Spotlight on Tuscaloosa County: Economic Engines

Fans flock to Tuska, a 7-ton bronze elephant created by artist Terry Mathews 20 years ago. Tuska recently moved to the northeast corner of the stadium from the North River Yacht Club.

The University of Alabama/Higher Education

The University of Alabama, with almost 7,000 employees, is the largest employer in Tuscaloosa County and has a dramatic impact on the state’s economy.

UA’s economic impact in 2018-19 was $2.973 billion, and it is credited with creating 13,823 jobs. UA had a $17.51 impact per dollar of the $169.7 million state appropriation the university received for the year.

From a public investment perspective, the state will realize a 12.5% annual rate of return on investment for the appropriation because the UA 2018-2019 graduating class will, over their careers, pay $890.9 million more in state income and sales taxes than they would have without their UA education.

Tuscaloosa County also is home to Shelton State Community College and Stillman College, both of which have a large impact on workforce development, dual enrollment, career/technical and academic degrees, and training students of all ages.

The Mercedes Maybach is the latest vehicle to come off the lines at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International.

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International/Automotive Suppliers

The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance is the traditional location for SUV production, and currently produces the GLE, GLE Coupé, GLS and the Mercedes Maybach. It has more than 4,200 employees.

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In the future, the plant will also produce electric SUVs under the product and technology brand EQ, a $1 billion investment. In October 2018, the company began construction of a battery plant near the Vance facility, which will make Tuscaloosa part of the global battery production network of Mercedes-Benz electric cars, with locations on three continents.

MBUSI, with more than 20 years in Tuscaloosa County, is responsible for more than 24,500 jobs — both in the plant and via suppliers throughout the region. It is the first large Mercedes-Benz production plant outside Germany and has produced more than 3.4 million vehicles since 1997. It is the second largest automotive exporter in the U.S.

MBUSI has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion and started an economic boom in this sector throughout the state, as other vehicle manufacturers call the state home as well. There are more than 200 U.S.-based suppliers.

To date, more than $6 billion has been invested in the Tuscaloosa plant since 1995. The company also built a new consolidation center in Woodstock.

COVID-19 vaccines are administered at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center.

Health Care

With about 4,000 employees in the DCH Health System in Tuscaloosa and Northport, health care is a major economic driver in the area. DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa is the third largest overall employer and Northport Medical Center is the 13th largest. Health care accounts for 8.7% of total jobs in the county, economic
development officials say.

There are hundreds more workers in health care facilities and support in the area, including those at Bryce Hospital and its related mental health facilities, and the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center is the ninth largest overall employer in the county, with 1,163 employees. These hospitals are growing with clinics to better serve those in neighboring counties.

In addition, the University of Alabama’s College of Community Health Sciences is helping develop a highly skilled workforce to boost this growing field. It also provides care to UA students and has two other locations.

Tuscaloosa and Northport have a wealth of art galleries.


In Tuscaloosa, along with the rest of the world, the tourism industry turned out much differently than anyone had anticipated in 2020 and in the early months of 2021.  Despite this obstacle, the sports-tourism industry quickly bounced back, allowing the community to host events and visitors once again.

There is strong indication and encouragement that the sports tourism and meetings industry, along with leisure travel, are returning at a much quicker pace than many anticipated. Tourism officials in the community remain hopeful that the energy around a full football stadium this fall, along with the return of well-recognized community events, will help boost numbers, putting the community back in line for another banner year, delivering a strong economic impact to Tuscaloosa County.

In 2020, hotel revenue reached $56 million, resulting in $6.1 million in lodging tax collections for the city. Overall, those traveling to Tuscaloosa County spent $450 million on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation. As a result of this, the tourism industry was responsible for more than 5,700 jobs in Tuscaloosa County. This number is expected to grow again, if life returns to normal.

While Tuscaloosa may be well recognized for its legendary sports teams, the area offers a plethora of places to eat, things to see and activities to enjoy. Outside of home game weekends, attractions — such as the Tuscaloosa Civil Rights Trail and the Moundville Archaeological Park — bring in visitors, as does the riverfront and other downtown development.


Tuscaloosa is home to several companies in the metal stamping and coiled steel business, many of whom are among the area’s largest manufacturing employers. Those include Phifer Inc., ZF Chassis Systems, Nucor Tuscaloosa and Hanna Steel Corp.


JULY 2021: The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama wins Chamber of the Year honors from the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

June 2021: Lear Corp. completes a $28.9 million expansion in Tuscaloosa County, adding 454 workers.

April 2021: The Tuscaloosa County Economic Development Authority rebrands to sharpen focus on technology-based and knowledge-based activities.

April 2021: The city of Tuscaloosa breaks ground on an Elevate Tuscaloosa project that will improve the Tuscaloosa National Airport runway to allow the airport to accommodate air traffic and cargo, as well as potential future commercial air service. It should be completed by this fall.

March 2021: SMP Automotive Systems Alabama announces plans for a $4 million facility in Tuscaloosa County’s Cedar Cove Technology Park.

December 2020: Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz plant will begin production of luxury electric SUVs in 2022. A battery plant is being built in Bibb County.

September 2020: A $15 million federal grant has been received to expand Tuscaloosa Riverwalk.

September 2020: MBUSI announces it will build a new parts assembly and sequencing facility for electric vehicle parts, a $53.5 million capital investment with 373 new jobs.

June 2020: Ashton Lewis, a division of Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., announces it will establish an operation in Tuscaloosa County through the purchase of WG Sullivan Lumber Co. in Northport. The purchase is about $5.1 million.

May 2020: Martinrea Tuscaloosa, an automotive supplier, announces a $52.3 million expansion in Airport Industrial Park to address production and parts assembly for Mercedes’ new electric vehicles.

March 2020: Minerals Refining Co. establishes a $14.85 million production facility in Tuscaloosa.

February 2020: Warrior Met Coal, the state’s largest producer of metallurgical coal, is building a new underground coal mining facility in Tuscaloosa County. The $500 million project was approved for state tax abatements.

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