Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Mercedes-Benz's Vance plant starts production of new M-Class
Mercedes-Benz and its Alabama automaking operations will mark another milestone today as they formally kick off production of the redesigned 2012 M-Class sport utility vehicle, the linchpin of the 3,000-worker state factory.
It's the third generation of the SUV that first rolled off the German automaker's assembly lines in Vance in 1997, an event that launched Alabama's auto industry.
The vehicle's debut also made waves in the global auto industry, representing a shift toward luxury car-like sport utilities. The original M-Class was one of the first to be designed from the ground up, rather than based on an existing truck platform.
These days, that market is more crowded, but there's still room for growth, said Jessica Caldwell, senior industry analyst for Edmunds.com.
Luxury SUVs make up about 4 percent of the U.S. auto market, a niche that isn't huge but is profitable
Polyplex Corporation to Open Plant in Decatur
DECATUR - Governor Robert Bentley today joined Polyplex Corporation Ltd. Chairman Sanjiv Saraf to announce their plans to invest $185 million and open a new manufacturing plant that will create 150 new jobs.
With facilities already in operation in India, Thailand, and Turkey, Polyplex will build its first North American manufacturing plant in Decatur. The company is a global leader in high performance plastic films (polyester and polypropylene) that are used for flexible packaging and industrial applications.
With a $110 million investment, Phase I of the facility will create 100 jobs. Polyplex has plans to expand the polyester film line facility in Phase II, an investment of $75 million, which would create an additional 50 jobs.
"I am pleased that Polyplex Corporation decided to select Alabama for their first facility in North America and I welcome the company to Decatur," said Governor Robert Bentley. "Polyplex's decision to invest in Alabama is further confirmation that Alabama is open for business. This is an exciting day for our state for the people of Alabama to have the opportunity to work for such an esteemed company."
Phase I of the facility is expected to open Fall 2012.
Office of the Governor
New aerospace company AeroStar opens at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex
AeroStar Inc. hopes to add another piece to southwest Alabama's aerospace industry.
The startup, located at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex, plans to repair and overhaul hydraulic and pneumatic airplane components.
Those include valves and pumps that move and control many parts on airplanes.
The company is led by Greg Guzman, a former sales executive for Fokker Airinc, a components repair firm in Fairhope. AeroStar has just gotten Federal Aviation Administration clearance to start repairing parts.
The firm aims to employ 10 people by the end of the year. The 8,000 square-foot building that AeroStar renovated on the south end of Michigan Avenue could hold up to 25 employees, Guzman said.
Dutch-based Fokker provides many of the same services that AeroStar plans.
"When I talked to some of my customers over there and told them what I was doing, they said they would come with me," Guzman said.
Tuscaloosa County approves Mercedes incentives
The Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority on Thursday approved tax abatements that are a part of the $100 million total incentive package that is bringing production of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class to Alabama.
The German automaker is spending $290 million to outfit its Tuscaloosa County factory to build the sedan, which will be launched in 2014. Work started on July 1, and the project is expected to create 1,000 jobs.
That investment is part of an overall investment of about $2 billion that Mercedes is currently spending to upgrade and expand the facility, including the C-Class work and other projects.
By 2014, the company's stake in Alabama will be worth more than $4 billion.
Mercedes' decision to bring North American production of the C-Class to Tuscaloosa County was announced in late 2009, along with the incentives.
The total package includes $10 million in cash incentives from the state, another $10 million cash incentives from local governments, $15 million in tax abatements and $65 million for job training, according to Linda Swann, assistant director of the Alabama Development Office.
Dara Longgrear, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, said the C-Class move also opens up new opportunities for supplier business, which recruiters are pursuing.
Alabama Economic Development Alliance approves more local directors
Organizers of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance have agreed with demands made by the local economic development communities in the state to give them three seats on the Alliance's board of directors.
Members of the Economic Development Association of Alabama were notified of the change in a letter from Tate Godfrey, president of EDAA.
Economic developers from Alabama's communities expressed concern that the new alliance was being created without their input. The Alabama Development Office and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama have spearheaded the formation of the alliance. The board of directors for the Alliance only had one seat being filled by a local economic development professional -- a seat appointed by the EDAA.
Birmingham Lands BASS Corporate Headquarters
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA -- Birmingham has caught BASS.
BASS LLC will move its corporate headquarters from Orlando to Birmingham, bringing with it around 50 employees with plans to add more.
"We decided that Birmingham is the best location for the business," Logan said in an interview Thursday. "There are people there with a media background and a sales background, so that would give us good access to a talent pool."
Co-owner Don Logan said other factors for the move include access to the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, the central location to the Southeast's fishing lakes and the number of fisherman in the BASS Elite series.
Hotlzclaw concerened about dollars flowing out of state to tune of $44 million in past six months
MADISON, Alabama - State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw told local business leaders Thursday that the state needs to spend more money with Alabama businesses.
As chair of the Legislative Oversight committee, Holtzclaw, R-Madison, said he discovered that half of the $88.4 million the state spent on personal service contracts - architects, legal services, consulting and the like - was paid to out-of-state companies.
"I am concerned about the number of dollars not being kept in the state," Holtzclaw told the monthly gathering of the Madison Chamber of Commerce Thursday at the Holiday Inn West.
Though only 59 of 332 personal service contracts went to out of state companies, the cash value of the out-of-state contracts was $44 million.
"Half is flowing out of the state," he said. "We can do the work (in Alabama). We've just got to figure out how to connect you (local business owners) with the state.
"We have got to fix that," said Holtzclaw, who said he plans to work on the issue at the Aug. 4 Legislative Oversight Committee meeting in Montgomery. "I know we have the capability of doing the work."
Reeling in the jobs: Pressure's on state's new alliance
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board Anniston Star
Jul 21, 2011 |
For a state like Alabama, job creation doesn't equate to fishing. It's not as simple as baiting a hook, casting into a good spot and reeling in your catch.
It's a multi-layered duty that requires smarts and good fortune to master. Let's trust that the state's new Economic Development Alliance understands that.
Gov. Robert Bentley has assigned this new alliance, whose roster was announced earlier this week, several tasks. One of them should be quite intriguing: The creation of a state economic master plan, which officials say will be the first of its kind in Alabama history.
However, it's clear that the alliance's sole focus is on job creation, a need that affects virtually all of the state's 67 counties. That's certainly the case for Calhoun County - which had a 9.6 jobless rate in May - and its northeast Alabama neighbors.
Bentley has stocked his new economic alliance with a few heavy-hitters, among them Greg Canfield, the new director of the Alabama Development Office, and Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Smartly, he also has included Freida Hill, chancellor of the state's two-year college system, and Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama System. This part can't be stressed strong enough: Without education at the table, any discussion about creating new jobs and retaining current ones is a wasted exercise.
BAE Systems bringing shipbuilding back to former ADDSCO yard
MOBILE, Ala. -- New ship construction will be returning to the site of Alabama's most famous shipyard, officials with BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards announced Friday.
The company said that it will partner with Netherlands-based IHC Merwede to build offshore oil vessels at BAE's yards in Jacksonville and Mobile.
Vic Rhoades, the general manager of BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards Alabama, said the agreement gives IHC an opportunity to build oil supply ships for the U.S. market, while giving BAE access to the Dutch company's technology and engineering expertise.
Rhoades said the partnership is in the final stages of negotiations with a few potential customers.
BAE has about 800 workers at its Mobile yard now. Rhoades said he expects that to grow by about 400 more in the coming years because of this agreement. His long term goals are even grander.
"We're here to grow the business," he said. "Our focus is primarily commercial, and our vision is to someday be at 3,000 to 4,000 workers."
Vance facility retooled for new SUV, C-Class vehicles
VANCE | More than a thousand production workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant took their summer vacations when the plant started its regular two-week maintenance shutdown on the Independence Day weekend.
But the sprawling automotive assembly plant hardly resembled an industrial ghost town. During the shutdown, hundreds of maintenance workers, engineers and contractors were on site, weekdays, weekends and almost around the clock.
Crews were scheduled so that when one finished working in an area, another would come in behind it and start working, said Phil Onstott, Mercedes' manager of facilities engineering.
Large manufacturers, like Mercedes, regularly schedule plant maintenance shutdowns to allow crews to do major work on equipment and machinery. Mercedes usually schedules two maintenance shutdowns every year - in the summer and one during the year-end holiday season.
Business Leaders: Trade agreements would boost Huntsville's economy
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama would boost economic growth and job creation in Huntsville, the head of the business association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies said.
However, the continuing negotiations in Washington on the nation's debt and deficit may not leave any time this summer for Congress to finalize the deals backed by most lawmakers, signed during the George W. Bush administration and billed by the White House as job creators.
John Engler, president of Business Roundtable, called on Congress and the White House to enact pending trade agreements with the three countries, calling the agreements a necessary step toward expanding job-creating exports. Business Roundtable is an association of CEOs of leading U.S. companies with nearly $6 trillion in annual revenue and more than 13 million employees.
Huntsville losing economic development chief Joe Vallely to UAH
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Joe Vallely, the City of Huntsville's economic development director since 1998, is leaving to take a job with the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Vallely announced that he will resign from the city effective Monday to become UAH's vice president for corporate relations. In that role, he will oversee the university's corporate fundraising efforts and encourage local firms to hire UAH graduates.
He is scheduled to start his new job Aug. 8.
Vallely, 54, was the city's lead negotiator on numerous economic development projects, including Bridge Street Town Centre and the $1 billion Redstone Gateway office park taking shape off Interstate 565.
His responsibilities also included cultivating new employment sectors such as green technology, and seeking state funding for city road needs.
"We've got some big shoes to fill," Mayor Tommy Battle said Tuesday. "Joe was multi-faceted and wore many hats in the administration.
BBVA Compass CEO talks job creation, finance reform
Manolo Sanchez, BBVA Compass president and CEO and BBVA country manager, talked job creation, technology and financial reform today at Rotary Club of Birmingham's meeting atThe Harbert Center .
Sanchez said the financial institution's job creation in Birmingham has remained strong despite challenges in the banking industry.
He said the bank's Birmingham staff has grown by 11 percent in the last three years from approximately 2,700 employees to about 3,065.
"We are continuing to create jobs in Birmingham," he said. "We've attracted a lot of talent in this community."
Sanchez said the bank is focusing on improving its technology and is currently writing code for its new technology platform that will give the bank real-time processing capabilities.
"We don't have the state-of-the-art technology quite yet," he said. "We've been somewhat behind the ball compared to what's currently out there."
Birmingham Business Journal
Kiwi plant among record number of Auburn patents
By Kristen Letsinger | Opelika-Auburn News
Published: July 20, 2011
While Auburn University may be best known for its football program, the school has plenty of off-field accomplishments of which to be proud. And among those is the work of its researchers.
Evidencing that work, the university has announced that it earned 25 U.S. patents in 2010, more than any previous year.
Dr. Billy Dozier, an AU horticulture professor, received two of the patents for his kiwi plants: AU Fitzgerald and AU Arthur.
The plants are named for Gracie Fitzgerald, who in 1975 bought some kiwi plants from a grocery store, Dozier explained. Fitzgerald removed the seeds from the plants and planted them in her yard.
The resulting vine produced approximately 4,000 kiwis a year, Dozier said.
In 1990, Dozier signed an agreement with Fitzgerald to work out a patent for the plants, which are unique because of their low chilling-time requirement.
Opelika Auburn News
Economic Development Association of Alabama Summer Conference
The EDAA Summer Conference is less than three weeks away! If you haven't already done so, please register for the conference online at www.edaa.org .
The EDAA Staff and Conference Committee have planned an exciting and informative conference for you. Please be sure to review the agenda online.
I would like to make an appeal to you to make lodging accommodations at the conference facility, The Perdido Beach Resort. Filling our block of rooms at the hotel is very important. EDAA pays for unfilled rooms, which can affect its budget.
As this is our Association's first year "back at the beach" since the oil spill, the Committee has planned a fitting dinner event on Monday night. We will be outdoors to enjoy the beauty of Alabama's Gulf Coast. While we will have cooling mechanisms in place, plan to dress comfortably. Hawaiian shirt, flip flops, etc., are encouraged so that you can enjoy the evening and the reggae music.
On behalf of the EDAA Staff and Conference Committee, thanks for your participation.
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