Jefferson County in central Alabama is the state’s economic and cultural center. It is the largest county by population and home to the largest city — Birmingham — as well as the sixth-largest city, Hoover. It is ranked among the top 100 most populated counties in the United States.
With roots in the iron and steel industry, the county now boasts a diverse economy. Iron and steel still play a key role, but today the city is also a transportation hub, a financial and insurance center and a focal point for medical care and research. The growing city is home to a strong retail sector and housing market. And while manufacturing is still a major sector here, the county is also home to a burgeoning biotechnology, pharmaceutical and information technology sector.
The Birmingham Business Alliance, formed by the merger of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board, works with a seven-county region in the area to foster economic development. Its growth strategy, Blueprint Birmingham, outlines metro Birmingham’s status among other major metro areas and sets goals for strengthening it. Although there are nearly three dozen municipalities in Jefferson County alone, each contributes to the economic, community and cultural fabric of the area.
Jefferson County offers cultural attractions and events for all ages. Mountains and rivers provide a beautiful natural setting, augmented by city parks and community amenities. Birmingham has some of the state’s most popular attractions, and tourism is one of its economic drivers. An entertainment district, a strong urban housing market, libraries, recreation centers, museums, sports and arts keep the downtown vibrant.
In 2013, Jefferson County led the state in job creation, with nearly 17, 000 new jobs announced and $4.4 billion in capital investment. The county also takes workforce development seriously — state and local governments and educators worked with private industry to open a state-of-the-art training center on Birmingham’s Southside that focuses on manufacturing and construction industries. The center is located in a former storage warehouse leased from Barber Cos., and training began in May 2014. AIDT operates five training centers in the state, and this is the first AIDT center in central Alabama.
With strong K-12 school systems and many opportunities for higher education and workforce training, the metro area attracts many graduates who want to stay in their home county to work and live, as well as transplants from elsewhere in Alabama and beyond. Downtown Birmingham, the city’s Southside and its suburbs are popular with many young professionals and families.
Jefferson County government is located in Birmingham, the county seat, with a second courthouse in Bessemer in west Jefferson County.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
text by lori chandler pruitt