David Knight, executive director of the Walker County Development Authority (WCDA), was named the recipient of the David R. Echols Distinguished Service Award by the Alabama Department of Commerce.
The award was given to Knight at the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA) Winter Conference last week and recognizes an individual working in economic development who demonstrates the highest ideals of professionalism and character. It is named for David Echols, a former senior project manager at the Department of Commerce.
“It was unexpected and definitely an honor,” Knight said. “I knew Dave Echols and worked with him on many different projects. Knowing the passion he had for economic development and his level of professionalism – it is truly an honor. I know how big of a deal the award is because of who it is named after. It is a truly humbling experience to even be considered.”
Bob Smith, assistant director of business development at the Department of Commerce, said Knight was a natural choice for the award.
“David Echols set a high standard for economic development in Alabama, and his legacy continues through this award,” Smith said. “David Knight demonstrates all of the values that are considered important for a recipient, including professionalism, integrity and a passion for their work.”
In his remarks, Knight thanked the City of Jasper, the Jasper Industrial Board and the WCDA Board of Directors and staff. The WCDA’s project manager, Kerri Jones, has worked with Knight for 21 of his 24 years at the helm of the WCDA and said they are like family.
“He alone has had the greatest impact on economic development in Walker County,” Jones said. “He had the vision and he pulled people together to make things happen. He has an eye for detail, he’s very intelligent, he gives everything a lot of thought and thinks through things and can work with anybody. He gets along with everybody.”
Under Knight’s 24-year tenure, Walker County has welcomed businesses such as Yorozu, a Tier 1 automotive supplier that does metal stamping of suspension components and just last year completed construction on a $110 million stamping facility in Jasper that will employ at least 300 people. Another Tier 1 automotive supplier, HTNA, provides carpets for automobiles, interior trim components and trunk linings. They expanded to a new facility in 2013 that cost $30 million and employs 150.
Knight said the WCDA plans to continue to develop quality sites and buildings and make Walker County a place companies want to be.
“We will continue to work on that and continue to grow and develop relationships with key economic development allies like the Department of Commerce, Alabama Power, Spire and the Birmingham Business Alliance,” Knight said. “It is truly a team effort, and none of us can do this without a much larger team to support our efforts.”
Previous recipients of the Echols Award are Dus Rogers, president and CEO of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority; Ellen McNair, senior vice president, economic development, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce; Phillip Dunlap, economic development director for the City of Auburn; Mike McCain, executive director for the Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority; and Greg Barker, senior vice president, marketing and economic development for Alabama Power Co.