CLANTON, Ala. (WIAT) — After a number of starts and stops, Chilton County leaders have confirmed that the long-awaited Alabama Farm Center project will not be moving forward, at least not now.
In a statement posted on Facebook Tuesday, Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee said the proposed $150 million center would not be built, putting an end to a project that first started in 2015. Hardee said hopes for the center were high, with the possibility of drawing up to 900,000 visitors per year to the area.
The project had its share of starts and stops over the years, particularly through the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ongoing negotiations between the commission, the city of Clanton and the Alabama Farmers Federation.
“Navigating the complexities of economic development projects is not an easy task for public officials and experience has shown that often governmental bodies invest resources and efforts in multiple projects before any one project can become a reality,” Hardee said. “It is hard and tedious work that requires diplomacy and compromise at almost every level.”
Hardee said that the negotiation for the project stalled when ALFA wanted to add a provision to the letter of intent after the completion of Farm Center for additional incentives and tax revenues committed to the center that would go toward development outside the site.
“(ALFA President) Mr. Jimmy Parnell, city of Clanton and Chilton County originally agreed that the Farm Center could keep all revenue inside of the 233 acres for debt or maintenance and would not discuss any revenue outside the Farm Center site until the completion of the project,” Hardee said. “Mayor Mims and I agreed that it would be premature to agree to any funding source 5 years from now, that would be the responsibility of the leaders and elected officials at that time.”
Hardee said not having the project move forward was disappointing, but that the commission would be seeking other opportunities.
“In many cases multiple projects must be pursued and all negotiations exhausted before a final project is landed and comes to fruition,” he said. “Your Commission will continue to work tirelessly to pursue these opportunities and help bring about growth and progress for the citizens of Chilton County.”
Parnell released the following statement to CBS 42:
“When it became apparent in December we would not reach target construction dates due to supply chain issues and regulatory hurdles, I personally negotiated in good faith with the mayor and county commission chair on an agreement to keep this project in Clanton. We agreed to transfer about half of the property back to the city and county for other development with the understanding we would revisit their involvement in helping sustain and grow the Farm Center once the project begins producing revenue. They refused to sign a nonbinding agreement to this effect.
“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. The Federation and the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) have invested a tremendous amount of time and money in the Farm Center project. I wanted it to work in Chilton County. We put in a good effort to make it work, but when there isn’t cooperation among all local government officials, it’s impossible to be successful with an economic development project of this size. I am thankful for the Chilton County commissioners who did work so hard with us to try to make this happen.”
You can read Hardee’s full comments below: