International Beams

The International Beams plant, which will manufacture engineered wood products, will open in the early part of 2018.

Unemployment rates in the Dothan area have dropped significantly in recent months, and new figures reveal manufacturing jobs are propelling the freefall.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its annual Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages report, and Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce president Matt Parker said Houston County experienced a 21 percent increase in manufacturing jobs from March 2016 to March 2017. That number, extrapolated from the most recent data available, topped all other counties in Alabama by a wide margin. Greene County experienced the second-largest increase at 15.5 percent.

The huge jump also follows a 12.8 percent rise in manufacturing Houston County experienced from March 2015 to March 2016 and mirrors an overall growth trend in the market.

From August 2016 to August 2017, Houston County’s unemployment rate fell from 6.1 percent to 4.2 percent. The QCEW report Parker cited revealed that about 1,400 more jobs exist in the area than they did at the same time last year.

“Just in past three years we have seen 3,000-plus announced and created jobs in the industrial sector and $500 million of investment,” Parker said. “(There are) new investments and major expansions in our marketplace – a lot of energy in our market right now.”

Parker attributed the manufacturing growth to civic partnerships and initiatives throughout the area and the state.

“Collaboration with city, county, chamber and having (a) regional view with other governmental partners are key to growing our area,” he said. “Our leaders understand the power of regionalism, and the focus is meeting a project’s needs and marketing sites and available buildings to create opportunities.”

Not only is the area experiencing a growth in industrial jobs, but it appears an aging workforce is maybe getting younger. Parker said other numbers indicate the biggest percentage of growth occurred in the 22- to 24-year-old sector.

He attributed that success to partnerships with Alabama Industrial Development Training, the Alabama Department of Commerce, Dothan Area Career Center and Wallace Community College and investments in programs like Southeast Alabama Works and K-12 programs.

“I am happy to see the jump in impacting the 22-24 year old sector because this is exposing this demographic to great opportunities to develop great careers,” Parker said. “If we can get more folks on the ground floor in career technical fields, they can see great upward mobility in growing their careers, income, and opportunities.”

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Follow Jeremy Wise on Twitter @DEwiseTrojan.

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