Report: 2017 projects generate nearly 15,500 new jobs across Alabama

Report: 2017 projects generate nearly 15,500 new jobs across Alabama
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO Eileen Drake speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new advanced manufacturing facility in Huntsville. Aerojet is creating 800 new jobs in the city with average salaries approaching $80,000. (Hal Yeager/Governor's Office)

Companies planning new facilities or expanding existing operations in Alabama announced nearly 15,500 new jobs and more than $4.4 billion in capital investment during 2017, according to a comprehensive report detailing economic development activity in the state last year.

The 2017 New & Expanding Industry Report, released by Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Commerce, shows that key industrial sectors such as automotive and aerospace continue to expand. The important forest product and food production sectors also turned in strong performances last year.

“I’m committed to creating high-paying jobs that transform the lives of Alabamians and bring new levels of prosperity to communities across the state,” Ivey said. “For Alabama to continue our recent success of job creation, it’s vitally important that we continue to pursue 21st-century jobs for our people.

“Momentum is on our side, and I will continue leading the charge in helping every Alabama family achieve their goals,” she said.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Alabama’s economic development efforts resulted in securing 317 projects last year, resulting in 15,465 new and future jobs and $4.41 billion in new capital investment. Those totals exceed 2016’s figures – 14,707 jobs and $4.2 billion in investment.
  • Jefferson led all Alabama counties in job growth from 2017 projects, with 2,200 anticipated jobs. Rural Dallas County led in new capital investment in 2017, with $556.2 million.
  • Alabama attracted foreign direct investment from 16 countries, generating 3,391 new and future jobs, as well as more than $1.2 billion in investment. South Korea was the top source for jobs, with 1,216 anticipated positions.

The momentum from a solid 2017 in economic development in Alabama has carried over into this year.

Already in 2018, the state has landed major projects including a Toyota-Mazda auto assembly plant that will create 4,000 jobs in Huntsville and a Kimber firearms factory that will create 366 jobs in Troy.

“We’re going to be energetically pursuing more of these projects because we want to bring jobs home to Alabama,” Ivey said.

Winkelmann executives joined Gov. Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield at the 2017 Paris Air Show to announce the company’s plans for a new manufacturing facility in Auburn. (contributed)

Goal: job creation

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the 2017 results outlined in the report align with the priorities of Accelerate Alabama 2.0, the state’s updated economic development growth plan.

“Our economic development strategy has centered on developing longstanding relationships with high-caliber companies from the U.S. and around the world so that they will put down roots in the state and grow through expansions over many years,” Canfield said.

“Our primary goal is to create top-quality jobs and meaningful opportunities for people all across the state.”

The largest 2017 project, based on jobs created, was Aerojet Rocketdyne’s expansion in Huntsville. The California-based company is building a new manufacturing facility for its AR1 rocket engine and relocating many functions related to its defense business to Alabama, creating a total of 800 jobs.

Other large job-creating projects included:

  • Autocar announced plans to open an assembly facility for heavy-duty work trucks in Birmingham, creating 746 jobs.
  • Walmart announced that it will open an import distribution center in Mobile with 550 jobs.
  • Mercedes-Benz broke ground on a Global Logistics Center in rural Bibb County that will be staffed with 502 workers. (The automaker also announced plans for a battery plant, but the dimensions of that project are not yet final.)
  • John Soules Foods plans to create 500 jobs in Chambers County as it expands its production capacity.
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield speaks at International Beams’ announcement that it will invest $20 million in a manufacturing facility in Dothan. (Jamie Martin/Governor’s Office)

Project breakdown

A detailed look at the 2017 New & Expanding Industry Report shows that a majority of the projects involved expansions of existing facilities in Alabama. There were 256 expansion projects last year, involving $2.7 billion in capital investment and 8,367 anticipated jobs.

The 61 projects involving new facilities are expected to create almost as many jobs – 7,098, according to the report. New capital investment tied to these projects approached $1.7 billion.

Following Jefferson, the top counties for project-related job creation in 2017 were:

  • Madison: 1,828
  • Montgomery: 1,056
  • Mobile: 797
  • Chambers: 585

Counties ranking behind Dallas for the most new investment were:

  • Morgan: $516.3 million
  • Madison: $492.2 million
  • Mobile: $339.1 million
  • Bibb: $281.5 million

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

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