First industry announced for West Franklin Park

Girard Holdings Alabama, an RV awning supplier, will construct its newest facility in Red Bay.

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Work will soon begin to transform the land around this sign on 9th Street SW to become the home of Girard Holdings Alabama LLC, an awning manufacturer that will be the first industry to locate in the West Franklin Regional Industrial Park in Red Bay. News photo/Jason Collum

RED BAY | Four months of recruiting efforts and 30 years of planning have resulted in the city landing its first industrial operation for the West Franklin Industrial Park.

Work could begin as soon as this week on excavation and leveling of 14.5 acres of the 55-acre park on 9th Street SW to make way for Girard Holdings Alabama LLC’s new facility in Red Bay. The company is the exclusive awning manufacturer for Tiffin Motorhomes, and will produce awnings here as well as handle service on other brands of recreational vehicles. 

The new industry is expected to create around 25 new jobs in the area, Mayor Charlene Fancher said. In addition to the main facility where manufacturing and service will take place, the site will include 40 parking spots for recreational vehicles as well as cottages for RV owners to stay in while their vehicle is being serviced.

“It is going to be top-notch,” Fancher said. “We’re very excited about this company; we’re very excited to have them locate here.”

Girard Systems has additional locations in San Clemente, Calif., and Goshen, Ind.

How it came about

The effort to secure the company’s new location was a relatively quick matter, but it took intensive work. Fancher said she and the Industrial Development Board have been working with Girard Systems’ owner and president, Marcia Girard, for about four months.

Fancher said she received word around the end of April that an awning company was looking to locate in the area, and had been scouting locations around Belmont. 

“I got a name and a phone number and called them and said, ‘Red Bay wants you. Tiffin Motorhomes is in Red Bay, Alabama, and we have a place for you.’” Fancher said.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes by a lot of people to make this happen,” Fancher said. “I cannot stress enough the passion of this project. Once I talked to the owner, we kicked it in high-gear. We had a meeting immediately with our Industrial Development Board to let them know we had an industrial prospect here and we need to talk to them seriously. Then the negotiations began. They liked what we had to say, they loved Red Bay. We had the industrial site ready. They liked the incentive offer they were given by the board.”

The incentives offered by the City to lure the project here included spending up to $125,000 on the concrete pad for the building. Additionally, Girard Holdings will not have to pay for the land upon which the site is built. The Franklin County Development Commission and the Franklin County Commission each also contributing $25,000 each toward the development, and the city will be pursuing a $250,000 grant to assist with the infrastructure work on the site. Additionally, the Water and Gas Board and the Sewer Board will be waiving tap fees.

Councilman Brad Bolton credited city leaders from 10, 20 and 30 years ago for setting the stage for Monday’s announcement. He said the creation of the Industrial Development Board and the occupational tax helped the city build the funding needed to land the company, and then the purchase 10 years ago of the land for the industrial park put the city in the position to actively recruit new business. 

“The seeds we plant today are usually not seen for a generation,” Bolton said. “In the competitive environment we’re in today, if you’re not handing out incentives you’re not going to get a company. This is a 30-year project that has culminated into the first real outside industry (locating here) since Gates.”

 Representatives of the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments (NACOLG) were also on hand at Monday night’s city Council meeting, and shared with the Council the next steps the city will need to make in order to apply for the Community Development Block Grant for the infrastructure at the park. The grant process will include a public hearing and will likely take between 60 and 90 days to complete.

Nevertheless, Fancher was able to obtain a waiver letter that allows the city to begin work on the site in anticipation of the grant. Councilman Mike Kennedy asked Jones whether the waiver letter suggested the city would receive the funding.

“Normally it’s a good sign (the grant will be approved),” Jones said.

Fancher hopes the development at the park is a harbinger of what’s to come.

“I’ve already been receiving calls from others and others are interested in our industrial park,” she said.