New addition at TSTECH Alabama, completed in 2016
The New Year is always a time of reflection and planning, a time to look back and a time to look forward. 2016 was a great year in so many respects for Marshall County. Newman Technology in Albertville announced an expansion. Umicore in Arab completed a major upgrade to its facility, as did TSTECH in Boaz. Progress Rail expanded its footprint in Marshall County by opening a locomotive wheel bearing facility in Arab. Southern Metal Fabricators broke ground and completed their expansion and Metal Research began construction on a new facility at Conners Island in Guntersville that will be a state of the art 3D printing plant to do prototyping and defense contracting.
All in all, it was a good year. However, 2017 could be a phenomenal year. MCEDC received word in December that one of our major industries has chosen to make their expansion here instead of their facility in China. I personally think that is a sign that we are due for a lot of what is called in economic development circles, “reshoring.” We could see, moving forward in 2017, companies deciding to bring jobs back to the United States. Folks in my profession are gearing up for this surge in activity. Is that a “Trump Affect”? Well I don’t know, and it’s not for me to say. What I do know, is that many companies all of a sudden feel a sense that regulations and taxes coming out of Washington will begin to lessen and they feel more comfortable about expanding in the U.S.
During the week between Christmas and New Years, the staff and I cleaned out a storage room to make room for a new colleague from the Alabama Department of Commerce who will be working out of our office. I happened to find a printed copy of the 1994 Alabama Industrial Directory. Those have not been sent out in printed form for over 15 years. It was very interesting to look at the names on the list from Marshall County in 1994. There were the stalwart industries that we still have like Tyson, Mueller, Wayne Foods, Syncro, Kappler and others, companies that had a much smaller footprint in Marshall County than they do now, but have grown and become very prosperous in the last 22 years.
There were also many companies that had changed names but are still around. Companies like Ryder International (now ATRION Medical), Goldkist (now Pilgrims Pride), Wagner Brake (now Federal-Mogul) and Keyes Fiber Company (now Huhtamaki.) As I read through the directory and saw their employment numbers, almost all have grown significantly since 1994.
There were also the companies that are no longer with us in Marshall County. Great companies that employed many of our people like Arrow Shirt in Albertville, Accutek and Wrangler in Arab and Lee Apparel in Boaz. I enjoyed reading this list and thinking about the new companies that have replaced these bygone manufacturers from another era. Albertville Quality Foods now employs 400 people in the former Arrow Shirt Factory. The former Accutek building now houses the new wheel bearing facility for Progress Rail. I think it is wonderful that a home grown Marshall County company, Accutek, built that facility and now another home grown company occupies it. The Wrangler building in Arab is now host to HFI, a Honda supplier to TSTECH, the company that now occupies the former Lee Apparel facility in Boaz. Just the companies mentioned in this paragraph currently employ roughly 1,700 people.
And I cannot mention all of our great companies. This is just a small sample of the amazing manufacturers we have here. Marshall County is blessed to have the infrastructure, land and most important, the workforce to be a very attractive place for companies to locate. In the coming months, I will be writing columns and blogs to introduce our citizens to the incredible business climate we have here. I believe we are in for a great time of prosperity in the coming year and I look forward to being very busy helping bring new jobs to our great community.