Cullman ranks as a top ‘micropolitan’ for economic development

Cullman ranks as a top ‘micropolitan’ for economic development
Officials celebrate an expansion at Rehau in Cullman. Rehau was one of 19 major economic development projects during 2016 that led Site Selection magazine to rank Cullman the No. 2 "micropolitan" in the country. (Made in Alabama)

Site Selection magazine placed Alabama among the top states in a new measure of economic development success, while Cullman ranked No. 2 in the publication’s ranking of top U.S. small cities.

Cullman ranked behind only Findlay, Ohio, in the Site Selection “Top Micropolitan” list for the second consecutive year. The economic development-focused magazine examined new facility and expansion projects in 575 cities with populations between 10,000 and 50,000.

In 2016, Cullman had 19 qualifying projects, while Findlay had 22.

“This is an outstanding recognition for our community and the industrial base here,” Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Peggy Smith said. “Site Selection is a recognized leader in the economic development field, and this lofty ranking reflects Cullman’s tremendous industrial growth.”

Alabama ranked No. 8 among the states in Site Selection’s per-capita project rankings, which levels the playing field for small and midsized states. Alabama’s 2016 ranking improved from No. 10 in the previous year. Nebraska received the top ranking.

According to Site Selection’s criteria, Alabama had 132 qualifying projects in 2016. To be considered by the magazine, a project must involve either a capital investment of more than $1 million, construction of more than 20,000 square feet or the creation of 20 new jobs.

“This ranking validates the hard work put in by Alabama’s economic development team and underscores the strong appeal of our state when it comes to new investment and job creation,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Alabama is consistently ranked among the nation’s top states for business, most recently by Area Development magazine, which polled site consultants to prepare a list of the best states for business. Alabama ranked No. 6 in that survey.

Positioned for success

Situated along Interstate 65, just 45 minutes from both Birmingham and Huntsville, Cullman has become a thriving hub of diverse businesses such as auto suppliers, distribution operations and manufacturers.

Rehau had one of Cullman’s top projects in 2016, expanding two of its operations for a total $7 million investment creating 137 jobs. (Contributed)

Industry announcements in this city of 15,000 residents are common, with projects totaling nearly $70 million in new capital investment and 460-plus jobs launched last year alone.

Smith said she is confident that Cullman can eventually climb to the top of the Site Selection rankings of micropolitans.

“We ranked third in the nation in 2014 and improved to second in 2015,” Smith said. “I am excited that we closed the gap on Findlay, and I am optimistic that we can be No. 1 because of the strength of the workforce here and the quality of the industries in our community.”

Some of the top projects in Cullman in 2016 included:

  • Reliance Worldwide is investing $7.8 million to expand its Cash Acme plumbing products manufacturing operation in the city, creating 50 jobs. The company has expanded repeatedly in Cullman over the years.
  • Two Rehau operations in Cullman launched expansions in 2016. Rehau Automotive, which makes plastic parts, is investing $2 million and adding 80 jobs. Rehau Construction, which makes PEX pipe and gaskets, is investing $5 million, creating 57 jobs.
  • Retail giant Walmart is expanding its Cullman distribution center with an $8.5 million investment that will add 121 jobs.

‘Real winners’

Smith said Cullman County will continue to prosper because of its central location on the I-65 artery, the area’s strong workforce and job-training programs, and the quality of its education system.

“While it is disappointing in some respects to be second, there are 573 other communities envious of this ranking that would gladly trade places with Cullman to move up on this list,” Smith said. “Plus, we are the No. 1 micropolitan in the South.

“But the real winners are the companies that continue to create jobs and invest capital in Cullman,” she said. “We are so appreciative of their role in the economic stability of this community.”

In addition to national rankings for Cullman and Alabama, the Birmingham-Hoover area ranked No. 4 among Site Selection’s list of top-performing metropolitans in the South Central region, with 70 qualifying projects in 2016.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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