Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb and Cherokee counties in northeast Alabama offer easy access to high-tech and manufacturing opportunities in the Huntsville/Madison County area but in a setting known for its beautiful lakes, fascinating caves and state parks.
While economic developers are keen to attract industry in established sectors and in new ones, of late, many are focused on hiring workers to fill existing jobs. Agencies such as the Marshall County Economic Development Council work very closely with K-12 schools and programs for industry partners.
“We are still definitely recruiting industry, but we have backed off a bit because we want to make sure we can fill the jobs we already have here,” says Matt Arnold, president and CEO. “We are spending more money and time on our workforce development.”
Nathan Lee, president and CEO of Jackson County Economic Development Authority, adds, “We want to do whatever we can to make sure that Jackson County has a very strong workforce.”
To meet that goal, economic developers are partnering with schools to create work-relevant programming. Northeast Alabama and Snead State community colleges have new Workforce Skills Centers in progress. Students can prepare for industrial maintenance, construction crafts, HVAC, welding and other needed career paths.
Public schools also are opening new career-oriented facilities. Career-tech centers in all four counties offer programs such as construction, collision repair, drone aviation, masonry and aviation technology.
Along with economic development, counties are creating recreational and community improvement projects to benefit and attract residents and attract tourists. Projects include sports parks, amphitheaters, splash pads, waterparks, walking trails, downtown beautification, riverfront and lake projects — especially appealing to people who can work remotely and want to live in a more picturesque place.
A major boost for the region is Guntersville City Harbor, which opened in the summer of 2022 and combines live entertainment, restaurants, shopping and short-term luxury condominium accommodations. The project will soon include a $15 million destination hotel, taking the overall harbor area investment to $30 million.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
For more on Jackson, Marshall, DeKalb & Cherokee counties, see the links below:
This story appears in the November 2023 issue of Business Alabama.