Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Wise Metals expanding in Muscle Shoals with $25 million project
Published: Monday, January 24, 2011, 12:19 PM Updated: Monday, January 24, 2011, 12:21 PM
By The Associated Press
MUSCLE SHOALS -- The Wise Metals Group is expanding its Alabama Reclamation Operations recycling plant in Muscle Shoals, a project expected to add dozens of jobs.
Wise Chairman and CEO David D'Addario and Chief Operating Officer Wes Oberholzer say the $25 million project will begin immediately.
Oberholzer says the expansion involves recycling scrap aluminum, and that the process saves 95 percent of the energy required to produce primary aluminum.
The expansion is expected to add 43 jobs, giving Wise more than 1,000 employees at its Shoals facilities.
The expansion includes the addition of a melting furnace, delacquering kiln, shredders, material-cleaning equipment and environmental systems.
After dismal year, Alabama automakers ride wave of optimism
Published: Sunday, January 23, 2011, 8:00 AM Updated: Sunday, January 23, 2011, 10:09 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News
Honda builds the Odyssey minivan at its Lincoln factory, where production has risen this year as the auto market recovers.
Small is big. Green is good. And excitement is up all around.
Those were key trends seen this year at the just-wrapped North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which often serves as a barometer for the overall industry, including factories in Alabama.
Smaller cars were in the spotlight, as automakers increase their focus on fuel efficient offerings and scramble to meet looming federal guidelines.
Along those same lines, electric cars, as well as models powered by other alternative technologies, were featured heavily, too.
That's a departure from past years, since the Los Angeles Auto Show is typically more green-oriented, while Detroit's focus was more mainstream.
Meanwhile, the mood at the show was much sunnier than recent years, now that the industry is recovering from a deep downturn and Detroit-based manufacturers have found more solid financial footing.
"This was the most upbeat, positive Detroit auto show I've seen in three years," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights for TrueCar.com. "The past two years, it's been like a funeral home."
Birmingham News link
Conecuh Woods LLC applies for landfill near Repton
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011, 8:09 AM
By Connie Baggett, Press-Register
EVERGREEN, Alabama -- Conecuh Woods LLC submitted an application Friday with county officials for construction of a 5,100-acre landfill in rural southwest Alabama, a company spokeswoman confirmed.
Rachel Dickinson said the application was submitted to Conecuh County officials. County staff members referred questions to the county attorney. Attempts to contact County Attorney Richard Nix were unsuccessful Friday.
Commissioner D.K. Bodiford confirmed Friday evening that the documents were submitted, and said, "I'll be the one leading the vote to kill it."
Conecuh Woods owner Donald W. "Jimmy" Stone Jr. said in January 2007 that the facility would include 1,600 acres of active disposal area on a tract that runs along Ala. 41 from the Range community to Repton, and westward toward Big Escambia Creek. Waste would arrive by rail and truck from 48 states, company representatives said.
Organized opponents from the region said they will attend a County Commission meeting at 9 a.m. Monday in Evergreen in the event the matter comes to a vote.
Stone said five years ago the landfill would protect the environment, mitigate odors, control traffic, increase property values and contribute about $267 million to the county's general fund over the next 60 years.
Alabama campaign seeks young workers for construction industry
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011, 8:00 AM
By Roy L. Williams -- The Birmingham News
A campaign to boost interest in Alabama's construction industry and make its jobs more appealing to a younger generation appears to be hitting the nail squarely on the head.
Four months after the Alabama Construction Recruitment Institute began its "Go Build Alabama" campaign, the organization's website has surpassed expectations and more people than expected have expressed interest in the industry, says Tim Alford, the institute's executive director.
Launched just before Labor Day, the Go Build campaign aims to educate young people on the benefits of learning a skilled trade. The initiative aims to address an anticipated shortage of skilled workers in construction, an industry in which about one-third of its skilled tradesmen are age 50 and older.
As of Dec. 31, GoBuildAlabama.com had received more than 30,000 web visits and almost 100,000 page views. Almost 2,100 individuals have taken their interest a step further and registered with its career database, which provides resources and assessments to people actively researching careers in commercial and industrial construction.
"Marketing research has found that young people and their parents misunderstand the construction industry and falsely believe it is a low-wage, no opportunity for growth field," Alford said in an interview Thursday. "This outreach effort is helping us change that perception."
Alford said the Go Build Alabama campaign was created for the institute by Birmingham advertising agency Big Communications.
Much of the web traffic in the Go Build campaign was generated by advertisements featuring Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs."
Birmingham News link
UA real estate conference in Birmingham to focus on 'refining your competitive advantage'
Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 3:37 PM Updated: Thursday, January 20, 2011, 3:37 PM
By Ben Flanagan, al.com
More than 400 real estate and business leaders will gather at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham on Jan. 28 for panel discussions and networking opportunities focusing on the topic of "your competitive advantage," according to the University of Alabama.
UA's Culverhouse College of Commerce's Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) executive director Grayson Glaze says the ever-changing U.S. economy requires people to differentiate their property, service, product or company from every possible competitor, which requires close study and creative attention on a well-defined competitive advantage.
That's what they hope to accomplish with the real estate conference, helping people find a selling advantage they can use in every strategic decision regarding marketing, selling, communicating and interacting with customer and employees.
The conference agenda will begin at 8 a.m. with a session, "Refining Your Competitive Advantage," by Cort Harwood of Harwood Consulting. The 2011 Alabama Economic Outlook, presented by Dr. Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at The University of Alabama, will include an economic development forum featuring top economic development executives from across the state.
Ethanol refinery planned for Greene County
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Friday, January 21, 2011, 8:09 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News
An Illinois company plans to invest millions of dollars and create hundreds of jobs in one of Alabama's poorest counties with a refinery that turns wood and plant waste into ethanol.
Coskata Inc. said Thursday it has secured a guarantee from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a $250 million loan, moving plans for the facility in Greene County closer to reality.
Coskata plans to build the plant in the Crossroads of America Industrial Park in Boligee, creating 300 construction jobs and up to 700 direct and indirect jobs when production begins, according to the Alabama Development Office. The plant will be capable of producing up to 55 million gallons of ethanol a year.
Those jobs are needed in Greene County. In November, the unemployment rate in the Black Belt county stood at 18.3 percent, the highest figure in the state except for Wilcox County's 20.7 percent.
"The Black Belt, obviously, is in need of all of the economic development projects we can steer their way," ADO Director Seth Hammett said in an interview Thursday.
The jobs will range from those at the plant to those that provide the materials to produce the ethanol.
Birmingham News link
Alabama auto production surged in 2010
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011, 8:30 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News
Mercedes vehicles built at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance Alabama parked in the marshaling yard waiting to be shipped to dealers worldwide. (Joe Songer -- The Birmingham News)
After a sickly 2009, Alabama's auto industry made a strong comeback last year, with output that surged more than 50 percent.
All three of the state's auto assembly factories ratcheted up their 2010 production significantly, putting workers on overtime as the global industry recovered from a deep downturn.
Combined, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai produced more than 711,000 vehicles at their Alabama factories last year, according to the automakers and estimates from the Automotive News Data Center.
That's up 52 percent from the 467,708 vehicles built in 2009 and the second-highest annual total in the state sector's young lifespan.
But as economic recovery continues to drag, it's not clear what lies ahead for the automakers in 2011.
Ongoing weakness in the labor and housing markets casts a shadow on a host of industries and companies, said Keivan Deravi, an economist at Auburn University at Montgomery.
"You see a resurgence of profitability and earnings, but the question is, 'Is it sustainable in the long run?'" he said.
Birmingham News link
Export-Import Bank to Increase Small-Business Loans
By JAMILA TRINDLE, Wall Street Journal
Washington-The U.S. Export-Import Bank announced a plan Thursday to spur exports by increasing small-business loans to $6 billion this year and $9 billion a year by 2015.
The plan is part of the Obama administration's effort to create jobs by doubling exports over the next four years. Ex-Im Bank officials said the goal is to bring 5,000 new small businesses into the bank's lending program by 2015. The bank lent $5 billion to small businesses in 2010.
"We can't grow our economy without growing export sales and we can't grow our export sales without small businesses," said Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred Hochberg.
Big companies are concerned with competing internationally, but small businesses need access to capital and expertise, Mr. Hochberg said.
According to Ex-Im Bank statistics, small-business exports have grown by 80% since 2003 to $500 billion in annual sales, but still only make up 30% of total U.S. export revenue.
Only 1% of U.S. companies export products abroad, said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "They really have to look at the opportunities around the world," he said.
The Ex-Im Bank said it will work with private banks including PNC Financial Services Group Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., other government agencies and industry groups to help small businesses secure external financing and learn about foreign markets.
Alabama's Sewell named to House ag committee
Jan. 24, 2011 7:26am
U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell, a Democrat who represents Alabama's 7th Congressional District, has been selected to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture. Ranking House Agriculture Committee Member Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., made the announcement.
The House Committee on Agriculture creates farm policy and drafts legislation to protect the interests of rural America. The committee's jurisdiction includes rural development, agricultural colleges, farming, nutrition, renewable energy, conservation, bioterrorism, forestry and many others.
Sewell joins fellow freshman Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, on the Agriculture Committee of the 112th Congress.
"I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture," Sewell said. "By serving on this committee, I have the opportunity to advocate for the critical needs of the 7th Congressional District of Alabama. I will promote innovative legislation that will strengthen our small businesses, our land grant institutions, support both urban and rural economic development and work to improve the nutritional challenges facing our children, seniors and families. This committee assignment will help to ensure that America remains a dominant exporter of agricultural goods, which will create and protect good-paying, cutting-edge jobs in the district and across the country."
Sewell's district includes west Alabama where the bulk of the state's catfish industry is located. Alabama ranks second in the U.S. in annual catfish sales totaling more than $90 million annually. Alabama Farmers Federation President Jerry Newby said Sewell's appointment strengthens the voice of Alabama farmers in Washington.
Southeast Farm Press link
High hopes for new road project
By Russ Corey Staff Writer Times Daily
Published: Monday, January 24, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
HALEYVILLE - Mayor Ken Sunseri said the Haleyville bypass project will improve access and open doors for economic development in the region.
Some construction already has started on the nearly 18-mile long, four-lane divided highway that begins where the existing four-lane portion of Alabama 13 ends atop Spruce Pine Mountain in Franklin County. The bypass will reconnect with Alabama 13 about five miles south of Haleyville near Delmar and Natural Bridge.
Alabama 13 is a popular route for northwest Alabama residents who travel from the Shoals to Tuscaloosa and other points south. The bypass will eliminate the need for motorists to travel through Phil Campbell, Bear Creek and Haleyville.
"It's one of the best things we can have for economic development," Sunseri said. "It opens up more area for industrial prospects and also for retail prospects."
Allen Teague, a preconstruction engineer with the Shoals division of the Alabama Department of Transportation, said the estimated cost of the project is $265 million, which includes work that has been completed, contracts that have been awarded and estimates for future portions of the road project.
Times Daily link
Bentley to get honeymoon until session starts
Projected shortfalls calling for cuts
By Dana Beyerle Times Montgomery Bureau
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.
MONTGOMERY - With federal government bailouts gone for good, national economics and the state's balanced budget laws will test Gov. Robert Bentley's financial creativity until the economy rebounds and can produce taxes that support state spending.
Bentley entered office last week with probably the worst hand ever dealt a modern Alabama governor - unemployment of 9.1 percent is about twice the "normal" average. The national economy is showing signs of recovery, but it's still closer to bottom than the top.
Bentley said he'll have to cut spending this year in the state's two budgets, and he won't have federal stimulus money for the 2011-2012 budgets as predecessor Bob Riley had in his.
Despite the half-full outlook, Bentley will get a honeymoon with the Legislature and the public because of the condition of both the state and national economies.
"He definitely gets a honeymoon," said Larry Powell, a professor of communication studies at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "He probably doesn't have to come up with major priorities until the session starts, then (his concern is) going to be money."
An asset Bentley brings to the governor's office is understanding the legislative process. He served two terms in the House on the House Ways and Means Education Committee. Last week Bentley succeeded Riley, whose 2010-2011 budgets will end Sept. 30.
Powell said Bentley "probably has a bigger problem than Riley" financially because of projected budget shortfalls.
"There's not going to be enough money to do everything everyone wants done, and he doesn't have a backup means to do it," Powell said. "There's not a reserve fund, a rainy-day fund, and the feds are not going to come with another bailout.
Gadsden Times link
Cook takes seat as state director of economic group
By Chris Anthony
Published: January 19, 2011
Opelika's director of economic development has assumed his seat as the state's representative on the Southern Economic Development Council's board of directors.
Al Cook's two-year term as Alabama's director began this month, following his election at the council's annual conference Aug. 14-17 in New Orleans.
The Atlanta-based SEDC is an organization of professional economic developers that covers a 17-state region, primarily in the Southeastern United States. Cook has been a member of the organization for more than 25 years, including as an alternate state director.
"I think it's the oldest regional economic development association in the country," Cook said. "It's primarily a networking and educational association."
Cook's main responsibility will be representing the state at the council's meetings, which include an annual conference and two to three educational seminars throughout the year. He also said there would be a consultants' meeting in the spring where the council would learn about expanding industries and any new industry trends.
Opelika Auburn News
Taylor to highlight annual meeting
Published 11:22pm Saturday, January 15, 2011
Bill Taylor believes in having a "product" to sell. As the head of Mercedes Benz US International for more than a decade, Taylor had plenty of it - the four-wheeled kind - but now retired from MBUSI and president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Taylor still has plenty of product to sell, just a different kind.
Taylor now spends his days traveling the state helping the private sector contribute to economic development. These days jobs are his product.
Since becoming head of EDPA, Taylor has focused the efforts of the nonprofit organization on assisting communities and regions in Alabama in their economic development efforts. He admits attracting new industry has been difficult given the recession, but says that shouldn't deter communities from planning for future growth and investment while working to meet the needs of the existing industries they have.
"With the recession there are things that have slowed down across every business," Taylor said. "That being said businesses have reset and reorganized themselves to survive and what we see out of that is consolidation and expansion - two pretty significant words more so than in the past. Companies see they can do more with the same. We see a real need to pay attention to our current businesses. The numbers will tell you around 70 percent of our [new] jobs come from existing businesses."
Taylor also calls company expansions "now jobs," meaning a community doesn't necessarily have to wait on huge new facilities to be built.
Selma Times Journal
Up to 75 new jobs possible
By Tom Smith Senior Staff Writer Times Daily
Published: Friday, January 21, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 9:48 p.m.
LAWRENCEBURG, TENN. - A Connecticut facility will relocate to Lawrenceburg, bringing a possible 75 new jobs during peak seasons, officials announced Thursday.
Blake Lay, chief executive officer for InSyte Solutions Inc., a Lawrenceburg company, said the manufacturing operation and warehouse for Giant-Vac will be moving into the company's facility in the old Murray manufacturing plant. Lay said InSyte purchased Giant-Vac in May.
"We have 1.4 million square feet of space in the building, so we have plenty of room for the additional growth," Lay said.
He said Giant-Vac produces consumer, professional and municipal leaf and debris control equipment. Products include blowers, vacuums, truck loaders and walk-behind field, brush and yard mowers that are marketed exclusively through a national network of independent distributors and several national accounts, Lay said.
"This is very good news for our area," Lawrence County Executive Mack Chandler said. "It's going to be a good shot in the arm for our economy."
Times Daily link
Northward, ho! Parkway leg opens from Henry Road into McClellan
by Laura Camper Star Staff Writer Anniston Star
Some 50 or 60 people braved the cold wind Wednesday to see the ribbon cut on the first portion of Veterans Memorial Parkway, a route that, when fully completed, will be a long-awaited link between Interstate 20 and U.S. 431.
For the moment, though, it's just a good way to reach the back side of McClellan. Local leaders hope it's also the kickoff to long-term economic development.
But the visible excitement came after the ribbon-cutting, as a line of idling motorists on Henry Road waited for the barricades to be removed so they could drive the new parkway.
Dale Whitley, a retired teacher from Saks, drove up for the ribbon-cutting at the intersection of the parkway and Iron Mountain Road to get his first look at the new road. But he said he's been here many times before.
"We used to climb these mountains for (Boy) Scout camp," he said. "It is a beautiful place."
Whitley had also seen the opening of I-20 and has anticipated this opening for years.
"I thought I'd never see the day," he said with a laugh. "I just think about the times my dad came over Bains Gap Road. So many times - he worked at Fort McClellan - he could have cut through here so easily."
Anniston Star link
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