Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Mill Steel expands operations in Birmingham
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 11:16 AM Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 11:23 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Michigan-based Mill Steel said it has expanded its Birmingham processing center and distribution operations.
The company last month established a 55,000-square-foot addition to its Birmingham processing operation, which was 121,000 square feet. The expansion enables the company to improve its storage and distribution capacity as well as expand its slitting and packaging capabilities.
Plus, the project gives Mill Street rights to improve nearly four acres of vacant land next to its facility to improve access to the site.
"The company's decision to expand its Birmingham, Ala., operations is due in large part to the continued conversion of automotive, appliance, and construction customers in the Southeast and Mid-south United States." CEO David Samrick said in a statement.
"We expect this location to not only expand and enhance our production capabilities but more efficiently and timely distribute finished goods to its customers across the entire Southeast region."
Alabama official: Fewer road project requests indicate slowing economy
Published: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 9:26 AM Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 9:39 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- The relatively small number of industrial-access projects that a public corporation approved for funding Tuesday shows that Alabama's economy is slow, state transportation director John Cooper said.
The three-member Industrial Access Road and Bridge Corporation, which includes Cooper, on Tuesday approved five funding requests totaling $2.23 million, including $866,350 to extend an industrial park road in Opelika for
that will make nutritional supplements. The five approvals represent a drop from the number of funding requests for roads, railroad crossing improvements or other industrial-access projects approved by the corporation before the depths of the recession.
The corporation at its fall meetings approved 17 funding requests totaling $13 million in 2004, nine requests totaling $6.7 million in 2005, 21 requests totaling $12.6 million in 2006 and 20 requests totaling $11.5 million in 2007, according to a Birmingham News review of state records. The corporation sometimes approves less than a city or county requests.
''The economy is slow," Cooper said. ''We don't have as many industrial projects as we would like to have.
''We would love to have more requests than we have funding," he added.
Southeastern factories shrink in September
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 5:05 PM Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 5:09 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Manufacturing activity shrank in September for the first time in 18 months, wiping out a gain from August.
The Southeast Purchasing Managers Index, which covers factories in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee, fell 8.4 points to 49.4, according to Kennesaw State University. Anything below 50 indicates contraction in the sector.
The national index rose 1 point in the same month to 51.6. Taken together, though, the regional and national numbers show a factory sector having sloughed off much of the momentum that had characterized it in 2010 and early 2011.
The new orders index, the part of the overall measure most predictive of future activity, fell 8.2 points to 47.7. Manufacturers cut inventories sharply, with a measure of finished inventory falling 18.6 points to 43.9.
Kennesaw State's Don Sabbarese wrote that the "decrease reverses the gain from August and makes a stronger case that the manufacturing sector has slipped into a softer level of growth and in September did not grow at all."
Delta ending all flights between Mobile and Memphis
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 5:00 PM Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 5:06 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Delta Air Lines will end flights between Mobile Regional Airport and Memphis on Jan. 3, as the airline continues to pare service at the Tennessee airport.
Earlier this year, Atlanta-based Delta cut the number of Mobile-Memphis round trips from three to two. At the time, the airline said more reductions could be coming in Memphis, a hub that it inherited when it merged with Northwest Airlines. More and more of that traffic is being funneled through Delta's much larger hub in Atlanta.
"While it's obviously disappointing to lose the Memphis non-stop service, thanks to added capacity from Mobile to Atlanta, Delta's total capacity will only be down 2 percent in January 2012 versus January 2011," said Bill Sisson, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority.
Delta is also cutting service Jan. 3 from Memphis to Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, Panama City, Fla., and four other cities, The Commercial Appeal newspaper of Memphis reported. Service to Montgomery and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., were cut earlier. The newspaper said that the total number of daily departures from Memphis would fall from 164 to 149, and the number of cities served by the gateway would fall from 65 to 58.
Huntsville-based Summit 7 Systems ranked 13th on the 2011 CRN Fast Growth 100 list
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 4:47 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Huntsville-based Summit 7 Systems is ranked 13th on the 2011 CRN Fast Growth 100 list. It is one of just two Alabama companies on the list.
CRN magazine's Fast Growth 100 list recognizes the fastest growing solution providers in North America. Companies average a two-year revenue growth of 130 percent and average annual sales of products and services of $172 million, according to a news release. The ranking is based on two years' growth of net sales from calendar year 2008 to calendar year 2010.
Summit 7 Systems reported a two-year growth rate of 361percent and is on track to double year over year net sales again. The company also had net sales revenue of $1,284,646 in 2010.
"We are excited to be included in the CRN Fast Growth 100," said managing partner Ben Curry. "Our team is committed to continual innovation of our customers' processes and technology. Our ability to implement technology solutions that truly align with organization's strategic objectives has been a key to our success."
Everything Channel is a provider of IT channel-focused events, media, research, consulting, and sales and marketing services.
"This year's Fast Growth 100 list reflects the high growth potential for solution providers offering innovative products, solutions and services," said Kelley Damore, vice president and editorial director. "Despite an uncertain market, VARs (value-added resellers) investing in new technologies and services are still growing at a significant rate - a testament to their hard work and ability to truly understand their customers' needs.
Alabama officials plan meeting with Goodyear over future of Gadsden plant
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 10:57 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 11:08 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- State officials are working to make sure Goodyear
's tire plant in Gadsden, which dates to 1929, has a long future in Alabama.
Two legislators and officials from Alabama's economic and workforce development agencies are scheduled to meet with Goodyear representatives on Friday to examine how the state can help ensure the Gadsden plant remains in operation after 2013.
That is when the plant comes out of what is called "protected status" under a 2009 contract
with its union workers.
The plant has more than 1,600 employees.
"Gov. Bentley recognizes Goodyear's importance to the Northeast Alabama region and the state as a whole," Alabama Development Office
Director Greg Canfield said in a statement. "Because of the positive impact it has on the state, we look forward to a discussion about helping Goodyear maintain its presence and a continued partnership with Alabama."
Director Ed Castille, along with State Sen. Phil Williams, R-Gadsden, and State Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, requested the meeting with Goodyear officials. Alabama officials say they want to explore how the state can help ensure that Gadsden plant remains open for years.
"Goodyear is a vitally important asset to Etowah County and the surrounding area and we're trying to make sure we keep them here by having a job retention plan in place," Galliher said.
Operation New Birmingham chief: Plans will shape organization's focus
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 10:40 AM Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 10:48 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- David Fleming, named Operation New Birmingham's new president and chief executive, says he is looking forward to directing the downtown advocacy organization's activities. "I'm excited about it and I'm getting more excited about it with each passing moment," Fleming said in an interview. "ONB is a great organization with a great history. Obviously, it has meant a lot to me in my own personal development." Fleming most recently was executive director for Main Street Birmingham Inc., an organization he formed in 2004 when he left ONB, where he served as vice president for planning and urban development. Main Street seeks to revitalize nine targeted commercial districts in the city of Birmingham. ONB began its national search for a permanent president earlier this year after the retirement of Michael Calvert, who held the post for 28 years. Fleming takes the job on Nov. 1. On Monday, his appointment was announced.Fleming said the upcoming planning process looking at Birmingham and downtown's master plans will help shape, in part, ONB's future focus. "We will continue to do all of the good things ONB is currently doing," he said. "The visioning and planning process should reveal other opportunities as well."
Former astronaut joins Dynetics as technical director in the space division
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 8:46 AM Updated: Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 11:02 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Former astronaut Jim Halsell has joined Dynetics as technical director in the space division, the company announced.
Halsell, whose most recent position was vice president of Safety and Mission Assurance at ATK, will manage advanced space transportation projects for Dynetics.
A five-flight shuttle veteran and a retired Air Force colonel, Halsell has logged more than 1,250 hours in space. He was the pilot on two shuttle missions and was commander on three others. He served as NASA director of operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and as manager of Shuttle Launch Integration for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
"Jim brings rare hands-on human-rated test flight, operations experience and managerial experience that will be invaluable to Dynetics' space hardware programs," said Steve Cook, director of space technologies.
Halsell led NASA's Space Shuttle Return-to-Flight Planning Team after the Columbia accident and served as assistant director for spaceflight training and aircraft operations, Flight Crew Operations Directorate.
More automobile plants may be in Alabama's future
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 8:10 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama could be in the hunt for more auto assembly plants, as speculation starts to build over the latest round of companies looking to ramp up their U.S. manufacturing capacity.
Representatives of Swedish automaker Volvo have visited a site in Huntsville that was passed over by Volkswagen three years ago before it built a plant in Chattanooga, according to the publisher of an economic development trade publication.
Mike Randle, publisher of Birmingham-based Southern Business & Development, said, historically, sites that were runners-up for previous projects end up in play again.
For instance, a year before Volkswagen landed in Chattanooga, that site had finished second to a site near Tupelo, Miss., that Toyota chose for a new auto plant.
"As far as any new plants coming to the South, I think you have to start with Huntsville," Randle said. "History seems to repeat itself, especially with these things."
Reporter's notebook: Alabama auto exports up 35 percent from 2010
Published: Sunday, October 09, 2011, 9:00 AM
Alabama's auto exports continue to climb this year.
Through July, the latest data available, the value of state-made vehicles shipped around the world topped $3.1 billion, a 35 percent improvement from the first seven months of 2010.
Canada is the No. 1 destination for those vehicles, followed by China, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, other markets for state-made vehicles are showing significant year-over-year growth, including Iraq, Chile, India, Colombia and South Africa.
Autos have long been Alabama's top export, and they continue to drive the state's overall export growth, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Alabama Development Office's International Trade Division.
"National exports are up 17.6 percent from July 2010 to July 2011 while Alabama exports are up 22.15 percent for the same time period," she said.
Mercedes is the key driver of the state's auto exports, since about 60 percent of the output at the company's Vance factory is exported.
And, those exports should grow following a planned expansion at Mercedes.
In the summer, the automaker announced a series of upcoming projects that would require an additional $2 billion investment in Vance. The work includes raising the plant's annual production capacity to as many as 250,000 vehicles, up from 160,000 now.
Honda and Hyundai also export vehicles from their Alabama auto plants, but in much smaller numbers and to fewer markets.
Birmingham looking for aerospace and aviation industries
Published: Sunday, October 09, 2011, 5:30 AM Updated: Sunday, October 09, 2011, 5:15 PM
The aerospace and aviation industries are lifting off across Alabama, but Birmingham's presence in what is considered one of the state's key industries appears to be in a holding pattern.
The Birmingham Business Alliance says there are plenty of other industries to target for the area's economic development efforts. But officials in Alabama's largest metro area also say they are willing to reach for the stars when an opportunity makes sense.
"We have to be smart about where we focus our economic development and marketing efforts," Brian Hilson, the BBA's chief executive, said in an interview. "That being said, you have to always be open-minded about any industry where you have an opportunity to grow."
Birmingham's biggest player in the industry dates back 60 years through a company that operates one of the largest hangar facilities at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. But that company -- most recently known as Alabama Aircraft Industries Inc. -- has experienced recent turbulence.
Last month, a division of Kaiser Group Holdings purchased Alabama Aircraft in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court transaction, saving 118 of the company's 325 jobs. In its heyday, the firm employed more than 1,000.
Alabama Aircraft, previously known as Pemco Aeroplex and Hayes Aircraft, primarily refurbished military aircraft, but Kaiser has said the company's Birmingham operations needs to pursue commercial work.
Hilson met with Kaiser officials on Thursday and outlined a plan for the BBA to help the company bring more business to its new Birmingham facility.
"They have tremendous capacity for aircraft refurbishment," Hilson said. "They are currently operating at about 5 percent capacity. That kind of under-utilized capacity creates tremendous opportunity."
Austal starts fabrication on 3rd joint high speed vessel for U.S. Navy
Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, 4:45 PM Updated: Friday, October 07, 2011, 4:49 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Austal USA
today celebrated the beginning of fabrication for its third JHSV -- or joint high speed vessel
-- for the U.S. Navy by presenting an aluminum plaque to U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner.
With work under way on the ship, Austal now has three JHSVs in production at the same time.
"This is the start of serial production," said Craig Hooper, Austal's vice president for sales, marketing and external communications.
JHSVs are 338 feet long, weigh 727 tons, can carry up to 600 tons of cargo and can travel at an average speed of about 35 knots, or 40 mph. The ships will be used to move troops, weapons and cargo.
The first JHSV, Spearhead, is floating in the Mobile River next to Austal's shipyard. Workers have started moving modules for the second JHSV into the assembly bay that Spearhead just vacated. By the time the third JHSV is ready for assembly, construction should be finished on a new bay for it to occupy.
Austal has a Navy contract that, if fully executed, will pay it $1.6 billion to construct 10 JHSVs. Spearhead is supposed to be delivered to the Navy early next year, and Austal plans to deliver a new JHSV basically every six months after that through 2016.
Austal said in its most recent annual report that the Navy will need eight more JHSVs, with a contract likely to be awarded in 2013.
In addition to the JHSVs, Austal has a contract that, if fully executed, will pay it $3.6 billion to construct 10 Navy littoral combat ships. Two LCS are under construction now at Austal. The company is Mobile's largest industrial employer with 2,300 workers.
Originally the Navy and the U.S. Army were supposed to split the first 10 JHSVs, but the Navy agreed last year to take them all. That has resulted in a little uncertainty about the ships' names.
The second and third JHSV are called Vigilant and Fortitude right now, but a Navy spokeswoman said part of the agreement with the Army calls for the option to rename the ships after small towns or counties. The final names for the ships remain up in the air, she said.
Alabama's JKM Manufacturing secures $8.5 million Navy contract
Published: Friday, October 07, 2011, 1:42 PM Updated: Friday, October 07, 2011, 1:57 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Eufaula's JKM Manufacturing Inc
. said today that it has won an $8.5 million Navy contract to provide cable assemblies and wiring harnesses for weapons systems used by the Naval Air Systems Command, the Naval Sea Systems Command and the U.S. Special Operations Command.
The work could allow the company to add six workers to its payrolls. The contract is for five years.
"All of us who work at JKM are dedicated to the men and women who defend our country," CEO Chad B. White said in a statement.
JKM makes complex wire harness assemblies, rugged electronic systems, circuit card assemblies, electro-mechanical assemblies and other specially engineered products
Montgomery Advertiser Alabama Lt. governor making trade trip to China
6:38 AM, Oct. 12, 2011 | Comments
Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey is headed to China for a seven-day, three-city economic development and diplomacy mission.
Ivey departs Wednesday along with several other lieutenant governors from around the country. They'll meet with World Trade Organization Deputy Director-General Harsha Singh, who leads world trade action on agriculture, commodities, the environment and services.
At the China Import and Export Fair, the lieutenant governors will have an opportunity to meet with trade leaders from more than a half-dozen Chinese provinces.
Attendees and Chinese officials plan to discuss possibilities for trade and cooperation in aviation and approaches to science, technology and math education.
Ivey will return on Oct. 20.
Corporate park joins AdvantageSite program
Published 10:20am Monday, October 10, 2011
By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer
COLUMBIANA - The Shelby West Corporate Park has been designated as an AdvantageSite program.
Warren McCullars, the director of economic development at Alabama Gas Corporation, made the announcement during the Oct. 10 county commission meeting.
The program is jointly sponsored by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Alabama Development Office, Alabama Gas Corporation, Alabama Power Company, the North Alabama Industrial Development Association and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.
The voluntary program was developed to confirm that an industrial site has met certain criteria and is ready to support new and expanding industry.
"The AdvantageSite designation puts Shelby West Corporate Park at the forefront of potential sites for projects that require detailed site specifications in short timeframes," according to a printed description of the program given to commissioners.
"We are pleased to have Shelby West Corporate Park join the list," McCullars told commissions.
Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said the county is "excited about that location."
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