Lori Huguley, CEcD, is retiring from the City of Opelika on January 31, 2024. Huguley has served as the Director of Economic Development since 2011. Prior to that role, she served as Project Manager for Economic Development for six years. John Sweatman will take over as Economic Development Director February 1.
Huguley’s responsibilities were to recruit and retain industry and retail business within the City of Opelika. Working alongside Mayor Gary Fuller and the Opelika Industrial Development Authority, during her tenure on the industrial front, Huguley helped to recruit over $2.6 billion of capital investment and created 4,793 jobs. This investment and job creation represents new and expanding industries including Mando, Hanwha, Daewon, Pharmavite, Golden State Foods, Bonnie Plants Headquarters, Niagara Water, Hanwha Cimarron, West Fraser and the recently announced Miele project which is one of the largest industrial capital investment and job creators within Lee County. Notable retail development Huguley assisted with include the AMC Movie theater, continued buildout of Tiger Town and the surrounding area, including new hotels and Golf Suites. She also helped secure the future Publix Development on Veteran’s Parkway. Huguley also assisted with residential recruitment and for the last five years, Opelika has continually broken records for new homes permitted within the city.
Huguley led the charge to establish the new Opelika Innovation and Technology Park for the Industrial Development Authority. The park provides a landing spot for future tech focused businesses in Opelika.
Huguley attained the designation of CEcD in 2010. The designation of Certified Economic Developer is achieved by rigorous study and the passage of the CEcD exam administered by IEDC (International Economic Development Council). Huguley has been active in many civic and professional organizations including the Economic Development Association of Alabama of which she served as President from 2015-2016. She is a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, the International Economic Development Council and serves on the Executive Committee of the Alabama Germany Partnership. Locally she is a member of Kiwanis and serves on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, United Way and the Food Bank of East Alabama.
A notable career highlight for Huguley was being recognized for Economic Development by the Site Selector’s Guild in 2019.
“It has been my honor and privilege to serve this community that I love. Economic development is best accomplished with a team that is all rowing in the same direction. Mayor Fuller, the Opelika City Council and the Opelika Industrial Development Authority were always strong supporters of our efforts. They understand how important it is to be aligned in our Economic Development strategy and present a united front when we are recruiting business.
“I will always be grateful for my time here in Opelika and I have every confidence that the future will be very bright with John Sweatman taking the helm,” said Huguley.
Mayor Fuller added, “We will surely miss Lori. She has shaped the course of our economic landscape and been the architect of growth and prosperity in Opelika. Lori’s commitment as our Economic Development Director has been the driving force behind transformative initiatives that have improved our community. I wish Lori nothing but the best in her future endeavors and look forward to what John will do to keep making Opelika the best place to live and work."
Sweatman has served as Project Manager for Economic Development since 2018 assisting the director with the recruitment and retention of industry and retail business within the City of Opelika. Additionally, he led the workforce development efforts for all major employers within the city and was instrumental in establishing Opelika as the nation’s first Citywide Career Skills Program in partnership with nearby Fort Moore (formerly Fort Benning).
During his time as Project Manager, Sweatman completed the Intensive Economic Development Training Course from Auburn University’s Government and Economic Development Institute (GEDI) in 2019 and went on to graduate from the Economic Development Institute at The University of Oklahoma (OU EDI) in 2021. OU EDI is an aggressive development certificate program that has been the primary training program for those in the business of economic development since its creation and is accredited by the IEDC (International Economic Development Council).
Sweatman is also active in many civic and professional organizations including the Economic Development Association of Alabama of which he served as co-chair of the 2020 Winter and Summer Conferences and Chair of the Winter Conference in 2021. He is a member of the Southern Economic Development Council, the International Economic Development Council, the Alabama Germany Partnership, and the Japan-America Society of Alabama. Locally he is Past President and Board Member of the Opelika Rotary Club and has served on several United Way of Lee County committees, the Food Bank of East Alabama, and as a Red Cross D.A.T. emergency response team member.
Sweatman is committed to build on the outstanding achievements of his predecessor and work closely with Mayor Fuller, the Opelika City Council and the Opelika Industrial Development Authority to keep Opelika moving in the right direction.
“I am truly grateful for all that Ms. Huguley has done for our city and for preparing me to step into this new role. I am honored by the confidence Mayor Fuller and the Opelika City Council has shown in me. I look forward to working alongside them and other community leaders to continue helping new businesses and families decide to Choose Opelika as a great place to live, work, and play.”