Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Mercedes to build fifth model at Alabama auto plantPublished: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 2:00 PM Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 9:47 PM
The Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance is adding a fifth vehicle to its production lines by 2015.
Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG today announced another expansion of its Alabama factory in Tuscaloosa County, with plans to add a fifth model to the assembly lines by 2015.
The yet-to-be-named, "entirely new Mercedes-Benz model" will bring an additional 400 jobs and require a $350 million investment.
Gov. Robert Bentley is touring the plant today and will be on hand for a formal announcement with employees later this afternoon.
The plant's 2,800 workers currently build the M-Class and GL-Class SUVs, along with the R-Class crossover. The German automaker already has announced that the C-Class sedan will join the Tuscaloosa County assembly lines in time for a 2014 launch.
have indicated that the automaker is preparing to launch a crossover vehicle to compete with a similar model produced by rival BMW.
"This new model from the Tuscaloosa plant is an important element of our growth strategy," Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche said in a prepared statement. "It is one of the ten additional models which we will introduce within the next four years alone across all segments."
The $350 million tied to the fifth model is included in that previously-announced investment, so by 2014, the company's new spending there will total $2.4 billion.
Meanwhile, Mercedes has already said that the C-Class move would bring 1,000 new jobs, so with the fifth model, 1,400 new jobs are on the way to Tuscaloosa County.
Carpenter Technology plans to build new plant in Limestone County (updated)
Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 9:24 AM Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 6:05 PM
Athens, Alabama -- A 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant planned for a 230-acre site near Athens is expected to create 203 direct hourly and professional jobs and another 38 indirect jobs.
Carpenter Technology's new facility is expected to be operational in about 30 months, and the total cost of the project is about $500 million.
"I'm hoping you'll see bulldozers pretty soon," said Carl G. Anderson Jr., a company director and chair of the board of director's operations committee.
Carpenter executives today joined Gov. Robert Bentley; State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur; Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office; and Limestone County and Athens officials in announcing that the company selected a privately owned site north of the Alabama Robotics Technology Park and across U.S. 31 from Pryor Regional Airport. A ground-breaking ceremony followed the announcement.
The company, founded more than 120 years ago, manufactures stainless steel, titanium and other specialty metals and engineered products. The plant is being built in response to strong customer demand for premium alloy products, primarily in the fast-growing aerospace and energy industries, Carpenter officials said.
The company started looking in January for a location "for a vision we had for a state-of-the-art facility," said Bernie Mara, Carpenter's vice president of global advanced engineering. The site selection process started with 250 locations around the world, he said.
A remarkable month for jobs in Alabama (editorial)
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011, 9:52 AM Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011, 9:57 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama _ Alabama's jobless rate in September barely dipped to 9.8 percent and remains stuck well above the rate a year ago. But since late September companies have made announcements that promise improvement in the job market in North Alabama in the next two to three years.
Thursday, Carpenter Technology revealed its plans to build a $500 million, 400,000-square-foot plant that will employ slightly more than 200 people in Limestone County. Although those jobs are two and a half years away, construction of the plant will take many workers.
Significantly, the company looked at 250 sites worldwide before settling on a 230-acre tract in this area. William A. Wulfsohn, Carpenter's CEO, said state, county and local incentives, utility costs and labor resources "provided the best opportunity for us to expand our core business."
That business is making stainless steel, titanium, other specialty metals and engineered products. Carpenter officials said they are seeing strong demand for premium alloy products, particularly in the aerospace and energy industries.
Also Thursday, Mercedes-Benz announced it will build a $350 million expansion at its plant in Vance in Tuscaloosa County to add a fifth model in a move that will create 400 jobs in a few years. And that's just part of 1,400 new jobs and $2.4 billion in investment that will be made there by 2014, according to company officials. The plant already has 2,800 employees.
ThyssenKrupp hopes startup of 74-inch rolling mill will boost demand
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 7:00 AM
CALVERT, Alabama - ThyssenKrupp AG hopes some of its customers will open wide for its newest product, 72-inch coils of stainless steel.
The German steelmaker's stainless unit is now producing coils greater than 6 feet wide on its newest cold rolling mill. That width capability is shared by no other mill in North America and only a few other mills worldwide.
"There's a lot of customer interest," said Tom Brennan, who oversees the new cold rolling mill at ThyssenKrupp's complex on the Mobile-Washington county line.
The company has a 64-inch-wide cold-rolling mill, where production began last year. A 54-inch mill will follow in 2012.
The extra-wide material could appeal to makers of stainless steel tanks and large vessels, for example.
Some tank trucks that carry food or acids are made from stainless steel. Wider sheets of stainless would mean fewer welds in fabricating such trailers, allowing them to be made more cheaply.
"If you reduce the amount of sheets, you can cut the costs," Brennan said.
Other big users could include auto and appliance makers. All customers could benefit from being able to use more of the coil and generating less scrap.
Murphy leaving BBA to take Alabama Power position
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, 6:35 PM Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011, 7:07 PM
Patrick Murphy said today he is leaving his position as head of economic development at the Birmingham Business Alliance to become a senior project manager with Alabama Power Co.'s economic development office.
Murphy has been the senior vice president of economic development at the BBA since the organization was created by the merger of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board in July 2009. Murphy was vice president at MDB prior to the merger.
"My career goal has been to do economic development at a macro level and I have the opportunity to do that at Alabama Power," Murphy said in an interview today. "To do projects at that level across the state of Alabama is something I really am looking forward to."
Brian Hilson, chief executive of the BBA, said he is sad to see Murphy leave but is glad he will be at Alabama Power.
"He's been a tremendous part of the BBA staff, so we're going to miss him," Hilson said. "But we are very, very fortunate he's still going to be here in Birmingham working in economic development as part of the Alabama Power Co. team."
Hilson said it's not easy to replace someone like Murphy.
Huntsville-based Intuitive Research and Technology makes Entrepreneur.com list
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011, 4:56 PM Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011, 5:06 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Intuitive Research and Technology, a Huntsville-based aerospace engineering and analysis firm, is ranked No. 2 among 25 companies on the 2011 Best Small Workplaces list presented by Entrepreneur.com.
"This validates that we do have an exceptional workplace culture," said Harold Brewer, the company's president, who founded the company in 1999 with CEO Rey Almodovar.
Entrepreneur.com notes that Intuitive keeps current events information and other advice available to employees with town hall meetings, a regular discussion series and free financial advice. The company's president recognizes employees publicly at "State of the Company" meetings, or by writing a note of thanks to the entire staff around Thanksgiving.
Among the company's perks: Paying 100 percent of employee health-care premiums and 38 percent of dependent health-care premiums and handing out bonuses.
Bonuses include yearly performance bonuses and profit-sharing bonuses based on the profitability of the company, Brewer said.
"Rey and I built a company where we truly share profits with the employees," he said.
The company encourages a healthy lifestyle, said Brewer, and provides Creating Awareness Rewards Everyone (CARE) Days with activities like health and nutritional education programs, blood screenings and massage appointments.
Lakeside Steel finalizes loan that will fund Thomasville expansion
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011, 1:06 PM Updated: Monday, October 24, 2011, 1:14 PM
Lakeside Steel said this morning that it had finalized a five-year, $7.5 million loan from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce that will, in part, fund its growing business in Thomasville.
The Welland, Ontario-based company will make pipe then prepare it for market at separate facilities in the Clarke County locale. The company has put its planned investment at $57.5 million and promises 280 employees among its operations.
The loan, coupled with a $22 million EB-5 facility available in March 2012, "positions Lakeside well to complete our build out," Ron Bedard, the company's president and chief operating officer, said in announcing completion of the loan. "Once our projects are complete, Lakeside will be well-positioned to serve the market in every cycle."
When fully developed, its Thomasville operations will give Lakeside the ability to make, heat-treat and finish the ends of piping sold largely to the oil and gas industry.
On The Record: Elizabeth Barbaree-Tasker, interim director of Main Street Birmingham
Published: Sunday, October 23, 2011, 12:00 PM
Title: Interim executive director
Hometown: Pinckard, Ala. (Dale County)
Education: Bachelor's degrees in art and interior design from Auburn University
Work history: Joined Main Street Birmingham as operations director shortly after it was founded in 2004. Before that, worked as a consultant to the Auburn Urban Studio, University of Alabama's Center for Business & Economic Research, Censeo and served as a program manager at Region 2020 in Birmingham.
Favorite book: "All Over But the Shoutin'" by Rick Bragg
In my iPod: JJ Heller
Family: Husband, Eric Tasker; daughter Anne Maison, 7; son Drake, 10 months.
About Main Street Birmingham: Nonprofit agency founded in 2004 as partner with the city of Birmingham to improve quality of life for neighborhood residents by revitalizing commercial districts in Ensley, Woodlawn, Avondale and other inner-city communities.
As director of operations for Main Street Birmingham, Elizabeth Barbaree-Tasker has spent much of the last seven years working quietly behind the scenes on efforts to revitalize Ensley, Woodlawn and Avondale.
With executive director David Fleming's appointment to head Operation New Birmingham, Barbaree-Tasker is poised to move to the forefront of the nonprofit Main Street Birmingham agency that partners with city leaders to grow businesses and improve economic prospects in inner-city neighborhoods.
Barbaree-Tasker will take over as interim executive director of Main Street Birmingham. Anoop Mishra, president of Main Street's board of directors, said she is up to the job, having worked alongside Fleming since its founding.
Baldwin County launches website showcasing 3,000-acre megasite
Published: Sunday, October 23, 2011, 8:32 AM Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2011, 10:45 AM
BAY MINETTE, Alabama - Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance director Robert Ingram said a new website aimed at luring a major manufacturer to the Catawba/Crosby Megasite in north Baldwin will help put the property on a world stage.
County officials pooled resources to launch the web page, www.southalabamamegasite.com, representatives announced last week.
"It looks fantastic," said Baldwin County Commissioner Charles "Skip" Gruber. "We put our techs on it and didn't spend a lot of money, but they put their hearts into it. It will be a big help getting the word out."
Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said the website is geared more toward site location professionals than the general public.
"Our staff did a terrific job getting this set up in a short amount of time with the help, advice and input from the best in the state," he said.
Ingram said that as more information is available, the site will expand.
"The website will be our primary tool to use in conveying information," Ingram said Friday. "Regional allies are assisting us on (the marketing) committee. That committee helped develop the website and is providing advice on how to deliver the message and who to deliver it to."
Ingram said efforts would focus on consultants who specialize in large projects. Baldwin County commissioners voted to spend $45,000 on a marketing blitz even as, in August, they spent $2.17 million to secure purchase options for one year.
Cruise ship leaves behind unknown economic impact in its wake
Saturday, October 22, 2011, 2:14 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- When Carnival's Elation leaves the Alabama Cruise Terminal today, on the way to its new home in New Orleans, it will leave in its wake an economic impact in the millions of dollars.
The most obvious victim is the city of Mobile. The city owns the cruise terminal and uses proceeds from passenger parking to pay $2 million a year in debt service.
Hotels will also feel an immediate impact. Cruise passengers booked 15,000 room nights a year, according to tourism officials.
Some passengers and crew members also ate at restaurants, shopped at stores and visited attractions in Mobile, but how much money they spent is harder to know.
Elation will head to New Orleans, where it replaces a sister ship, Ecstasy, that Carnival will move to Port Canaveral on Florida's Atlantic Coast.
Carnival announced in March that it would leave the Mobile market, saying fuel costs for Gulf of Mexico cruises were more expensive than for Caribbean cruises and that trips from Mobile commanded below-average rates compared to other Gulf ports.
Georgia-Pacific says Monroe County plywood mill won't reopen
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, 1:20 PM Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011, 1:29 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Georgia-Pacific LLC has announced that it will not reopen its plywood mill in Monroe County's Peterman. That brings almost three years of limbo to close for the mill, which had 300 workers before the company first idled it in January 2009.
Spokeswoman Melodie Ruse said last week that Georgia-Pacific was preparing to remove the buildings, but couldn't say yet what it will do with its land, which is north of Monroeville.
It would be the second wood products plant demolished in Monroe County. AbitibiBowater sold its former newsprint mill at Perdue Hill to a firm that plans to scrap it.
Ruse said Georgia-Pacific, an Atlanta-based unit of privately held Koch Industries, determined that the market for building materials would not rebound any time soon, noting that housing starts are running under 600,000 this year.
"Nothing about that says things are looking good," she said.
After idling the mill, the company made final severance payments to employees in December. Georgia-Pacific opened the Peterman mill in 1978, spending $18 million to build it, according to news accounts at the time.
The company had 21 plywood mills before the beginning of the housing bust, but now operates only nine. It has now permanently closed six, including locations in Gloster, Miss., Louisville, Miss., Springhill, La., Fordyce, Ark., and Monticello, Ga.
University of South Alabama offers first doctorate degree in business administration
Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, 10:07 AM
MOBILE, Alabama -- The University of South Alabama's Mitchell College of Business will offer the state's first doctorate degree in business administration beginning 2013, according to school officials.
The school received approval from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education to offer the program.
USA President Gordon Moulton said in a statement released by the school that the new degree is the first of its kind in Alabama and the 10th doctoral program at USA.
Mitchell College of Business Dean Carl Moore said the unique thing about the program is its target audience. The degree is "designed for senior management people who have a desire to move into an academic career or instructors at universities who would want to improve their credentials."
Moore said a survey of USA business alumni and current students seeking a master's in business administration indicated strong interest in the program.
Most of the coursework will be offered online. Moore said that should allow students to keep their regular jobs and pursue classes on their own schedules. Students should anticipate spending nine to 10 days on campus during each semester, but even those will be held primarily on weekends.
USA faculty, according to Moore, will teach the majority of the course work. He said the school might also bring in visiting professors from other doctoral programs to lecture.
Moore said the school expects to admit up to 20 in the first class.
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