Special Report: Alex City bounces back from blow - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Special Report: Alex City bounces back from blow

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ALEXANDER CITY, AL (WSFA) -

A devastating blow isn't stopping one local city from bouncing back.

We continue our Saving Small Towns with a look at Alexander City.

A few years ago executives at the Russell plant laid off 6,000 employees--downsizing and sending jobs overseas.

It shocked residents of Alex City.

Many wondered what would come of the area--largely influenced by the 100-year old company.

"The complex that we're standing in here of Russell's was over 350 acres. In their prime, they had almost 8,000 employees," says Don McClellan.

Now, the campus is relatively quiet.  Although, signs of life after Russell are already materializing.

"C & J is a plastics company that supplies to the automobile industry."

Don McClellan was mayor of Alex City when Russell announced its lay-offs.

"A lot of people thought that would be the end of Alexander City."

He is now with a local non-profit economic development organization working to recruit businesses to empty Russell buildings and other nearby areas.

C & J moved in to one of the buildings two years ago.

"They already have about 200 employees."

While jobs are key to attracting people and employers to the city, leaders know making it attractive is also essential.

"We have spent close to $20,000 dollars in helping business owners with façade improvements, removing metal off their buildings, replacing awnings," says Richard Wagoner, with the Mainstreet organization.

Revitalization of downtown Alex City comes with a price tag. But the same family responsible for opening the Russell textile mill years ago is now giving back in a way to ensure this city thrives in the mill's absence.

"Russell Charitable foundation and Ben Russell have donated money to the Mainstreet organization with the stipulation that that money not be used for anything but for projects to improve the downtown buildings and the landscaping," says Wagoner.

It's good news for Daniel Champion who decided to come back, buy an old drugstore, and remodel it.

"You see so many downtown areas that people have given up on. And that's one of the reason we have stayed and we continue to want to stay."

The store has morphed over the years, not only selling prescriptions drugs and sweet goods, but also knick knacks and gifts.

Champion says revitalization may take time, but, "we all benefit from it.  If people gave up on it, then we would be in trouble."

It's an effort to reclaim charm and foot traffic in a city where brighter days could be yet to come.

Copyright 2013  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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