We all prefer living in different places, which is probably a good thing otherwise we would all be crowding on top of each other. Some people like the peace and quiet of rural areas and small towns while others like the hustle and bustle of big cities like Birmingham and Montgomery and want to make the most of the opportunities that this brings. Alabama is the 30th largest in terms of area and the 24th most populous. Today, the economy is based on a mix of agriculture, aerospace, education, retail, mineral extraction, finance, management, cars, technology and healthcare. There are several cities that are growing particularly quickly, for a host of different reasons that will be explored in this article.
How did we measure the 5 fastest growing cities?
Our methods are based on looking at the growth rate between two fixed points in time, principally according to the American Community survey which takes place every few days. The data compares 2010 with 2014 and the change between these two dates, principally because it is the most up to date data that there is available. 105 cities across the state were ranked, all of which have a population of above 5000 people. What we are interested here is in the percentage rise of population, rather than necessarily the number of people migrating to the city. Without further ado however, let’s take a look at five of the fastest growing cities in the state and why they are growing more quickly than other cities.
Population 2014 (15,428); Population 2010 (13,570) = growth rate 13.69% (1858)
Situated in Baldwin County, Foley was founded in the early twentieth century by a guy called John B Foley. It has grown significantly since 1990, growing by 53.7% between 1990 and 2000 and then a further 92.6% between 2000 and 2010. It is a coastal community and the tourism board prides the town on its laid back nature – ‘Experience Foley – where life slows down and the people are friendly’. Tourism is a particular area of the economy that the city is doing its hardest to grow. There are now over seventy eateries in the city, providing tourists and locals with a good range of options. There are also lots of things to do like visiting the museum, the water park or the famous fisherman’s market. This city surely has further growth to look forward to as its economy builds.
4. Gulf Shores
Population 2014 (10,523); Population 2010 (9,035) = growth rate 16.47% (1488)
As the name would suggest, Gulf Shores is located right on the Alabama coast and it is the most southern settlement in Alabama. The city is vulnerable to hurricanes, given its location and was pretty much flattened in 1979 by Hurricane Frederic. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan caused huge amounts of damage, as did Katrina in 2005. It is no surprise therefore that Gulf Shores has struggled to grow in the past. This said, they are still experiencing huge amounts of growth, almost doubling the population between 2000 and 2010. Tourism plays a major part in the local economy with lots of Americans drawn to the sandy beaches. At the end of each May there is an epic three day festival on the beach – the Hangout Music Festival.
Population 2014 (12,376); Population 2010 (10,374) = growth rate 19.3% (2002)
Calera is located across Shelby and Chilton counties and has grown very rapidly since 2010. Its proximity to Birmingham has had a huge influence on this growth. Indeed, between 2000 and 2010 it experienced 268% growth, rising from 3,158 people to 11,620. Calera has hot and humid summers and mild to cool winters. The steel industry was the principal reason behind the growth in the early days and this has transitioned into a number of value added supportive manufacturing companies, which support the growing automotive industry which is prevalent throughout the South. Research, banking, medicine, technology and finance are also all growth areas as young people travel to the city from all over the state to make their fortune. The one negative thing about the place is that the summers can be long and hot but this is true of pretty much the entire state.
Population 2014 (11,051); Population 2010 (9,202) = growth rate 20.09% (1849)
Chelsea’s motto is ‘It’s all about family’ and they got this about right when it comes to growth, attracting lots of families to build their lives here. Part fo the Birmingham metropolitan area, Chelsea is a young settlement and was only incorporated in 1996 with a population of 966 people. It now has five schools and its proximity to Birmingham means that it is a popular place for commuters. Chelsea has quite a young population, with the most residents being between the ages of 25 and 34. As a result, health issues tend to be less prevalent and so if you do need healthcare, it is easily available. Further, home ownership is significant, at over 90%, far higher than the average across the United States. Incomes are also higher than the state average. With all of this taken together, it is no wonder why Chelsea has experienced such significant growth in recent years. It is a very desirable place in which to live.
1. Pike Road
Population 2014 (6,605); Population 2010 (5,072) = growth rate 30.22% (1533)
Located in Montgomery County in the north of the state, Pike Road was only incorporated as a city in 1997 and is the fastest growing (by growth rate) city in the state, since 2000. It started with 95 families in 1997 and now has over 1600. They have been attracted by the cheap cost of living and the proximity to Montgomery. The city however has put its development since 2010 down to four key areas.
These are Planning, Quality of Life, Education and Services. These clear guidelines to policy have given people a confidence to invest in the city. Since 2010, numerous parcels of land within neighborhoods have been developed and new housing constructed. This has not been forced, but has happened organically. This has meant that communities have not lost their spirit. Parents and other individuals go beyond the pale to make the education system one of the best in the state.
They organize field trips and try to foster an attitude of life long learning among the young people. Pike Road is known as ‘a place with hospitable people’ and there is a spirit of engaging with people and involving them in community activities. For example, the ‘Enhance Initiative’ has worked to keep agriculture alive, provide artistic and cultural opportunities for local people and maintain and improve recreational activities. The city has a full time economic and community development director who is constantly looking for ways to improve the local economy or quality of life for local residents.
Of course, growth rate can be looked at in many different ways and looking at growth since 2010 is different to looking at growth over a longer time frame, say since 2000. If this had been the case then the list might have looked slightly different. However, although the order might have been different, the list of cities would still probably have been the same.
Alabama’s economy continues to be driven largely from agriculture, despite claims in this article (which are true) that the state has diversified. The top five products are broilers, cattle and calves, eggs, nursery products and finally cotton. This means that most of the state