Industrial parks add jobs, bring higher pay, and help promote a higher quality of life.

Story and photos by Cara Clark

Along with his famed words about early to bed making us healthy, wealthy and wise, Benjamin Franklin had some words of wisdom on the importance of industry in creating success: “The way to wealth is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do; with them, everything.”

At the heart of any city is the steady beat of thriving commerce, which requires employers, space, and amenities. And industrial complexes in Alabaster are positioned to drive industries to thrive.

Jackson Pruett can attest to the recognized potential and envision what’s on the horizon. As senior project manager of 58 INC., a not-for-profit economic development organization created four years ago, Pruett is part of the proactive movement to see Shelby County and its cities develop opportunities and ideas to draw more residents and employees.

Located within the city limits of Alabaster, Shelby West Corporate Park is just one entity 58 INC. can point to. With a prime location just off I-65 and Highway 8, the 400-plus acre commerce, industry, and technology park has been steadily growing since its inception in the early 2000s. Shelby West now includes 13 tenants employing more than 1,000 people. “Local leadership at the time saw the opportunity for a quality industrial park in that area of the county,” Pruett says. “The county originally purchased the land for the airport, but as the airport’s needs were met, there were 400 acres left, and it was a natural site for an industrial park.”

Shelby West kicked off with a three-phase development, and over the course of 10 years, infrastructure went in, opening the way for manufacturing businesses like AGC Automotive, the park’s first tenant. The Japanese manufacturer creates value-added glass for automotive companies, manufacturing such items as heated wire windshields and shipping them to automotive assembly plants. As AGC discovered, being within 50 miles of Honda and Mercedes Benz and under 70 miles from Hyundai, offers unique access. With close to 350 employees, AGC has experienced steady growth, expanding its building last year and continuing to increase its product line and distribution.

Alabama-Crown Distributing Company, part of Georgia Crown Distributing’s family owned, full-service beverage distributor with wholesale operations in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee, brought a manufacturing facility to Shelby West to serve its Alabama market. “Crown is currently building a new location in the park to consolidate their 450,000-square-foot warehouse,” Pruett says. “We’re working with them to backfill the existing space with a new company. It’s another positive example of growth at the park. With 1,000 people working in that park every day, the impact it has for Alabaster and for the county is huge. Quality employment is the driver of all of these success stories.”

Approximately 85 acres remain available in the park on two different sites, and 58 INC. makes a convincing case for businesses looking at Alabaster as a base for their next operation. They would join existing tenants—many of whom are high profile, including: Shelby West Hibbett Wholesale, Thompson Tractor, BTC Wholesale, Ditch Witch, Mspark, TruBlu, and UPS.

“It’s exciting that we still have opportunities at Shelby West, though we’ve built so much over the past 25 years,” Pruett says. Pruett works with the team of Amy Sturdivant, managing director of economic development, and Melody Whitten, director of development, “to advance economic prosperity and business health through a collaborative partnership among stakeholders focused on targeted initiatives and business recruitment to assure a robust economy in Shelby County.”

“We wanted to create a more modern approach to economic development,” Pruett says. “We help with industrial recruitment and have a function with commercial development. We promote commercial, retail, and industrial development. They all serve the city’s budgets.”

Working on behalf of the city’s property owners, Pruett joined 58 INC. after serving as vice president of business development

and support at the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and project manager at The Shelby County Economic and Industrial Development Authority.

“We’re very focused on high-quality employment opportunities for people in Alabaster,” Pruett says. “The creation of jobs and the wealth being created here powers everything. Without quality employment and quality jobs with places for people to work, there would be no residential growth. It all starts with people having good, high-paying jobs. That’s mission critical for us to recruit and see economic growth.”

For Pruett and the brains behind 58 INC., it’s clear that if people can live in Shelby County and work close to home, they not only avoid a costly commute, but the likelihood is much greater they will buy lunches, dinners, and retail purchases in those same zip codes. “We’re seeing companies with strong benefits and pay

rates in these industrial areas,” Pruett says. “Our main focus is on manufacturing, but we also focus on life science and technology companies.”

Another of Alabaster’s thriving industrial areas is AirPark Industrial Complex, just off Highway 87 and including companies such as Sealing Equipment Products Co., Inc., (SEPCO), DeShazo Crane, Spectrum, and CIE Wire. SEPCO Vice President of Operations Mike Evers, whose company has been in Alabaster for more than two decades, finds that “location, location, location” serves manufacturing plants as well as being the catchphrase for realtors the world over. “We built our current building in 1998 after we moved from a location in Pelham, and at that time doubled our capacity,” Evers says. “Since then, we’ve outgrown this location and are investigating adding to our existing building or purchasing a new location.”

SEPCO employs just under 100 employees and manufactures products like seals and gaskets that serve a diverse group of customers, including power generation, pulp and paper, chemical processing, mining, nuclear, aerospace, and water and wastewater treatment. “This is a great place for an industrial park,” Evers says. “We have great neighbors here, and the commercial side is growing around us, supporting businesses for lunch and retail space. It’s also close to the interstate and great for our employees who come from north of Birmingham and south of Alabaster.”

SEPCO’s state-of-the-art manufacturing plant sits on 40 acres, offering space to expand to meet growing demands. “This area is obviously a fast-growing community, and that makes it a great location,” Evers says. “We have a growing workforce and affordable housing popping up more and more. The population is growing, and the pool of skilled workers seems to be growing, as well.”

While Alabaster industrial parks continue to grow, Pruett says a new project will be coming online near the George River Parkway, and 58 INC. predicts it will have a positive impact on Alabaster, Calera, and other Shelby County cities. “Having a county-wide focus is important,” Pruett says. “Our economy is regional, and we’re thankful our cities work so well together. What benefits one benefits all. We’re all working together to bring increase our quality of life.”

With a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats philosophy, Pruett applauds the efforts Mayor Scott Brakefield and City Planner Brian Binzer. “It’s great that everyone has a holistic vision for economic development and growth,” Pruett says.


Business Spotlight

Siluria Brewing Co.

After a healthy career for Danny Sample as an officer in the U.S. Army and Tammy Sample as a dental hygienist the duo decided to pursue the entrepreneurial American dream and open a brewery in their hometown. Risk has its rewards.

Alabaster Connection: What does Siluria Brewing offer?

Tammy Farmer: We brew staple and seasonal beers, non-alcoholic root beer, and we also have a variety of Siluria Cellars wine. We host events for organizations, provide space for private parties, and have indoor and outdoor stages for concerts.

AC: How did you learn to brew beer?

TF: I gave a home brewing kit to my husband Danny one year, and it turned into a passion for him.

AC: When did you start Siluria Brewing?

TF: November 2018.

AC: Are you the sole owner or do you have partners?

TF: Danny and I are the sole owners.

AC: What job or roles in the past best trained you?

TF: I don’t know if anything can fully prepare someone to run a customer-facing small business, but Danny has a history of leadership roles in the Army, and my background in dental hygiene gave us a solid foundation to build on.

AC: How did you decide to start SB?

TF: We identified an untouched market in the Alabaster area and thought it would be a great addition to the community.

AC: Why did you choose your location?

TF: We think this location chose us. We were originally going to start on Medical Mile but learned the weight of the commercial brew kettles would be too heavy for the foundation of the building. The old post office happened to be available and could support brewing operations.

AC: Why do you think people like your business?

TF: Danny and I have put family first in our personal lives, and we brought that focus to Siluria. It’s a casual, fun, family friendly (and dog-friendly) environment in a small town.

AC: What advice would you give someone about starting a business?

TF: We recommend speaking with the Alabama Small Business Development Center in Tuscaloosa. They guided us through the process, which helped tremendously. Outside of that, I’d say don’t get frustrated by learning through trial and error.

AC: What is something positive about working in Alabaster?

TF: Working where we live is great. Siluria Brewing is a meeting place for the community we love with the people who make it such an amazing little city.

AC: Do you plan to grow or expand in the future?

TF: We have grown since opening in 2018. We started with just four core beers, and we now have 12 beers on tap. We expanded our Beer Garden and added an outside coldroom. We are gearing up for distribution, which means expansion is inevitable.

AC: What does it take to succeed in business?

TF: Not letting the bad days stop forward progress is a great start. Our goals are like moving targets. They are constantly evolving. Not letting challenges become barriers to those goals is part of what it takes. Another part is asking for help. We have an amazing circle of support.

AC: What is the most challenging aspect of SB?

TF: Changes! There is no concrete blueprint to our everyday operations.

AC: Would you recommend a book or a podcast or a group to join to help in launching or running a business?

TF: Jump by Steve Harvey This book is literally how we landed where we are now. And the Alabaster Business Alliance is a great networking tool.  This is something we desperately needed.

AC: What area of business would you suggest someone learn more about before starting?

TF:  Software for your business, Finance, Inventory Contro, Product Control, and Human Resources.