New steel processing plant breaks ground in Jeffco

JEFFERSON COUNTY , AL (WBRC) - Sixty new jobs and a $19 million investment are coming to Jefferson County as part of a new steel processing plant.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell helped break ground for the project Thursday.

The POSCO AAPC steel plant project broke ground today. It is one project that Mayor Bell helped recruit while he was in charge of economic development on the Jefferson County Commission. He helped break ground, adding that changing jobs hasn't changed his mindset in terms of recruiting new businesses in spite of Birmingham's cash-strapped budget.

"The Birmingham region is within 2/3 of the population of the U.S," Bell said. "That means we have markets all over the country."

Bell was still selling the city's economic strengths at Thursday's groundbreaking even though the Korean steel company has already been convinced. But with the city's budget facing a $20 million deficit, there is little money to offer incentives. So salesmanship may have to count for a little extra.

The Birmingham Business Alliance's CEO says cooperation between the city and county as well as state dollars may help fill in the gaps in terms of economic recruitment.

"It needs to be understood that our region, the Birmingham region, is by far the economic driver of the state of Alabama," BBA CEO Dalton Smith said. "And it's imperative that not only we recognize that, but the state recognize that."

Mayor Bell says he's committed to finding enough cash to start a fund to help small homegrown business grow.

"We're gonna look at setting up a venture capital fund program for some of the tech that's coming out out of UAB, Jeff State, Lawson State, and Miles College so that we can retain those products inside the city limits of Birmingham," Bell said. "That venture capital program will be unfolded over the next 6 months and it'll be a big boost to our economy."

"We have so much intellectual property, that if we can commercialize it, and the more and more we commercialize it, and turn it into businesses here with tangible jobs, it will continue to grow our local economy," Smith said. "That's what we want."