Spotlight on Baldwin County: Economic Engines

Tourism, manufacturing, aerospace, distribution and more make up the industrial base in Baldwin County

Segers Aerospace in Foley performs aircraft engine maintenance.


Tourism continues to be the predominant economic driver for Baldwin County, as the county leads the state with an estimated 65,000 people employed in the tourism industry in 2022, resulting in more than $2.7 billion in travel-related wages.

In 2022, Baldwin and Mobile counties combined to generate 42.8% of the state’s total tourism expenditures ($9.5 billion) and almost 36.7% of the state’s total travel-related employment. In 2022, Baldwin County welcomed 8.3 million visitors who spent $7.9 billion dollars in the county — again leading the state, according to the latest Alabama Tourism Department Economic Impact Study.

“Alabama’s beaches continue to fit the trends that experts identify as most important to travelers — road trips, beach destinations, and nature and outdoors,” says Beth Gendler, president and CEO of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “Our ability to fit all three of these major travel trends, even before the pandemic, has resulted in a consistent visitation growth by season, year-over-year.”

According to Gendler, summer remains the busiest time of year for the area’s tourism industry, but continued growth across spring, fall and winter brings economic consistency to local tourism businesses and workers.

“This consistency across all four seasons is vital to our local businesses,” she says. “Because consistent occupancy levels throughout the year mean businesses can keep their staff employed all year. Year-round employment for our workers means more consistent service for our visitors.

- Sponsor -

“South Baldwin County is a tourism economy, with tourism making up almost 28% of the county’s entire workforce. Growth in tourism means a strong, year-round economy, which means a stronger quality of life for residents. That is what any industry should bring to a community.”

Across south Baldwin County — especially Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the Fort Morgan Peninsula — tourism growth is evident with new restaurants and small businesses opening, and hotels and vacation rental properties are under construction. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports and Events, a division of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, has plans to construct a new sports complex to accommodate the rapid growth of youth and collegiate sports tournaments. The cities in the southern part of the county also have major capital projects and road improvements planned or currently underway.


Aluminum producer and recycler Novelis is building an advanced manufacturing facility at the South Alabama Mega Site in Baldwin County. With plans to invest $4.1 billion, Novelis is expected to create approximately 1,000 jobs at its low-carbon recycling and rolling plant on the 3,000-acre site in Bay Minette. The plant will be the first fully integrated aluminum mill built in the United States in 40 years. 

The plant will leverage the company’s long-term relationships with many of the world’s leading beverage, packaging and automotive brands to meet the growing demand for sustainable aluminum solutions. The plant will be primarily powered with renewable energy, use recycled water and be a zero-waste facility. Novelis is committed to being a carbon-neutral company by 2050 or sooner and plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2026.

Novelis also announced plans to develop a 70,000-square-foot Advanced Manufacturing and Leadership Training Center. The center will be located at the Daphne Innovation + Science Complex.

Aerospace companies/aviation

Baldwin County has a growing aerospace community. Its proximity to Mobile County, home to Airbus and other aerospace companies, ensures further growth. Its largest manufacturing employer is Collins Aerospace in Foley, which makes thrust reversers and nacelle components. Segers Aerospace in Fairhope is an aerospace/defense MRO.

The Academy at the Fairhope Airport, a partnership among Coastal Alabama Community College, Baldwin County schools and the Fairhope Airport Authority, offers technical training for high school dual enrollment and adult students.

Auburn University’s School of Aviation delivers aviation learning for K-12 students and hosts unmanned aircraft systems courses at its Gulf Shores complex. Coastal Alabama Community College offers a new aviation technology short-term certificate program.

The county has four airports. Gulf Shores International Airport was just awarded a $5 million grant for its new commercial terminal, which will provide direct commercial air service; and H.S. “Sonny” Callahan Airport in Fairhope just broke ground on a $2.4 million terminal. The Bay Minette Municipal Airport has a refurbished 55,000-square-foot runway, charters, 30 T-hangars and a combination of new services; and Foley Municipal Airport is expanding to enhance the taxiway and add an eight-unit T-hangar.

Ideal for logistics or distribution operations, the Port Alabama Industrial Center in Loxley has 1,000 acres with direct access to Interstate 10, nearby access to Highway 59 and within 45 minutes of two commercial airports.

Distribution/diverse manufacturing

Baldwin County is home to a diverse group of distribution companies. In 2023, Aldi Inc. opened its regional headquarters and distribution center in Loxley, a $100 million investment. And in 2022, Imperial Dade, a food packaging supply company, opened a 220,000-square-foot logistics hub, also in Loxley. Ace Hardware Support Center in Loxley has 300 employees.

Diverse sectors in the largest manufacturers include metals, fibers, medical instruments, air compressors, paper products, wood preserving and air filters.


This area is known as a retail paradise, offering unique and fun places to shop. Foley is home to outlets, and the picturesque village of Fairhope has well-known antique shops and specialty stores. Cities have added small businesses, stores big and small, restaurants, hotels and condominiums.

A rendering of Hatch’s new home in Fairhope.


Hatch is a business hub that provides facilities and resources for technology-based entrepreneurs to learn and grow their businesses in Baldwin County. Hatch’s new home, to open in 2026, will be at the former Fairhope K-1 Center and is funded by the Coastal Alabama Community College, the city of Fairhope and the Baldwin Community + Economic Development Foundation (BCEDF).

Hatch expects to tap into a new level of business growth opportunity, creating sustainable job opportunities by fostering local entrepreneurial culture, developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and linking Coastal Alabama Community College resources to emerging tech companies in Baldwin County.

In October 2023, Innovate Alabama admitted the BCEDF into its Innovate Alabama Network and granted it $250,000 in support of Hatch. The grant will help fund two 8- to 10-week biotech programs to bolster biotechnology growth in Alabama and pave the way for innovation internships.

Business Briefs:

March 2024: The new Gulf Coast Eco Center, an environmental education campus and part of The Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism & Sustainability, is being built on city of Gulf Shores property adjacent to Gulf Shores High School and Gulf State Park, funded by a $17 million RESTORE grant. It should be completed in spring 2025.

March 2024: Baldwin County’s Daphne-Fairhope-Foley metro area is among the fastest growing in the nation, according to the latest census data. Baldwin County, which is now the fourth-largest county in Alabama, is the 7th-fastest growing county nationwide.

March 2024: The city of Foley’s new Medical Overlay District has its first project — a 12-acre health care facility on Fern Avenue. The district was created in 2023 to encourage medical services development in the area.

March 2024: Design work has begun on the Auburn University Gulf Coast Engineering Research Station, to be built in Orange Beach on property provided by the city.

March 2024: Owa Parks & Resort opens Tropic Falls – Big Water Bay outdoor wave pool and Coastal Curl surf simulator. The resort also has added pickleball courts in its entertainment district.

February 2024: Gulf Shores International Airport is awarded a $5 million grant for a new commercial terminal.  

February 2024: Aluminum manufacturer Novelis has revised its expected capital investment to $4.1 billion. Announced in 2022, the facility is expected to open in 2026 and generate about 1,000 jobs.

February 2024: Gulf Shores High School is slated to open for the 2026 school year. The Gulf Shores City Council approved a $131 million contract with Rabren General Contractors to build the 287,000-square-foot school.

January 2024: The Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance launches its talent attraction and development campaign, “Belong in Baldwin,” to help support economic development initiatives. 

August 2023: The vacant Bama Bayou property in Orange Beach, which was purchased by The Wharf’s owner, is being dismantled.

November 2023: The city of Orange Beach school district receives city approval to build a $46 million athletic complex on the middle school/high school campus, with facilities for football, track and exercise.

November 2023: Holtz Builders, the city of Foley and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians break ground on an $18 million J-1 (U.S. Summer Work Travel Visa program) housing complex to house more than 600 seasonal workers. The building will be managed by International Residence Hall Inc.

October 2023: Officials at H.L. “Sonny” Callahan Airport in Fairhope break ground on a new $2.4 million terminal building, to be located adjacent to several new hangars.

October 2023: Novelis partners with Alabama Power to bring 160 MW of renewable energy to the Novelis’ plant underway in Bay Minette. Novelis aims to be carbon neutral for scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions.

October 2023: The Alabama Industrial Access Road and Bridge Corp., administered by ALDOT, is awarded a $5 million grant for road improvements at the Novelis site.

September 2023: Novelis secures a long-term customer contract with Ball Corp., securing all the beverage can capacity at its plant being built near Bay Minette.

September 2023: Ecovery announces a 40,000-square-foot, $20 million expansion in Loxley. 

August 2023: Baldwin County is awarded more than $33 million in GOMESA funding for projects across the county. 

August 2023: North Baldwin Utilities receives a $2.5 million grant for infrastructure improvements to support the Novelis plant in Bay Minette. 

June 2023: Novelis wins the Manufacturing Project of the Year award by Area Development. 

September 2023: Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance wins three International Development Council Awards, including Economic Development Organization of the Year, and is honored by Business Concept for aerospace industry development services. 

July 2023: Hecate Energy has announced plans for a $100 million solar farm in Baldwin County.

June 2023: Portside on Main is planned at The Wharf at Orange Beach, including retail, office and green space with an outdoor stage.

April 2023: Baldwin County leads the state of Alabama in capital investment in 2022.

December 2022: Baldwin County Public Schools breaks ground on a stand-alone career and technical education high school, Baldwin Preparatory Academy.

March 2023: The Home Depot announces plans to build a last-mile facility in Loxley in Baldwin County.

February 2023: South Baldwin Regional Medical Center breaks ground on a $300 million hospital expansion in Foley. 

January 2023: Aldi opens a regional headquarters and distribution center in Loxley.

November 2022: Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance awarded a $198,267 grant to fund electric vehicle charging stations. 

July 2022: Alabama awarded a “Silver Shovel” development award by Area Development with Aldi’s regional headquarters location. 

July 2022: The Economic Development Administration awards the City of Fairhope a $2.5 million grant to renovate the former K-1 Center for Hatch, a technology incubator. 

June 2022: Imperial Dade, a food packaging supply company, opens a 220,000-square-foot logistics hub in Loxley.

Source: Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, city/county officials

This article appears in the May 2024 issue of Business Alabama.

The latest Alabama business news delivered to your inbox