Coffee and Dale counties are part of the Wiregrass region of the country that includes parts of southeastern Alabama, southern Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. The two counties enjoy a low unemployment rate and a diverse economy that includes large employers connected to the military, as well as aerospace and agribusiness.
Much of Coffee County’s history is built around agriculture. The county still ranks in the top five in total agricultural production in the state, and it is the largest agriculture producing county in south Alabama, according to the Coffee County Extension Service. Enterprise is the largest city, and the county seat is Elba.
Dale County’s two largest cities, Ozark, which is the county seat, and Daleville, form two of the borders of Fort Rucker, one of the largest military installations in the state. It is the primary training facility for most of the military helicopter pilots in the free world. Of late, helicopter simulation training has meant more jobs for the area.
Both counties benefit greatly from Fort Rucker and its contractors — in fact, contractor Army Fleet Support is their largest employer by far. But the counties also are growing jobs in other sectors, including aerospace, health care and agribusiness.
Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments of this area in recent years is the establishment of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp., says Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell. It includes the city of Ozark, the city’s economic development department, the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dale County Commission.
Just last December, the city of Daleville opted to join the group, investing $2 per capita that is expected to bring about $10, 546 in funds each year. The city is seeking assistance in recruiting business and other potential assets, according to Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth.
“We hired an executive director and recently hired a vice president for aviation services to promote our airport (the Dothan Airport is within the county) and for other development, ” Blackwell says.
Eric Basinger, president of the new economic development group, says the countywide effort is already paying off. “Our leaders wanted to bring all these entities into a full partnership, and it has worked well, ” he says. “We are helping existing businesses and industries grow, and we have a fundraising campaign to raise money so that, when economic development opportunities come up, we can be out there beating the bushes to attract them.”
For example, the entire area is looking to attract more automotive suppliers, data centers, aviation and aerospace. The Enterprise Coffee Geneva Economic Development Group also is working on those sectors.
As to recreation, both counties have an abundance of outdoor activities and attractions, festivals and family-friendly activities.
And the area is home to Wallace Community College – Dothan, Enterprise State Community College and the Alabama Aviation Center, schools that are heavily involved in workforce development.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
Lori Chandler Pruitt