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Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. 
in this issue:
Governor Bentley Declares Proration in Education Trust Fund and Announces Plans for Proration...- Release
NASA names Marshall Space Flight Center as program office for new rocket - Huntsville Times
Birmingham steel mill site may be development magnet - Birmimngham News
Continental Automotive Systems lays off remaining unionized employees at Huntsville plant - Huntsville Times
Mobile lands 2012 port convention - Press Register
Trussville's Amerex buys Norwegian Solberg Scandinavian AS...- Birmingham News


Governor Bentley Declares Proration in Education Trust Fund and Announces Plans for Proration in General Fund

MONTGOMERY- Given revenue shortfalls in the state's education budget, Governor Robert Bentley today declared 3% proration in the FY 2011 Education Trust Fund. Furthermore, he announced plans to declare 15% proration in the state's General Fund, after first working with the Legislature for supplemental appropriations to protect priority agencies that provide necessary and critical services.


After thorough consideration and analysis by the Alabama Department of Finance and the Department of Revenue, estimated revenues to the State General Fund for fiscal year 2011 are insufficient to fund all appropriations at their current levels. With one time federal stimulus money now depleted, Alabama is left with the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in both state budgets. The current Education Trust Fund budget has a $165 million shortfall while the current General Fund budget has a $110 million shortfall.


"Both our Education Trust Fund and our state's General Fund budgets are based on unreliable revenue projections," said Governor Bentley. "Now, five months into the 2011 Fiscal Year, it is clear that there is not enough revenue to sustain either budget. Proration is necessary to balance the budgets."


"The taxpayers expect us to live within our means just as families and businesses are forced to do," said Finance Director David Perry. "No one is pleased that we have a revenue shortfall which requires proration in the budgets that were passed last year, but mid-year cuts are necessary for Alabama to meet its constitutional obligation for a balanced budget."


Proration in the Education Trust Fund is effective immediately.




NASA names Marshall Space Flight Center as program office for new rocket


Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 3:10 PM Updated: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 3:25 PM

By Lee Roop, The Huntsville Times



HUNTSVILLE, AL - NASA made it official this afternoon with an announcement that the Marshall Space Flight Center will house the program office leading the development of America's next spacecraft, the heavy-lift rocket. The space agency also tagged two other centers in Houston and Florida with key roles going forward.



"The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will lead NASA's efforts on a heavy- lift rocket that will carry humans beyond low Earth orbit," a statement from NASA headquarters said. "The center will house the program office for the Space Launch System and continue to support station operations."



"We are pleased to be assigned the responsibility for developing and managing NASA's heavy-lift space launch system at Marshall Space Flight Center," Center Director Robert Lightfoot said. "Our talented workforce is eager to take on this challenge. This assignment ensures Marshall Center technical and program management capabilities will continue to play a key role in our nation's space program as we look to reach beyond low Earth orbit."



  NASA also announced today that two other centers, the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will play key roles in the next-generation space program. Here are the details as released:  







Birmingham steel mill site may be development magnet


Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 6:30 AM Updated: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 9:42 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News

USS Real Estate Inc. and the City of Birmingham are in talks over the future of the old Ensley Works property, with the possiblity of transforming the site into a new industrial park. Mayor William Bell and Tom Howard of USS talk near the property February 28, 2011. (The Birmingham News / Linda Stelter)

After talks lasting more than a year, the city of Birmingham and the owner of the 600-acre former Ensley Works property are moving closer to a plan for redeveloping the relic of Birmingham's industrial past.

"We're making significant progress," Birmingham Mayor William Bell said in an interview Monday. "We're closer than we've ever been to seeing something come to fruition."

USS Real Estate Inc., the largest property owner in Jefferson County, is talking with the city while evaluating the property housing the dormant steel mill. The city has been eyeing the site as the home of a new distribution operation, along with other uses that have been proposed.

"We're working with our staff to conduct an environmental assessment and get a sense of the condition of the property," said Tom Howard, head of Southeast development for USS Real Estate. "The ball is in our court to get back to the city with those results so we can move forward."

Bell said that assessment will identify the level of cleanup needed and the possible uses for the property once it is ready for development.

The 400 acres that make up the former industrial portion of the Ensley Works will almost certainly become an industrial park for light manufacturing and distribution operations, providing the project moves forward. The other 200 acres could be used for residential or commercial purposes, Bell said.

The multiple rail lines coming onto the property make it ideal for distribution, Bell said.

"That has always been the key to this property," Bell said. "The great rail access makes this a very attractive site."

Bell said he also would like to explore the feasibility of extending a waterway from Birmingport on the Warrior River to the Ensley Works site to give the property direct water access and possibly create waterfront property for residential development.

But Howard said such plans are in the distance.


Continental Automotive Systems lays off remaining unionized employees at Huntsville plant


Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 6:30 AM
By Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- As of Monday, Continental Automotive Systems U.S. has permanently laid off all hourly and salaried employees represented by the UAW at the company's manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

This latest round affects about 67 employees, according to the company, and completes the layoffs announced by Continental Automotive Systems in an August 2009 notice to the UAW that it would permanently close the facility in Jetplex Industrial Park.

About 12 managers remain at the plant, said Continental Automotive spokeswoman Kathryn Blackwell, and some contract workers are working at the facility to prepare it to be turned over to Chrysler. Chrysler owns the three buildings at the site.

Production at the plant ended last November.


Mobile lands 2012 port convention


Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 6:15 AM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register

MOBILE, Ala. -- Mobile will host the 2012 annual meeting of the American Association of Port Authorities, according to officials with the state docks.

More than 500 delegates are expected to attend the Oct. 20-27 conference, with at least that many spouses, vendors and others, said Jimmy Lyons, director of the Alabama State Port Authority.

The authority recently voted to allow staff members to spend up to $1.2 million to orchestrate the conference. Lyons said the port will make up most of its expenses through registration fees and advertising.

The port will be on a tight schedule to organize the convention, Lyons said. Authority officials had planned to apply to host the 2015 meeting, but then learned that next year's host city, Detroit, had to back out, Lyons said.

The association is composed of port authorities from the U.S., Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. The convention will put an international spotlight on recent investments made at the Port of Mobile, such as the Mobile Container Terminal and the Pinto Island Terminal that ThyssenKrupp AG uses to transfer steel slabs from ocean-going vessels to river-bound barges.


Trussville's Amerex buys Norwegian Solberg Scandinavian AS that has foam-based fire suppression system

Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 6:00 AM

By Russell Hubbard -- The Birmingham News


Amerex Corp. said Monday it has acquired a Norwegian company with a novel foam-based fire suppression system.


The Trussville-based company said it has bought Solberg Scandinavian AS, one of the largest manufacturers of firefighting foam in Europe. Terms weren't disclosed.


Amerex, which employs about 520 people who make fire suppression equipment, is a unit of Birmingham-based McWane Inc. The acquisition of Solberg snares the company firefighting foams which are free of chemical agents environmental advocates say damage the ecology.


"This strategic acquisition enables Amerex to uniquely bring advanced, environmentally sustainable firefighting foam technology to the Americas, and will give us a global footprint as a full-line manufacturer serving the fire protection and firefighting industry," said Amerex President Bill Beyer.


Solberg will operate as an autonomous business much as it did before, Beyer said.


With the acquisition, McWane now operates more than three dozen pipe foundries, water fittings makers and related businesses in Norway, North America, China and Australia. The company is privately owned by the McWane family.





Bentley administration puts $12 million into business loan funds

Published: Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 6:00 AM

By Jeff Amy, Press-Register


Alabama state officials distributed $12 million Monday to revolving loan funds meant to spur job creation.


Each of the state's 12 regional planning councils received $1 million, including the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, which serves Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, and the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission, which includes Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Marengo, Monroe, Washington and Wilcox among the 10 counties it serves.


"I believe that the availability of this loan program will encourage some current and potential business owners to take a leap of faith and create new jobs for Alabamians," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement.


Jennifer Ardis, a Bentley spokeswoman, said the money came from a bond fund set aside in the 1990s.


Each commission will determine which businesses receive loans, said Jim Plott, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.


The money can be used to buy land, build or renovate buildings, buy equipment, or for working capital. Russ Wimberly, the executive director of the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, said commissions often team with banks in lending. In the past, loans have ranged from $10,000 to $125,000, but Wimberly said limits could be revised or removed.




Press Register


Alabama PSC looks for job creation incentives

By PHILLIP RAWLS Associated Press

Published: Monday, February 28, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.


The state Public Service Commission is working with Alabama Power Co. to design incentives for small businesses to expand and add employees, Commissioner Terry Dunn said Monday.


Dunn said the state's utility regulatory board and the largest utility it regulates are talking about ways to offer discounts to small- and medium-size businesses that hire new employees or expand into vacant commercial property. The commission is also looking at expanding the number of firms that can qualify for Alabama Power's small business rates, he said.


Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman confirmed the discussions are under way with the commission, but nothing is definite yet.


"You might say it's an economic stimulus package for business," the spokesman said.


Dunn said anything that is worked out will have to be approved by the full three-member commission, and his goal is to have a plan in place by summer, when electricity use is usually highest. Dunn said it would enhance work by the governor and Legislature to create jobs and lower Alabama's 9.1 percent unemployment rate.


If the Alabama Power talks are successful, the commissioner said the PSC would have similar discussions with Alabama Gas Corp. and Mobile Gas Service Corp., two major suppliers of natural gas.




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