Mazda-Toyota announcement impacts the entire region
Just after the New Year, Japanese automakers Mazda and Toyota announced a partnership to build a $1.6 billion manufacturing facility in Limestone County just 10 miles from downtown Decatur. Once fully operational, the plant will directly employ 4,000 people and produce 300,000 vehicles annually – including the Toyota Corolla and a new small Mazda SUV. Not only will those numbers create a dramatic economic impact, the plant has the potential to attract two and a half times the original job number announcement in the form of suppliers, contractors and construction crews. Alabama – tied for fifth as the largest producer of vehicles in the U.S. – winning the national competition for landing the facility speaks to our region’s business-friendly environment, our highly trained and technical workforce, and our area’s high quality of life. The ripple effect of Mazda-Toyota will reap benefits for generations in our housing markets, our schools, our infrastructure and our local tax base.
New schools, new campuses, new future
August marked the beginning of a school year where approximately 60 percent of Decatur City Schools students found themselves attending classes on a new campus. From late May to early August, six schools moved to different – and in some cases, new – locations around our city, a feat never accomplished in the system’s history. The new state-of-the-art Austin and Decatur High Schools, with a combined size of more than 440,000 square feet, welcomed students where each had for the first time their own separate football stadiums. The new Career Academies of Decatur was established at the renovated former Austin campus as a career tech center, Oak Park Middle became Decatur Middle at the former Decatur High campus, Somerville Road Elementary moved from the recently closed Brookhaven Middle campus they shared to the former Oak Park Middle campus and became Oak Park Elementary, and the Brookhaven Middle student body was realigned to the already existing Cedar Ridge Middle and the newly created Austin Junior High. The new facilities, the campus moves and the realignment of the feeder patterns for the entire system have provided new opportunities to develop the more than 8,700 students in the system to be the next generation of leaders.
Cook Museum welcoming the entire region
Since opening in early June, the Cook Museum of Natural Science is ahead on their projection of welcoming more than 200,000 visitors annually to the 62,000 square foot downtown museum. The $32 million investment in the community features a 15,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, life-like cave structures and other exhibits highlighting our natural resources and biodiversity. Also, as part of their agreement with the City, the museum renovated one large parking area and purchased two other nearby parking areas to handle the increased volume of vehicles. The Cook family, the City and other civic and community partners have collaborated to create a dramatic educational resource for north Alabama and the southeast.