Spotlight: Cullman, Walker & Winston Counties

A fisherman tries his hand on Walker County Public Lake, a 163-acre lake in Jasper.

Cullman, Walker and Winston counties are located in north central Alabama, with close
proximity to larger metro areas and major interstates. Outdoor and historical tourism is very popular, with a lot of attention paid to quality of life for residents and visitors. 

All three counties are investing heavily in getting faster and more affordable broadband internet service to residents and businesses, with several initiatives in progress. 

Cullman County is No. 2 in Alabama for total agricultural production, and ranks second for poultry and eggs and for milk. 

It has other strong sectors as well. Manu-facturing operations cover a wide range, from automotive and plumbing to corrugated boxes and poultry. General Dynamics has machining and optics operations here. The county has several other active and growing sectors, including two large textile companies that are adding personal protective equipment to their product lines in response to COVID-19, creating more jobs. 

Cullman’s school systems, Wallace State Community College and local
governments and businesses work together to create opportunities for students and adults. For example, Wallace State has opened a Center for Career and Workforce Development to fill workforce demand. Construction will begin soon
on a Technical Education Center. 

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Walker County’s economic development is focused on speculative buildings, long a part of the strategic development plan for Jasper and Walker County. The Jasper Industrial Board, Walker County Development Authority and Alabama Power have worked together over the years to construct, market and sell four buildings and one site, generating more than $165 million in capital investment and creating more than 550 jobs. A fifth site, in the Jasper Industrial Park, is available for sale or lease. 

The county’s top manufacturers are in automotive, poultry, lumber and building components.

The city of Jasper, in Walker County, is a retail hub, and that sector continues to grow. Partnerships are important here, as well. Bevill State Community College has partnered with city and county schools on a Workforce Solutions Rapid Training Center and with Alabama Power on an HVAC training center in Jasper’s Industrial Park. 

In Winston County, a large and quickly growing sector is manufactured housing, while other top manufacturers work in furniture, building products, flat-bed trailers, lumber and fiberglass bathtubs and shower units.

Economic Engines

Agribusiness/wood production
Cullman County is No. 2 in Alabama for total agricultural production. It is the second-largest poultry producer in the state, ranking second in poultry and eggs. Cullman also ranks second in milk production.

Aerial of Industrial Park III, in Cullman, showing Topre America, NAFCO, Advanced Heat Treat and Sequence Health

Local high schools offer agriscience programs, and the county has its own Agriplex for events and to raise awareness of the county’s heritage and future in agriculture. 

There are several industries in the county related to agriculture. GSI Group, a subsidiary of the AGCO Corp., produces grain management systems and poultry production equipment. River Valley Ingredients, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, is the largest rendering plant in the world. Golden Rod Feed Mill and Golden Rod Broilers add to Cullman’s large poultry-industry cluster. 

Walker County has major representation in this sector, with Mar-Jac Poultry in Jasper its largest manufacturing employer. Wood production also is strong, with Jasper Lumber among its largest employers. 

And Winston County has several companies in this sector, including Kith Furniture, Masonite Corp., Universal Forest Products and Grayson Lumber. 

The automotive sector is a major driver in Cullman County. Many of the largest manufacturing employers are automotive suppliers, together employing more than 2,100 people. Those include Topre America, REHAU Automotive, Yutaka Technologies and NAFCO.

This sector also is very well represented in Walker County, with Yorozu Automotive Alabama opening in 2018 and set to expand, HTNA and Nitto Denko. Winston County has Lippert Components, which makes leisure vehicle components.  

Yorozu Automotive Alabama, in Walker County, makes stamped suspension components for Honda, Toyota and Nissan.

Higher Education
Cullman County is home to Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. The school serves about 6,000 students and is one of the largest employers in the county. WSCC is active in workforce preparation, with its new Center for Career and Workforce Development and numerous industry partnerships, plus plans to expand the welding program and open an entrepreneurship and technology incubator. 

Bevill State Community College, with Walker County campuses in Jasper and Sumiton, has a large impact on the area, both in educational opportunities, workforce development and more. Recently, Bevill State opened an HVAC training center in conjunction with Alabama Power and a Workforce Solutions Rapid Training Center, both in Jasper. 

Wallace State Nursing Center

Diversified Manufacturing
All three counties have diverse manufacturers that help keep unemployment down, even during COVID-19. 

Because of Cullman’s manufacturing diversity, the unemployment rate, after the initial closings because of COVID-19, has dropped faster than the rest of the nation. In July 2020, the unemployment rate was already back to 5.1%, officials say. Steel, metals, textiles and distribution are key elements in the sector.

Walker and Winston counties continue to have announcements and expansions, resulting in more jobs. Manufactured home building is growing rapidly in both counties, as is the coal sector. In fact, Warrior Met Coal and the Walker County Development Authority announced the development and construction of a $50 million barge load-out facility to be built in Walker County to support Warrior Met’s metallurgical coal mining operation near Tuscaloosa. Total mine investment is expected to be $578 million, creating 371 jobs. 

Winston County is home to several companies in the wood production industry.

Health Care
Cullman Regional Medical Center is the largest employer in Cullman County,
with 1,300 employees. It generates more than $135 million in net revenue per
year. The hospital plans a $30 million expansion of the emergency room and broke ground on a new outpatient facility in Hartselle in nearby Morgan County.  

In June, Walker Baptist Medical Center, in Jasper, marked 40 years of service. It is part of Brookwood Baptist Health and is one of the largest employers in Walker County, with 690 employees and a total economic impact of $173.1 million.

Lakeland Community Hospital, in Haleyville, is one of Winston County’s largest employers and recently celebrated 50 years of operation. The hospital recently opened a new admitting area at the front entrance. 

With its proximity to Huntsville, Cullman Regional Airport’s Folsom Field is following a five-year plan to improve and grow. Cullman has some aerospace companies such as General Dynamics, which makes guided missile/space vehicle parts. 

Target-market studies have shown that Cullman should focus on this sector.  Future development at the airport will be geared toward developing that vision.

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