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Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. 
in this issue:
Bentley: New economic development roles for Seth Hammett, Bill Taylor - Birmingham News
Birmingham area business, political leaders look back on tough 2010, ahead to 2011 - Birmingham News
Economists say Alabama and Mississippi economies will improve in 2011, but unemployment could stay high - Press Register
CGEDA hires new director - Brewton Standard
is looking forward - Times Daily
Norfolk Southern hub gets OK for McCalla hub - Birmingham News
Lakeshore Parkway/Alabama 150 intersection gets big boost from Dollar General - Birmingham News
If retail goes, cities have tax fall back; insurance to cover loss in revenue hit - Birmingham News
TVA helped boost economic development in 2010 - Huntsville Times
Haleyville sleeping bag plant to stay open after tariff loophole closed - Birmingham News
Austal's LCS win will bring 2,000 more jobs to Mobile, Ala., as shipbuilder graduates to big leagues - Press Register
ST Aerospace to convert 757 for Dutch airline - Press Register
2011 Economic Outlook Conference, Organized by UA, Set for Jan. 13 - EVENT

Bentley: New economic development roles for Seth Hammett, Bill Taylor

Published: Monday, January 03, 2011, 2:48 PM Updated: Monday, January 03, 2011, 2:58 PM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

Gov.-elect Robert Bentley has picked Seth Hammett and Bill Taylor for key economic development roles in his administration.

Gov.-elect Robert Bentley has made key appointments who will reshape the state's economic development efforts.

Bentley said today he will name Seth Hammett, the former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, as the next director of the Alabama Development Office, the state's traditional economic development agency.

He also said Bill Taylor, chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, will head an effort to look at aligning the state's economic development and job creation efforts.

The move is expected to allow Bentley to put his stamp on the state's economic development infrastructure, which Gov. Bob Riley has used to lure new jobs and industry and expand existing businesses in the state.

Hammett, who retired from his elected post last year, is the vice president of business development for PowerSouth Energy Cooperative in Andalusia.

"Seth Hammett has played a key role in every major economic development project in Alabama in the past 20 years including Honda, Hyundai, ThyssenKrupp and the EADS tanker project," Bentley said in a statement. "Not only does he know economic development, he has the leadership skills and experience to keep Alabama at the forefront in attracting new business and helping our existing businesses grow and prosper."

Taylor has been president of EDPA since 2009, a job he took after retiring as the head of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance.

Birmingham area business, political leaders look back on tough 2010, ahead to 2011
Published: Sunday, January 02, 2011, 7:00 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

Depending on whom you believe, 2010 was the year Birmingham turned the corner or creeped closer to the point of no return and 2011 will offer more of the same or a time of marked improvement.

The Birmingham News queried a number of executives, elected officials, small business owners and professionals to offer their assessments of the previous year and their predictions on the new year.

All were given the same five questions and the responses varied greatly.

While some heralded 2010 as a year of great successes, most are glad to see it come to an end. Most are optimistic about the new year, if cautiously so. Nearly all were worried about continued high unemployment.

A common theme is a shared sense of promise from Blueprint Birmingham, new local, state and congressional leadership and a hope that some progress in the metro area could be reaching a sort of tipping point. Opinions on how much of this will be realized in the next 12 months vary greatly among those who responded.

Bill Taylor, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama

What will you remember about business in 2010?
What do you expect in 2011?
What is the greatest potential for surprise in the next year?
How has the downturn changed your company or your way of doing business?
Is your company feeling the recovery?

- This year marked what we hope will be the final chapter of the "reset" for business following the recession. Companies have become very creative and skilled in their efforts to survive and compete. In anticipation of a turnaround, they've adjusted their operations, becoming very lean and focusing on improving the way they do business. This reset is not going to be temporary -- companies will continue in this mode because they've discovered new ways of doing business.

- Because of the economic reset, companies are going to be stronger and more competitive going forward. As the economy begins to improve, the companies that have made adjustments are going to be well equipped to take advantage of opportunities. However, they will not be quick to return to where they might have been prior to the recession, either in hiring levels or the way they may have done business.

- Continued acquisitions, consolidation and cooperation. Companies are figuring out how to partner with one another both in an effort to become more competitive and to keep costs down. And as companies across the globe continue to diversify, expect to see this taking place cross-border.

- In our own business of economic development, EDPA has focused more attention on assisting existing industries that are trying to survive and working with communities that are preparing for a turnaround when we will again see companies looking to locate in the state.

- We're seeing existing industries in certain sectors, such as automotive, that are doing well again and that are positioned to do even better. From an economic development perspective, we are beginning to see project activity, though not as robust as we would like. We anticipate that project activity will come back slowly, as companies remain very conservative in terms of capital investments.



Economists say Alabama and Mississippi economies will improve in 2011, but unemployment could stay high
Published: Sunday, January 02, 2011, 9:00 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

Renewed optimism or the same old grind?

That contrast characterizes the spread of opinion between economic optimists and pessimists as the Gulf Coast and nation step into 2011.

Economists generally think that Alabama's roughly $157 billion economy will grow at about the same rate as the nation in the coming 12 months, while they generally agree that Mississippi's nearly $90 billion economy will lag slightly behind.

The positive camp believes that the recent federal tax compromise, which includes a temporary payroll tax break that will boost the bottom lines of workers and their employers, will help the economy. They also point to consumer spending, which appears to have been stronger than expected during the holiday season.

"We expect the economy to accelerate in 2011," said Ryan Sweet of Moody's, a West Chester, Pa., firm that is among the most positive.

Others, though, point to previous bouts of stimulus that didn't do the trick, and worry about more financial market trouble that could stem from debt crises in European countries.



Press Register link


CGEDA hires new director
Published 4:00am Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jim Searcy is looking forward to helping the Coastal Gateway region - including Brewton and Escambia County - realize its potential for economic development.
Searcy, who serves as vice president of business and industry retention at the Birmingham Business Alliance, has been named executive director of the Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Alliance, EDA board members announced Thursday. CGEDA includes five counties, Escambia, Monroe, Conecuh, Washington and Choctaw.
"We're extremely pleased," CGEDA chairman David Stokes said. "We got lucky with him. He was ready to run and be the head of his own organization. He is very familiar with the regionalism concept. He is exactly what we were looking for."
Searcy said Thursday he is excited about the new position.
"I think I am most looking forward to the opportunity to see the potential that exists down there realized," he said. "The board is very enthusiastic. They understand that economic development is more of a process than an event."
The executive director reports to the CGEDA Board of Directors and is responsible for implementing programs for new business attraction, business retention and expansion and investor relations.
The director works closely with local economic developers, elected officials, chambers of commerce, and industrial boards across the five county region.
Before the 2009 merger of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board into the BBA, Searcy served at the Metropolitan Development Board for 13 years as the vice president of marketing. Prior the Metropolitan Development Board, Searcy worked for the Alabama Development Office for seven years as a senior project manager.
"Jim brings over 20 years of economic development experience to the alliance," said CGEDA vice chairman Dr. John Johnson. "Members of the CGEDA Board of Directors are extremely pleased at being able to attract one of the state's top economic development officials."



Brewton Standard link


Looking to the future
Officials' forecast shows optimism
By Bernie Delinski Staff Writer
Published: Sunday, January 2, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.

Forrest Wright uses an automobile sales analogy to describe what he believes is the direction of the Shoals economy.

"We are beginning to see renewed interest from industry consultants asking about what the Shoals has," said Wright, executive director of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. "For the last year or so, they've been driving by, looking at the car lot. Now they're pulling in, looking around asking about new vehicles.

"They're not buying yet, but are showing more interest."

Local officials have expressed guarded optimism about the Shoals economy for the new year. The area, like the nation, has felt effects of a national recession.

They stress, however, a recovery will not happen overnight. Kerry Gatlin, dean of the University of North Alabama's College of Business, expects it to be more methodical.

"The economy is going to continue to improve, but it'll be a slow improvement," Gatlin said.

He said a major unknown this year is what types of actions a newly Republican-majority Congress will take. 



Times Daily link


Norfolk Southern hub gets OK for McCalla hub
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010, 7:00 AM Updated: Friday, December 31, 2010, 8:01 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

Norfolk Southern may start work in late spring on its planned hub along this stretch of rails in McCalla.

Norfolk Southern Corp. has the green light to begin construction on its $97.5 million railroad hub in McCalla, with work set to begin this spring.

Federal officials told the railroad company this week it is clear to build its Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility, setting the wheels into motion for a promised major economic development engine for the metro area.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a statement to the company late Wednesday telling them to proceed with construction plans.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Rudy Husband said the company will need three or four months to have a general contractor in place, and work on the new facility could start by the end of spring.

"With the economy recovering and the demand to move freight in the U.S. growing, it is vitally important to bring the Birmingham Regional Intermodal Facility on line, so Norfolk Southern is pleased to be moving into the construction phase of the project," he said.

The federal approval comes after the end of a public comment period over the environmental assessment of the 261-acre McCalla site and another site in Memphis where Norfolk Southern plans to build a similar facility. 


Birmingham News link


Lakeshore Parkway/Alabama 150 intersection gets big boost from Dollar General
Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 6:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 10:20 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

The intersection of Lakeshore Parkway and Alabama 150 has been ripe with promise for years, but a major economic development project and another smaller but significant deal could bring that potential to fruition.

The biggest boost is coming from the $60 million Dollar General distribution center set for more than 100 acres on the southeast corner of the intersection. The project will bring 650 jobs and supply the chain's retail outlets in Alabama, west Georgia, east Mississippi and the Florida panhandle.

On Tuesday, the Jefferson County Commission and the Bessemer City Council approved their portions of tax breaks and incentives that, along with the state, create a $12.5 million incentives package for the new distribution center.

Patrick Murphy, head of economic development with the Birmingham Business Alliance, said the intersection is about to get a million-square-foot stamp of approval from one of the nation's fastest growing retailers.

"For the Lakeshore-150 area, this will really open up that corridor for additional growth," Murphy said. "Any time you have an additional large project as a driver, it will help give an unofficial stamp of approval that this is a good place to be and do business."



Birmingham News link


If retail goes, cities have tax fall back; insurance to cover loss in revenue hit
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010, 5:30 AM Updated: Friday, December 31, 2010, 7:53 AM

By Lisa Osburn -- The Birmingham News

Tornado. Fire. Hurricane-strength winds.

If one of those hit the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover, a major portion of the city sales tax base would be gone with one natural or man-made disaster.

City officials are not taking any chances.

They have opted to take out a $13 million insurance policy on their largest retailer, a growing practice seen throughout Alabama, said Steve Wells, president of the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation.

About 25 cities have opted for "loss of sales tax revenue" coverage through the nonprofit, which provides insurance for about 572 municipalities and utilities in the state, he said. The corporation started offering that type of coverage about eight years ago, when they were approached by a city with an outlet mall near the coast.

"One of our clients came to us with a need and we filled the need," Wells said.

Since then, the concept started growing in popularity, especially in mid-size cities that depend heavily on a Walmart for their sales tax revenue, he said.

"Walmart is what we hear the most," Wells said. "Most of these policies are in the order of $1 million or $2 million -- how much revenue they get from Walmart in a year."



Birmingham News link


TVA helped boost economic development in 2010

Published: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 8:09 AM Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 8:12 AM
By Budd McLaughlin, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- The Tennessee Valley Authority has helped companies invest several billion dollars in economic development projects and attract or retain thousands of jobs across the region in the last fiscal year, the utility said Wednesday.

John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development, said TVA economic development support in fiscal 2010 contributed to 41,000 new or retained jobs in the last fiscal year and $4.3 billion in business investment. He said that, since 2005, there have been 264,500 new or retained jobs and $27 billion in business investment.

In 2010, TVA's economic development activities, which include technical services, financial assistance and other incentives that are part of TVA's non-power mission under the TVA Act, helped recruit or expand more than 150 companies into the TVA service area.

"Low-cost, reliable power and innovative marketing programs are key ingredients to TVA's successful formula for attracting businesses, creating jobs, and boosting regional economic development," Bradley said.



Huntsville Times link


Haleyville sleeping bag plant to stay open after tariff loophole closed

Published: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 7:00 AM Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 7:12 AM
By Russell Hubbard -- The Birmingham News

A Haleyville sleeping bag plant in danger of closing because of cheap foreign competition has won a legislative reprieve, and plans to immediately expand and hire more workers.

Exxel Outdoors said Wednesday a federal trade bill that would have extended favorable treatment for imported sleeping bags will be allowed to expire effective Jan. 1, with the help of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile and Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.

"It is not over, but it is over for now," said Exxel Chief Executive Harry Kazazian. "The battle is not over, but we are moving on for now."

Expiring Jan. 1 is the General System of Preferences, an international trade treaty that allowed foreign sleeping bags to enter the United States free from tariffs, a treatment enjoyed by no other type of foreign textile product.

In 2009, factories in Bangladesh figured out the loophole and started flooding American discount stores with cheap bags that cost less to make than Exxel's raw materials cost to buy.

Exxel said this month it needed immediate relief or was in danger of closing. Now, the privately held company plans to hire another 20 workers, bringing the total to about 90. A fourth shift will be added. 



Birmingham News link


Austal's LCS win will bring 2,000 more jobs to Mobile, Ala., as shipbuilder graduates to big leagues

Published: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 6:00 AM Updated: Thursday, December 30, 2010, 10:58 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

Austal USA snagged a big prize Wednesday, winning a $3.8 billion contract to build 10 warships for the U.S. Navy by 2018.

It marks a graduation into the American defense establishment for what was once an obscure Australian ferry builder. Austal Ltd., which started its Mobile shipyard from scratch in 1999, has promised to more than double its current 1,800 employee roster with the new work.

In the quest to build littoral combat ships, Austal navigated budget pressures and politics, eventually shedding its understudy status to defense contracting behemoth General Dynamics Corp. and taking a lead role in a shipbuilding program critical to the future of the world's largest navy.

"This contract has firmly established Austal as an international defense shipbuilder, is a strong vote of confidence in Austal's aluminum trimaran design, and also reflects the strength and capability of our U.S.A. operations and highly skilled workforce," said John Rothwell, chairman and founder of the Henderson, Australia, firm. 



Press Register link


ST Aerospace to convert 757 for Dutch airline

Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 6:00 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

View full sizeST Aerospace Mobile handed over a converted Boeing 757 to the Royal New Zealand Air Force on August 4, 2008 at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Ala. The 757 was revamped to accommodate both freight cargo and passengers. (Press-Register/Catherine Cotton)

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd. said Monday that Guggenheim Aviation Partners LLC has selected the firm's aerospace division to convert a Boeing 757-200 from a passenger plane to a passenger-cargo combination in Singapore.

The plane would be used by Dutch cargo and express airline TNT Airways SA, which would lease the plane from Guggenheim. Work is supposed to start in February, with the plane to be finished by the end of 2011. Terms were not disclosed.

ST Aerospace said earlier this month that it hopes to convert 757s at its Mobile facility for North American Airlines, which would operate charter flights for the U.S. military.

ST Aerospace Mobile converted two 757s for the Royal New Zealand Air Force at its Brookley Aeroplex base, making them capable of carrying passengers, freight, or a mix of both. The "combi," or combination 757 would be able to hold eight freight pallets and 81 passenger seats, and could be chartered to militaries. 


Press Register link


2011 Economic Outlook Conference, Organized by UA, Set for Jan. 13

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Most economists agree that the economic forecast for the nation for 2011 is weak, at best.


The underlying reasons for that forecast and how Alabama will fare next year will be discussed at the 2011 Economic Outlook Conference Jan.13 at the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel.


 The information may provide some insight on how best to deal with the economic climate.


The annual conference is organized by The University of Alabama's Center for Business and Economic Research, and it is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Power, Alabama SBDC Network, BBVA Compass, BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama, Boeing Co., Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Sterne Agee and Vulcan Materials.


The registration fee of $125 is due by Jan. 6, 2011 and includes a buffet breakfast and a copy of the "Alabama Economic Outlook 2011."


Conference check-in and breakfast begins at 7:45 a.m., followed by a welcome and introductions at 8:30 a.m. by Dr. Michael Hardin, senior associate dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration at The University of Alabama.


At 8:35 a.m., Dr. David Altig, Senior Vice President and Director of Research of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, will present the keynote address. Following a short break, Dr. Samuel Addy, director of UA's Center for Business and Economic Research, will give the U.S. and Alabama outlooks, which will include a look at how the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has impacted the state and coastal economies.


For additional information or to register for the conference, visit, e-mail, or phone 205/348-6191.

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