"Shelby Projected to Add 10,000 Jobs by 2015"
Shelby County is projected to be one of the nation's hot spots for job creation over the next five years.
Washington, D.C.-based Woods & Poole Economics Inc. estimates that Shelby County's employment levels will expand at an average annual rate of 2.61 percent between this year and 2015. That's more than double the U.S. rate of 1.15 percent. The firm ranked Shelby No. 8 among 3,000 counties across the nation for job growth during the period.
For Shelby, the growth should translate into 10,000 new jobs by 2015, according to Woods & Poole.
"Shelby has a long history of steady and stable employment growth and benefits from its proximity to Birmingham as well as its skilled and well educated labor force," Woods & Poole economist Martin Holdrich said.
Alex Dudchock, Shelby County manager for the past 17 years, said the county has long been Alabama's fastest growing.
"When you have a county that doubles its population in 20 years like we have, statistically you will see job growth," Dudchock said. "I hop their model ends up being correct because that would be an indication that we are coming out of this recession."
Dudchock said the number of unemployed people in Shelby County today is more than three times the 2,100 the county averaged before the recession began in December 2007 when its unemployment rate hit a historic low of 2.1 percent. The Shelby County jobless rate in January was 7.8 percent, Alabama's lowest, with 6,900 listed as unemployed, according to state figures.
In an interview Tuesday, Holdrich said Woods & Poole examined historic factors in ranking U.S. counties in its job growth projections, factors including past trends and population growth. Loudoun County, Va., was No. 1 in the rankings.
"Shelby is a small county, but it has seen significant growth and is one of the strongest in the country," Holdrich said.
The 10,000 jobs created between 2011 and 2015 will contribute $655 million to Shelby's economy, the firm said. The county will see significant job growth in sectors including professional services and health care.
Woods & Poole said the overall Birmingham metro area is forecast to gain 29,000 jobs during the period, boosting the economy by $2.9 billion. Holdrich said metro Birmingham as a whole will match the national job growth of 1.15 percent.
Dudchock said his hope is that the entire seven-county Birmingham-Hoover metro area will see strong job growth over the next few years.
Dudchock credits Shelby County's growth to a low crime rate, good schools and strong quality of life issues. Jeremy Thornton, an associate professor of economics at Samford University's Brock School of Business, said the report is good news for the region.
But Thornton, who lives in Helena, said he is among Shelby County residents concerned about whether the county leaders can maintain the services necessary to keep up with the growth.
"While you're glad to hear of economic prosperity, there has been a real strain on public services to keep up with all of this growth," said Thornton, who has two young children in the county school system. "Shelby County is an affluent area with low taxes, but little services. The schools are getting overcrowded and I am concerned."
Dudchock said Shelby County leaders are striving to help maintain the services and educational levels residents of the county desire.
"The Shelby County Commission, Shelby County School board and Hoover school board put a lot of emphasis on education and public safety," he said. "We have a higher educated community and quality of life issues are important to them."
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