The Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) won a gold category award for its public-private partnership to help HomTex purchase equipment needed to create disposable face coverings. It's the second time CEDA has received a gold category award from the International Economic Development Council.

"We've always supported the companies that are here and have helped them a lot," said CEDA Director Dale Greer. "We rank among the best in Alabama every year in job creation and total number of companies that expand, and I think it's because of the support they get in this community and the workforce."

HomTex went from manufacturing DreamFit sheets and other textiles to converting its operations to make reusable masks in just a few days. In order to make disposable masks, the company needed to purchase production equipment totaling $4.5 million. Due to the demand brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the equipment company was asking for a $1.5 million deposit, an amount HomTex could not provide through traditional lending institutions in the short time frame it had.

Mayor Woody Jacobs said a Sunday meeting among the CEDA, city leaders, county leaders, city and county industrial boards, and HomTex's Jerry and Jeremy Wootten led to a solution: the industrial development boards would loan the company the money needed and the city would pay the industrial boards back. HomTex repaid the loan, plus interest, in less than two months.

"That's what makes Cullman what it is," said Jacobs.

HomeTex CEO Jerry Wootten said, "I am so thankful to be in a community that has the leadership that this community has. Thank you so much for your quickness and for making this possible."

"The partnership with HomTex won this award because community leaders leapt into action and made this project happen," said Jacobs. "We didn't sit around and talk about it for days and days. After being approached by HomTex, we found a solution."

HomeTex is now the world's largest manufacturer of face masks and the only one made entirely in the United States.

IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world's best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials and the year's most influential leaders. Thirty-five categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world.

"The winners of IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day," said 2020 IEDC Board chairman and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald. "We're honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life."

Amy Henderson can be reached at 256-734-2131 Ext. 216.

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