The state of Alabama has long relied on agriculture, forestry and manufacturing to drive economic growth. But, faced with digging out of the post-recession malaise, the Alabama Economic Development Alliance launched Accelerate Alabama in 2012, a strategic plan focused on economic development. The state has targeted 11 industries to cultivate businesses, attract new investments and spur employment growth.
- Agricultural Products and Food Production
- Steel and Metal Manufacturing
- Forestry Products
- Information Technology
- Enabling Technologies
- Logistics and Distribution
- Corporate Operations
As the state works to bring new business across those business sectors, students considering enrolling in vocational education programs should find opportunity in a range of program areas, from automotive to health care, manufacturing to fabrication.
Top Alabama industries and employers
Alabama has a strong economic presence in several key industries, including automotive manufacturing, aerospace/aviation and agriculture.
More than 350 automotive companies call Alabama home, including Mercedes-Benz and Honda. According to Accelerate Alabama, Mercedes-Benz is planning on major infrastructure investment into its plants in Alabama, planning on the launch of a new vehicle model beginning in 2015. That new production should spur the creation of 400 additional jobs in the state
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Perhaps surprisingly, more than 280 aviation and aerospace companies have locations in the state, with Huntsville serving as the main hub. These companies include cutting-edge players such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and more.
Outside of the automotive and aerospace industries, other major employers in the state can be found across a range of business sectors, including the following companies that all employ more than 3,000 people:
- Alabama Power Company (Utilities)
- Russell Brands (Sporting and Athletic Goods Manufacturing)
- Gulf Coast Interiors (Upholstery and Furniture Repair)
- O'Neal Steel (Steel Distribution)
- Austal USA (Ship Building and Repair)
- Shaw Industries, Inc. (Carpet and Rug Manufacturing)
Employment in Alabama
In its 2014 survey of the "Top States for Doing Business," the publication Area Development ranked Alabama as one of the best states (no. 4 nationally) for doing business and gave the state high marks for business environment, labor climate and competitive labor costs.
Significant investments continue to pour into the state and, in 2015, Airbus is slated to launch a production hub in Alabama. Its planned production facility will employ 1,000 individuals and cost $600 million dollars. Automaker, Toyota, recently expanded its engine plant located in Huntsville, spending $150 million during the process.
Frequently mentioned as a state leader for economic development, Huntsville is also home to the Cummings Research Park (CRP). One of the country's largest technology and science parks, the CRP is a nexus for research and innovation, housing a blend of industry, including Fortune 500 companies, defense and space agencies and more.
Major employers include in the CRP include:
- United Technologies
- Johnson Controls
- Booz Allen Hamilton Holding
In 2013, the average annual mean wage in Huntsville was $50,840 -- annual wages that far outpaced the national average of just over $46,000. With an average cost-of-living index below national averages, Huntsville is an attractive location to both work and live.
Vocational careers in Alabama
Within the vocational-focused space, career opportunities can be found not only in areas such as automotive manufacturing or aviation, but in health care, production and more. Below is a list of the occupations projected to experience the most job growth between 2012 and 2022 in the state of Alabama, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Median Wage||Projected Employment Change|
|Engine and Other Machine Assemblers||1740||34970||-600|
|Insulation Workers, Mechanical||610||33920||13,500|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||510||56900||12,900|
|Brickmasons and Blockmasons||510||35540||25,200|
|Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other||630||43410||24,200|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographers||1020||51930||27,000|
|Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic||1790||34720||20,400|
|Home Health Aides||3870||18860||424,200|
Alabama's economy continues to diversify, creating new employment opportunities across a spectrum of vocationally dependent industries: automotive manufacturing, aviation, food production and processing and more. Prospective students may want to investigate how a diploma, certificate or advanced training could position them for success within the growingly diverse economy in Alabama.
Accelerate Alabama, Strategic Economic Development Plan, EDAA Winter Conference Roll Out, January 2012, http://www.madeinalabama.com/assets/2013/03/AccelerateAlabamaPlan.pdf
Alabama, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_al.htm
Alabama, Long Term Occupational Projections, 2012-2022, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/AboutLT
"Consultants rank Alabama a top state for business, Area Development says," Made in Alabama, September 11, 2014, http://www.madeinalabama.com/2014/09/consultants-rank-alabama-a-top-state/
Economic Impacts of Alabama's Agriculture, Forestry & Related Industries, Alabama A&M & Auburn Universities Extension, http://www.aces.edu/impact/ag/
Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, Accessed October 28, 2014, http://www.huntsvillealabamausa.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=138&Itemid=271
"Report: Alabama's economy sixth slowest in the U.S.," Birmingham Business Journal, Antrenise Cole, August 25, 2014, http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/blog/2014/08/report-alabama-s-economy-sixth-slowest-in-the-u-s.html