When one of the most popular national retail chains opened a new store in Jasper, Ala., at the end of 2011, the message was clear: Walker County’s future looks bright.
“Goody’s is a billion-dollar company,” says A.G. Helton, CEO of Action Properties, the project developer. “Companies like Goody’s don’t invest in communities unless they expect to prosper.”
Action Properties specializes in redeveloping properties throughout the Southeast. In Jasper, the company purchased the former Food World location, redeveloped the property and attracted Goody’s and another major tenant, Hibbett Sports. Helton expects to lease the other available retail spaces in the coming months.
“We’ve taken what was essentially an eyesore and turned it into a thriving business that is creating jobs and economic impact,” Helton says. The project has already generated about 40 new jobs and is expected to create more than $4 million in sales tax revenues, as well as $4 million in property taxes for the county.
Helton praises the pro-business attitude of the city and county governments for helping the project succeed, and notes the assistance provided by the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County. As for the region, he’s confident that growth is on the horizon.
“I see this region growing, otherwise our company would not have plunked down the sizeable investment,” he says. “This region has a lot of great things going on. With about 15,000 in Jasper and a larger population in the economic trade area, Walker County is in a good position to become the retail center of the region.”
Interstate Access is Asset
That opportunity is enhanced by the county’s proximity to future Interstate 22, which will link Memphis, Tenn. to Interstate 65 in Birmingham, Ala. Most of the route is complete, with Jasper connected as early as 2005 and already reaping the benefits of its enviable location. In mid-2011, Love’s Travel Stop and Country Stores announced plans to locate on property at Exit 65 in Jasper. Opening in early 2012, the project will employ up to 80 people. Exit 65 is Industrial Boulevard, home to Jasper Industrial Park, which is undergoing road construction improvements in preparation for the location of new industry.
Retail Strong Across Walker County
In terms of retail, Goody’s and Hibbett Sports join other big names in Walker County, including two Wal-Mart Supercenters, Home Depot, Bath & Body Works, Rue 21 and Belk. While much of the retail strength of Walker County can be found in outlying shopping centers and the Jasper Mall, Helton says one aspect of the region that attracted him was downtown Jasper.
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