Spotlight: Greene, Hale, Marengo & Sumter counties

Located in west Alabama, Marengo, Hale, Greene and Sumter counties form a sportsman's paradise

All four counties are making improvements to parks, river access and other amenities, including at Demopolis’ Riverwalk. Photo by Art Meripol.

Marengo, Hale, Sumter and Greene counties are located in west Alabama, part of the state’s famed Black Belt region. The counties form a sportsman’s paradise, with many opportunities for hunting, fishing and boating.

The region also is very strong in the forest products industry, and that sector has grown a great deal. Just in the last year or two, biofuel producer Enviva has started a wood pellet manufacturing facility in Port of Epes Industrial Park in Sumter County that is expected to open in late 2023. Drax Group opened a new wood pellet plant in Marengo County, adding to its plant in Aliceville in Pickens County. And Superior Inland Terminals acquired a facility on the Tombigbee River in Demopolis for an intermodal logistics hub.

Another major sector is education — specifically, the influence of the University of West Alabama in Sumter County and Wallace Community College Selma’s Demopolis campus in Marengo County. Both are heavily involved in workforce development, offering courses, apprenticeships and degrees to ensure there are plenty of skilled workers for high-demand jobs in the area.

And in Demopolis, renovations have begun on a former armory that will become the West Alabama Regional Training Center. The center will house technical programs for WCC Selma’s Demopolis campus, including industrial maintenance, HVAC, welding, commercial truck driving and specialized short-term training for local industries.

Local school systems are also offering workforce programs.

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Banks Compton created this mural for his hometown. Photo by Art Meripol.

Newest on the school scene is University Charter School, founded in 2017. It offers classes from kindergarten through 11th grade and will add 12th grade in the fall. The school is on the UWA campus in Livingston and a new building is under construction there. Through a major grant and partnerships with local and regional employers, UCS students will be able to explore six specific pathways — health science, computer science, skilled trades, rural business and entrepreneurship, education and integrated marketing/communications. UCS has closed an almost 40% achievement gap between black and white students in Sumter County.

Along with strong manufacturing sectors, health care also is very strong in all four counties. At least two counties have passed tax hikes to better fund hospitals and keep health care close to home.

All four counties are working to improve broadband services, and are making improvements to parks, river access and other amenities for residents and visitors. And FAA grants are helping beef up local airports.

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

Lions Park in Greensboro, designed by Auburn Rural Studio. Photo by Art Meripol.

For more on Greene, Hale, Marengo and Sumter counties, see the links below:

In Focus

Economic Engines

Health Care

Higher Education

Movers & Shapers

Community Development

Culture & Recreation

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

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