Rural companies make splash at first Made in Alabama Showcase

Companies making great products in small towns stepped into the spotlight at the first installment of the Made in Alabama Showcase, an Oct. 6 event that featured extraordinary homegrown products.

Gov. Kay Ivey samples some Monroe Sausage at the inaugural Made in Alabama Showcase at the Capitol in Montgomery. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)

Six of the 12 companies honored by Gov. Kay Ivey at the Showcase are based in rural Alabama communities  – which isn’t surprising considering the variety of in-demand products originating outside the state’s big cities.

“Rural Alabama is home to skilled workers, talented artisans and savvy business owners,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Our rural communities are the source for unique and high-quality products, created for customers at home and around the world.

“It’s no wonder that the inaugural Made in Alabama Showcase featured so many great products from companies based in rural communities,” he said.

Like many of the rural companies honored at the Showcase, Beatrice-based Monroe Meat Co. has a history as rich as the flavor of its products.

The Monroe Brand Sausage company became a household name in Monroe County decades ago when its sausage biscuits were tossed from a company float during the annual Monroeville Hog Festival. Partners Bill Causey and Jimmy McMillan perfected the mix of spice and seasonings for the sausage in 1959, a fact that is still celebrated on the packaging.

After Hurricane Ivan destroyed the company’s processing facility in 2004, ownership passed to the Steele family. They rechristened the business Monroe Meat Co., built a processing facility and resumed sausage production in 2007.

Today, its Hickory Smoked Monroe Sausage can be found in many grocery stores. Read more about the company’s history.

“Thanks to a wide array of first-class products, companies in Alabama’s rural communities are making a remarkable impression both at home and beyond our state’s borders,” said Brenda Tuck, manager of Rural Development for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Beatrice-based Monroe Meat Co. was one of several businesses based in rural parts of the state honored during Gov. Kay Ivey’s inaugural Made in Alabama Showcase in Montgomery. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)

Growth plans

Two of the Showcase rural honorees – Fayette’s Showa Group and Haleyville’s Kith Kitchens – have recently launched significant expansion projects.

Showa, a bedrock of Fayette’s economy for almost 50 years, has become the nation’s largest manufacturer of single-use nitrile gloves, marking a milestone in a $35 million expansion project. Showa invented nitrile gloves, which are an alternative to latex.

Days ago, Showa celebrated the official opening of a new 40,000-square-foot facility that will contain four high-speed production lines, tripling to 1.2 billion annually by 2022 the company’s U.S. output of gloves used by health care workers and others.

The Fayette manufacturing operation is adding 80 workers.

“This is a big moment for Fayette, Alabama, as we safeguard America’s supply of critical PPE,” said Richard Heppell, a Showa executive. “Our U.S. workers can take pride in the fact that they’re producing superior gloves to protect their fellow Americans.”

Based in Haleyville, Kith Kitchens got its start in 1998 as a family-owned business. It has become one of the nation’s largest cabinetmakers, with more than 700 employees.

In 2020, Kith announced plans to invest $11 million to open a manufacturing facility in Florence that will create 131 full-time jobs.

Showa Group, which produces nitrile gloves in Fayette, was one of several businesses based in rural parts of the state honored during Gov. Kay Ivey’s inaugural Made in Alabama Showcase in Montgomery. (Showa)

Rural success stories

Other rural companies participating in the Made in Alabama Showcase included:

  • SouthFresh Feeds, a Demopolis-based producer of feeds for fish, cattle, deer and horses.
  • Henry Brick Co., a Selma-based brick manufacturer whose roots go back 65 years.
  • Dean’s Cake House, an Andalusia bakery known for its seven-layer cakes and other treats.

The bakery has a sweet tale of success. Dean Jacobs had dreamed of opening her own bakery since working in the deli department at a grocery. At age 60 in 1994, she introduced her cakes with the opening of Dean’s Cake House.

Soon after the doors opened, it was obvious these sweet treats weren’t meant for just locals but for a much larger audience. Dean’s Cake House now provides sweet treats throughout the Deep South.

Jacobs and her staff bake more than 300 cakes per day, with the products distributed from three Alabama warehouses.

Her bakery has become a tourist attraction in Andalusia, where hundreds of visitors from all over the nation stop in to check out how the cakes are made.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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