While there were no mega deals developed for Baldwin County in 2018, the county did enjoy another stellar year of growth in manufacturing and retail as the county’s economy continued to boom. Baldwin County was number one in the state in incoming business, workforce talent attraction and job growth for the year.
“By all economic measures we had a great year in 2018,” Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance President and CEO Lee Lawson said. “It’s continued a great trend line for us economically for the last four going on five years. The economic trends and indicators for Baldwin County just have definitely led the state but are also ranking in the nation.”
Four manufacturing plants, all in different parts of the county, led the way and could add more than 200 jobs in the county and bring in nearly $40 million in new investment. Southern Visions, maker of Sweet Brew tea, is adding a plant in Bay Minette. Chinese company Kaishan will build an air compressor plant in Loxley. AdvanTec Marine is coming to Robertsdale and defense contractor Resicum is moving its headquarters from Pensacola to the Business and Aviation Park in Gulf Shores.
“It shows diversity in the industries,” Lawson said. “You’ve got marine, you’ve got industrial, food and beverage, and aerospace. None of those are going to get a Golden Shovel award from Site Selection magazine as the top project of the year in the country with thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. But for our community, they’re solid, industrial additions to what’s already a strong county economically.”
Lawson hopes 2019 will be the year for that “mega” deal for the county’s Mega Site on Interstate 65 near Bay Minette. The site, Lawson said, was a finalist for the Toyota-Mazda complex, which went to Limestone County near Huntsville, and has been in the conversation for several other large projects.
“The hardest part about economic development is you don’t get to celebrate second place,” Lawson said. “Even on the big projects. We’ve been very close there at the Mega Site and we had a couple of active projects this year that we were very hopeful on and very close on. We do have a couple of active companies, a couple of projects considering the Mega Site right now.”
Recent changes in tariffs and other trade policies have hampered some projects, Lawson said.
“I can say that the tariff discussions and some of the trade implications globally stalled a couple of our projects in 2018, one that was right at the finish line,” he said.
Another project Lawson would like to see cross the finish line is Hatch Fairhope, a business incubator planned for the old Fairhope K1 center. The joint project with the city and the county’s Economic Development Alliance is awaiting federal grants to get it started, Lawson said.