Spotlight: Pike and Barbour Counties

Troy University’s Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park and International Center

Pike and Barbour counties, in southeast Alabama, are part of the Wiregrass region of Alabama, a popular ecotourism area that boasts Lake Eufaula, the “bass capital of the world,” picturesque downtowns and plenty of job opportunities.

This region has several healthy economic sectors, from aerospace to higher education to agriculture, especially forests.

Both counties have enjoyed economic successes, and local officials expect that trend to continue.

The Pike County Economic Development Corp., founded in 2002 to help attract a Walmart distribution center to Brundidge, continues to bring new industry and encourage existing industry to expand. Long-time president Marsha Gaylard retired in July, but the work continues.

“This is a county-wide team effort that brings the governmental bodies, the school systems and local businesses together for the betterment of Pike County as a whole,” says John Ramage, chairman of the Pike County Economic Development Corp. “This commitment to teamwork over the past 18 years has brought considerable success to the economy of Pike County.”

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Pike County’s largest overall employer is Troy University, which has an international reach and a major role in the local economy. For example, Troy University operates the Troy Idea Bank in downtown Troy, giving student entrepreneurs the chance to learn and test business skills.

Lockheed Martin, already the county’s largest manufacturing employer, is expanding. Other strong sectors for Pike County include lead, recycling, plastics, firearms, food products, wood products and information technology. Sikorsky Helicopters also plans an expansion, while newcomers include Conecuh Ridge Distillery and firearms maker Kimber Manufacturing.

In Barbour County, Philip W. Clayton, director of economic development, says he and his staff are working on a strategic plan to retain and expand industry by providing rural health care, broadband and quality child care options; developing a strong workforce, and reestablishing commercial barge navigation on the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola Rivers.

Barbour County’s largest employer is poultry processor Tyson Foods, and the food products sector overall is very strong, as are paper, wood, metal, marine electronics and automotive.

Recently announced expansions include Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics Inc. and M.C. Dixon Lumber Co. And Wallace Community College, with its Sparks campus in Eufaula, offers academic and technical options.

Both counties are engaged in downtown improvements, adding features such as walking trails and splash pads.

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

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