Working Together to Encourage Growth in Randolph County
The Randolph County Economic Development Authority
The Randolph County Economic Development Authority (EDA) in Alabama assists with business retention, expansion, and recruitment. It provides potential businesses with site selection information, buildings and sites inventory, demographics, site preparation grant applications and information on tax abatements and other incentives.
The Randolph County Chamber of Commerce works to assist the county through tourism, advertising the area’s events, and developing recreational opportunities for tourists as well as the citizens in the area. It collaborates with the Randolph County EDA, the county, and the state to promote the area as a good place to live, visit, or operate a business.
Randolph County has an extensive history, and the community strives to preserve its past as much as possible. In the early 1900s, the county was home to the Ella Smith doll factory that produced ten thousand dolls a year, which was a large part of the economy in the city of Roanoke. The famous doll was known as the Alabama Indestructible Doll, the Roanoke Doll, the Ella Smith Doll, or the Alabama Baby.
The school systems in Randolph County help to preserve the history of the region with archeological digs to discover artifacts to put in the local museums and high schools. The county has some beautiful historical homes, and its historical society aims to protect the historical buildings and artifacts in the region. The old Martin Theatre on Main Street in Roanoke burned in 1980, and after becoming overgrown, has been revitalized into an outdoor theatre called the Main Street Theatre.
Randolph County has been very well known in the pottery world throughout the country for many years. Talented potters were attracted to the county in the 1800s because of the high-quality clay found in the Rock Mills and Bacon Level area, and the county has turned out a number of famous pottery artists. Two historic markers were installed in the area recently to commemorate the strong history of pottery makers in Randolph County.
Famous country music star Verne Dawson grew up in the area. A nearby highway is named after him, and a festival named Verne Fest in the city of Woodland celebrates his music. Another celebrity who was born in Randolph County is the football player Bradley Bozeman who played for the University of Alabama and is going on to play for the Ravens.
The Randolph County EDA works with the local businesses to offer leadership training skills through AIDT, the state’s industrial development training organization. It offers those classes quarterly to help develop strong leaders for the businesses in the area. It also collaborates with East Alabama Works to push for new workforce development initiatives in the state that provide businesses with the resources and support that is required to prosper in Alabama.
The county is very open to the idea of more development in the housing market, particularly live-in facilities for seniors and apartment buildings. “It’s a good opportunity for investors here in Randolph County that want to pursue an investment in the housing market,” says Dorothy Tidwell, the executive director of the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce.
Manufacturing and agriculture – the two primary industries in the county – employ roughly fifty percent of the workforce. Mohawk Industries is the largest manufacturing company in Randolph County. Other manufacturing businesses that contribute to the local workforce and economy include furniture maker Wadley Holdings, commercial floorcovering company Candlewick Yarns, structural steel producer SteelFab, window and door maker Jeld-Wen, and contract manufacturers CoreLinc and Relintless. The other large employers in the county are the school system, Walmart, the trailer retirement community, Tanner Medical Center, and Southern Union Community College.
When recruiting new businesses, it can be a challenge to overcome the stigma of U.S. Highway 431 being only a two-lane highway. However, it is an easy road for transportation, and the traffic flows very smoothly. “We just try to get the word out that the transportation infrastructure here is really good, even though it’s not a four-lane highway,” says Bob Siverson, the chairman of the board for Randolph County EDA.
Another aspect of Randolph County that must be explained to potential investors is that its cities are only about fifteen minutes away from each other. ”People sometimes just look at one town and decide there are not many people there, but we need to be considered as a whole instead of separate areas for investors,” says Dorothy.
Randolph County is actually in a great location for businesses of all kinds. U.S. Highway 431 easily connects companies to Interstate 20 and Interstate 85, and it only takes 1.75 hours to drive to Atlanta, Montgomery, and Birmingham. The county is located 150 miles or less from five automotive manufacturing plants, and Roanoke is only seventy-two miles away from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The CSX main rail line connects Randolph County to the major markets throughout the southeast of the United States.
The county has a labor draw of over 270,000 workers in a forty-five-mile radius to support new businesses. There are also plenty of students who are graduating from the three universities in the area: Southern Union State Community College, Auburn University, and Jacksonville State University.
The Randolph County Industrial Park was designated an AdvantageSite through an Alabama state program that certifies properties to be ready for companies to break ground. Twenty-five acres are prepared and available to newcomers. “We’re in an enterprise zone, an opportunity zone, and we’re in a new market tax credit area,” says Bob. “We also have low taxes and a low crime rate.”
Randolph County is an ideal home for individuals who appreciate natural beauty and watching the seasons change. Its unique historical sites, the unlimited outdoor recreational activities, and the many entrepreneurial opportunities make the county a good place to live, and the small town charm of its residents adds an extra layer to the quality of life.
“It’s an easy drive to a larger town if you are into going to a big theatre. It’s just really centrally located, and our good southern charm is one of our assets,” says Dorothy.
On the upper part of the Tallapoosa River is Lake Wedowee. Many people purchase second homes on the10,000 acre lake, and the water activities attract numerous tourists to the county. There are also three birding trails in Randolph County, including the Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail.
The Randolph County Equine and Ag Center hosts several events that bring in visitors. Rodeos, antique car shows, and the county fair all take place at the center, and it puts on a variety of agricultural expositions to display pigs, cows, and poultry.
Two school systems in Randolph County and both districts offer dual enrollment to the Southern Union State Community College, Jacksonville State University, Auburn University, and the University of Alabama. It is a huge benefit for students in rural counties to have the opportunity to reach out and take part in dual enrollment programs. This fall, the Southern Union State Community College will be offering dual enrollment welding classes at the Randolph Roanoke Career Technical Center.
A new hospital facility recently opened last November in the city of Wedowee, further improving the healthcare system. The Tanner Medical Center of East Alabama also brought new employment opportunities to residents in Randolph County.
The newly-organized One Randolph County group is the result of collaboration between the county, the cities, and state elected officials along with the chamber of commerce and the Randolph County EDA. The group is taking a proactive approach to the future of the county and working together as one community to reach its goals.