Robertsdale, AL — Baldwin County’s economic development resume is lengthy and getting longer. Not only does the southwest Alabama county have one of the state’s fastest growing populations, experiencing a 43% spike since 2000, it also boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates at just 2.2%.
The region’s success hinges on its many strengths, not least of which is ideal market access via rail, truck and seaport. An expansion project at the county’s South Alabama Mega Site—anchored by freight rail—will soon deepen these connections.
CSX railroad announced that it will partner with Alabama Power to invest $5 million into the 3,000-acre site, which is one of only a few certified sites like it in the southeast. The funds will help build a rail spur to connect to the CSX main line that runs along the site. Upgrades will also include the creation of a 1 million-square-foot building pad and grading of 200 acres near the site.
Development at the South Alabama Mega Site is being led by the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance (BCEDA), with the objective of attracting large manufacturers to the area and creating jobs in South Alabama while giving smooth transition to and from the Port of Mobile on CSX track.
“Now with the site enhancements planned by BCEDA, the door is open wider for companies looking to build a rail-served manufacturing operation,” said Shantel Davis, CSX vice president of real estate and facilities, in an Alabama News Center report.
The Port of Mobile—the only U.S. seaport where five major railroads converge—generates $21.7 billion in annual economic impact and supports 147,000 jobs. From the port, which boasts post-Panamax large cranes and a deep-water channel, rail cargo can transfer to ship or to four other Class I railroads: Norfolk Southern, BNSF (AGR), Kansas City Southern, and Canadian National.
Similar intermodal development models have been successful elsewhere in the South, fueling an industrial boom that continues to prosper for rail-served manufacturing plants with efficient import/export capability.
“The Baldwin County Mega Site is certainly in a class of its own,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield to Alabama News Center. “I think that these upgrades and infrastructure are going to do nothing but make it more marketable and create more opportunities for this part of Alabama. We’re very hopeful about its future.”