Pike, Barbour and Bullock counties are a compatible contrast of traditional and futuristic. In this southeast corner of the state, agriculture thrives alongside technology-driven emerging industry — especially in the booming aviation sector, fed by Fort Rucker just to the south and Maxwell Air Force Base just to the north.
The economic quilt includes advanced missile manufacturing, forest products and outdoor sports enterprise. Located at the center of the “wood basket” of the state, the region is home to substantial wood products companies. But major employers also include aviation, higher education, trucking, transportation, agriculture and products for marine electronics and sports fishing.
Pike County is abuzz with news that Mauna Loa Helicopters, headquartered in Hawaii, has partnered with Pike Aviation, Troy University and the city of Troy to bring an aviation-training program to the area. The new venture is called Trojan Aviation and will train students for piloting commercial aircraft, along with earning an associate degree.
Also on the aviation front, Lockheed Martin’s Pike County facility recently was awarded a $449 million U.S. Air Force contract to continue producing missiles. The new contract is expected to add 100 jobs at Lockheed Martin.
In Barbour County, where Lake Eufaula is known as the bass fishing capital of the world, the county is home to Humminbird, a division of Johnson Outdoor Marine, as well as other companies that make fishing lures and marine electronics. Total employment in this sector is about 2, 800 workers. And Humminbird recently invested $5 million in a new research and development department.
Eufaula is the site of dozens of fishing tournaments. A national bass fishing tournament is slated for next year, as well as a conference of outdoor writers.
A majority of Bullock County is forested, and one of the county’s main enterprises is agriculture. Bullock County recently became home to the state’s first legal distillery, High Ridge Spirits, which sells to most of the state’s ABC stores. The county also has an automotive supplier that has expanded.
Bullock County created 100 new jobs in the past year, which is true progress, says Julian Cope, economic developer for the county. “One job in Bullock County has the same impact locally as creating 303 jobs in Montgomery County, ” Cope says. The jobs were created via a variety of manufacturers.
World famous for its wildlife habitats and hunting plantations, Bullock County holds bird dog field trials from October to March. It hosts the prestigious National Amateur Free-for-All Championship each February.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
text by Lori Chandler Pruitt