Cullman has been named one of the most successful cities in the state for industrial growth, beating out several larger counties and metro areas.
The area ranks 1st in number of new and expanding industries and number of expanding industries, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce’s 2014 new and expanding industry report. Cullman ranks 2nd in new industry capital investment, 3rd in number of new industries and 5th in job creation (704 total jobs) for the year.
“This is amazing, but the emphasis really goes back to the industries we have and what they do. They’re why we are so strong and productive,” Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Peggy Smith said. “It’s also a compliment to the entire community, because companies that are expanding consider all those things, like quality of life, and the quality of the workforce. Every piece of that plays a role, and companies always have options to relocate. That’s the reason we have to stay focused on helping our existing industries expand and grow by providing services they need.”
Cullman County saw 49 expansions and four new industries in 2014, with much of that growth led by Reliance Worldwide/Cash Acme’s $50 million expansion, along with Topre America’s $20 million expansion and Alabama Cullman Yutaka Technologies’ (ACYT) $17 million expansion.
Cullman saw an overall capital investment of more than $143 million in 2014 from new and expanding industry, and all that momentum created 704 total jobs. For the sake of comparison, much larger Jefferson County measured $188 million in total investment, while nearby Limestone County topped out at $56 million in total investment.
“It’s such a compliment to the industries we have here, to have achieved better results than some metro communities and larger counties,” Smith said. “If these companies were not the quality companies they are, and not continuing to reinvest in the community, we wouldn’t be in this position.”
Brad Pepper, vice-president of manufacturing at Topre America, said he was not surprised at all to see Cullman excel in the latest rankings.
“We’ve been very successful here, and that’s because of the strong workforce we’re able to tap into here, and of course the community support,” he said. “We have plants all over the world, and in several different states, but this has been one of the most open communities that really received us with open arms. Any time we have a need, we always get support from the local officials and community.”
Economic development assistant director Dale Greer echoed that sentiment, noting those community partnerships are critical for her office to work with local industries and provide those results.
“We take the attitude that they can ask us any question, no matter what, and we’ll work to address the concern,” he said. “Be it a workforce issue, or a community question. One example was the recent hiring fair. We had an industry express a need, and we turned that around in about two and a half months, and they were able to hire 100 people.”
Looking toward the future, Smith said it’s easy to forget the success of today was built on the decisions made years — and sometimes decades — in the past. With all this growth, Cullman is running low on available industrial space for new businesses or expansions, and Smith noted it will take planning and foresight to keep the community at the top of the list.
“We must continue to invest in property, because industry needs a place to locate that is designed for them,” she said. “We need to develop industrial sites and parks that fit the growing need of industry to keep us in the hunt, and provide for expansion for those who may need more space. This absolutely validates those previous investments of the past.”