Spotlight on Fayette, Lamar & Marion Counties: Economic Engines

Diverse manufacturing, coupled with high-speed fiber optic internet and higher education facilities, make Marion, Fayette and Lamar counties attractive to business.

Showa Group, a nitrile glove manufacturer, is the largest employer in Fayette County.

Diverse Manufacturing

About a third of the workforce in this region is employed in manufacturing, making products from forklift parts to tile to cabinets to medical gloves — made in the nation’s only remaining domestic producer of single-use nitrile gloves.

Many companies have expanded recently, including Bolzoni Auromo Inc., which makes forklift positioners and other products; TBEI/Ox Bodies, which makes dump truck beds; Trachte Building Systems, which makes steel self-storage systems; and SHOWA Group, the glove manufacturer.

Many companies that deal in metals are among the area’s largest manufacturing employers, including Komatsu Mining Corp. and TBEI/Ox Bodies. Others do metal fabrication, wire die repair, zinc oxide and steel dust recycling and make mining conveyor systems, metal roofs, shipping container trailers, farm equipment, onsite waste compacting and recycling systems.

Manufacturing is a growing industry along the Interstate 22 corridor between Birmingham and Memphis.


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Manufactured Housing/Lumber/Furniture

Several companies in the region are involved in this sector, which continues to grow. In Marion County, Deer Valley Homebuilders, Buccaneer Home Builders, Hamilton Home Builders and TRU Homes are among the largest manufacturers.

In Fayette County, a former Georgia-Pacific sawmill, recently purchased by Interfor, is one of the county’s largest employers, along with Lumber Remanufacturing Services Inc. in Belk. And in Lamar County, larger employers in this sector include lumber mill Weyerhaeuser Co. in Millport, Brown Wood Preserving in Kennedy and pallet maker Millport Lumber.

As for home furnishings, the largest manufacturer in Marion County, Kith Kitchens, makes cabinet doors and sets in Haleyville. Hamilton Bath Ware makes tubs and shower stalls, and Max Home Furniture, in Sulligent in Lamar County, makes upholstered furniture.


High-speed fiber optic Internet

Freedom Fiber, a subsidiary of Tombigbee Communications, is working to provide fiber optic internet service to all residents across 1,000 square miles in northwest Alabama.

Many grants and assistance have made this possible, but one of the latest announcements for this project came in June 2021, when Freedom Fiber and Alabama Power announced a partnership to facilitate broadband Internet to residents and businesses in Fayette County. It is the state’s first broadband partnership between an electric cooperative and an investor-owned utility.

Bevill State Community College has campuses in Fayette, Marion and Walker counties and an instructional site in Pickens County.

Higher Education

Bevill State Community College, with campuses in Walker, Marion and Fayette counties and an instructional site in Pickens County, is an economic driver in the community, not only for its own employees and student body but also for its role in workforce development and education for K-12 students and adult education/training. It partners closely with area industry to ensure that there is a trained workforce for all types of needs.


Health Care

Three hospitals serve the three counties and surrounding areas — Northwest Medical Center in Winfield, North Mississippi Medical Center-Hamilton and Fayette Medical Center.

Each of these facilities is a major employer in its county and offers other services such as rehab centers, nursing homes and specialty clinics. This sector continues to grow, with primary care clinics and rural health clinics in underserved areas being added.


Trachte Building Systems is expanding its Roof Mart facility in Vernon in Lamar County.

Business Briefs:

January 2022: The Healthcare Authority of Winfield, which owns and manages Northwest Medical Center, announces a partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham Health System to share medical resources. The hospital also will continue its strategic alliance with St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham, part of Ascension.

December 2021: The Sulligent City Council approves $8 million in incentives for Bolzoni Auromo Inc., which makes forklift positioners and other products, for its equipment expansion.

October 2021: In 2020, the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance announced a combined five new projects and three expansions for a total of 530 jobs and $26.6 million in investment.

September 2021: Showa Group, which makes hypoallergenic synthetic rubber gloves, announces an additional expansion in Fayette with a $45 million investment. Showa, which has invested more than $100 million and added 145 jobs, is the nation’s only domestic producer of single-use nitrile gloves.

August 2021: A garment plant in Brilliant is under new management. The property was purchased by Elk River, a company under Jelco that makes safety harnesses and other protective equipment.

August 2021: Lewis Bamboo, a manufacturer of landscaping products, purchased the Berry Wood Products building and plans to invest $2 million in renovations and machinery and employ 30 people in Berry.

June 2021: Freedom Fiber, a subsidiary of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, has partnered with Alabama Power to expand rural broadband internet service to residents and businesses in Fayette County. It is the state’s first broadband partnership between an electric cooperative and an investor-owned utility.

June 2021: Trachte Building Systems, a leading manufacturer of steel self-storage systems, announces it will expand its Roof Mart facility in Vernon in Lamar County, investing $11.5 million and adding 70 jobs over the next three years. The company is based in Wisconsin.

June 2021: An architectural firm and construction company have been hired to build a new jail facility in Marion County.

May 2021: The Winfield City Council deeds the Winfield Sitel call center buildings to Winfield city schools.

May 2021: Interfor Corp. announces it has purchased four sawmill operations in the U.S., including the Georgia-Pacific mill in Fayette.

May 2021: Northwest Medical Center in Winfield receives a $2.5 million federal grant to assist in renovating the hospital’s emergency department. The grant is part of the federal government’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance.

March 2021: Timber Creek Housing LLC, a home construction company, locates a new plant in Bear Creek.

March 2021: Tom Wisemiller is appointed president and CEO of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, an organization that handles economic development for Marion, Fayette and Lamar counties.

February 2021: Love’s Travel Stop opens at Exit 44 on Interstate 22 in Hamilton, a $12 million project with 50 jobs.

November 2020: Sitel Group in Hamilton, a contact center, announced it will hire more workers to support some of the company’s largest media, entertainment and technology clients.

October 2020: Bevill State Community College’s Hamilton campus will be transformed into a Workforce Rapid Training Center, thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

August 2019: Bama Bio-Tech, which makes liquid and gel hand sanitizer and other products, locates in Vernon.

This article appeared in the February 2022 issue of Business Alabama.

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