Spotlight on Hale, Greene, Marengo & Sumter: Economic Engines

Wood products, agriculture and manufacturing are all essential to these four counties' economies

Lumber trucks lined up to enter the Westervelt plant at Moundville. Photo by Art Meripol.

Greene County

Health care

The largest overall employer in the county is Greene County Hospital, with 200 employees, and in November 2020, voters approved a 4-mill increase in property taxes to support the hospital and health system. Greene County Hospital also operates a residential care center and a physicians health clinic. Two businesses have moved into the physicians clinic, one a pharmacy and the other home health.

Wood products/paper

The largest manufacturing employer is WestRock Co., which makes paper boards, and there are other companies involved in the forestry/wood/paper industry.


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This is the largest sector of Greene County employment, and there are several different industries, from catfish processors to roofing products to machine shop and hardware.


The county is home to Greenetrack, which provides simulcast racing and bingo entertainment. There are several other bingo entertainment venues in the county.

Fishing/Hunting/Outdoor Tourism

Greene County, like much of the Black Belt, is an ecotourism paradise, with hunting clubs and property. It is home to Leavellwood, a family-owned hunting and fishing business that also is a wedding and event venue.

Kyser Catfish in Hale County, which is the state’s leading catfish producer. Photo by Art Meripol.

Hale County

Wood products/agriculture/manufacturing

Westervelt Lumber Co. is the county’s largest manufacturing company. The county is ranked first in the state in catfish production and is its largest agricultural commodity, with other companies involved in providing feed and other products. The second largest commodity is cattle, and then soybeans. The county also has diverse manufacturers including Plastics Inc.


Hale County Hospital, with 146 employees, is one of the largest employers in the county. The hospital has hired several physicians and nurse practitioners to offer more services to patients, a measurable economic impact of $20 million on the community. It includes a 25-bed hospital and two clinics located in Greensboro and Moundville, so its resources span the entire county.

Marengo County

Wood/paper products

At least six of the county’s largest manufacturing employers are involved in the wood and paper products sector. The largest employer, WestRock in Demopolis, makes paper products. It is followed by Linden Lumber, a hardwood sawmill; Two Rivers Lumber; Drax Group, a new wood pellet plant; Demopolis Hickory Mill, TP Logging and Farley Forest Products. Many of these companies also are growing.

Renovations are underway at Whitfield Regional Hospital. Pictured is the new lobby.

Health care

Whitfield Regional Hospital, operated by UAB Health System, has at least a $56 million economic impact. It is one of the county’s largest employers and continues to add services. For example, the hospital had stopped providing labor and delivery five years ago, but has now resumed that service with updated facilities and equipment that allow Marengo County mothers to deliver closer to home. Renovations are underway at the hospital.


Agriculture/food processing 

Cattle is the county’s largest agricultural commodity, followed by catfish farm production and cotton. Foster Farms, a food producer of chicken and other products, is one of the largest employers in the county.


Marengo County schools, Demopolis city schools and Linden city schools make up K-12 education and work closely with Wallace Community College Selma’s Demopolis Campus and the University of West Alabama to provide career technical and academic offerings for students to enter college, technical fields or the workforce. The West Alabama Regional Training Center is underway, set to open in 2023, to house technical programs for Wallace.


Soggy Bottom Lodge in Linden offers world-class deer, turkey and duck hunting, bass fishing and more. Its lodge offers luxury accommodations and hosts events. The county also has birding trails, Chickasaw State Park, a riverwalk on the Tombigbee River, and historic homes/museums.

The University of West Alabama opens the West Alabama Center for Conservation and Agriculture.

Sumter County

University of West Alabama

UWA in Livingston is the largest employer in Sumter County and one of the top 10 employers in the Black Belt region.

As the only four-year university in the state that offers both academic and career technical training programs, UWA has a huge economic impact. Located in the rural Black Belt region, it is known for filling the gaps in educational and workforce opportunities.

A recent analysis using the IMPLAN Model analyzed the university’s economic impact, based on direct, indirect and induced effects. The university’s operations are responsible for a total of 996 direct and indirect jobs, some full-time and some part-time, with earnings totaling about $51.4 million. UWA’s tax impact generates an additional $4.8 million in tax revenue to state and local governments.

Expansion and renovation of athletic facilities have totaled more than $7 million, and UWA has a number of workforce development programs, including apprenticeship programs, a website that provides a one-stop resource for workforce development, and programs to bring STEM education to the area.

UWA also is the site of the University Charter School, a pre-K through 12th grade school and the first charter school sponsored by a university. It has outgrown its location and a new campus is being built on UWA campus property.

University Charter School is taking an innovative approach to solving the state’s workforce needs. Implementation of its DIVE Grant provides a unique approach to overcoming the exposure gap that plagues rural students specifically. Through partnerships with local and regional employers, UCS students learn about the variety of industry needs in the area.

UCS has targeted six specific pathways that are the most regionally significant — health science, computer science, skilled trades, rural business and entrepreneurship, education and integrated marketing and communications.


The largest overall employer in the county is McElroy Truck Lines, which operates flatbed trucking and shipping. McElroy, located in Cuba in Sumter County, is one of the state and region’s largest transportation/trucking companies with 750 employees.

Forest/wood products 

Sumter County is home to companies that cover all aspects of the forest/wood products supply chain, including McElroy Truck Lines; Prystup Packaging Products, which manufactures, cuts, and prints folding cartons; Southwest Paper; Enviva, a Maryland-based company that will manufacture 600,000 metric tons of wood pellets for export per year and when finished will employ 100; WestRock in Livingston, which makes corrugated boxes; and several logging companies. Together these companies employ over 1,000 employees.

Health care

The county is home to Hill Hospital of Sumter County, one of the area’s largest employers. Health care in general is the county’s third largest industry and has remained steady over the past few years with great potential for growth. Along with Hill Hospital is Sumter Health and Rehabilitation. UWA also has an active role in health care through its division of nursing, school of health sciences and human performance, its certified nursing assistant program and its partnerships with Champion Sports Medicine and Andrews Sports Medicine.


Business Briefs:

April 2022: Enviva, a Maryland-based biofuel company, is building a $215 million wood pellet manufacturing facility in Port of Epes Industrial Park in Sumter County. Construction is slated for completion in late 2023. About 300 workers will be involved in construction with 100 workers expected when the plant opens.

April 2022: Renovations begin on a former armory in Demopolis that will become the West Alabama Regional Training Center. The center — part of the Demopolis campus of Wallace Community College Selma — will house programs in industrial maintenance, HVAC, welding, commercial truck driving and special short-term courses for local industries.

April 2022: Drax Group opens a $100 million pellet plant in Demopolis in Marengo County. The plant will produce 360,000 tons of sustainable biomass a year from sawmill residues and employ about 50 workers.

April 2022: Rowley Recycling LLC in Demopolis, which recycles ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal, is investing in new equipment so it can take on larger projects.

April 2022: The Demopolis Municipal Airport receives a grant to build a new terminal. The concrete slab has been poured and additional money will be sought for the building.

April 2022: The Greene County Industrial Development Authority is working to improve broadband services to provide high-speed internet.

January 2022: One Stop Medicare Shoppe operates an office located inside the Greene County Physicians Clinic.

December 2021: Mercy & Grace Home Health opens a facility in Eutaw. The office is located inside the Greene County Physicians Clinic.

November 2021: The Greene County Industrial Development Authority helps attract a Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores at Exit 40 on Interstate 59/20. The center includes three fast food restaurants, parking for 100 trucks, a convenience store and other services.

November 2021: The Greene County Industrial Development Authority is working with the county and Eutaw city officials on a feasibility study to attract retail and motel businesses to Greene County interstate exits.

November 2021: Superior Inland Terminals LLC acquired a former lumber company facility on the Tombigbee River in Demopolis that will be used as an intermodal logistics hub.

September 2021: Alabama A&M University and Auburn University Extension programs finish a draft of Eutaw’s Active Transportation Action Plan. The plan will help improve pathways, crosswalks, lighting and speed bumps.

August 2021: The Eutaw City Council approves matching support for a $600,000 state and federal grant to repair and light the runways at the Eutaw Airport, allowing the airport to reopen.

July 2021: The FAA grants the Greensboro Municipal Airport in Hale County $205,000 to complete work on an airport layout plan and phase 2 of an updated onsite fuel farm.

June 2020: Betabox, a North Carolina-based hands-on learning company, contracts with UWA to develop Skills on Wheels, a set of mobile flex classrooms that have computers and broadband for education and employee training.

March 2020: Greene County is awarded two grants from ADECA’s Inland Port Authority Grant Program for a total of $238,915 to enhance both the port access at the Crossroads of America Industrial Park on the Tombigbee River in Boligee and regional economic development access in west Alabama.

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

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