Kobay

John Robertson puts parts together at the robotic welder station at Kobay Enstel-South in Oxford. (Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)

Calhoun County productivity grew for the first time in five years in 2016, but most of the state did better, a recent federal report shows.

The report states growth in the manufacturing and construction sectors helped improve the county’s gross domestic product last year. Seven of Alabama’s other 12 metropolitan areas still had better GDP growth last year, showing that the county still struggled to catch up with the most of the state’s recovery since the 2008 Great Recession.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, the county had a 1 percent gain in GDP in 2016, the first growth in five years. The GDP is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services within an area.

The county saw mainly jumps in manufacturing and construction productivity last year. Smaller boosts in education and health care services, along with transportation and utilities, also helped raise the county’s GDP.

Keivan Deravi, economist at Auburn University Montgomery, said the manufacturing sector did well across the state last year.

“Confidence in the economy is going up and people are buying cars and refrigerators and appliances … it’s part of demand that has been repressed for some time since the recession,” Deravi said. “We had a subdued and mediocre recovery, but now we’re beginning to get some growth.”

The county’s economy relies heavily on manufacturing, particularly for the automotive industry, and the defense industry, such as the Anniston Army Depot.

Deravi said the construction industry also saw some rebound in the state last year.

“Construction employment improved in every county you can imagine,” Deravi said.

Steve Johnson, general manager for Anniston-based metal foundry Tyler Union, said the facility did well last year. Meanwhile, production volume at Tyler Union should be up 15 percent at the end of the year compared to last year, Johnson said.

“There is no reason to believe that we will see a downturn in the market,” Johnson said. “Tyler Union still has some excess capacity and we are working diligently to become more efficient in our operations to allow for future growth opportunities.”

Deravi said that this year the state has seen economic improvement similar to last year, despite the lack of economic stimulus from Congress.

“This year economic activity remains oblivious to the nature of politics … there’s been no stimulus of any kind, we were expecting some kind of tax cuts or reform,” Deravi said, referring to GOP plans earlier in the year.

Gerry Hamby, plant manager for Oxford automotive supplier Kobay Enstel-South, said his company has seen increased demand and growth this year. The Canadian-based company announced last year that it would open a facility in Oxford.

“We just got a new press in place today and there’s another on the way,” Hamby said. “We’re up to around 30 employees right now and the plan for us is to double the size of the plant in a couple of years.”

Hamby said the automotive industry has been strong all year.

“It’s hot right now, as hot as I’ve seen it in some time,” Hamby said of the automotive industry.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.