Covington, Butler and Crenshaw counties, located in southeast Alabama, are former textile-producing areas that endured hard times when that industry experienced a major slump and jobs moved overseas.
However, they have worked hard as a region to recruit and attract diverse industries, landing such strong sectors as aerospace and automotive manufacturing.
The counties are located close to two military bases—Fort Rucker in Alabama and the Naval Air Station in Pensacola— as well as the capitol city of Montgomery and automotive manufacturing plants.
Recently, the area added to those strong sectors with an announcement from DRS Technologies, an aviation sustainment/modernization company that will locate in two hangars at the South Alabama Regional Airport in Andalusia, with plans to hire approximately 40 people during its first year. The anticipated opening is this month.
“The hangars are beautiful, and it’s a phenomenal facility, ” says Don Davis, DRS vice president of operations, in explaining why the company chose Andalusia. “It’s also the proximity of the military bases, the work ethic of the people there, the hospitality of the local folks and their willingness to work with us.”
Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive suppliers are expanding in this region and hiring additional employees.
Each county also has generous natural resources and its family-friendly atmosphere is evidenced in events and festivals that celebrate its lifestyle. Cities are proud of their heritage, yet they also are paying close attention to quality of life issues that will affect their residents’ future. They are making improvements that not only will benefit residents, but also help economic development. The counties also are known for being routes to the Gulf Coast beaches, especially Alabama 331.
Covington County’s county seat and largest city is Andalusia, whose name comes from two Spanish words meaning “to walk easy” – referring to the town’s outstanding access in its founding days. It is about 85 miles south of Montgomery, and U.S. 29, U.S. 84 and Alabama 55 lead straight to it. Opp, another major city, is working with Troy University on a strategic plan and has a strong manufacturing base.
Butler County’s county seat is Greenville, located just half an hour south of Montgomery, where I-65, U.S. 31 and Alabama Highway 10 converge. It is home to one of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses, Cambrian Ridge. The town of Georgiana is the boyhood home of Hank Williams Sr. Known for timber and wood products, one of its largest manufacturing employers is Coastal Forest Products. It also has attracted automotive suppliers such as Hwashin America Corp.
Crenshaw County’s county seat is Luverne, known as the “Friendliest City in the South.” Other significant towns include Brantley and Highland Home. It is a center of the timber industry, but it also has attracted more diverse industry such as automotive supply that has saved jobs in a big way. Each year, it hosts the “World’s Largest Peanut Boil” festival.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
By Lori Chandler Pruitt