Chilton, Dallas and Wilcox counties range from the foothills of the Appalachians south along banks of the Alabama River — a region that’s home to agriculture, rich with history and appealing for hunting and fishing.
Cities and towns have made the most of their assets, with riverfront developments, downtown redevelopment and other amenities designed to enhance the quality of life.
Forest products and other agriculture have long been the backbone of the economy in these counties. While those industries continue to thrive, newer sectors have joined the mix in recent years — especially automotive suppliers.
Chilton County’s largest employer is Adient, in Clanton, an automotive seating and interiors supplier with 750 employees. Another major Clanton automotive supplier is Kumi Manufacturing Alabama LLC, which makes molded plastic products. More such firms are being recruited.
Major wood and paper employers in Chilton County include Boise Cascade, West Fraser, South Coast Paper and Taylor-Made/Reynolds. And the county’s new hospital, St. Vincent’s Chilton, opened in 2016, is also proving to be an economic engine.
Chilton County also has a branch of Jefferson State Community College, and its airport continues to grow to accommodate larger aircraft.
In Dallas County, which was named the state’s No. 1 county for new investment in 2017, there’s also a healthy automotive sector. HL-A came to Selma in 1988 — first called All Lock — and continues to be a major employer today. The county’s largest employer is in the forest products sector — International Paper Co. with 768 employees. Recently, International Paper announced plans for a $552.7 million expansion at its Riverdale Mill in Selma to increase its industrial packing business.
Dallas County is a hub for health care in west central Alabama, with Vaughan Regional Medical Center and related health care industries. Wallace Community College Selma and the historic Selma University offer opportunities for higher education.
Dallas County’s Craig Field Airport and Industrial Complex continues to grow. History-based tourism is important in the county, as are the sites of many civil rights events in the 1960s and beyond, and several sites are part of the Alabama Civil Rights Trail. The Selma Interpretive Center is a major attraction and recently opened an expansion.
Wilcox County’s largest employer is International Paper, in Pine Hill, with 470 employees. Golden Dragon Copper Tubing is also among the largest.
Last year, J. Paul Jones Hospital in Camden became affiliated with UAB Health System. The hospital also operates two rural health clinics. The county’s Camden Municipal Airport is lighted and the town is working on GPS equipment.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.