Gadsden Mayor Craig Ford has announced the successful relocation of the Darden Rehabilitation Foundation to the former Etowah County Board of Education site. The deal was facilitated by the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority in an effort to help create room for the incoming advanced manufacturing technology center at Gadsden State Community College.
Darden was formerly located on the Gadsden State campus in the footprint of the soon-to-be-built manufacturing training facility. With the advanced manufacturing center coming, Mayor Ford made it a priority to help find a quality location for Darden to continue its services in helping individuals with disabilities to learn skills and gain employment.
“This entire deal is about workforce development,” said Mayor Ford. “To keep Darden in Gadsden means our residents with disabilities have easy access to quality training opportunities and our employers have a larger pool of skilled workers to employ. The added benefit is this helps Gadsden State focus on getting the advanced manufacturing center built so even more workers can be trained in different ways to serve business and industry in Gadsden.”
When the Etowah County Board of Education moved out of the Etowah County Annex building on West Meighan Boulevard into their new downtown facility on Broad Street, the Industrial Development Authority assisted the Etowah County Commission in marketing and selling the West Meighan property. After successfully selling the West Meighan property to West Meighan Business Park, LLC, Darden was able to secure a lease to locate there and keep the site active.
“While this is a win-win-win from many aspects, the point of this story is that no deal is simple,” said Industrial Development Authority Executive Director David Hooks. “Everything has moving parts, and the IDA’s goal is to find those parts and help fit them together to make Gadsden and Etowah County grow and prosper. This was a great deal for so many involved!”
Darden intends to remain in the West Meighan site until they are able to find a long-term solution for a permanent new home. In the meantime, they will continue to offer their services to individuals with disabilities in their five-county footprint of northeast Alabama.