Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Austal gets high marks from U.S. Navy chief Adm. Gary Roughead
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 5:13 PM Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011, 7:52 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- The highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Navy
called Austal USA's
Mobile shipyard "a model for others to follow" after touring the facility this morning.
"What I have seen here at Austal, I have not seen in any other shipyards," said Adm. Gary Roughead, the outgoing Chief Naval Officer. "What excites me is the commitment and innovation that have gone into building a shipyard that I consider to be state of the art and at the leading edge of shipbuilding."
Austal is Mobile's largest industrial employer with more than 2,100 workers. The shipyard has contracts with the Navy to build littoral combat ships and high-speed transports, and has said that it will double the size of its facility and workforce in the next few years to be able to complete the work.
Industry insiders have lauded Austal's Mobile shipyard for its advanced used of modular production. Instead of building the hull of the ship all at once, Austal builds dozens of ship sections, or modules, and then welds them together.
Roughead praised Austal's shipbuilding processes. But he also said he was equally impressed with the Maritime Training Center built by Alabama Industrial Development Training and run jointly by the organization and Austal. The center trains workers to weld and operate heavy machinery.
"The buildings don't make the ships," Roughead said. "The people make the ships."
Roughead will be retiring from the Navy Sept. 29, to be replaced by Adm. Jonathan Greenert. Roughead said Wednesday that he doesn't have any post-retirement plans beyond spending time with both his and his wife's parents.
Ex-biodiesel plant in Moundville, Alabama going on auction block
Published: Thursday, September 01, 2011, 5:45 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A former biodiesel manufacturing facility in Moundville is going on the auction block in October, the latest casualty for the industry in Alabama.
The 54-acre site, just south of Tuscaloosa, is the previous headquarters of Green River Biodiesel.
As recently as 2008, there were about five soy-based biodiesel facilities operating in Alabama, but the industry went through a shift, said Mark Bentley, executive director of the Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition.
Rising costs for soybeans sent companies looking for more economical feedstocks, such as animal fat and used vegetable oil. But to produce biodiesel from those feedstocks that would be up to government standards, costly tweaks in manufacturing equipment were required, he said.
Some companies were able to make the transition, and others weren't.
Today, there is just one biodiesel facility in the state, in Creola, that is operating at a significant volume, Bentley said.
Before Green River Biodiesel bought the Moundville facility in 2008, it was known as Alabama Biodiesel.
Entrepreneurship conference set for Sept.
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.Last Modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 11:19 p.m.
Alabama Launchpad will hold the state's first Launchpad Innovation & Entrepreneurship Conference on Sept. 23 at the Wynfrey hotel in Hoover.
The conference will focus on raising awareness of innovation and entrepreneurship through new business starts and growing support for existing industries.
Among the speakers during the daylong conference are Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine; Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama System; Sherwin Greenbelt, retired president of Bose Corp.; and Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office.
Online registration and payment using PayPal can be made at www.innovatealabama.com. Cost is $125 if registration is made by Thursday; $150 if made Sept. 2-19; and $175 after Sept 19.
The full agenda of speakers and topics also can be viewed on the website.
Alabama Launchpad encourages entrepreneurship and is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, which is hosting the conference with support from the Alabama Research Alliance.
Happy Ten, AAMA
August 29, 2011
By Steve Sewell, EDPA; AAMA Board Member
Ten years ago, at the same time Alabama was aggressively working to build an automotive industry by recruiting leading companies, it was just beginning to come to terms with what it means to be an automotive state.
At that time, Mercedes-Benz was less than five years into production at its facility in Tuscaloosa and Honda was about to begin operations at its new plant in Lincoln. Navistar had recently located an engine plant in Huntsville, and major investments from Hyundai and Toyota were on the horizon. Dozens of component suppliers were locating facilities in the state and many more would follow.
Amid the efforts to attract automotive companies, there was a realization that the state needed to focus on meeting the needs of a growing and important industry.
One effort was born out of a simple vision to establish an organization that would support the "growth and continuous improvement" of the auto industry. The Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association was created and went to work in the areas where it could make the greatest contribution.
In AAMA's first decade, its best work has included continuous improvement programs, other professional development and training opportunities, and a scholarship program to two-year institutions that has prepared students for careers in the auto industry. At the same time, AAMA has become the place - through its website, communications and quarterly meetings - where companies can connect and get information about the state's auto industry.
Key to the association's success is participation of the automotive companies themselves. Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Navistar, Toyota, ZF Industries and others have given their time and expertise to make sure that AAMA is as effective as possible in its efforts.
AAMA has also had the benefit of an executive director who himself was a driving force behind the creation of the association and who saw that programs were executed successfully. Dr. Bernard Schroer is retiring this year after leaving his mark on an organization that continues to play a critical role in supporting one of Alabama's most important industries. At the 10th Anniversary Celebration this month, he was honored with the re-naming of the scholarship program in his honor.
And, while AAMA has spent ten years focusing entirely on supporting auto companies in Alabama, its very existence has also served to make the state more attractive to companies looking to locate in the state.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson