After looking to move to a new location, Valley Joist + Deck has announced the company is remaining in Fort Payne and is expanding to create 50 new jobs within the next five years.
DeKalb County Economic Development Authority Board, in cooperation with all utilities, the state of Alabama and the Fort Payne City Council, managed to keep the long-standing partner of 25 years in Fort Payne.
DCEDA Director Jimmy Durham said at Tuesday’s council meeting that when the development authority found out Valley Joist was looking to move, the DCEDA went to great measures to keep the company in Fort Payne.
“We did find out that they were looking at other locations in Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and Louisiana, and we did not want them to go,” Durham said.
“They basically bring in about $12 million a year just in wages in the community and about $55 million all total. They bring in a lot of money to the city of Fort Payne, and it is very difficult to let a company like that go.”
Durham said Valley Joist’s commitment to Fort Payne and Fort Payne’s commitment to Valley Joist was evident during the process.
“It is hard to replace a company that big and one that is really committed to Fort Payne,” he said. “They worked hard to make sure they stayed in Fort Payne. We appreciate [the council] and all of the help of utility companies as well. I think this is going to be a huge asset to continue for Fort Payne.”
Fort Payne Mayor Larry Chesser said he believes Valley Joist will remain in Fort Payne for another 25 or more years.
“I think they will be here for years to come,” Chesser said. “This has been on of the cases where we are trying to keep our existing industries. We are constantly working to bring other industries in, but we don’t want to lose what we already have, and this is a case where that could have happened. I appreciate everyone who worked on the behalf of this.”
Fort Payne City Attorney Rocky Watson said the agreement Valley Joist entered in with the city of Fort Payne includes the expectations of increased jobs with the ultimatum of paying the city $20 thousand for each job they do not add in the 80 percent of the company’s job-adding goal.
“Some of the highlights are that they have promised to add 15 new jobs by two years from the effective date,” Watson said. “Thirty jobs by three yeas, 45 buy four years and 50 by the fifth anniversary date.
“They are going to be spending approximately $8 million to do a new deal. They are expected to do this because of one of the questions that comes up and, that you would want the answer to, is what happens if they don’t do that and the answer is they have to get to 80 percent of their goal of adding jobs. For each job they don’t add in that 80 percent, they are required to pay the city of Fort Payne $20 thousand.”
Watson said this insures that if there are 10 jobs the company does not get out of the 80 percent then they would pay $200 thousand to the city of Fort Payne.
“They have entered into something we don’t see very often which is a continuous operations commitment,” he said. “If they are not in operations three years from the date of this effective date, then they will pay the city of Fort Payne $1 million.”
Watson also explained additional agreement highlights.
“On the fifth anniversary, if they are not in operation continuously, they are going to pay us $800,000, which will more than cover the expenses of what we are going to do for them.”
Watson read a list of what the city has agreed to do.
“What we are going to do for them through the Industrial Development Board, is provide a 39-acre piece of property, which is out near Ferguson,” he said. “All of the utilities are cooperating in getting the utilities to their plant and making whatever changes are necessary. Hopefully out of this we will develop some state grants that will allow us to continue to improve our roadways and our utilities, particularly at the intersection of Highway 35 Airport Road and Jordan Road.”
Additional agreements include:
• providing site work and dirt work
• providing help with needed training
• providing help by abating the normal examination fees and building fees, etc.
Watson said the agreement is beneficial for the city.
“It’s a great package for us,” Watson said. “It is not particularly expensive for us, because we will maintain a $12 million a year payroll. We are going to increase that payroll by approximately 33 percent in five years, and we retain on of our core industries. It is as valuable to keep them [companies] as it is to get new ones.”
The council also:
• had citizen participation from Erin Franklin, representing the Muscular Dystrophy Association, to recognize and present Fort Payne Fire Chief Ron Saferite with a token of appreciation to the Fort Payne Fire Department for their efforts in support of MDA
• passed Resolution 2019-16 amending Resolution 2019-05, which granted tax abatements to “Project Scout,” now known as the Valley Joist Project as well as the approval for the Memorandum of the Understanding needed
• passed resolution 2019-17 declaring four police department vehicles surplus
• approved issuance of an alcohol license for San Jose Fine Mexican Restaurant. The Alcohol Committee approved and recommended forwarding the application to the council for approval. The council approved the issuance of an alcohol license as it was needed for a change in ownership
• reappointed Neal Baine for another term on the Fort Payne City School Board
• approved street light requests for Matt Hood at 1502 Gault Avenue S and tabled a street light request from Gary Cole at 1601 Dean Road for further review
• set the city’s Independence Day Celebration for July 2 with a makeup day of July 3.