Spotlight: Butler, Covington, Crewnshaw & Lowndes Counties

These four south Alabama counties offer quality of life amenities coupled with job opportunities in automotive, apparel, agriculture and retail sectors

The 1,000-acre Lake Frank Johnson, located in Opp, is the main attraction of Frank Jackson State Park.

Butler, Lowndes, Covington and Crenshaw counties, in the center of South Alabama, are close to automotive manufacturers, transportation routes and the Florida panhandle.

In Butler County, several business sectors have been positively impacted by recent acquisitions, says David Hutchison, executive director of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development. For example, Coastal Forest Products was purchased by Boise Cascade, REF Corp. was purchased by Hubbell Inc. and Ozark Materials was purchased by Ingevity Corp. Together these three companies currently employ more than 700 people.

“They represent three distinct industrial sectors — wood products, machined metal parts and transportation/specialty chemicals,” Hutchison says. “We are excited about our new corporate partners and the continued economic diversity they bring to our rural community.”

The county’s largest manufacturer is Hwashin America Corp. in Greenville, which makes automotive chassis. Other economic engines in the county include wood products, transportation/logistics and health care.

Greenville, the county seat, is planning to develop an entertainment venue in a former theater. More housing is planned here, too, and cabins are going up at a popular lake.

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Lowndes County’s largest employer is Saudi Basic Industries Corp., which makes engineered plastics, followed by Daehan Solutions Alabama and Sejong Alabama LLC, both automotive suppliers.

The county is focusing on beefing up and promoting its existing industrial parks, says Jim Byard Jr. of the Lowndes County Economic Development Commission.

“Lowndes County has industrial sites located near rail, the interstate and the Alabama River,” he says. “Our Lowndes County Industrial Park is located just off I-65 and offers 143 available acres. It is home to Hyundai supplier Daehan Solutions Alabama. Our I-65/Tyson Road site is our only AdvantageSite and is adjacent to I-65 and CSX. It covers 735 acres.

“Both of these sites are nine miles from the new Alabama Port Authority’s Inland Port in Montgomery,” he adds.

The county’s Alabama River Partners site offers 900 acres and is located adjacent to rail and to the Alabama River, and the Fort Deposit Industrial Park offers 188 acres and is home to Sejong Alabama.

The county also is working on expanding broadband, road projects and sewer repair and updates, he says.

In Covington County, the largest manufacturer is Shaw Industries, a carpet yarn maker, and American Apparel, which makes military uniforms and recently won a multi-million-dollar contract to make U.S. Marine Corps combat and utility uniforms. Other sectors include aviation and health care.

A huge addition to the economy in the county was just announced — Conecuh Sausage, an iconic maker of hickory smoked sausages, revealed plans to invest nearly $58 million to open a second production facility in Andalusia in Covington County, creating 110 jobs. The company was founded in Evergreen in neighboring Conecuh County in 1947 and that location still operates.

In the cities of Andalusia and Opp, several building and renovation projects are in progress. For example, in Andalusia, The Shoppes at Covington is a complete renovation of Covington Mall and is completely leased with national retailers, officials say. Another building downtown is being renovated.

A new park downtown, Heritage Park, is underway that will include a 1.4-acre pond, a concrete walking path, an exterior multi-purpose asphalt trail and an amphitheater. The city also plans to add a gazebo, pavilion and carousel. A hotel company has expressed interest in locating in the Timmerman Building downtown.

Opp has renovated its municipal building’s second floor for a larger public room and courtroom, and the first floor will be devoted to the court system. The city moved the police department to another building. The city also has remodeled its fire department, with the second floor becoming a training space and doubling as a distribution point for services as needed, he says. The police department will be housed in a newly acquired Wells Fargo bank building.

Downtown, the city finished an open-air farmers market and moved its recycling center to another location. Most of the space available in the heart of downtown on Covington Avenue is occupied.

Crenshaw County’s largest manufacturing employers include automotive suppliers — with the top two largest being ITAC Alabama LLC (formerly Smart), which makes automotive frames for Hyundai vehicles, and Dongwon Autopart Technology Alabama, which makes door frames, inner assembles and more. Distribution is strong, as well as wood/lumber products and health care.

The biggest project in Crenshaw County’s history, officials say, is a $15 million sports complex underway in Luverne. The complex will have eight baseball and softball fields, two soccer fields, a track and field area, an RV park and a lake. It is expected to be finished in a couple of years and is being paid for with tax dollars.

Also, in the town of Brantley, officials anticipate the opening of the South Central Alabama Mental Health Crisis Diversion Center, expected to serve Butler, Coffee, Covington, Crenshaw and Escambia counties, says Brantley Mayor Bernard Sullivan.

A Community Development Block Grant will provide the water and sewer services for the facility. It is being built on five acres that is part of the city’s new light industrial park. It will be open 24 hours and expected to create at least 65 new jobs. The industrial park also has attracted a couple of new light industries, Sullivan says.

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

For more on Butler, Covington, Crenshaw & Lowndes counties, see the links below:

Economic Engines

Health Care

Higher Education

Movers & Shapers

Community Development

Culture & Recreation

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

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