By Jonathan Sanders
From the May/June 2015 issue
Companies planning new facilities or expanding existing operations in Alabama announced more than 18,000 new jobs and nearly $3.4 billion in new investment during 2014, reflecting growing momentum in sectors including automotive, aerospace and advanced manufacturing.
The 2014 New & Expanding Industry Report, released by Gov. Robert Bentley and the Alabama Department of Commerce, provides an in-depth look at how economic development activity unfolded last year across the state.
The number of announced jobs from the 392 Alabama projects in 2014 totaled 18,137, while combined new capital investment topped $3.37 billion. In 2013, those figures were 16,847 jobs and nearly $4.4 billion in investment.
Madison County ranked tops for new jobs related to projects last year, with 3,418. Lee County was No. 1 for new capital investment, with $482 million. Some rural counties recorded solid new job totals, including Chambers (665 jobs), Marion (628) and Coffee (545).
Foreign direct investment in Alabama topped $1 billion in 2014, with Japan the leading source for investment and job creation. Japanese companies announced Alabama projects involving almost $346 million in new investment and 1,118 jobs last year.
Since 2011, when Gov. Bentley took office, more than 73,000 new jobs and $17.3 billion in new capital investment have been announced in Alabama.
In January, ATV-maker Polaris Industries announced plans to invest $142 million to build a manufacturing facility in Huntsville with up to 2,000 workers.
The 2014 New & Expanding Industry Report shows accelerating growth in the state’s automotive and aerospace sectors, two of the pillars in the Accelerate Alabama strategic economic development plan. An emphasis on knowledge-based jobs also paid off last year, with a number of projects focusing on high-level functions such as research and engineering.
Aerospace projects announced in 2014 include Science and Engineering Services (SES), which announced a $70-million expansion of its Huntsville manufacturing operation, adding 450 new jobs. In rural Pike County, Lockheed Martin developed plans to expand its missile plant in Troy with a $55 million investment and 224 new jobs.
At the same time, the auto manufacturing sector continues to expand rapidly. Toyota last year announced a $121 million investment at its Huntsville engine plant and the addition of 189 workers. Honda added nearly $72 million in new investment and 150 workers at its Talladega County facility. In Tuscaloosa County, suppliers announced more than 1,100 jobs as they ramp up to support the growing Mercedes-Benz assembly operation.
“We’ve been very strategic in our approach to economic development in Alabama because we want to develop productive partnerships with companies that will put down roots and expand over time,” said Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce. “We want our efforts to create high-caliber jobs that pay well and have a future for the hard-working people of Alabama.”
The report shows that 70 companies announced new facilities in Alabama last year, involving 5,961 jobs and $438.3 million in capital investment. Another 322 companies announced expansions in AL, with 12,176 jobs and $2.9 billion in investment.