Target Industries Series: Covington County- A Thriving Hub for Timber Industries
19 Oct 2023
Covington County is in the heart of the American South, a region deeply intertwined with the forestry products industry. With its rich natural resources and strategic location, this county has emerged as a prime destination for businesses aiming to capitalize on the flourishing timber sector. Covington County stands as a testament to Alabama's pivotal role in the growth of the forestry industry, with a legacy of historic mills and a modern landscape that fosters innovation and growth.
The backdrop of Covington County's success in the timber industry is the broader expansion of Alabama's forestry products sector. Blessed with the second-largest timberland base in the United States, Alabama has cultivated an environment where forestry thrives. Industry giants such as Georgia Pacific and Weyerhaeuser have recognized the state's potential, making substantial investments that have bolstered the sector's growth. The abundance of nearly 23 million acres of timberland provides a continuous source of softwood and hardwood, exceeding their removal rates and maintaining a sustainable growth cycle. A prime example is the Horse Shoe Lumber Company along the river, which was one of the largest, most modern sawmills of its time. The mill operated an extensive logging rail system using as many as eight locomotives over the years.
Home to over 110 manufacturing facilities, Alabama is a hotbed of sawmills, paper mills, and other production sites. The state's prowess in forest product manufacturing is exemplified by the impressive $1.5 billion worth of forest products exported in 2021. This economic potential is not just a recent trend; Alabama's forest products industry has consistently attracted substantial capital investments, totaling over $600 million in 2021 alone, leading to the creation of 720 new jobs.
A Region with Abundant Natural Resources
Covington County's connection to the forestry industry is deeply rooted in history. With a landscape adorned by towering pine, oak, hickory, elm, beech, and poplar trees, the county has hosted several historic mills that harnessed its abundant natural resources. Today, forest management remains a critical component of the area's vitality. Covington County takes pride in its role in sustaining the Conecuh National Forest, implementing sound timber management practices that enhance forest health and resilience against various challenges such as insects, diseases, fire, and climatic events.
Modern enterprises seeking to expand can tap into Covington County's advantages. The region boasts shovel-ready industrial sites strategically located near major highways, airports, railways, and port facilities. The county's commitment to fostering business growth is evident through its streamlined permitting processes, tailor-made incentive packages, and comprehensive workforce training. Covington County provides an environment where businesses can flourish and contribute to the continuous success of Alabama's forestry products industry.
Remarkable Timberland Growth Year-On-Year
The statistics further reinforce the county's significance in this thriving sector. Covington County plays a part in Alabama's claim as the third-largest commercial forestland base among the lower 48 U.S. states, spanning over 23 million acres. The region's timberland growth is remarkable, adding to its tree volume year after year at an impressive rate of 2 to 2.5%. This dynamic growth fuels forest product exports, which were valued at over $1.3 billion in 2020, showcasing the sustained demand for Alabama's high-quality wood products.
The Alabama Forestry Works Program
A study conducted by the Forest Products Development Center at Auburn University in 2013 illuminated the extensive economic impact of the industry. Lumber, wood products, pulp, paper products, and secondary wood industries collectively generated billions of dollars in products, underscoring the far-reaching influence of Alabama's forestry sector. Furthermore, Covington County's commitment to workforce development is evident through initiatives like Alabama Forestry Works. This program, a collaborative effort between the Forest Workforce Training Institute and industry partners, seeks to cultivate a skilled labor force for the logging and wood product manufacturing sectors. By nurturing a pipeline of qualified workers, Covington County ensures the sustainability of its thriving timber industries, providing opportunities for both economic growth and individual advancement.
With its historical legacy, modern infrastructure, abundant timber resources, and commitment to workforce development, Covington County is poised to contribute significantly to the growth and prosperity of this vital sector for years to come. The Covington County Economic Development Commission is dedicated to diversifying our local economy. Contact us here for more information.