Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley highlighted a strong economic climate and new crime prevention strategies in the Annual State of the City Address delivered on Monday, January 27, 2020 at the Bessemer Civic Center.
Gulley, who is in his third term as Mayor, said Bessemer’s economy is the strongest in recent memory due to recruitment efforts which have landed the city such companies as Amazon and Carvana, resulting in the creation of thousands of new jobs.
“The economic climate in Bessemer is as strong as ever before and is the envy of many communities in this county and state,” Gulley said. “The eyes of the world are watching Bessemer because we have recruited major industries to our city and prepared ourselves for an even greater tomorrow.”
Amazon plans to open Alabama’s first Robotics Fulfillment Center in March and employ between 1,500 and 3000. The $325 million facility on Powder Plant Road is spurring additional growth in the area.
Carvana announced last year it plans to build a $40 million Fulfillment Center on Morgan Road and employ upwards of 300 new employees.
Gulley said the city has been successful in its recruiting efforts by being business-friendly and through cooperation and partnerships with economic development agencies at the state and local level.
Gulley said the goal now is building on partnerships with organizations such as Lawson State Community College to strengthen the city’s workforce to take advantage of the new job opportunities. Bessemer’s unemployment rate stands at 3.6 percent.
Guilley also highlighted the impact of the Bessemer Airport on the city’s economic climate. A new 10-unit hangar at the airport is expected to be completed later this year, creating opportunities for additional private aircraft to lease space at the facility.
Gulley said he has requested the Bessemer City Council work with him on creating incentives for new businesses wishing to move into the city so that Bessemer can stay competitive regionally.
In addition, Gulley said he wants to see the city to develop a masterplan to create a vision for Bessemer’s future. Downtown Bessemer will remain a focus of planning and revitalization efforts, he said.
“We must position Downtown Bessemer as a place to live, work, shop, eat and play,” Gulley said. “Many new businesses have already opened in recent years in Downtown. We have a National Historic District and an Opportunity Zone designation we can capitalize upon to bring new investment into the downtown.”
In terms of infrastructure, Gulley said work will begin this year on Phase II and Phase III of the Bessemer Rail-Trail. The upcoming phases will include construction of pedestrian bridges over Berkley and Arlington Avenue. A project to connect the Bessemer Recreation Center to the Rail-Trail via a pedestrian bridge over 14th Street South, or Highway 150, is currently in the design phase.
Gulley said the city’s crime rate continues to drop, as highlighted by a four percent drop in violent crimes between 2018 and 2019. However, the number of homicides in the city rose in 2019. Gulley said the police department and the public will need to work together to combat violence.
The Mayor said he was excited about new initiatives the Bessemer Police Department will launch in 2020, including Self-Defense classes, a Citizen’s Academy and an Active Shooter Training program for churches. A new partnership with the UAB Minority Health and Research Center and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement on has the potential to help the city reduce the crime rate further, he said.
In closing, Gulley said Bessemer’s future is bright as the new decade starts.
“We have a lot to be proud of here in Bessemer,” he said. “We have weathered storms that would have destroyed other communities and emerged even stronger each time. It is why we look to the future of this city with such hope and optimism.
“The promise of Bessemer shines brighter than ever before. Let us all continue, regardless of our race, age, or financial background, to work together to take Bessemer to heights she has never reached.”