Tuscaloosa County’s progressive business climate has attracted international attention and investment. With an innovative public-private partnership in place, Tuscaloosa County has emerged as one of Alabama’s most dynamic and diverse economies.
The Tuscaloosa/Birmingham region is among the best places in the nation to start and grow a business, according to numerous economic development and business sources including Forbes and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazines. Tuscaloosa County and its surrounding area offer all of the components necessary for a business to succeed and grow.
In 2015, The Shoppes at Legacy Park opened in the heart of Tuscaloosa’s retail corridor. A $55 million, 218,000-square-foot shopping venue, the center is anchored by retailers that include Fresh Market, Bed Bath & Beyond and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The Shops at City Center, also located in the McFarland Boulevard retail corridor, also broke ground.
Growth in the downtown area included a new luxury hotel, the 154-room, $31 million Embassy Suites, as well as a new extended stay hotel, the $113-room Hilton Home2Suites. A third downtown hotel – Hotel Indigo – is scheduled to open on the Black Warrior River in 2016.
Business and industry in Tuscaloosa County continue to thrive on diversity. With the University of Alabama, Stillman College, Shelton State Community College, two large public school systems and a number of private schools, education is big business in Tuscaloosa County. The University of Alabama alone has an economic impact on the Tuscaloosa Metro Area that in the billions of dollars, with the average impact of a home football game averaging approximately $18 million.
Healthcare is also huge. DCH Health System has two hospitals; DCH Regional Medical Center and Northport Medical Center. The Veterans Administration Hospital is a large complex, and Bryce Hospital serves mentally-challenged patients.
Approximately 30 percent of the non-agricultural workforce has jobs in government, healthcare and education. Sixteen percent of the 95,000 non-agricultural workforce finds itself in manufacturing. Those manufacturers include BFGoodrich, Nucor Steel, JVC, Johnson Controls, ZF Lemforder, Mercedes-Benz, Hunt Refining, Westervelt and many others. Automotive, electronics, plastic injection molding, steel, wood products, food products and chemicals are just some of those manufacturing concerns whose marketplace is the world.
Tuscaloosa is also proud of its homegrown businesses. Large companies such as Randall-Reilly, Fitts Industries and Phifer Wire Products were born and raised in Tuscaloosa County and are prospering today.
Our retail trade is growing and is concentrated in the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport mostly, where more than 20 percent of the workforce sells everything from specialty items to chic clothes to outdoor gear and sport utility vehicles.
Construction, transportation, finance, insurance and real estate also thrive in Tuscaloosa County.
Many of these are small businesses, the backbone of the economy and 85 percent of the membership in the Chamber of Commerce. Tuscaloosa County has become an outstanding investment opportunity for small business development and new business startups. In fact, the Tuscaloosa-Birmingham corridor consistently ranks in the top 20 markets in the U.S. for entrepreneurial success.
Our strong major banks, credit unions and other financial institutions have combined deposits of several billion dollars and represent an exceptional base for meeting the needs of an expanding economy and growing community.
Support for existing business and entrepreneurs comes from a number of sources, the chief of which is the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, which has a professional staff, The Edge business incubator and resource center, and an active Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). The Chamber provides services to support commercial, retail, entrepreneurial and small businesses.
The Chamber assists with strategic planning, technology development, training, site assistance, marketing and other business-related initiatives. The Chamber has also recently been charged with Tuscaloosa City Hall's economic development functions, which has led to hiring of a consulting firm, growth of The Edge business incubator, about 30 business projects and a Buy Local marketing campaign.
The Chamber’s Minority Business Council (MBC) is a two-year-old committee with a mission to foster the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses in West Alabama. It provides a network of support for these businesses, facilitates mixers, workshops and other educational opportunities to improve business skills/knowledge, and seeks funding sources. The committee also serves as a minority prospect base and recruiting source to fill leadership roles within the Chamber and other civic organizations.
In 2012, the Chamber, the City of Tuscaloosa and The University of Alabama joined forces to create a business incubator in downtown Tuscaloosa called The Edge - Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. With the goal of aiding emerging businesses with the development of management, financial and technical skills needed to thrive in the business community, The Edge provides a maturing environment for both existing and potential businesses.
The 900-square-foot facility, currently located at 800 22nd Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa, consists of office and shared space that is leased to early stage companies and provides a wide menu of services to both tenants and the local business community. A new $9 million facility on 10th Avenue is under construction, as the Federal Government has awarded the City of Tuscaloosa the funds to construct the facility.