Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Mercedes gets mileage out of increased M-Class fuel economy
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 6:15 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
The 2012 Mercedes M-Class SUV promises 30 percent better gas mileage. (Mercedes-Benz)
Fuel efficiency will be a key focus of the sales strategy for the redesigned, Alabama-built Mercedes-Benz M-Class, the German automaker's chief said Tuesday.
The 2012 SUV, set to enter mass production at the company's Vance factory next month, is achieving fuel economy up to 30 percent greater than the current generation, said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Mercedes' parent Daimler AG.
"We have improved the new M-Class in basically all aspects but most significant are the improvements in fuel efficiency," Zetsche said during a briefing in New York.
New engine offerings include a 4-cylinder diesel for models sold in Europe and a 6-cylinder diesel for U.S. versions, he said. The new M-Class also will be offered as a hybrid, like the current generation.
"They have great performance, very good comfort, even better dynamics than the previous ones and are still great vehicles off-road," Zetsche said. "But once again, the focus will be the high efficiency of these new vehicles."
U.S. Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans in Alabama total nearly $42 million
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 8:00 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama victims of the April and May storms have been granted almost $42 million in disaster assistance loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the SBA said Tuesday.
Less than a week remains before the June 27 deadline to file for an SBA disaster loan available to homes and businesses affected by severe storms, tornadoes, high winds and flooding that occurred between April 15 and May 31. So far, 753 low-interest home and business disaster loans totaling $41,991,500 have been approved. The SBA encourages anyone who received an SBA application to complete and return the form, because they could be eligible for grants.
"There is a tendency for survivors to discard SBA disaster loan applications because they may not want a loan," Frank Skaggs, director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta, said.
Disaster survivors can visit one of the recovery centers for assistance completing the applications, according to the SBA. If they apply and are not approved for an SBA loan, individuals might be referred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for possible grant assistance.
Huntsville Real Estate: Current trends in office leasing sector
Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 4:00 PM
By Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) al.com
John Hayden, SIOR, ACRE council member, shares current trends & commentary associated with the office sector of Huntsville's real estate market.
On the national scale, office space vacancy is closely tied to employment and as the unemployment rate increases, so do vacancy rates.
The office market in Huntsville has fared better than most secondary markets during the recession that began in 2008. When the State of Alabama unemployment rate was 9.6% (May 2011), the Huntsville unemployment rate was 7.9%. When the office market nationwide was experiencing a 17.6% vacancy rate, the Huntsville market was at 12%.
The reason is not just a story of job stability, since jobs were lost in this area of the state too. But the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) expansion of 4,600 Federal jobs and thousands of new contractor jobs at Redstone Arsenal, plus the news that Huntsville was a great place in which to ride out the recession, created an expansion of jobs that exceeded those jobs lost due to the recession and the winding down of some NASA and Army programs.
Thanks in large part to the BRAC announcement in 2005, Huntsville led the state in both jobs announcements and announcements of new and expanding firms in 2010, according to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce's 2011 Economic Growth Report.
New office space needed for the Army Commands that were relocated to Huntsville has been built inside Redstone Arsenal. The contractor support jobs associated with the BRAC move created demand for office space, primarily in or around the Cummings Research Park area.
The lack of construction lending for speculative office development during this period resulted in very little new construction. Therefore demand for office space worked to reduce the inventory of sublease space and office building vacancy.
In contrast to the rest of the market, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) started their first of three Class A office buildings at its Redstone Gateway development at Gate 9 into Redstone Arsenal. This new development is intended to accommodate the long term growth of office demand in the Cummings Research Park area.
ADECA loan to cut energy costs, create jobs at Roanoke plant
MONTGOMERY-The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs announced that a Randolph County manufacturer is the first business approved to participate in AlabamaSAVES, the department's new and innovative program to save energy and boost employment.
ADECA is providing a $2.3 million loan to enable The Dixie Group to install upgrades that will save energy and create up to 20 new jobs at its Roanoke carpet yarn plant.
"AlabamaSAVES is a revolving loan fund established by ADECA to help Alabama businesses finance energy-saving improvements, reduce operating expenses and create work for Alabamians," ADECA director Jim Byard Jr. said. "When a business becomes more efficient, it is better able to grow and create new jobs; that benefits our entire state, especially residents who urgently need employment."
The Dixie Group will use the loan to install high-efficiency equipment in its Roanoke yarn plant, which makes carpets and rugs for residential and commercial consumers. The new equipment, used to heat and set yarn into the carpets and rugs, is expected to increase the plant's production capability while cutting utility costs by 15 percent.
"This new equipment, along with other related investments, will drive the creation of 20 additional jobs in the Roanoke facility," said Jon Faulkner, chief financial officer of The Dixie Group. "AlabamaSAVES' low interest rate and streamlined loan-approval process made it possible to pursue this important energy upgrade at this time."
Teledyne, Aerojet finalize strategic alliance to produce rocket engines in Huntsville
Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 9:38 AM Updated: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 10:16 AM
By Budd McLaughlin, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
PARIS, France -- Teledyne Brown Engineering has finalized its strategic alliance agreement with Aerojet to produce rocket engines, Teledyne Brown President Rex Geveden announced.
The agreement, which was signed prior to the opening of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, France, establishes a formal plan for Teledyne Brown and Aerojet, a GenCorp company, to cooperate in the development and production of propulsion systems for launch and in-space applications.
"This alliance is exciting," Geveden said of the plan that was announced this month. "It is a perfect blend of Teledyne Brown's deep capabilities in space flight systems design and precision manufacturing and Aerojet's exceptional capabilities in propulsion systems development for space and launch systems.
"This offers interesting alternatives for our customers."
Geveden said the Huntsville-Madison County area has also been well-represented at the annual event which draws aerospace businesses and officials from around the world.
Alabama begins to draft long-range tornado recovery plan
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 5:30 AM Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 6:20 AM
By Robin DeMonia -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Gov. Robert Bentley's administration is assembling representatives of state agencies, local governments and private organizations to kick-start Alabama's long-term recovery from a series of devastating tornadoes in April.
The inaugural meeting of the Long-Term Community Recovery Partnership is set for this morning at the state Capitol.
The focus will be on agreeing what should be done to address issues of housing, economic development, natural resources, health and social services, and community planning, according to a letter inviting local officials and others to the meeting.
"Alabama will be rebuilt, and we will be stronger and better," Jim Byard, the director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), wrote. "The effectiveness of long-term recovery is dependent upon the community involvement and consensus."
Bentley last week named ADECA as the lead agency to coordinate the state's long-term efforts to rebound from the storms, which leveled some communities, destroyed infrastructure and killed 241 people across Alabama.
ADECA spokesman Larry Childers said the agency sees its role as working as a partner in an effort led by local governments and officials.
"The first goal is to get people together to begin reaching consensus on ... what we need to do," Childers said. "It is really the first step."
Yasamie August, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, said participants will hear from Mike Byrne, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's lead official in Alabama, as well as state coordinating officer Jeff Byard, who works at the Alabama EMA and is the ADECA director's brother.
In addition to introducing some of the key players in the recovery, ADECA hopes the gathering ultimately will lead to public-private partnerships and a way to develop long-term planning recommendations for the governor.
Dynetics to build propulson test facility in Mississippi at former TVA reactor site
Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2011, 1:30 PM
By Jerry Felts, 42 online editor The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Dynetics, Tishomingo County, Mississippi, and Tishomingo's Tri-State Commerce Park have joined together to establish a multipurpose test facility that will offer affordable propulsion testing services to customers for thrusters and engines of various sizes.
The test facility, located in Iuka, Mississippi, at the former Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant site, will be used for propulsion testing of small- to medium-class thrusters, rocket engines and stages using various fuel types.
According to a Dynetics news release, it is one of only a few commercial hydrazine test facilities in the United States.
"This is an ideal location for this facility and it supports our test schedule needs," Barry King, director of Space Test and Operations for Dynetics, said in a news release. "Buildings and infrastructure are already in place, and by creating our own test capability, we are able to offer a more affordable and efficient option for testing."
King said Dynetics officials have laid out options for a long-term plan for the site, which is divided into three phases: Phases I and II will involve upgrades and modifications to existing infrastructure, and Phase III plans may include leasing an additional building to conduct launch vehicle and/or payload separation and drop tests.
Iuka is located just 31 miles from the Shoals area and 14.3 miles from Cherokee, Alabama.
2011 Legislative Review: Lunch with the Leadership and How Ethics Reform Affects Your Organization
Rosewood Hall at Soho Square
2850 19th Street South
Homewood, AL 35209
David Stewart, partner in the Birmingham office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, will be a speaker at the 2011 Legislative Review. Other speakers include Representative Mike Hubbard, Speaker of the House and Senator Del Marsh, President Pro Tempore.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org by July 6th including your name, company name, job title and email address. Due to limited seating, registrations will be collected on a first come, first serve basis. If registrations exceed capacity a waiting list will be created.
If you have any questions, please contact Sarah Heaton at email@example.com.
further information at: www.babc.com
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Wendy Wallace Johnson