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Opelika, Alabama
Downtown Opelika
Downtown Opelika
Motto(s): 
"Rich in Heritage With a Vision for the Future"
Location of Opelika in Lee County, Alabama
Location of Opelika in Lee County, Alabama
Country United States
State Alabama
County Lee
Area
 • City 62.16 sq mi (161.00 km2)
 • Land 61.15 sq mi (158.39 km2)
 • Water 1.01 sq mi (2.62 km2)
Elevation
807 ft (246 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • City 30,995
 • Density 506.84/sq mi (195.69/km2)
 • Metro
150,933
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
36801-36804
Area code(s) 334
FIPS code 01-57048
GNIS feature ID 0152814

Opelika (pronounced OH-pə-LY-kə) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east-central part of the U.S. state of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. As of the 2020 census, the population of Opelika is 30,995, an increase of 17.1 percent from the 2010 Census where the population was 26,477. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area, comprises the Greater Columbus combined statistical area, a region home to 501,649 residents.

History

The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp". Settlement was sporadic until the late 1840s, when the railroad reached the town. This stimulated development of Opelika as a commercial center.

In 1848, the Montgomery & West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama to Opelika, and in 1851 completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery & West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.

To manage this rapid growth, Opelika was incorporated as a town on February 9, 1854, then within Russell County. As a result of Opelika's transportation infrastructure, many warehouses for storing cotton and other goods were built. With the onset of the Civil War these warehouses were converted to Confederate supply depots. In 1864 and 1865, Union raids commanded by Lovell Rousseau and James H. Wilson attacked Opelika, tearing up the railroads and destroying all government property, including Opelika's warehouses.

Soon after the end of the war, the Alabama state legislature created a new county out of parts of Macon, Russell, Chambers, and Tallapoosa counties to be named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee. In 1866, citizens of the new "Lee County" voted Opelika as the county seat. The town was technically unincorporated after having its charter revoked for abetting the rebellion against the United States.

After Opelika received a new charter in 1870, rapid growth resumed. The town nearly doubled in size between 1870 and 1900. During this time, Opelika began to gain a reputation as a wild, lawless town..

Opelika's downtown was packed with saloons catering to railroad workers and other men. Frequent gunfire in the street by intoxicated patrons resulted in railroads directing their passengers to duck beneath the windows when their trains passed through the town.

In 1882, two factions claimed to rule the city government, one known as the "Bar room" headed by Mayor Dunbar, a saloon keeper, and another known as the "Citizens". There was a riot in late November-December of that year, in which a dozen men were wounded. In the end a couple were killed. The Citizens had claimed control of the city via the elections, but Dunbar refused to give up. After continued violence, the state legislature revoked the city's charter and the governor sent in the militia to restore order. The legislature appointed five commissioners to manage the city,a situation that continued until 1899. That year the legislature restored the city's charter.

1900 to present

In 1900, local investors founded the Opelika Cotton Mill as the first textile plant in the city, employing 125. The city was located on the Fall Line of the Piedmont, where factories were established to take advantage of water power. Attempts to expand the textile industry in Opelika continued for the next three decades. In 1925 city officials used a $62,500 bribe to induce executives of the Pepperell Manufacturing Co. (now WestPoint Home) to construct a large mill just outside the city limits. From 1930 to 1970, Opelika continued industrialization, becoming a regional economic powerhouse.

In the 1950s, Opelika attracted the nation's first and largest magnetic tape manufacturing plant. In 1963, tire manufacturer Uniroyal constructed a massive plant in Opelika. Around the same time Diversified Products revolutionized the physical fitness equipment industry with products produced in their Opelika plant. By the early 1970s, Opelika's industries employed nearly 10,000 people.

Between the late 1970s and 2005, non-agricultural employment in the Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA grew at a slow and steady pace. Of the goods-producing industries, the metropolitan area has experienced the most change in manufacturing, which peaked in employment in the late 1980s. As many jobs moved offshore, employment declined. But this trend appears to be changing, as the number of manufacturing jobs has risen steadily since 2002.

In the late 1990s, Opelika purchased and developed the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park to increase its base. The 2,200-acre (8.9 km2) park site was purchased with funds from two bond issues, commonly called the 1998A and 1998B issues, totaling $10,280,000. Additional expenditures involved in constructing the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park included $4.3 million transferred from the City's general fund to the Opelika Industrial Development Authority (OIDA) between 1997 and 2000, a $1.9 million federal industrial park access road grant, $2.5 million from Opelika Water Works Board and the City of Opelika to sewer and water the park, $12.1 million from the Alabama Department of Transportation to construct an interchange. Additional expenditures were made by Tallapoosa Electric Cooperative for an electrical substation and by the OIDA for building construction for park tenants. Final expenditures for the land and development of the park totaled approximately $32 million. Since 1999, two major distribution centers, four tier-1 automotive suppliers and most recently Pharmavite, the global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of dietary supplements, have located within the park. The site has also attracted serious interest from automakers Audi, Nissan, and Hyundai. In the summer of 2003, the park was recognized as one of the "South's Best Automotive Assembly Plant Sites" by Southern Business & Development, an industry trade publication.

Opelika has had a related boom in retail development. TigerTown, a 130-acre (0.53 km2) mixed-use development, is east Alabama's largest retail center with more than 1,000,000 sq ft (93,000 m2) of retail space. Located at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Highway 280 (Exit 58) in Opelika and home to more than 70 businesses, TigerTown's tenants include The Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Starbucks, Olive Garden, Kroger, PETCO, Office Depot, Dick's Sporting Goods, World Market, Hobby Lobby, Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, T.J. Maxx, Kroger, Old Navy,and more.

Opelika's largest employer is the East Alabama Medical Center, which paid approximately $119 million in salaries and benefits to more than 2,700 employees in 2009.

Historic Downtown Opelika has had an urban design revitalization in association with the national Main Street, Inc. program. With a compact historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Downtown Opelika has attracted a variety of specialty shops, galleries, antique stores and restaurants.

With industrial and retail growth has come an increase in population. From 2000 to 2010, Opelika grew from 23,638 to 26,617.

Geography

Opelika is located in north-central Lee County, and is bordered by Auburn to the west. Opelika lies in the southern reaches of the Piedmont Plateau, and straddles the divide between the Tallapoosa and the Chattahoochee river watersheds. Opelika has an elevation of 812 feet (247 m).

Opelika is located at 32°38′50″N 85°23′22″W / 32.647183°N 85.389404°W / 32.647183; -85.389404.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 53.4 square miles (138 km2), of which 52.8 square miles (137 km2) is land and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) (1.24%) is water.

Recreation

In August 2005, the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Statistical Area was named by Golf Digest as the #1 area for golf in the United States. One part of the reason this area received this ranking is that Opelika is home to Robert Trent Jones Grand National. The site for the course, which hugs the edge of Lake Saugahatchee in Opelika's northwest, was described by Jones as the "single greatest" site for a golf complex that he had ever seen. The course, which is considered to be the jewel of Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, has hosted a number of national tournaments, including the 1997 Nike Tour championship, the 1998 LPGA Tournament of Champions, and the 2000 NCAA Men's Division 1 National Championship. Robert Trent Jones Grand National also served as the tournament host for the first PGA Tour tournament in Alabama since 1990, the Barbasol Championship, held the same week as The Open Championship. Another reason that the Auburn-Opelika MSA was named the #1 area for golf in the United States was for the local public golf courses like Indian Pines Golf Course here in Opelika. Indian Pines Golf Course is an 18-hole public golf course that has a par 71 course with summer Bermuda grass and a bentgrass/ryegrass mix in the winter.

The Alabama Recreation and Parks Association awarded the Opelika Sportsplex and Aquatics Center the 2010 Facility of the Year Award for cities with populations of 15,001 people or more.

The City of Opelika was honored by the Alabama League of Municipalities at the Statewide conference in May, 2010. At that conference the League presented the City of Opelika with the 2010 "Municipal Quality of Life Award" for the city's new Sportsplex & Aquatics Center. In their remarks, league leaders noted "Your exemplary program demonstrates a strong commitment to improving the quality of life in the City of Opelika...your program exhibits the type of innovation that the National League of Cities is looking to recognize." This $32 million, 75,000-square-foot (7,000 m2) complex is the largest project ever undertaken by the City of Opelika in its 155-year history, representing the first-ever public-private partnership, with businesses, corporations and private individuals. The idea began with a survey that was conducted in the early 2000s (decade) that concluded that the citizens of Opelika wanted a “family oriented” facility that would offer a wide variety of activities where everyone could have fun together. The city’s governing body set out to make the dream a reality, and soon resolutions were passed by the city council authorizing the city to move forward with the plans. On February 21, 2008, after years of preparation and fundraising, groundbreaking ceremonies were held. On August 31, 2009 – on schedule and on budget – Opelika’s new state-of-the-art Sportsplex & Aquatics Center opened its doors to the public.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 3,245
1890 3,703 14.1%
1900 4,245 14.6%
1910 4,734 11.5%
1920 4,960 4.8%
1930 6,156 24.1%
1940 8,487 37.9%
1950 12,295 44.9%
1960 15,678 27.5%
1970 19,027 21.4%
1980 21,896 15.1%
1990 22,122 1.0%
2000 23,498 6.2%
2010 26,477 12.7%
2020 30,995 17.1%
U.S. Decennial Census
2018 Estimate

2020 census

Opelika racial composition
Race Num. Perc.
White (non-Hispanic) 14,836 47.87%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 11,947 38.54%
Native American 39 0.13%
Asian 692 2.23%
Pacific Islander 14 0.05%
Other/Mixed 1,060 3.42%
Hispanic or Latino 2,407 7.77%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 30,995 people, 11,866 households, and 7,199 families residing in the city.

2010 census

According to 2009 Census estimates, the median income for a household in the city was $35,243, and the median income for a family was $47,864.

The per capita income for the city is $18,023. Residents with income under poverty levels are 23.1% of the population, while 31.1% of children in the area are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 14.9% are 65 or older.

Gallery

  • Alabama State Department of Education. Accountability Reporting. Retrieved June 13, 2004.
  • Alabama State Department of Education. Reports. Retrieved October 5, 2006.
  • Auburn, Alabama, City of. (2000) The City of Auburn, Alabama Comprehensive Financial Report for the Fiscal Year Ended September 30, 2000. Finance Department.
  • Auburn, Alabama, City of. (2000) The City of Auburn Proposed Biennial Budget for FY 05 & FY 06 Budget Message. Office of the City Manager.
  • Center for Demographic Research, Auburn University - Montgomery. U.S. Census Reports for Opelika City for the years 1950, 1960, 1970, and 1980.
  • Conway Data. (May 2004). Top Groups of 2003. Retrieved on October 14, 2006 from http://www.conway.com/cdi/press/040428apr.htm. Also available in Site Selection magazine (May 2004).
  • Department of Industrial Relations, State of Alabama. (1978–2005). Total Nonagricultural Employment for Lee County. Montgomery, Alabama: Author.
  • Duran, Rachel (2003). "Automotive Industry in the Driver's Seat", Global Corporate Xpansion, July 1, 2003. Birmingham Ala., Latitude 3 Media Group.
  • EDAA Newsletter (Fall 2006). EDAA/SEDC Community Awards Presented at Conference. Economic Development Council of Alabama. Retrieved on October 14, 2006 from http://www.edaa.org/newsletter.aspx.
  • Golf Digest, August 2005 Vol.56, No. 8
  • Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc. (1999). Strategic Plan for the City of Opelika.
  • Nunn, Alexander (Ed.) (1983). Lee County and Her Forebears. Montgomery, Ala., Herff Jones. LCCCN 83-081693
  • Opelika, Alabama, City of. (2005). Comprehensive Plan for the City of Opelika. Opelika, Alabama. Opelika Planning Department.
  • Opelika, Alabama, City of. (2005). Financial Statements for the Fiscal Year ended September 30, 2005. Retrieved October 9, 2006.
  • Opelika, Alabama, City of. (2005). Our City Council Members. Retrieved August 9, 2005.
  • Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. (Summer 2005). Alabama Reading Test Results Show Overall Improvements from 2004 to 2005, but School System Results Vary. The PARCA Quarterly, 3-7.
  • Randle, Mike. (Spring 2006). Top Deals & Hot Markets 2006: Alabama and North Carolina: Performing Economic Miracles. Southern Business and Development Magazine. Retrieved on October 14, 2006 from http://www.sb-d.com/issues/Spring2006/features/sbd100TopDeals.asp.
  • Site Selection online. (May 2006). Top Groups 2005. Retrieved on October 14, 2006 from http://www.siteselection.com/issues/2006/may/topGroups/. Also available in Site Selection magazine (May 2006).
  • Jake Hess, New York Times Obituaries, Jan 11, 2004.


Economy

Northeast Opelika Industrial Park
Northeast Opelika Industrial Park

Opelika is located between the Hyundai-Kia automobile manufacturing facilities with the Kia Motors manufacturing plant about 18 miles (29 km) east on I-85 and the Hyundai Motors manufacturing plant about 67 miles (108 km) west on I-85/I-65.

Opelika's economy has shifted away from a traditional basis in textile manufacturing. Since 2004, the city has experienced revitalization in many segments of the economy, including commercial, residential and industrial activity. Since January 2005, the City of Opelika has announced new industry investments and existing industry expansions totaling 1.5 billion and 4004 additional jobs.

On February 17, 2015, Golden State Foods Corp, a diversified supplier to the quick-service restaurant and retail industries, announced its decision to build a state-of-the-art meat processing facility in the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park. Golden State Foods was established in 1947 and currently serves more than 125,000 restaurants from its 45 locations on five continents. With about 5,000 associates worldwide, Golden State Foods' core businesses include processing and distribution of liquid products, meat products, produce, dairy, and other services, providing a variety of networked solutions for the total supply chain spectrum.

Pharmavite, a manufacturer of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements, has invested $151.9 million in capital and added 540 jobs to the Opelika workforce. Cumberland Plastic Solutions, a privately held custom injection molding company employing over 150 employees and supplying locale OEM’s and automotive manufacturers Mercedes, Nissan, and GM with various plastic components has invested a total of $25.7 million in capital. Dinan Engineering, a company known for the high-performance aftermarket products it makes for cars, relocated to Opelika, Alabama joining APR in April 2018. Car Tech, LLC established operations in Opelika, Alabama with a capital investment of $72 million and created 200 new jobs. Additionally, Yongsan Automotive USA, Inc. established its first U.S. location in Opelika, Alabama with and investment of more than $5.5 million for manufacturing equipment and building improvements along with the creation of 150 new jobs over a three-year period. Also, West Fraser Inc., one of the largest lumber manufacturers in the United States, with 45 facilities in the southern U.S. and Western Canada, offers substantiable forestry, high-efficiency wood products. With a total capital investment of $148.3 million, and an expansion announced in 2019 to construct a planner mill manufacturing capabilities will increase.

In early 2006, the Economic Development Association of Alabama named Opelika the top community in Alabama for business recruitment for the year 2005. Opelika also received the number one rank in the South as "Small Market of the Year" by Southern Business and Development magazine, a professional publication helping corporations around the country (and world) in their expansion, relocation, and development decisions. The city earned its #1 status through its success in bringing in such companies as Baxter International, an Illinois-based company that manufactures life-sustaining medical products including dialyzers has invested a total of $466 million in capital and added 360 jobs to the workforce in Opelika. Previously known as Gambro Renal Products, the Swedish-based manufacturer of dialyzers for kidney dialysis made the largest single initial investment in Lee County’s history in 2005 with their capital $165.5 million investment), Jo-Ann Stores Distribution Center, Maxforma (currently Hanwha Advanced Materials America, which has provided a total capital investment of $122.3 million and has since created 518 jobs in Opelika), and Mando Corporation , one of the leading automotive parts manufacturers in the world, specializing in internationally competitive state-of-the-art chassis components and systems, with a total capital investment of $192.6 million and 522 jobs to the community in 2005.

Education

The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA is home to Auburn University. Auburn University was founded in 1856 and is one of the largest universities in the South. Auburn University continues to grow, with 28,290 students enrolled for the 2017–2018 academic year, and is one of the area's largest employers with 4,830 full-time employees.

Infrastructure

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