Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
New ACCS Director of Workforce Development Named
MONTGOMERY - Dr. Freida Hill, chancellor of the Alabama Community College System, has appointed Dr. Amy Brabham as director of Workforce Development.
Hill announced the appointment Monday at a State Board of Education work session. Brabham replaces Dr. Matthew Hughes who had served in that position since July 2007. Hughes resigned last month to accept a position at Enterprise State Community College as dean of instruction.
Hill said Brabham's appointment was the logical one for the system. "Dr. Brabham has done an outstanding job in her previous position, and she already knows our colleges and the state's workforce development needs. I am very pleased to make this announcement."
Previously Brabham served as the associate director for Business and Education Services in the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, and was responsible for statewide functions for the Training for Existing Business and Industry (TEBI) program, Ready to Work, Regional Councils, Industry Partnerships and evaluation/planning.
"I am excited to have this opportunity to continue moving our state's workforce initiatives forward," said Dr. Brabham, "and I want to thank Dr. Hill for her confidence and support. I look forward to working closely with the business community as we continue to build a comprehensive workforce development system that is business-driven and customer-oriented. Our regional approach to workforce development has opened the doors to a better understanding of a business's training needs."
Prior to her move to the Governor's Office of Workforce Development, Amy was director of the Alabama Technology Network Eufaula Center where she was responsible for daily operations, marketing, sales, and southeast regional training efforts for ATN.
Brabham began her workforce development career at Wallace Community College in Dothan where she was the director of workforce development for 12 years, with offices in Eufaula and Dothan.
Brabham holds a doctorate in education from the University of Alabama, a master's degree from Troy University and a bachelor's degree in education from Auburn University.
FEMA looking for appeals from tornado victims
Published: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 11:49 AM Updated: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 12:03 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- If you've applied for disaster assistance from the April 27 tornadoes and have dropped out of the process, the Federal Emergency Management Agency wants to hear from you.
"Right now, we are particularly concerned about the number of tornado survivors who applied for federal disaster assistance through FEMA and who appear to have abandoned the process," said Mary Margaret Walker, a FEMA public information officer. "That is why we are urging people who have dropped out of the disaster recovery process not to give up and lose out on financial assistance that could help them, their families and their communities recover from the recent tornadoes."
Walker said people who have been rejected by the agency for assistance can appeal the decision - and should.
"FEMA is obligated to and has a statutory mission to provide assistance when people are eligible for it," she said. "This is why we are here. This is our mission.
"We're urging people to appeal."
Walker said this has been an unusual process for her, trying to convince people to apply for the assistance. FEMA was expecting more than 100,000 applications but received only 88,000, she said.
Infinity Property & Casualty plans new Birmingham data center
Published: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 10:15 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The unnamed insurance company planning a new data center on Lakeshore Parkway now has a name -- Birmingham's own Infinity Property & Casualty Corp.
The Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority said in May a "major insurance company" wanted to buy 4.65 acres in its Jefferson Metropolitan Park Lakeshore for more than $372,000, or $80,000 per acre. As is usually the case with economic development projects, the company did not want to be revealed at the time.
But county property records reveal Infinity as the purchaser, paying $372,336 for the property.
Infinity's data center will likely be like others already in the JeffMet Lakeshore park -- bringing millions in capital investment and creating a few high-paying jobs.
Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems bought 4½ acres earlier this year and is building a $25 million data center and creating 15 jobs.
Before that, four big-name companies built data centers, investing more than $500 million and creating nearly 200 jobs.
The first project that led to the park being created was the $400 million Wells Fargo & Co. data center, which started as a Wachovia data center in 2006. Two years later, both Southern Co. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama announced plans for data centers in the park, boosting the investment by a total of $77 million.
Retailers preparing for Alabama's sixth annual sales tax holiday
Published: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 8:03 AM Updated: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 8:15 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The first day of Alabama's sales tax holiday has historically been the biggest sales day of the year for the Educational Outfitters store in Madison, and Saturday has been the second busiest day at the school uniform franchise.
"There's something about not paying tax that makes people happy," said John Clark, a Chattanoogan who owns the franchises in Madison, which opened in 2007, and in Chattanooga. "People will wait to take advantage" of the tax savings.
Since this is the sixth year for the Alabama holiday, even more people are familiar with it, said Nancy King Dennis of the Alabama Retail Association. "I think sales will be strong statewide."
A record 272 cities and counties are signed up for the tax-free holiday, with five more localities than last year agreeing to waive their sales taxes for the three days.
In four of the first five years the tax holiday has existed, sales tax collections statewide for the month of August actually increased over the previous year, according to the Alabama Retail Association. "We think (tax collections) will end up showing an increase for the month of August over last year," Dennis said.
Business sections of new Alabama immigration law likely to be unimpeded by court tests, lawyers say
Published: Thursday, August 04, 2011, 8:01 AM
HOMEWOOD, Alabama -- Employers need to have a solid understanding of Alabama's tough new immigration law because lawsuits challenging it aren't likely to strike down the portions that will most directly effect business, a panel of lawyers told concerned business owners and managers Wednesday.
The state's new immigration law, passed by the Legislature last month, has drawn legal challenges and national attention because of provisions that will give police greater authority to investigate immigration status, criminalize knowingly giving an illegal immigrant a ride and require schools to verify that students are in the state legally. Those portions of the law have been challenged in three federal lawsuits and one suit in state court.
But the law also requires employers to verify the legal status of new hires and bars them from "knowingly" employing illegal immigrants. Those portions aren't directly challenged in the suits and are likely to go into force as scheduled beginning next year, said Ted Hosp, an attorney with the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper & Gale.
"Employers should not expect the courts to block the sections most relevant to them," Hosp said.
The stakes are high for employers, because the law is sometimes broadly worded and sets harsh penalties for violations.
Any employer who is found to have knowingly employed an illegal alien on three separate occasions will have all business licenses and permits in the state revoked permanently, barring the company from ever doing business in Alabama.
"It provides very stiff penalties in a very scary enforcement scheme that does not exist in federal law," said Keith Covington, an attorney with Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. "Three strikes and the employer truly is out."
The law also is vague in defining "knowingly," Covington said. Federal regulations define "knowing" to include both "actual" and "constructive" knowledge. So an employer with no direct knowledge of an employee's illegal status could face penalties if it's determined that he should have known, he said.
Hosp, Covington and Balch & Bingham's Wendy Padilla-Madden spoke at a seminar organized by the Alabama chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors and the group Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform.
Before a nearly-packed house in a ballroom at Homewood City Hall, the attorneys outlined the provisions of the new law most important to employers:
Retiring University of Alabama business dean to head Alabama Productivity Center
Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 12:52 PM Updated: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 12:58 PM
J. Barry Mason, the longtime dean of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at The University of Alabama
who is retiring, has been named the interim director of the Alabama Productivity Center
Mason is stepping down as dean on Aug. 16, succeeded by J. Michael Hardin.
The center is a nonprofit organization that works to improve Alabama companies' quality, productivity and competitiveness through the use of the university's research and resources.
"Dean Mason is exceptionally well-fitted for this assignment," Hardin said in a statement.
David Miller, the center's outgoing director, will return to teaching in the department of information systems, statistics and management science.
HudsonAlpha BioTrain internship program popular
Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 8:54 AM Updated: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 11:14 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Dr. Adam Hott beams like a proud father as he talks about the BioTrain internship program at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
"I'm so proud of where this program is and where it's headed," he said Friday on "Poster Day," the last day of this summer's program. The students create "posters" featuring their work. "It brings out the educator in me."
Hott is the coordinator of educational outreach at HudsonAlpha and this is the third year for the program. There were about 320 applicants for 29 intern positions.
"One-third are high school students and two are master's students," he said. "Two are rising high school juniors. We have a great diversity here."
He said 20 of the 29 positions are paid; half are with the research area and half are with the companies in the institute.
"This is the best way I spent my summer," said Steven Walker, a junior majoring in microbiology at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham.
Walker graduated from Sparkman High School and visited HudsonAlpha as a sophomore there and the spark was ignited.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson