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Rural companies make splash at first ‘Made in Alabama’ Showcase

Companies making great products in small corners of the state stepped into the spotlight at the first installment of the Made in Alabama Showcase, an event last week that featured extraordinary homegrown products.

Six of the 12 companies honored by Governor Kay Ivey at the Showcase are based in rural Alabama communities — a fact not so surprising when you consider the variety of in-demand products originating from the state’s rural areas.

“Rural Alabama is home to skilled workers, talented artisans and savvy business owners. Our rural communities are the source for unique and high-quality products, created for customers at home and around the world,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“It’s no wonder that the inaugural Made in Alabama Showcase featured so many great products from companies based in rural communities,” he added.

Like many of the rural companies honored at the Showcase, Beatrice-based Monroe Meat Co. has a history as rich as the flavor of its products.

The Monroe Brand Sausage company became a household name in Monroe County decades ago when its sausage biscuits were tossed from a company float during the annual Monroeville Hog Festival. Partners Bill Causey and Jimmy McMillan perfect the mix of spice and seasonings for the sausage in 1959, a fact that is still celebrated on the packaging.

After the company’s processing facility was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, ownership passed to the Steele family. They rechristened the business Monroe Meat Co., built a new processing facility and resumed sausage production in 2007.

Today, its Hickory Smoked Monroe Sausage can be found in most grocery stores. Read more about the company’s history.

“Thanks to a wide array of first-class products, companies located in Alabama’s rural communities are making a remarkable impression both at home and beyond our state’s borders,” said Brenda Tuck, manager of Rural Development for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

GROWTH PLANS

Two of the Showcase rural honorees — Fayette’s SHOWA Group and Haleyville’s Kith Kitchens — have recently launched significant expansion projects in Alabama.

SHOWA, a bedrock of Fayette’s economy for almost 50 years, has become the nation’s largest manufacturer of single-use nitrile gloves, marking a milestone in a $35 million expansion project in Alabama. SHOWA invented nitrile gloves, which are an alternative to latex.

Days ago, SHOWA celebrated the official opening a new 40,000-square-foot facility that will contain four high-speed production lines, tripling the company’s U.S. output of gloves used by health care workers and others to 1.2 billion annually by 2022.

The Fayette manufacturing operation is adding 80 workers.

“This is a big moment for Fayette, Alabama, as we safeguard America’s supply of critical PPE,” said Richard Heppell, a SHOWA executive. “Our U.S. workers can take pride in the fact that they’re producing superior gloves to protect their fellow Americans.”

Based in Haleyville, Kith Kitchens got its start in 1998 as a family-owned business. Today, it has grown to become one of the nation’s largest cabinet makers, with over 700 employees.

In 2020, Kith announced plans to invest $11 million to open a new manufacturing facility in Florence that will create 131 full-time jobs.

RURAL SUCCESS STORIES

Other rural companies participating in the Made in Alabama Showcase were:

  • SouthFresh Feeds, a Demopolis-based producer of feeds for fish, cattle, deer and horses.
  • Henry Brick Co., a Selma-based brick manufacturer whose roots go back 65 years.
  • Dean’s Cake House, an Andalusia bakery known for its seven-layer cakes and other treats.

The bakery has a sweet tale of success. Dean Jacobs had dreamed of opening her own bakery since working in a deli department at a grocery. At age 60 in August 1994, she introduced her cake recipes to her community with the opening of Dean’s Cake House.

Soon after the doors opened, it was obvious these sweet treats weren’t meant for just locals but for a much larger audience. Dean’s Cake House now provides sweet treats throughout the Deep South.

She and her staff bake over 300 cakes per day, with the products distributed through three Alabama warehouses.

Her bakery has even become a tourist attraction in Andalusia, where hundreds of visitors from all over the country stop in to check out how the cakes get made.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)