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2021 Made in Alabama Holiday Gift Guide features down-home innovations

Buying local has taken on a new urgency this holiday season, and Alabama’s artisans, manufacturers and other homegrown businesses offer plenty of options to help check off your shopping list.

Whether your loved one is a fashionista, budding gardener, avid sportsman or someone with a serious sweet tooth, there’s something for everyone in the 2021 Made in Alabama Holiday Gift Guide.

A few of the companies in this year’s gift guide have recently expanded their state operations with new jobs and investments, gearing up to meet demand for their popular products.

“Alabamians are creative, innovative and enterprising, and that’s especially evident when you consider the wide variety of locally produced options for holiday gift giving,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Supporting the state’s companies in this season is a great way to invest in our neighbors and communities.”

SARAH CAVENDER METALWORKS mesh jewelry (Oxford)

Artist Sarah Cavender creates striking metal mesh jewelry at her studio in Oxford, with her work being featured in fashion magazines and on runways around the world.

She designs and produces several seasonal collections each year, including belts and handbags. Prices vary per piece, from classic hoop earrings to dramatic statement necklaces. Many of her pieces are formed into floral, leaf and insect representations, and other abstract forms.

Cavender majored in sculpture at the Philadelphia College of Art and developed her processes over years of extensive travel and studies of art history and other design influences. She uses materials made primarily in the U.S., with stones imported from Europe.

HUMMINBIRD fish finders (Eufaula)

For the angler in your life, check out a leading manufacturer of marine electronics products, which operates in Eufaula.

Humminbird makes a wide variety of fish finders that offer the latest sonar and navigation technologies, with high-definition displays designed to help spot fish, as well as underwater terrain and hazards.

Prices vary based on capabilities, and they range from $100 to $5,000. Many of Humminbird’s fish finders are temporarily sold out online, but there is a list of authorized dealers.

The company cited the popularity of its fish finders in announcing an expansion in Eufaula earlier this year. The project includes 77 new jobs, the installation of new equipment and additional space for the plant’s production and assembly area.

CHOCOLATA bonbons (Birmingham)

It is candy, or is it art? Birmingham-based Chocolatá creates a stunning array of intricately designed bonbons perfect for gift giving.

Bonbon gift boxes are priced at $11 and up. Other products include chocolate bars, lollipops, hot cocoa bombs, housemade granola and sipping chocolate.

Chocolatá uses ethically sourced 100% Latin American cacao to create seasonal chocolate treats at its shop on Second Avenue North in downtown Birmingham.

BONNIE PLANTS herb garden bundles (Union Springs)

The nation’s largest grower of vegetable and herb plants for home gardens, located in Bullock County, offers many gift options for aspiring gardeners or chefs.

Bonnie Plants sells individual plants, as well as themed bundles, online and in area stores. For instance, the Grillers Herb Plant Garden includes Greek oregano, lemon thyme, rosemary and garden sage plants and is priced at $32.

In April, the company announced plans to upgrade and expand its greenhouse facilities in Union Springs. The project is also aimed at improving Bonnie Plant’s e-commerce sales, which have registered triple-digit growth the past two years.

SUNSHINE BATH CO. goat milk soaps (Fairhope)

Audi Balcom has traveled the world as a military spouse, learning from artisans in all the far-flung places she called home. These days, home is Fairhope, where her Sunshine Bath Co. has grown into a farm to family business.

A licensed massage therapist, Balcom combined her skills with a passion for aromatherapy in creating a line of handmade, small-batch bath and beauty products using all-natural ingredients.

She crafts goat milk soaps, sourced from local farm fresh goat milk produced by Fairhope Farm, with scents including Sleigh Bells, Pumpkin Chai Latte and Summer in Sedona.

Balcom also makes body butter, lip balm and whimsical bath bombs shaped like donuts, cupcakes and waffles, with most items priced at $8 to $10.

HYUNDAI Santa Cruz (Montgomery) or TOYOTA Corolla Cross (Huntsville)

Two of Alabama’s automakers — one a veteran of the state industry and the other just kicking off its operation here — introduced brand-new models this year.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama launched mass production of the 2022 Santa Cruz sport utility in June. The Santa Cruz is actually a cross between an SUV and a truck, with a secure, open bed area that includes a lockable tonneau cover and hidden bed storage for gear-carrying flexibility. Pricing starts at just under $24,000.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s newest automaker, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, rolled out its first dealer-ready vehicle, a 2022 Toyota Corolla Cross, in September. Based on the popular Corolla sedan, the Cross combines the driving experience of a small car with the functionality of a larger crossover. Its starting price is $22,200.

ALABAMA COLLEGECOUNTS 529 Fund

It may not be a traditional present to place under the tree, but the gift of higher education is hard to beat. Alabama’s CollegeCounts 529 Fund offers tax benefits, account flexibility and quality investment options in saving money for a child’s education.

Funds can pay for expenses at a traditional 2- or 4-year college, as well as trade, technical, and vocational schools, graduate or professional school, or even apprenticeship programs.

Visit the CollegeCounts website for more information on setting up an account. Once you have an account set up, be sure to send your family and friends an email invitation to make a contribution using CollegeCounts GiftEd. This online gift giving tool makes it quick and easy for them to contribute. Log in at CollegeCounts529.com to send invitations

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)