MTMUS groundbreaking

Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A, applauds Nov. 16, 2018, as a robot breaks ground on the new MTMUS site in southern Limestone County. In the background, from left, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and Gov. Kay Ivey look on.

It may come as no surprise, but Limestone County was the undisputed leader in new investment and job creation in calendar year 2018, according to a report released Thursday by the state.

Out of the state's 67 counties, Limestone's landing of the $1.6-billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. plant represented the biggest economic investment in the state. Additionally, the report states there were six industrial expansions resulting in an investment of $87 million and the creation of 172 jobs.

The New & Expanding Industry report, compiled by the Alabama Department of Commerce, provides a detailed look at the results of 357 economic development projects implemented across the state in 2018. All told, Gov. Kay Ivey said a total of $8.7 billion in projects was announced last year. Those projects will generate an estimated 17,000 new jobs.

“By attracting this historic total for new capital investment in 2018, Alabama is showing the world that it is a prime location for business and that our skilled workers can handle every challenge,” Ivey said. “Companies from around the globe want to be part of the gold standard brand that is known as ‘Made in Alabama.'”

Tom Hill, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association, said Thursday it was indeed Limestone's biggest year for industrial development. He's excited by the announcement of the MTMUS plant and the spinoff jobs that will come with it. Seat system manufacturer Toyota Boshuku announced April 10 it would build a $55-million plant in the Breeding Industrial Park in Athens that will create up to 414 jobs.

“We're seeing other companies expressing interest here,” Hill said. “I think with the way our industrial sites are set up, including our city-owned industrial parks and privately owned sites near the Tanner interchange and the old Delphi property, we're situated with some good sites. We're receiving quite a few looks.”

Other key findings in the report include:

• Growth in important industry sectors including automotive and aerospace remained strong in 2018, creating momentum for future gains. Other sectors, particularly forest products, also charted a growth trajectory;

• Alabama attracted foreign direct investment approaching $4.2 billion last year from companies in 16 different countries, generating 7,565 new and future jobs. Japanese companies led the way, with $1.8 billion in investment and 4,245 jobs; and

• Companies announced 2018 projects involving more than $1.1 billion in new investment and 1,128 jobs in Alabama’s rural, or “targeted” counties, making them eligible for enhanced incentives. Bibb County will become home to 337 new jobs, tops among these counties.

“The high level of economic development activity in 2018 sets the stage for sustained growth and expanded opportunity across Alabama,” said Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “This success solidifies my belief that we are building a more dynamic economy in Alabama and creating a pathway to greater prosperity for its citizens.”

At a glance

Below is a breakdown of Limestone County's new industrial developments and expansion in 2018:

• MTMUS: 4,000 jobs; $1.6-billion investment;

• Aviagen Inc: 5 jobs; $1.5-million investment;

• Carpenter Technology: 60 jobs; $52-million investment;

• Redline Steel: 50 jobs; $11-million investment;

• M2H2 Holdings LLC: 50 jobs; $6.1-million investment;

• North Alabama LaserFab Inc.: 7 jobs; $1.5-million investment; and

• Tricap Development LLC: 0 jobs; $14.7-million investment.

Top counties by the numbers

According to the report, the following counties were ranked as tops for new investment:

• Limestone: $1.68 billion;

• Madison: $1.08 billion;

• Tuscaloosa: $670 million;

• Jefferson: $654 million;

• Mobile: $648 million; and

• Montgomery: $510 million.

The top counties for job announcements were:

• Limestone: 4,172 jobs;

• Jefferson: 3,421 jobs;

• Madison: 1,043 jobs;

• Mobile: 749 jobs;

• Montgomery: 694 jobs; and

• Pike: 630 jobs.