Indicators point to robust job growth in Jefferson County  

Indicators point to robust job growth in Jefferson County  
Gestamp's latest expansion in JeffMet McCalla is an entirely new building the auto supplier is constructing on a site across from its current plant. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

Jefferson County means business.

Less than three months into 2017, the state’s most populous county has seen a number of openings, investments and expansions at its JeffMet Park in McCalla.

Over a two-week span Publix Super Markets held a grand opening for its Alabama distribution center with plans to have 300 workers there by year’s end. A week later, Gov. Robert Bentley announced that global auto supplier Grupo Antolin plans to invest nearly $10.4 million to establish a manufacturing facility in Jefferson County that will employ 150 people by 2020.

Also, two additional recent expansions at the McCalla Park warrant mention, say Jefferson County leaders.

David Carrington, Jefferson County commissioner, speaks at the Publix distribution center grand opening in JeffMet McCalla in February. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

“The first is Plastipak, which manufactures high-quality plastic rigid containers, and Gestamp, a Spanish company with annual sales of more than $7 billion, which manufactures metal automotive components,” said Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, who chairs the commission’s finance, information technology and business development committee.

Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the synergy created by adding Grupo Antolin “helps solidify our position with Mercedes and allows for further expansion within the industry.” Its location in McCalla will manufacture interior parts for the Mercedes plant in Vance.

Getting those businesses is in line with Jefferson County’s economic development strategy, which has two primary objectives.

“The first is to stimulate organic growth by working with existing companies like Kamtek, Plastipak, Gestamp and Cascades Sonoco on their expansion plans,” Carrington said. “And the second is to attract new companies in business sectors where we have inherent competitive advantages, like life sciences, information technology, financial services, automotive supply, advanced manufacturing and distribution.”

Stephens said the goal is to “specialize and lean on our strengths for development: our skilled labor force, research centers, Southern Research and UAB, geographic location and road infrastructure, which put Jefferson County in a great position moving forward.”

Gestamp is building a new facility as part of its latest expansion in JeffMet McCalla. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

The growth in some areas has surpassed expectations. Publix initially projected 200 jobs for its regional distribution center at the county’s JeffMet Park in McCalla.

“They have already exceeded that number in their first month of operation and plan to have 300 employees in place by August,” Carrington said. “Their decision underscores our metro area’s robust transportation network, which we have always felt is a competitive advantage.”

Publix is servicing 89 stores from the new facility: as far north as Clarksville, Tennessee, as far east as Douglasville, Georgia, and as far south as the Florida Panhandle.

There is additional good news for the western side of the county, said Stephens, who represents much of the district.

Flex N Gate is expanding in Bessemer,” he said. “Many of our mines are hiring skilled workers, and thankfully U.S. Steel is hiring at their pipe mill.”

Stephens said he envisions technology companies coming into the county to “take advantage of and feed upon the opportunities provided by UAB in the field of technology and medicine. We in government must be the facilitators in creating an environment for this growth,” he said.

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