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Economic Engines

Spotlight on Talladega, Calhoun, Clay & Cleburne counties

Honda associates perform final checks and put the finishing touches on the 2012 Honda Odyssey minivans at the manufacturing plant in Lincoln. The plant employs more than 4,000 associates.

Honda associates perform final checks and put the finishing touches on the 2012 Honda Odyssey minivans at the manufacturing plant in Lincoln. The plant employs more than 4,000 associates.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC

With more than 4,000 people employed at its engine and vehicle assembly plant in Lincoln, Honda is Talladega County’s largest employer. HMA’s investment in Alabama by 2013 will total more than $2 billion.

The plant has the capacity to produce more than 300,000 vehicles and V-6 engines. It is the sole producer of the Odyssey minivan, the Pilot sport utility vehicle and the Ridgeline pickup truck. Honda will add production of the Acura MDX luxury sport utility vehicle in 2013.

Talladega Superspeedway

The superspeedway, NASCAR’s longest track with the steepest banking, generates an annual economic impact of $407 million for the region and state, creating 7,955 jobs for workers throughout the Alabama economy. About 75 percent of race fans come from out of state, traveling about 300 miles each way to attend a race weekend. Some 83 percent of Talladega County’s total 2-cent rural sales tax each year is collected during the two race weekends. Each year, the superspeedway activities produce more than $64 million of fiscal revenues for federal, state and local governments, and more than $29 million flows directly to state and local governments.

The superspeedway is in the middle of a grandstands renovation—phase two of four—that includes new 22-inch-wide seats and a new drip shield that collects more than five million gallons of water a year, making sure fans who walk the concourse level stay as dry as possible. And the existing asphalt concourse was replaced with new concrete. The next phase will replace seats in the Talladega, Moss-Thornton, Birmingham, OV Hill North and Anniston Towers, and by the end of phase four, all the seating in the front stretch grandstands will be replaced with new, spacious seats. The work is being done by local craftspeople.

Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind

Established in 1858, AIDB is the largest employer in the city of Talladega, with about 1,100 employees and an annual payroll of about $48.3 million. It also is among the top five employers in Talladega County. AIDB enjoys successful partnerships with Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, Talladega Superspeedway, the Department of Rehabilitation Services and many other area businesses. It also does job training programs in local businesses with adult clients and has a dual enrollment agreement with Central Alabama Community College.

AIDB serves more than 20,500 people every year in all 67 counties, operating five campuses in Talladega and a network of regional centers located in Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, Talladega, Tuscaloosa and Tuscumbia. The Alabama School for the Blind, the Alabama School for the Deaf and Helen Keller School of Alabama provide traditional and non-traditional academic instruction and life preparation for children ages 3 to 21 in residential and day environments. It offers advanced, academic and occupational diploma tracks, along with career exploration and work experience, extracurricular activities and sports.

AIDB also operates the Gentry Facility, a postsecondary rehab and training program preparing deaf and blind adults for work and independent living. Gentry’s assistive technology program won praises as one of the very best in the country from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. In addition, AIDB’s Alabama Industries for the Blind is the state’s largest employer of deaf and blind adults.

Deaf, blind or multi-disabled students whose families are Alabama residents don’t pay tuition, room or board. AIDB is funded by an appropriation from the Alabama Legislature through the Special Education Trust Fund. It also does not receive revenue from tuition or local taxes. AIDB does not borrow money for operating expenses.

Health Care

All of the counties’ hospitals are counted as major employers for the area, and this sector continues to grow. For example, the Northeast Regional Medical Center in Calhoun County has 1,369 employees and a payroll of more than $64 million, and represents a $128 million economic impact on the local community. Jacksonville Medical Center, with 271 employees, provides an annual payroll of more than $11.4 million. Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga, with 630 employees, is the largest employer in that city with a $23 million payroll. 

Tourism

With the Talladega National Forest and Cheaha State Park as a neighbor, along with the Tallapoosa River and Logan Martin Lake, these counties have a lot to offer in tourism. Hiking, fishing, camping, boating, even disc golf are popular in this area. These counties also are part of several birding trails that have been developed throughout the state. Birding is a $1 billion industry, says Mary Patchunka-Smith of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce. Add to that DeSoto Caverns and many other attractions, and there’s more than enough to do.

Automotive suppliers

With the proximity of the Honda plant and others in Alabama, Tennessee and beyond, automotive suppliers are growing steadily in this region. Several suppliers have expanded, and still others are coming to the area. Recently, M-Tek, which makes internal panels for the Odyssey and Pilot, announced it would be up to full operation by December in Talladega County. Several of these auto suppliers employ several hundred people. “It’s a really big engine for us,” says Calvin Miller, executive director of the Talladega County Economic Development Authority. “We’d love to have more.”

Calcium Carbonate (marble)

Sylacauga is known as the Marble City—three quarries produce the whitest, purest marble in the world. Two major companies in the city grind the marble to use as an additive in several products. “Companies are moving here to get closer to the source, because of the cost involved in transporting the marble,” he says. “It is an engine for us.”

Marble from the city is used for national cemetery markers, sculptures and in the new federal building in Oklahoma City, says Carol Bates, executive director of the Sylacauga Chamber of Commerce.

Anniston Army Depot

The largest employer in Calhoun County and the largest employer in the 3rd Congressional District, the depot is the combat vehicle center for repair, modification, upgrade and conversion of all heavy and light tracked vehicles, towed and self-propelled artillery, as well as small arms for America’s defense force and allies. There are about 6,300 employees, with workers primarily coming from Calhoun, Talladega, Clay, Etowah, Cleburne and St. Clair counties.

Local economic impact is $1.5 billion, impact on local businesses is $367 million, the impact on local employment is 25,000 people, the impact on local government is $28.25 million gain and the impact on financial institutions is $126 million.

The depot is facing work reductions in some areas, particularly the chemical demilitarization facility, but the depot is the Department of Defense’s only facility for repairing the type of equipment assigned to it. 

At Jacksonville State University, biology professor and Herbarium curator Jimmy Triplett and graduate assistant Jayne Lampley examine some of the 75,000 plant specimens in the collection. The Herbarium recently won a $392,000 National Science Foundation grant to care for the collection.

Jacksonville State University 

The educational center of northeast Alabama, JSU is one of the area’s largest employers. Latest annual figures available estimate JSU’s regional economic impact at $336.6 million, with total employment impact of at least 7,950. County and city governments estimate they received $14.8 million as a result of JSU-related spending. The school recently completed a major stadium expansion, a 400-bed dorm addition and updates to the student wellness center. 

McClellan

McClellan, a former U.S. Army fort, is now a 10,000-acre, master-planned, mixed-use development in Anniston with residential, commercial, industrial, education, research and technology and other components.

Amenities include a public golf course, athletic fields and gymnasiums with programs for all ages. Education from preschool to college level is located here; the city of Anniston just finished a new aquatic and wellness center there, and several commercial and retail businesses are located there. About 900 people live in McClellan, and about 2,500 are employed there. It also is home to the Monteith Amphitheatre, JSU’s McClellan Center, Gadsden State’s McClellan campus and Auburn University’s canine training center.

McClellan also is home to the Center for Domestic Preparedness, operated by the Department of Homeland Security, where first responders from all 50 states come to learn how to prevent disasters. It also has a medical park, an industrial park and research/technology park.

McClellan’s Army National Guard Training Center encompasses more than 350 acres.

Cabinet Manufacturing

Clay County is home to four major cabinet companies, making them not only major employers but also an economic engine for the county. These companies together employ hundreds of people.

L.E. Bell Construction Southwire/Forte

These companies—Bell makes pipelines and Southwire/Forte cable—are two economic engines for Cleburne County since they together employ nearly 500 people.

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