Report: Shelby County one of nation’s leaders in projected job growth

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, March 22, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Shelby County is projected to add 10,000 jobs in the next five years, and is the eighth-ranked county nationwide for employment growth through 2015, according to a report by Woods & Poole Economics, Inc.

Shelby County’s job growth is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 2.61 percent, more than double the national rate of 1.15 percent, notes the report from the Washington, D.C.-based firm.

“Shelby has a long history of steady and stable employment growth and benefits from its proximity to Birmingham as well as its skilled and well educated labor force,” Woods & Poole Economist Martin Holdrich said.

The additional 10,000 jobs are projected to surpass pre-recession employment levels and contribute $655 million to the county’s economy.

“Our county’s population has nearly doubled over the past 20 years,” Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said March 22. “This rapid ongoing growth is certainly a major contributing factor for our corresponding steady employment growth.”

Prior to the recession, the report notes, Shelby County was one of 16 counties in the United States that had never experienced an annual net decrease in employment in any year since 1970.

“Much of the new expected employment will replace jobs that we recently lost,” Dudchock said. “We have over 6,500 citizens unemployed, which is three times what we had before the recession.”

Shelby County’s January 2011 unemployment rate of 7.1 percent was still much higher than it was in the years preceding the recession, Dudchock said.

“Shelby County has had the lowest unemployment rates in the state nearly every single month over the past 20 years,” he said, “and we anticipate that trend will continue in future years.”

Shelby County has the highest educational attainment levels and highest labor force participation rates in Alabama, which make the county attractive to employers, Dudchock said.

“In addition to rapid growth in new rooftops, the county also has the highest median household incomes in the state which are both extremely important in attracting new retail,” he said.

He said the Shelby County Commission has “wisely invested the available public funds in public safety, water services, economic development and recreational projects that promotes a high quality of life for our citizens.”

He credited the Shelby County School System and Hoover City Schools for “delivering a quality product” and preparing for future demands.

“When I meet with prospective companies and new employers considering our county, I proudly talk about these two public education systems and their results,” Dudchock said. “If they are accustomed to private and or Christian schools, we have state leaders in those areas as well.”

Dudchock said the major I-65 widening project between I-459 and Shelby County 52, scheduled for completion by the end of this year, will provide “much needed additional highway capacity to enable the county the continue to grow,” Dudchock said.

Dudchock said Alabama now has a governor who “believes it is time to act on improving the traffic problems on Highway 280.”

“I’m excited that Governor (Robert) Bentley is providing the state leadership we have needed to address Highway 280,” he added.

Loudon County, Va. leads the nation with a projected growth rate of 3.40 percent, according to the report. Douglas County, Colo. is ranked second with a projected growth rate of 3.38, followed by Williamson County, Tenn. at 3.17, Williamson, Texas at 3.05, Fort Bent, Texas at 3.04, Walton, Fla. At 2.95 and Collin, Texas at 2.78.