Economic Growth: Jackson County unemployment rate drops to 2.7%

Economic Growth: Jackson County unemployment rate drops to 2.7%

By Dylan Smith, Managing Editor • 

Scottsboro, Ala. — According to Jackson County Economic Development Authority President/CEO, Sheila Shepard, the county has benefited from a strong national economy.

Jackson Blaze obtained the following statistics:

  • Total jobs created 2018-2019: 308
  • Total industry investment (includes land, building, and equipment): $90M+
  • Current unemployment rate: 2.7%

Shepard told Jackson Blaze that the majority of economic growth is due to the current industry expanding business operations. Shepard noted the resurgence of the American auto industry as one of the driving forces in this new growth. “The automotive industry continues to boom and the south has become the major player in that arena,” said Shepard. “We have five existing industries in the county that are related to automotive and they have all expanded and added jobs in the last two years.”

The JCEDA says the local construction industry has benefited and expanded due to an uptick in residential, commercial and industrial construction.

As it relates to future economic growth, workforce development is an issue demanding greater attention.

Shepard said workforce development has become one of, if not the, most crucial factors in a business or industry locating a new facility. She says Jackson County is ready to address this.

“Locally, we have great partnerships with Northeast Alabama Community College (NACC), EPCOT, and the two school systems.  They all realize that we have to prepare our future workforce with the skills needed locally.”

Shepard continues, “NACC has an excellent apprenticeship program for students to work and go to school at the same time and at the end of their schooling will be certified in their field and ready to work full time.  Both K-12 school systems offer co-op programs for students to work part-time to get skilled training and go to school part-time. Both systems work with NACC on dual enrollment for students. There have been some students that graduate high school and NACC the same week!”

Northeast Alabama Community College has implemented workforce programs that are a direct response from the college listening to the needs of the business community. NACC recently introduced a truck driving school. Qualified truck drivers are in high demand in the State of Alabama. 

“They (NACC) saw the need and reached out to the EDA looking for locations and a way to make it happen. The EDA met with local trucking companies, who were thrilled with the idea.” 

Scottsboro-based Noble Trucking donated a truck to the NACC for the program. The City of Scottsboro and Industrial Board gave the college a lease on a building. Due to support from the business community, NACC’s truck driving school that has been at full capacity since its inception. Local companies are hiring the graduates as soon as they complete the program. 

Shepard stated that the state legislature, Department of Commerce, and Governor’s office have worked diligently to implement new programs to address workforce needs. 

The JCEDA says the county’s economic successes are attributed to collaboration among industry, education and local officials. Local leaders remain optimistic that future growth opportunities are on the horizon.