Team Enterprise took a well-earned bow Monday morning as community leaders talked about securing the site for a southeast Alabama Veterans Home.
The planned facility, tentatively scheduled to open in 2023, will be around 182,000 square feet in size and capable of housing 150 to 175 residents, Enterprise mayor Bill Cooper said Monday. The $65 million facility will also provide jobs for up to 200 people, primarily in the medical field.
“The construction of the facility will also provide jobs that will impact the Wiregrass, so we believe our entire region will benefit by the decision of the state VA Board,” Cooper said.
The Homes Committee received 12 proposals from southeast Alabama cities and counties. The committee made five site visits based on those proposals.
“We recognize each one of them could have easily been chosen,” Cooper said. “We are fortunate. We have a great team that put together an application that helped us showcase Enterprise and what a special community we have. We worked closely with the Coffee County Commission in putting together the proposal.”
In fact, Coffee County had proposed a site for the project. Leaders on both sides worked together to support each other’s bid.
“It was a refreshing take,” Enterprise councilman for District 5, Turner Townsend, said. Townsend also served on the Enterprise recruitment committee for the project. “The county and city could potentially have been competing against each other. But Enterprise is in Coffee County. We put up two excellent sites with identical proposals — the only difference was Site A or Site B. One was in the city, the other was in the county.
“We recognized that the impact to the community was going to be the same, whether it was a mile or two outside the city or inside the city. … This was a partnership with the county commission. I don’t want that to go unnoticed. Without their help, none of this would have been possible.”
Coffee County Commission chairman Dean Smith echoed that solidarity and felt it benefited both bids.
“The one thing they (ADVA Board) couldn’t get a grip on is how the county and city were together. Either place their chose would have been fine with either one of us,” Smith said. “They asked me twice, ‘Is that the way it is?’ I said, ‘That’s exactly the way it is. You pick whatever home site is best for us and that’s good with us.’
“I’d like to thank the VA Board for their decision. I’m a firm believer that working together we can achieve so much more. I appreciate the council for letting us be a part of this and we’re glad what happened.”
In fact, the mayor said Smith and Coffee County Administrator Rod Morgan were part of the Enterprise group that presented its proposal to the board. And when the county proposal was pitched, Enterprise was part of that.
“It was a team effort,” Cooper said. “Just like Dean said, whatever way it went, we would be happy with it.”
Cooper added the preparation for its presentation may helped put Enterprise over the top.
“We went there as a team,” Cooper said. “The agenda we had put together, when we went there, it was like we had worked out a PhD dissertation. We were ready.”
Townsend said the team did a good job selling the merits of why Enterprise had the best site.
“The site itself, we had two good sites to present (city and county),” Townsend said. “I think the geography was favorable, the demographics of the community were there as it relates to the number of military residents, and then put together a competitive package.”
The site chosen is about 108 acres near the intersection of Alabama Highway 167 and Alabama Highway 51. It can be accessed from Highway 167 via Salem Road on Highway 270.
Townsend credited the foresight of the mayor and city council for purchasing that land two years ago.
“We had no idea about this opportunity at the time, but we knew we didn’t have a chance on projects like this if we didn’t have the available site,” Townsend said. “The council and mayor recognized this and we took the necessary steps. Simply put, we would not be standing here today if we had not sought this site and acquired it.”
Bill Baker, vice president of governmental services with Navigator International, LLC, finished writing a proposal started by Jason Wright, the mayor said.
“When you look at how competitive the process was, Enterprise is extremely blessed,” Baker said. “I worked hard on the proposal with a bunch of good folks. Let me just say, the county and the city gave me a whole lot to work with. When you have as much as they put on the table, proposal writing is easy, mayor. That’s the reason we won.
“But I believe this with all my heart: This is going to be a special place in Enterprise. This is not just going to be another business. This is going to be a special place.”
“God really blessed us,” Rev. Sonny Moore said in remarks during Monday’s celebration. “I prayed about this a lot, Mr. Mayor. I know we all did. We want to follow through with one thing I told the committee. Enterprise will take care of these veterans.
“There’s a synergy here, there’s a love of people. People want to live here, military people. This is a military town. That’s what I told the committee in my part of it, that we will embrace these people and we’ll take care of them — and I know we’ll do it.”