Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Southern Automotive Conference being held in Huntsville
Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 5:20 PM Updated: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 5:46 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association is hosting the fourth annual Southern Automotive Conference Thursday and Friday at the Westin Huntsville, and 300 people are registered for the event.
The conference is a joint meeting of AAMA, the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association and the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association.
Participants will include representatives from original equipment manufacturers, parts suppliers and vendors, said Mark Brazeal, AAMA's president and general manager-administration at the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville, called Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
During the conference, a panel made up of executives with several automotive companies -- Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Navistar, Nissan and Toyota -- that have operations in the three states will give updates on their facilities.
The panelists include Allyson Edwards, new model division manager, Honda Motor Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln; Lance Fulks, manager of manufacturing operations, Navistar Diesel of Alabama in Huntsville; Brian Whittier, vice president of body and paints operations, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International near Tuscaloosa; Wesley "Wes" Wood, general manager quality and manufacturing support, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Huntsville; Ashley Frye, vice president, production, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama in Montgomery; David Copenhaver, vice president, administration, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi; Donald Stoegbauer, director of paint operations, Nissan Canton Assembly Plant in Mississippi; and Tracy Church, senior manager of production, Nissan Lithium-ion Electric Battery Plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
Evonik purchases Birmingham-based pharmaceutical company
Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 4:51 PM Updated: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 4:53 PM
MOBILE, Ala. -- Evonik Industries AG, the German chemical giant that operates a facility in Theodore, announced Wednesday that it bought Birmingham-based SurModics Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Evonik announced in a press release that it signed an agreement Tuesday to buy the pharmaceutical company from owner, Eden Prairie, Minn.-based SurModics Inc. A SurModics press release said the sales price was $30 million.
Evonik said in its news release that the acquisition is meant to strengthen its pharmaceutical application business.
SurModics Pharmaceuticals is a leader in injectable drug delivery systems. It has two facilities in the Birmingham area for the development and manufacturing of polymers and drug delivery systems, and employs about 80 pharmaceutical experts. In 2010, the total revenues amounted to more than $15 million, according to Evonik.
Evonik operates a 680-employee plant in Theodore that makes a variety of chemicals used in the production of pharmaceuticals, paper and chicken feed, among other uses.
Lecturer talks about Mercedes' past, future
By Wayne Grayson Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.Last Modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 at 9:02 p.m.
It was a quote that Bharat Balasubramanian brought forward near the end of his lecture at the University of Alabama Monday, but it was a theme that he expressed throughout.
"Only he who knows the past can shape the future."
As the vice president of product innovations and process technologies along with group research and advanced engineering, Balasubramanian is one of Daimler Automotive Group's top executives in charge of product innovations.
Before a packed lecture hall in H.M. Comer Hall, Balasubramanian explained how Daimler and its subsidiary Mercedes-Benz, whose namesakes Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz created the first automobiles in 1885, have used their 125 years of experience to innovate in the areas of safety, comfort and green technologies.
In 1901, the Mercedes Simplex was created and represented the industry's first paradigm shift, Balasubramanian said. He said the Simplex was the first automobile to feature the long wheel base, wide tracks and low center of gravity still found in automobile design today.
Alabama scores well in business site selector survey
Published: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 3:14 PM Updated: Wednesday, November 02, 2011, 4:36 PM
Alabama is among the top places in the country to do business, according to a new ranking by Area Development magazine.
The magazine, a publication used by development site selectors, ranked Alabama as the third-best state in the U.S. to do business overall. It based its rankings on surveys of 38 of the country's leading site selection consultant firms.
Alabama scored well for its incentive programs (tied for first), labor costs (second) and workforce development programs (second).
Gov. Robert Bentley told the magazine that "the quality, skill, and work ethic of the workforce, plus (Alabama's) right-to-work state status, have caught the attention of foreign firms."
Mississippi was among the top five states for the overall cost of doing business, which considers business friendliness and corporate tax environment, and it was among the top three states for overall labor climate, which includes factors such as labor availability and workforce development programs.
Mississippi was ninth-best in the overall ranking.
Kia Motors Building New Plant in China to Meet DemandCompany said it is 'imperative' to win the hearts of consumers in China.
By . Agence France-Presse
Nov. 2, 2011
South Korea's second largest automaker Kia Motors said on Nov. 2 that it would build a new plant in China to meet growing demand in the world's fastest-growing car market.
Kia's third plant in China, to be built in the northeastern city of Yancheng from late next year, will produce 300,000 cars annually when completed in the second half of 2014.
The plant will boost Kia's annual production in China from 430,000 to 730,000 vehicles, the company said, adding its market share in China would have dropped to 2.4% by 2014 from the current 3.5% without the increase.
Kia, which sells mid-size sedans including K5 and a sub-compact vehicle like the K2 in China, saw its year-on-year sales growth there slow to 38% last year compared to 70% in 2009 amid growing competition.
Kia operates 13 plants in eight countries including India and the United States. It is an affiliate of South Korea's largest automaker, Hyundai Motor and the two together form the world's fifth-largest car making group by sales.
"The Chinese market has been the key focus for many global automakers, and this trend has resulted in Chinese customers demanding better cars," Hyundai Automotive Group chairman Chung Mong-Koo said.
Chung called it "imperative" to win the hearts of consumers in China, forecasting a 14% rise in demand next year to 12.7 million vehicles.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
Manufacturing rebounds - So what's the problem?
By Clare Goldsberry, Plastics today
Nov. 2 , 2011
Several recent surveys show that manufacturing is rebounding. That's good news for processors and mold manufacturers whose business seems to be maintaining a steady pace. The August U.S. Manufacturing Technology Orders (USMTO) report, a joint effort of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) and the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association (AMTDA), shows that manufacturing technology orders are up 101% YTD from the same period a year ago.
Manufacturing technology orders totaled $460.61 million and provided the hopeful headline, however Augusts' orders were down 9.4% from July. That said, they were still up 88.5% when compared with the total of $244.35 million reported for August 2010.
It would appear that it's the "roller coaster" that has created a lot of uncertainty in the country. We should be used to this by now - it's a way of life for most manufacturers as companies ride the ebbs and flows of demand. And it's this understanding that may be responsible for the optimism that peeks through in these studies.
"Despite news reports that wider economic growth may be stagnating, the manufacturing technology industry is sustaining its momentum," said Douglas Woods, AMT President. "With orders still up substantially over last year, there is clearly optimism within the industry as firms are seeing future growth opportunities that merit new capital investment."
True enough, but the USMTO's report shows that two of the strongest manufacturing regions saw a decline in manufacturing technology orders: the South (down 23.0% from July, but up 90.1% from August 2010) and the Midwest (down 9.3% from July but up a whopping 128.9% compared to August of 2010). Never a strong manufacturing region, the West nevertheless was down dramatically (-50.2) from July, but also up dramatically (90.1%) when compared to August 2010.
The Central region saw orders increase 30.5% to $140.07 million, over July's total of $107.34 million - and 115.5% higher when compared to August 2010. The Northeast saw August's orders increase 9.5% more than the $58.72 million total for July, and 64.4% higher than August 2010.
Supply chain concerns
MFG.com, a global sourcing marketplace for the manufacturing industry, also recently released its Quarterly survey of North American manufacturers for Q2 2011, providing some interesting insights on OEMs and their supply chains. Among the survey's findings was the fact that North American product manufacturers continue to seek out new suppliers and expand their stables of supply-side resources, with 45% of companies surveyed expressing "a need for new suppliers at the same levels as they've expressed historically (compared to 46% in Q1). The consistency in these responses since the inception of the MFGWatch survey suggests an instability in the supplier markets due to fewer options, logistics costs, and economic volatility in supplier businesses.
Viewpoint: Mexican Manufacturing is Poised for a Comeback
Higher wages, higher production costs and higher transportation costs will make China less competitive in the years to come and give Mexico a distinct advantage.
By Dr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst, Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International
Nov. 3, 2011
The dominant story from Mexico today is one of violence and corruption. The drug wars are a very real part of Mexico these days, and nobody would underestimate the challenges that lie ahead for the government.
However, there is another story that doesn't make the headlines yet is perhaps far more important to the future of the country.
In June, CNBC reported that Mexico's economy is expected to grow by 4.5% this year. Contrast that number with the 1% growth expected in the United States and the 0.5% pace in Europe.
The Mexican economy is outpacing some of the faster-growing regions in the world -- such as Russia -- and it is estimated that Mexico will be the eighth-largest economy in the world by 2050.
In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that unemployment in Mexico fell to 4.6% and is at the lowest level since December of 2008. Contrast this rate to the 9%-plus rate in the United States.
On the Verge of Becoming a Key Trading Nation
Mexico is not far from breaking out as one of the key trading nations in the world. It now has signed 13 free-trade agreements that involve 44 nations, and is clearly less dependent on the performance of the U.S. economy than in the past.
Birmingham immigration lawyer Amy Myers answers businesses' questions over new Alabama law
Published: Thursday, November 03, 2011, 8:10 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- As an immigration lawyer at Birmingham's Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker LLC, Amy Myers works with businesses who want to hire highly trained, specialty workers from overseas who usually have at least a bachelor's degree.
She works with employers and employees who are coming to the U.S. legally to obtain the appropriate visas. But when Alabama's new immigration law was passed, she began studying the legislation to see how businesses would be affected and how to help them comply with its provisions.
Myers, who's been a lawyer for 27 years and has worked at Haskell Slaughter for the past four, said she practiced employment law before switching to immigration law 12 years ago.
In an interview, Myers answered questions about what businesses should know about the state's immigration law, described as the nation's toughest.
Q. What are you hearing from businesses?
A. It kind of runs the gamut. Some businesses are saying, "What happened to my workers?" They can't find enough people to work. That includes restaurants, which kind of surprises me.
Then very small businesses have called to ask, "What do I do?" Some of them have said, "I don't know what an I-9 is." They didn't really know the procedure for verifying someone's work authorization. I guess that some very small employers thought they just needed a driver's license, so they weren't very familiar with the procedures. That's been interesting because they need to be brought up to speed.
Some companies are concerned because they think that it gives the image from Alabama that we're not wanting international people to come here.
7th Annual Alabama Clean and Renewable Energy Conference
Dec. 6-7, Auburn, Alabama
The 7th Annual Alabama Clean and Renewable Energy Conference, hosted by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Energy Division and the Auburn University Natural Resources Management and Development Institute (NRMDI) will be heldDecember 6-7, 2011 at the Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center in Auburn, Alabama.
This year's conference will focus on clean and renewable energy opportunities in the Southeast.
Clean Energy Policy and Opportunities
Biofuel Solutions for the Southeast
Achieving Energy Security
Alternative Energy Financing
REGISTER TODAY at http://www.nrmdi.auburn.edu/bio/ADECA/conference/2011/index.php
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Wendy Wallace Johnson