More than 100 local officials, businesses leaders, professionals and trade students showed up at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville early Tuesday to hear an industrial announcement whose impact likely will be felt well beyond the confines of any single workplace.
Birmingham-based Met-South, Inc., announced it would relocate its existing business to Hanceville under an agreement that will provide the company a two-acre piece of industrial property on the city’s east side.
The choice of venue for the announcement was significant: proximity to Wallace State’s technical programs and a reliable supply of skilled labor had everything to do with Met-South owners Don and Cathy Jesse’s decision to relocate their company from its current home on Valleydale Road.
So, too, does Hanceville’s strategic geographic location along the state’s automotive supply chain. Having a production facility that lies midway between Birmingham and Huntsville, said Don Jesse, will allow his company access to more customers.
“We are in growth mode,” he said. “By moving up here, we’re planning on getting more into the Huntsville market. We have had some customers [there], but the time span involved in serving them from our current location has been kind of limiting. We want to be more embedded [in the Huntsville area], while keeping our current customer base.”
“Just think about it,” said an exuberant Kenneth Nail, Hanceville’s mayor. “In Cullman County, we’re between the two biggest markets in the state: Birmingham and Huntsville. It’s the best location. I just want to tell the Jesses, from the bottom of my heart: Welcome to Hanceville — and the sky is the limit.”
Met-South is a precision machine manufacturer of tools, jigs, and purpose-made production equipment used by automotive suppliers along Alabama’s automotive corridor. Suppliers use Met-South-designed machinery and tools in their assembly processes, allowing them to tailor their production tools to suit the specific fabrication requirements of the parts they, in turn, produce for major automotive companies.
The city will provide site preparation services ahead of Met-South’s construction of a new production facility, at a site just north of Alabama Highway 91 in east Hanceville. The Jesses said they hope to have the new building ready for occupation within the next four months.
Met-South employs seven people in positions that demand technical skills not easily come by in the general labor force. Three of the company’s current employees — Justin Burnett, Fabian Cervantes and Daniel Riggins — are Wallace State grads who learned their skills just down the road from Met-South’s new Hanceville home.
“Daniel Riggins captured the 2013 precision machine state championship while attending Wallace State, and Justin Burnett captured the 2016 state CNC technician title while attending Wallace State,” Jesse observed.
“So we realized quickly that the Machine Tool Technology program at Wallace State was our qualified workforce.”
Wallace State President Vicki Karolewics, who emceed the event at the college’s Evelyn Burrow Center, embraced that assessment.
“I committed to forge partnerships with business and industry, and working to provide a skilled and literate workforce for this region,” said Karolewics, reflecting on one of her key goals in taking on the president’s role more than 13 years ago.
“We continue to work daily to make that an ongoing reality for our region. We are extremely proud that Met-South is locating here, and we commit to a strong and productive partnership to make [Met-South] a strong and productive company.”
Nail thanked the broad cross section of local leaders — mayors, economic development officials, legislators, industrial development leaders and educators — who attended Tuesday’s announcement, and emphasized the cooperative spirit in which economic growth often unfolds in Cullman County.
“Cullman County is so unique,” he said. “That’s what we are so very proud of here: we all work together. Of course I’m always going to want Hanceville to get that next new tenant; that next new business. But if Hanceville can’t, then I want Cullman to get it; I want Good Hope to get it.
“It’s all about working together, and I couldn’t be more excited.”