Spotlight on Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia & Monroe: Economic Engines

Wood products, automotive suppliers, technology companies and more call these five counties home.

Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore. Photo by Ditto Gorme.

Wood products

This is the largest manufacturing sector in the region, and it’s still growing. These counties have among the largest hardwood and softwood forests in the world. Products include lumber, paper, packaging materials and more.

In Choctaw County, Georgia-Pacific’s Naheola Mill is the largest industrial employer. It recently was honored for safety by Engineering News-Record and earned an EnergyStar approval for its new biomass-fueled boiler and accompanying steam turbine generator, which make it one of Georgia-Pacific’s lowest-cost production facilities. Other major lumber employers in the county include Mid Star Timber Harvesting.

In Clarke County, this sector is also growing. CM Biomass, doing business as Jackson Pellets, plans a $17 million wood pellet plant at the Jackson Port on the Tombigbee River. And, Packaging Corp. of America, with 460 employees, has announced a $440 million project at its Clarke County mill over the next three years to convert a paper machine to make linerboard used in corrugated packaging.

Further, the new Westervelt sawmill in North Clarke Industrial Park opened in 2021, a $190 million investment with 125 employees. The county also has Canfor Southern Pine, which announced a $6 million expansion; Louisiana-Pacific in Thomasville; and C&C Custom Lumber in Coffeeville, which announced a $500,000 expansion with 20 new jobs.

Conecuh County has as one of its largest employers Weyerhaeuser in Castleberry, a timber, land and forest products company.

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In Escambia County, Georgia-Pacific’s Brewton containerboard mill was named an EnergyStar Challenge Achiever for Industry for its work to reduce energy intensity. Other major employers in this sector include T.R. Miller Mill Co. in Brewton and Swift Lumber in Atmore.

And in Monroe County, Georgia-Pacific’s Alabama River Cellulose plans a $74 million equipment expansion and Harrigan Lumber recently completed an expansion. And a company related to this industry, J&L Industrial Services LLC, recently opened in the city’s business incubator. J&L offers a variety of specialty industrial services.


Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority

CIEDA is a major and growing economic engine in the five-county region, as well as in other areas of the state and country. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized tribe in Alabama. They operate in sectors from hospitality and gaming to aerospace. Their newest operation, announced in January, is a meat processing plant, slated to open next year in Atmore

The tribe’s businesses within the five-county region include the CIEDA corporate offices, Muskogee Technology, PCI Support Services, PCI Aviation, Creek Travel Plaza and Creek Convenience Store Atmore. Wind Creek Casino and Hotel also operates in Atmore.

Poarch Creek Indians Federal Services (PCIFS) secured more than $20 million in fiscal year-end contract awards providing critical services to U.S. federal agencies. Recent contracts include projects to build a modular hospital for the Indian Health Service and provide support for America’s military through the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program. One of the PCIFS companies, PCI Support Services, will build a new visitor center at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston, Georgia. PCIFS consists of 10 companies: Integrated Federal Solutions, Media Fusion, Muskogee Technology, PCI Productions, PCI Support Services, PCI Government Services, PCI Aviation, PCI Technology Services, PCI Manufacturing, and H2PCI.

Muskogee Technology in Atmore received the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Hometown Hero Award for pivoting and producing personal protection products for businesses and health care providers. The company also was honored as the 2021 Small Manufacturer of the Year by the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Technology Network for that work.

PCI Support Services recently has been a partner of Gulf Regional Early Childhood Services, helping expand early childhood learning opportunities. In 2020, PCISS secured contracts to renovate facilities for Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Brewton and Jackson.

CIEDA continues to expand its hospitality holdings. The tribe currently owns three hotel and casino resorts in Alabama, one in Pennsylvania and two in the Caribbean, with plans to expand in the Chicago area. Its existing gaming businesses have garnered accolades in the U.S. and internationally. These include AAA Four Diamond ratings awarded to several resorts.

OWA, the Tribe’s entertainment and amusement park in Foley in Baldwin County, continues to grow. It includes more than 20 attractions, an on-site Marriott hotel and more. An RV resort, indoor water park and outdoor wave pool are slated to open this year.


Automotive and Metals

This region is well positioned along the Interstate 65 and U.S. Highway 43 corridors to support all of Alabama’s growing automotive industry needs.

Manufacturers currently operating in these sectors include Guyoung Tech USA, an automotive supplier in Conecuh County that is expanding and is already the largest manufacturing employer in the county; Muskogee Technology in Atmore, Alto Products in Atmore, which makes friction components for the clutch and brake markets; AAM Casting in Brewton, a ductile casting manufacturer; and the foundry Brewton Iron Works.

Several industrial sites in the region are available and suitable for metals and automotive facilities.

Attending the grand opening of Provalus in Brewton in December were (from left) Will Ruzic, vice president of Facilities and Operations at Provalus; Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey; Laura Chevalier, president of Provalus; Brewton Mayor Yank Lovelace and Ted Clem with the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Technology and aerospace

Provalus, an IT solutions and software development company with locations throughout the U.S., has opened a $6.5 million center in Brewton. The company works to bring high-tech jobs to underserved parts of the Southeast by training local workers.

Other major companies in this sector include Brown Precision, Frontier Technologies, Muskogee Technology and PCI Aviation.



Conecuh County ranks among the top oil producing counties in Alabama, with several companies involved in the process. The county has the most productive oil fields in Alabama, accounting for about half of Alabama’s yearly 7.4 million barrels of oil.

And one of Choctaw County’s largest employers is Gibson Oil Co., which operates a chain of convenience stores/gas stations, but also does some refining.



This region is a focal point for the cotton, soybean and peanut industry, with several processing facilities coming online in recent years.

In Escambia County, Coastal Growers LLC announced it will bring a peanut shelling plant in Atmore, an $87 million investment bringing at least 100 jobs. Related to this project is a $2 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to complete a rail spur in Atmore Industrial Park primarily to serve the processor.


Business Briefs:

March 2022: Tenax announces plans for a $900,000 expansion at its Evergreen plant.

March 2022: Russell Brands, part of parent company Fruit of the Loom, announces it will move production to Monroe County for distribution, a $600,000 investment bringing 50 jobs.

January 2022: The Poarch Band of Creek Indians announce plans to build a $10 million meat processing plant in Atmore, near its Perdido River Farms cattle operations.

January 2022: The Jackson City Council in Clarke County approves a 1-cent sales tax increase to help build a new emergency department at Jackson County Hospital and help support ambulance service.

December 2021: Provalus opens its new facility in downtown Brewton in Escambia County. It will house 180 employees now, with plans to have 300 soon.

November 2021: The first phase of the West Alabama Corridor is underway, a four-lane highway to connect the cities of Thomasville and Tuscaloosa. Project cost is estimated at about $780 million.

September 2021: CM Biomass, doing business as Jackson Pellets, plans a $17 million wood pellet plant at the Jackson Port on the Tombigbee River, with 20 to 25 jobs.

September 2021: A new Commercial Driver’s License school opens at the Hornady-Sawyer Business Incubator building in Monroeville, in partnership with several trucking firms and Reid State Technical College.

September 2021: C&C Custom Lumber, in Coffeeville in Clarke County, announces a $500,000 expansion.

August 2021: Lumber company Canfor Corp., in Fulton in Clarke County, announces a $6 million expansion.

August 2021: Land acquisition is continuing for the new Southwest Alabama Regional Airport in Thomasville, with plans to have a working facility in 2028.

July 2021: Ground is broken for a new Urgent Care in Atmore, part of the Escambia County Health Care Authority. It’s set to open in 2022.

June 2021: Alto Products, which makes transmission parts in Atmore Industrial Park, plans to purchase $2.5 million in new equipment and build a new $800,000 building.

April 2021: The U.S. Economic Development Administration awards the city of Atmore a $2 million grant to complete a rail spur in Atmore Industrial Park primarily to serve Coastal Growers’ peanut processor.

April 2021: Coretta Boykin is appointed president of Reid State Technical College.

March 2021: Packaging Corp. of America announces to invest $40 million to convert its Clarke County mill from paper to linerboard.

March 2021: Georgia-Pacific’s Alabama River Cellulose mill plans a $74 million equipment expansion in Monroeville.

March 2021: The new Westervelt sawmill in North Clarke Industrial Park opens and ships its first load of lumber. The $190 million mill has 125 employees.

February 2021: Gov. Kay Ivey announces a new prison complex for Atmore, but details and timelines have not been finalized.

January 2021: A River Runs Through It Distillery opens in Monroeville to sell distilled spirits and, later, craft beer.

October 2020: Georgia-Pacific’s Naheola Mill in Choctaw County is honored for safety and for energy conservation for a new biomass-fueled boiler.

September 2020: Coastal Growers LLC announces it will build a peanut shelling plant in Atmore in Escambia County, an $87 million investment bringing at least 100 jobs.

April 2020: Harrigan Lumber Co. Inc. in Monroeville announces a mill expansion that will increase production.

March 2020: The long-awaited Thomasville Regional Medical Center opens. The $36 million, 29-bed acute care hospital in Clarke County is also the anchor facility for a 35-acre Medical Park development.

February 2020: Green Product Technologies locates in the Hornady-Sawyer Incubator in Monroe County. It produces patented, steel structural insulated panels and other related products.

January 2020: J&L Industrial Services LLC opens in the Hornady-Sawyer Incubator in Monroeville. The company provides a variety of specialty industrial services to refining, pulp/paper, petrochemical, power, pipeline and other heavy industries.

This article appeared in the March 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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