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Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. 
in this issue:
AbitibiBowater to lay off 150 from Childersburg, Ala. mill - Press Register
State Rep. Williams heads panel to help spur job growth in Alabama - Huntsville Times
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama donates used oil to Alabama A&M University for biodiesel project - Huntsville Times
Reporter's notebook: Birmingham Business Alliance still searching for its next leader - Birmingham News
Three companies pay back some incentives to Alabama after being tripped by recession - Press Register
Leaders predict more Huntsville growth with BRAC-type actions - Huntsville Times
Federal funds in jeopardy - Times Daily
Officials expect state worker layoffs - Montgomery Advertiser
Where are the jobs?...Almost 10,000 unemployed in Valley area; market tough - Decatur Daily
Goodyear Gadsden to pick up work, but not jobs - Gadsden Times


AbitibiBowater to lay off 150 from Childersburg, Ala. mill


Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 11:27 AM Updated: Monday, February 14, 2011, 11:30 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

CHILDERSBURG, Alabama -- AbitibiBowater Inc. said today that it will close its paper and packaging operations at a mill near Childersburg, eliminating about 150 jobs within the next 30 days.

The company had been experimenting with making linerboard on newsprint machines, but said it would have to spend too much money to make relatively low-priced linerboard grades at the Coosa Pines mill.

Montreal-based AbitibiBowater, which also owns a shuttered newsprint mill at Perdue Hill in Monroe County, said it would continue to make fluff pulp at the Talladega County mill.

The company said it would spend $4 million for severance and other closure charges, plus write off $10 million to reflect reducted asset values. AbitibiBowater, North America's largest newsprint producer, recently emerged from bankruptcy.


State Rep. Williams heads panel to help spur job growth in Alabama

Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 9:04 AM


By Budd McLaughlin, The Huntsville Times


HUNTSVILLE, AL -- State Rep. Phil Williams, a co-founder of Synapse Wireless, which grew into one of the city's most successful high-tech small businesses, is hoping to give a boost to the state's employment woes.


Williams is chairing the Speaker's Commission on Job Creation, which will meet with business owners around the state and get their input on spurring job growth. Williams is joined by Huntsvillians Marc Bendickson, chair and CEO of Dynetics, and Wade Patterson, president/CEO of Synapse, on the 14-member panel that was appointed by state House Speaker Mike Hubbard.


"This started out as a raw idea," Williams, R-Huntsville, said. "It's kind of been a collaboration between Speaker Hubbard and myself."


Williams said the commission should see some success, and get things done, too, as opposed to commissions and panels that usually study issues.


"The idea is to take legislators on the road, and listen to the business owners," he said. "We'll gather lots and lots of ideas.


"I think you'll see a lot of novel things come out of this job commission."

Williams said the panel is "on a compressed schedule," because Hubbard wants the members to report back to him April 15. Some of the ideas in the report are to be shaped into bills and passed into law in this year's regular session of the Legislature, which starts March 1, and could last through June 13.




Huntsville Times 



Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama donates used oil to Alabama A&M University for biodiesel project

Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 8:06 AM Updated: Monday, February 14, 2011, 9:38 AM


By Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times


HUNTSVILLE, AL -- Since last September, more than 220 gallons of used cooking oil has been delivered from the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville to a lab at Alabama A&M University as part of a biodiesel donation program.


The waste oil from the plant's cafeteria, along with oil from other sources, is being converted into biodiesel - and the fuel is expected to someday help run buses on A&M's campus and possibly some agriculture equipment.


Some of the leftover oil has already been converted to biodiesel and tested in a private vehicle, said Dr. Ernst Cebert, a research associate professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences of A&M's School of Agriculture. The biodiesel will soon be tested further, to see how it works fueling the engines of a small tractor engine and irrigation pumps.


Executives at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama have also asked that diesel shunt trucks and a diesel generator at their own plant be used to test the fuel.


"This is a good partnership for us," said Mark Brazeal, the general manager of administration at the Toyota facility, which builds V6 and V8 engines for Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks and Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicles. "Our environmental philosophy is reduce, reuse and recycle."




Huntsville Times 


Reporter's notebook: Birmingham Business Alliance still searching for its next leader


Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 11:30 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

The Birmingham Business Alliance hoped to have a new chief executive in place by now, but the first candidate that was offered the job politely turned it down, according to widespread chatter at a convention for state economic developers last week.

Officials on the high-powered BBA search committee aren't confirming the buzz at the Economic Development Association of Alabama winter conference in Montgomery. Instead, search committee members are saying they will find the best person to fill the job of leading Birmingham's most powerful business group.


New or used?

The new auto assembly plant or other mega project will always be the filet mignon of economic development, but there is no question the bread and butter of job growth is in helping existing industry expand.

The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and the Alabama Development Office pulled the numbers for the state's largest economic development projects in each of the last 11 years. The numbers came down on the side of the bread and butter.

The biggest projects each year between 2000 and 2010 created 16,648 jobs. Of those, five were new companies with 7,600 jobs, and six were expansions of existing companies with 9,048 jobs.


Three companies pay back some incentives to Alabama after being tripped by recession


Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 7:36 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

Alabama governments have recouped money from at least three companies that fell short of meeting the job pledges they made to the state in turn for public incentives.

Such repayments -- called clawbacks -- are touted as a way to make sure companies live up to their promises and don't just pocket subsidies. Alabama began inserting them in economic development deals during the administration of Gov. Bob Riley.

Industries, though, have gotten a fair bit of wiggle room during the recession, with at least one state official saying the goal remains jobs.

Alabama is far from alone in seeing companies unable to meet their commitments, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. That Washington, D.C., group has long been an advocate of clawbacks.

"States are pulling the trigger more often, as you would expect, because more deals are failing because of the recession," LeRoy said. And it's not poisoning the business climate.

State officials have said they know of no company that repaid incentive money to Alabama until Louisiana-Pacific Corp. in 2008. The state didn't begin routinely adding clawback provisions until 2005, officials have said, making this recession the first real test of efforts to hold firms to their job and pay pledges.

Now, at least three companies -- Thomasville's Louisiana-Pacific, Mobile's International Shipholding Corp. and Birmingham's U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co., have agreed to make repayments.


Leaders predict more Huntsville growth with BRAC-type actions

Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011, 6:50 AM
By Mike Marshall, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, AL. - Buy a lot in Huntsville, said Randall Griffin, the CEO of Corporate Offices Trust.

Griffin gave that advice last week to a conference of commercial real estate pros. He based his predictions of more military-related growth here on talks he'd had with officials in Washington.

The next round of base closings, Griffin said at the time, is expected in 2015.

Officials here agree with Griffin's predictions about another BRAC or something resembling BRAC. They're unsure, though, about when it will happen.

One official believes it could be before 2015. Another says it could possibly happen as late as 2018.

"When Rand Griffin says that, we are optimistic," said Joe Vallely, the City of Huntsville's director of economic development. "But we know we have to work on infrastructure. Sometimes, that's housing, but it's traffic, schools and office space."

Corporate Offices Trust styles itself as a specialty office real estate trust. The company acquires and develops properties that are typically next to military installations.



Huntsville Times


Federal funds in jeopardy


By Bernie Delinski and Robert Palmer
Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.

Imagine for a second that SCA Tissue, Walgreens Health Initiative's call center, North American Lighting and the Retirement Systems of Alabama tourism project had never chosen the Shoals.

In that scenario, the community likely would be facing an unemployment rate today of 20 percent or more. It would be the poster child for how the Great Recession destroyed life in small town America.

All those projects and others, such as National Alabama's railcar plant, have come to the Shoals within the past decade. As a result, the area's unemployment rate of about 8 percent is among the best in Alabama and well below the national average of 9.4 percent.

The common denominator in all of the projects has been federal money. The money has come from government agencies under attack by Republicans who say they want to do something about the nearly $14 trillion national debt.

On the chopping block are agencies such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Economic Development Administration and Community Development Block Grant program.

Infrastructure improvements needed to lure SCA Tissue, North American Lighting and others to the Shoals were paid for - at least in part - through money from those agencies.

"I can't sit here and say this or that would have changed the history of our area, but without that (financial) support it would have been a much more expensive proposition for this community to compete and be awarded those projects," said Forrest Wright, executive director of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. "Our community may or may not have been able to afford them. My guess is they wouldn't have been able to do everything necessary to get all of them."


Officials expect state worker layoffs


By Sebastian Kitchen February 13, 2011

Some Alabama officials do not see any way they can bal­ance the budget for next year without laying off state em­ployees.

They're forecasting anoth­er hole in the state General Fund budget, which pays for Medicaid, state prisons, pub­lic safety, public health and most other non-education functions of state govern­ment, and do not believe there are other obvious places to make substantive cuts.

"I hate to say it, but we're talking about people," said state Rep. Jim Barton, chair­man of the House General Fund budget committee. "I don't see how we don't talk about public layoffs. I'm of the opinion that's where we're going."

They are working on the budgets for the 2012 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

David Perry, director of the State Finance Depart­ment, said that layoffs for state employees paid out of the General Fund have to be on the table.

"I haven't found any op­tions that would avoid layoffs entirely," Perry said. "At this point we don't see any way around some layoffs."

Sen. Arthur Orr, chairman of the Senate General Fund budget committee, agrees that layoffs must be consid­ered.

"I think it's on the table without a doubt," he said. "It's regrettable. ... No one wants to lay off individuals in this economy, but as David Perry said, 'we may not have a choice.'"


Where are the jobs?

Almost 10,000 unemployed in Valley area; market tough

By Tiffeny Owens


With the expected closure of Dillard's at Decatur Mall, 85 people could join the nearly 10,000 unemployed across Morgan, Lawrence and Limestone counties.


Fifty more employees could be included in that figure with the potential loss of the mall's JC Penney Outlet Store.


Many of those out of work here continue to turn in applications with little hope of getting a job. Others are having to sharpen their skills through work force training and continuing education until the jobs return.


It's still a tough and competitive job market in North Alabama, allowing many companies to be selective in the few hires they do make.


Abott Wood, team manager at Decatur's Alabama Career Center, said some of Decatur's industries have been taking applications once a year, then drawing from that pool throughout the year to replace employees who leave through retirement or quit.


Earlier this month, Decatur's General Electric plant took applications for 30 openings on the production line, Wood said. More than 1,500 people applied.



"That's been the only one recently that was looking to fill several positions," he said. "Other places are just looking for one or two people here and there."



Decatur Daily


Goodyear Gadsden to pick up work, but not jobs

By Andy Powell

Times Staff Writer


Published: Friday, February 11, 2011 at 8:47 p.m.


Goodyear's decision to close its Union City, Tenn., plant likely will mean additional production for the Gadsden plant but no additional jobs, a company official said Friday.


As part of its fourth-quarter earning report issued Thursday, Goodyear said it would close the Union City plant as the final step of a plan instituted in 2009 to reduce high-cost production facilities.


Goodyear reported its revenue rose 14 percent in the fourth quarter, but it lost $177 million as it absorbed costs for the planned plant closure.


Its adjusted earnings and revenue beat Wall Street expectations, however, and shares surged $1.79, or 14.3 percent, to $14.30 in trading Thursday. They closed at the same price Friday.


"While we are committed to manufacturing in North America, all of our plants must be cost competitive and be able to demonstrate sustainable world-class productivity," said Richard Kramer, chairman and CEO.


"That is not the case with this plant, and as a result, the market has moved beyond what the factory is able to build."




Gadsden Times 

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