New Foley plant to open within a year

Published 1:53 am Monday, May 8, 2006

By By Janet Little Cooper
David Swift, president of Swift Supply, has been a busy man.
Thursday morning, Gov. Bob Riley joined Swift at Foley City Hall as he announced that the Atmore-based company would be expanding its operations with a plant in the Gulf Coast city. Early Friday morning, Swift welcomed his newborn grandson, John Boyd Bradford Hick Jr., to the family.
"We've had a lot of good news this week," Swift said Friday afternoon.
The plant in Foley is expected to open within the next year and could employ up to 100 workers. The plant will produce wooden supports to be used in home construction, Swift said.
"Primarily Foley's more in the market for this type product," Swift said. "Also Baldwin County is fast growing for this type product and it has never really been utilized in that area as it has in the other parts of the country, but that's really starting to come on strong now due to the shortage of labor and new hurricane codes that require stronger roof systems. We're able to take advantage of the Gulf Opportunity Zone; there are some major incentives in place and now is the time to do a capital expansion in that market."
President George W. Bush passed the Gulf Opportunity Act of 2005 in December 2005 to help the citizens of the Gulf Coast continue to put their lives back together and rebuild their communities in the wake of devastating hurricanes that hit the region. The Act is part of the country's commitment to help rebuild the Gulf Coast in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Intended to help small businesses, the Gulf Opportunity Act doubled the expensing for investments and new equipment from $100,000 to $200,000.
Swift has been debating the expansion for several years. He said the tax advantages, which exist in Baldwin County as a result of the Act, made the decision easier to make.
"It's something I've been interested in for several years," Swift said. "I've been actively working on it since last summer. I started acquiring property in August of 2005."
According to Swift, benefits made available by the Gulf Opportunity Act will only be available for another 18 months.
The Foley Industrial Development Board voted to lease a 23-acre, city-owned site on the Foley Beach Express to Swift, according to officials. The company will pay $25,996 a year for 11 years to lease the site east of Foley.
"Foley has been very cooperative," Swift said. "They have welcomed us overwhelmingly."
In addition, Foley officials will waive property taxes that are not earmarked for education for the 11-year lease. The tax abatement will save Swift approximately $47,890 a year or more than half a million over the life of the lease. Swift will also have an option to buy the 23-acre site for $100 at the end of the lease contingent on the facility remaining in Foley.
"A large part of our market is now in Baldwin County because the area is really starting to use this pre-engineered roof truss system because of its greater strength, wind load tolerance and strengthening of the building codes," Swift said. "These, without any problem, will meet the building codes."
The plant, which Swift estimates will cost $2.5 to $2.7 million to build, will produce trusses, prefabricated components to reinforce houses, Swift said. The plant should employ 20, but increase to about 30 employees in two years. Continued expansion is anticipated until about 100 people are working at the site.
According to published reports, the payroll is expected to be about $550,000 with 20 employees or an average of about $27,500 per job. Payroll will increase to about $895,000 after two years and to about $1.45 million after three years.
As for Atmore, Swift said operations would continue as usual.
"We not leaving, we not moving, we're expanding," Swift said. "Atmore will continue to operate as is. We presently do a similar process in Atmore. In time, we may move some of the work from Atmore to the new plant, but we don't anticipate reducing any jobs here at our main facility."
The new facility will also be an advantage to Swift because it will reduce overhead as well. Swift currently has several building supply centers including stores in Orange Beach, Pensacola, Daphne and Bay Minette. With a plant in Foley delivery costs will decline.
"It will be a major reduction in delivery expenses," Swift said. "This plant would be able to service them."

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