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December 12, 2012

Cullman County Economic Development Office gets new home

The Cullman County Economic Development Office (CCEDO) has been roosting in a leased space ever since April of 2011, when a tornado swept away its former home.

Located on the second floor of the old First Federal Banking building in Cullman, the rented digs turned out to be pretty nice. CCEDO occupied the 3,700 square-foot top floor, while local engineering firm St. John and Associates leased the bottom floor until construction on their new headquarters (now open) could finish.

But what started as a temporary solution for a displaced county department is now permanent. At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Cullman County Commission unanimously approved a resolution authorizing chairman Kenneth Walker to purchase and negotiate financing for the old First Federal property.

Located on 4th Avenue SE near downtown Cullman, the 7,400 square-foot building is expected to cost approximately $250,000. Associate commissioner Darrell Hicks said that’s a deal the commission would be foolish to overlook.

“It turned out well,” said Hicks. “We feel like we’re getting a good piece of property for a good price. Our monthly payments are going to be small, and you really can’t beat it.”

The purchase delighted CCEDO director Sammie Danford, who said her office benefit from occupying a county-owned building; one that can now be modified to accommodate the work her department does.

“Oh, I’m very excited for our office to have a home again,” said Danford. “Right after the tornado, at first we really didn’t know where we were going to be. It will be a few months before we get everything torn out and sort of configured the way we need, but it’s really exciting.”

Danford’s office will move into the now-vacant downstairs space, freeing the upstairs for other use. Commissioners aren’t sure what the county will do with the top floor, although it could eventually generate revenue as a rental.

The old economic development office, located in the historic Bledsoe building on U.S. Highway 31, was destroyed by the same April 2011 tornado that leveled a section of the city’s downtown. The county commission rapidly reached an agreement to occupy the First Federal building. CCEDO employees — with some help from revenue commissioner Barry Willingham — spent their post-storm days rummaging through the debris of the destroyed building, salvaging equipment and moving it into the First Federal location.

Benjamin Bullard can be reached by e-mail at bbullard@cullmantimes.com or by telephone at 734-2131 ext. 270.

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