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State, county see job growth in 2014

A number of local businesses, including Hwashin America, announced expansions in 2014. Statewide  more than 18,000 new jobs were added and nearly $3.4 billion in new investments were announced in 2014. (File Photo)

A number of local businesses, including Hwashin America, announced expansions in 2014. Statewide more than 18,000 new jobs were added and nearly $3.4 billion in new investments were announced in 2014. (File Photo)

Alabama’s economy got a significant boost in 20014 with the announcement of more than 18,000 new jobs and nearly $3.4 billion in new investments.

On Tuesday, the Alabama Department of Commerce released the state’s 2014 New & Expanding Industry Report, which shows that 70 companies announced new facilities in Alabama last year, involving 5,961 jobs and $438.3 million in capital investment. Another 322 companies announced expansions to their Alabama operations, with 12,176 jobs and $2.9 billion in investment.

“We’ve been very strategic in our approach to economic development in Alabama because we want to develop productive partnerships with companies that will put down roots and expand over time,” said Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce. “We want our efforts to create high-caliber jobs that pay well and have a future for the hard-working people of Alabama.”

Butler County also saw growth in 2014.

In January of 2014, Ozark Materials announced a $2 million investment and 40 news jobs at its Greenville plant just eight months after Lee Gross, president of Ozark Materials, said the company planned to make an investment of $3 million and hire 40 people.

One month later, Kajan Perfection announced a $1.5 million investment in new equipment at its Butler County facility, which directly led to the creation of three new jobs.

In October of last year, Hwashin America announced a $34 million, 100,000 square foot expansion at its Greenville facility. Along with the expansion, came the announcement of 50 more jobs at the plant.

In November of 2014, REF Alabama Inc. revealed plans to expand its operation with a $750,000 investment. The manufacturing company, which makes electrical connectors and other metal parts, shared plans to add 30 more jobs and purchase a new building on Industrial Parkway.

“It was a great year,” Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said. “(Butler County Commission for Economic Development Executive Director) David Hutchison and his leadership had a lot to do with that.”

McLendon said the BCCED, the City of Greenville and Butler County have made it a point to focus on how they can assist existing industries in the area, and the move is paying off.

“REF is a prime example,” he said. “That’s a company that has been in the area for a good while, and last year they announced an expansion. Ozark Materials is another. We really feel like Ozark Materials is one of those companies that we’re going to look back on as one of the greatest companies ever to come to Greenville.”

Gov. Robert Bentley said job creation has been at the top of his agenda since taking office.

“Job creation has been my top priority, and we have worked diligently as a team across Alabama to target well-paying jobs and projects that can make a difference in the lives of our residents and in the communities where they live,” Bentley said. “It’s been a successful formula, and we are going to make it even better with new recruiting tools and fresh ideas on improving workforce development.”

The 2014 New & Expanding Industry Report shows accelerating growth in the state’s automotive and aerospace sectors, two of the pillars in the Accelerate Alabama strategic economic development plan. An emphasis on knowledge-based jobs also paid off last year, with a number of projects focusing on high-level functions such as research and engineering.

Aerospace projects announced in 2014 suggest robust growth is in store for the sector. Science and Engineering Services (SES), for example, announced a $70 million plan to expand its Huntsville manufacturing operation, adding 450 new workers. Meanwhile, in rural Pike County, Lockheed Martin developed plans to expand its missile plant in Troy with a $55 million investment and 224 new jobs.

At the same time, the auto manufacturing sector continue to expand rapidly. Toyota last year announced a $121 million investment at its Huntsville engine plant and the addition of 189 workers. Honda added nearly $72 million in new investment and 150 workers at its Talladega County facility. In Tuscaloosa County, suppliers announced more than 1,100 jobs as they ramp up to support the growing Mercedes-Benz assembly operation.

Madison County ranked tops for new jobs related to projects last year, with 3,418. Lee County was No. 1 for new capital investment, with $482 million.

Following Madison, the top counties for announced jobs were Jefferson (1,929), Tuscaloosa (1,264), Lee (755) and Cullman (704). Trailing Lee, top counties for investment announced in 2014 were Escambia ($376 million), Madison ($321 million), Jefferson ($189 million) and Mobile ($168 million).