Public-Private Partnership Grant Awarded to Pride of Atmore

Atmore, AL Rural Development Partners (RDP), together with Coastal Growers LLC, is pleased to announce a $150,000 jointly funded grant to Pride of Atmore through RDP’s Community Investment Program. This $3.3 million project involves restoration of the historic Strand Theatre, an iconic landmark established in 1921, serving as an anchor for the community for nearly a century. A music studio will also be developed in an adjacent building, soon to serve as cornerstone for the Arts and Cultural community hosting performances, live music events, lectures, community events as well as private. The prospect of revitalization in Atmore has already brought new and returning businesses to downtown, including restaurants, bars, and specialty shops. The economic boost will create a variety of workforce opportunities. stabilizing local and regional businesses.

“The generous donation from Rural Development Partners along with Coastal Growers, LLC makes a huge impact on our small rural community’s inclusive downtown revitalization project – truly, a “game changer”. Many critical needs including arts, education, technology, and culture will be available to everyone in our underserved community. Everyone in our “little slice of heaven” known as Atmore is thrilled with the addition of Coastal Growers as a driving and thriving agricultural cooperative. The Pride of Atmore is most grateful and appreciative of Coastal Growers’ immediate commitment and involvement with our community and look forward to a continuing partnership with the grower-owned cooperative,” said Dale Ash, Pepsi-Atmore executive and Board Member of The Pride of Atmore.

Historic Strand Theatre Restoration

Atmore’s historic Strand Theatre was the oldest continually operating theater in the state and once a regional attraction bringing patrons from Escambia, Monroe, Baldwin and Conecuh counties in Alabama, and nearby counties in Florida. Restoration of this popular theatre will include upgrading, renovating, and repairing the Strand’s façade, mechanical systems, lobby, roof, marquee, ceilings, concession area, theater seating, projection room, acoustics, and restroom facilities in compliance with the ADA.

Multi-Functional Educational Space

Educational opportunities are limited in the area, considered one of the poorest communities in the state where over 90% of students in Escambia County qualify for free or reduced lunches. Many students do not have computers or access to the internet, including those living in rural areas where broadband does not exist. The second floor of the music studio will be remodeled and enhanced to serve as a multi-functional educational space, providing students a hot spot for technology, with access to the tools they need to navigate today’s virtual classroom and prepare for the future. In partnership with the local community college, this facility will host continuing education courses giving disadvantaged students an opportunity for higher paying jobs; and enhancing the performing arts with recording and dance studios to attract and keep residents sharing their talents locally.

The music studio and multi-educational facility restoration will encompass 4,200 SF of space; 700 SF serving as a recording studio providing professional enhancement of comprehensive fine arts programming for youth and adults; educating on the technologies of sound creation, recording, and engineering. The studio will also be used for music instruction, individual and group recordings, composition, and songwriting workshops/instruction. After-school programming that includes audio/sound-engineering training will be offered as a form of workforce training where graduates will assist in running the recording studio.  Renovation of the second floor multi-educational facility will be used for technology and complementary educational programming to benefit students of all ages. The programming will include hands-on training to spark creativity, foster self-expression, and develop leadership, creative thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Instruction will be offered in graphic design (Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign software), film appreciation, acting, writing, and drawing.

Strong Support

This project has had strong support as community and local development officials actively sought funding through public and private donors, funds, grants, even resourcing congressional and state representatives exploring every avenue of funding. RDP and Coastal Growers are proud to provide the last link of funding required to begin construction in May 2021 and celebrate with the Atmore community as they begin an upward trajectory!

Rural Development Partners

“Rural Development Partners allocated a portion of its New Markets Tax Credit award in January 2021 toward the highly impactful Coastal Growers peanut shelling facility,” said Jonathan Klaassen, RDP CEO. “Now, RDP is excited to join with Coastal Growers in a grant to help the Pride of Atmore complete this amazing restoration and educationally significant project that will train, attract, and retain Atmore residents.”

Rural Development Partners (RDP), a Community Development Entity with a nationwide service area, uses New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) to encourage businesses to expand in distressed rural communities, bringing quality jobs that are accessible to the local workforce. RDP’s Community Investment Program recognizes that supporting workforce development efforts becomes a natural win-win for local workers and the business bringing the new jobs. The overarching goal is to help uplift low-income workers and communities, which also benefits local businesses and more effectively achieves RDP’s mission.

Coastal Growers LLC

“With Rural Development Partners, we are very pleased to be a part of the Strand Theater restoration. It will greatly enhance our community by adding so many cultural, fine arts and educational opportunities for southwest Alabama residents. Atmore is our new home, and we are so excited and honored to support this much needed project in our community,” said Joe Parker, Organizer and Board Member of Coastal Growers.

Atmore based Coastal Growers is a grower-owned cooperative peanut sheller and processor supplying peanut products to peanut butter, snack nut and confectionary manufacturers throughout the US and internationally.  It is under construction in the Atmore Industrial Park and will begin receiving and processing the 2021 peanut crop in September of 2021 from peanut farm family owners and growers throughout Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.