Chilton, Dallas and Bibb counties, located in west central Alabama, share an abundance of natural resources, a rich heritage and cultural and recreation resources. And they are working hard and successfully to attract business and industry to the area.
Economic developers are working to ensure that more people are able to work in the county that they live in, and there have been several new developments in that area. Each county has an airport that is geared toward more development.
In Chilton County in 2015, there were at least 11 expansions announced, totaling $12.4 million and adding 79 jobs. Last fall, the county and the city of Clanton purchased more than 500 acres near Exit 212 on Interstate 65 for an industrial park. At the same time, agriculture continues to be an important sector of the Chilton County economy.
In Chilton County, residents voted overwhelmingly for a one-cent sales tax increase to build a new hospital. This fall, St. Vincent’s Chilton will open, giving residents a hospital for the first time since 2012. It can be seen from I-65 and officials hope it will spur economic growth.
Local developers in Dallas County are buying historic buildings and refurbishing them for lofts and businesses, and the city of Selma is making improvements in the historic district downtown, the site of several developments in the Civil Rights movement. A historic theater is now being operated by a local church, helping provide jobs for youth.
In Bibb County, the city of Centreville is building a pavilion as part of improvements to its River Walk area, with volunteers working on the nearby historic Centreville Depot. The Depot houses the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce and more public areas are planned.
In 2015, Dallas County ranked in the upper 50 percent of Alabama’s 67 counties for job growth and capital investment. The state’s most recent report shows one new company, Aguila Recovery Products, with 22 jobs and a $1.4 million investment. Six other companies expanded, with a total investment of $63 million and a combined 241 added jobs. Expanding companies include automotive suppliers, paper and wood products companies.
“Our three main targets are aviation, forest products and automotive, ” says Wayne Vardaman, executive director of the Selma Dallas County Economic Development Authority. “We have a 10, 000-foot runway, we are in the wood basket of the state, and we have three automotive suppliers that employ nearly 1, 000 people.” The county also is working toward getting international pilot training to its airport. The airport also includes a busy industrial park.
Since 2011, Bibb County has recorded $13 million in investment and 302 new jobs, says Mark Tyner, Bibb County administrator and economic development director. “We are focusing on manufacturing and industrial clients, especially with the potential offered by the Scott G. Davis Industrial Park, ” Tyner says. “With over 500 available acres, close proximity to Interstate 59/20 and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., and a commitment by the community to provide as many opportunities for residents as possible, the park is poised to develop very quickly.”
The park’s initial client, ThyssenKrupp Materials North America Inc., a materials processing and distribution center, is exceeding goals and expectations and has been a welcome addition to the community, Tyner says. The plant is undergoing road resurfacing and other improvements.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
Text by Lori Chandler Pruitt