Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Birmingham-Shuttlesworth airport's $201 million renovation could allow direct international flights
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 10:30 AM Updated: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 12:33 PM
But what has business leaders buzzing is something that the $201 million project can't promise to deliver: direct international flights.
In addition to replacing the almost 40-year-old terminal and its concourses, the Birmingham Airport Authority is adding customs offices, qualifying the airport to host regular direct international passenger and cargo flights. Currently, passengers flying internationally from Birmingham must make a connection at a larger hub airport.
While airport managers still must convince the airlines that Birmingham can support direct international routes, business leaders said they don't think it will be a hard sell.
"There is a lot of international activity that is generated out of Birmingham," said Bill Taylor, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and former chief executive of Mercedes-Benz's Alabama auto assembly operation.
Statewide, Alabama companies last year did $36 billion worth of international business, including $15.5 billion in exports. The volume of Alabama goods exported to the world increased 76 percent in the four years before the recession, and according to data from the Alabama Development Office that international business was directly and indirectly responsible for about 300,000 Alabama jobs.
The international boom has been led by the state's automotive industry, which last year totaled $4 billion in exports and routinely sends its employees to Europe and Asia.
Alabama, Germany's Bremen sign cooperation pact
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Officials said Alabama and the German state of Bremen have signed an agreement that aims to promote investment, trade, and continued economic development. The signing took place at the North River Yacht Club in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Development Office said Friday. "We have 68 German companies who have invested more than $5.8 billion in Alabama. Since 2000, these companies have been responsible for 10,305 announced jobs in our state," ADO Director Greg Canfield said in a statement."Some of our German neighbors are among the most respected companies in the world. We value their presence in Alabama and want to work diligently to increase German investment in our state as well as trade opportunities." The agreement recognizes that the states share many industries, including aerospace, automotive and logistics, and it outlines joint efforts to recruit and promote new and existing companies.
First of Army's revamped Apaches rolled out of Boeing plant with help from Huntsville hands
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 2:55 PM
-- The Army this week began accepting production models of a technologically advanced, more capable and more lethal version of its long-serving Apache attack helicopter.
The first AH-64D Apache "Block III" rolled out in a ceremony at Boeing's plant in Mesa, Ariz., after a traditional blessing by Apache tribal leaders. It is the first of 690 the Army is to receive in the coming years, of which only 56 will be all-new aircraft.
The others will, like the Apache delivered this week, be 21st century-built airframes and with some components from older model Apaches.
Under the Block III program, the aging helicopters get so many improvements to the engine, transmission, rotor blades, avionics and other systems they are essentially new, said Lt. Col. Dan Bailey. He's been product manager for Apache Block III in the Program Executive Office for Aviation on Redstone Arsenal since 2009, and recently got the chance to fly the "new" Apache.
"It's like trying to hold back an Appaloosan stud," said Bailey, who broke horses in his pre-Army youth. "It wants to go. It has more power than we have had in the Apache fleet, ever.
"It will go faster, it will go higher, it will carry more. It's going to make a huge difference, not only in Afghanistan, but across the entire combat environment," he said. "It's a big deal."
World Bank official: U.S. sees benefits of investing in developing countries
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 12:50 PM Updated: Friday, November 04, 2011, 1:02 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The U.S. government sees investing in developing countries as a "moral, strategic and economic imperative," U.S. executive director of the World Bank Group Ian Solomon told Brock School of Business students at Samford University this morning.
Solomon talked with business students and faculty about the World Bank, its mission, and U.S. involvement with the international organization. The world bank has a set of eight goals to hit by 2015, including eradicating poverty, ensuring universal primary education, achieving gender equality and combating diseases, Solomon said.
"There is no entitlement or guarantee to this birth lottery," he said.
Solomon is in Birmingham today for a luncheon with Alabama business leaders to talk about how companies can increase exports to other countries. Only about one percent of U.S. companies export to foreign countries, even though 95 percent of consumers live outside the U.S., he said.
Solomon also attended a roundtable breakfast discussion with Alabama business leaders who already export to other countries.
Today's luncheon is scheduled to begin at noon at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel. The event's sponsors are the Brock School of Business, the Alabama Development Office, Hand Arendall LLC and Balch & Bingham LLP. The event is part of the Brock International Business Speakers Series.
Belzon's Ron Klein answers 10 questions about starting a small business in Huntsville
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 6:30 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- "Who we are is far more important than what we do."
If you're fortunate enough to get to know Ron Klein, you can tell that's a core belief of the man and Belzon, the veteran-owned company he founded in 1998 to provide logistics, information technology and consulting services to Department of Defense agencies.
The company's website says two policies are central to Belzon: honesty and reputation.
And the Huntsville company has an impressive list of recent awards that back up those core beliefs: the Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, the Family Friendly Business Award and the Excellence in Ethics Award. Belzon also has been named the Most Innovative Small Business and the Small Business of the Year.
In addition to his CEO duties at Belzon, Klein volunteers his management expertise to several leadership organizations and serves as a business coach for the Veteran Business Assistance Center, a program of the Women's Business Center of North Alabama.
Klein, an Army veteran who flew helicopters in Vietnam, answered our 10 Questions this month about starting a veteran-owned small business in Huntsville
Factory jobs in the US and Alabama have been thinning since NAFTA
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 3:00 AM Updated: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 10:10 AM
It came out Friday that U.S. manufacturing employment has hit another rough patch, a condition familiar to Alabama's factory sector.
The Labor Department said last week U.S. factories added only 5,000 jobs in October, after a first half of the year during which they added almost 24,000 jobs per month.
It might be news to the Rust Belt states, some of which were enjoying a brief renaissance early in the year. But it isn't in Alabama, where factory jobs have been on the serious wane since the North American Free Trade Agreement of the 1990s.
In September 2001, there were 329,000 people working in manufacturing jobs in Alabama. Ten years later, there are 238,000, according to the latest numbers from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations. That is a loss of almost 100,000 jobs, a decline of 28 percent.
Amid the malaise, a lot of companies have been running advertisements on television, touting their manufacturing prowess, chest-thumping about how "America makes things," and similar paeans to workaday grit and can-do spirit. It seems like an alarming trend: When American manufacturing really was on top, no one had to point such things out.
The debate is central to the country's long-term economic and social well-being. Cheap imported goods from overseas countries where factory workers earn next to nothing help the pocketbook when shopping Walmart. But do they help all of our neighbors, the ones lacking the intention or academic prowess to attend college or the desire to work in an office?
On the Record with Alan Thrasher and Reggie Haslam, co-owners of International Trailways
Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 2:00 AM
Title: Co-founder and chief operating officer, International Trailways LLC.
Education: Bachelor's in business administration, Samford University.
Work history: Got his first job washing buses in his father's business, Thrasher Brothers Trailways, at age 11. Worked in the business throughout high school and college before going on the road to tour with musical entertainers for 10 years. Returned to Birmingham and started an entertainment coach company in 1989. In 2007, joined his sister Alyce Davidson in buying the family business, Thrasher Brothers Trailways. Formed International Trailways with Reggie Haslam in 2007.
Title: Co-founder and chief executive officer, International Trailways LLC.
Education: Graduated from Washington High School.
Work history: Retired after 24 years from Delta Air Lines before founding Haslam Coach of Atlanta in 1977. Operated the bus company for 25 years before moving to Birmingham to work for Thrasher Brothers Trailways. Formed International Trailways LLC with Alan Thrasher in 2007.
Buses have been a part of Alan Thrasher's life since childhood.
He grew up watching his father Jim Thrasher, a member of the Thrasher Brothers gospel singing group, a trio inducted in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, travel to sing on bus tours across the country.
After his dad founded The Thrasher Brothers Trailways bus company in 1971, Thrasher earned extra money as a teenager by washing buses operated by the family business. In 1989, Thrasher operated his own entertainment bus company that took bands on tour across the country.
Four years ago, Thrasher and his sister bought the family bus company. That same year, he joined a business partner, Reggie Haslam, in forming a separate company, International Trailways in Hoover, that manages transportation for major events across the globe.
Last week, their company coordinated a group of 75 buses that transported 13,000 fans to and from Legion Field for the Magic City Classic football game. In an interview, Thrasher and Haslam talked about that event and other projects they have worked on, including overseeing transportation for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, and a Super Bowl in Tampa.
HudsonAlpha iCell among Apple iTunes Top 10 downloaded free education apps
Published: Saturday, November 05, 2011, 12:54 PM Updated: Saturday, November 05, 2011, 1:04 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The HudsonAlpha iCell, a free education app, has taken its creators to an "unbelievable" height.
As of this morning, the app has been downloaded nearly 8,000 times since Apple featured it Thursday as a "new and noteworthy" education app.
In fact, it was No. 8 on the iTunes Top 10 downloaded free education apps.
"It's pretty exciting for us - a small nonprofit in Huntsville to be recognized by someone with millions of apps to choose from," said Dr. Adam Hott, the coordinator of educational outreach at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. "This is nice frosting on the cake."
Hott said editors from Apple marketing called Wednesday saying they were interested in featuring the app.
"They said they liked what they saw," Hott said. "Then, they said they needed it by (Thursday)."
So, Hott went downstairs at the institute to the offices of Digital Radiance, who helped him with the creation of the app and also its first version. He told Ron Phillips, the president of Digital Radiance, and graphic designer David Showalter what was needed and when.
"They dropped what they were doing and went to work," Hott said. "That's what I like about (HudsonAlpha), everyone is there to help."
Jack Daniel's parent company to build mill in Jackson County
Published: Saturday, November 05, 2011, 8:38 AM
STEVENSON, Alabama -- In what is being called a "a good fit," a subsidiary of the makers of Jack Daniel's whiskey will open a mill in Stevenson to produce materials for whiskey barrels.
Officals with Brown-Forman Cooperage, a subsidiary of Brown-Forman Corp., and local city and county officials made the announcement Friday.
"Brown-Forman Cooperage is very excited about opening a stave mill in Stevenson and we look forward to becoming a partner in the local business community," said Greg Roshkowski, vice president/general manager of Brown-Forman Cooperages.
"We are excited to have this quality company select our community to build their next mill," said Stevenson Mayor Rickey Steele. "I would also like to thank the Stevenson Industrial Development Board, the Stevenson Utility Board, North Alabama Electric Co-Op, and the Jackson County Economic Development Authority for all of their work on this project. These groups worked tirelessly behind the scenes on this project.
"Brown-Forman will make a significant investment and add 30 jobs during a tough economy. We are grateful for their investment in our community."
At a 55-acre site just north of Stevenson, the mill - to be known as Brown-Forman Cooperages' Stevenson Mill - will use grade white oak logs to make whiskey barrels for the Lynchburg, Tenn., distillery.
Decker Truck Line Inc. expanding from Birmingham with truck terminal, hiring drivers
Decker Truck Line Inc. is investing nearly $2 million in a new terminal in Bessemer, rolling ahead with plans to move and expand from its operations in Birmingham's Daniel Payne Industrial Park.
The company also is looking for drivers as it considers moving as many as 50 additional trucks to the Bessemer facility.
Decker closed on the purchase this week of a 15,700-square-foot warehouse with an attached 8,000-square-foot office at 1280 Powder Plant Road in Bessemer. The Fort Dodge, Iowa-based company plans to use the building as its new Birmingham terminal, which will include operations, dispatch and maintenance for its fleet of nearly 70 trucks.
Don Decker, president and chairman of the company, was in Bessemer this week, a sign of how important the Birmingham facility is to the family-owned company. The facility will serve 16 Southeastern states.
"We just outgrew our current building," Decker said in an interview. "The (April 27) tornado that went through that area also damaged the building, so it made now a good time to make the move."
Since buying out another trucking company that was in Daniel Payne eight years ago, Decker said the company has grown from 30 trucks to close to 70.
"We've doubled the size of it and we would like to double it again," he said.
That kind of growth was not certain for Decker's Birmingham office. He said the bulk of the business here was in transporting building materials like gypsum and lumber by flatbed truck. But as the housing industry tumbled, Decker was able to transition into transporting steel on its trucks and has been able to keep its drivers rolling.
Tourism numbers could hit record 5 million one year after oil spill
Published: Saturday, November 05, 2011, 6:48 AM Updated: Saturday, November 05, 2011, 7:57 AM
GULF SHORES, Alabama -- After a 47 percent drop following the 2010 oil spill, Baldwin beach attendance are expected to hit a record 5 million visitors this year, tourism officials said Friday.
That number, up from 4.6 million in 2009, would also mean about $2.5 billion in visitor spending and 45,000 jobs, Herb Malone, director of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism told members of the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce.
"In the face of what happened last year, in the face of the nation's worst recession in memory, we did OK," Malone said.
Malone said final totals for 2011 won't be known until 2012. The $237 million spent on lodging so far this year has already topped the previous record of $228 million for 2007.
In 2009, visitors spent about $2.3 billion in an industry that created about 40,000 jobs. Lodging revenue for the summer of 2011 was 16 percent more than in 2009, Malone said. Retail spending was up 9.3 percent.
Part of the reason for the increase was a marketing campaign funded with money from BP PLC, according to an Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Tourism statement.
Malone said television commercials featuring celebrities such as former Alabama coach Gene Stallings and Auburn coach Pat Dye and well as print and Internet advertising helped promote the region.
In a statement issued Friday, Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department, said the marketing effort helped the region recover from the economic effects of the spill.
"We are excited that Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches were able to rebound so quickly and to set record numbers on top of it," Sentell said. "The BP funding allowed us to market effectively to travelers and those efforts paid off. We will continue to promote our Gulf Coat and hope to continue to set records."
Economic development leaders, Gov. Robert Bentley speak at automotive conference in Huntsville
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 4:54 PM Updated: Friday, November 04, 2011, 5:20 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The director of the Alabama Development Office says the automotive sector has been a "catalyst" in reinvigorating the state's manufacturing industry.
"The automotive industry is a very important part of the economic activity in the state of Alabama," said Greg Canfield, who was named the ADO's director in July by Gov. Robert Bentley. Nearly 25 percent of the project announcements in the state this year have been automotive related.
During his presentation at the Southern Automotive Conference - held in Huntsville Thursday and today - Canfield gave a list of new Alabama projects. Among them, Mercedes-Benz' announcement last month that it would invest $350 million to start producing a fifth vehicle at its Vance plant, with production to start in early 2015. Navistar, which has two engine plants in Huntsville, recently agreed to lease the National Alabama rail car plant in Colbert County for a project that state officials say could ultimately mean as many as 2,200 jobs. Navistar hasn't yet announced plans for that facility.
And, earlier this year, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama said the Acura MDX, now being produced in Canada, would be added to the Lincoln plant's lineup in 2013.
BBVA Compass nixes new tower, to expand Brock Center
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 4:03 PM Updated: Friday, November 04, 2011, 8:10 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- BBVA Compass
said today it has abandoned plans to build a new office tower in Birmingham, opting instead for a $15 million renovation of its operations center off Clairmont Avenue.
"We are not going to build," said Jim Heslop, the Birmingham-based bank's human resources director. "We are staying with the Daniel Building as our corporate headquarters."
The employer of about 3,000 people in the metro area began exploring real-estate options this year, after the operator almost 700 bank branches nationwide began to stretch capacity at the decades-old Daniel Building. BBVA Compass explored sites near Boutwell Auditorium and considered erecting a new office tower on the site of the vacant Liberty National Building.
Now, the company says it plans to pour resources into the Harry B. Brock Administrative Center, near Highland Golf Course. Heslop said the plan is to reconfigure and enlarge work spaces so that an additional 600 BBVA Compass workers can fit in the Brock Center, up from about 1,200 now.
BBVA Compass is the U.S. arm of Spain-based banking giant BBVA Group, which bought Birmingham's Compass Bancshares in 2007.
Tullahoma's Arnold Air Force Base dodges cuts
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 10:21 AM Updated: Friday, November 04, 2011, 10:37 AM
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. (AP) -- Plans announced by the U.S. Air Force to eliminate thousands of civilian jobs will, by and large, have little impact at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma.
The plans call for and 18-job reduction at Arnold, but the base announced, in a release Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011, that the cuts will be managed by normal attrition rates. Base leadership doesn't expect to take other measures, such as early retirement or incentive options to reduce staff.
The Air Force announced Wednesday that it would cut 9,000 civilian jobs in a cost-saving move and expects to eliminate another 4,500 later. In addition, they will reorganize Air Force Material Command, which oversees the Arnold Engineering Development Center.
The base said AEDC will now fall under the Air Force Test Center and be renamed the Arnold Engineering Development Complex.
Employers add 80,000 jobs, unemployment rate dips to 9 percent
Published: Friday, November 04, 2011, 8:34 AM Updated: Friday, November 04, 2011, 9:11 AM
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The jobs crisis may be easing slightly on the strength of a fourth straight month of modest hiring and a dip in the unemployment rate.
Hiring slowed a bit in October. But the government said job growth was much stronger in August and September than first thought.
Average hourly earnings rose last month. And the unemployment rate ticked down to 9 percent from 9.1 percent, because more people said they found work last month. It was the first drop in the rate since July.
Still, the report suggests that President Barack Obama will likely face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any post-war president.
The Labor Department said the economy added 80,000 jobs in October. It was the fewest in four months and below September's revised total of 158,000. The government revised August and September's data to show 102,000 more jobs added.
Even so, October's modest job growth is barely enough to keep pace with population growth. About twice as many are needed to lower the unemployment rate. Many employers are hesitant to step up hiring until they see steady demand from consumers.
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