something happening sooner than later.”

Photo: Construction during phase one site prep project at Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site