Cullman County ranks among the highest nationally and regionally in poultry, sweet potato and other agricultural production. Local high schools offer agriscience programs, and the county has its own agriplex for events and to raise awareness of the county’s heritage and future in agriculture.
There are several industries in the county related to agriculture. One of the largest manufacturers is Tyson Foods subsidiary River Valley Ingredients, recently rebuilt after a fire and now the largest rendering plant in the world.
Walker County has major representation in this sector, with Mar-Jac Poultry in Jasper its largest manufacturing employer. With more than 387,000 acres of forest land, Walker County and the surrounding wood basket have a pine growth surplus of almost 7 million green tons per year. Other companies in this sector include Jasper Lumber, which in 2020 partnered with Canada’s Tolko Industries to expand lumber production and add 60 new jobs.
And Winston County has several companies in the furniture sector, including Kith Furniture, Masonite International, Universal Forest Products, Exxel Outdoors and Bassett Furniture, which just announced a major expansion. American Fiberglass in Double Springs makes bathtubs and shower units.
The automotive sector is a major economic driver in Cullman County. Many of the largest manufacturing employers in the county are automotive suppliers. Topre America Corp. is the largest manufacturing employer, along with Rehau Automotive LLC and Yutaka Technologies. “All of the OEM suppliers in Alabama have announced an electric vehicle component,” says Dale Greer, director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency. An example is Rehau, which recently announced a $50 million expansion and 125 jobs related to electric vehicle components.
Another automotive company, Greening Automotive, is a luxury custom car manufacturer that recently built a
$4 million shop and showroom in Cullman to showcase its products.
The automotive sector in Walker County is on a roll, with multiple Tier 1 suppliers employing more than 600 people. Those include Yorozu Automotive, HTNA, Nitto, Vistech Manufacturing and Heiche US Surface Technologies. The newest supplier to invest in Walker County, Heiche is part of the KAP Surface Technologies Group, a global leader in advanced metal coatings.
Cullman County is home to Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, which is one of the largest employers in the county. WSCC has a Center for Career and Workforce Development and this year opened a Technical Education Center to expand its popular welding program, a space for engineering technology and an entrepreneurship and technology incubator. And it just opened the Winston County Community Learning Center, which will include classrooms and computer labs that can be used for college classes, adult education, community education, dual enrollment with high schools and more.
Bevill State Community College, with two of its five campuses in Walker County — in Jasper and Sumiton — has a large impact not only through educational opportunities but also through workforce development and more. The school has an HVAC training center in Jasper in partnership with Alabama Power, and a new Workforce Solutions Rapid Training Center in Jasper.
Manufactured homes/diversified manufacturing
Winston County is home to several manufactured housing companies, employing hundreds of people, and this sector continues to expand. Companies in this field include Clayton Homes, Winston Homebuilders, Tru Homes and Hamilton Homebuilders.
This three-county area is also home to an array of manufacturers making everything from metal buildings to plumbing connection systems to caskets. A large employer in Cullman County is Reliance Worldwide, which makes plumbing connection systems and employs almost 500.
Cullman Regional Medical Center, with 1,300 employees, is the largest employer in Cullman County and expected to generate $175 million in net revenue this year and provide $302 million in overall economic impact to the local economy.
The hospital has seen significant growth in recent years. It expanded its emergency department, added new equipment, began construction on a 30-bed tower expansion that will add more medical-surgical beds and double the size of the critical care unit. It also opened two Centers of Excellence for specialized surgery and opened a health park in neighboring Hartselle.
Walker Baptist Medical Center, a part of Brookwood Baptist Health, has made several major capital improvements. It is one of the largest employers in Walker County with about 600 employees.
And Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville is one of Winston County’s largest employers. It holds a five-star rating from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on its quality outcomes.
With its proximity to Huntsville, Cullman Regional Airport’s Folsom Field is following a five-year plan to improve and grow. The airport recently completed a major project that included runway construction and lighting. The airport has an economic impact of more than $13 million a year, according to an Alabama Department of Transportation study.
Cullman also has some aerospace companies such as General Dynamics, which makes guided missile and space vehicle parts and recently provided the advanced mirror systems for the James Webb Space Telescope.
“We are only 23 nautical miles from Huntsville, and we are primed for development here,” Greer says. “We also are building more repair hangars.”
And Sanders Flight Training Center, in Jasper at Bevill Field, has partnered with Liberty University allowing students to earn a bachelor’s degree in aviation along with earning a pilot certificate.
In Winston County, the city of Haleyville’s Posey Field Airport received a $2 million grant to rehabilitate the runway and taxiway.
November 2022: Construction is complete on the widening of Alabama Highway 57 in Cullman, so that the entire 90-mile highway is now four lanes. The 3.5-mile project cost $23 million.
September 2022: Interstate 22 Industrial Park in Winston County, an 818-acre park, now has power, water and broadband access.
September 2022: Three hotels are under construction in Cullman — Cobblestone Hotels, located in the city’s sports and events district; Fairfield Inn and Home2Suites, both on Highway 157.
September 2022: Bassett Furniture, an outdoor furniture maker, announces a nearly $5 million expansion of its facility in Winston County and will add 100 employees.
September 2022: Winston Homebuilders in Double Springs is in the process of a multimillion expansion onto the site of an idled manufactured home facility.
September 2022: The Walker County Industrial Development Authority identifies more than 1,000 acres on Interstate 22 for a new county industrial park. Engineering and site development begins in early 2023.
September 2022: Wallace State Community College will soon open the Winston County Community Learning Center, with classrooms and computer labs.
August 2022: Ground is broken for the Heritage Landing development park in Walker County, converting a defunct coal mining site into a 50-acre, development-ready site along Interstate 22.
August 2022: Wallace State Community College opens a Technical Education Center that allows expansion of its popular welding program, plus space for engineering technology and an entrepreneurship incubator.
July 2022: Covington Casket moves to a distribution center in Hanceville in Cullman County. The center represents $500,000 in capital investment.
June 2022: A $2 million grant for the city of Haleyville’s Posey Field Airport will rehabilitate the runway and taxiway.
April 2022: Tyson Foods subsidiary River Valley Ingredients invests $205 million to develop the largest rendering plant in the world.
February 2022: Alabama Farm Credit opens its new corporate headquarters in Cullman, its fifth branch in the state.
December 2021: The James Webb Space Telescope launches from French Guiana. General Dynamics workers in Cullman manufactured the advanced mirror systems.
November 2021: Bevill State Community College wins the Alabama Mining Association 2021 award for its safety and training initiative for its longwall training expansion to the simulated underground mine. The Alabama Mining Academy is located on the Sumiton campus.
October 2021: Heiche U.S. Surface Technologies, a German firm specializing in the chemical surface treatment of metal parts, opens an advanced metals coating facility in Jasper, creating about 73 jobs.
September 2021: Reliance Worldwide continues to grow in Cullman with a $50 million expansion to connect two buildings in Cullman’s Industrial Park II, adding manufacturing space.
August 2021: Rehau Automotive celebrated 25 years in Cullman with an announcement of 125 new jobs and $50 million in capital investment as it shifts to production for Mercedes electric cars.
May 2021: Greening Automotive, a luxury custom car manufacturer, builds a $4 million shop and showroom in Cullman to showcase its projects for the public to tour.
May 2021: Cullman Regional Airport wins a $3.4 million federal grant for runway and lighting improvements.
March 2021: Brothers Concrete Supply is founded in Dodge City in Cullman County to produce and distribute concrete. The $2.8 million project creates about 22 new jobs.
This article appears in the November 2022 issue of Business Alabama.