2021 in review: Better, but still not normal

Though 2021 wasn’t a “normal” year in Alabama business, it certainly was more like business as usual than its predecessor.

Smucker’s Uncrustables will soon be a billion-dollar business in Jefferson County.

Though 2021 wasn’t a “normal” year in Alabama business, it certainly was more like business as usual than its predecessor.

There were major mergers and acquisitions, expansions bringing more jobs to Alabama communities and movement in the state by international players such as Amazon.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger business stories of 2021 and a quick look at what to expect in 2022.

Editors note: A few items have been added since this originally ran in print in the December 2021 issue.

8 billion-dollar deals

PNC’s $1.6 billion purchase of Birmingham-based BBVA closed in June, and later BancorpSouth and Cadence Bancorp, both with large Alabama presences, merged in a $2.9 billion deal. The merger was completed in October.

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KKR, in a deal totaling $1.2 billion, acquired a majority interest in Birmingham’s Therapy Brands, an electronic health record software company, in May.

Birmingham-based Vulcan Materials Co. in August acquired Texas-based U.S. Concrete for $1.29 billion.

NASA in June picked Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville for two $500 million missions to Venus, and Lockheed Martin will design, build and operate the spacecraft for the missions.

FBI Innovation Center in Huntsville broke ground in August, part of a $1 billion investment by the FBI. The project is expected to be finished in 2023.

Facebook plans an expansion that will push its investment in a Huntsville data center over $1 billion. The expansion should be complete in 2024.

In mid-November, J.M. Smucker Co. announced it would build a $1.1 billion plant in McCalla. The plant will manufacture and distribute Smucker’s Uncrustables brand.

The U.S. Army in December awarded Northrop Grumman a $1.4 billion contract for the Huntsville company’s production of the Integrated Battle Command System.

New projects

Corporate Realty in January announced it was moving forward with a $340 million development of the Carraway Hospital land in Birmingham.

Buffalo Rock announced a $20 million plant in west Huntsville around the first of the year.

Korea’s Hanwha, in late 2020, purchased Cimarron Composites in Huntsville, planning a $100 million investment in the aerospace firm. In August, the company said it would open a $130 million manufacturing plant in Opelika

Packaging Corp. of America launched a three-year, $440 million project to convert a paper machine at its Clarke County mill to produce linerboard.

Rabren General Contractors in February was tapped for the $64 million Auburn Football Performance Center, scheduled to open in fall 2022.

In March, groundbreaking took place for the $87 million Coastal Growers Association peanut shelling facility in Atmore.

Mobile officials in April announced a $350 million logistics park, 1,300 acres along I-10 in southern Mobile County.

Imperial Dade, distributor of food service packaging and janitorial supplies, announced a $20 million logistics hub to be built in Loxley. The company broke ground in June.

Construction began on a $200 million Enviva wood pellet plant at Port of Epes in Sumter County.

In August, AUBix, a firm founded by Auburn businessmen, announced a $120 million multi-tenant data center near Auburn University.

Red Mountain Theatre opened its $25 million arts campus in June. The 60,000-square-foot facility has two theaters and rehearsal and classroom space.

Westwater Resources in June announced a first-of-its-kind graphite processing plant in Coosa County. The company plans to invest at least $80 million, and the plant should be in production in Kellyton by the end of 2022.

Madison Metal Processing, which will supply steel blanks to Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, opened a $40 million, 110,000-square-foot facility in Limestone County in August. Full production is planned for mid-2022.

The $219 million James Hardie Building Products plant in Prattville opened in March. At the same time, the company announced another production line at the plant, bringing its total investment to $298 million.

Montgomery broke ground in June on a $40 million water park with a whitewater course.

MTC Logistics opened a $61 million, 12.6 million-cubic-foot refrigerated facility at the Port of Mobile in October.

Major expansions

In February, AM/NS Calvert broke ground on a $775 million expansion at its steel mill north of Mobile.

U.S. Steel opened its $412 million electric arc furnace around the first of the year in Birmingham.

Citing rising demand for its standby generators, Briggs & Stratton in January announced plans to more than double production, with the additional work being done at the company’s Auburn plant.

Coca-Cola United in March announced a $48 million expansion in Mobile.

Data center operator DC Blox, with facilities in Huntsville and Birmingham, received $187 million in funding for expansion in the Southeast.

Austal USA broke ground for a steel shipbuilding line adjacent to its aluminum shipbuilding facilities. It’s a $100 million investment and should be operational by April 2022.

Indorama Ventures Sustainable Solutions is doubling the size of its PET recycling facility in Athens to the tune of $51.5 million.

Alabama State Port Authority in May began construction on a $365.7 million project to deepen and widen channels in Mobile. It should be complete by 2025.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology broke ground in May on two new facilities on its campus — the new headquarters for Discovery Life Sciences and a new lab and greenhouse for the Center for Plant Science Sustainable Agriculture.

Defense firm KBR announced plans in August for a $65 million expansion in Huntsville, including a new headquarters building.

Rehau, which makes components for Mercedes-Benz, announced a $50 million expansion in Huntsville in September.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Huntsville, in operation since 2003, completed a $288 million investment to add a twin-turbo V-6 engine to the lineup, and started producing the engines in October.

A newly renovated facility in Cummings Research Park in Huntsville will support Northrop Grumman’s work with the U.S. Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent Program. The facility, which opened in October, will add about 500 jobs.

Buying and selling

Otelco, based in Oneonta, sold its telecommunications business to Oak Hill Capital for $40 million. The sale closed in April.

UAB Health System in April bought Bessemer’s Medical West Hospital for $51.25 million.

Medical Properties Trust in June announced a $950 million investment to acquire 18 inpatient behavioral hospitals and an interest in Springstone LLC operations.

Huntsville’s Adtran announced in August a merger with Munich’s ADVA in a $931 million deal. It’s expected to be complete by mid-2022.

In December, Shoe Carnival purchased Mobile-based Shoe Station for $67 million.

Georgia-based White Cap Supply Holdings purchased Birmingham-based Ram Tool Construction Supply Co. in December.

Moving on

Katie Boyd Britt left her job as president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama to run for U.S. Senate.

Saying farewell

Judson College, a 183-year-old Baptist women’s college in Marion, closed its doors on July 31.

Yanfeng U.S. Automotive Systems in Cottondale closed in June.

Freight Car America headed for Mexico early in the year not long after accepting PPP loan funding.

Milestones and more

In January, Forbes named Auburn’s SiO2 Materials Science’s COVID-19 vaccine vials its product of the year. The company had opened a $163 million expansion at the end of 2020. At the end of the year, Doosan Corp. invested $100 million into the company to accelerate expansion into Asian markets.

In January, Redstone Arsenal was chosen as the U.S. Space Command’s new headquarters. Officials in Colorado are still fighting the move.

Landing, the new venture from Shipt founder Bill Smith, landed $100 million in funding early in the year, and later announced plans to move its headquarters from San Francisco to Birmingham.

Alabama’s Department of Commerce in February launched RurAL, an effort to boost economic development in rural areas.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing in Huntsville picked the Toyota Corolla Cross as the first vehicle in its production lineup. After a $2.3 billion investment, production at the plant started in September.

Hyundai in Montgomery kicked off production of the new Santa Cruz, made possible by a $410 million plant expansion.

Highlands College in Birmingham received a $20 million gift from Hobby Lobby founder David Green and his family. The money will be used to build a residence hall.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama produced its 5 millionth vehicle at its Montgomery plant. Production at the plant began in May 2005.

In April, workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer voted against unionization. A vote the other way would have made it the first unionization of Amazon workers in the world.


Coming up

National Cement Co.’s $250 million kiln expansion in Ragland should go online in 2022.

In 2022, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing will begin producing electric vehicles at its Montgomery plant.

Enviva sustainable wood pellet should begin production at its plant in Epes, Sumter County, in 2023.

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