Alabama Graphite awarded $1 million grant
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Rep. Ben Robbins visited Rockford Tuesday morning to briefly discuss the grant that was awarded to Alabama Graphite. Pictured from left are County Commission Chair Randall Dunham, Rep. Robbins, Lake Martin Area Industrial Development Authority representative Les Sellers, and District 4 County Commissioner Ronnie Joiner. Photo by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
A grant application submitted last year has resulted in Alabama Graphite, located in the Lake Martin Regional Industrial Park in Kellyton, being awarded a $1 million Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG.
The grant is specifically an “economic development infrastructure grant.” Kenneth Boswell, director of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, officially gave notification of the grant award on February 4.
The CDBG funds will be used to assist Alabama Graphite locating at the industrial park in Kellyton by providing funds for sewer improvements.
It was reported that Alabama Graphite will invest more than $200 million in the facility and process 7,500 metric tons of battery-grade graphite per year. Eventually, the company plans to process 32,400 metric tons by 2024.
Per the ADECA memo regarding the grant award, the noted beneficiaries portion explains that “the project will create 100 jobs, of which 51% will be of low and moderate income.”
It was also noted that Coosa County has committed to $8 million in match to this project. However, as reported last August, the County Commission unanimously approved an Intergovernmental Agreement of Understanding and adopted a resolution pertaining to the county applying for the $1 million grant during its August 10 meeting.
In part, that Intergovernmental Agreement reads, “The City of Alexander City agrees to provide all local matching funds and other resources as may be required to complete the project as set forth in the county’s grant application. All CDBG grant funds will flow through the Coosa County Commission to the City of Alexander City upon receipt of invoices. All project invoices must be signed by the Coosa County administrator and the mayor of the City of Alexander City.”
At that meeting, it was explained that ADECA wanted Coosa County to be the entity to apply for the grant, but that Alexander City would be “completely responsible for matching funds, with no money coming out of Coosa County’s pockets.”
The grant funds will be used to extend the City of Alexander City sewer collection system to serve Alabama Graphite Products. Specifically, the project is to run a 6-8-mile long sewer line from Kellyton to Alexander City.
Coosa County Commission Chair Randall Dunham met with Rep. Ben Robbins Tuesday morning and expressed his gratitude to Robbins and Gov. Kay Ivey for securing the $1 million grant for Alabama Graphite. He further thanked Robbins for his work with the effort, as Robbins was instrumental in helping secure the grant funds for the county.
Robbins was pleased to share the good news of the awarded grant with Coosa County, stating that he thinks they need to support Alabama Graphite’s and Westwater Resources’ development.
“It’s going to go a long way in terms of providing a lot of jobs and economic growth for Coosa County,” Robbins said. “Westwater is going to be transformational.”
Dunham said that he believes Westwater is going to be “the beginning of a lot of good things” coming to Coosa County.
“It’s going to create a new ecosystem,” Robbins said.
He said that the county will likely eventually have other businesses that use graphite moving closer and locating near the graphite processing facility in Kellyton.
District 4 County Commissioner Ronnie Joiner mentioned that they need to think about infrastructure and that the county needs a 10-year plan. Robbins said that the county will have the demand.
“One of the main components in batteries is graphite,” he added. “It’s only natural that eventually we can get a battery manufacturer close by.”
Les Sellers, a Coosa County representative with the Lake Martin Area Industrial Development Authority, said that he “could not be happier” regarding the Alabama Graphite project and the grant announcement. He added that the company is “deeply embedded” in the county and in the industrial park.
Joiner stated that it “all works out for everybody,” adding that Coosa County has contributed and helped get the grant for the sewer project.
Dunham said that the county has contributed and will be contributing through grants, in-kind services and the property itself, which is within Coosa County.
However, he also recognized the effort of all entities involved and said that “without Alexander City, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
The resolution adopted at the August 10 meeting reads, in part, “The Coosa County Commission will provide a local cash match of $8 million in support of this project, of which the entire $8 million in local matching funds will be provided by the City of Alexander City to extend their sanitary sewer system to the Kellyton industrial park in support of this project.”
Following this month’s official announcement regarding the grant award, Chad Odom, executive director of the Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance, spoke of the team effort involved in the overall project and what it might mean for future development.
“It takes a true team effort to land a project like Alabama Graphite LLC,” he stated. “Alex City, Coosa County and Lake Martin Area EDA have worked hand in hand to attract the most ‘outside’ money in the forms of grants, tax credits and revolving loans. This grant is the product of that team effort, and we are blessed to be getting high capacity industrial sewer service to Lake Martin Area Industrial Park located in Kellyton. This infrastructure upgrade will not only serve Alabama Graphite, but will also help Lake Martin Area EDA to attract future investment on the park’s remaining 235 acres yet to be developed.”