Morgan County manufacturing jobs continue to compete nationally, according to economic indicator website Headlight Data.
Morgan County ranked above all Alabama counties in the county-by-county report for manufacturing job growth from 2013-14. Morgan ranked 51st overall among 2,746 counties nationally for job growth in the manufacturing sector. The county added 758 manufacturing jobs from 2013 to 2014.
Headlight Data is an online information system designed for economic and workforce development. The system aggregates workforce, economic and demographic data into a central website.
Morgan County Economic Development Association President Jeremy Nails said these results are most likely from job announcements in 2011 and 2012.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs always nice to have announcements, but job growth doesn‚Äôt come until later,‚ÄĚ Nails said. He said the county‚Äôs future job growth continues to look promising.
RUAG Aerospace, a Switzerland-based company, recently announced plans to locate its first United States aerospace supplier operation at the United Launch Alliance plant on Red Hat Road, just outside Decatur.
The $30.6 million operation is slated to hire 150 employees by 2020. The average employee pay will be $100,000 annually, RUAG officials said.
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said the manufacturing industry is strong because of Decatur‚Äôs location. Long said many plants are always looking at expanding. Long noted Alphapet announced an expansion, Toray had a small expansion and GE is hiring.
‚ÄúOur economy is not where it was before the economy dropped, but we‚Äôve held our own here as far as industrial investments,‚ÄĚ Long said.
Despite Morgan County having an ideal location, Long and Nails said land is limited because many companies want to be close to the river.
Nails said industries develop on the river for barge transportation, water intake for their production process and multiple transportation options. He said they are looking to overcome limitations of the land and for ways to grow.
‚ÄúUnfortunately, we don‚Äôt have large cotton fields like Limestone and Madison counties right now,‚ÄĚ Nails said.
Nails said the Wolverine Tube Inc. property on the river is shown to companies all the time. Nails and Long said they have not been able to find the ‚Äúright fit‚ÄĚ for the property.
‚ÄúWhen companies look at existing facilities, some have to have a certain ceiling height and other things,‚ÄĚ Nails said. ‚ÄúThat facility was built for a certain purpose, to build copper tube. Someone has to use it for their capabilities and purpose.‚ÄĚ
Long said Nichols Aluminum Inc., on Alabama 20, shut down about six months ago and is in the process of clearing out its facility. Nails said officials hope to market the facility to companies sometime within the next year. Nails said about 100 jobs were lost.
‚ÄúYou never want to see a company shut down,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThose employees have been absorbed at other facilities for the most part, and we will actively try to recruit into that facility.‚ÄĚ
The Morgan Center Business Park has been vacant since it was developed three years ago. The 135-acre development in Hartselle cost $6.6 million and is ideal for light manufacturing, office and logistics facilities.
‚ÄúThe biggest reason it is empty is most folks, if they have an option, want to be close to the water,‚ÄĚ Long said. ‚ÄúMajor companies really want that. We‚Äôre right on the interstate and have interstate accessibility for them.‚ÄĚ
Long is still optimistic about the location.
‚ÄúLook at Mallard Fox Creek (Industrial Park),‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúIt was built in the ‚Äė80s. It took a long time to get people in it. You have to have one to get started and then it takes off.‚ÄĚ
Long said there is land in the industrial park, but it‚Äôs mostly owned by companies who are holding it for possible future expansions.
‚ÄúIf somebody comes in and needs some land and wanted to put in a nice industrial plant, we‚Äôre going to find some property to put them on and help them in any way possible,‚ÄĚ he said.
The Decatur Daily - By: Leah Cayson