Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Economist John Norris of Oakworth Capital Bank urges plan for Birmingham area
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Birmingham metro area's diversified economy should allow the region to continue to grow amid challenging conditions, says John Norris, an economist and managing director of Oakworth Capital Bank.
"We're still growing better than we should be, which means we are doing something right," he told Birmingham business leaders Tuesday.
Obstacles remain. Both the Birmingham and national economies now are like "lukewarm water," with tepid recoveries advancing but not at a pace that economists, politicians or consumers would like, he said. But fears of a renewed economic collapse after the troubles of 2008 and 2009 have not materialized, and a measure of stability has returned to the U.S. economy.
Surrounded by giants, Horizon Shipbuilding shines
BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. -- Dust doesn't sit still for long at Horizon Shipbuilding.
With 185 employees constructing nine vessels, in addition to a $4 million facility renovation, there isn't much down time at the company's 8-acre shipyard. A quick walking tour of the facility is all that's needed to leave shoes and pants covered in a thin layer of dirt.
"We're continuing down the same path, trying to become bigger and better. Our reputation is expanding," said Travis Short, the company's owner and president. "We want to create a full-service shipyard."
Shipbuilding is the largest manufacturing industry in coastal Alabama and Mississippi, anchored by the 10,500-employee military behemoth Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula and rising star Austal USA in Mobile, which is set to double its workforce to nearly 4,000 in the next few years.
Austal on the grow to handle Navy work
MOBILE, Alabama -- Austal USA is nearly doubling the size of both its workforce and Mobile River shipyard to be able to complete work on two U.S. Navy contracts worth more than $5 billion.
The Australia-based company employs about 2,100 in Mobile, and expects to hire about 130 people a month until it reaches a workforce of about 4,000.
Company officials recently started several projects at its 115-acre site including:
--Doubling its modular manufacturing facility by adding 740,000 square feet of space.
--Building an administration building/office complex of approximately 110,000 square feet.
--Extending and improving an existing bulkhead.
--Building an additional waterfront assembly bay of approximately 60,000 square feet.
--Expanding an existing assembly building to approximately 60,000 square feet.
It has also acquired land adjacent to its current shipyard, where it is adding approximately 85,000 square feet under roof and 4,150 linear feet of bulkhead.
Regions Financial Corp. launches Disaster Resource Center
Published: Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 1:40 PM Updated: Wednesday, June 01, 2011, 2:40 PM
By The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Regions Financial Corp. said Thursday it has launched a Disaster Resource Center on its company website.
The resource enter is meant to provide customers with include important contact information, a financial checklist, details on Regions' assistance programs and links to outside agencies and organizations.
Regions said it has a number of programs in place to help individuals, businesses and communities affected by disasters such as the April 27 tornadoes in Alabama. For example, the bank says it can offer disaster-affected business owners options such as loan restructuring
Certified sites attract buyers
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 5:40 PM
By K.A. Turner, Press-Register Press-Register
Project Ready. AdvantageSite. Certified megasite.
The names may vary, but the intent is the same. As the economy begins to thaw and industry looks for opportunity, recruiters along the central Gulf Coast are lining up inventory that is ready and available.
"In every business you have to have product to sell," said Robert Ingram, president and chief executive of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance. "In economic development, we have a number of things that we sell including labor force and quality of life. But in the last few years it has risen to the top, especially with big projects, to have shovel-ready sites."
Certification standards vary from program to program, but they generally involve documenting a number of things related to a site -- availability; preliminary environmental, archaeological and geologic studies; infrastructure and utilities and other elements.
One newly minted site is the Helena Industrial Park, which is owned by Mississippi Export Railroad and certified through the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation.
Though getting a site certified costs money, Greg Luce of Mississippi Export Railroad said the work on his site is not as speculative as some projects might be.
SBA export loans can open new doors
Published: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 5:00 PM Updated: Tuesday, May 31, 2011, 5:00 PM
By Gulf Coast Business Press-Register
Brent McMahan is the SBA's Senior Area Manager in Mobile.
President Barack Obama has widely proclaimed the new National Export Initiative for America. The initiative challenges U.S. businesses to double American exports in five years. The U.S. Small Business Administration is doing its part.
Three recently enhanced SBA loan programs have opened up new ways for lenders to serve small business exporters. All three now have a permanent 90 percent guaranty -- SBA's highest -- which means that the U.S. government will repay any bank loan up to this guaranty if the borrower defaults.
This new 90 percent guaranty for SBA export loan programs is a clear winner for our area from the Small Business Jobs Bill legislation. Alabama already has a head-start on exporting with its expanded port facilities; the new export loan guaranties play to our local strength.
There are really three different export loan products in the SBA inventory.
-- SBA's Export Working Capital Loan helps equip bankers with an extraordinary tool for meeting small business owners' working capital loan needs with its new, higher guaranty. Using the EWCL, lenders can support client growth, minimize risks and increase their small business' activities for export clients. Maximum loan size is $5 million.
-- SBA's International Trade Loan has been revised to help small business enter and expand into international markets. When adversely affected by import competition, these loans can help small business owners compete for foreign business. Small business owners who export can use the loans to acquire, construct, renovate, modernize, improve or expand facilities or equipment. The terms of the loan are based on the use of the funds. For real estate, loans can go out to 25 years, for example. Maximum loan size is $4 million to $4.5 million, depending on type.
Help for agriculture damage from April tornadoes is available
Published: Monday, May 30, 2011, 10:00 AM
By Budd McLaughlin, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Farmers, producers and landowners who have had damage or losses from last month's tornadoes are urged to contact the Farm Service Agency for financial aid.
The Madison County FSA Office has requested funding under the Emergency Conservation Program to cover the damages.
The program is for farmers and landowners who received farmland damages from the April 27 storms and the ensuing flooding. It provides cost-share assistance to eligible farmers and landowners for debris removal, fence restoration, destroyed terraces and the like. The deadline to register is July 8.
Funds are also being requested for Emergency Forest Restoration Program to help restore private forest land. The deadline has not been set, but those who are interested should visit the county FSA office on Cook Avenue.
For producers who have lost livestock, the FSA can provide assistance under Livestock Indemnity Program and Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program. A "Notice of Loss" must be submitted within 30 days of the loss and can be made by calling or visiting the FSA office.
For more information, visit the Madison County FSA Office in Huntsville at 819 Cook Ave., Room 123, or call 256-532-1677, ext. 2.
Policies say a lot about Honda
The Daily Home
05.28.11 - 09:34 pm
It is very good news that Honda expects all its North American operations to be back to full speed by August and that includes its Lincoln plant where three of its most popular vehicles are assembled.
The March earthquake and tsunami in Japan severely hampered Honda's supply chain and ended up costing the giant automaker months of production as it faced difficult and at times insurmountable obstacles to getting supplies from Japan to North America.
Without those supplies, cars could not be built.
As time passed, the supply chain opened up a bit, and then a little more. But not too long ago Honda officials (along with other Japanese automakers) were expecting a late fall date for full production to resume.
Last week, however, the company announced it wouldn't take that long.
"Honda will increase production volume at its North America automobile plants to a rate of 100 percent original production plan in August," a company press release announced.
Reconstruction Lifts Economy After Disasters
By MICHAEL COOPER
Published: May 31, 2011
The deadly tornadoes and widespread flooding that have left a trail of death and destruction throughout the South and the Midwest have also disrupted dozens of local economies just as the unsteady recovery seemed to be finding a foothold.
But a new phase is slowly beginning in some hard-hit areas: reconstruction, which past disasters show is typically accompanied by a burst of new, and different, economic activity. There is no silver lining to a funnel cloud, as anyone who survived the tornadoes can attest, but reconstruction can help rebuild local economies as well as neighborhoods.
More than a tenth of the businesses in Tuscaloosa, Ala., were badly damaged or destroyed in April when a tornado swept across a 5.9-mile stretch of the city, and nearly 6,000 Alabamians have filed storm-related claims for unemployment benefits.
An even deadlier tornado laid waste to roughly a quarter of the businesses in Joplin, Mo., on May 22, wiping out some of the big-box stores the city relies on heavily for sales tax receipts. The flooding Mississippi River closed all nine riverboat casinos in Tunica, Miss., this spring, leaving 4,600 hotel rooms empty for weeks and depriving the county of so much tax revenue that it had to reduce its workers' hours.
But there are already stirrings of economic activity. Home Depot, whose store in Joplin was destroyed, began selling lumber and other supplies from a parking lot there on Tuesday as it prepared to open a 30,000-square-foot temporary store.
Tamko Building Products was doubly hit. Its plant in Tuscaloosa had to halt production for weeks after the April 27 tornado destroyed a warehouse, blew out windows and knocked out power. Then in May disaster struck closer to home: Tamko's headquarters are in Joplin, where the company was founded in 1944. The tornado that tore through Joplin left Tamko's facilities undamaged, but destroyed the homes of roughly 20 of its employees.
But as much as it was buffeted by the storms, Tamko, which donated $1 million to the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross, is well-positioned to prosper once reconstruction fully kicks in. Its main product - roofing shingles - is always in demand after a tornado.
New York Times
Please feel free to forward along to someone who can use it by clicking on the "I'd like to forward this to a contact" link below the green bar.
Note also, that you can now make changes to your e-mail address and contact information through the link at the bottom.
As always, if you have news or suggestions, please forward them along to me.
Wendy Wallace Johnson