Shelby County Chamber presents outlook on 2024, update on major projects in county

Published 2:15 pm Monday, February 12, 2024

By NOAH WORTHAM | Managing Editor

PELHAM – A positive outlook for the future of the county was shared during the Shelby County Chamber’s 2024 Shelby County Business Outlook Conference.

The Shelby County Chamber hosted the ninth annual Shelby County Business Outlook Conference and the Chamber’s 43rd Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Pelham Civic Complex. During the business outlook conference, a panel of four individuals shared their outlook on the future of Shelby County.

“This morning’s event is designed to give an outlook on the year ahead, specifically for Shelby County’s local economy,” said Micah McLaughlin, who served as the opening speaker for the event. “We feel it’s important to focus on what’s happening locally and to give some of our Shelby County business leaders a platform to share what they see on the horizon for both their own company and our country.”

The four-person panel consisted of Central State Bank CEO Mitt Schroeder, Scotty Myers of EXP Commercial, Director of Nursing at the Shelby Baptist Medical Center Rudy Sandel and CEO of SEPCO Chris Wilder.

“It is my thought that the economy is better than we give it credit for,” Myers said. “We hear a lot of negativity, and I realize that interest rates are high. I realize people are paying more for various products because inflation was taken in there. There are things we do have to be thankful about.”

He shared that the unemployment rate in Shelby County is low, around two percent, which means there are more individuals with spending money but that also creates an issue for business owners trying to attract and retain employees. He also shared that wages are up, fuel costs are down and job quits dropped to 12 percent in 2023 which is back to pre-pandemic levels.

During his presentation, Myers also provided a breakdown of several significant upcoming projects in multiple municipalities in Shelby County.

Alabaster

  • The city will be breaking ground on its new recreation center project which includes a recreation center, aquatic center and 20,000 square feet dedicated to restaurant and retail.
  • The groundbreaking will begin for the Shops of 31 in 2024 which is the initial phase of District 31. Ten acres will be developed, and it will encompass four retail buildings.
  • Big Whiskey’s Restaurant and Bar will open in the Colonial Promenade during the summer.

Calera

  • The Courtyard at Calera Main Street will be completed in 2024 and will include a pavilion, playground and a parking lot. The city’s goal is to eventually add restaurants, retail and upper story living to the development.

Chelsea

  • The Valley Post development is planned to break ground in the first quarter of 2024. The development will include an entertainment district with Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Little Donkey, Hero Doughnuts & Buns and the Italian restaurant Luca.
  • There is a mixed-use community plan for the area located behind the Winn Dixie off of Highway 280. If developed, it will include 30,000 square feet of retail.

Helena

  • Clearing is underway on the U.S. Steel Real Estate development called the Hillsboro Town Center. Stage one includes the relocation of city hall and building a multi-use sports complex. The 3,600 acre mixed use community will eventually include retail as well.

Hoover

  • The 90 acres Riverwalk Village is in the planning stages. Once developed, it will include the Riverwalk Health and Wellness Center, 32,000 square feet of retail space, 375 age-restricted multi-family units, 120 unrestricted multi-family units, 120 single family residential units and a 135 room hotel.
  • The Hoover Health Care Authority has made application for Certificate of Need for a new ambulatory surgery center.

Montevallo

  •  Hotelier has selected a site for a new main street hotel in Montevallo and the city is drafting a final development agreement.
  • The city received nearly $2 million in ATRIP-II, Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program-II, funding to renovate the Moore’s crossroads at the intersection of Highway 119 and Highway 22. New retail developments are expected to follow.

Pelham

  • There is a mixed-use upscale development adjacent to the Pelham Public Library with 2.7 acres devoted to restaurants and shops. Three tenants have been announced, including Waldo’s Chicken & Beer, Edgar’s Bakery and Ellianos Coffee. Groundbreaking is expected by spring.
  • The city of Pelham has established an arts and entertainment district that will range from Campus 124 to Creekside BBQ. It will include the amphitheatre and the Canopy development.

Following Meyer’s presentation, Sandel discussed the current state of affairs as Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Wilder discussed SEPCO and its connection to the economy and industry, Blackburn spoke on identify protection and Blackburn shared a presentation on generative AI.

Following the panel, the Shelby County Chamber held its 43rd annual meeting and hosted its annual presentation of the 2024 Shelby County Business Outlook Survey Results.

This year’s outlook presentation was given by the University of Montevallo’s Associate professor of Marketing Amiee Mellon who began by providing a recap on the state of affairs in 2023.

“We liked the economy, (and) we thought Shelby County was doing great,” Mellon said. “Inflation was a little nerve-wracking. (The) tight labor market wasn’t the best—people were looking at how to retain employees—hiring them was difficult, retaining them was difficult.”

Mellon reiterated the positives and negatives of the county’s two percent employment rate and shared that salaries are plateauing and there is a low savings rate.

Shelby County Outlook survey gathered data from more than 10 different industries, including financial services, government, education, healthcare, manufacturing, nonprofit, professional services, retail, technology and more. The full time equivalency ranged from 0-3,000 plus and there were no statistical differences in FTE rates.

“(There is) a similar outlook on what’s going on, no matter the size of the industry and the size of the employees you have,” Mellon said.

The data from the survey revealed that a majority of businesses are not looking at any changes in the capital expenditures sector, and there is an expected increase in revenues.

“You guys are really expecting a big increase over last year in profit,” Mellon said. “You’ve found your suppliers, you’ve gone back, you love your local Shelby County businesses and you’re partnering together to find ways to minimize costs and increase profits.”

Businesses in Shelby County are looking to increase the amount of full time employees with most looking to hire one to five more employees and none looking to hire more than 10.

The results for the Shelby County economic trend are more positive compared to prior years.

“You guys are excited and you’re happy” she said. “The economy is headed in the right direction (and) Shelby County is knocking it out of the park.”

However, survey participants were relatively more neutral in response to the U.S. economic direction.

“Although less of you think it’s going in the wrong direction, some of you all just don’t know and I respect that,” Mellon said.

After Mellon’s presentation President and CEO of the Shelby County Chamber Kirk Mancer expressed his gratitude for Mellon’s help with the survey which is a collaborative effort between the Shelby County Chamber’s small business workgroup and the Stephens College of Business at UM.

“Thank you very much for your help with the survey,” Mancer said. “It’s a very worthwhile project.”