The Birmingham seven-county region’s St. Clair County was recognized recently for its economic resilience in the aftermath of 2008’s Great Recession.
The County was one of 10 regions highlighted in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s recent report, “Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachia,” which focused on communities that bounced back from Montana to Mississippi to New York.
St. Clair County invested in education, technology and infrastructure, the report said, and cooperated with the Birmingham metro area, including the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), which helped the county by using targeted investment and yearly assessments to monitor the region’s progress compared to similar metro areas. The County also focused on quality of life, making improvements so that more people would want to live there.
“St. Clair County’s economic resilience is a testament to the strength of our community and the businesses that call it home, particularly after hard economic losses in 2008,” Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair Economic Development Council, said. “We know the importance of regional and local cooperation in helping our community and region grow because we understand we are only as healthy and strong as our neighbors. We would like to thank the Appalachian Regional Committee, the Birmingham Business Alliance, our business leaders, elected officials and citizens for being so supportive of our county and working towards making our region successful.”
Prior to the Great Recession, St. Clair County had experienced relatively rapid employment growth, the report said, then significant employment decline after the recession hit. Its largest sector, manufacturing, stayed relatively constant, but across other sectors large employment losses were felt. Recovery after 2008 was slow to start but has been significant since, and St. Clair County ranks among the fastest-growing counties in the state.
“Recovery from such a shock was made possible by fortuitous geography and wise planning,” the report said. “Many of the local governments of St. Clair County have recognized conditions for growth and taken further steps to enhance resilience and encourage economic growth.”
Several recent economic development projects have helped St. Clair County maintain its economic resilience, including Eissmann Automotive, an automotive supplier that invested $14.5 million to create 200 jobs, and Preformed Windings, which created 85 jobs in Pell City.