Alabama Power was one of the first utilities in the United States to create an economic development department and still plays a major role in recruiting business and industry.
As early as 1913, the company established a Commercial and New Business Division. In 1920, Alabama Power President Tom Martin officially formed a New Industries Division, the first at an electric-utility company. He began an advertising campaign to tell the rest of the nation what Alabama had to offer. One of the first new industries the company successfully recruited was the Pepperell Manufacturing Company, which built its plant in Opelika. For decades, Alabama Power’s industrial recruitment program was the only one in the state.
The availability of affordable, reliable electricity led the federal government to build several military bases and defense industries in Alabama during World War II, bringing growth and jobs to the state.
When the war ended, defense facilities were abandoned and Alabama Power led the effort to find new occupants. Under Martin’s direction, the company funded research to prove that pine trees – a plentiful commodity in Alabama – could be used to produce paper. That research helped bring the Coosa River Newsprint Company to the state in 1947, as well as other pulp and paper manufacturers.