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Guest Opinion

Exit 38 development seems to be a step closer

The Tuskegee News of Tuskegee, Alabama

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Noted in Passing

In many ways what's happening with the development of Exit 38 off Interstate 85 in Tuskegee is like putting together a puzzle — except there's a lot more at stake for the community.

For years, the pieces have been being placed in the proper positions. There was acquiring the old Tuskegee Inn (formerly Hobday Inn), demolishing the old motel, acquiring other property from individual owners and from Tuskegee University and getting clearance from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (AD EM) for ground contamination.

There have been many more hurdles to cross in developing what is the "gateway" to Tuskegee that includes two national parks, a historic airport and University, a VA hospital and many other attractions.

Now, it appears that putting those pieces together is a step closer with some recent developments involving financing for development of the area.

There are many who bebeve PNC Bank (with headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pa.) strung along locals involved with the Macon County Economic Development Authority and Tuskegee-UBT Cooperative District for several months concerning a loan for the development.

Liberty Bank, which recently acquired First Tuskegee Bank, stepped in but ultimately did not offer a very attractive loan package.

Fortunately, AmeriFirst Bank, a community bank with offices in Union Springs, Prattville and Montgomery, has made an attractive offer to the Cooperative District that would actually own the land and pay back the loan from taxes produced by tenants..

The fact that Jimmy Bassett of

Beck's Turf and Al Cook, the economic development consultant for AMEA of which Tuskegee is a member city for purchasing power, are members of the AmeriFirst Bank board of directors came into play. In fact, Cook is chairman of the board.

On Tuesday (Nov. 3) the UBT discussed loan proposal to the Cooperative District and the proposal will go before the Tuskegee City Council at its Nov. 10 meeting for approval.

The loan would be for up to$1.2 million with a 4.5 percent fixed interest rate for five years. The loan will be secured with an assignment of the leases for the property.

A Hobday Inn Express, Shell 24-hour convenience store and a Huddle House will be the initial tenants at Exit 38, according to Macon County Economic Development consultant Joe Turnham. More businesses are expected to soon follow, says Turnham who expects the motel, convenience store and Huddle House to be in operation by the end of 2016.

Turnham believes more economic development for Tuskegee would logically be the next piece of the puzzle.

It has been a long process, but one that may be poised to finally move forward.

Guy Rhodes is editor and publisher of The Tuskegee News. He is the 2013 Distinguished Alabama Community JournaEst and first place recipient in the 2014 Alabama Press Association contest for Best Editorial Column or Commentary. He can be reached by email at guynrhodes@bellsouth.net



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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



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