Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Huntsville unveils master plan for 9,323 acres of newly annexed Limestone County farmland
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- When Volkswagen considered building its first U.S. automotive plant on Huntsville's western fringe in 2008, city officials didn't have a blueprint for developing the surrounding areas.
If the same rural site ends up in the running for a rumored Audi factory, Mayor Tommy Battle will be able to trot out a detailed master plan that shows where new roads, schools, parks, neighborhoods and businesses might be built nearby.
On Tuesday, The Times' editorial board got a sneak preview of the plan for 9,323 acres of Limestone County farmland annexed by the city since mid-2008.
Updated: Austal not moving LCS, JHSV production to the Philippines
MOBILE, Ala. -- Austal Ltd.'s search for a new commercial shipyard apparently led to speculation last week that the company might be moving production of its vessels for the U.S. Navy out of Mobile.
The company denied those reports Tuesday, affirming that it will build littoral combat ships and joint high-speed vessels at its Mobile River shipyard.
"Austal has no intention whatsoever to build its LCS or JHSV vessels anywhere other than at Austal USA in Mobile," the company said in a statement issued Tuesday.
The Cebu Daily News reported last week that Austal would build U.S. Navy ships at a facility it was developing in the 66,000-person town of Balamban on the island of Cebu. The article quoted a former mayor of Balamban, who said the development would generate 2,000 jobs for the town.
Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, said the Navy is not in the business of buying foreign-built vessels.
Display light company buys 10 acres for expansion in Jetplex Industrial Park
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - A company that makes lighted displays for car dashboards, home appliances and entertainment equipment will expand with an agreement approved today by the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority to buy 10.4 acres in the Jetplex Industrial Park.
Futaba Corporation of America will buy the property for $573,650 to build a second building for its manufacturing operations, Brooks Kracke, director of the industrial park, said after the board meeting.
The company, located at 101 Electronics Boulevard, employs between 50 and 60 people. The expansion could double the number of employees, Kracke said.
Futaba hopes to be operating in the new building within a year.
Futaba makes lighted displays for such things as automobile dashboards, appliances such as microwaves and coffee makers, and entertainment equipment such as televisions and stereos.
Survey finds south Baldwin County workers in 'short supply'
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- An improved economy means that about 1 south Baldwin employer in 4 is still looking for workers, according to a survey by local chambers of commerce.
In the survey, 26 percent of 130 respondents said they had problems finding suitable workers, Bob Higgins of the Coastal Resiliency Coalition, said. The coalition, along with the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce and South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce, asked local businesses if they were having difficulty finding workers.
"Historically, we've asked the same question in business interviews we did from 2002 up until 2007 and the answer at that time was that 44 percent were having problems filling positions," Higgins said. "So it's not quite as bad as it was when we were at 2 percent unemployment or whatever it was in those days, but still, 26 percent is one in four saying they're having difficulty with it."
Even by July, many companies are still looking for workers for the 2011 tourist season. At Meyer Real Estate, cleaning and quality assurance positions were still vacant, Lolly Holk, director of human resources, said.
Huntsville-based Teledyne Brown Engineering to produce underwater gliders
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A Huntsville high tech firm, known for its aerospace engineering, will be producing underwater craft for the Navy.
Teledyne Brown will produce the Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Glider in the first ocean glider FRP decision ever made in the history of the Navy.
The company will provide a fleet of 150 marine gliders for a total contract value of $53.1 million if all options are exercised.
The gliders are about the size of a torpedo, said Teledyne Brown President Rex Geveden. "The gliders are unpowered. They surface and dive by changing buoyancy."
They are about 6 to 7 feet long and also use their wings and tail-fin steering to move through the water.
Hackleburg awaits word on future of Wrangler plant destroyed by tornado
Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 11:00 AM
By The Associated Press The Associated Press
HACKLEBURG, Alabama - Marion County Commissioner Don Barnwell said rumors about the future of a Wrangler distribution plant that was wiped out by the tornado that hit Hackleburg have everyone "scared to death."
"It seems like every day there is a new rumor popping up," said Barnwell, who lives in Hackleburg and represents the town and surrounding area.
The distribution center was destroyed by a tornado on April 27, as were most businesses in Hackleburg. Authorities said 13 people were inside the plant when the powerful tornado hit. One person was killed.
Rumors about the jeans distribution center gained momentum earlier this week when VF Corp., the parent company of Wrangler, postponed an announcement on the future of the plant.
Honda factories follow Lincoln plant's lead to get greener
Published: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 8:05 AM Updated: Thursday, July 14, 2011, 4:53 PM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Honda announced today that it has achieved one of the most important targets in the company's long-standing green factory initiative in North America: zero-waste-to-landfill.
Ten of Honda's 14 manufacturing plants in North America are now operating while sending zero waste to local landfills, while the remaining four plants are functioning with "virtually zero" waste to landfill, the company said.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, the automaker's plant in Lincoln, was Honda's first to meet the target, accomplishing that goal at the outset of production in 2001. That set the trend within the company.
Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, in Greensburg, Ind., also started production as a zero-waste-to-landfill plant in 2008.
Waste sent to landfills has been steadily reduced at Honda auto plants throughout North America -- from 62.8 pounds of industrial waste to landfills for every automobile produced in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2001, to an estimated 1.8 pounds per automobile in the current fiscal year 2012.
Can America's 'best hometown' survive?
July 12, 2011|By Phil Gast, CNN
In a small town that has lost almost everything, there is no shortage of questions.
First came the spiritual and philosophical questions -- the ones residents of this community of nearly 1,500 faced immediately after the 210 mph winds of a massive April tornado nearly wiped them off the map.
Was it God's wrath or natural tragedy? As residents rounded up and burned or shipped the debris that was once their town, they mourned their 18 neighbors who died, and weighed how to feel about their fate.
About 150 people left town. Those who remained held tightly to each other. And now, more than two months later, they await answers to another set of questions: practical, bricks-and-mortar decisions that will shape the town's future and affect their daily lives.
Hackleburg's two schools are gone. So is its only grocery store. Its only pharmacy. Only doctor's office. And major employer.
Will Wrangler -- the "Mercedes Benz" of Hackleburg -- rebuild its giant distribution center?
Will the Piggly Wiggly -- "the Pig," as most folks call it -- come back?
What will happen if they don't?
Once named the best hometown in America, Hackleburg now is littered with building foundations; about 500 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Its real foundation, however, is its people. Despite these trying times, residents insist, "We'll be back."
"Small-town people are resilient," said Dr. Keith Morrow, the town doctor.
You can see the signs: Morrow is hanging on, treating patients in a converted tractor-trailer. The pharmacy will rebuild. A local church is changing its name to embrace everyone in the community. And, on May 27, exactly one month after the EF-5 tornado, the townspeople came together on the high school football field to celebrate the graduation of 48 students.
Alabama rebuilds with manufacturing, foreign investment (video)
Bloomberg via YouTube
Baldwin EMC Site receives AdvantageSite designation
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., July 14 - Baldwin EMC Site in Bay Minette has received an Alabama
The AdvantageSite program requires that community economic development organizations provide
documentation specific to a proposed industrial site, including a set of standard data related to ownership/
control, environmental and geotechnical conditions, and infrastructure status. Sites must also meet size,
zoning and accessibility requirements.
"In an effort to help bring jobs and recruit industry to Baldwin County and our region, we knew it was
important to have our property attain the AdvantageSite designation," said Bucky Jakins, CEO of Baldwin
Electric Membership Corporation.
The 56-acre site is located on Highway 59 North in Bay Minette.
"The City of Bay Minette has formed a dynamic alliance with the designation of the Baldwin EMC
site, Baldwin County's first AdvantageSite", said Bay Minette Mayor Jamie Tillery. "This designation
emphasizes the opportunities we have for positive change through partnerships with industry. We are
optimistic that industry locating on this site will allow us to together create a strong network that will build a
prosperous future for manufacturing and our workforce."
"The Advantage Site designation not only shows that we are serious about attracting new industry to our
area, but also is a reflection of the harmonious efforts of the city leaders in Bay Minette, The Industrial
Development Board, and The Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance," said Craig Helms,
chairman of the Bay Minette Industrial Development Board. "Good things happen when people work
The application process was managed locally by the BCEDA with a team of local entities supporting and/or
participating in the process.
"The designation would not have been possible without the support and help of many allies and partners,"
said Josh Thornton, vice president of BCEDA. " This program is definitely a team effort and brings
everyone in the community together throughout the process. The Baldwin EMC site designation is a great
recruiting asset and we will use this site to bring in new jobs and investment to the north Baldwin area."
"The Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance is proud to have partnered with the Alabama
AdvantageSite committee in working to obtain designation for the Baldwin EMC Site," said BCEDA
Chairman Stan Szapiel. "The availability of a certified shovel ready site in north Baldwin will be a great
recruiting tool for us and we will join Alabama Development Office, The Economic Development
Partnership of Alabama, The Baldwin County Commission, PowerSouth and the city of Bay Minette in
aggressively marketing the property to high paying corporate clients."
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Wendy Wallace Johnson