Spotlight on Baldwin County
Sugar-white beaches attract thousands of visitors each year to Baldwin County.
Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Baldwin County, on the Alabama Gulf coast, is best known for tourism, an activity that is an economic driver for the entire state. Baldwin’s sugar-white beaches and blue-green water attract thousands upon thousands of people every year.
“It’s been very exciting, and each year since the 2010 oil spill we have had record-breaking tourism years and we look for another this year,” says Beth Gendler, vice president of sales and sports tourism for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. “Along with the beach, our sports events, both ongoing and new ones, make this area an attractive destination year-round.”
County and city officials have learned lessons since the devastating oil spill. While the beaches are back, there also are other opportunities for tourists — from retail to popular festivals to eco-tourism. And the area is host to many sports events, from youth travel ball to sand volleyball, events on the national level of competition.
Baldwin has a healthy manufacturing base. Its largest manufacturing employer, UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Goodrich Aerospace and Aerostructures Group) makes products for the aerospace/aviation industry and employs more than 800.
The county recently purchased the shovel-ready 3,009-acre South Alabama Megasite off I-65 in Bay Minette, and other industrial parks are doing well. “This is one of the premier industrial sites in the Southeast,” says Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wells. “We are working with economic development officials, and we are excited about the prospects.”
With the recent Airbus announcement in Mobile — and with some Baldwin County cities just a few miles away — excitement is growing for the impact it will have on the county. Economic developers are poised to welcome suppliers.
To that end, students across Baldwin County who are interested in an aviation career will soon have a first-class facility in which to learn. The school system, Faulkner State Community College, Enterprise State Community College and the Fairhope Airport Authority are working together to develop an aviation training building at the H.L. “Sonny” Callahan Airport. The facility will teach aviation technical skills, industrial maintenance and welding to students in classes that will be established by the school system.
Residential permits also are up. In numbers, Baldwin County has continued to outpace the state in growth. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, from 2012 to 2013, Baldwin County added more population than anywhere else in Alabama. In fact, the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley MSA now has more than 50,000 residents and experienced 6.7 percent growth from 2012 to 2013.
Health care is another key sector in the area economy, with four hospitals responsible for at least 2,500 jobs. And the largest employer in the area by far is Baldwin County Schools.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.