The automotive industry is a vital employer of Gadsden and the larger Etowah County. The city is home to workers skilled in various machinery and electronic equipment. Gadsden is also in a strategic position within a day's drive to many OEMs in the southeast region. This location allows the city to connect to many key transportation networks, creating an easy way to serve various clients in the region. Both interstate, air, and rail networks connect Gadsden to prominent manufacturers in Alabama and the rest of the southeast. Gadsden is also located at the epicenter between the large metropolitan areas in the region like Birmingham, Huntsville, Atlanta, and Chattanooga.
The workforce in Gadsden is strong and continuously growing. 1,048 high school students graduated in May of 2020, and between Gadsden City, Atalla City, and Etowah County schools, almost 500 students signed up for industrial-related technology training. This type of industrial-related technology training is available at Gadsden State Community College and gives students vital skills in the industry such as welding and robotics. Students in training programs like this have accounted for 1,141 active resumes and 4,977 Self-Registrations in the system for employment at the Gadsden Career Center office.
Gadsden State Community College plays a key role in training these workers and offers a two-year associate in an applied science degree program in Automotive Manufacturing Technology. This degree prepares students with a workforce-ready core curriculum focusing on electronics, troubleshooting, programmable logic controllers, and robotic welding. The program's mission is to provide well-prepared, multi-skilled individuals who can perform troubleshooting and technical work to minimize downtime in the manufacturing process.
Due to these training and workforce development initiatives, many industries have expanded their operations within the region. The area has succeeded in retaining over 1,865 jobs within the industrial corridor. The following industries have continued to be a part of the success story within Gadsden by retaining employees: MS-2, Prince Metal Stamping, Cintas, Inteva, Keystone Foods, Southern Cold Storage, and Fehrer Automotive. These companies include six tier one or tier two automobile suppliers. This industrial sector continues to expand as these suppliers move into servicing OEMs and have a substantial impact on the shift to electric vehicle manufacturing.
With the automotive industry being such a large force in Alabama, Gadsden is a prime candidate for further development in the sector. When Mercedes-Benz announced plans to open its only U.S. assembly plant in Alabama in 1993, an industry was launched. Since then, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, as well as an expanding network of automotive suppliers, have joined Alabama’s vehicle manufacturing industry. A new dimension was added to this industry when Autocar, a maker of heavy-duty work trucks, launched production in the state.
In a generation, accelerating growth in this critical sector of Alabama’s economy has turned the state into an important production hub for the industry.
Together, assembly plants operated by Mercedes, Honda and Hyundai have propelled Alabama to a Top 5 ranking among the states for the production of cars and light trucks. In 2018, Alabama automakers combined to produce around 1 million cars and light trucks. Toyota, Honda and Hyundai also produced nearly 1.6 million engines in 2018, another sign of the sector’s strength in the state.
Employment in Alabama’s automotive manufacturing sector now approaches 40,000, surging from just a few thousand in the days before Mercedes. Around 27,000 of these jobs are in Alabama’s growing automotive supplier network, which now counts over 200 companies.
Both employment and production received a massive boost when the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA partnership opened a $1.6 billion joint venture assembly plant in Alabama. Construction began in 2019 and was completed in 2022 The Huntsville facility will employ up to 4,000 workers after reaching full capacity. The annual production capacity will be 300,000 vehicles.
The output of Alabama’s auto industry is a powerful driver of economic growth for the state. Vehicles have become Alabama’s No. 1 export, with shipments to around 90 nations worldwide every year. In 2018, exports of Alabama-made vehicles and parts totaled $7.5 billion, led by shipments to Canada, China, and Germany.
Thanks in part to training programs from AIDT and others preparing a skilled workforce, growth beneath the hood of Alabama’s auto industry will continue to pick up pace. Partners in the state’s automotive training program include the Alabama Community College System and the Alabama Robotics and Technology Park in Decatur, where technicians learn how to operate advanced robots and automation processes in a one-of-a-kind facility.
- Nearly 1 million cars and light trucks produced in 2018
- Nearly 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs
- More than 200 Tier 1 and 2 automotive suppliers in the state
- Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai produced about 1.6 million automotive engines in 2018
- Exports of Alabama-made vehicles and parts totaled $7.5 billion in 2018
- Alabama will produce 10 different passenger vehicle models in 2019
- Transportation equipment is Alabama’s No. 1 export category
- Alabama is the No. 3 auto exporting state
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Automotive Supplier Companies
- Johnson Controls
- Newman Technology
- Grupo Antolin
- Truck & Wheel Group
- North American Lighting
- Yutaka Technologies
- Bermco Aluminum
- Honda Lock
- HS Automotive
- KTH Leesburg
- Nitto Denko
- Rainsville Technology
- SMART of Alabama
- TS Tech
- WKW Erbsloeh
- ZF Chassis Systems