Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Biocryst research site to remain in Birmingham despite HQ move to North Carolina
Published: Thursday, May 26, 2011, 8:45 AM
Stan Diel -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Birmingham may have lost Biocryst Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s headquarters to North Carolina, but it's in no danger of losing the company's research facilities, a top Biocryst executive said this week.
Alane Barnes, a vice president and general counsel for the drug company, told a small gathering of leaders in the state's biotech industry that there may be more changes ahead for the company, which has cancer, flu and gout drugs in various stages of development. But moving more jobs out of Birmingham is not among its plans.
"We may do some things, as far as efficiencies," she said. "But we're not touching our scientists. The heart of our company is and will remain in Alabama."
The company last year moved about 20 jobs to North Carolina, where it already had offices, leaving about 30 in Birmingham.
Barnes is chairing a strategy committee for the Biotechnology Association of Alabama, which this week introduced a five-year plan aimed at boosting the biotech industry in the state. Biocryst trades on Nasdaq under the symbol "BCRX."
Chamber merger rejected in coastal Baldwin County
Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 7:55 PM Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 8:07 PM
By Guy Busby Press-Register Press-Register
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce members rejected a proposal to merge their organization with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, officials said tonight.
While a majority of the members supported the proposal, the vote did not meet the requirement set for approval, Joe Joe McCarron, Gulf Coast chamber board chairman said.
South Baldwin chamber members voted to approve the merger.
"It did not meet the threshold that was set by our board of directors," McCarron said. "We had 511 businesses vote yes. We had 42 businesses vote no physically. We had 224 members that did not vote at all. We were 72 short of our threshold, which was 75 percent of our entire membership of 777 voting members."
Today was the final day of voting by members of the South Baldwin Chamber, which serves Foley, Elberta, Magnolia Springs, Bon Secour and other area communities, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber, which includes Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan in its service area.
The vote by South Baldwin chamber members was 523 in favor and 146 either voting against the proposal or not voting, Britton Bonner, chairman of that chamber, said.
Supporters said efforts in the last year to overcome the economic effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill showed how well the two chambers worked together and how the economies of the region are tied together.
Volkswagen's new $1 billion plant up and running in Chattanooga
Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 8:44 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 8:44 AM
By Brian Lawson, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
CHATTANOOGA - Volkswagen celebrated the opening of its $1 billion, 1,400-acre auto manufacturing operation in Chattanooga on Tuesday, unveiling an ultra-modern plant that also stands as a rare economic development defeat for North Alabama.
The plant will employ around 2,000 full-time workers to build the company's midsize sedan, the Passat.
There are currently more than 1,700 employees working, and company officials said they have focused on hiring local and area workers. A VW spokesman said about 3 percent of that new employee base hails from Alabama and Georgia.
The 2008 race to attract the plant was competitive, and VW officials said Tuesday they selected the Chattanooga site out of 400 locations in the U.S.
A site in west Huntsville-Limestone County was considered one of three finalists, along with a Michigan site, but Chattanooga prevailed.
The Chattanooga incentive package included more than $570 million in local, state and federal aid, including tax breaks, infrastructure work and other incentives. VW announced the selection in July 2008.
Alabama offered $385 million in incentives, the largest package it had ever put together, then-Gov. Bob Riley said.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam attended Tuesday's celebration and said the state's success in luring a company like Volkswagen is good for the state's résumé in terms of future economic development projects. Haslam said the spin-off effect on the economy from an auto plant is often greater than other kinds of business. VW officials estimated Tennessee-based suppliers will see $300 million in sales to the company this year.
Dus Rogers, CEO of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority, said North Alabama parts suppliers have not yet seen much work in connection with the plant, but he is optimistic that the supplier base will expand over time and lead to opportunities. He said as primary suppliers gain a foothold with Volkswagen, that will create work for smaller firms that provide materials to them, which should lead to job creation.
Biotechnology Association of Alabama says state needs more incentives to lure businesses
Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 7:30 AM
By Stan Diel -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama needs to embrace the biotechnology industry today in the same manner it did the auto industry almost two decades ago: with generous economic incentives, biotech and other business leaders said Tuesday.
The Biotechnology Association of Alabama on Tuesday afternoon introduced a five-year strategic plan that includes tax breaks -- such as capital gains tax exclusions -- as moves leaders hope will help generate and retain biotech companies and high-paying jobs.
Speaking after the statewide trade association introduced its plan at its annual meeting, Birmingham Business Alliance President Brian Hilson said the organization was on the right track.
"We need to have incentives that measure up, that make us competitive with other places," he said. "They probably need to go beyond that."
Port Authority moves forward with two capital projects
Published: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 5:39 PM Updated: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 5:42 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Alabama State Port Authority on Tuesday approved two purchases for state docks improvements.
Authority members voted unanimously to spend up to $800,000 on a lift machine for the Pinto Island Terminal, where ThyssenKrupp AG transfers steel slabs from ocean-going vessels to barges for transport up the Mobile River to the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Calvert.
The authority also approved spending up to $660,000 with Mobile-based Shaw GBB LLC for engineering services related to buying a new shiploader for McDuffie Coal Terminal.
The Pinto Island terminal already has three 100,000-pound steel slab lift machines. They operate in each of the three cargo holds of the ThyssenKrupp vessels to move steel slabs beneath three large magnetic cranes that lift the slabs off the boat.
Jimmy Lyons, the Port Authority chief executive officer, said that the operation works best when there is one lift machine for each crane. But large equipment like the lift machines often experience temporary breakdowns, he said.
Regent suspends Mobile, Alabama, operations while seeking FAA approvalPublished: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 2:45 PM
Mobile port director Lyons to join Birmingham branch of Federal Reserve
Published: Monday, May 23, 2011, 5:05 PM Updated: Monday, May 23, 2011, 5:06 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- Jimmy Lyons, chief executive of the Alabama State Port Authority, has been named the newest member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Birmingham branch.
The Federal Reserve has broad powers with regard to the banking and financial industries, as well as the ability to direct monetary policy for the nation by setting the interest rate at which it will loan money to member banks. Lowering the interest rate, for example, can spur economic growth by making it more attractive for member banks to loan money to consumers.
The Fed has 12 regional banks and 25 branches throughout the country. The branches feed information about local economies to their banks, which then sends the facts back to the central bank in Washington, D.C.
"My job is not going to be to change anything," he said. "It will be to provide information to serve as link between the private sector and government policy makers."
Lyons said the appointment requires that he attend about eight or nine meetings a year, and he'll receive a few hundred dollars and expenses for each meeting attended, he said.
Alabama State Port Authority members earlier this year voted unanimously to let Lyons take the post. Lyons will fill a term that expires at the end of 2012.
Alabama auto industry getting jump started with new life
Published: Sunday, May 22, 2011, 7:30 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama's auto industry is jump-starting itself out of a painful slump, with at least $821 million in new investment and more than 2,000 new jobs announced since early 2009.
Back then, the automakers were in the throes of a global downturn, but they continued to pour money into their state operations and plans accelerated as the industry rebound took hold last year.
The projects vary, from an expanded body shop at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Vance to an expanded engine plant at the Hyundai factory in Montgomery.
Honda's Lincoln factory and the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville also are revamping assembly lines to make way for new products.
"As the auto industry has rebounded, Alabama's automakers have been well positioned with products that met consumer demand," said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and an officer with the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association.
"The industry's really helping to lead the way out of the recession for our state," he added. "We're getting a real bump in manufacturing from the growth in automotive."
But there's no denying the industry downturn hurt the state's auto operations. Automakers slashed output, and in some cases, that meant eliminating temporary jobs, offering buyouts and early retirements to the permanent work force and not filling positions following natural attrition.
Power and Rubber Supply to grow, add jobs
By Patrick Rupinski Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 20, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA | Power and Rubber Supply Inc. is raising its roof as part of a $3.3 million expansion.
The Tuscaloosa-based company will expand its conveyor belt center on Resource Drive so that it can have larger cranes needed to handle bigger industrial belt coils.
Steve Davis, Power and Rubber's president, told the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority on Thursday that the company had been processing 1,000-foot rolls of industrial belts but is moving to 2,000-foot rolls. To accommodate the bigger rolls, the company will have to build a higher roof.
The expansion also will result in an additional 15 jobs and a $3.3 million capital investment.
Davis said the belts are used on conveyor lines to move coal for customers, including Jim Walter Resources in Brookwood.
The IDA's board of directors granted the company an abatement of $238,966 in property and sales taxes over 10 years for the job-creating expansion. The authority has the power to grant a partial abatement of taxes to new and expanding manufacturers that create additional jobs in Tuscaloosa County.
Honda Is More Optimistic About U.S. Production
By MIKE RAMSEY
Honda Motor Co. said Thursday it will return its North American auto production to normal levels for all but one model in August, faster than the company had anticipated.
Honda has been running its plants at around 50% of their normal volume since April because of limited supplies of critical parts. Honda, Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have all limited their production this year because of the massive March 11 earthquake that damaged dozens of Japanese parts suppliers, particularly electronics makers.
Unfortunately for Honda, the lone car built in North America that won't return to full production in August is the redesigned Civic.The passenger car is one of Honda's best-selling models and the redesigned model was expected to help drive sales this year, reversing a market share decline.
Production of the vehicle will remain at 50% of projected volume because of limited supplies of parts and return to normal sometime in the fall, the company said.
"The light at the end of the tunnel is glowing brighter for us, represented by this significant improvement in our production situation," John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., said in a prepared statement.
Honda, with more production in North America than Toyota or Nissan, has been the slowest to restore production at its plants. Nissan's U.S. production missed only a few days and Toyota is ramping back up most of its plants in North America next month.
Wall Street Journal
Huntsville's HudsonAlpha biotech center wins $1 million grant to teach genetics
Published: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 7:19 AM Updated: Thursday, May 19, 2011, 8:31 AM
By Lee Roop, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Huntsville's HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology has won a $1.1 million federal grant to teach Alabama high school students more about genetics. The grant from the National Institutes of Health "supports an initiative we've designed to help high school students identify genetic and environmental risks for human disease and then explore preventive measures based on that knowledge," said Dr. Neil Lamb, director of educational outreach at HudsonAlpha.
Lamb said personal genetic information will be as important to a person's medical records as blood pressure and chloesterol levels in the future. The program Lamb and his team created, called "It's Complex," is designed to spread understanding of genetics' role in health, Lamb said.
"Understanding that genetic and lifestyle factors interact and realizing how preventative behavior -- maybe diet, activity level or a variety of other habits or choices may reduce disease risk, offers critical information to students," Lamb said.
The Alabama Math Science and Technology Initiative will train teachers statewide, and the program will be piloted at Sparkman Ninth Grade School, Columbia High School and Decatur High School. The grant will be dispersed over five years.
RELEASE - Through its operating agreement with Auburn University, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation (ARTF) has established the Auburn Business Incubator. This incubator will be a full-service, mixed-use business incubator with the overall mission of facilitating the commercialization of university and community derived technologies and services through new business ventures.
The ARTF is a university-affiliated non-profit corporation formed to support the mission of the University, particularly in the areas of research and economic development, and is developing and operating the Auburn Research Park.
The first phase of the incubator is located in Building 570 in the Auburn Research Park with subsequent phases to follow as the demand grows and resources become available. The incubator has closed offices and open cubicles, receptionist, kitchenette, high speed copier/printer/fax machine, individual telephones, and both wired and wireless internet connectivity. In addition, shared use conference rooms with teleconferencing and audiovisual capabilities are available.
"This new incubator fills a void in the local economic development infrastructure for supporting the transition from concept to business development and commercialization. Formation of the incubator reflects the collaborative initiatives between Auburn University, City of Auburn, the State of Alabama," according to Dr. John D. Weete, executive director of the ARTF and research park. "Two key individuals responsible for making this happen are AU vice president for research Dr. John M. Mason and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard."
As it grows and matures over time, the aim is for the incubator to provide a network of support services tailored to the needs of start-up and early stage companies. These services may include, but not be limited, to cost-effective space and flexible leases, networking opportunities, shared business services and equipment, assistance in accessing investment and grant funds, management assistance, connectivity to resources at Auburn University, and generating an integrated network of entrepreneurs in the Auburn/Opelika and regional communities. The incubator will work closely with the local angel network and other investors to assist incubator clients to obtain investments.
Further information and on-line application to the incubator can be found at www.auburnbusinessincubator.com or by contacting Dr. Weete at 334.844.7480 or firstname.lastname@example.org or assistant director Philip Dunlap at email@example.com or 334.844.7462.
Over $10 Million Approved in SBA Disaster Loans for Alabama Residents; Urges Return of Disaster Loan Applications
ATLANTA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved more than $10 million in Disaster Assistance Loans for residents and business owners in Alabama affected by the severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that began April 15, 2011.
"Currently, 219 home and business disaster loans have been approved in the amount of $11,760,900 for affected victims"
"Currently, 219 home and business disaster loans have been approved in the amount of $11,760,900 for affected victims," said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta. "We are pleased to be able to get these loans approved so residents and businesses in the disaster area can start to rebuild and resume their normal lives. With the June 27 deadline approaching, I encourage anyone who has not completed their disaster loan application to do so and return it as quickly as possible."
The SBA offers low interest disaster loans to disaster victims for physical losses up to its loan limits. The agency can increase approved loans for protective measures to lessen similar future damages. Additionally, small businesses and most private nonprofit organizations can obtain loans for unmet working capital needs. To be considered for assistance from the SBA, those affected by the disaster need to apply by the deadline.
The disaster declaration covers Autauga, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Choctaw, Clarke, Colbert, Coosa, Cullman, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marengo, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Morgan, Perry, Pickens, Saint Clair, Shelby, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington and Winston counties in Alabama, which are eligible for Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA. EIDLs are also available to small businesses, and most private, non-profit organizations in thecontiguous counties of Baldwin, Butler, Clay, Cleburne, Conecuh, Dallas, Escambia, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Mobile, Montgomery, Randolph and Wilcox in Alabama; counties of Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Harris, Polk, Troup and Walker in Georgia; and counties of Clarke, Greene, Kemper, Itawamba, Lauderdale, Lowndes, Monroe, Noxubee, Tishomingo and Wayne in Mississippi; and counties of Franklin, Giles, Hardin, Lawrence, Lincoln, Marion and Wayne in Tennessee.
SBA Press Release
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Wendy Wallace Johnson