Spotlight on Etowah, St. Clair, & Blount Counties: Economic Engines

An aerial view of Gadsden. By Seth Richardson. Appalachian Digital Media

Automotive Suppliers/Metals
All three counties have automotive suppliers that provide parts and other components, many for Honda Manufacturing of
Alabama in neighboring Talladega County. 

In Etowah County, some of the larger companies in this sector include plastic parts maker Inteva Products, Prince Metal Stamping, Koller-Craft South, Choice Fabricators, Fehrer and CG&J Inc., which recently acquired U.S. Radiator of California and moved it here. Many of these have expanded.

In St. Clair County, WKW Erbsloeh and Eissmann Automotive are the largest manufacturing employers, and both have expanded. Unipres Alabama, a Honda supplier, announced an expansion in 2020 on the heels of a 2018 expansion. 

Metals are important, also, with key players Garrison Steel Fabricators, Trinity Meyer Utility Structures, Trinity Industries and metal recycler Trans-Cycle Industries. 

Blount County has Louis Allis, a motor manufacturer, and several metals-related companies on its largest manufacturing companies’ list. Key players in this sector include Art Ironworks, Tennessee Valley Metals, A&J/Steel Choice Trailers, Stephens Pipe & Steel, Hornsby Steel/Sun Charge, Jones Valley Fabricators, C&R Fabrication, Brilliant Fabricators LLC and Power System Sentinel Technologies.

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Agriculture/Food Service
According to each county’s most recent extension service reports, this sector has a huge impact in all three counties. In Etowah County, Koch Foods, Tyson Foods Buffalo Rock and Dean Sausage are among the largest manufacturing employers in this growing sector. 

In January of this year, Koch Foods announced a $15.9 million expansion at its Gadsden poultry processing plant and plans for a new feed mill and distribution site at its Attalla facility.

St. Clair County is well represented in food production, with larger companies including Red Diamond Tea and Coffee, Royal Sausage, Processor’s Choice and J&M Exotic Foods. In November 2019, J&M Exotic Foods announced a $2 million capital investment in new manufacturing equipment, adding 11 new jobs. 

And in Blount County, poultry processor Tyson Foods is the largest manufacturing employer. The county also has an agribusiness center.  

The grand opening of Wallace State Community College’s second building in Oneonta.

Higher Education
All three counties are well served with higher education institutions, which are also among the counties’ largest employers. They offer dual enrollment for high school students, career technical training for all ages, adult education and workforce development. These colleges continue to expand and grow to meet the needs of industry and the community. 

In Etowah County, Gadsden State Community College is one of the county’s largest employers. Other higher education in Etowah County includes the University of Alabama Gadsden Center. 

In St. Clair County, Jefferson State Community College has a St. Clair-Pell City center. Jefferson State, along with its students and alumni, added $515 million in income to its four-county service area during 2017-2018. 

Garrison Steel’s Ironworker Skills Institute, a nonprofit group that operates independently of the company, educates future generations of ironworkers, starting in high school, offering free tuition and an accredited certification program. 

And in Blount County, the Wallace State Community College-Oneonta campus has seen tremendous growth and demand for several programs.  

County and city government and school systems combined represent a large sector of employment. In Etowah County, it represents more than 3,000 employees. 

In St. Clair County, among the largest overall employers is the St. Clair County Board of Education, the Pell City Board of Education and the St. Clair County Correctional Facility. The county also has several municipalities and the county has two county seats with courthouses in Pell City and Ashville. 

County and city government, along with Blount County’s two school systems, provide more than 1,500 jobs in this sector.

Health Care
Each county is well represented in the health care sector, with hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.

In Etowah County, Gadsden Regional Medical Center is one of the largest employers, as is Riverview Regional Medical Center. Etowah County also has Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Gadsden and Mountain View Hospital, a private, specialized psychiatric hospital. 

In St. Clair County, Ascension St. Vincent’s St. Clair is one of the largest overall employers, along with the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home. St. Clair County also has Village at Cook Springs, a long-term care facility, and Northside Medical, a full-service family care and urgent center with five locations and many pediatric offices. 

And Blount County is home to Ascension St. Vincent’s Blount, along with nursing homes, hospice and home health, and other health care providers.

A region rich in natural resources, major lakes and rivers, these three counties offer an array of recreational opportunities. Counties and cities are investing in community amenities, including downtown growth, new attractions, the arts and more. 

In St. Clair County, the county commission, along with the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, kicked off a new tourism initiative in fall 2020, Visit St. Clair: Known for Our Good Nature, which helps capitalize on the many outdoor attractions and things to do. 

During COVID-19, the tourism initiative has been active, says Blair Goodgame, tourism coordinator, and different events
actually have increased sales tax. “We felt that people would want to get out of the house and cities but not travel too far for safer, spacious activities,” she says. “We promoted both our incredible lakes, kayaking the Big Canoe Creek, and more intimate music performances at Horse Pens 40 and Big Canoe Creek Outfitters.”

Blount County has a new park that capitalizes on its having the most covered bridges in Alabama, along with other attractions.

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