Riverside on map with new industry

Story by Carol Pappas
Photos by Jerry Martin

Look to a formerly vacant piece of property nestled between Interstate 20 and US 78 in Riverside and see the future going up.

It is the site of Nufab Rebar, a new industry that will become the city’s largest employer.

“What a day for Riverside,” Mayor Rusty Jessup proclaimed in a groundbreaking ceremony in July with Gov. Robert Bentley attending to show its importance not only to the city, but to the region and state as well.

The concrete reinforcement manufacturer, a subsidiary of Nucor Steel, will add 80 jobs to the economy and represents a $7 million investment.

It took two years for the project to come to fruition, but the city, the county and the St. Clair County Economic Development Council “worked so hard,” Jessup said. “We kept on and made it happen. It says a lot about us, and it says a lot about them.”

It also says plenty about the future for Riverside and the team work involved in this deal.

County Commission Chairman Stan Batemon named key players like the Birmingham Business Alliance and the EDC and the team work it took to get that first shovelful of dirt moving. “We learned a lesson of keeping everybody together.”

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh touched on the cooperative effort in his remarks, noting that as he looked out over the audience assembled for the groundbreaking, he saw mayors from across the county and across the county line in attendance. “You don’t see that in other areas.”

And Gov. Bentley put it in perspective in response to the notion that governors don’t attend groundbreakings for fewer than 100 jobs. “One hundred jobs in a town of 3,000 is just as significant as 5,000 in Mobile or Birmingham,” he said. “Jobs should be the number one goal. We work together in Alabama. We’re united.”

Dennis Swinney, who is the manager of the new Riverside plant, said the decision to relocate “felt like home. The people we work with here have really been fantastic,” he said, singling out EDC Executive Director Don Smith, contractor Jason Goodgame and Mayor Jessup. “I’m happy we are going to make Riverside our home.”

Company President Dave Camozzi echoed the sentiment. “We are dedicated to growing this business here.”

That sentiment isn’t lost on Kelley Taft, owner of The Kelley Group, the City of Riverside’s engineering and grant writing firm.

“Riverside is a small, yet multifaceted community, a diamond in the rough if you will, with great leaders and the prime geographic location for development,” she said. “The Nufab project in Riverside is a solid example of how hard work and strong partnerships unite to create economic development for a small town.”

Nor is the impact lost on Mayor Jessup. “Small towns across America are struggling financially because of the demands of the public and the costs of public safety and public roads. They just can’t match up.

“The only way small towns of the future will survive is through economic development — getting an industry with the impact we think Nufab will have.”

Nucor, the parent company, “has a great reputation of being a good corporate citizen. During this process, we discovered that to be the truth. They were very particular about the impact they would have on our town and area, and they went out of their way to make sure they did things right.”

There was no cutting of corners when it came to safety, the mayor said, and every step of the way, company officials demonstrated “they wanted to be a part of this community, not just in it.”

Because of Nufab’s decision, “this administration feels the future is much brighter for Riverside. We have had three years of gut-wrenching budget decisions, cutbacks, layoffs. In turn, that created problems with our citizens because we were unable to deliver all the services they wanted.”

But Riverside is already seeing a turnaround Jessup attributes to Nufab and the construction process. Third quarter numbers are showing an increase in sales tax. “There’s a lot of commerce going in and out of town,” he said. “We’ve already hired more people in the water and street department and one in administration. These are the types of things a company like Nufab Rebar can do for a small town.”

Nufab, which should open in March 2013, is the largest economic development project in the history of Riverside. The $1 million industry access grant it received is the highest in the city’s history, and it will go toward expanding US 78 to three lanes and giving greater accessibility to the plant.

When the construction dust settles, Jessup said, the project will be a total investment in Riverside of $10 million by all entities. “Positive things happen when you inject that kind of money in a community the size of Riverside.”

— Article courtesy of Discover St. Clair

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