TUSKEGEE — Governor Kay Ivey joined leaders of Farpoint Development and the Macon County Economic Development Authority at a Wednesday event to mark the launch of an ambitious project to build the Regional East Alabama Logistics (REAL) Park, which aims to supercharge economic growth in the Tuskegee region.
The groundbreaking ceremony comes as Farpoint begins construction on the first structure — an expandable, 169,000-square-foot spec building — in REAL Park, located on 683 acres off Exit 42 on Interstate 85 in Macon County. Investment in the first phase of the project is approximately $20 million.
“I’m tremendously excited by the transformational potential that the Regional East Alabama Logistics Park represents for rural Macon County, and the elevating opportunities it can create for the hard-working citizens of the Tuskegee area,” said Governor Ivey. “This project is a game-changer, and I look forward to seeing the impact the park will have as it grows over the years.”
Farpoint has hired Birmingham-based Doster Construction to erect the spec building, with work expected to be complete in early 2023. When the structure opens, it will be the only “Class A” warehouse/manufacturing building available for lease within a 40-mile radius.
REAL Park could eventually become home to as many as 13 buildings offering a combined 5 million square feet of space once the project’s three phases are completed in seven to 10 years.
“We think REAL Park can become a powerful economic engine for the larger east Alabama region, sparking large-scale job creation and generating broad opportunities that lift communities throughout the area,” said Justin Patwin, managing director at Farpoint. “At the same time, the park will become a hub for global commerce, building on the commercial gateway that is the Port of Mobile to benefit the entire state of Alabama.”
The REAL Park project stems from a partnership between Farpoint and the local Bassett family. It is supported by the Macon County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA) and Opportunity Alabama, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in the state’s Opportunity Zones.
“The development of REAL Park has the potential to become a milestone in the history of Macon County and a real tipping point for the growth trajectory of our community,” said MCEDA Director Joe Turnham. “This project will give us an asset that we can use to open doors and pursue growth opportunities that will make a real difference for decades to come.”
An analysis conducted by the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research signals REAL Park could have a major impact on the region, with calculations projecting it will attract $386 million in new economic capital investment when fully built.
In addition, the project will add over 1,000 new direct jobs and 863 indirect jobs, according to the analysis commissioned by Farpoint, which has its headquarters in Chicago and an office in Asheville, North Carolina.
“As its footprint expands, REAL Park can put Macon County in the driver’s seat to capitalize on the increasingly robust levels of economic activity along the I-85 corridor,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The logistics park will position the area for opportunities that can add new dimensions to the county’s economy.”
He said REAL Park could be attractive to companies serving industries including automotive, aerospace, manufacturing and forest products, among others.
Opportunity Alabama’s OPAL Fund, a commercial real estate investment vehicle, is the lead equity investor for the REAL Park project. The OPAL Fund is a Qualified Opportunity Fund created to invest in high-impact Opportunity Zone-based projects across the state.
“This investment is a great example of how OZ investment can be leveraged to support meaningful projects while seeking risk-adjusted return for investors,” said Alex Flachsbart, founder and CEO of Opportunity Alabama. “Situated between major Hyundai and Kia plants, this site is an ideal location to expand advanced manufacturing to a rural county that’s home to one of Alabama’s oldest HBCUs.”
Located two miles north of Tuskegee and 15 miles from Auburn, the park stands around 50 miles away from both the Kia auto assembly plant in West Point, Georgia and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Montgomery.