Spotlight: Fayette, Lamar & Marion Counties

Marion, Fayette and Lamar counties, located in northwest Alabama, are home to healthy downtown districts, amenities for residents and visitors and a variety of manufacturing employers.

The courthouse in Fayette County. Photo by Art Meripol.

Marion, Fayette and Lamar counties are located in northwest Alabama. They have natural resources, healthy downtown districts and amenities that benefit residents and visitors.

The region also offers many job opportunities, a trend officials expect to continue. Several new companies have opened and several existing ones have expanded, fueled by the completion of Interstate 22 from Birmingham to Memphis and by the ongoing efforts to bring high-speed internet through Freedom Fiber, a company of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, Alabama Power and others.

“We have had a really good year with the expansion of several of our existing industries,” says Tom Wisemiller, appointed in spring 2021 as president and CEO of C3 of Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, a tri-county economic development organization. “In 2022, we will be paying a lot of care and attention to our existing industry programs and partnerships, and strategically looking for areas to grow.”

For example, officials are focused on attracting Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers, especially with the close proximity of Mercedes-Benz in Tuscaloosa and other manufacturers.

Such efforts build on the region’s diverse manufacturing, ranging from medical gloves to forklift parts to reflective signs to recreational vehicles. The metals sector is growing, and several of those companies are among the largest in the area.

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For Marion County, the largest manufacturing employer is Kith Kitchens, which makes cabinet doors and sets; in Fayette County, it is Showa Best Gloves; and in Lamar County, it is Bolzoni Auramo, which makes forklift parts.

Several of the area’s largest manufacturers are in the growing manufactured home sector.

In 2020, the three counties saw five new projects and three expansions for a total of 530 new jobs and $26.6 million in investment, with more announced in 2021. Part of the success comes from the robust workforce development in the area, offering options for high school students and also adults.

“We are at the point where we are growing new opportunities, and so we’ll also focus on more housing and quality of life attractions,” Wisemiller says.

Winfield was hit by a tornado in late December and the town’s residents are hard at work recovering. Photo by Art Meripol.

This region is considered a great place to raise a family. There is a great deal of pride among residents in preserving the historic integrity of the area along with the progress. Some of the cities are designated as Alabama Communities of Excellence and have beautification efforts or Main Street organizations and historic preservation boards to help preserve and grow their cities. Some cities have aggressively revitalized their downtowns and built popular attractions in their city parks, such as water parks, splash pads and playgrounds that also bring in visitors.

This region already is popular for ecotourism. It is No. 1 in the state for deer hunting, and major rivers and lakes offer great fishing, canoeing, campgrounds and more. Waterways include the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, the Sipsey Valley River Wilderness Area and Bear Creek Lakes.

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a Birmingham-based freelance writer for Business Alabama.

For more on Fayette, Lamar and Marion counties, see the links below:

Economic Engines

Health Care

Higher Education

Movers & Shapers

Community Development

Culture & Recreation

This story appears in the February 2022 issue of Business Alabama magazine.

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