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

Metals, agriculture, automotive suppliers and healthcare anchor these three central Alabama counties' economies

A welding student in Wallace State Community College’s program.

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. The metals sectors also is strong here.

In Etowah County, some of the larger companies in this sector include Fehrer Automotive, which recently expanded; Prince Metal Stamping; Choice Fabricators; Koller-Craft South; Inteva Products; and CG&J Inc.

In St. Clair County, WKW Erbsloeh, Eissmann Automotive and Unipres Alabama are among the largest manufacturing employers. In December 2022, Eissman announced a $3.4 million expansion, creating 79 jobs. Metals are well represented with Trinity Industries, Meyer Utility Structures, Garrison Steel Fabricators, Douglas Manufacturing and Ford Meter Box. Some of these have expanded.

Blount County has Louis Allis, a motor manufacturer, and several metals-related companies on its list of largest manufacturers, which also includes Tennessee Valley Metals, Stephens Pipe & Steel, Hornsby Steel, Alabama Guardrail, Power Systems Sentinel Technologies, Diversified Manufacturing Inc. and Jones Valley Fabricators.

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.

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In March 2022, Koch Foods began operations at its new $60 million poultry feed mill in Attalla, creating 32 jobs. And in December 2022, K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. announced a move to Gadsden that will bring 145 jobs.

St. Clair County is well represented in food production, with larger companies including Red Diamond Tea and Coffee, Royal Sausage and J&M Exotic Foods. In September 2022, Springville Beverage Co. announced plans for a new water bottling plant using the historical, natural spring in downtown Springville. And in June 2022, Processor’s Choice completed an expansion to better supply ingredients to food production companies in the Southeast.

And in Blount County, Tyson Foods, a poultry processor, is the largest manufacturing employer.

One-of-a-Kind Employers

These three counties also are home to companies that thrive outside the major economic sectors.

In St. Clair County, Vulcan Industries employs more than 300 workers making custom store displays. In Etowah County, Cintas employs more than 100 people in its uniform rental service. And American Apparel employs nearly 100 people making military uniforms in Blount County, one of the Selma-based company’s four locations in Alabama.

Higher Education

All three counties are home to community colleges that are among the largest employers in the county. These institutions also support the economy by offering career and technical training and workforce development programs, often tailored to the needs of local employers.

Health Care

Each county is well represented in the health care sector, with hospitals, nursing homes and a variety of clinics.

In Etowah County, both Gadsden Regional Medical Center and Riverview Regional Medical Center are among the largest employers.

In St. Clair County, Ascension St. Vincent’s St. Clair is one of the largest overall employers in the county, as is the Col. Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home.

And in Blount County, Ascension St. Vincent’s Blount and other health care-related facilities employ hundreds and inject millions of dollars into the local economy.


Tourists are attracted to this region of rich natural resources, lakes and rivers. Cities and counties are adding facilities to capitalize on these resources for local residents and to attract tourists for outdoor adventures, sports and arts.

Business Briefs:

February 2023: Kelly Creek Commerce Park, a 172-acre park that represents a $125 million investment, opens in Moody in St. Clair County. It is designed to attract company headquarters, manufacturers and distribution companies. It is a joint venture of Graham & Co. and Capstone Real Estate Investments.

January 2023: Etowah County’s 200-acre pad-ready industrial megasite, Little Canoe Creek, has a new promoter, new name and logo. The new name is Northeast Alabama Regional Megasite, or NEAR — chosen to highlight proximity to rail and river transport.

December 2022: Blaurock Investments purchases the old Etowah County Board of Education building and is working to help move the Vocational Rehabilitation Service from the Gadsden State campus to the old Board of Education building.

December 2022: An affiliate of Phoenix Investors purchases the 3 million-square-foot former Goodyear facility with plans for a multi-tenant design. The space can handle up to 40 companies and up to 1,200 jobs. Goodyear closed its doors in April 2020.

December 2022: German-based Eissmann Automotive announces a $3.4 million expansion at its Pell City facility, creating 79 jobs. The company plans to purchase advanced manufacturing equipment for its new production line.

December 2022: K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. announces its move to Gadsden, a $14.4 million investment that brings 145 jobs. Opening is expected this summer.

October 2022: Ford Meter Box completes a $5 million expansion in Pell City to better serve its growing market for pipe tapping sleeves, repair clamps and pipe restraints.

September 2022: Springville Beverage Co. announces plans for a new water bottling plant using the natural spring in downtown Springville. The new operation will revitalize an existing building and include both an educational component and a shop for locally crafted goods. The company expects to open in 2023 and have 20 employees.

September 2022: The St. Clair County Economic Development Council breaks ground for Pell City Square, a multi-use lifestyle center on the former site of St. Vincent’s St. Clair. The retail lineup includes TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, Old Navy, PetSmart, Five Below, Ulta Beauty, Rack Room Shoes and Hobby Lobby.

September 2022: Douglas Manufacturing, in Pell City, announces a $2 million expansion over the next two years. The company plans to add about 15,000 square feet, new manufacturing techniques, new equipment and 20 employees.

August 2022: Alabama Cancer Care announces it will build a cancer treatment center on First Street in Gadsden. The Gadsden City Council voted to sell city-owned property — the former location of the National Guard armory — for the project.

August 2022: Construction begins on the Blount County Multi-Purpose Building in Cleveland to house the Alabama Cooperative Extension Center and the Blount County Economic Development Council with an arena for events.

August 2022: Summertown Metals breaks ground in Hayden in Blount County, a Tennessee-based firm that specializes in metal buildings.

July 2022: Gadsden State Community College announces it will build a 50,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing center on the East Broad Campus in Gadsden. It is expected to open in 2024.

April 2022: All-American Ford opens its newest location in Odenville. This 20,000-square-foot facility will create 50 new jobs and is the first new car dealership in St. Clair County on the I-59 corridor.

June 2022: The Gadsden Airport Authority announces it will expand the runway at the Northeast Alabama Regional Airport from 6,800 feet to 11,000 feet. Plans also call for upgrades and additions to the airport’s fuel farm.

June 2022: National Cement completes its $300 million kiln facility in Ragland in St. Clair County, one of the largest single capital investments in the history of the county.

June 2022: Processor’s Choice completes its expansion to better supply ingredients to food production companies in the Southeast. The 83,500-square-foot warehouse expansion will employ an additional 8-10 people in the city of Moody.

June 2022: Fresh Value Grocery opens its first location in the city of Moody.  This is its second location in St. Clair County and was part of the city’s redevelopment plan for a shopping center near its city center.

June 2022: Phase 4 of the Coosa Landing development in Etowah County will offer workspace for those who need a physical address for their company, create office space for the Gadsden Etowah County Industrial Development Authority, the East Central Area Health Education Council, coworking space for existing and startup businesses and more.

May 2022: Alabama Department of Transportation announces that the Eastern Connector (I-759 extension) will be built as a Rebuild Alabama project and will connect the eastern end of Interstate 759 to U.S. 431 at the junction of U.S. Highway 278. The project is expected to cost $65 million and construction should begin at the end of 2023.

April 2022: Beautiful Rainbow Café, a Gadsden City Schools work-based training program, receives top honors from Gov. Kay Ivey with the Work Based Learning Seal of Excellence Award in the K-12 division. Beautiful Rainbow is the only full-service café in the country that is staffed entirely by students with significant cognitive disabilities.

March 2022: Koch Foods begins operations at its new $60 million poultry feed mill in Attalla in Etowah County, creating 32 jobs.

January 2022: J&M Exotic Foods completes a $2 million expansion of its spice production facility in the Moody Commerce Park.

January 2022: Gov. Kay Ivey announces that Norfolk Southern Railroad will invest $231.6 million for rail improvements from Mobile through Jefferson and Shelby counties. The A-USA Corridor will connect the Northeast Alabama Regional (NEAR) Megasite to the Port of Mobile.

December 2021: Development begins for the $125 million Kelly Creek Commerce Park in Moody. A joint venture between Graham & Co. and Capstone Real Estate Investments, the park already has one 500,000-square-foot building for warehouse and distribution.

November 2021: St. Clair County residents approve a property tax increase to pay for school upgrades. Pell City voters approved a similar tax increase for their school district.

October 2021: Calcean Minerals and Materials LLC is expanding its bioplastics manufacturing facility in Gadsden. The $7 million investment will add 40 jobs.

June 2021: Fehrer Automotive in Gadsden completed a $6 million expansion at its automotive supplier plant.

This article appears in the April 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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