By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Members of the Atmore Industrial Development Board haven’t met since 2016, and there’s a good reason for that. There’s been nothing for them to discuss since Brown Precision officials expressed interest in constructing a new manufacturing facility here.
One might assume, then, from the rare AIDB meeting held last Wednesday, January 22, that something big is again on the horizon.
“It’s probably been three-and-a-half years since we met,” board chairman Richard Maxwell said prior to last week’s session. “We’re going to discuss somebody that’s interested in Atmore. I can’t tell you any more than that.”
Maxwell and fellow AIDB members Dr. Ulysses McBride, Bob Jones and Sheilo Faircloth attended the meeting in person, and Jim Johnson participated by speaker phone. Tommy Moore was unable to attend. (The seven-member panel has one vacant slot.)
Maxwell opened the meeting, then asked for a motion to go into executive session to “discuss a potential business coming to town.” Faircloth made the motion; Jones seconded it.
Jess Nicholas, in one of his final acts as a representative of Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, was a part of the executive session, as was Alex Jones, a senior vice president at United Bank.
Nicholas agreed before the board went into the closed-door session that the rare meeting was a positive indicator that something of a large scale might be on the local industrial horizon.
“We are looking at a project that is looking at Atmore,” Nicholas said. “Obviously, by the fact that it’s been three-and-a-half years since this board met, it could be something good and significant. We’re meeting to have a discussion about as much of that as we can share right now.
“Non-disclosure agreements are in place. You have to start somewhere, and we have to start with some initial details, first to the people who are entrusted in board positions to hear those details. That’s what we’re here for.”
Nicholas said he asked Jones to assist in the presentation by explaining to board members the finances of the possible factory location.
“I’m going to call Alex in with me to deal with the financial end of it,” he explained. “This turned into a bigger protocol, so we’re erring on the side of caution. Somebody has to provide the financial end of it.”
Jones said he was “not here as United Bank.” He and Nicholas said they had signed non-disclosure agreements before being given the green light to take the company’s proposal to the AIDB. Maxwell said board members have “not yet” been required to sign such agreements.
Mayor Jim Staff was not a party to the executive session, nor were any other city officials. Staff said if the unnamed company decides to locate here, it could be an immediate boon to the local economy.
Construction of a manufacturing facility would provide jobs for local companies and individuals during the preparation and building processes, and the mayor said he was told the new, undisclosed industrial concern would bring “80-120 jobs, right off the bat.”
After meeting for about an hour, the board came back into regular session and adjourned. Nicholas said an update on the situation could come “in the next two or three weeks.”