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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 commercial real estate suffered dismal year - Birmingham News
Mobile Airport Authority mulls borrowing $8 million for Brookley infrastructure work - Press Register
$100M approved for Montgomery's Outer Loop - Montgomery Advertiser
Alabama's 2010 Exports Show Strong Gain over 2009 - Press Release
Upgrades needed to utilize canal expansion - Times Daily


Birmingham commercial real estate suffered dismal year


Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 8:30 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

Commercial real estate in Birmingham suffered through one of its worst years on record in 2010, with all three major categories -- office, industrial and retail -- failing to crack the 90 percent occupancy mark at year's end, a report shows.

EGS Commercial Real Estate Inc. shared the findings of its year-end report with The Birmingham News before sending it to clients and subscribers. The report is closely watched in commercial real estate circles.

EGS says the Birmingham area's office market stood at 89.9 percent occupancy at year's end, a slight downtick from the previous year.

The retail segment's occupancy rate of 87.6 percent was off the 88 percent mark it ended at in 2009.

The segment suffering the most in 2010 was industrial space, which registered a third straight year of significant occupancy declines. It finished the year with a 78.9 percent occupancy rate.

"I've been doing this for 25 years and I've never seen occupancy below 80 percent," said Mark Byers, executive vice president at EGS and head of the company's industrial real estate division.


Mobile Airport Authority mulls borrowing $8 million for Brookley infrastructure work


Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 7:15 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 8:41 AM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register

MOBILE, Ala. -- The Mobile Airport Authority is considering borrowing $8 million to improve streets, drainage, signs and landscaping at the Brookley Aeroplex.

If the Department of Defense awards a bid to the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. to assemble aerial refueling tankers in Mobile, the Brookley industrial park will see increased traffic and demand for industrial space.

The money would pay to renew streets and drainage at the region's largest industrial park and improve signage and landscaping. The city of Mobile maintains major streets at Brookley, but the authority owns and maintains most side streets at the onetime air base south of downtown Mobile.

But even if Mobile misses out on the $40 billion contract, Executive Director Bill Sisson said that the work needs to be done. "This is something that could be done anyway, regardless," he told the board.

Many streets and buildings at Brookley are more than 50 years old, and the authority struggles to pay for their upkeep. A master plan adopted in 2004 calls for major overhauls, but the authority has made only piecemeal progress so far.


$100M approved for Montgomery's Outer Loop


February 22, 2011

State officials have just announced that they have received federal funds for Interstate 85 to build the next phase of the Montgomery Outer Loop.

About $100 million in federal funds have been approved for the work, which will serve as first portion of I-85 extension.

More details are forthcoming.

Alabama's 2010 Exports Show Strong Gain over 2009

Alabama's 2010 export of goods rose 25.5 percent from 2009, a remarkable rebound during a nationwide recession. The state exported $15.5 billion in goods to countries throughout the world. Nationwide, U.S. exports showed a gain of 20 percent from 2009.

Sales of vehicles, chemicals, minerals and machinery led the export gain for Alabama, which ranks 27th in the nation for exports.

Alabama's leading export category is vehicles. These products alone accounted for $4 billion of Alabama's total exports in 2010. Cars manufactured in Alabama were shipped to some 85 countries, an increase of 29% from 2009 to 2010. Other major exports included chemicals which saw a growth of 30 percent from 2009 and posted over $2 billion in exports; an increase of some 72 percent in minerals ($1.7 billion); machinery ($1.1 billion) at 29 percent increase; and paper ($940 million) with an increase of 16 percent.

Alabama exported goods globally to 191 foreign destinations. The state's leading markets, by far, are the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nations of Canada (20 percent) and Mexico (7 percent) with exports to these countries totaling $3.155 billion and $1.24 billion respectively. Other top markets are China with 12 percent ($1.935 billion), Germany with 11 percent ($1.784 billion) and Brazil ($662 million) or 4 percent.

Seth Hammett, director of the Alabama Development Office, stated "Alabama's rebound of exports from 2009 is tremendous for the state's economy. Exports help sustain and create jobs and it is estimated that over 294,000 jobs were required to produce and ship these goods."

The Alabama Development Office began an aggressive export initiative nine years ago to help Alabama companies find new and expanding markets. The Export Alabama Initiative has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's TradeRoots program.

The Export Alabama Alliance is comprised of local, regional, state and federal organizations which help companies export their products.

"Growing our companies through exports has so much potential to create jobs," Hammett commented. Alabama companies have the opportunity to be part of trade missions which will take us to Ireland, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates."


Upgrades needed to utilize canal expansion 

By Robert Palmer Staff Writer Times Daily


Published: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.


The expansion of the Panama Canal promises to increase traffic and business along the Tennessee River, but unless public ports can find the money to upgrade their facilities, the historic expansion of the century-old canal could hold little meaning for north Alabama.


In 2010, the Alabama State Port Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority in anticipation of the 2014 completion of the expansion. The state port authority's primary focus is the Port of Mobile, the ninth largest U.S. seaport in total volume. The authority has launched a $360 million improvement program in Mobile that will prepare it for the larger seagoing vessels that will be using the Panama Canal.


But inland, things are not so rosy.


"Alabama has to be serious about investing in inland waterways," said Hal Greer, director of the Florence-Lauderdale Port Authority. The port covers 36 acres just west of Wilson Lock and Dam.


The Florence port handles more than 355,000 tons of products a year, including aluminum, crosstie timbers, sand, fertilizers and chemicals, grain and other materials.


One of the port's largest customers is Wise Alloys. The port anticipates $473,000 in revenue this year.


Business could be increased significantly if the port had a crane with greater reach and indoor warehouse storage, Greer said.


To accomplish those improvements will require $5 million, but Greer said where that money can be found is, at best, uncertain.



In 2009, the Alabama Legislature passed an act establishing the Office of Inland Waterways and Intermodal Infrastructure, which is part of Alabama Economic and Community Affairs. But the act did not include funding, leaving only an advisory board charged with - among other things - looking for money to get the agency off the ground.



Times Daily




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