CITY OF BESSEMER, ALABAMA
Arts & Entertainment, Economic Development, Featured

The Alabama State Council on the Arts has awarded the Lincoln Theater, located in Historic Downtown Bessemer, a $21,000 design grant.

The award will finance the creation of architectural drawings for the 71-year-old venue, as well as a design plan for the marquee, signage and façade.

The restoration of the Lincoln will be the first major initiative of the Holland Project, a non-profit organization founded in 2017 by the family of acclaimed actor and Bessemer native Andre Holland. Learn more at www.alabamalincoln.com.

Built as a 400-seat “picture house” to show first-run movies for African-American audiences, the Lincoln is the last undestroyed black theater in Bessemer and one of only two extant theater buildings in The Marvel City. Upon its grand reopening as a cinema and performing arts space, the Lincoln will show movies and provide production capacity for the performing arts, including drama, dance and music.

Growing up in Bessemer, Andre Holland had often studied the Lincoln – he was a regular at a barbershop on the same block as the abandoned cinema. His parents, Donald and Mary Holland, recounted seeing movies at the Lincoln as teenagers. Andre purchased the building, located on First Avenue North in downtown Bessemer’s National Historic District, in February 2017, with a vision to open it as a single-screen cinema and performing arts center.

“I want to create a space where young people can explore their interests in the arts,” Andre says.

Andre Holland has extensive stage and screen experience, appearing as an actor in half a dozen films, including the Oscar-winning “Moonlight.” He has directed and performed at The Globe in London and the Manhattan Theatre Club, among other renowned venues. Andre will star in “The Eddy,” a musical drama currently in production Paris, to be released on Netflix next year.

In addition to the Lincoln, the non-profit also owns the nearby Albano pharmacy building, a two-story structure built in 1890 on the first lot ever sold in Bessemer. The Albano is located at the corner of Second Avenue North and 19th Street North in Bessemer in the historic district.

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Economic Development, Government

The city of Bessemer continues to operate with strong financial management as evidenced by another successful audit, city officials were told earlier this week.

The audit, which covers the period from Oct. 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018, was completed by the firm of Kellum, Wilson and Associates, P.C. The audit was presented to Mayor Kenneth Gulley and members of the City Council during the July 9, 2019 Planning Session.

“The city is healthy financially and that comes from good financial management,” said CPA Lori Kes, the City’s external auditor.

Kes noted that city’s general fund revenue increased by 11.6 percent compared to FY17. Tax revenue increased by 9.1 percent, exceeding expectations. Kes further noted, that there were significant improvements in the city’s sales tax collection and attributed a portion of this increase to the city’s participation in the state of Alabama’s Simplified Sellers Use Tax. This tax allows online sellers to collect and remit a flat fee for sales made online.

Overall, the city’s actual revenues exceeded budgeted revenues for the year. City expenditures decreased 1 percent during the same time period, the audit shows.

Mayor Gulley praised the work of Finance Director/Treasurer Kela Pryor, CPA and staff for their roles in maintaining the city’s strong financial status.

“The city of Bessemer continues to operate under good financial management”, city officials were told earlier this week in a presentation of the most recent audit.

The city’s Finance Department is responsible for safeguarding the city’s finances. It oversees treasury management, accounts payable, purchasing, revenue collection, debt management, budgeting, payroll and human resources and internal auditing. In addition, the finance department is responsible for grant management, contract compliance, and the establishment and implementation of internal controls policy and procedure.

Each year the city of  Bessemer provides its completed audit report on-line. To read the audit report, click City of Bessemer Financial Statement 2018.

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Economic Development, Government
Officials with the city of Bessemer and the Bessemer Airport Authority broke ground Tuesday morning on construction of a 14,220 square foot hangar project at the Bessemer Municipal Airport.

The $750,000 project is being funded by the combination of a grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) and a loan from Cadence Bank. Garver Inc. is providing project management and design, while Wayne Davis Construction will serve as the general contractor.

The project will include 10 individual T-hangars with large opening doors to accommodate Cirrus aircraft. Construction of the hangers is expected to be completed by December, said Tim Wasyluka, Airport manager.

City officials hailed the groundbreaking as another milestone in the city’s economic development efforts. The Bessemer Municipal Airport is a public-use airport and is categorized as a reliever airport for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Several companies and private jets currently lease or own hangars at the airport.

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said the airport is becoming an important piece of the city’s industry recruitment efforts. In past years, city and airport officials have been able to market the airport and its location in the region to prospective companies such as Steyr Arms USA.

The hangar project will only aid those efforts, city officials said.

“We want the airport to grow and this is the first step in growing it,” said Bessemer councilwoman Donna Thigpen, who represents the city on the authority’s board.

Construction of the hangars is the latest in a series of recent upgrades at the facility. In June, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the Bessemer Airport is in line to receive $2,277,393 to rehabilitate the airport’s runway and runway lighting.

Last fall, Birmingham-based Sanders Capital Partners announced that it had acquired three corporate hangars at the Bessemer Airport for $1.3 million. Jackson Stewart, general counsel for Sanders Capital Partners, said at the time that Bessemer is playing an “increasingly significant” role in the aviation mix in the Birmingham and Tuscaloosa markets.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens, a pilot himself, said much of the major work at the airport was done prior to national events such as 9/11 and the Great Recession. Those events slowed progress at the airport. Stephens said he hopes the city, county and state can continue working together to grow the airport.

“It’s taken us a long time to kickstart this economic engine for Bessemer and western Jefferson County,” Stephens said.
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City Life, Economic Development
Please join volunteers from throughout the Birmingham-Hoover metro area for the 2019 Biannual Valley Creek Clean-up, slated for Saturday, March 16. The event will start at 8:30 a.m. Efforts in Bessemer will kickoff at McNeil Park, 1931 13th Street North. Other locations in the metro area for the Clean-up will include the Five Points West Library in Birmingham at 4812 Avenue West; Lipscomb City Hall at 5512 Avenue H and Oak Grove Memorial Park at 9180 Lock 17 Road. The Valley Creek Clean-up will focus on public awareness and trash removal along roadways and from waterways throughout the Valley Creek Watershed. Valley Creek has been a valuable natural resource for cities in west Jefferson County  throughout their history. Valley Creek begins under downtown Birmingham (close to UAB Hospital) and flows west to the Black Warrior River. The watershed for Valley Creek is a part of Bessemer, Birmingham, Brighton, Fairfield, Hueytown, Lipscomb, Midfield, North Johns, Pleasant Grove, and Sylvan Springs and covers about 257 square miles. Valley Creek provides aquatic habitat to numerous animals and continues to improve, but it needs your help. For more information on how you can be involved in the Bessemer event, contact Mr. Freddie Freeman at 205-565-9697.  
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Economic Development

Mayor Kenneth Gulley highlighted economic growth, infrastructure improvements and crime reduction during the 2019 State of the City Address, delivered Monday, January 28, 2019 at the Bessemer Civic Center. Gulley said the city overall is a strong, positive position moving forward, highlighted by the announcement last year that Amazon plans on building is first-ever distribution center in Alabama in the Marvel City. The $325 million investment by Amazon in Bessemer is expected to create some 3,000 jobs and spur other investments in the city. “This facility is the largest single investment in the city of Bessemer’s history,” he said. “It puts us on a glorious path and reverses the economic turmoil left in our city by the closing of Pullman Standard in the mid-80s.” Gulley said the city’s overall business climate is strong. New stores and restaurants are opening in parts of the city. City revenues continue to climb, the Mayor said, noting that the city’s budget has increased by 53 percent since 2010. “We have managed revenues responsibly and have been good stewards of your taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We are a city that is not in the red, but in the black. Our annual audit has come back strong each year.” On the housing front, new home construction continues to take place in subdivisions such as Cedar Creek and Lake Cyrus. The Mayor also highlighted the burgeoning partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Birmingham that resulted in the construction of 15 new houses during a Homebuilders Blitz in October. In terms of infrastructure, the city was able to complete resurfacing projects along Fourth Avenue and Dartmouth Avenue this past year by using a mix of federal, state and local funds. Local gas tax funds were used to do residential paving projects in several areas of the city, including along Alice Street, Hickory Road and Cedar Hill Drive. “We will continue to aggressively work to secure funds to pave streets in our communities,” the Mayor said. The city also cut the ribbon on the first phase of the Bessemer Rail-Trail in spring of 2018. Construction on subsequent phases of the trail is expected to start this year. In addition, the city is building its first-ever storm shelter at the Police Department’s Emergency Operations Center on Ninth Avenue. Gulley said he plans to work with the City Councilto identify funding to build additional shelters in the city. On the public safety front, Gulley said the city’s crime rate dropped for a seventh consecutive year. He said the police department will continue to adopt prevention strategies to steer residents, particularly youth, away from crime. “Our police department will continue with our city-wide programs aimed at engaging our youth concerning conflict resolution,” he said. “I am appealing to our faith-based community, non-profit organizations, schools and parents to assist me in this battle against violence in our city.” Gulley concluded by challenging residents to take a more active hand in moving Bessemer forward. Overall, Gulley said the city’s future is trending brightly. “As we prepare to celebrate the city of Bessemer’s 132nd birthday, I can say confidently that the state of our city is very positive,” he said. “We know there is still much work to be done in many areas, but the seeds of progress have been sown over the past eight years. And now we are starting to reap the harvest.”
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Economic Development
There is “opportunity” in Bessemer! The city’s downtown district, which includes the federally-recognized Downtown Historic District, has been designated as an Opportunity Zone by the United States Department of Treasury. Bessemer’s Opportunity Zone designation was approved through Treasury as a new initiative  in the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017. The Internal Revenue Service defines an Opportunity Zone as “an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.” Localities qualify as Opportunity Zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and that nomination has been certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury via his delegation of authority to the Internal Revenue Service, according to the IRS. Bessemer’s Opportunity Zone includes all of the downtown Bessemer district, as well as portions of the Jonesboro and Westlake communities. To see the map of Bessemer’s Opportunity Zone, see the map  below or view via a link provided by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (see Census Tract 102). Stay tuned for future updates on efforts to bring out the “Opportunity” in Bessemer’s Opportunity Zone.
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