By Jeff Helms
Chilton County has been selected as the site of the proposed Alabama Farm Center, which has the potential to bring 300-400 new jobs and $40-$55 million in annual economic impact to the region.
The Chilton County Industrial Development Board made the announcement Tuesday at Clanton City Hall. A 500-acre parcel owned by the City of Clanton and Chilton County was chosen from about a dozen sites vying for the project. It is located on the east side of Interstate 65 at Exit 212 between Alabama Hwy. 145 and County Road 43.
“We are excited to finally be bringing to fruition a project that will forever change Chilton County and Central Alabama,” said Matt Mims, vice chairman, Chilton County Commission. “Today, we embark on a journey that will long impact the future generations of agriculture.”
The Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation began exploring the economic feasibility of a large, multi-function event facility about two years ago. The Foundation, which supports youth livestock shows, collegiate scholarships and other agricultural education activities, hired Markin Consulting of Minnesota to evaluate the potential of a regional livestock and event complex.
“Chilton County’s central location, proximity to large cities and access to I-65 make this site ideal for the Alabama Farm Center,” said Foundation President Jimmy Parnell, who also serves as president of Alabama Farmers Federation and Alfa Insurance. “There are few comparable ag centers in the United States, so this is a great opportunity for Alabama and Chilton County to attract visitors from across the region and country. As the Alabama Farmers Federation prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2021, our board of directors has cast a vision to make the Alabama Farm Center the premier livestock and event center in the South.”
“We would like to thank the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation for recognizing the value that Chilton County holds in the agricultural sector of our economy,” said Whitney Barlow, executive director of the Chilton County Industrial Development Board. “It is critical that we invest in our youth and enable them to reach their full potential with opportunities in career tech/workforce development, livestock skills, acquiring leadership responsibilities, as well as other experiences needed to be successful and productive.”
Initial plans for the Alabama Farm Center call for a 5,000-seat air conditioned arena, 150,000 square foot exhibition building, 400-stall horse barn, 400 RV hookups and a variety of other barns and arenas. Markin estimates livestock shows, rodeos, dog shows, festivals and consumer events could keep the facility booked over 300 days each year.
Clanton Mayor Billy Joe Driver emphasized the impact stating, “With the potential average attendance around 800,000 per year Central Alabama is sure to see an influx from the hospitality industry. This project will be a catalyst for growth and development for us all.”