Alabama’s rural counties are the source of some of the state’s most distinctive products, from handcrafted, all-natural items for health and home to innovative technologies that are charting the future for business and industry.
“Rural Alabama is making a remarkable impression both at home and beyond our state’s borders,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“There is a strong commitment to quality, craftsmanship and creativity that runs through the work force in these towns and communities. There is also a sense of pride that is evident and impressive,” he added.
Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the diverse mix of products originating from the state’s rural areas transmits a clear message about the capabilities found there.
“Rural Alabama is a go-to place for unique, high-quality products, made with care and sold in state, regional, national and world markets,” Tuck said.
“Alabama’s rural communities are home to skilled artisans, talented creators and enterprising business owners who are making a lasting difference with their inspiring labors,” she continued.
Sports fans across Alabama and beyond cheer on their favorite teams from seats fashioned by Geneva County’s Outdoor Aluminum. The company produces bleachers, grandstands, press boxes, team benches, scorer tables and more for high school and college campuses at its facility in the town of Geneva. In business for more than 30 years, Outdoor Aluminum has a national sales and support network and also does custom projects with a variety of color schemes, theater seating and engraving options.
Resource Fiber plans to produce engineered bamboo products in Lamar County. The company, which in January announced plans for a $3.6 million, 111-job plant in Sulligent, has done extensive research and development involving bamboo products, such as bamboo nail laminated timbers used in the construction of multi-story buildings. Other products include bamboo railroad ties and a laminated timber system to replace steel roof and floor decks in commercial buildings.
GOAT MILK SKINCARE
In the Dallas County community of Marion Junction, Laura Spencer has been crafting goat milk soap and skincare products for more than a decade. What started as an endeavor toward more sustainable living has since grown into a small business called Simply Making It. The products include lotions, lip balms and bath bombs and are made from natural ingredients, such as milk from the goats at Spencer Farm, herbs from Spencer’s garden and pure essential oils.
SWEETS AND OTHER TREATS
Rural Alabama is responsible for some of the state’s tastiest snacks.
For nearly 75 years, Conecuh Sausage has been a staple on Southern plates, and it has developed a cult-like following far beyond Alabama as restaurants, cookbooks and social media fan clubs sing its praises. The company makes the hickory smoked sausage in its Conecuh County hometown of Evergreen and offers nationwide shipping.
Another savory treat hails from Pike County, where Wickles Pickles are processed and bottled in Brundidge. With a unique flavor that blends heat and sweet, Wickles have built a loyal following over the past 20 years and are sold in supermarkets across the U.S. In 2018, production of Wickles Pickles moved from North Carolina back to their roots in Alabama.
Other snacks are made by Priester’s Pecans, a handmade gourmet candy company that’s been operating in Lowndes County since 1935, selling pecans and all kinds of treats made with them. The company’s retail store in Fort Deposit is a familiar sight and favorite stop for travelers on Interstate 65, to eat lunch, sample the merchandise and watch the candy makers in action.
And in neighboring Crenshaw County, one of the top employers is Sister Schubert’s Homemade Rolls, which produces frozen breakfast and dinner rolls that are sold in stores across the U.S. Using her grandmother’s recipe, Alabama native Patricia “Sister” Schubert built the Luverne-based company into a bakery industry juggernaut that generates more than $60 million in U.S. sales.
FOR THE HOME
Two rural Alabama companies – both father-son teams – help set the stage for a stylish and relaxing home.
Tallapoosa County’s Wellborn Industries crafts custom cabinets, flooring and accent furniture in Jacksons’ Gap near Lake Martin. Owner Curtis Wellborn started the company in the mid-1990s focused on cabinets. Later, he added saw mills that expanded his business and product lines, and sons Jay and Jarod joined him.
In Winston County, Wood Studio creates handmade furniture using native hardwoods at a shop on the banks of Smith Lake in Arley. Company founder Randy Cochran and sons Keith and Dylan have earned critical acclaim for their work and signature pieces including the Lookout Mountain Rocker, Beersheba Swing, Crane Chair and others.
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)