By Brittany Woodby
Stokes Development, LLC, announced it will open a manufacturing center in Cullman to build the company’s ‘green homes,’ investing $8 million in the new facility and hiring 80 local employees in its first phase of operation. The company said it hopes to expand its operation to include as many as 300 full-time employees by its third year.
“We are really appreciative of everything Cullman has done,” said Barbara Stokes, chief executive officer of Stokes Development’s Green Structure Homes of Alabama.
Stokes said although she and her husband looked at other areas in Alabama to locate the new plant, the two knew Cullman was their home years ago.
“Scott and I chose Cullman many years ago, when we decided to purchase a home on Smith Lake. We found Cullman to be a great location with friendly people. Setting up business here was the obvious choice,” she said in a press release.
The new plant will occupy the 99,000-square-foot spec building in the Cullman Industrial Complex, which was constructed by the city and county and sold to Stokes Development in December.
There, the company will construct 500 to 600 Katrina-style light-gauge steel homes each year. Chief Operations Officer Scott Stokes said the company’s products are state-of-the art, mold and mildew resistant, hurricane-resistant homes able to be constructed within two days at the Cullman facility.
Barbara said most of the materials used for constructing the homes will be local or come from Birmingham and Decatur, including steel which contains 60 percent recycled content.
“The kind of steel we use makes it impervious to a lot of things in the environment,” Scott said. “Like fire resistance.”
The homes have the highest UL rating in the industry.
Scott said the modular design allows customers to purchase a small cottage style home but the company is in the process of designing structures up to four-stories high to be used as condos or hotels.
Stokes Development received funding for the project from foreign investors through the Alabama Center for Foreign Investment, including a total of 16 investors from China and Korea.
The plant is ACFI’s first project.
“This community is so fortunate to have someone of this caliber,” Ron Drinkard, director of ACFI, said. “You will not find anywhere a better corporate citizen than (Stokes Development).”
Fourth Congressional District Representative Robert Aderholt welcomed Stokes Development and Green Steel Homes at the industry’s announcement Thursday.
“In the 10 years I’ve served this district, I’ve seen the progress that has occurred over the years with economic development,” Aderholt said. “And there is certainly a good crowd here today, which I think speaks about how happy we are to have you in our area. ... Certainly this is a great addition.”
Lt. Governor Jim Folsom, Jr. also congratulated the Stokes and city and county officials on their announcement.
“First all, I want to tell the Stokes family how happy and proud we are to have you here,” he said. “Everyone in this community who worked so hard on this effort, I am here to applaud you.”
Barbara said crews are already working on preparing the new plant and she hopes to have the facility online by early summer.
Cullman Economic Development Agency Assistant Director Dale Greer said the city and county are working together to secure funds to complete paving the access road that will lead to GSH.
“Generally the problem we run into is we don’t have time to go through the year-long process of applying for a grant for these projects,” he said. “Right now we’re looking at approaching the county and sharing the cost of getting the roadwork done.
Greer said the road will also provide access to the city and county owned lot in front of the spec building, as well as 74 additional acres of land at the industrial complex. The estimate for the road project from St. John and Associates is $160,000.
Greer also said the economic development teams have not finalized plans to construct another spec building but will make a decision soon.
By Brittany Woodby