Mayor: New business at airport

Published 12:06 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A lease has been executed for the twin hangars at South Alabama Regional Airport, and the company who plans to use them will hire 85 employees in the next two years.

That was just one of the pieces of good news Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson had for Kiwanians Monday in a “state of the city” address of sorts.

“They’ve signed a contract and will be working on C130s there soon,” the mayor said. “And I actually think they’ll hire more than that.”

Johnson said the company, which operates a similar business on the east coast, is in the process of hiring a manager for its new Andalusia location. An industrial announcement is expected in coming weeks.

Across the way, the expansion at Vector Aerospace is almost complete, he said.

“They will have more than 350 folks working there,” he said. “That is huge for our area.”

And at SaeHaeSung, located in the city’s Sutton Road industrial park, the hiring has been sufficient to release the city from the obligations that came with ADECA grants. The city has an agreement with GreenSteel Homes, LLC homes for a previously unoccupied spec building in the industrial park. The city is completing improvements to the building so that they can occupy it, and the lease should be in place by the end of this week, he said.

Similarly, Sitel and Shaw have recently begun advertising to fill positions, he said.



The mayor touched on the city’s finances, and said that expenses increased, on average, 8 percent per year in the previous administration. The current administration, he said, has been able to keep the increase in cost to an average of 2 percetn per year.

“This is with increases in fuel and health care, and in giving our employees a 2 percent raise this year,” he said.

The mayor said an increase in sales tax revenue, grants and gifts to the city have helped the city coffers, but that the council also has worked hard to control costs.

“We are constantly looking at our systems and trimming costs,” he said. “Employees are the most expensive cost we have.”

The city has taken advantage of attrition to reduce its workforce, he said, including not replacing the general manager for the Utilities Board, a role the mayor currently fills.

“That alone has saved us $500,000 over four years,” he said. “We’ve also decreased attorneys’ fees by $150,000. You can do a lot with $650,000 to $700,000.”



Johnson was asked about the Andala building in downtown Andalusia, and said the city has petitioned the circuit court to declare that an individual involved in plans to revamp the building has not interest in or rights to it.

In August of 2007, the city council agreed that the city would purchase the Andala Building and contiguous .20 acre lots from John Tisdale for a total purchase price of $270,000. The city also agreed to set aside $30,000 to be used to pay for roof repairs to the Andala Building, and to develop the two lots for parking.

A California developer, Jeff McClure, had a lease-purchase agreement with the city for the Andala building.


Asked about housing developments, the mayor said that “Debro Hill is a go.”

In December, the council approved a memorandum of understanding with developer Bill Ware of Enterprise. The city guaranteed stabilization of the property until it reaches 92 percent occupancy. In other words, when the complex opens, the city will guarantee the difference in rent between the number of units rented and 92 percent occupancy until that rate is reached.

“And we have another company interested, as well,” Johnson said. “This project would be at no cost to the city at all.”

The lack of moderate to upscale rental property has been a sticking point with several companies that have considered locating in Andalusia.

“We’ve lost two very good prosepects because of this,” Johnson said.