Alabama business climate ranked no. 1 in magazine survey

W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune

Gov. Kay Ivey and Topre America President Hideo Shimizu cut the ribbon on Topre’s new building, and celebrated the company’s newly-announced $80 million expansion project, on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

ALABAMA – Earlier this summer, in an article published in Business Facilities magazine, the state of Alabama’s business climate was rated as the best in the nation.  The publication noted several factors but zeroed in on the recent commitment by Toyota and Mazda to build a $1.6 billion complex in Huntsville, with separate manufacturing facilities separated by a shared research and development center.  The plant could employ up to 4,000 workers and could produce up to 300,000 vehicles per year; it is scheduled to open in 2021.

The state ranking report linked to the article said, “The Mazda-Toyota plant is another large jewel in a crown full of FDI-funded automotive transplants (and Tier 1 suppliers) that have propelled Alabama into a leadership position among automotive manufacturing states. Since 1993, when Mercedes-Benz put down roots in Tuscaloosa, AL has welcomed Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and now Mazda. Alabama is the fifth-largest producer of cars and light trucks nationally, also home to more than 150 Tier 1 and 2 automotive suppliers in the state.”

Four Cullman area industries manufacture automotive components: REHAU, Royal Technologies, Topre America and Yutaka Technologies.  Within the last three years, all four have expanded their Cullman operations or have announced upcoming expansions.

With the Toyota/Mazda facility being located west of Huntsville near I-65, a straight shot from Cullman County, and with the Cullman area’s already established presence in the automotive parts industry, the region is highly likely to benefit from the venture.

After the project was announced in January, Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Dale Greer said, “I would certainly expect Cullman to experience supplier interest from companies looking for new production facilities to serve the Toyota Mazda facility. There will also be great potential for existing Cullman manufacturers to have an opportunity to expand production because of (January’s) announcement.

“Cullman has successfully recruited Tier 1 suppliers for Mercedes and Honda that are 100 miles away, so it stands to reason that a new OEM in Huntsville only 40 minutes north will offer us a lot of opportunities.”

Greer pointed out that a $1.6 billion construction project could also translate into business for numerous general contractors, suppliers and other local vendors, saying, “An entire region benefits economically from a project with the capital investment and job creation of an announcement like this.”

In the Business Facilities article, Editor in Chief Jack Rogers was quoted as saying, “In Alabama, they’ve nailed the economic development fundamentals: maximizing resources with regional cooperation, a diverse growth strategy and good, old-fashioned relationship building.”

Other state highlights

Alabama’s national rankings also included:

  • number two in workforce training leaders
  • number three in exports
  • number four in economic growth potential
  • number five in manufacturing as a percentage of workforce
  • number six for automotive manufacturing strength

Local highlights

  • Huntsville ranked first in the nation among mid-sized municipalities for economic growth potential, and number seven for diversity in types of occupations.
  • The Auburn/Opelika area ranked first in the nation for economic growth potential among small municipalities, and third for job growth.
  • The Daphne/Fairhope/Foley area ranked sixth for job growth among small municipalities.

See also: and

Business Facilities story:

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