Spotlight on Shelby County: Economic Engines

Tourism, health care, technology, manufacturing and distribution are all key sectors to Shelby County's economy.

Lay Lake, just south of Columbiana, is a 12,000-acre reservoir known for its tournament fishing.


Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama’s largest, hosts more than 200 events annually while thriving as a local park for nearby residents. The park recently hosted internationally known XTERRA events and attracted more than 350 triathletes from 12 countries and 42 U.S. states — with similar events to come.

Bass fishing is a year-round sport on Lay Lake, with tournaments for professional, amateur, adult, college and high school competitors and numerous local fundraisers.

Columbiana and Montevallo both support an emerging culture and arts scene, where new facilities have opened in the past few years.

Shelby County also has a healthy service and hospitality industry, which often handles the lodging for sports tournaments, events and business travel. The county’s investment in parks and other recreation has paid off in more visitors and sports tourism.

Retail, restaurant and lodging offerings continue to grow, providing more choices to residents and visitors.

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In the city of Pelham, Campus 124 — pronounced “one-two-four” in a nod to the zip code — is a mixed-use development breathing new life into a vacant elementary school along the busy Highway 31 corridor. Tenants include Beer Hog, Half Shell Oyster House, The Guys Place, Local Realty, Social Mortgage, Reverb Media Strategies, Untold Boudoir, Poppa G’s Billiards & CLP Systems, with more expected.

Tattersall Park, located along the U.S. Highway 280 corridor in Hoover, is a 75-acre master planned development anchored by a new Publix with other tenants including Walk-Ons Bistreaux & Bar, Brookwood Medical Center Freestanding ER, Christian Brothers Automotive and Covenant Classical Schools & Day Care. More development is under construction.

Health Care

Within Shelby County, Alabaster’s Shelby Baptist Medical Center, part of Brookwood Baptist Health, has an economic impact of nearly $300 million. With more than 1,000 employees it is one of the largest overall employers in Shelby County.

Along the US 280 corridor, Grandview Medical Center, north of the Shelby County line, serves residents there and also at other clinics and services around the county.

Other services in the 280 corridor include Brookwood Baptist Emergency Department and Ascension St. Vincent’s One Nineteen, which includes an outpatient surgery center. In Pelham, Encompass Health has a rehabilitation hospital.


Biotechnology and software companies are key target industry sectors for Shelby County as leaders look to an innovation economy for the future.

EBSCO Industries and McLeod Software have their corporate headquarters in the county, along with biotechs like Therachem in Chelsea, Reliant Glycosciences and BioGx, which together account for more than 1,500 high tech jobs along the U.S. Highway 280 corridor and nearby.

Legacy biotechnology companies Avanti Polar Lipids in Alabaster, and BioCryst and BioHorizons in Hoover have significant operations in Shelby County.

To enhance this sector, the city of Hoover and Shelby County have modernized development and zoning regulations to include research and development facilities and certain light/small manufacturing operations within traditional office buildings.


Due to the strong Alabama automotive industry surrounding Shelby County, AGC Automotive, a Japanese glass supplier, recently completed a facility expansion, as did Sunbelt Paper & Packaging in Calera, following construction of a 200,000-plus-square-foot facility by Graham & Co. — with space available for other manufacturers.

An industrial/distribution park in Shelby County.


With I-65 bisecting the cities of Pelham, Alabaster and Calera, distribution companies have been gravitating to Shelby County. MWI Animal Health (an Amerisource Bergen company), Hibbett Sports, PRADCO Outdoor Brands, Georgia Crown and Diversified Supply are just a few distribution companies that operate in the county.

Legacy Utilities

Alabama Power Co. operates the Wilsonville Gaston Steam Power Plant, among other facilities, which have created technical and professional jobs.


Shelby County has some of the highest-grade limestone in the world, which is used for products from pharmaceuticals to cement and road aggregate. Companies involved in that sector include Carmeuse Lime & Stone, Martin Marietta, Lhoist North America and Vulcan Materials.

Education/Workforce Development

Shelby County is served by four public school systems — the county system plus city systems in Alabaster, Pelham and Hoover.

Quality education is a major factor as potential homebuyers and businesses consider residency and locations in Shelby County. Public school systems and higher education partners work with local governmental entities and economic developers to ensure that residents are equipped for jobs within the Birmingham region.

Jefferson State Community College is based in east Jefferson County but has its largest enrollment — 5,000 students — at the Shelby/Hoover campus. The college recently built a new welding lab at the Shelby County campus, providing advanced manufacturing training skills to job seekers and companies within the area.

The University of Montevallo has an average enrollment of 2,600 students. In addition to the student impact on the community, UM also employs more than 500. The university’s newly constructed 36,750-square-foot Center for the Arts opened in fall 2020 and allows UM to add up to 150 new students in the arts program. The center features two performance venues that seat 450, an art gallery, digital fabrication and design labs, classrooms, vocal performance rehearsal rooms, dance studio, production shops and event space.

Montevallo Main Street recently launched a nationally known business accelerator — Co.Starters — and graduated its first cohort of participating businesses. Plans call for a twice-a-year, six-week program to support new entrepreneurs.

The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and its economic development organization, 58 Inc., are collaborating on a variety of workforce programs to meet industry needs. For example, the chamber, with support from 58 Inc., initiated the High School Ready to Work program in collaboration with The Onin Group. This program allows high school students to gain soft skills while exploring jobs in multiple industry clusters.

“Companies in Shelby County can reach out to us for assistance with hiring and training issues so that we can leverage regional resources and partnerships to help them hire and develop a qualified workforce,” says Kirk Mancer, president and CEO of the Shelby County Chamber.

Business Briefs:

November 2022: Double Oak Park opens in Shelby County. The 750-acre park features hiking, mountain biking, horseback trails and a picnic pavilion.

November 2022: The Shelby County portion of the city of Hoover is working to revitalize and convert Meadow Brook Corporate Park and Inverness Center North, both of which have vacancies, into mixed-use innovation and technology centers.

August 2022: The Forever Wild board of trustees acquires 110 acres adjacent to Cahaba River Park in Shelby County, bringing the site to about 1,800 acres with trails and access to Shades Creek and the Cahaba River.

May 2022: Calera Main Street is working on a revitalized downtown district with plans for an entertainment district, green space and more. Downtown has several new businesses and revitalized storefronts.

May 2022: Plans call for redeveloping the former TreeTop Family Adventure site with new restaurants, an outdoor entertainment area, large viewing screens for sports events and a secure play area for kids.

March 2022: The Center for Elder Justice and Advocacy opens in Montevallo, offering resources and a temporary emergency shelter for older adults and elder abuse victims.

March 2022: Process Barron, a manufacturing facility in Pelham, is consolidating parts warehousing and expanding facilities, a $3.2 million investment expected to generate 30 jobs over the next five years.

July 2022: The city of Helena will move its city hall to the Hillsboro Town Center, part of a long-term development plan called Helena Forward. It is near the master-planned Hillsboro residential community and will include a sports complex.

May 2022: Ascension St. Vincent’s requests state approval to build a freestanding emergency department, primary care and multispecialty clinic in Pelham.

February 2022: Lake Homes Realty and sister company RealSource Title Insurance and Real Estate Closing signed a lease to occupy a 55,000-square-foot building at Meadow Brook Corporate Park in north Shelby County, retaining some 50 jobs and planning to add 250 more.

January 2022: The city of Alabaster purchases 24 acres from its city school system near Alabama 119 and Thompson Road to build a city recreation center, retail space and park/green space. Renderings include a splash pad/water feature, playground, outdoor basketball and trails.

November 2021: The Alex A. Dudchock Shelby County Services Building opens. Named for the former long-time county manager, it houses a county license office, an Alabama Law Enforcement Agency driver testing office, Shelby County 911, a sheriff’s office substation, 58 Inc. and more.

November 2021: Sunbelt Paper & Packaging, one of the largest privately-owned packaging and industrial supply companies in the Southeast, will locate in a new building developed by Graham & Co. in Calera. Sunbelt will use about l08,000 square feet for distribution and lease out the remainder.

October 2021: Dunn Building Co. opens a new equipment maintenance shop in Columbiana to service, maintain and clean all company-owned equipment.

September 2021: A new LaQuinta Inn & Suites is underway in Chelsea off the U.S. 280 corridor.

May 2021: The summer Career Corps program begins, providing paid internships for educators who wish to learn more about career pathways available for students. Several companies and organizations throughout the county hosted an educator.

August 2021: The Alabama Forever Wild Board of Trustees approves the acquisition of more than 1,600 acres of land to be added to Oak Mountain State Park. It will increase the size of the park to more than 11,000 acres.

June 2021: Kontane Logistics Inc. announces it will relocate one of its facilities to Columbiana. The company is an industrial packaging supplier for Mercedes-Benz U.S. International and other companies and provides logistics services to the truck and automotive manufacturing industry.

April 2021: Avanti Polar Lipids in Alabaster, a biotech firm that is part of Croda International, expands its campus to include a new commercial building. The $16 million expansion adds 67 jobs and allows the company to continue its legacy work, as well as COVID-19 response.

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

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