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Bell Helicopter sees increase in production

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2013 7:13 pm

By: Ebony Horton, Dothan Eagle

OZARK—Bell Helicopter’s work with Northrop Grumman on an unmanned helicopter program has elevated the Ozark facility’s production numbers this year, and workers have completed more than 600,000 hours without a reportable injury, according to the company.

Barry Ford, general manager for Bell Helicopter in Ozark, said the facility is working with Northrop Grumman on the Fire Scout program, which is an unmanned helicopter that supports special operations for ship-based unmanned systems  for the U.S. Navy.

Ford said the workforce has remained consistent over the past year with more than 120 employees. He said facility workers have completed four U.S. Air Force TH-1H aircraft for use in the training command at Fort Rucker and refurbished a UH-1H aircraft for the Maine Department of Forestry.

Ford said the facility, which performs maintenance, repair and overhaul for the full light and medium Bell Helicopter product line, is likely best known for its Huey II program.

“We take the airframe of the UH-1H and update the drive train system, increase the max grow weight and complete other modifications as necessary to upgrade the aircraft into a Huey II,” Ford said.

“This program is the only OEM recognized and supported UH-1H modification on the market today.”

According to its website, Bell Helicopter is a wholly owned subsidiary of Textron and produces commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical-lift aircraft and revolutionary tiltrotor aircraft.

In addition to Ozark’s operations in Alabama, Ford said Bell operates a spare parts distribution center in Daleville that supports Fort Rucker and Pensacola flight training operations and a research facility in Huntsville for unmanned aerial vehicle operations.

The company is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ford said the Ozark facility has received both federal and company awards. He said the facility was the only Part 145 repair station in the state to be awarded the Federal Aviation Administration Maintenance Technician Program Award of Excellence “Gold Award” for demonstrating a commitment to aviation safety with a minimum of 50 percent of Ozark’s eligible employees receiving an individual AMT certificate for the calendar year.

Ford said Bell Ozark also received the Bell Helicopter President’s Award for a perfect safety record this year.

As of Oct. 15, Ford said the facility worked three calendar years and more than 600,000 hours without a single reportable injury.

Ford said the company worked swiftly to mitigate the impacts of the partial government shutdown on its customers and business.

“Our challenges are not dissimilar to the challenges of other OEMS. … The uncertainty in Washington certainly is a factor in managing our business,” he said.

Pilgrim’s Plan’s $15 Feed Mill in Dale County


Plans $15 Million Feed Mill Expansion in Dale County

OZARK, Ala. (August 27, 2013) – The Dale County
Commission approved tax incentives for the Pilgrim’s Corporation located in
Pinckard today at its regular meeting.
The tax incentive grants Pilgrim’s an abatement on their non-educational
state taxes on construction materials and equipment purchases as part of the
expansion in Dale County. Pilgrim’s plans
to invest $15,312,705 in the project and employ an additional 23 jobs at the
new facility. Pilgrim’s expansion
consists of constructing a feed manufacturing plant next to its new grain
receiving facility in Dale County.

Mark Blankenship, Chairman of the Dale County Commission
said, “the Dale County Commission and ODEC worked together to mitigate the
costs of the road maintenance due to the increased production of Pilgrim’s and
to provide an incentive to offset the costs of the new construction and
equipment purchases.”

Pilgrim’s is the second-largest chicken producer in the
world and their corporate headquarters are in Greeley, Colorado.

About the Ozark-Dale County EDC

The Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. (ODEC)
leads the county-wide initiative to stimulate job creation and capital
investment in Dale County. For more information, call 334.443.2000 or send
email to

# # #


Eric Basinger, Executive Director, ODEC

T 334.443.2000

Dale County: First Alabama County to offer MRO Incentive

The Dale County Commission deserves kudos for unanimously approving the Aviation Incentive for Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul of aircraft in Dale County. This incentive waives all sales and use taxes on the refurbishment of aircraft (fixed wing and rotary) in Dale County. This incentive was approved to entice Commercial Jet to locate but it will now be available to all existing companies and any new company that locates in Dale County in the future. While much of our MRO activity is military related it is possible that some consider getting some commercial contracts here due to this incentive.

Dale County is the first county in Alabama to approve this incentive and is currently the only county with it on record. The State of Alabama’s taxes are already waived for MRO so with this incentive Dale County is on an even playing field with other states offering this advantage.

Thanks again to the Dale County Commission for their visionary leadership in approving this important incentive.

Micropolitan area ranked No. 1 in state, 30th in nation

Ariana Diaz | Posted: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 4:40 pm             

For the fifth year in a row, Enterprise-Ozark micropolitan area has ranked in the top 100 strongest economic micropolitan statistical areas in the nation, according to Policom Corp.’s 2013 Economic Strength Rankings.

“The ranking is a good news story,” Daleville Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth said. “The study validates the economic strength of the area.”

The Enterprise-Ozark micropolitan area, which includes Coffee and Dale counties, is ranked 30th in the nation out of 576 micropolitan statistical areas.

The ranking is down from the 28th ranking last year, but is still higher than the 48th spot in 2011, and the 88th spot in 2010.

“What stands out to me most when reviewing these numbers is the turnaround that we have had starting in 2004,” Eric Basinger, Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation executive director said. “We went from 209th to 28th from 2004 to 2012, and it wasn’t an accident, as we have maintained a strong ranking during the global recession.  We all know that 2012 wasn’t a great year for business, but the fact that we basically held our own by only dropping two spots shows a resilient strength in our regional economy.”

This year, the Enterprise-Ozark area is the only Alabama micropolitan area ranked in the nation’s top 50. 

The area ranked as the state’s number one micropolitan area out of 13 other areas in the state.

Alabama micropolitan areas featured in the study include: Albertville, Alexander City, Cullman, Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, Enterprise-Ozark, Eufaula, Fort Payne, Selma, Scottsboro, Talladega-Sylacauga, Troy, Tuskegee and Valley.

This is the second year the Enterprise-Ozark area has placed first in the state.

The Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area ranked second in the state this year, followed by the Troy area in third.

The Enterprise-Ozark area has maintained a top five position in the state for the past nine years.

Every year, Policom Corp., of Palm City, Fla., releases the economic strength rankings.

Policom, an independent economic research firm that specializes in analyzing local and state economies, was founded in 1995 and began analyzing micropolitan statistical areas in 2002.

The rankings are based on 23 different economic factors over a 20-year period from 1992 to 2011.

Factors measured in the rankings include: wages, personal income, employment statistics, construction revenue, retail revenue and consistency of growth or decline.

The overall condition of the economy is based on the “standard of living” of the people who live and work in the area.

“There have been some excellent developments surrounding Fort Rucker, such as Daleville’s tremendous growth in simulation technology companies and the investment by the Army Aviation Federal Credit Union with their new headquarters construction,” Basinger said. “Elsewhere in Dale County, the Alabama Aviation Center Campus in Ozark has experienced enrollment growth as our local talented students continue to become certified in the high-paying aviation mechanic field.”

The Policom Corp. created the economic strength rankings to study the characteristic of both strong and weak economies. The highest-ranked areas have rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period of time, whereas the lowest have unstable decline for an extended period of time.

“What I really think (this) means for us, not only the city but regionally, we really are an area of opportunities,” Wigglesworth said. “Here in Daleville we have the (helicopter) simulators, but obviously our ranking in terms of economic development goes beyond that. It’s also our opportunity to attract, not just in Daleville, (but) regionally. That’s why it’s called a micropolitan.”

For a micropolitan area to be considered in the study, the micropolitan area must have a city with a population of at least 10,000, but fewer than 50,000.

Enterprise, the “City of Progress” and the Enterprise-Ozark’s primary city, had an estimated population of 26,562 in 2010.

Ozark, the Dale County seat, had a population of about 14,907 in 2010. Daleville, in 2010, had an estimated population of about 5,295.

“The potential is there for continued growth economically,” Wigglesworth said. “(The rankings) show that we have opportunities and we want to obviously continue to remain at the top of both of those lists.”

Commercial Jet Inc. to invest $12 million in Dale County aircraft maintenance operation

DOTHAN, Alabama – Governor Robert Bentley, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield joined company and community leaders here today in announcing that Commercial Jet Inc. will invest $12 million to open a new 400,000-square-foot facility at Dothan Regional Airport in Dale County. The facility will employ hundreds of people.

The opening of the new facility will more than triple the company’s capacity to provide freighter conversion and maintenance, repair and overhaul, or MRO, services.

“I am proud that the State of Alabama could play a key role in providing hundreds of new jobs for the people of the Wiregrass area,” Governor Bentley said. “We know that Alabama is the ideal location for the aerospace and aviation industries. This announcement further strengthens our emerging role as an aerospace leader in the Southeast.”

“Because of hard work and a committed, skilled workforce, Alabama has enjoyed tremendous success in industrial recruitment and job creation over the past few years, and today’s announcement is proof we are not ready to rest on our laurels,” said Speaker Hubbard, R-Auburn. “If Alabama is going to remain competitive and continue its impressive track record, we must continue to focus on creating the 21st Century jobs that companies like Commercial Jet and fields like the aerospace industry provide. With vision and determination, I believe we can make the Wiregrass and the rest of Alabama a major aerospace hub for the nation.”

Secretary Canfield applauded the company’s decision to locate the facility in the Dale County area and said the announcement is another indication that Alabama is well on its way to meeting its targeted industry goals set forth in the state’s economic development plan,Accelerate Alabama.

The Dothan Houston County Airport Authority has initiated the construction, to be completed in stages with the final building to be delivered in October this year. “Our new facility will broaden our ability to deliver high-quality integrated aviation services to commercial airlines and aircraft owners and operators,” said David M. Sandri, company president.

Commercial Jet’s new maintenance facility includes multiple hangars, back shops, stores and offices, with extensive apron space for aircraft parking and servicing.

John Schildroth, vice president and general manager for the Dothan facility, said Commercial Jet plans to hire several hundred trained and experienced aircraft technicians in the local market within the next few years. “We are already getting a flow of new orders for our new facility, which will be open for business as soon as May of this year,” he said.

The company said that state officials and local civic and business leaders have given staunch support to Commercial Jet’s expansion plans.

“This was all made possible through their efforts,” said Sandri, citing Governor Bentley, Commerce Secretary Canfield, House Speaker Hubbard, House Representative Paul Lee, Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz and others. He also praised the Dothan Commission, the Dale County Commission, the Houston County Commission, the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation, the Dothan Houston Airport Authority, the Dothan Chamber of Commerce and other entities.

New High School Opens in Ozark

Ozark students have first day in new school

OZARK — April Fools’ Day came and went with no significant hiccups for students attending their first full day of classes in the new Carroll High School facility.

Ozark City Schools Superintendent Mike Lenhart said a couple problems with computers and swipe keys happened Monday as students navigated through the new building for classes, but he said nothing unusual took place for a first day in a new facility.

“We were expecting a few hiccups here and there but there was really nothing too significant that went wrong,” he said.

“The students were excited. Not one of them had the same thing to say about what they liked most about their new school.”

The projected start date to open the new building had been in place for several months as the facility neared completion. Construction began in 2011 after the Ozark City Schools District received a $22,074,000 Qualified School Construction Bond for the project three years ago.

School officials said new technology, new furniture, additional complexes and safety measures are among the differences between the new school and the old CHS facility that opened in 1955. Officials said state-of-the-art instruction through the high school’s new academy structure has also been implemented to prepare students for some of the most popular and rigorous careers in today’s economy.

Lenhart said principals from other schools went through the old facility to salvage any equipment that can be used at other locations throughout the district, such as SMART Boards that are expected to be used in each room at D.A. Smith Middle School.

Lenhart said the remaining items in the old building will either be auctioned on or sold during what he called a “yard sale” within the month.

Lenhart said the old facility will then be turned over to a construction company for demolition and the vacant space used for parking.

The 600 hall of the old building is expected to be used for the district’s standalone alternative school, the Opportunity Academy.

Alabama’s First Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Program to Locate in Ozark


Alabama’s First Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Program to Locate in Ozark

OZARK, Ala. (January 29, 2013) – The Alabama Aviation Center, a unit of Enterprise State Community College (ESCC), will create the state’s first unmanned aircraft systems maintenance program to serve a growing aviation business sector, according to Nancy W. Chandler, Ed.D., ESCC president. 

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Development recently awarded a $360,000 grant to ESCC to develop and launch the first phase of the program. The new program, tentatively scheduled to begin in January 2014, will enable ESCC to turn out certified technicians qualified in both manned and unmanned systems.  

“The new unmanned aircraft maintenance certification, along with our existing avionics and manned aviation maintenance technology programs and strong relationships in the aviation industry, positions ESCC as the premier institution for comprehensive aviation maintenance training in Alabama,” Chandler said. 

“With its proximity to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker and the many aviation businesses in our region, ESCC’s ability to provide comprehensive aircraft maintenance training will boost our ability to recruit and retain employers seeking such expertise for their employees,” said Eric Basinger, executive director of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. (ODEC). 

The college’s application for the state grant was supported by ODEC and private-sector companies that are interested in expanding their unmanned aircraft capabilities. 

“The challenge of converting a manned helicopter into an unmanned-only aerial vehicle requires skills that are not taught in traditional aviation mechanic training programs. The Alabama Aviation Center’s creation of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Program will provide immediate and lasting benefits to its students, the local economy and industry alike,” said Barry Ford, general manager of Bell Helicopter-Ozark. 

Aviation is one of the fastest growing industries in south Alabama. Despite the economic downturn, the unmanned sector of the aviation and aerospace industry has continued to grow as a way to increase efficiency, save money and enhance safety. In 2010, the U.S. Air Force trained more unmanned aircraft pilots than manned fighter and bomber pilots, and the Pentagon purchased more unmanned aircraft than manned aircraft, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. 

The association projects that 23,000 unmanned aircraft systems jobs will be created in the United States over the next 15 years. Many of these jobs will be in manufacturing, with a ripple effect among supplier companies responding to increasing demand for unmanned systems. 

About the Alabama Aviation Center, a unit of Enterprise State Community College

The Alabama Aviation Center is the only Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved provider of aviation maintenance training in Alabama. The AAC has maintained a proven reputation and an established tradition of providing excellence in aviation maintenance technology airframe and powerplant for over 50 years. AAC also offers Avionics for those interested in the electronics side of the field. All aviation programs offered by the college reflect current industry standards to ensure students are prepared for careers in the high growth aviation industry. Locations include Ozark, Mobile, Andalusia, Albertville and Decatur. 

ESCC was named as a Top 120 Community College in the nation by the ASPEN Institute in both 2011 and 2012. ESCC offers classes in Enterprise, Ft. Rucker and online, as well as seven AAC sites across the state. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter (@enterprisestate), or find us on Facebook.  

About the Ozark-Dale County EDC

The Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. (ODEC) leads the county-wide initiative to stimulate job creation and capital investment in Dale County. For more information, call 334.443.2000 or send email to


Dale economic corporation to go after aviation, retail businesses

OZARK—After raising more than $1 million for economic development through dozens of partnerships with residents and businesses region wide, the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation said it is continuing efforts to recruit major industries into the Dale County area.

ODEC officials met with Ozark and Dale County leaders Thursday for a briefing of the corporation’s actions throughout the previous year. ODEC board chairman John Ferguson said much of the past year has been spent raising an estimated $1.07 million for economic development and meeting with residents and business owners to discover what’s most needed in the area.

ODEC Aviation Director Stephanie Blankenship said work is underway to continue to expose the opportunities available at the airport.

“It is very important that we let people know what we have, and one of the first things people want to know is the workforce,” Blankenship said.

“All we have to say (in aviation) is that the (Alabama Aviation Center) is right there on the airport. … We also want to continue to partner and to develop a speculative hangar for maintenance, repair and overhaul companies for the aviation and defense industry. All of this is being done to prepare us so that when that industry does come, we’re ready.”

ODEC Executive Director Eric Basinger said existing German businesses in Dale County give the county credibility in Europe and elsewhere for a willingness to pursue international companies.

While economic development has changed over the last decade, Basinger said the partnership between Dale County and its municipalities, as well as partnerships with neighboring communities and some in Florida, shows a unified effort.

“There are fewer projects in economic development than ever before and there are more communities than ever before chasing after those big projects,” he said.

“In Alabama, we are also going up against other countries that are putting incentive packages on the table. We’re doing a lot of work on retail, with our focus on the larger, anchor-type buildings. We want to do more work with composites, materials for aviation, and with our rail access, we have a good potential for some logistics opportunities.”


Daleville to Partner with Ozark-Dale County on Economic
Development, December 20, 2012.

The City of Daleville’s City Council elected to join the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation (ODEC) as an official investor in the organization at Tuesday night’s Council meeting.

Daleville, known as the Gateway to Fort Rucker, has many assets that it brings to the table for Dale County’s overall economic development package. Aviation simulation is booming there and many defense companies have flocked to Daleville due to its hospitable business environment
and close proximity to Fort Rucker.

“We are excited to work with the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation. This investment strengthens our ties with the county to better promote and market the assets of the City of Daleville for new businesses, retail and industrial opportunities. This comprehensive regional approach is key to success for the continued economic development of Daleville.” said
Daleville Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth.

Daleville will financially contribute $11,632.00 per calendar year to ODEC.  This amount is
formed by a calculation of approximately $2.00 per person of the local population.

“We were glad to be asked to give a presentation to the Mayor and City Council in Daleville,” said ODEC Board Chairman John Ferguson.  “We were excited to learn that they voted to become an integral part of ODEC. This show of unity is huge in the context of Dale counties show of solidarity to organizations looking to relocate to our area.  This show of financial, as well as, collaborative support that now exists throughout the county is the kind of strength needed both now and in the future in order to meet the economic goals for us all.”

ODEC Executive Director Eric Basinger said, “One of the most important goals in our business plan is to unify Dale County for economic development.  By partnering with Daleville this will take us a long way toward that goal.  Our board and staff all look forward to the successful partnership that we have formed.”

For information regarding ODEC contact:

Eric Basinger, CEcD

Executive Director





Blankenship Appointed to Develop Aviation in Ozark-Dale County


Blankenship Appointed to Develop Aviation in Ozark-Dale County

OZARK, Ala. (December 4, 2012) – The Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. (ODEC) has appointed Stephanie M. Blankenship the Executive Vice President and Director of Aviation in Ozark, Ala., according to Eric Basinger, ODEC executive director. Blankenship, who manages the Headland, Ala., airport, will assume the Ozark post Jan.1.

Stephanie is a highly accomplished administrator with extensive knowledge of airport operations and economic development,” Basinger said. “We are excited to welcome her to the team to develop the Ozark-Dale County airport into an economic engine for the county and maximize our overall potential in aviation and aerospace throughout Dale County.”

“This is one of the steps necessary for our airport to reach its full job and investment potential,” said Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell. “Stephanie’s knowledge, experience and professional associations are a perfect fit for ODEC’s goals. She is truly a first class person and will be a tremendous asset for our community.”

In addition to managing the airport and planning future improvements, Blankenship will assist with economic development initiatives coordinated by ODEC. She also will continue as executive director of the Aviation Council of Alabama, an industry organization she has led since 2004.

Blankenship has served as manager of the Headland Airport since 2002 and as economic development director for the City of Headland since 2011. While in these posts, she was instrumental in securing federal grants exceeding $2.6 million for airport improvements. Blankenship previously served as executive director of the Henry County Economic Development Authority and as economic development assistant for the City of Headland.

The Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. (ODEC) leads the county-wide initiative to stimulate job creation and capital investment in Dale County. For more information, call 334.443.2000 or send email to“>


# # #

Eric Basinger, Executive Director, ODEC

T 334.443.2000

  • M1 Support Services
  • Michelin North America, Inc.
  • Covan International, Inc.
  • CSRA
  • E & H Steel
  • Maha, Inc.
  • Brown Manufacturing
  • Brauer Aerospace
  • Bell Helicopter
  • Quality Fab
  • Arichem
  • Brown Products
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