The United States is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. With its reputation as the “Land of Opportunity,” Americans continue to have the ability to build wealth. In fact, every state has its wealthiest counties where the median annual household income exceeds the national median.
Alabama is no exception. Located in the Southeastern region of the United States, Alabama is the 24th most populous state in the country. Although many associate this state with agriculture, today it has a diverse economy based on a range of areas, such as manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, education, automotive, and tourism.
Most of the wealthiest counties in Alabama are located near major metropolitan areas. All of them have famous people who live there or grew up there. Here’s a list of the ten most affluent counties.
10. Autauga County
Located in the central part of Alabama, Autauga County is near the capital city of Montgomery. A friendly community, this county has an estimated population of 59,759 and is one of the fastest-growing counties in Alabama. Autauga County has a median household income of $62,660 and boasts a highly-trained workforce. It is home to three industrial parks and is a leader in the diverse energy field. Wilson Pickett, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, was born in Autauga County.
9. Jefferson County
Also located in the central part of the state, Jefferson County is the most populous with 672,550 residents. Birmingham is the county seat, and its biggest cities include Homewood, Bessemer, and Mountain Brook. The median household income is $58,330. Jefferson County’s three largest universities include University of Alabama at Birmingham, Samford University, and Jefferson State Community College. The average commute time is less than 25 minutes. Famous people who were born in Birmingham include Courteney Cox and Condoleeza Rice.
8. St. Clair County
With a population of 91,103, St. Clair County has two county seats, one in Ashville and one in Pell City. The median household income in this county is $65,070. St. Clair County produces agricultural products such as beef cattle, poultry, tomatoes, and hay. Additionally, lumber and paper mill industries, automotive, and aerospace industries provide employment. Hank Patterson (Gunsmoke, Petticoat Junction, and Green Acres) was born in St. Clair County.
7. Tuscaloosa County
In the northwest-central portion of the state, Tuscaloosa County is the center of healthcare, education, commerce, and industry for this area. With an estimated population of 236,780, it is the fifth most populous county in the state. The University of Alabama, a tier-1 research university, is its largest employer. However, Mercedes-Benz also has an assembly plant that employs over 4,000 people. The median annual income is $57,508. John Stallworth, who played college football for the Alabama A & M Bulldogs and in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers, hails from this county.
6. Elmore County
On the central east side of Alabama, Elmore County boasts a median annual income of $67,597. In the last twenty years, this area has transitioned from an agriculture-based economy to manufacturing, including GKN Aerospace, Russell Corporation, Neptune Technologies, and YESAC Alabama Corporation. Its biggest cities include Wetumpka, Deatsville, and Elmore. With an estimated population of 87,977, it is one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. Ben Grubbs, who played football for Auburn University, and later, the Baltimore Ravens, grew up in Eclectic, the fifth largest city in Elmore County.
5. Lee County
Named for General Robert E. Lee, this county has an estimated population of 180,773. Located on the east-central side of the state, its largest cities are Auburn, Opelika, and Smiths Station. Because several well-known commercial and industrial companies, such as Kia, Hyundai, and Briggs and Stratton, thrive here, this county is fast-growing. The median annual income is $57,191, and residents enjoy a high quality of life. Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who served in the Obama administration, grew up in Auburn.
4. Limestone County
Less than 100 miles from Birmingham or Nashville, Limestone County is ideally located for industrial growth and transportation. Athens is its largest city with nearly 30,000 residents. It is home to five Fortune 500 Companies, including Tenneco, Polaris, Steelcase, WestRock, and Target Distribution Center. Limestone County residents enjoy a median income of $70,736 and have an estimated population of 25,406. Brittany Howard (who has been compared to Janis Joplin) grew up in Athens. Howard, the lead singer for Alabama Shakes, has won three Grammys.
3. Madison County
As the third most populous county in Alabama, Madison County can be found in the north-central portion of the state. Named for U.S. President James Madison, this county is known for defense, information technology, aerospace, and advanced manufacturing. The annual median income is $71,153. In the last 12 years, it has grown 20.71%, with a current population of 404,155. Tallulah Bankhead, one of the great theater actresses of the 20th century, was born in Huntsville. Her father, William Bankhead, was Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
2. Baldwin County
In the last decade, Baldwin County has grown 35.31% and has a current population of 246,617. Its median income is $64,346. It is known as a premier vacation spot; Orange Beach, Gulf State Park, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo are only some of its attractions. However, it is also a great place to live and work. Industries are attracted to Baldwin County. Novelis, a leading sustainable aluminum solutions provider, is one of its newest industries. This plant will be mostly powered by renewable energy and is helping lead the commitment to create carbon-neutral companies. Foley native Ken Stabler hails from this county. A quarterback for Alabama and for the Oakland Raiders, Stabler was named Most Valuable Player in 1974.
1. Shelby County
With an annual median income of $82,592, Shelby County ranks first on the overall wealth index. In the last two decades, its population has increased by 18.62%. Today, 231,406 people reside in this county. Soybeans and cotton continue to be the main agricultural crops. Still, Shelby County has a diverse economic base. Top employers include Alabama Power, Wal-Mart, EBSCO Industries, Inc., Baptist Medical Center Shelby, and Publix. Dabo Swinney, who played for the Crimson Tide, is a Pelham native. He is now the head coach for the Clemson Tigers.
Summary of the Wealthiest Counties in Alabama
Only two of the wealthiest counties (Shelby and Madison) have median annual incomes above the national median. Still, these ten wealthy counties are continuing to attract more industries to the state. You may have thought Alabama was mostly an agricultural state, but it continues to diversify and expand its opportunities. This innovation translates into a higher quality of living and good jobs. The future looks bright for Alabama.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock.com
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