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North Alabama is a region of the U.S. state of Alabama, generally considered to include 16 counties: Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, and Winston, with a combined population of 1,000,985, or 20.94% of the state's population as of 2010 Census.
The anchor city of the region is Huntsville, but other cities of notable size include (in order of population): Decatur, Madison, Florence (along with its sister cities Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia), and Athens.
Decatur and Florence share the designation of anchor city for Northwestern Alabama because they are the largest economic centers north of Birmingham and west of Huntsville. Most corporations use Decatur as a regional hub for the Northwest Alabama region because Huntsville is located further east. However, historically Florence has been the main cultural center of the northwest.
Locals tend to refer to this area as the "Tennessee Valley" in reference to the Tennessee River, which flows through the northernmost part of the state. A section of East Tennessee shares the "Tennessee Valley" name. Large parts of North Alabama are low upland, the eastern regions part of the Cumberland Plateau, marked by tablelands incised with gorges, some of them, such as Little River Canyon in DeKalb County, of considerable depth.
The northern areas of Alabama contain a wide variety of industrial, manufacturing, and high-tech corporations with both large and small operations. Each of the three economic centers in the region (Huntsville, Decatur, and Florence) have a distinct type of economic base. The Huntsville area is mostly dominated by high-tech industries and federal operations such as Boeing and NASA. The Decatur area, in the central part of the region, is dependent mostly on industrial and manufacturing companies, such as General Electric and 3M, but some high-tech and federal entities like the United Launch Alliance, who produces launch vehicles for NASA and other agencies, and the Tennessee Valley Authority also have roots in the area. The Florence area, also known as "The Shoals", is primarily dependent on industry and manufacturing, hosting companies such as Sara Lee. The entire region relies heavily on row-crop, cattle and poultry production. Agribusiness plays a vital role in The Valley. Some of the largest row-crop operations in the state reside on plantations in The Valley.