Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Alabama Development Office aims for more businesses that germinate at colleges
Published: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 9:22 PM
Greg Canfield can't play favorites.
As the new director of the Alabama Development Office, Canfield is charged with recruiting and expanding industry and creating jobs throughout the state.
That means Canfield has to promote Bug Tussle as much as he promotes Birmingham, his hometown.
"When you look at economic development across the state of Alabama, we're one state but each region has its own unique characteristics," Canfield said in an interview.
Canfield said it is in promoting those characteristics that the Birmingham area starts to emerge.
"When you talk about the greater Birmingham metro area, it has its own unique economy and it's own unique economic development climate," he said. "I think it's important that ADO be sensitive to those differences in regional economies because you have to look at that to understand how to respond when you're putting together a project incentive package and when you're working with a prospect."
As he criss-crosses the state, meeting, greeting and learning about those other regions during his first two months on the job, Canfield said a stop is not necessary here.
"What will help me with Birmingham is I don't have to learn that region," he said. "Birmingham is going to continue to be a region where we will spend some time as we develop the strategy of the new Alabama Economic Development Alliance."
Topre expansion 'red letter day for Cullman,' says economic development chief Peggy Smith
Published: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 2:16 PM Updated: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 3:39 PM
Cullman officials are crowing about a decision by Topre America
to invest $109 million in an expansion at its Cullman plant, a project that will create 250 jobs.
Peggy Smith, executive director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency, said the pricetag makes it the largest single expansion project in Cullman's history. Topre said it is the largest in the Japanese auto supplier's history.
"That is truly remarkable and will have a positive economic effect on our entire community -- a real red letter day for Cullman," Smith said.
Gov. Robert Bentley and Greg Canfield, the new director of the Alabama Development Office, were in Cullman on Friday to announce the expansion.
Topre's Cullman plant produces stamped metal parts that are shipped directly to Nissan, Toyota and Honda auto plants.
A 180,000-square-foot expansion will enlarge Topre's plant to a total of 620,000 square feet. The expansion will house seven stamping machines ranging between 200 and 2,500 tons.
Topre has invested more than $332 million and has 350 employees at the Cullman operation
Pentagon: LCS problems are 'correctable' and 'affordable' within defense budget
Published: Saturday, August 06, 2011, 6:09 AM
The group of lawmakers, led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sent a letter last month to the Department of Defense expressing concern about reports of corrosion on the first LCS built at Austal USA's Mobile shipyard.
Pentagon officials replied with their own letter, which they would not release publicly. But Department of Defense spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin provided the Press-Register with a summary of the letter via email.
"Issues during ship trials are common," the summary said. "All Navy ships experience corrosion, and the Navy has corrosion control plans for all ship classes."
Austal is roughly doubling its Mobile employment to 4,000 workers to fulfill a U.S. Navy contract to build up to 10 littoral combat ships. Lockheed Martin Corp. has contracted to build 10 more of the high-speed vessels.
Austal did not respond to requests for comment on the matter. McCain's office also did not comment on the Pentagon's response.
The LCS program has long been the subject of criticism for racking up excess costs, with much of the faultfinding coming from McCain.
Austal USA says workers reject union representation -- again
Published: Friday, August 05, 2011, 8:30 PM
Austal USA workers have rejected union representation for a third time.
The shipbuilder said that workers voted 613-367 against representation by the Sheet Metal Workers International Association union in an election held Thursday and Friday. Of 1,169 eligible workers, about 90 percent voted, Austal said.
Kim Walker, a lawyer for the union, agreed that workers had rejected representation, although she did not have a vote total.
The union had lost two previous votes at the Mobile River shipbuilder, but each time the National Labor Relations Board had ordered a new election because of unfair labor practices by the American unit of the Australian firm.
"I am proud that our shipyard personnel remained consummate professionals throughout this long, disruptive process," said Austal USA President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Rella.
"A point of pride for this shipyard is that Austal workers from all trades come together to overcome production challenges," Rella said. "Having that flexibility lets Austal build ships efficiently and provide the best value to our Navy customers."
There's hope for entrepreneurs in a tough economy
Published: Sunday, August 07, 2011, 11:40 AM Updated: Sunday, August 07, 2011, 11:53 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Dan Montgomery and Shannon Folgmann launched Strategic Defense Solutions in November 2009, just months after the official end of the recession.
The following July came their first contract, providing support to Northrop Grumman to train and deploy contractors to operate the Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) systems in a combat zone. In the meantime, the firm performed consulting work for income. As other opportunities followed, the company has grown to nearly 30 employees
"We hope to be at 34 (employees) by the end of September," said SDS' CEO Montgomery, a retired brigadier general with 32 years in the Army who retired as Northrop Grumman's corporate lead executive in Huntsville just before starting the business. Folgmann, the company's president, is also the vice president at Accurate Machine & Tool in Madison.
SDS' story illustrates that "you can start a small business - and be successful - in any economy," said Joanne Randolph, the president and CEO of the Women's Business Center of North Alabama.
The economic slump hasn't seemed to slow the entrepreneurial spirit here, she said. The center, which assists both startups and existing firms through one-on-one business coaching, strategic plan development and establishing advisory boards, counseled and trained an all-time high number of clients - 1,825 - in fiscal year 2009.
Ten Questions for BizTech's Gary Tauss on starting a high-tech business in Huntsville
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Gary Tauss loves technology companies. And he loves entrepreneurs.
So that makes him the perfect fit as the CEO and executive director of BizTech, Huntsville's technology business incubator.
In one way or another, Tauss has been involved in starting, funding or managing high-tech companies for more than 30 years. With B.S. and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Illinois, Tauss has been involved with Internet companies since the '70s, working for many years in Boston and Silicon Valley.
Tauss answered our 10 Questions about starting a high-tech business in Huntsville, especially in times of an uncertain economy.
You've been in Huntsville for about a year and a half helping entrepreneurs get high-tech businesses started. What have you found out about our city that makes it a good place to start a high-tech business?
First, we have a highly educated and trained technical work force. Most ideas for start-ups come from technical people who see how the world can change for the better. For our size, no one can match the intellectual horsepower we have in town. We have local universities which also provide ideas and people to the start-up process.
Hard times the 'perfect time' for starting a high-tech business in Huntsville
For starters, they're all successful companies worth studying for quality and innovation.
And they were all launched during a recession.
It goes against natural intuition, doesn't it? Diving headfirst into the marketplace with a new idea or technology during uncertain and sometimes unfunded times feels a little more than risky.
But this is not just a good time, but "the perfect time" to look at starting a company, according to Gary Tauss, the CEO and executive director of BizTech, a technology business incubator in Huntsville.
"A business that gets started now will be maturing in a few years when the economy will probably be better," Tauss explains in our 10 Questions. And he says a person's ability to take a risk at the right time is more important than what the economy is doing.
So, if you've had an idea for a new product or service bouncing around in your head for years, this edition of Business First might be what you need to put down your scheme on paper or a spreadsheet.
Nearly 300 more aerospace jobs threatened in Huntsville
Published: Monday, August 08, 2011, 5:32 AM
By Lee Roop, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Nearly 300 more aerospace jobs are threatened in Huntsville as Marshall Space Flight Center moves to what its director calls "a smaller, leaner center."
Jacobs Technology ESTS group notified 281 workers in writing last week that their jobs could end on or before Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal government's new 2012 fiscal year.
Jacobs has been Marshall's primary support contractor for engineering, science and technical services since 1989.
Jacobs currently employs or supports employment for more than 500 people in Huntsville, counting people working for its subcontractors. That number is down from recent years and reflects about 300 Jacobs team layoffs last year due to the shrinking space program.
The latest notifications were required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, known as WARN. It mandates 60 days notice before layoffs or plant closings so workers can seek other employment or otherwise plan for the future.
|Veteran economic developer tapped to lead TROY's Center for International Business and Economic Development
TROY - Veteran economic developer Wiley Blankenship has been named director of the Center for International Business and Economic Development at Troy University.
Blankenship has been president/CEO of the Coastal Gateway Regional Economic Development Authority since 2005. The Authority is a partnership between Clarke, Choctaw, Conecuh, Escambia and Monroe counties.
"Mr. Blankenship possesses a unique blend of local and international economic development experience that is ideal to fulfill the mission of our center," said Dr. Judson Edwards, Dean of the Sorrell College of Business and the Center's former director.
"Under his leadership, I have no doubt we will expand our educational and technical assistance activities, thus providing a positive impact for many Alabama communities," he said.
Blankenship earned degrees from Auburn University and the University of Georgia's Institute of Organizational Management, and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Prior to his work with the Authority, Blankenship was a service partner with Funding Solutions, an Austin, Texas-based community and economic development firm and consulted with a number of Alabama development organizations.
From 1995 until 2000, he was vice-president of Business Development and Workforce Development for the Decatur-Morgan County (Ala.) Chamber of Commerce.
Since 2001, Blankenship has served as a guest lecturer at Auburn University for the Economic Development Institute, where he taught courses on developing and implementing rural retail development programs and community development programs. He has also served on the board of directors of the Business Council of Alabama, the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council-Region 9 and the Alabama Technology Network.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson