Please note that this case study has been amended from the original post to reflect Novelis Inc’s $2.5 billion investment in the South Alabama Mega Site, to build a groundbreaking facility and bring over 1,000 jobs to Baldwin County, first announced in May 2022.
The Problem: How Do We Diversify Baldwin County’s Economy?
Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance is dedicated to growing and improving the economy in Baldwin County, the fastest-growing county in Alabama and an increasingly attractive place to live and work on the Gulf Coast. In fact, the population of Baldwin County has grown 63% since 2000!
But Baldwin County didn’t want to just grow jobs. They wanted purposeful growth.
“We wanted to diversify our economy,” said Tanner Jones, former Data and Communications Manager at Baldwin County EDA. “Historically, Baldwin County is highly reliant on tourism, because of our beaches. But that means we are susceptible to outside forces, like an economic downturn or an oil spill.” Jones and his colleagues needed data on which industries could help diversify Baldwin County’s economy and make it more resilient.
“But it’s not just adding jobs to add jobs,” Jones clarified. “We’re selective about the companies we choose to support and attract. We want to recruit companies that raise the floor and raise the ceiling with regards to wages. We want companies that will be a fit here.”
To figure out which target industries would bring in high-wage jobs, Baldwin County EDA first subscribed to JobsEQ by Chmura in 2015.
Success #1: 21% Job Growth in Transportation/Warehousing Since 2015
Baldwin County EDA quickly identified the Transportation/Warehousing sector as a key industry to target. “You can look it up in JobsEQ yourself,” said Jones. “The average wages of a worker in Baldwin County is $39,000 a year; in the Transportation sector, it’s $49,000. That can mean a pretty immediate pay increase for anyone who gets a job in Transportation or Warehousing.”
Over the years, Baldwin County has competed for several large projects, using JobsEQ to give details on specific occupations, wages, and the talent pool within a specific radius of a potential project. “JobsEQ allows us to get creative in how to tell our story,” said Jones. “If there appears to be a labor deficiency, we show that we have other people in the workforce who can transfer over, or we can create a new workforce pipeline from people who are underemployed or underpaid.”
“We don’t want a company to come here and fail. We want to make sure we have the workforce they need to succeed in Baldwin County.”
Recently, the EDA’s work paid off, attracting an Aldi distribution center and an Imperial Dade logistics hub—bringing a total of 250 new jobs to Baldwin County. Imperial Dade will be investing $20 million in a 220,000 square foot new logistics hub, expanding on an existing facility.
The bid for the $100 million Aldi distribution center was even more competitive. “We were competing with several other counties for the Aldi project, so JobsEQ’s workforce and wage data helped Aldi understand the benefits of being in our community. To tell our story, we used JobsEQ to show that we have a large base of underemployed people here in Baldwin County.”
Success #2: Creating a New Career Tech High School
An economic development organization … helping create a high school? For Jones, it’s not an odd connection.
“Our organization has worked very closely with the local school system on a new full-time Career Tech high school, which will train students in aerospace, maritime, welding, healthcare, information technology, and other programs,” said Jones. “The EDA serves as the connector between the school system and local industry, which has heavily influenced what the training programs will look like at the new school. Our job is to marry local business and education.”
JobsEQ has played a crucial part in the development of this new career tech’s programs. “We have used JobsEQ data significantly on the wage side. We want to train kids to go into jobs that will be lucrative for them, and JobsEQ historic industry data allows us to pinpoint which industries are growing and paying above average wages,” explained Jones.
By ensuring that every program is backed up by timely and accurate labor market data, Baldwin County EDA is setting its future students up for success. The new high school plans to launch in the 2024-2025 school year.
Marketing a 3,000-Acre Megasite
One of Baldwin County’s primary goals was to use JobsEQ to find a tenant for their 3,000-acre South Alabama Mega Site. “JobsEQ is critical as we are marketing and attracting companies to this site.” said Jones. Baldwin County uses JobsEQ to show that there is a competitive and sustainable workforce in Baldwin County that can serve a new large industrial employer at the county-owned mega site.
“I often open the What-If analytic in JobsEQ to answer: if a certain type of project located here, what would be the economic benefit to the region?” said Jones.
Update: Novelis, Inc. Chooses Baldwin County for World-Class Facility
In May of 2022, it was announced that Novelis, Inc. had selected the South Alabama Mega Site as the location for their new fully integrated aluminum mill facility. Novelis announced plans to invest more than $2.5 billion into building this zero-waste, renewable energy powered facility. With large-scale hiring plans, and the potential to expand in the future to capture ongoing demand, it was important to Novelis’ leaders to choose a site that had a sufficient pipeline to meet their demand.
Using JobsEQ, the Baldwin County EDA was able to compile data quickly on the local labor force to identify a surplus of workers that would be successful in a manufacturing facility such as Novelis’ aluminum mill. They also utilized JobsEQ to highlight University of South Alabama, Coastal Alabama Community College, and the soon-to-launch Career Tech High School as future talent pipeline sources in the region.
Additionally, Baldwin County was able to emphasize that 44% of the workforce living within the county commutes out of the county for work each day and highlight their population growth forecast. Baldwin County is the 7th fastest-growing Metro area in the United States, ranking in the Top 3% of 3,143 counties for net incoming domestic migration, which accounts for 96% of Baldwin County’s population growth. JobsEQ data projects the county’s population to reach nearly 300,000 by the year 2034. This demonstration of an already present workforce, future talent pipelines, a growing population, and the prospect of employing and retaining workers within the county as opposed to commuting were all factors that made the South Alabama Mega Site exceedingly attractive to Novelis, Inc.
The implications of Novelis’ new aluminum mill are significant. In addition to creating approximately 1,000 new jobs, the facility will generate more indirect roles, and significantly increase the average wage for a worker in Baldwin County. The average annual salary projected for this facility will be $65,000, which is a substantial increase from the Baldwin County average annual wage of $41,916. This will produce economic transformation within the region that will last for generations to come.
“Novelis’ decision to locate the nation’s most technologically advanced aluminum mill in Baldwin County is a powerful testament to both the state’s attractive business climate and to the capabilities of our talented manufacturing workforce,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
By establishing clear, data-backed opportunities for growth and long-term success within Baldwin County, the South Alabama Mega Site was an attractive location for this revolutionary facility.
The Chmura Difference
“I live in Data Explorer,” laughed Jones, referring to one of JobsEQ’s most flexible analytics. “I like to pull the data out and work with it myself.”
He also appreciates the high quality of service received at Chmura. “I’m a big fan of the Chmura team! At some point I’ve talked to everyone on the Chmura team. My Account Manager does a great job helping me figure out funding to continue our subscription to JobsEQ,” said Jones. “Across the board, I’m very happy with Chmura’s products and people.”
Chmura is proud to partner with an organization like Baldwin County EDA! If you would like to join our community of JobsEQ users, schedule your demo today. We’d love to talk to you.