Spotlight: Baldwin County

One of the fastest growing counties in the U.S., Baldwin County offers residents and visitors multiple entertainment venues, jobs in tourism, manufacturing and more

Owa’s many features include an indoor water park.

Baldwin County, home to the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches, is growing very quickly. In fact, it’s now the fourth-largest county in Alabama by population, and the 7th-fastest growing county in the United States. The county welcomes about 7,100 new residents each year.

All of this growth has affected every single sector in the county’s economy — from housing to parks and recreation, roads, airports and other infrastructure, public safety, city and county services and much more. Cities and the county are working to ensure that quality of life, sustainability and preservation remain priorities in the region.

Visitors to the Graham Creek Nature Preserve, in Foley, enjoy one of the park’s walking trails.

Baldwin County’s largest economic driver is tourism, with an estimated 65,000 people working in tourism in 2022. In 2022, Baldwin and Mobile counties combined to generate 42.8% of the state’s total tourism expenditures ($6.1 billion) and almost 36.7% of the state’s total travel-related employment. Also in 2022, Baldwin County welcomed 8.3 million visitors who spent $7.9 billion dollars in the county — again leading the state, according to the latest Alabama Tourism Department Economic Impact Study. With sports and other events showing no sign of slowing down, every season generates significant economic impact.

Rounding out the major economic sectors is aerospace/aviation, where Collins Aerospace is currently the largest manufacturing employer; distribution/manufacturing; health care; higher education; and retail.

The advent of Novelis’ aluminum facility in Bay Minette has opened a strong new sector in the economy. The company expects to invest $4.1 billion and create about 1,000 jobs. It is the first fully integrated aluminum mill built in the U.S. in 40 years. Novelis also plans a 70,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing and Leadership Training Center in Daphne.

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“Novelis is changing the face of Bay Minette and north Baldwin County dramatically,” says Mayor Robert Wills. “Bay Minette is growing, and our city government is aggressively pursuing new businesses and industries, as well as promoting residential development.”

Health care has exploded in growth. South Baldwin Regional Medical Center in Foley is undergoing a $250 million expansion that increases its capacity to 140 beds. USA Health has opened the Mapp Family Campus in Fairhope. These and other providers are adding services and locations to meet the added demand for health care.

“Without the growth there would not be the new hospital being built in Foley,” says Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich. “Sometimes there are benefits having new facilities and expanded facilities….to help support our citizens.”

Park Pass at Alabama Point in Orange Beach.

Also in Foley is Owa Parks & Resort, a major project of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, with hotels, restaurants, water park, RV park and more.

Growth also affects schools, and they are answering the call. Baldwin County schools are anticipating the opening of the Baldwin Preparatory Academy, the first stand-alone career and technical education high school of its kind in Alabama. Gulf Shores City schools is building a new high school along with increasing capacity at other schools, and Orange Beach City schools, opened in 2021, is planning a $46 million athletic complex.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.

For more on Baldwin County, see the links below:

Economic Engines

Health Care

Higher Education

Movers & Shapers

Community Development

Culture & Recreation

This story appears in the May 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

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