MONTGOMERY, AL (STL.News) Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced today that Coastal Growers LLC plans to build a peanut shelling plant in Atmore, bringing 100 or more jobs to the area and turning the Escambia County city into a hub for peanut shelling in southwest Alabama.
The company – owned by a cooperative of farmers, most of them residing in Alabama – will build an $87 million shelling and storage facility on more than 60 acres in the Atmore Industrial Park.
“The Coastal Growers facility in Atmore will become a vital resource for peanut farmers in Alabama and beyond by helping to make their operations more sustainable and profitable,” Governor Ivey said. “I look forward to seeing the impact that this project is going to have for our farmers and for the region.”
Paul Turner, an attorney representing the company, said the average wage in the plant will be more than $17 per hour for the 100-plus full-time workers. In addition, there will be temporary positions added during peak shelling times.
“We are excited to be able to announce this project today, to bring peanut shelling to south Alabama, and to bring economic benefit to the hard-working farmers of our state who so desperately need it,” Turner said.
“We also offer our sincere gratitude to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Atmore Mayor Jim Staff and everyone else who made this project possible and brought us to Atmore, including the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Peanut Producers Association, both of which were vital in the project’s development,” he added.
Jess Nicholas of Centerfire Economic, who serves as executive director of the Escambia County Industrial Development Authority, said he expects the facility to ultimately employ 150 workers and attract other businesses to the area.
“Shelling operations tend to attract other businesses in this sector, and also spur development in infrastructure and other areas. We expect it to have a positive effect on the Port of Mobile as well,” Nicholas said.
“We worked hard to bring Coastal Growers here, and we’re very thankful to Coastal Growers for picking us, and for Governor Ivey for supporting our efforts. We’re on the map now as far as peanut production is concerned,” he added.
Glenn Spivey, president of Dothan’s Hollis & Spann Inc., will be heading up the construction efforts for the project. Spivey said the new facility, encompassing more than 400,000 square feet, will take about a year to build.
Coastal Growers’ Brad Smith and Joe Parker, two of the driving forces behind the project, said the Atmore location is the perfect site for the company.
“The peanuts we have in this area are among the highest quality available, yet we really had no infrastructure for shelling in this area,” said Parker, owner and general manager of Summerdale Peanut in Baldwin County.
“While we looked at other possibilities in other states, Atmore really did make the best sense for us in the end, and the state was strongly supportive of our efforts the entire time,” Smith said. “They did a fantastic job of making us feel welcome in Escambia County.”
Mark Kaiser, a Baldwin County farmer, said the new facility will allow farmers to capture more profit from their own crops, giving them more control over their own operations.
“This facility will be owned by the farmers that use it, and they’ll keep those profits themselves,” Kaiser said. “That’s good for both the farmers and for the immediate area, because the money will just keep turning over locally.”
Alex Jones, president of UB Community Development LLC, a community development affiliate of United Bank, led efforts to secure financing for the project, utilizing New Market Tax Credits, incentives and traditional financing. He said the impact across the region will be immense.
“We have farmers from one side of the state to the other who are involved in this, in Florida and Mississippi as well, and even up the state into the Sand Mountain area,” Jones said. “This is a complex process and not the typical economic development project in any way, but in the end, it’s going to mean a lot for our region, for Atmore, for Escambia County and our state.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff said the city welcomes Coastal Growers and is excited to be able to help the area’s farmers.
“It’s not just the jobs at the plant itself, even as much opportunity as that will bring to the city,” Staff said. “It’s what we’re able to do for our farmers and their families who have lived here and worked here for generations. They’ve spent their money in Atmore, and they’re an important part of our community.”