Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
If it wins contract, Lockheed Martin would build new interceptor missile in Courtland
Published: Monday, August 22, 2011, 1:25 PM Updated: Monday, August 22, 2011, 1:45 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- If in a couple of years Lockheed Martin wins the competition to produce an all-new, faster interceptor missile for the Missile Defense Agency, the company will build them in Courtland, officials announced today.
Plans for locating production and about 50 new jobs at the facility in Courtland are part of the bid Lockheed Martin will submit to MDA for the next step in the Standard Missile-3 Block IIB program, said John Holly, vice president of Missile Defense Systems, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, in Huntsville. They've made missiles In Courtland since 1994 and, today, it's where about 50 employees and another 25 government and contract workers build ballistic missiles used as sophisticated targets, such as the LV-2.
"So it has a very rich history in terms of missile system production" and a set of unique manufacturing skills and techniques, Holly said during a briefing. "The focus is exclusively on building large missile systems."
Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon were awarded MDA contracts worth more than $40 million apiece for the concept definition and program planning phase of the SM-3IIB's design. Lockheed Martin is handling that work at locations in Huntsville, Sunnyvale, Calif., Moorestown, N.J., and Grand Prairie, Texas. Boeing said it is also basing this phase of its work in Huntsville.
MDA is expected to select one of the three companies in 2013 for the product development phase of the SM-3IIB system, including testing, flying and going into production. MDA Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly in an April interview with The Huntsville Times that their budget request for that follow-on contract is more than $1.5 billion.
Once relic of failed nuclear effort, Alabama's Bellefonte plant now key to TVA's future
Friday, August 19, 2011, 10:19 AM Updated: Friday, August 19, 2011, 10:30 AM
Brian Lawson, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- TVA's Bellefonte nuclear power plant near Scottsboro, once written off and cannibalized for parts, is now the future of nuclear power in the Tennessee Valley.
The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors approved a $5 billion effort on Thursday to complete the plant's Unit 1 reactor.
Work on the plant began in 1974, but that effort was halted in the late 1980s. Bellefonte was later a candidate to become a coal plant. It then became a $500 million write-off for TVA, and some of its parts were stripped for other TVA reactors. TVA had spent an estimated $4.5 billion over the years on the project.
But that was Bellefonte's past.
"As we build Bellefonte, we will integrate safety modifications from the extensive review of the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear plants in Japan," TVA CEO Tom Kilgore said. "Making Bellefonte a productive asset with state-of-the-art equipment will add an additional supply of clean, baseload power to TVA's generating mix."
TVA obtained its construction permit for the plant in the early '70s and that permit is still active today. But TVA must get approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an operating permit before starting up the plant.
TVA officials expect the 1,260 megawatt reactor to begin producing power by 2020. At the peak of work at the site, some 2,800 construction workers will be employed.
But that work is a few years away. TVA plans to complete construction and fuel the Watts Bar 2 reactor in Tennessee by 2013, before it begins construction work at Bellefonte.
Dus Rogers, president of the Jackson County Economic Development Authority, said about 30 people from Jackson County attended TVA's meeting in Knoxville Thursday in support of the project.
"It's a huge economic impact for Jackson County and northeast Alabama," Rogers said. "In the short run the construction jobs will have in impact in North Alabama, and in the long run we will have a low-cost, reliable source for baseload power. That is one of our competitive advantages here.
"And we're looking at around 630 permanent jobs at the plant, per unit."
Aerojet brings a boost of confidence to Huntsville area
Published: Monday, August 22, 2011, 9:00 AM Updated: Monday, August 22, 2011, 9:08 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- It's a virtual Who's Who or, rather, What's What of American rocketry:
Patriot Advanced Capability.
And they all have the same thing in common: They're powered by Aerojet-built motors.
Top officials from the Sacramento, Calif.-based aerospace company were in town for last week's Space and Missile Defense Conference, and they brought something with them that hasn't been seen around these parts recently: optimism.
Aerojet is expanding its presence here and will announce its plans to move to another location in town in the next few weeks.
"We believe the country is going to be committed to human spaceflight," said Julie van Kleeck, vice president of Space and Launch Systems.
"We're setting up a beachhead and will be expanding when NASA announces its direction (regarding the launch program)," said Rick Yezzi, the company's vice president for business development. "It's the right first step."
With that thinking goes Aerojet's main thrust (pun intended): propulsion.
Reporter's notebook: Alabama's Honda plant brings back Saturday work schedule
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 10:30 AM
Saturday work is back at Honda's Alabama auto plant, as the company ramps up production following a summer-long slowdown.
Last week, the 4,000-worker factory in Lincoln returned to full steam. Output had been cut by as much as 50 percent since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan damaged supplier operations and caused a parts shortage.
Honda declined to provide details of the Saturday work, but such a schedule is common when automakers have employees working overtime to meet market demand.
In this case, the Japanese automaker has some catching up to do. Its overall sales have been sluggish this summer, as fewer models were available on dealer lots.
"We're glad to be back to running 100 percent of production in both our automotive and engine operations in Lincoln," said Ted Pratt, a spokesman for the plant. "Our team of Alabama associates knows that the demand for our products is high and we are up to the task to get as many Odyssey minivans, Pilot SUVs and Ridgeline pickups to our dealers as quickly as we can."
One key change that came with the full ramp-up was the restarting of Ridgeline production. In March, the plant stopped building the pickup, which was due to be transferred from Assembly Line 1 to Assembly Line 2 as part of a previously scheduled shift.
Graysville plans for I-22: A little city with big hopes
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 7:00 AM Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 8:29 PM
The tiny Birmingham suburb that hosts the annual Mayberry Day festival could ride a new interstate into becoming a future, big-time player in economic development.
Graysville has long been known as just another community on U.S. 78. With a 2010 Census population of 2,165, it captures the spotlight once a year when it pays tribute to the small-town life depicted on "The Andy Griffith Show" television program and its town of Mayberry.
But Mayor Doug Brewer said the roads to the future are converging on Jefferson County's Mayberry. The city will have three interchanges with the future Interstate 22. It has three exits on U.S. 78. The proposed, controversial Northern Beltline, if it is ever built, is proposed to have two Graysville exits.
Brewer said I-22, previously known as Corridor X, will be the real catalyst.
"It's going to be the economic boost the city has needed since it incorporated 65 years ago," Brewer said. "It could drive our growth for the next 65 years."
It's a bigger way of thinking about economic development than Graysville took just three years ago. Then, it was a commitment by home-improvement retailer Lowe's to build a store there that Brewer and others hailed as the big recruitment boon.
Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance shifting into overdrive with expansion
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 5:30 AM Updated: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 3:10 PM
It's been a whirlwind month of activity for Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant, with the rollout of the redesigned M-Class SUV, an announcement that the company will invest an additional $2 billion there and growing anticipation of a fifth model joining the assembly lines.
Next up: Work on the redesigned GL-Class full-sized SUV ramps up this fall. Production trials are slated to begin in early 2012, with a market launch following later in the year.
All in all, it's a busy time for the Tuscaloosa County factory, where some employees are working overtime and Saturdays to help meet growing demand for the German automaker's luxury products.
Earlier this month, parent company Daimler AG said Mercedes set a record in the SUV segment in July, with global sales that rose 26.5 percent over the year-ago period. All models saw a substantial increase, including the M-Class, which was up 22.4 percent.
The Alabama plant, in Vance, now employs 2,800 full-time workers who build the M-Class, GL-Class and R-Class crossover. A breakdown of the latest announcements shows how far the operation has come since it was selected as the site of Mercedes' first U.S. factory in 1993:
At the formal rollout of the redesigned M-Class in late July, Mercedes and Daimler officials announced the additional $2 billion investment at the plant. Such an investment would double the current investment there, bringing the total value to more than $4 billion.
The money includes funds being spent on previously announced projects, such as the redesigned M-Class, the redesigned GL-Class and the C-Class sedan, set to join the plant's assembly lines by 2014. It also includes expanding the plant's annual production capacity to as many as 250,000 vehicles, up from 160,000 now.
Alabama jobless rate hits 10%; Birmingham rate declines
Published: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 9:00 AM Updated: Saturday, August 20, 2011, 6:45 PM
Alabama's jobless rate in July rose to double-digit territory for the first time since early 2010 as employers refrained from hiring, but the Birmingham metro area posted a surprising decline in its unemployment rate.
The state's rate rose to 10 percent in July, marking the fourth straight monthly increase and matching the rate recorded for March 2010, according to figures from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. In June, the rate was 9.9 percent. As recently as March, it was 9.2 percent.
"Employers, both private and public, continue to be hesitant to make long-term commitments to new employees," said Chad Carson, associate dean and associate professor of entrepreneurship and management at Samford University's Brock School of Business. "The public sector is having to take a long, hard look at overdue spending cuts and the private sector is, generally speaking, stashing cash in preparation for an increasingly likely long-term economic downturn."
The Birmingham-Hoover jobless rate fell from a revised 9.7 percent in June to 9.3 percent in July, ending a three-month climb from 8.4 percent in April, according to the Department of Industrial Relations. The unemployment rate fell in all seven metro Birmingham counties except Bibb, which remained unchanged at 12.4 percent.
Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous county, saw its unemployment rate fall from 10.2 percent in June to 9.9 percent last month. Shelby County had the state's lowest jobless rate at 7 percent in July, down from 7.7 percent a month earlier.
Michelle Gilliam Jordan is Huntsville's new economic development director
Published: Friday, August 19, 2011, 12:19 PM Updated: Friday, August 19, 2011, 12:19 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle this morning named Michelle Gilliam Jordan the city's new director of economic development and legislative affairs.
Jordan, 43, has been the city's community development director since February 2009. Before that, she spent three years managing Decatur's combined planning and community development office.
"She has the background and experience, and I know how she works," Battle said in explaining why he chose Jordan to replace Joe Vallely as economic development chief.
Vallely resigned last month to become vice president of corporate relations at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Following an introductory news conference, Jordan said her first priority will be to help protect NASA and aerospace contractor jobs threatened by federal cutbacks.
Her responsibilities also include recruiting new retailers and industries, helping existing businesses grow and overseeing city initiatives to become a national leader in the cyber security and green energy fields.
"It's a big job," Battle said
Southern governors focus on job creation as they meet in North Carolina
Published: Friday, August 19, 2011, 9:07 PM Updated: Friday, August 19, 2011, 9:15 PM
By The Associated Press The Associated Press
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina - As states struggle to close budget gaps because of high unemployment and dwindling tax revenues, the Southern Governors Association met Friday to discuss ways to create new jobs in a changing economy.
"We're all here to work." N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue told the association at the start of the 3-day conference. "The work we do today, tomorrow and Sunday will help energize us."
The group is holding its annual meeting in Asheville. Governors, other public officials and business executives were expected to attend. Among the topics on the agenda are how to solve a skills gap suffered by workers looking for jobs in the nation's largest and fastest growing region.
Not all the governors from the association's 16 states and two territories plan to attend. For example, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is campaigning for president. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is speaking at an event in Perry's home state
Diane Duff, the association's executive director, said the meeting is good place to exchange ideas and get feedback from business leaders.
"First of all, I think it's important to point out that all of the governors that are involved in the association have already independently been focusing on innovation as a job creation strategy. One way or another they are doing things in their own states. But coming together, it really gives them an opportunity to compare what they're doing at home and really use this as a best practices exchange," Duff said.
Updated: BAE's Mobile shipyard will add 150 jobs to build dredge
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 3:46 PM Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 4:13 PM
MOBILE, Ala. -- BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards today announced its first contract to build a new ship from scratch at its Mobile River facility.
Weeks Marine Inc. hired BAE to build a 356-foot-long, 79-foot-wide dredging vessel for use in the U.S., according to BAE. The twin screw trailing suction hopper will have a capacity of 8,500 cubic yards.
The contract is worth $85 million, according to BAE.
BAE officials said they will immediately begin engineering work and buying materials. The first steel for the ship will be cut in early 2012, and it will be delivered in January 2014.
The work will require the shipyard to add about 150 employees to its 800-person workforce during the life of the contract, according to Vic Rhoades, the general manager of BAE's Mobile operation.
Southerland named director of Huntsville's Cummings Research Park
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 3:35 PM Updated: Thursday, August 18, 2011, 11:12 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- John Southerland has been named director of Cummings Research Park and project manager for the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County's economic development division.
Southerland, the chamber's communications director since 2007, succeeds Rick Davis, who recently accepted a position with the Birmingham Business Alliance.
Tommy Beason, interim president/CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, said he expects Southerland to quickly adapt to his new role in economic development.
"We are confident that John will be able to hit the ground running in his new role at the chamber," Beason said in a statement Thursday. "He has a tremendous understanding of the Huntsville economy and its unique attributes. In this new role, John will be responsible for marketing Cummings Research Park as a location of choice for perspective targeted industries.
"He brings more than 20 years of marketing, business development and communications experience to this job and has been a key part of the Chamber's marketing efforts over the past four years."
Southerland will serve as communications director until a replacement is hired.
Study: South has 'middle-skills' worker shortage
Published: Sunday, August 21, 2011, 3:19 PM
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina - The South has a shortage of workers to fill middle-skills jobs such as medical technicians and computer support workers, even as many four-year graduates struggle to repay student loans, according to a study released Sunday.
The report released by the National Skills Coalition during the Southern Governors Association meeting in Asheville shows that 51 percent of all jobs in the American South fall into the "middle-skills" category, requiring education and training beyond high school but less than a four-year degree. Highly skilled jobs make up 29 percent of the job market; low-skill occupations make up 20 percent.
"What we are calling middle skills can actually be high-level skills, with some jobs paying $50 an hour," North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "That's why I prefer to call them career-skill sets."
In North Carolina, 51 percent of available jobs fall into the middle-skills category. The study says 43 percent of job seekers are able to meet those qualifications.
Panelist James Wiseman, of Toyota Motors Corp., said his company struggles to find qualified workers for jobs as electricians, maintenance, and tool and die technicians - jobs that often pay between $50,000 and $75,000 a year.
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