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Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. 
in this issue:
Birmingham's SRI plans facility for drug discovery - Birmingham News
BBVA Compass economist recognized as one of most accurate forecasters- Birmingham News
Baldwin County chambers of commerce discuss merger - Press Register
1 million fewer people visited Alabama beaches after oil spill, figures show - Press Register
Boeing, EADS make final pitches in Air Force tanker contest - Press Register
Alabama economists forming club - Birmingham Business Journal


Birmingham's SRI plans facility for drug discovery


Published: Friday, February 11, 2011, 8:00 AM
By Hannah Wolfson -- The Birmingham News

Southern Research Institute is looking at plans to spend $14 million to construct a new research building on its Southside campus.

The building would be dedicated mostly to drug discovery research, according to Southern Research's president and chief executive, Jack Secrist.

"This will allow us to do state of the art medicinal chemistry," said Secrist, speaking last week to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The funds are part of a $20 million federal recovery zone bond being issued through the city of Birmingham. Much of the remainder will go toward developing a new 18,000-square-foot engineering building at Southern Research's Oxmoor location.

Secrist said the 40,000 square-foot building next to Quinlan Castle would help the organization continue its momentum on drug discovery. The project still requires approval of Southern Research's finance committee and board, but Secrist said he hopes to have the facility completed by the end of 2012.


BBVA Compass economist recognized as one of most accurate forecasters

Published: Friday, February 11, 2011, 7:30 AM

By Russell Hubbard -- The Birmingham News


BBVA Compass' top economist has been recognized by Bloomberg News as one of the most accurate forecasters of U.S. economic trends.


Nathaniel Karp was named the top forecaster of 10-year U.S. Treasury yields by financial data and news outlet Bloomberg, which also named him the third-best predictor of U.S. non-farm payrolls.


Both are key economic benchmarks widely followed by lenders, business owners and government bureaus.


Karp had the smallest average difference in his prediction for Treasury yields and the actual number, from a universe of hundreds of economists polled by Bloomberg starting in 2007.


For non-farm payrolls, Karp had an average monthly error in 2010 of about 56,000 jobs, only about 2,000 behind the leader, David Resler, of New York-based Nomura Securities. About 50 economists were rated by Bloomberg for 2010 non-farm payrolls.


"We are very happy with it," Karp said. "We participate in many surveys, but Bloomberg is the one that attracts the most economists."


Karp said he works with five other economists, who pore over reams of information to make their predictions. For non-farm payrolls, he said, the key is understanding if businesses are hiring, staying put, or cutting jobs.




Birmingham News 


Baldwin County chambers of commerce discuss merger

Published: Friday, February 11, 2011, 6:35 AM Updated: Friday, February 11, 2011, 11:05 AM

By Guy Busby Press-Register


FOLEY, Alabama -- Months of members and employees working together in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have led to renewed discussions of merging south Baldwin County's two chambers of commerce.


The boards of directors of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce and


Joe McCarron is chairman of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce. (File photo)


South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce sent letters to members this week asking their opinions on merging the two organizations.


The Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce serves the Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan areas. The South Baldwin Chamber serves Foley, Elberta, Summerdale, Magnolia Springs and the surrounding areas.


Chamber officials had proposed merging the two organizations in 2009. Surveys of members at that time found that while most respondents supported the merger, the majority was not large enough to justify the move, according to reports at the time.


After more than nine months of joint efforts to deal with the economic effects of the oil spill, officials feel that situation may have changed, Donna Watts, South Baldwin Chamber president, said.




Press Register link 


1 million fewer people visited Alabama beaches after oil spill, figures show


Published: Friday, February 11, 2011, 5:00 AM Updated: Friday, February 11, 2011, 11:10 AM
By David Ferrara, Press-Register

GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Alabama's beaches saw a million fewer visitors in 2010 than the year before, according to the latest state tourism figures, and the impact reverberated across the state.

Many people who visited after the record-setting BP PLC oil spill were attracted by huge discounts.

That means "the economic blow is a lot bigger than what you see in just straight numbers of attendance," said Mike Foster, vice president of marketing for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

In 2010, Alabama Gulf Coast beaches -- including Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan and Dauphin Island -- saw 3.6 million visitors, compared to 4.6 million people in 2009, according to a report from the Alabama Tourism Department.

Gulf State Park alone saw 300,000 fewer visitors in 2010 than the previous year. And while those two locations saw top attendance figures in the state for parks and natural destinations, many other parks across Alabama saw an increase in visitors.


Boeing, EADS make final pitches in Air Force tanker contest


Published: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 4:42 PM Updated: Thursday, February 10, 2011, 7:48 PM
By George Talbot

Boeing Co. and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. today submitted their final bids for the U.S. Air Force tanker contract, making their closing pitches for one of the biggest defense deals in U.S. history.

The two rivals delivered their proposals to the Air Force a day ahead of Friday's 8 a.m. deadline. Now, they'll wait for a decision that could come by March, according to industry observers. But trouble may be looming in a politically-charged contest marked by controversy, scandal and endless delays.

The office of the Pentagon's Inspector General said it was reviewing a request that it launch an investigation of the Air Force's handling of the tanker competition. The internal watchdog agency was asked by a group of seven U.S. senators backing Boeing's bid to take a look at a November incident in with the Air Force mistakenly sent details of Boeing's bid to EADS, and vice versa.

A spokesman for the inspector general said he could not predict how soon the office would decide whether or not to launch a full investigation.

The Air Force, which said it took steps to correct the mistake and create a level playing field for the two bidders, declined to comment on the inspector general's review. An Air Force spokesman said the service was on schedule to pick a winner for the potential $40 billion deal "in early 2011."

Chicago-based Boeing submitted a bid based on its 767 commercial jet, pitching the plane as a cost-effective replacement for the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 tankers. The fleet of about 500 flying gas stations, used to refuel fighter jets, cargo planes and other military aircraft in mid-air, was built by Boeing in the late 1950s-early 1960s and is nearing the end of its service life.

Boeing said its smaller KC-767 tanker would burn 24 percent less fuel than the competing KC-45 tanker offered by EADS. The aerospace giant - which ranks as the country's largest exporter - emphasized its experience building military aircraft and played up its American roots in contrast to its European rival. Boeing said it would assemble its planes on its existing production line in Everett, Wash., and modify them for the military in Wichita, Kan.



Alabama economists forming club


Birmingham Business Journal
Date: Friday, February 11, 2011, 1:10pm CST

A group of Alabama economists is looking to form the Alabama Economics Club.

The new club will discuss economic issues and forecasts at quarterly luncheons.

The club's first meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 14 at the Federal Reserve Branch office in Liberty Park.

University of Alabama at Birmingham President Carol Garrison will be the speaker.

Tom Nelson, of Vulcan Materials Co. (NYSE: VMC), Sam Addy, of the University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research, and Julius Weyman of the Birmingham branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, are leading the efforts to form the club.

Contact Tom Nelson at for more information.

Birmingham Business Journal

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Wendy Wallace Johnson
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