Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Hydropower generators eye dams on Tombigbee and Alabama rivers
Published: Monday, July 11, 2011, 11:25 AM Updated: Monday, July 11, 2011, 2:03 PM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register Press-Register
CLAIBORNE, Ala. - Far back in the woods on the Alabama River stands an impressive lock and dam complex that isn't doing much these days.
Built in the late 1960s to help barges ascend the river, the lock opens and closes only a few times a week, typically to allow recreational boaters to pass, say U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials. Commercial barge traffic is largely dormant.
But Hydro Green Energy LLC hopes to bring a new purpose to the Claiborne Lock and Dam, which straddles the river on the Monroe-Clarke county line. The Chicago firm has a proposal before federal officials that would harness the roar of falling water to generate as many as 18 megawatts of electricity, enough to power thousands of homes.
"Our real business model is to take existing infrastructure and make better use of it," said Mark Stover, vice president of corporate affairs for Hydro Green.
Report: Audi plans U.S. car manufacturing plant
Published: Monday, July 11, 2011, 11:46 AM Updated: Monday, July 11, 2011, 12:01 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- Audi AG has committed to building a car manufacturing plant in the U.S. in the next three years, according to a report from Automotive News.
The line is owned by Volkswagen Group, which recently opened a $1 billion plant near Chattanooga to build Passat's. The Chattanooga Times Free Press noted this morning that there is enough land at the industrial park where the VW plant is located to duplicate it.
The South has become America's fastest growing region for automobile manufacturing since Mercedez-Benz announced in 1993 that it would open a plant near Tuscaloosa.
In 2009, Chinese company HK Motors chose a 3,000-acre site in north Baldwin County for a proposed $4.36 billion green energy automobile manufacturing plant that would employ 4,000 workers.
Alabama hiring instructors for film/television production classes
Published: Monday, July 11, 2011, 9:31 AM Updated: Monday, July 11, 2011, 9:42 AM
By Stan Diel -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
AIDT, Alabama's work force training agency, is looking for part-time instructors to teach classes in film and television production.
Classes in the Entertainment Media Production and Crew Training program will be held nights and weekends in Birmingham and Mongtomery. Instructors will earn $25 to $35 an hour, and are needed to teach classes in set construction, lighting, and film and television production.
Minimum qualifications include a high school diploma or GED and either two years additional college training in the area of specialization or three years experience in the field. Prior production experience is preferred, as is teaching experience.
The deadline for applications is 1 p.m., Aug. 5.
Resumes can be emailed as pdfs to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to AIDT, ATTN: EMPACT Program, One Technology Ct., Montgomery, AL 36116.
Missile Defense Agency Small Business Programs Conference in Huntsville July 20-21
Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 1:27 PM
By Kenneth Kesner, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The Missile Defense Agency is a big organization with an even bigger mission - defending the homeland, our forward-deployed troops and allies against ballistic missile attacks. But big MDA depends on the power inherent in small business to accomplish its goals, said Lee Rosenberg, director of the Office of Small Business Programs, in the agency's offices on Redstone Arsenal.
Owners and managers will soon have another opportunity to learn about what the agency is planning and it's needs and opportunities. Late registration is still open for the annual Missile Defense Agency Small Business Programs Conference, presented by the National Defense Industrial Association July 20-21 at the Embassy Suites hotel and the Von Braun Center.
There will be many opportunities for networking as companies learn about what's going on at MDA, and "they have an opportunity to hear from the senior leadership in the agency about how important small businesses are," Rosenberg said.
Reporter's notebook: Landscape of timberland ownership is changing
Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 11:00 AM
By Russell Hubbard -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Alabama was part of a big timberland deal late last week, a $75 million transaction that transferred about 50,000 acres, both here and in Georgia.
Texas-based Forestar Group was the seller and Seattle's Plum Creek Timber Co. was the buyer. Plum Creek, an old-line timber and wood products company, already owned about 100,000 acres in the state.
It wasn't a huge deal by timber country standards, but has come at an interesting time for Alabama's timberland economy. Wood and paper products manufacturing are massive engines for the state, employing about 20,000 workers. Forest products are the state's largest manufacturing industry, with annual output of $15.4 billion of goods at last count, according to the Alabama Forestry Commission.
That's big business, but an Auburn University professor said companies such as Plum Creek are a fading breed. The company owns land all over the nation, using a lot of it to grow trees, which it turns into lumber and other goods.
BP: Gulf economy has recovered, so claims payments should shrink
Published: Friday, July 08, 2011, 7:04 PM Updated: Saturday, July 09, 2011, 1:33 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- BP PLC asked the Gulf Coast Claims Facility in a letter published today to reduce damage payments because the tourist economy has recovered and Gulf of Mexico fisheries are back to normal.
The letter drew criticism from local officials and business owners, who said that while the economy has indeed improved, there is still too much uncertainty for the British oil giant to claim that the spill poses no future risk for coastal communities.
National claims czar Ken Feinberg said that he would take BP's letter under advisement. He said he welcomed feedback on his operation from any interested party.
Feinberg took over control of the claims process from BP last year, along with access to a $20 billion account from which to make damage payouts.
He has since distributed checks totaling more than $4.6 billion. Feinberg, a Washington D.C.-based lawyer, ran a similar victims' fund following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
BP's letter marks the second time that the company has suggested that Feinberg is being too generous in claims payments.
OUR VIEW: New Alabama Development Office Director Greg Canfield has a tough task creating jobs and growing tax revenue
Published: Sunday, July 10, 2011, 5:45 AM
By Birmingham News editorial board The Birmingham News
Call the appointment of state Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, to the director's job at the Alabama Development Office a little bit of poetic justice.
Or maybe it's more like no good deed goes unpunished.
Canfield, remember, sponsored the much-needed "rolling reserve" budget bill, now law, that changed the way the Legislature writes the education budget. Instead of relying on revenue predictions that often are wrong, lawmakers starting next year will use the previous 15 years of tax collections to set a growth cap for the budget for K-12 schools, colleges and universities.
And now, it is Canfield's job as the state's lead economic developer to bring new jobs, and the tax revenue they create, to Alabama. In other words, fill those tax coffers, Mr. Canfield, so state budgets will grow.
Canfield, elected to the Legislature in 2006, may seem an odd choice for the job. He served two terms on the Vestavia Hills City Council. Canfield also was on the board of the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce for six years and its president in 1997. He serves as a member of the governmental affairs committee for the Birmingham Business Alliance and is chairman of the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. But Canfield lacks experience working in the economic development community.
Gov. Robert Bentley said he is counting on Canfield's personal skills to make him an effective director. "Recruiting industry is still a people business," Bentley said. "If you cannot relate to people on a personal level, then you can't be a good economic recruiter."
Alabama AFL-CIO president to retire
By Dana Beyerle
Times Montgomery Bureau
Published: Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
MONTGOMERY - Dinner conversations around the Burkhalter family table in Childersburg have to be interesting.
D. Stewart Burkhalter Jr., president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, is as staunchly union as anyone can be. One of his sons-in-law is in human resources management in Texas.
"We'd argue and then play golf the next day," Burkhalter said.
For many, Burkhalter has been the face of Alabama labor, in the Legislature and out at union locals. But the labor picture has faded in the 57 years Burkhalter has been in a union, ever since he walked a picket line in the 11th grade with his dad.
Douglas Stewart "Buck" Burkhalter Sr. was a railroad man who owned a union barbershop in Childersburg.
"I was raised in a union family," he said.
His dad cut hair for the bigwigs at a newsprint mill and told them about his son. With college not in his future, Burkhalter hired on after graduation in 1954. He joined the paper workers' local and in 1970 was elected local president. In 1985, he was elected as the AFL-CIO's state secretary-treasurer. Ten years later, he was elected president.
Just a few weeks shy of 75, Burkhalter is retiring and won't run for re-election at the October labor convention.
TVA Study Shows Huntsville Site is Ready for Data Center
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A site located in Huntsville, Alabama, has favorable attributes to attract a data center project according to a recent economic development study sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Designation of the Huntsville Site, which is located on Beadle Lane SW in the Jetplex Industrial Park, is a result of a project conducted by TVA and Chicago-based Deloitte Consulting. Criteria for selecting the sites include accessibility, strong telecommunications infrastructure, and the availability of reliable electric power.
"This ready-for-development primary designation gives our community a competitive edge when the next data center project is looking for an optimal site," said Brooks Kracke, Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority's director of the Jetplex Industrial Park. "We appreciate TVA for providing this opportunity to participate in this valuable data center site identification program and are also very proud of our community team's diligent efforts to demonstrate this site is prepared for a potential future company. This type of industry is an ideal match for the Huntsville/Madison County area."
More than 50 sites across the TVA service area were recently assessed for their capacity to accommodate data centers-specially designed facilities that house computer systems and components for Internet search engine companies, financial transaction processors, and other high-tech industries. To date, 18 sites have been named as ready for development and TVA anticipates others will be evaluated as development-ready in the future.
"TVA's economic development role is to help communities be prepared and promote their strengths to recruit data centers and other companies to our region," said John Bradley, senior vice president of TVA Economic Development. "The data center industry is growing rapidly and typically represents large investments in communities and provides good-paying job opportunities."
"Huntsville is a clean community with outstanding attributes that any company can enjoy," said Bill Pippin, President and CEO of Huntsville Utilities. "We are excited that we meet the site requirements for a Data Center and we can provide reliable power and communications to fulfill their needs. We would be honored to have this industry in Huntsville."
TVA is partnering with local power companies like Huntsville Utilities and regional, state and community economic development leaders to aggressively market these sites as part of its regional economic development target industry recruitment.
The Jetplex Industrial Park www.hsvairport.com and the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce supplied the information needed to bring the site to this level of preparation.
For a map of sites and additional information about TVA's "Data Center-Wired for Success" program, visit TVAed.com/datacenters. Specific details about the Huntsville site are located at TVAsites.com
EDPA Developments Blog July 11, 2011
Angela Wier, EDPA
Necessity has been called the mother of invention. And there is no doubt that the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010 created an important and immediate need to address the economic health of southwest Alabama and create a plan for long-term sustainability. But how do you assist a distressed area during already tough economic times? Leverage.
A few weeks ago, the University of South Alabama hosted a kick-off meeting for a work process funded by a grant awarded to EDPA from the Economic Development Administration. With federal and matching funds, more than $1 million will be invested in the development of a plan for an eight-county area. That's leverage.
The kickoff meeting was a glimpse of progress in motion. In attendance were economic developers, regional planners, business leaders, local and state government leaders, shoulder to shoulder with university experts from across the state...all united to determine how to best serve these diverse economic areas, interlinked not only with each other, but with the state as a whole.
Even in this first meeting, conversations were fruitful and new relationships were forged. It will be exciting to watch the work program move forward - we hope to find in it a process that can be replicated throughout the state.
This project will culminate in April 2012 with the delivery of an implementation plan to the EDA and Governor Bentley. I invite you to follow our journey. For more information, please visit http://www.edpa.org/about/grant.asp, and check often for updates.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson