Montgomery County, in central Alabama, is part of the state’s River Region and is home to the state’s capitol city. Steeped in history, it is known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and is home to a major Air Force base.
Montgomery is strategically located at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Interstate 65, with the Alabama and Tallapoosa rivers running through it, bringing a great deal of economic diversity.
It is home to state and regional governments; Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base, the area’s largest overall employer; an extensive service industry; wholesale and retail trade, and an industrial base that includes Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, the area’s largest industrial employer.
The county and the city work together and with other entities to improve the quality of life and to promote economic development. One of the most ambitious projects to date, the Montgomery Internet Exchange (MIX), is a joint project led by Maxwell-Gunter, the city of Montgomery, Montgomery County, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and Retirement Systems of Alabama.
The region is uniquely positioned to become a leader in cyber technology thanks to a convergence of factors, including the RSA-owned state-of-the-art datacenter downtown, proximity to Maxwell — home to Air University and the “IT Nerve Center” of the Air Force — and the city’s central location amid the business hubs of the Southeast. Internet content delivery pioneer Akamai provided the hardware needed to bring the MIX online.
The MIX now operates as one of only four internet exchange points in the South, offering internet service providers an alternative to already-clogged locations, like Atlanta. An internet exchange point is an infrastructure through which service providers and content delivery networks exchange internet traffic.
Initial reports forecast a potential economic impact similar to the transformation seen by Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama and its supplier base. It’s a big win for the River Region’s tech future, along with adding the infrastructure needed for Maxwell to continue leading the military in cybersecurity research, says Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.
“It’s our future, ” Strange says. “I think we’ll look back to February 2015 and recognize it as a major step.”
Montgomery has experienced steady growth and revitalization in all areas of the city. The city crashed through the $100 million mark in sales tax revenue this year for the first time. And, between 2010 and 2016, it saw 7, 719 announced jobs in new and expanding industries. It has ranked first in the Alabama Business Confidence Index 19 of the past 25 quarters, Strange says.
In addition to a core of historic buildings, downtown Montgomery is home to several hundred new apartments, lofts and condos, and a growing downtown entertainment district.
The city’s investment in its sports facilities has landed major sports events, including the Raycom Camellia Bowl, televised by ESPN, and now the Montgomery Kickoff Classic, which will be the first ESPN-televised college game of the 2017 season. As a result of more tourism, the city has at least three new hotels coming, and private developers continue to invest in all areas of the city.
While enjoying growth in population, industry and tourism, Montgomery has focused on essential services and fiscal responsibility. At the close of the 2016 fiscal year, revenues climbed to approximately $230.4 million, an increase of $3 million from a year ago and $400, 000 above budget.
The county continues to invest in its school system, with millions generated from a 1-cent sales tax earmarked for the system. A new high school opened in east Montgomery, and the Montgomery Preparatory Academy for Career Technologies opened in fall 2016. Soon to join that will be the central location of the Montgomery Regional Workforce Training Center.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
Text by Lori Chandler Pruitt