Etowah County Commission partners with Rainbow City to further mega-site advancements

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From left to right: Etowah County Commissioners Joey Statum, Jamie Grant, Johnny Grant, Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor, Commissioners Tim Ramsey, Jeffery Washington and Craig Inzer, Jr. announce a partnership between Rainbow City and the Etowah County Commission for Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site. Katie Bohannon/News Editor.

By Katie Bohannon, News Editor

Etowah County achieved yet another milestone for its industry-generating mega-site the first week of May, furthering Little Canoe Creek’s advancement toward success.

The Etowah County Commission and Rainbow City adopted a Memorandum of Understanding commemorating an official partnership that signifies the site’s future growth, while reflecting the collective mentality of elected officials and residents eager to ensure their communities prosper.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes the positive working relationship between Etowah County and Rainbow City to develop the 1,100-acre Alabama Advantagesite, which resides in unincorporated Etowah County adjacent to Rainbow City. The collaborative MOU facilitates the installation of water and sewer via engineering consultant Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC), a major project the commission announced in early 2022.

“If it wasn’t for our partners, none of this would have ever happened,” said Etowah County Commission President Johnny Grant, who commended Rainbow City, alongside Alabama Power Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation at Tuesday’s May 3 meeting. “We’ve known for a long time that Etowah County needed a partner that could provide infrastructure and basic services so we could move the mega-site to the next phase of development. I want to thank everyone involved for their hard work and diligence…but the work is not done. Let’s continue on.”

“This is not just about Rainbow City,” said Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor, who shared the MOU sparked from conversations with several commissioners. “This is about all our cities. The mega-site is going to reach probably a five-county area when we land that big, precious industry we know Etowah County can sustain. We appreciate the partnership with Rainbow City and the Etowah County Commission. We want to get out there and start pulling the wagon.”

While Rainbow City’s participation in the MOU provides essential services and infrastructure and propels Little Canoe Creek into greater phases of expansion, another aspect of the MOU emphasizes the future annexation of the site into Rainbow City corporate limits. Not only does this solidify the provision of water and sewer, but it also grants Rainbow City first responders – such as the municipality’s fire and police departments – access to safeguard Little Canoe Creek when needed. District 4 Commissioner Tim Ramsey reiterated the importance of police and fire access to the site, which sits in his district, noting that the annexation proves beneficial in attracting new business.

“This is a great step in the right direction for the whole county,” said Ramsey, echoing the mega-site’s mission to cultivate thousands of prospective jobs for residents, boosting local quality of life.

Etowah County Chief Administrative Officer Shane Ellison discussed an additional feature of the MOU – its provision for reimbursement concerning Etowah County’s investment in Little Canoe Creek.

“With Rainbow City’s approval in the MOU, Rainbow City is committing to purchase the project once a new industry agrees to locate on the site,” said Ellison. “Until such time, Little Canoe Creek will continue to be marketed [and owned] by the Etowah County Commission.”

This MOU trails numerous monumental developments for Little Canoe Creek in the previous year alone, joining the county’s three projects underway bolstering attention. Waites Construction is currently completing Phase 1 of the Growing Alabama Credit Program, which features the construction of a 70-acre pad, while the commission plans to award a contract for Phase 2 (which increases the pad size to 100 acres, while building a new road to connect Canoe Creek Road North and Wesson Lake Road, which creates another access point to-and-from the mega-site) later this month.

Norfolk Southern is funding $5.7 million to complete both phases, while Alabama Power showcases its investment in Little Canoe Creek through the construction of a new power substation and the relocation of transmission lines. Etowah County’s Little Canoe Creek serves as a premium focus of Governor Kay Ivey’s collection of $231.6 million rail projects as a part of A-USA Corridor. With the intent of upgrading economic development infrastructure across central and southern Alabama and improving the movement of goods via Mobile’s port, the 280-mile A-USA Corridor partners the State of Alabama with Norfolk Southern Railroad and connects the port of Mobile to Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site, which Norfolk Southern recognizes as a “prime site.”

“This is bigger than you realize,” said Commissioner Joey Statum, who described the MOU and the corresponding progress at Little Canoe Creek as historic. “Not only does the mega-site affect Etowah County – we’re talking about affecting the state, the Southeast and nationwide. You’re going to see things that will happen in Etowah County that will not only affect ourselves, but our kids and grandkids. Instead of people leaving Etowah County, people are going to be coming to Etowah County.”

“Everybody had a part in Little Canoe Creek – where it is today, where it’s going to be tomorrow,” said Commissioner Craig Inzer, Jr. “Everybody in this community will be touched. Someone is going to live [near Little Canoe Creek], bring home money and buy groceries or gas [because of the mega-site]. People will move here from out of town and grow our community. It’s a really big day.”

Representatives from both Alabama Power and Norfolk Southern joined the Etowah County Commission and Rainbow City officials to celebrate the partnership, illustrating their continual support of the project and their belief in its promise for the future. Alabama Power Community Relations Manager Spencer Williams discussed his excitement for Little Canoe Creek as not merely a project partner, but a resident of Etowah County, who appreciates the evident unity among those dedicated to providing prime opportunities for local citizens. Resident Vice President of Government Relations at Norfolk Southern Elizabeth Lawlor recalled her first interaction with Little Canoe Creek nearly a decade ago, which she witnessed transform throughout the years.

“Norfolk Southern operates in 22 states across the eastern part of the United States, but to see this type of collective energy and partnership on a state, county and city level is so impressive,” said Lawlor. “Thank you for being a leader for the state of Alabama, [demonstrating] how something like this can start with just a piece of land and a shared vision to move it forward. Congratulations to the citizens of Etowah County – this is going to be huge.”

Taylor emphasized that the agreement between Rainbow City and the Etowah County Commission demonstrates the achievements garnered when governmental groups cooperate effectively. Commissioner Jamie Grant showcased the MOU’s cohesive nature that arose from a collection of individuals who caught a glimpse of Little Canoe Creek’s potential. Grant and his fellow commissioners, alongside Rainbow City officials and project partners settled upon a mutual conclusion. While Etowah County houses countless value in its river and railways, with the mega-site emerging as an incredible opportunity to illuminate the region’s worth, Little Canoe Creek’s purpose remains dedicated to bettering the lives of Etowah County’s greatest treasure – its people.

“Partnering with Rainbow City is another way we are investing in our mega-site, which is an investment in Etowah County,” said Grant. “These agreements and partnerships [like the MOU] are just another resource for the citizens of Etowah County, to show them we are committed to working together to progress forward and bring industry to our region.”

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