Here, you can find jobs in auto manufacturing, aerospace, biotech and logistics sectors. You'll also find great workforce development programs and an outstanding quality of life.
It’s easy to leave Athens-Limestone County, thanks to the presence of two interstates – I-65 and I-565 – Alabama’s busiest general aviation airport and nearby Huntsville International Airport. However, if you ask the nearly three-dozen people who are moving to Athens and Limestone County every day, they’ll tell you they’d rather stay.
They come here for jobs with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, which will soon begin production at its new $2.3 billion auto assembly plant, and they come for the thousands of jobs being created by auto component manufacturers that will supply the plant. Many of these companies are internationally based and are making direct investments in the region.
Mazda Toyota is hiring 4,000 workers, and the factory is expected to generate more than 25,000 direct and indirect jobs. Others making their way to the region come for opportunities related to the area’s aerospace, biotech, manufacturing and logistics sectors.
But there’s also one other reason people are packing their bags and starting a new life here: They all come for the region’s unbeatable quality of life, says Bethany Shockney, president and CEO of the Limestone County Economic Development Association.
Limestone County Is Booming
Limestone County’s population grew more than 19% between 2010 and 2020, thanks to the booming economy. The region was No. 1 in Alabama for job announcements and No. 3 for capital investment in 2019, when projects totaling more than $626 million were announced.
Why Move to Athens and Limestone County?
What all does this unbeatable quality of life entail, you might ask? “We have what individuals and families are looking for – really good infrastructure, high-end retail, good health care and wellness activities. Our schools are excellent. Some are blue ribbon schools, and Athens City Schools system has a higher ACT score than other places in the state,” Shockney says.
Paychecks handed out here go further than in many other places, and since the cost of living in Limestone County is about 14% lower than the national average, residents can spend more of their hard-earned money on the things they love.
Plus, residents and employers benefit from free workforce development programs focusing on emerging trends and technology. Calhoun Community College, for example, ranks first among all colleges, universities and trade schools in the United States in awarding degrees in advanced manufacturing.
The Region Offers Diverse Economy
Speaking of perks for employers, this region offers a highly skilled workforce, thanks to resources such as the Alabama Robotics Technology Park, a $73 million collaboration between the state, Calhoun Community College, AIDT and leaders in the robotics industry.
Ensuring students are ready for the workforce starts early on in this region. Even before turning their tassels, high school students can learn technical skills. For example, early technical education courses are offered through Limestone County Career Technical Center and other school programs.
After students gain necessary skills, the hope is that they will stay in the region and start their career working for a company in one of their area’s diverse industries.
The region’s manufacturing sector includes production of cars, ATVs and office furniture. Polaris makes on- and off-road vehicles at its $142 million facility in Huntsville, and Steelcase manufactures office furniture in Athens.
It’s Easy to Get Around Here
Athens-Limestone County also boasts a number of transportation assets – which are beneficial to both individuals and companies in the area – making travel easy and reducing the time and cost of shipping products and materials. I-65 runs north to south through Limestone County. I-565 gives fast access to Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park and Huntsville. Other major highways here include U.S. 72 and U.S. 31.
Pryor Field Regional Airport is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the state, Huntsville International Airport is nearby, and CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads serve Limestone County. Plus, the International Intermodal Center at the Port of Huntsville gives industries the ability to ship and receive goods internationally. The Port of Decatur provides access to the Tennessee River and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
“People are coming from all over, and companies are recruiting top executives nationally,” Shockney says. “That brings fresh idea and gives the diversity we like.”