Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Huntsville's Toyota plant now producing four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines 'under one roof'
Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 5:09 PM Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 5:32 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- With the addition of four-cylinder engines to the production lineup, Huntsville's Toyota plant is the automaker's first in the world to produce four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines "under one roof," said Atsushi Niimi, the executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corp.
"Let me put that in perspective," Niimi said today at a ceremony to mark four-cylinder production, which began earlier this month. "Engines produced here will go into eight of 12 models assembled in North America."
A crowd of Toyota executives from the U.S. and Japan, hundreds of employees and local and state officials, including Gov. Robert Bentley, turned out for the event. Niimi joined Bentley; Kelly Keeney, a four-cylinder team member; and Shigeki Terashi, president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, in a quality control inspection of the first four-cylinder.
Niimi said he'd like for Huntsville to become known as "the engine capital of the world."
Alabama aviation industry poised to take flight, exec says
Published: Friday, September 30, 2011, 6:45 AM
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama's aviation industry is poised to reach new heights, a top official with the industry's latest addition to the state said Thursday.
"Alabama has a rising reputation in the aviation industry with the work being done in Huntsville, Mobile and other places," said Mike Sims, general manager with GE Aviation, which is building an engine coatings plant in Auburn that will eventually create around 400 jobs.
"Alabama is well positioned to see a great deal of growth in this industry."
The industry giant's jet-engine division hosted a business supplier symposium in Tuscaloosa's Bryant Conference Center Thursday with the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. It featured a keynote address from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.
In an interview after his address, Shelby said there are a number of major aerospace and aviation initiatives that could boost the state's presence in the industry. He said though Airbus parent company EADS failed to win a tanker contract with the U.S. Air Force, Airbus may end up building commercial airplanes in Mobile.
"They're looking to see if it's feasible," Shelby said. "I would like to see it happen." Jeff Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association, said the industry in Alabama and throughout the country was grounded by the economic downturn but has since returned.
"I think we hit bottom are we're starting to climb back," he said. "The future looks really bright."
GE's Sims told the 100 or so attendees at Thursday's symposium to not limit their options to the Auburn plant, but look for ways of doing business with GE around the world and with other aerospace companies.
ThyssenKrupp: Inoxum to be name of divested stainless steel business
Published: Friday, September 30, 2011, 11:20 AM Updated: Friday, September 30, 2011, 12:21 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Inoxum will be the new name for the stainless steel business that ThyssenKrupp AG plans to divest, including its stainless operation in Calvert.
Germany's largest steelmaker said today that it has now organized the business so it can be separated. But ThyssenKrupp still isn't saying how it plans to get rid of a majority share of the business.
"The way in which the separation will take place - through an IPO, spin-off or sale to a best owner - is still being examined," the company said today in a statement. "All options are still open."
ThyssenKrupp has pledged to German unions to keep a minority share and make sure any future owner avoids mass layoffs.
Factors that led ThyssenKrupp to seek a parting include overcapacity among stainless steel makers in Europe and stainless prices that swing widely with changes in the price of nickel, used as an alloy metal.
Analysts in Europe have widely speculated that ThyssenKrupp will seek to sell shares in the stainless business. Some have wondered whether ThyssenKrupp, Europe's largest stainless producer, might combine with Finland's Outokumpu or with Aperam, a stainless entity recently spun off from ArcelorMittal. ThyssenKrupp, though, accounts for 40 percent of European stainless production, posing antitrust obstacles to a merger or sale.
ThyssenKrupp's $5 billion Alabama complex in Calvert, on the Mobile-Washington county line, is shared by both stainless and carbon steel units.
Huntsville-based Dynetics and WestWind Technologies form Aviation Support Alliance
Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 2:09 PM Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 2:19 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A Huntsville high-tech giant and a small aviation/engineering business have combined to form an aviation venture to provide engineering, manufacturing and logistics expertise.
Dynetics and WestWind Technologies have formed Aviation Support Alliance, officials of the two companies said today.
"Our two companies combine more than 48 years of experience and proven efficiency in many critical areas, and we both have a history of supporting our customers with what they need when they need it," said Dynetics CEO Dr. Marc Bendickson.
Not wasting any time, the alliance's first target is the contract for the Logistics Support Facility Management Activity. The LSFMA program is designed to provide the Army with low-cost, rapid responses to meet the changing requirements for improvements and mission support of the Army aviation fleet.
"By bringing together the strengths and capabilities of Dynetics and WestWind, we are confident we can provide the customer with the best engineering, integration and maintenance personnel available - combined with unmatched aviation support facilities," said WestWind Chief Operating Officer Roger Messick.
According to Messick and Bendickson, the unique compatibility of the corporate cultures is one of the reasons WestWind and Dynetics joined forces.
Navistar's lease of Colbert County rail car plant could benefit Huntsville
Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 4:00 PM Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011, 10:18 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Navistar, which has two engine plants in Huntsville, has agreed to lease the National Alabama rail car plant in Colbert County, although the company is not saying yet what it plans to do with the facility.
"We are not in a position today to discuss our operations and products plans for the facility," spokeswoman Karen Denning said. "The company hopes to capture synergies and efficiencies given the close proximity to Navistar's two engine plants in Huntsville."
The engine plants here employ about 400 people, and the move could lead to increased production and possibly more jobs at the Huntsville plants.
Navistar, based near Chicago, "intends to finalize its initial operating and product plans for the facility in the coming months, and expects to disclose those details by year end," she said.
The company would take possession of the facility on Jan. 1 and retain the existing operations and work force of about 120 people.
"Navistar believes Alabama has proven to be a great place for the company to grow its business and intends to maximize the facility's underutilized fabrication equipment and other assets to cost effectively expand manufacturing capabilities and options in North America," Denning said.
The plant was owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the state's pension system.
It loaned about $625 million to National Steel Car, a Canadian company that announced in 1997 that it would hire 1,800 people to build railroad freight cars in Colbert County.
The mile-long plant was completed, but by then the rail car market had deflated with the recession.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson