Spotlight: Limestone and Morgan counties

These two north central Alabama counties are home to a variety of industries, recreational opportunities and other amenities

Water is abundant in these counties that border the Tennessee River, Wheeler Lake and Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

Morgan County

Located in north central Alabama, Morgan County is home to a variety of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemical manufacturing, metals and food processing, as well as several Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies, among them GE Appliances, Nucor Steel, Cerrowire and Sonoco Products. Employment opportunities in the area are plentiful, as reflected by the county’s low unemployment rate: 1.9% in 2022, one of the lowest in the state.

One major draw for business and industry — Morgan County’s location on the Tennessee River and proximity to I-65 make it a gateway to national and global markets. It is also served by one of the country’s best rail-barge systems and three public port facilities.

As the workforce continues to grow, new residential development projects are underway to keep up with demand. One of the largest new developments is an 80.86-acre subdivision in Decatur with 432 homes, including 180 townhomes. The city’s first upscale gated rental property, which will consist of 100 townhomes and five retail spaces, also is under development as well as a 175-unit luxury apartment complex.

Each of Morgan County’s seven cities and towns offer easy access to shopping, dining and entertainment. Decatur is an arts-based community with a vibrant cultural scene, including four free museums, the landmark Princess Theatre and the Alabama Center for the Arts. Two of its historic neighborhoods make up the largest concentration of Victorian-era craftsman and bungalow homes in Alabama.

Morgan County’s entire northern border lies along the Tennessee River and Wheeler Lake, which offer a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities. Fishing, hunting and hiking options, along with great vantage points for viewing wildlife, abound in the 35,000-acre Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

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Limestone County

Just north of Morgan County, Limestone County is the fastest-growing county in the state and shows no sign of slowing down. Located within the Huntsville metropolitan statistical area, Limestone County enjoys the benefits of the area’s rapid development, while remaining committed to maintaining the small-town charm of its communities.

Like Morgan County, Limestone County boasts a low unemployment rate: 1.6%. That’s due in large part to it being home to five Fortune 500 Companies — Tenneco, Polaris, Steelcase, WestRock and Target Distribution Center — as well as newer arrivals like Gregory Industries, Amazon and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing.

Limestone County is also home to Robotics Technology Park. The state-of-the-art training center, the first of its kind in the country, offers free robotics training to employees and companies located in Alabama. The park has three facilities: the robotic maintenance training center, the advanced technology research and development center and the integration, entrepreneurial and paint training center.

To accommodate its rapidly growing population, the Limestone County Commission approved residential development on more than 2,300 lots in 2022, and as of January 2023, almost 3,500 residential units have been approved to pull a building permit, with many more in various stages of the approval process. Construction of a 256-unit luxury apartment complex in Athens also is underway.

In step with residential development are improvements to roads and infrastructure and finding ways to address increased traffic in the area.

Athens, the county seat, prides itself on its classic Southern character, and its historic downtown square is a popular destination for residents and visitors alike, thanks to Athens Main Street, a community-based non-profit focused on the renovation, revitalization and future growth of the downtown area.

The county is bounded by the Elk River to the north and west and the Tennessee River and Wheeler Lake Reservoir to the south, making it a great area for fishing, kayaking, boating and other aquatic activities. Add to that miles of walking, biking and hiking trails, and you’ve got an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Katherine MacGilvray is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. She is based in Huntsville.

For more on Limestone and Morgan counties, see the links below:

Economic Engines

Health Care

Higher Education

Movers & Shapers

Community Development

Culture & Recreation

This story appears in the August 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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