Dale and Coffee counties, part of Alabama’s Wiregrass region, are among the state’s hot spots for aviation and aerospace. Fort Rucker, the home of Army Aviation, is the primary training facility for most of the military helicopter pilots in the free world. The facility provides hundreds of jobs in aerospace, helicopter training and simulation, military and civilian employment and related industries.
Both counties list Army Fleet Support, which performs aircraft maintenance and service, as their largest employer. This sector is growing, with the announcement that Arista Aviation Services will locate a helicopter repair and overhaul company at the Enterprise Municipal Airport. In Dale County, Bell Helicopter is one of the largest employers.
Dale County’s two largest cities — Ozark, which is the county seat, and Daleville — form two of the borders of Fort Rucker. In Dale County, the aircraft conversion and maintenance company Commercial Jet Inc. recently has located a $12 million facility at Dothan Regional Airport.
Adding to the aviation industry is Enterprise State Community College, with its Alabama Aviation Center. The center offers education and training in aviation and many other fields and turns out hundreds of graduates who are ready for careers or further education. AAC has other centers around the state, as well.
Other big sectors include agribusiness — Coffee County still ranks in the top five in total agricultural production in the state and is the largest agriculture producing county in south Alabama. However, agriculture also is getting more high-tech, so those being trained in technology skills also have opportunity for higher-paying jobs. Enterprise is the largest city, and the county seat is Elba. More recently, Coffee has attracted automotive suppliers, which have expanded.
The two counties, while celebrating this growth, also are looking at more diversity, including data centers, more automotive suppliers and other jobs to ensure an economy that offers good jobs for everyone.
These counties also boast of their family-friendly natures, with amenities such as well-equipped parks, youth sports, festivals and more. Many cities are building multi-purpose facilities to host events, downtowns are being rejuvenated and retail is growing to offer more opportunities to work and play close to home.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
text by lori chandler pruitt