Morgan, Limestone and Franklin counties, located in north Alabama, comprise one of the fastest-growing areas in the state. They are part of and benefit from the aggressive job growth in the area and are making it a priority to ensure they are able to handle the population growth that will ensue.
All of this can’t be done alone. While each county has its own separate identity, regional cooperation is key to getting things done. “When you talk about regionalism, it is more than just talking about partnerships; we meet on a quarterly basis with mayors of our counties and adjoining ones, and members of our own teams,” says Ray Long, Morgan County Commission president. “We make sure we are all on the same page and moving in the same direction.”
The region is not only excited about such announcements as Mazda Toyota in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County and associated suppliers, but also a new tourism attraction that just opened in June and is already a popular destination — the Cook Museum of Natural Science in Decatur. These developments, along with plans for new housing and other amenities, will serve to attract more visitors and residents.
Each of the school systems in the area — Morgan County, City of Decatur, City of Hartselle, Limestone County, City of Athens, Franklin County and City of Russellville — recognize the need for offering a mix of college preparation and career-technical training. Allowing high school students to participate in dual enrollment with nearby colleges helps graduates stay in the area and find jobs. And economic development organizations partner with school systems and industry to help current students while offering retraining options for adults.
All three counties have large employers that headline the economy, but also a diverse group of manufacturers of all sizes. The region has experienced expansion of several companies.
In Morgan County, the largest manufacturing employer is GE Appliances, which makes refrigerators. Other major employers include Wayne Farms Prepared Foods, the 3M Co., Nucor Steel, United Launch Alliance and Daikin America. Major economic sectors include aerospace, metals, chemicals and agriculture.
In Limestone County, the largest manufacturing employer is Polaris, an off-road vehicle company, followed by Steelcase Inc., Federal Mogul, Carpenter Technology Corp., Aviagen-North America, InTech, which makes medical implants, and EFI Automotive. Major sectors here include automotive, aviation and metal machining/processing.
And in Franklin County, the largest manufacturing employers include Tiffin Motorhomes Inc., Pilgrim’s poultry processing, Sunshine Mills, Innovative Hearth Products, G&G Steel, several manufacturing home companies and outdoor furniture. Major sectors include automotive, poultry and manufactured/modular homes.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.