MMCEDA Focuses on Small Business Recruitment
February 27, 2020
The Monroeville/Monroe County Economic Development Authority’s (MMCEDA’s) board of directors hired Darlene Thompson as executive director May 1, 2019, with the goal to diversify the county’s economic base by recruiting small businesses with 25-50 employees.
After a week on the job, Thompson began working with Clint Jordan to start up the company that later became J&L Industrial Services LLC, which plans to hire 40-50 employees over the next two years with an average pay of $20 per hour.
“Projects like J&L do not happen quickly or in a vacuum,” said Thompson. “Working with city, county and state officials, MMCEDA secured incentives that will assist in J&L’s growth.
Jordan, vice president of J&L said, “MMCEDA has assisted in all aspects of getting the business going. All five of our partners wanted to locate in Monroe County because they wanted to assist and grow our community. Companies, even large corporations, are derelict in their duties if they don’t consider Monroe County as a place to do business. Opportunities exist here for incoming businesses, including low-labor costs, incentives, an available workforce and existing buildings.”
Thompson added that the dedication and commitment of the business owners and the support of local and state leaders made J&L possible.
“It is important for MMCEDA to give the best first impression of our community to visiting business and industry representatives,” said Thompson. “We recently updated our office façade and interior for that reason. The projects were primarily funded by grants and private contributions. An added benefit to the community is that all materials and services were provided by local businesses.”
She said MMCEDA realizes no single organization can grow the community alone.
“We seek to build a consensus and work towards common ground among community leaders, local governments and the private sector,” she stated. “It is amazing the progress we are making and can make when we can all work together for the betterment of this county. There will always be difference of opinions about the best course to making improvement, but working together toward the same goal, we can achieve success.”
Thompson said an example of how the private sector assists in improving success is J.W.J. Investment, which is owned by Monroeville resident Billy Jones. MMCEDA has worked with J.W.J. to attract new restaurants and retail to the area.
Jones, president of J.W.J. Investment, stated, “I started getting involved in development back in 2017, primarily in Monroeville’s Historic Downtown Square. There were several old buildings just sitting there and my goal was to buy and renovate these buildings to try and make downtown Monroeville more appealing. Currently, we have four new loft apartments on AirBNB with plans to build more in other buildings.
“We are under construction now in two other buildings for a restaurant and a venue for special events. We would not be where we are right now without the tremendous support and help we have had from MMCEDA, the City of Monroeville, Monroe County, Monroeville/Monroe County Chamber of Commerce and Monroeville Mainstreet. Together, we know we will make Downtown Monroeville a happening place!”
Thompson noted that independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the community than chain competitors, which demonstrates the difference of having a strong local retail presence. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and improving the local economy.
In addition to recruiting and supporting new businesses, MMCEDA provides assistance to existing businesses as they expand. In the past 10 months, MMCEDA secured tax abatements for a large local employer as it improved operations to remain competitive in its industry. MMCEDA worked on workforce development projects such as the WISE program and SAWDC’s Worlds of Opportunity, assisted with a job fair and the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Industry Day.
“We are currently working on projects to bring more jobs and diversity through industry recruitment and retail possibilities,” Thompson said. “Monroe County is an amazing place, there are so many people who truly believe in the county and are dedicated to seeing it revitalized. The pride and determination of this community is contagious.”