Autauga and Elmore counties are just north of Montgomery, the state capitol. Both offer an array of job opportunities and both are working to update downtowns and other amenities.
Both are building tourism options around their major waterways and creating sports tourism facilities. Also boosting tourism was the HGTV program “Home Town Takeover” that showed off the city of Wetumpka.
“These are exciting times,” says Jerry Willis, mayor of Wetumpka. “We had come a long way before HGTV chose us, and it hasn’t stopped.” The TV show renovated six commercial properties and six homes, and this has continued to attract many visitors. The city had already prioritized the arts and its Riverwalk, along with opening a $6 million municipal stadium and more.
In nearby Millbrook, the catalyst is The Fields at Seventeen Springs, a $50 million partnership between the city of Millbrook, Elmore County Commission, Elmore County Board of Education, Grandview YMCA and Elmore County Economic Development Authority. Phase 1 will include tennis courts, pickleball courts, four multi-purpose fields with turf, parking, walkways and more, says Ann Harper, Millbrook director of economic development. That phase should be done by fall 2022. The second phase will have a 100,000-square-foot space for indoor sports and small trade shows. It also includes a new stadium with a track and several ballfields. The YMCA will be offering programming as well. The project also includes a new fieldhouse.
“We think this is our catalyst project,” says Harper, economic development director for the city of Millbrook. “We are excited about the benefits for this community and for retail and other growth. Highway 14 is one of our major corridors. We feel this will attract hotels, restaurant chains and more. We want people to say, ‘Let’s go to Seventeen Springs for dinner’ and enjoy entertainment options there.”
It’s not all about tourism, though.
In fall 2021 Central Alabama Community College announced that it will move its Prattville campus from the Pratt’s Mill Shopping Center to a permanent location at the former East Memorial Baptist Church property, a 50,000-square-foot, 124-acre property. The college plans to expand programs and hire 40 employees, and it predicts that enrollment will grow from about 200 to 3,500. The Prattville City Council and the Autauga County Commission contributed $4 million to the college’s expansion — another partnership that will pay dividends to residents of all ages.
Joshua Johnson, economic development director of the city of Prattville, says given the proximity to Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, aerospace, defense and cybersecurity are target industries for Prattville. Both counties have automotive suppliers to supply nearby plants and that sector continues to grow.
And the Elmore County Economic Development Authority has announced it is working on four as-yet unannounced projects that could bring in 650 new manufacturing jobs and $180 million in capital investment in 2022.
A big development for Autauga County is the opening of James Hardie Building Products manufacturing facility in Prattville’s South Industrial Park. The company already has hired more than 180 people.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a Birmingham-based freelance writer for Business Alabama.
For more on Autauga and Elmore counties, see the links below:
This story appears in the January 2022 issue of Business Alabama magazine.