Spotlight on Limestone & Morgan: Economic Engines

Aerospace and aviation, metals, chemicals, automotive and more make up Limestone and Morgan counties' economies

United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV Heavy rocket carrying the NROL-68 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office lifts off on June 22, 2023. Photo courtesy of ULA.

Morgan County


Decatur is home to one of United Launch Alliance‘s two manufacturing, assembly and integration operation centers. The 1.6 million-square-foot facility, the largest rocket factory in the country, is the production site for Atlas V and Delta II and IV rockets and, more recently, the next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket.

In October 2022, ULA broke ground on a $300 million, 500,000-square-foot expansion to accommodate a contract to build 38 Vulcan rockets that will deploy Amazon’s “Kuiper” broadband satellites into orbit. The company and its partner Beyond Gravity also are investing in a new building that will increase manufacturing capacity of Vulcan’s payload fairings and add 250 jobs.

Zurich-based Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space) has its U.S. office headquarters in Huntsville and has operated a production facility for launcher structures in Decatur since 2015. The company works closely with ULA.


GE Appliances’ top-freezer refrigerator plant in Decatur celebrated its 45th anniversary last year. With 1,500 employees, the plant is the largest employer at a single location in Morgan County.

In 2022, the company invested millions of dollars to improve efficiency and expand capacity. The company also announced it is reshoring production of two top freezer models from China to Decatur.

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Nucor Steel Decatur, a division of North Carolina-based Nucor Corp., manufactures hot rolled, cold rolled and coated flat roll steel.

In February Nucor announced that its newly formed Nucor Towers & Structures business unit plans to build a $125 million transmission tower production plant next to the Nucor Steel Decatur sheet steel mill, adding about 200 jobs.

Headquartered in Hartselle, Cerrowire is a copper wire manufacturer that supplies building wire and cable throughout North America. This spring, the company opened a $100 million, 270,000-square-foot metal clad cable manufacturing facility.

Wolverine Industries is the largest integrated aluminum solutions provider in North America. The company headquarters and an aluminum extrusion plant are in Decatur.


3M operates a materials plant and a film plant, with 950 employees and some 400 on-site contractors.

Other key chemical companies include Ascend Performance Materials, which has been operating in Decatur since 1952, and Indorama Ventures Xylenes and PTA, Daikin America and Polyplex USA.


With 1,640 employees, Wayne-Sanderson Farms LLC is Morgan County’s largest employer, producing 250,000 pounds of fresh meat daily and other products. More than 60% of chickens come from Alabama farmers.

Gemstone Foods in Decatur also produces fresh poultry products.


Toray Composite Materials America Inc. is the world’s largest producer of carbon fiber and advanced composite materials, used in aerospace, defense and automotive products. A $15 million upgrade to the plant will double production capacity of carbon fiber.

Packaging company Sonoco Products operates two facilities in Hartselle — a steel reels plant and a nailed wood and plywood reel producing plant.

Decatur is the metals fabrication hub for Turner Industries’ Southeast operations and specializes in pipe, vessel, steel and modular fabrication services.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing produces the Mazda CX-50 and the Toyota Corolla Cross.

Limestone County


Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), a joint undertaking between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., currently produces the Mazda CX-50, a crossover SUV, and the Toyota Corolla Cross at its Limestone County facility. The plant has the capacity to manufacture 300,000 vehicles annually.

Production at the plant is supported by 15 on-site partners that operate either under the roof of MTM’s massive 3.7 million-square-foot facility or on its nearby campus. Suppliers include plastic parts maker DNUS; plus YKTA, TBAKI, Toyota Boshoku America and AKI USA.

Polaris Inc.’s 900,000-square-foot facility in Limestone County is one of the company’s largest plants, making the Polaris Slingshot.

EFI Automotive’s North American headquarters in Elkmont designs and manufactures sensors, activators and actuators for Ford Motor Co. The firm is investing $6 million to add two production lines.

Bocar US in Tanner makes structural aluminum parts, which help reduce vehicle weight and trim emissions.

Tris USA Inc., an automotive component company, has been manufacturing carbon brushes for DC motors at its Athens facility for more than 30 years.


The 100-acre GE Aviation complex is the company’s only facility in the U.S. that produces ceramic matrix composites components used in jet engines.

Carpenter Technology Corp. has been manufacturing high-end specialty alloy products for the aerospace and energy industries in its Athens facility since 2014. In 2019, the company opened an advanced additive manufacturing facility and Emerging Technology Center.


In 2021, Amazon opened a fulfillment center in the Limestone County portion of Huntsville, with plans to add a second facility nearby for bulkier items.

Target Distribution also operates a distribution center nearby.


Steelcase, a producer of office furniture, InTech Medical, which produces devices for orthopedic surgery, and HDT Global, which produces military shelters, are also among the county’s top employers.

Business Briefs:

Morgan County

JUNE 2023: Stogie Holdings LLC announces it is working with a Memphis development company on a 140- to 180-unit apartment complex in historic Decatur. Once approved, construction is expected to take about 18 months.

JUNE 2023: Decatur Morgan County Tourism announces a new partnership with American Cruise Line that will see the company’s riverboats docking in Decatur as they carry travelers along the Tennessee River.

MAY 2023: The Renasant Gateway Decatur bank opens. The two-story, 7,800-square-foot all-glass front building is part of an ongoing effort by city officials to revitalize the entrance to the city.

APRIL 2023: Cullman Regional Medical Center wins state approval to build a freestanding emergency department in Hartselle.

APRIL 2023: Bunge North America Inc. announces a $28.6 million expansion of its Decatur plant. A new building, upgrades to existing buildings and added equipment to improve the unloading and distribution capabilities should be complete by December 2023.

FEBRUARY 2023: Nucor Corp. announces plans to build a new $125 million transmission tower production plant, Nucor Towers & Structures, next to the Nucor Steel Decatur sheet steel mill. Nucor plans for 200 full-time jobs at the new facility.

OCTOBER 2022: Toray Composite Materials America Inc. announces a $15 million investment to upgrade its Decatur carbon fiber facility, doubling the production capacity of the high-performance carbon fiber.

OCTOBER 2022: United Launch Alliance breaks ground on a $300 million, 500,000-square-foot facility to support a commercial launch contract with Amazon, which plans 38 Vulcan rocket launches to deploy its “Kuiper” broadband satellites.

MAY 2022: Cerrowire breaks ground on a $100 million manufacturing plant that will incorporate advanced systems and equipment. Plans call for 80 more employees at first, with 120 within three years.

Limestone County

APRIL 2023: EFI Automotive announces plans to invest $6 million in its North American headquarters in Elkmont to create two new production lines and add about 35 workers.

APRIL 2023: The Pryor Field Airport Authority Board approves a 25-year lease with Acquisition Integration for a maintenance, repair and overhaul operation at the airport.

MARCH 2023: Athens-based Ming Commercial Real Estate Group announces the start of construction on a 2,500-square-foot Starbucks at the Publix at MidTown Centre in Athens. The Starbucks will be one of three tenants in an outparcel development on Highway 31.

JANUARY 2023: Morgan Metals Inc. announces plans to expand its North Alabama operations with a new $286,000, 4,800-square-foot building and loading dock.

DECEMBER 2022: Bryant Bank opens a retail bank location in Athens, including office space available for lease to professional service providers.

DECEMBER 2022: Gregory Industries breaks ground on a new G-STRUT manufacturing facility in Athens’ Elm Industrial Park.

AUGUST 2022: ROW Manufacturing announces a $521,900 investment to expand operations to supply local automotive plants with machine parts.

JUNE 2022: InTech Medical announces a $23.5 million expansion to meet global growth needs in the orthopedic market. It is expected to create up to 50 jobs.

MAY 2022: Old Black Bear Brewing announces plans to expand to Athens with a $1.5 million investment. It plans to hire 45 employees over three years once production begins.

MARCH 2022: Elk River Health and Nursing Center of Ardmore opens a 74-bed skilled nursing facility. The new facility increases occupancy and will serve Ardmore’s veteran community as a VA service provider.

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

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