Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
last chance for registration!
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley
Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Jr.
EDPA President Bill Taylor
Art Tipton, SurModics Pharmaceuticals
Rich Karlgaard, Publisher, Forbes magazine
Nick Bowman, Vice President, Engineering & Technology, GKN Aerospace
Jeff Garlock, Chief Engineer, Honda of America Manufacturing
Tim Pickens, Chief Propulsion Engineer and Commercial Space Advisor, Dynetics
Marty Kress, Executive Director, Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation
Sherwin Greenblatt, Director, MIT Venture Mentoring Service; President, Bose Corp. (retired)
Jeffrey Phillips, OVO Innovation
Mack Portera, The University of Alabama System, Chancellor
Greg Canfield, Director, Alabama Development Office
And panelists from Alabama angel investors and start-up companies
who will be there?:
more than 200 professionals from: economic development, universities, local "fast companies", government, entrepreneurs, defense, manufacturing, professional services and more
Alabama Department of Transportation releases new study of Birmingham Northern Beltline
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:01 PM Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:03 PM
The Alabama Department of Transportation this afternoon released a 98-page re-evaluation of the Birmingham Northern Beltline
project in advance of two public hearings scheduled for next week.
The new report is an update to an environmental impact study produced by ALDOT in 1997. The 52-mile, six-lane interstate corridor stretching from I-59 in northeast Jefferson County to the I-459 interchange with I-20/59 near Bessemer is estimated to cost $4.7 billion to build over a 25-year period.
ALDOT is seeking public comment on the document and the project in general at public meetings the Gardendale Civic Center next Tuesday, Sept. 27, and at the Bessemer Civic Center on Thursday, Sept. 29. The department is also accepting written comments on the document through Oct. 14.
Opponents of the project complain that the release of the re-evaluation study just a week before the public meeting and less than a month before the end of written comment period gives too little time to provide a thorough analysis.
The environmental watchdog group Black Warrior Riverkeeper said it would start reviewing the document but doubted it would change its mind.
"The Northern Beltline will promote urban sprawl, pollute drinking water resources, and exacerbate air pollution in the greater Birmingham area," Black Warrior Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke said in a statement. "The region already has plenty of those problems to deal with, so why do some beltline proponents want to spend $4.7 billion adding to the problem?"
Lakeside Steel says part of Thomasville, Ala. complex to open early
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 6:20 PM Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011, 6:35 PM
By Jeff Amy, Press-Register Press-Register
Lakeside Steel said today that it would open part of its plant to heat-treat and finish oilfield pipe ahead of schedule.
Canadian-based Lakeside said the plant, which is being built at a former Linden Lumber facility on the northeast fringe of Thomasville, will be ready for production in February instead of the originally projected June.
Lakeside has announced three phases of a project in Thomasville. A $40 million, 120-job pipe mill south of downtown Thomasville is supposed to open later this fall. In two later phases, it announced plans to spend $17.5 million for a 160-job complex at the Linden Lumber site to harden pipe and shape and machine its ends.
Monday's announcement related to one part of the hardening and end-finishing plant.
The company said the new plant will improve its profit margin and that the pipes it will process are in high demand right now by natural gas drillers.
Ex-ADO chief Neal Wade to advise law firm on economic development strategy
Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011, 9:15 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Veteran business recruiter Neal Wade has joined a newly-formed board that will advise Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP on economic development strategy in communities across the Southeast.
Wade, former director of the Alabama Development Office, is currently senior vice president of economic development for The St. Joe Co., northwest Florida's largest private landowner and one of that state's largest real estate development companies.
In his role as a board member, Wade said he hopes to offer guidance on how the law firm, which has offices in Birmingham and six other cities, can become more involved in economic development on local and regional levels.
"I see ways that we can all benefit from helping grow a better-trained and more resourceful group of people that can impact economic development in all of these states," he said Monday.
As leader of ADO under former Gov. Bob Riley, Wade was involved in bringing key projects to Alabama, including those for ThyssenKrupp, Hyundai Heavy Industries, the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology and Verizon.
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:38 AM Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011, 11:20 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Fireworks in October? What's the occasion?
It's Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama'sway of celebrating the 10th anniversary of building engines in Huntsville. The community fireworks show will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at Bridge Street Town Centre.
"A free fireworks show is our way of saying thank you to Huntsville and the entire Tennessee Valley for their support over the past 10 years," said Jim Bolte, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
"We've enjoyed the great partnerships we've formed with our community, and we look forward to many more successful years together."
The plant, established in 2001, employs 987 people.
Smooth sailing for Austal's first JHSV a bright spot in Navy shipbuilding
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:37 AM Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011, 11:31 AM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Spearhead, the first joint high-speed vessel Austal USA
is building for the U.S. Navy, has had for the most part an unremarkable production schedule.
Costs are over budget, but still close enough to original estimates to be profitable, Austal officials said. The company plans to deliver the ship to the Navy early next year, just a few months behind schedule.
The unremarkable nature of the construction must be a breath of fresh air for Navy officials, who have dealt with a series of difficulties with first-in-class ships in recent years -- soaring costs, years-long delays and major mechanical problems.
Austal's success with Spearhead could be a long-term boon for the company, which is Mobile's largest industrial employer with more than 2,100 workers. Austal has contracts to build six more JHSVs, with options for three more. It is worth $1.6 billion if all options are exercised.
Beyond that, the Navy plans to build 23 of the lightly armed transport ships in the next 30 years. Being able to build JHSVs quickly and efficiently could put Austal in the catbird seat for future contracts.
"They're doing a good job with them," said Jay Korman, an analyst with Washington D.C.-based The Avascent Group. "The Navy's going to buy a lot more of these things, and Austal's shown it's on the right track do them serially."
The Navy hasn't been so lucky with other recent first-in-class vessels. The USS San Antonio amphibious transport dock was three-and-a-half years late when it was commissioned in 2006, and cost more than $1.4 billion, or 70 percent, over budget, according to reports.
The San Antonio has since spent large chunks of time out of commission dealing with various mechanical problems.
The Navy's first two littoral combat ships, which were built in different shipyards with drastically different designs, both cost more than three times the original $220 million budget, according to a Reuters report.
Alabama Cooperative Extension System names Gary Lemme executive director
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:36 AM Updated: Monday, September 19, 2011, 10:38 AM
Gary Lemme has been named director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Lemme, a soil scientist by training, comes to Alabama Extension from South Dakota State University, where he was a professor in the Department of Plant Science.
A former dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, he holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from SDSU and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska.
He replaces Gaines Smith, who is retiring.
ACES was created in 1995, when Extension programs at Alabama A&M and Auburn universities were merged. It was designed to provide real-life solutions to help improve the lives of all Alabamians.
The presidents of both universities say Lemme brings the type of leadership Extension requires as it continues to adapt to the changing needs and demands of its clients.
10 Questions with John Southerland, the new director of Cummings Research Park
Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 11:20 AM Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 11:33 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- John Southerland, recently named director of Cummings Research Park, says he brings to that job at the country's second-largest research-and-development park "an understanding of what drives this community and how unique it is," along with a background in business development, marketing and communications.
"You have to enjoy talking with people and getting involved with their companies, and, I tell you, I have never stopped learning and being amazed at what many companies in the park do," said Southerland, discussing his new role with Times business writer Marian Accardi.
The Huntsville native, also project manager for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce's economic-development division, was the chamber's communications director for four years. Before that, he was senior vice president of communications and business development with a government contractor, and he was also a reporter and editor with The Daily Sentinel in Scottsboro.
"There are some brilliant people working in this community," Southerland said, and "part of my job is to leverage those to help lure even more brilliant people and technology-focused companies to build or expand here."
One more quality Southerland brings to the table: "I think you can throw in a healthy dose of enthusiasm."
Peach ice cream sweetened deal for Pharmavite to locate plant in Opelika
Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 10:30 AM Updated: Sunday, September 18, 2011, 2:44 PM
Pharmavite chose the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park for its $74 million dietary supplement plant, but it may have been a visit to Clanton's Peach Park that helped Alabama lick South Carolina in the competition for the project.
Anyone who has enjoyed peach ice cream at the iconic stop off Interstate 65 can attest to its magical properties. The magic is intensified on a 100-plus degree day like when representatives from Project Omega -- the code name for what would be revealed as Pharmavite -- stopped there while scouting sites in the state.
No one would suggest ice cream drove the decision to invest millions of dollars to build a 330,000-square-foot plant and hire 280 workers. Pharmavite and its site consultants carefully considered all of the factors that go into making the prudent choice -- supply chain costs, utility expenses, tax rates, labor and real estate availability.
But the state and local economic development team that worked with Project Omega built the rapport that led to Pharmavite choosing a 50-acre site in Opelika for its manufacturing and distribution facility so serve its east coast customers with Nature Made soft gel and tablet vitamins and dietary supplements.
OUR VIEW: We hope job-creating laws will pass court muster
Published: Monday, September 19, 2011, 5:40 AM
We've been down this road before. With Mercedes. And Honda. And Hyundai. And ThyssenKrupp. Those are just the big ones.
The state of Alabama offers a range of tax incentives that have been used to help lure those and other companies. The incentives are a routine economic recruitment tool for Alabama and other states.
Yes, granting those tax breaks lowers the amount of revenue those companies will pay to state coffers. Yet, the jobs those industries create and the taxes they pay more than offset the tax breaks. At least, that's the theory.
So why is the former president of the Alabama Education Association, with the AEA's blessing and support, suing Gov. Robert Bentley and other state officials over three Senate bills approved during this year's legislative session that would provide a range of tax credits?
James Anderson, a lawyer for former AEA President Anita Gibson, said the bills should have originated in the House of Representatives instead of the Senate because they are revenue measures.
"If you're going to do something, do it right," Anderson told The New York Times Regional Newspapers last week.
The Alabama Constitution says revenue-raising measures must originate in the House. From what we can tell, none of the three Senate bills, which are now laws, raises revenue. The laws would:
· Authorize the governor to approve tax credits of up to $20 million for a foreign company with an industrial project that would bring a capital investment of at least $100 million and 100 jobs to the state. The credits can be used to offset U.S. tariffs on the company's products while its plant is being built. Supporters say Alabama is the first state to offer such tax credits, which could give it a leg up on other states recruiting the same foreign company.
Change starts with strong education
Published 11:53pm Friday, September 16, 2011
Education is one of the life bloods of a strong community.
It's as critical, if not more so, than infrastructure and job development.
Thursday morning, on the Demopolis stop of the newly-formed Alabama Economic Development Alliance's Accelerate Alabama program tour, education was one of several key items that would help and drive rural Alabama's growth and development.
The Demopolis Civic Center was the third of several "visioning sessions" scheduled around the state over the next several weeks. The goal of the sessions is to develop a strategic economic development plan for the state.
Tracy Sharp of Boyette Strategic Advisors led the session, detailing the four-step development process the state hopes to undertake and implement over the next several months. The visioning sessions are part of a larger process of competitive assessment for the state. Sharp spent much of the 90 minutes listening to the suggestions of an audience of about 40 business, community and governmental leaders from around the region.
Among the most common issues expressed was the need for better education and job training, stronger infrastructure in rural communities.
Demopolis Times editorial
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Wendy Wallace Johnson