Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Monday deadline for Alabama Launchpad Business Plan Competition:
Prizes for seed capital and proof-of-concept
Time is running out to submit entries to the sixth annual Alabama Launchpad Business Plan Competition, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation.
This year marks a change for the competition, with a total value of $400,000 in prizes to be awarded.
Alabama Launchpad has partnered with Frost & Sullivan, a globally recognized Growth Partnership Company to provide rapid Business Opportunity reports for 2011-2012 class participants - a value of approximately $10,000 each. Based on scores from the admissions committee and Frost & Sullivan Business Opportunity assessments the class will be divided into two tracks (Seed Ready and Pre-seed).
Seed Ready companies are the most-ready to move forward and execute their business plan. This group will compete for up to $100,000 in seed capital.
Pre-seed startups are those that need additional proof-of-concept work. These teams will compete for multiple proof-of-concept grants from $20,000 to $25,000 each.
In total, up to $200,000 in cash awards are available for participants and over $200,000 in market assessments.
At least one member of the startup team must be affiliated with one of the six participating universities (Alabama State University, Auburn University, The University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama in Huntsville, University of South Alabama), either as a student, faculty member, university employee, university alumnus of no more than five (5) years, or a former faculty member of no more than three years removed.
For complete rules and eligibility, and more information (including online application) visit:
Alabama Launchpad website www.alabamalaunchpad.com
Poultry industry rebuilds after the sky fell
Published: Sunday, October 02, 2011, 10:30 AM
Alabama poultry farmers continue to rebuild, five months after last spring's tornadoes shattered many of their chicken house operations.
The April 27 storms destroyed or heavily damaged more than 700 chicken houses, and about 70 percent of the affected farmers are staying in the business, said John McMillan, the state's agriculture commissioner.
The rest, he said, have elected to walk away, based on a number of factors, including their age, the amount of insurance they had and whether there is another generation coming along to take over the business.
"It boils down to an individual small business person decision-making process," he said.
Rebuilding was first slowed by the massive amounts of debris left in the wake of the tornadoes, which killed 3.2 million chickens.
Building supplies and labor also have been limited in northern Alabama, the heart of the state's poultry industry, and the region that took the brunt of the tornado damage.
A lot of the farmers have either started or are well into rebuilding their chicken houses by now, but no one has gotten new chickens yet, McMillan said.
As for Alabama's poultry industry at large -- which produces 1 billion chickens annually and ranks No. 3 in the nation behind Arkansas and Georgia -- the tornadoes have had little impact.
"There are so many growers and there are so many chickens being hatched out and delivered every week ... in the grand scheme of things, it's not a big deal," McMillan said.
However, he adds, for individual farmers, it is a big deal, particularly those who depend on the income the chicken houses bring.
ThyssenKrupp supplier Vail Rubber Works plans Axis, Alabama, plant
Published: Tuesday, October 04, 2011, 11:45 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 04, 2011, 12:14 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Another company that does business with ThyssenKrupp AG is planning a new location in Mobile County.
Vail Rubber Works of St. Joseph, Mich., said today that it plans to invest $2.07 million to build a plant in Axis that would supply rollers to the German steelmaker. Vail would initially hire six people, paying them almost $61,000 a year, on average. Company President Joseph W. Hanley said that if the business is successful, employment could grow over time to around 50 employees. That's about the size of the firm's plants in Michigan and Middletown, Ohio.
The Mobile County Industrial Development Authority voted 2-0 to grant $147,680 of sales and property tax breaks to Vail. That includes the waiver of $56,000 in sales taxes on equipment and construction material and $91,680 of non-school property taxes over 10 years.
The company is at least the fifth in a series of suppliers to and customers of ThyssenKrupp to announce southwest Alabama locations.
Vail makes rubber and polyurethane rolls that are used in processing steel and making paper. The company said it has sold $1 million worth of equipment to ThyssenKrupp in the last year, and expects to deliver another $1 million by the end of this year.
The rolls are heavy and family-owned Vail would like to court other steel mill customers in the region, including Axis neighbor SSAB. So the company wants to buy 8 acres of land in an industrial park at U.S. 43 and Salco Road and build a 12,000 square-foot building. Hanley said Vail has plans to grow to as large as 50,000 square feet over time.
Mobile chamber earns award for international programs
Published: Tuesday, October 04, 2011, 10:55 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 04, 2011, 11:39 AM more...
The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce has won the American Chamber of Commerce Executives inaugural ACCE Going International Award, presented at the ACCE International Conference held in Los Angeles. The award recognized the Mobile chamber's international trade program.
'We are very honored to be the first recipient of the award," said Mobile chamber president Win Hallett. "We feel this unique recognition is a confirmation of excellent work that has been done in this region to promote trade and outreach in other parts of the world. By becoming more internationally focused we continue to find opportunities for expansion of companies in this region."
The Mobile chamber created its international trade program in 1997. Its efforts focus on providing the greatest number of Alabama and regional companies with export opportunities, including educational forums country briefings, hosting international delegations, providing trade leads and leading international trade missions.
'The chamber, along with its regional partners, hosted more than 60 trade missions over the last 14 years. As a result, we have had the opportunity to work with companies locally and statewide, assisting them in expanding their sales to numerous foreign markets," said Tony van Aken, the chamber's international trade division director. The division is staffed by van Aken and project manager Christina Stimpson.
Mobile, Alabama to host ISA's annual Automation Week
Published: Monday, October 03, 2011, 4:14 PM Updated: Tuesday, October 04, 2011, 10:27 AM
Mobile will host Automation Week, the annual conference of the International Society of Automation beginning Oct. 17 at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center.
The conference is aimed at professionals who design and operate automated systems in production factories, said Becky Schneider, a spokeswoman for ISA.
The conference will include a showcase of suppliers' wares, a tour of ThyssenKrupp AG's new steel mill in north Mobile County, several topic-specific technical sessions and several events aimed at high school and college students interested in entering the field, organizers said.
The Gulf Coast Technology Council will meet with the Mobile chapter of the ISA from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 19. GCTC members attending the luncheon will be able to visit with suppliers on the showroom floor at no charge after the luncheon.
The GCTC luncheon will feature Steve Huffman, Automation Federation Government Relations Committee chair, discussing "The Automation Competency Model for the Future of Manufacturing."
Luncheon cost is $15 for members and $20 for potential members. Reservations are required and cancellations after Oct. 14 will not be reimbursed.
SEDA stayed mum about deal; company remained interested
By Bernie Delinski
Even in the office of the Shoals Economic Development Authority, where the staff spent more than a year working to make the Navistar International Corp. deal come together, nobody uttered the company's name.
When Navistar officials met with local leaders last week, officials finally received the OK to let it be known: Navistar is leasing the National Alabama railcar plant in Barton.
During the meeting, Navistar officials thanked the Shoals Economic Development Authority and its president, Forrest Wright, for keeping what company leaders recognized as an extremely difficult secret.
"Forrest and his team, they did great from the beginning," said Jim Spangler, vice president and chief communications officer for Navistar. "Them being able to keep this under wraps, with all the sensitivities of a project like this, is a big attribute."
Navistar officials had made it clear from the beginning when Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO David Bronner coaxed them into visiting the Colbert County site that if the secret was blown, no deal was possible.
That's common practice in such deals. When SEDA officials update board members on projects, the company's name typically isn't given until a deal is reached.
Sometimes, major projects go by code names. This opportunity began as Project Cyrus, which officials say was created by Bronner. It was named for Cyrus McCormick, who built the first mechanical reaper in 1831 and later moved to Chicago to create McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. That ultimately became Navistar a century and a half later.
Wright said this particular project was so secretive, it occasionally changed names, and the word "Navistar" wasn't spoken in SEDA's office.
"The project had four code names," he said. "You keep a code for a while and then it goes to another name."
The deal involved transferring a $23 million local incentive plan from National Alabama to Navistar in order to bring the Fortune 500 company and its reported 2,200 jobs to Barton. SEDA officials had to persuade local leaders - including the elected officials who make up the Shoals Industrial Development Committee that decides where to allocate the taxpayer-funded incentives - to agree to the deal.
And he had to do so without telling them the company's name.
Many decisions ahead for Navistar
By Bernie Delinski
Last week's news that Navistar International Corp. is coming to the Shoals with plans to eventually hire up to 2,200 workers has brought the usual expected questions.
Details about types of jobs available, how to apply, what the company will produce, what types of suppliers are needed and when work starts are among inquiries.
Officials with the Fortune 500 company promise those questions will be answered before the keys to the building are turned over to Navistar on Jan. 1, but some replies could be weeks or months away.
Some of the big matters have been answered: The firm intends to utilize the entire National Alabama railcar facility, hopes to be at full employment level within four years and has the OK to utilize the incentive package that was presented to National Alabama.
Ray Koopman, Navistar's director of manufacturing and business development, also stressed during a meeting Tuesday with the Shoals Industrial Development Committee that he plans to retain all of the approximately 120 existing workers at the plant.
Jim Spangler, Navistar's vice president and chief communications officer, said Koopman met with those employees last week and told them they will be an important part of Navistar's existence in the Shoals.
"Ray's number one message to them is they will be the foundation of the facility," Spangler said. "People there were very engaged. A lot of people shook his hand and thanked him."
Navistar has 15,800 employees at its facilities worldwide, including more than 400 full-time workers at an engine-manufacturing plant in Huntsville. The Huntsville operation is expected to expand to complement production at the new site in Barton Riverfront Industrial Park near Cherokee.
The corporation is the nation's largest supplier of school buses and medium-duty trucks, and second-largest supplier of 18-wheeler trucks. It also produces vehicles for the U.S. military.
"This operation will not build engines," Spangler said of the Barton site. "We're looking for synergy between this plant and Huntsville.
"Alabama's a great place for Navistar. All you have to do is see what happened in Huntsville."
Please feel free to forward along to someone who can use it by clicking on the "I'd like to forward this to a contact" link below the green bar.
Note also, that you can now make changes to your e-mail address and contact information through the link at the bottom.
As always, if you have news or suggestions, please forward them along to me.
Wendy Wallace Johnson