EPES, Ala. — A planned factory will add badly needed jobs in an underdeveloped part of west Alabama.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced Friday that the Maryland-based Enviva Partners plans to invest about $175 million on a wood pellet production plant in Sumter County. It will ship product on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway from the Port of Epes.
The proposed facility is expected to create at least 85 full-time jobs. It’s also supposed to generate about 180 more jobs in logging, transportation and other areas.
A host of public officials and company executives gathered in the town square of the Sumter County Courthouse in Livingston to celebrate the announcement. Among those in attendance were the area’s legislative delegation, including State Sen. Bobby Singleton and State Rep. A.J. McCampbell.
“We are very excited about the prospect of Enviva joining Alabama’s business community with a very important manufacturing project in Sumter County,” Ivey said. “This project will create quality jobs for West Alabama’s citizens, improved timber markets for local landowners, and enhanced economic activity for the entire region.”
Enviva is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, which are burned for power production. It still needs permits for the plant but says it expects to begin construction early next year.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Selma, has represented Sumter County in Congress since 2011 and made the challenge of economic development in rural Alabama a priority. Her duties as a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence kept her in Washington, D.C. and away from the announcement, but Sewell highlighted what a major step forward this was for the local economy.
“Enviva’s announcement that it will build a new wood pellet plant in the Port of Epes is a major win for West Alabama,” Sewell said. “The jobs and economic development this project will create will serve to uplift not only individuals and families but the entire Sumter County community.”
Enviva owns and operates eight plants in the Southeast. Its proposed Sumter County facility would be the largest of its kind in the world, the company said.
“We are privileged to have been invited by the people of Alabama to invest in a remarkable community like Epes,” said Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler. “With its thriving forest resources, great local workforce and favorable transportation logistics, we look forward to the opportunity to grow sustainably in West Alabama for decades to come.”
Sumter County Commission Chair Marcus Campbell said local officials are looking forward to working with Enviva to create jobs and improve the region’s quality of life.
“The benefits this company and project would have on our county and region cannot be overestimated,” Campbell said. “Great things happen when we work together with shared goals for the betterment of our county and region.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.