The University of West Alabama in Livingston was recently awarded a $1.7 million grant to improve barge access at the Port of Epes Industrial Park.

In a press release, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the grant as part of the Economic Development Administration's (EDA) move to support Livingston as an Opportunity Zone, defined by the EDA as an "economically-distressed community where private investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for capital gain tax incentives."

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"This project will fund improvements to transportation infrastructure... to help a major wood pellet company increase their operational capacity, attract new business, and advance efforts to capitalize on the project's Opportunity Zone designation," Ross said.

In addition to the $1.7 million, another $540,000 will be matched in local funds. This project is expected to create 85 jobs and generate $175 million in private investment.

This project was ensured thanks to the coordination of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission, which is supported by the EDA in the effort to create economic development roadmaps for both private and public sectors. This organization's intended goals are to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment, and create jobs.

"Already, the Opportunity Zones across our state are helping boost the chance for economic prosperity, and this $1.7 million investment in Livingston, Alabama certainly adds to that effort," Gov. Kay Ivey said.

This funding goes to just one of Alabama's 158 Opportunity Zones, created under the Trump Administration's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. There's no set start date for the development, however, The Tuscaloosa Thread will provide updates as they are made available.