Autauga and Elmore counties in south-central Alabama are crisscrossed with major waterways that provide residents and tourists many prime outdoor recreation venues, and both are among the fastest growing counties in the state. They are situated near Montgomery, where they benefit from and add to the economic success of the region, with many residents commuting to jobs in the state capital.
Both counties boast a great quality of life and a friendly atmosphere toward business. Cities are centered on historic downtown districts and ringed with growing suburban areas. These counties also are growing increasingly diverse economies, and many of their major industries have expanded in recent years.
In the case of Autauga County, Amy Brabham, the new economic development director with the Prattville Chamber of Commerce, says the department now has a strategic plan that includes a new marketing plan and logo, and the county is looking to recruit more automotive suppliers, aerospace and information technology, she says. The county’s Prattville South Industrial Park recently received the EDPA’s AdvantageSite designation.
Autauga’s county seat is Prattville. The largest overall employers are the Autauga County Board of Education, International Paper, Wal-Mart, the city of Prattville government and Prattville Baptist Hospital. The largest industrial employer is International Paper, and the top list also includes automotive suppliers, plastics and textiles.
Autauga County has been improving its Autauga Creek Canoe Trail, a National Recreation Trail, which offers 13 miles of mostly blue water. The county is also working on other projects to boost eco-tourism.
Elmore’s county seat is Wetumpka, and Millbrook is the largest city. The county’s largest overall employers include the Elmore County Board of Education and Wind Creek Casino & Hotel. The largest industrial employers are GKN Aerospace, Neptune Technology Group and Hanil USA. Elmore County has several industrial parks as well and is developing a new business park in Millbrook.
“We are interested in recruiting everything from machining to aerospace, ” says Leisa Finley, executive director of the Elmore County Economic Development Authority. “We target mostly small to mid-sized companies, but we also have the 750, 000-square-foot former Russell building, which can be used as one campus or three individual buildings.”
In Millbrook, the Alabama Wildlife Federation opened its NaturePlex, a 23, 000-square-foot heated and cooled facility that will serve as the group’s welcome and education center for the Alabama Nature Center. The $6 million project includes a theater/auditorium, hands-on discovery hall, classrooms, a multipurpose room, a gift shop and offices.
Elmore County is one of the fastest growing in the state, and county government has responded with a blueprint for roadwork, as well as a recreation priority plan. Workforce development is also a priority in both counties, with partnerships giving area K-12 students and adults more opportunities to advance. Millbrook’s Stanhope Elmore High School also will have a Central Alabama Community College site that will offer college classes for the community.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
Text by Lori Chandler Pruitt