Spotlight on Shelby County

Shelby County, located in the middle of the state, is one of seven counties in the Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area. Highly desirable as a great place to live on several fronts, from health to housing to quality education, it continues to be the fastest-growing county in the state.

It has beautiful natural resources in Oak Mountain State Park, Lay Lake and parks throughout the area, along with lots of rooftops and retail to meet the needs of residents.

There are 17 municipalities, but partnership is the name of the game here. Shelby County partners in numerous projects to help cities build and improve parks and infrastructure, build senior centers and more. A major ongoing partnership among the county, the University of Montevallo and the city of Montevallo has resulted in many projects and improvements — and in turn, increased enrollment.

“When we conceived of this partnership some time ago, the county commission, the city council and the university’s board of trustees unanimously approved it, ” says University of Montevallo President John Stewart. “In this day and age, to have this kind of cooperation is extraordinary. The economy is tough, too, and it takes partnerships to flourish.”

Shelby County is strategically positioned for economic development. It has easy access to major air, train and interstates. In recruiting, the ultimate goal is to provide enough good, high-paying jobs in the area that most people do not have to travel outside the county to work.

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Like many areas, Shelby County has had its share of slowdowns, such as in the housing market, where a few years ago, rooftops went up seemingly overnight throughout the county. But it is recovering.

The Bassmaster Classic, one of the nation’s premier fishing tournaments, has been held on Lay Lake four times. The lake also is home to numerous regional fishing tournaments.

Photo courtesy of Shelby County Department of Development Services

“We’re coming out of the great recession well, and are seeing sales tax revenues increase, as well as an uptick in ad valorem taxes, ” says Alex Dudchock, county manager. “We’re excited, because while we don’t expect to return to our glory years, we are seeing signs of improvement.”

Shelby County maximizes its chances for economic growth with several business and corporate park offerings, including Shelby West Corporate Park, developed by Shelby County, says James Dedes, executive director of the Shelby County Economic and Industrial Development Authority. “There are about 1, 300 jobs represented in that park already, and we continue to see more growth.” For example, Hibbett Sports is building a major distribution center in the park, which is near the airport.

Also in the spirit of partnership, the county has several privately owned business and corporate parks that are putting up spec buildings and working to attract tenants, Dedes says. “We are partnering with real estate firms because they have expertise to build and it gives us a product, ” he says. The county also is working with The Westervelt Co., which owns a 15-acre parcel in Calera, as a megasite for future development. It has already received the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama AdvantageSite designation.

“We hope as the automotive sector continues to grow, we will see more automotive suppliers here, OEMs, since we are centrally located to several auto manufacturers, ” Dedes says.

The county also has made a number of improvements to its airport, Dudchock says. Among those are a new hangar that can house 16 aircraft. The county ultimately wants to provide hangar space for 96 aircraft. “We have space for larger hangars, and we see adding more corporate hangar space, ” he says. “We are close to the max for general aviation space. We also have a runway long enough to accommodate corporate jets.”

Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham. 

Text by Lori Chandler Pruitt

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