Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Athens officials expect Steelcase to add 100 more jobs at city plant
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011, 8:10 AM Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011, 8:11 AM
ATHENS, Alabama - City officials in the Alabama town of Athens say the community's largest employer may add up to 100 jobs to its workforce there.
Steelcase Inc. announced in January that it was closing other North American facilities and expanding operations at the Athens plant.
Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks tells The Decatur Daily that said the company now has 934 full-time and contract employees in Athens, and he was told it planned to add between 80 and 100 jobs.
The Athens City Council is expected to vote on a tax abatement plan for the company, which makes office equipment, at its meeting this evening.
The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based firm has expanded its Athens facility before, when it moved a production line there from Atlanta in 2009 and added 250 jobs.
Gov. Robert Bentley, Honda to announce increased output at automaker's Alabama plant
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011, 7:43 AM Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011, 8:47 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Today will bring another announcement that Alabama's auto industry is expanding.
At an event that begins at 10:30 a.m., Honda
will announce that it is expanding capacity at its Alabama auto plant to 340,000 vehicles a year. The automaker now has the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles annually at its factory in Lincoln.
Gov. Robert Bentley and with other state leaders are expected to be on hand for the special ceremony.
This year, Honda has announced $191 million in new investment at the plant, money that is aimed at expanding output, improving flexibility and transfering production of the Acura MDX sport utility vehicle from Canada to Alabama.
Additional jobs and investment are expected to be announced on Monday.
The celebration is coming exactly 10 years to the day that the first Odyssey minivan rolled off the assembly line in Lincoln on Nov. 14, 2001.
Honda has invested $1.5 billion in the Lincoln plant, which employs 4,000 people.
Business Support Center keeps working after spill
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011, 7:29 AM
GULF SHORES, Alabama - More than 18 months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Business Support Center is moving beyond helping stores and restaurants survive and on to finding ways to expand and improve the Gulf Coast economy for the long-term, the facility's new director said.
The center will continue its efforts to help businesses become more efficient and find new markets, Rick Miller, who took over the director's position last week, said. Now, however, it's not a matter of survival, but finding ways to improve an industry that has a multibillion-dollar impact on the region.
"We're really at the start of a new beginning for lack of a better term," Miller said. "We've gone through the initial reason for the support center, which was just dealing with the crisis. Now what I believe the mission is shifting to is to provide a longer-term business support center that helps existing businesses deal with the economic cycles."
Economic cycles are a fact of life for coastal businesses, which deal with summer tourists, snowbirds and the threat of hurricanes. The oil spill hit at the start of what should have been the peak of the annual cycle, the summer tourist season.
Alabama collected less in taxes per state resident than governments in any other state in fiscal 2009, study shows
Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 11:00 AM Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 11:32 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- State and local governments in Alabama collected fewer tax dollars per state resident to spend on schools, roads, police or other services than state and local governments in any other state in the 2009 fiscal year, a Birmingham News study of U.S. Census Bureau reports shows.
"Our cities, counties, state and schools have less tax revenue with which to provide services," said Jim Williams, executive director of the non-partisan Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, which is based at Samford University.
"Either we're doing things a lot more efficiently than everybody else or our services are of a lot lower quality or there's less of them," he said. "It's obviously a mixture of that."
Alabama's state and local governments collected $2,793 in taxes per state resident in the 2009 fiscal year, according to a study of the Census Bureau's latest report on state and local tax collections and state population totals from the 2010 census.
Alabama's governments collected a total of $13.35 billion in sales taxes, individual and corporate income taxes, fuel taxes, property taxes and other levies in fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30, 2009, in Alabama. The state had 4.78 million people in 2010.
Alabama's state and local tax collections per resident also ranked lowest among the 50 states in fiscal years 2005 through 2007, and ranked second-lowest in fiscal 2008, according to earlier Birmingham News studies.
Next to Alabama's $2,793, the lowest state and local tax totals collected per state resident in fiscal 2009 were $2,819 in Tennessee, $2,829 in South Carolina, $2,884 in Idaho and $3,033 in Mississippi. For most states, the 2009 fiscal year ended June 30, 2009.
If Alabama's state and local governments in fiscal 2009 had collected the same in taxes per resident as Mississippi did, they would have gotten $1.15 billion more than they actually did.
For the 50 states in fiscal 2009, the median state and local tax total per state resident was $3,799: The total was greater in half the states and less in half.
If Alabama's governments that year had collected the median amount per resident, they would have had $4.81 billion more than they actually collected.
"One of the reasons that we're able to attract industry into Alabama ... is, we are a low-tax state. That is a positive thing," Gov. Robert Bentley said.
"When people look at Alabama, if they're going to come here to retire, if they're going to come and bring their business here, they know that they're not going to be overtaxed, and the people that work for that company will not be overtaxed," he said.
Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, the top-ranking state senator, said a low tax burden "plays into your ability to attract business."
Honda is a blessing
The Daily Home
Nov 13, 2011
It seems there is no shortage of discouraging economic news, but there are times when the best thing we can do is sit back and count our blessings rather than our problems.
Alabama has certainly benefited from assembly plants of three of the brightest jewels of the automotive industry in recent decades, and the crown jewel of those three lies in Talladega County.
The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama lists 19 manufacturing facilities for automobiles, light trucks and heavy trucks in the southeastern states. Of the three manufacturers within the state - Honda, Mercedes and Hyundai - Honda boasts the largest workforce with 4,000 associates, with Mercedes having 2,800 team members and Hyundai 2,700. Honda's payroll exceeds $250 million annually.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama alone contributes $4.5 billion annually to the Alabama economy, representing three percent of the state's Gross State Product, according to the EDPA study. The EDPA lists Honda's capital investment in Alabama at $1.4 billion.
In addition, 38 Tier 1 suppliers have located operations in Alabama, bringing an additional 4,000 jobs to the state.
Honda is hosting a celebration Monday, marking the 10th anniversary of the day the first vehicle rolled off of the production line at the plan in Lincoln.
Gov. Robert Bentley plans to be there to help celebrate the milestone with HMA president Tom Shoupe, Congressman Mike Rogers, community leaders and other Honda executives.
The event is the next milestone in the history of Honda in Alabama.
That began in 1999 when Honda selected Lincoln as the site of its next vehicle and engine plant, with an initial projection of employing 1,500 associates
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey prepares for Taiwan trade trip
Leaving this Saturday and returning the following Friday, Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey will lead a delegation comprised of legislators from five other southern states to Taipei, Taiwan on a cultural and trade exchange mission.
Those states with representatives traveling as part of the mission are Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia.
Alabama has been a trade partner with Taiwan since 1983 becoming Alabama's eleventh largest trading partner.
The mission is hosted by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office and takes place from November 12-19, 2011.
"Having just returned from mainland China on a similar trade mission, I cherish the opportunity to now lead a delegation to Taiwan. The divide across the Pacific grows smaller every day, and I look forward to this opportunity to promote Alabama's economy, people, and resources to one of our trade partners," said Lt. Governor Ivey.
Lieutenant Governor Ivey will be the keynote speaker at the Joint Conference of ROC-USA & US-Taiwan Business Councils luncheon.
She will discuss the importance of the trade relationship between Taiwan and the six states represented at the conference.
On the record: Tom Shoupe says 'products made in Alabama are a key part of Honda's lineup
'Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 9:00 AM Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 9:26 AM
LINCOLN, Alabama -- Tom Shoupe's first seven months on the job as head of Honda's Alabama operations in Lincoln have been far from a smooth ride.
When he arrived back in the spring, the company was facing a critical parts shortage following damage to supplier operations sustained in the Japan earthquake and tsunami, forcing production cutbacks in the U.S.
Then, there was the tornado outbreak in Alabama, prompting Honda to respond by sending out hundreds of employees, on paid company time, to help clean up devastated areas.
And now, as the Japanese automaker prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary of building vehicles in the state, another parts shortage -- this time caused by flooding in Thailand -- has again slowed output at the Lincoln factory.
But in a recent interview, Shoupe ticked off all the challenges that have been thrown at Honda's $1.5 billion, 4,000-worker state operations since the first Odyssey minivan made there rolled off the assembly line on Nov. 14, 2001.
With redesigned models and additions to its assembly lines, the plant has launched three Odysseys, two Pilot SUVs, one Ridgeline pickup and one Accord sedan, all within the past decade.
Every time, the Alabama workers have risen to those challenges, Shoupe said, strengthening the reputation of the Lincoln plant in the eyes of Honda's global leaders.
Green Plains Renewable Energy to build ethanol terminal in Birmingham
Published: Friday, November 11, 2011, 11:15 AM Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011, 12:04 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc
., the fourth largest producer of ethanol in the U.S., said a subsidiary will build and operate a new ethanol unit train terminal in Birmingham.BlendStar LLC
's terminal will have 160,000 barrels of storage and will received 96-car unit trains of ethanol, Green Plains Renewable Energy said. It's expected to be finished by third-quarter 2012 and will be served by BNSF Railway
Todd Becker, chief executive of Green Plains, said in a statement he thinks Birmingham is a "significant growth market" and that the plans represent efforts to expand and diversity the business.
"With superior services provided by BNSF Railway and BlendStar," Becker said, "operation of this new terminal will provide better transportation economics to shippers, as it will be the eastern most point for direct ship on the railroad to receive ethanol from the Midwest."
Becker said the new facility will be one of the most modern and efficient ethanol
terminals in the U.S. The Omaha, Neb.-based company already operates a facility in Birmingham through BlendStar with storage capacity of 12,000 gallons, according to BlendStar's website.
The city of Scottsboro embarks on green power project
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 7:08 PM
SCOTTSBORO, Alabama - Dignitaries gathered earlier this week at the Scottsboro landfill for a ceremony that observed the city's green power project.
Under the project, the city will take methane gas collected at the landfill and turn it into energy.
The city of Scottsboro was awarded an Energy Efficient Grant in February 2010. The grant is part of the Green Energy Stimulus Package to convert waste into energy.
Scottsboro has formed a partnership with TVA and the North Alabama Electric Co-Op to sell the electricity that is generated. Construction on the wells to capture the methane gas began last November.
A flare was installed in April. The generator and the gas processing module were delivered in July.
Electricity was generated and put on the grid in August.
Huntsville named a top 10 best place for military retirees to start second career
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 4:58 PM
-- You can't throw a patrol cap into the air around here without it hitting a retired colonel or general on the way down. So the news this week that Huntsville made it onto USAA
list of "Best Places for Retirement: Second Careers" for medium-sized metro areas is great, but is no surprise.
"How could we not be on that list," said retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Max Bennett.
If there's any surprise it's that Huntsville - major BRAC beneficiary and home to hundreds of defense and high-tech companies - came in fourth place behind top-rated Manchester, N.H., Anchorage, Alaska, and Killeen, Texas.
"Really?" said a mildly surprised Bennett, who works for a defense contractor and is president of the North Alabama Veterans and Fraternal Organizations Coalition.
"I am a little shocked. I would have thought we'd be number one," said retired Col. John Olshefski, a former Redstone Arsenal garrison commander and now on Huntsville's City Council. So he's slightly biased.
"It's such a great place, why would you want to live anywhere else?" Olshefski asked.
"I would think that somebody looked at statistics and they had never actually been here," Bennett said Thursday at the Madison County Veterans Luncheon.
ThyssenKrupp support business plans to open shop in Chunchula
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 4:54 PM Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 5:10 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- A support business for ThyssenKrupp AG plans to open a custom machine shop in Chunchula, employing a projected 15 workers within three years and paying them an average annual salary of $50,000, company officials said.
S&S Machine Shop Inc. plans to spend about $800,000 for a facility on Celeste Road that can upgrade existing equipment, design and build new equipment, or fabricate machine parts for companies like the steel mill in north Mobile County.
On Thursday, the Mobile County Industrial Development Authority voted unanimously to give the company sales and property tax breaks worth about $33,000.
S&S employs about 33 people in a 110,000-square-foot facility in Boonville, Ind. The company's clients include those in the mining industry, steel and aluminum smelters, car companies and others.
Jon Scherzinger, the S&S sales manager, said he began to get work from ThyssenKrupp's carbon steel unit about three years ago. Last month he got his first contract from ThyssenKrupp's stainless steel unit.
He said S&S wants to build off its success with ThyssenKrupp to find other customers in the region.
"We've dealt with ThyssenKrupp for three years, and the work they're giving us keeps growing," he said. "They're ramping up to the point where it's hard to service it from Booneville. We need a daily presence here, and we want to build off that to have a full shop in the area."
Jefferson County bankruptcy: Retirement Systems of Alabama chief David Bronner predicts higher borrowing costs in short term
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 6:00 AM Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 11:56 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- The bankruptcy filing by Jefferson County may temporarily raise borrowing costs a bit for Alabama's cities, other counties, public universities and state government, Retirement Systems of Alabama chief executive David Bronner said Wednesday.
But Bronner said any interest-rate penalty shouldn't last long. "I don't see any long-term ramifications for the rest of the state," he said.
Opinions varied, but other observers agreed with Bronner, at least on the short-term effects.
Bronner said Alabama governments and public universities that borrow money by selling bonds may have to pay interest rates 0.15 to 0.25 percentage points higher than they otherwise would have paid without the bankruptcy. "But that's just out of the chute for the next six to eight months," he said.
Bronner said public borrowers in Alabama likely will have to answer more questions in coming months from potential bond buyers -- questions about their ability to repay debt. "Whether it's north Alabama or south Alabama, they just have to say, 'We're not Jefferson County. Here are our books. Here are our records,'" he said.
As for Jefferson County, Bronner said bankruptcy stops its ability to borrow, unless a bank, insurance company or other lender gets involved in the bankruptcy and lends the county "dip financing" in return for a pledge that it will be repaid before any other creditor.
Birmingham's Innovation Depot expansion almost complete
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 5:30 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Birmingham's Innovation Depot is almost finished with its $1 million expansion project, completing the structure's transformation from an abandoned Sears department store into the Southeast's largest business incubator.
The 27,000-square-foot project should be completed by Dec. 15, according to Innovation Depot Chief Operating Officer Devon Laney. The building at 1500 First Avenue North has been fully renovated since 2007, and the expansion will create walls, new hallways, office and lab space, he said.
Already, 80 companies are operating in the facility. After the expansion project, Laney said he expects the total increase to between 90 and 95 companies. The total number of employees at the companies will increase from around 450 to as many as 650, he said.
The majority of the companies housed at Innovation Depot are technology firms.
"Once this is done, it won't have any space that's just dead, useless space," Laney said. "It will all be ready for use."
One of the features of the project is a biotech manufacturing area, with lab space suitable for producing pharmaceuticals, Laney said. He said companies interested in moving into Innovation Depot in the past have asked about biotech manufacturing capabilities, but none had been available until now, he said. The room has a vapor barrier -- to help control pressure and humidity -- and a decontamination room.
The architect on the project is Cohen Carnaggio Reynolds, a Birmingham firm. The builder is Williford Orman Construction LLC of Pelham. Eighty percent of funding for the project came through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, with the other $200,000 matched locally, Laney said.
The former Sears building was vacant for two decades before the renovation project that gave birth to Innovation Depot. The incubator is now considered the anchor of Birmingham's downtown Entrepreneurial District. In the past four years, the 140,000-square-foot incubator has had a large economic impact on the city. In March, Innovation Depot released a study saying the economic impact was around $1 billion.
Birmingham Business Alliance chairman: Bankruptcy to "put a cloud over county"
Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 5:30 PM Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 5:52 PM
"We're certainly disappointed that this is the ultimate result," said James McManus, chairman of the Birmingham Business Alliance and CEO of Energen Corp. "We think it's very unfortunate and probably not in the best interest of all concerned, including the ratepayers."
The BBA had argued against bankruptcy in favor of a negotiated settlement, saying there are no guarantees with a Chapter 9 filing and the stigma of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history would be hard to shake.
"It's not good for economic development and job creation, and it's highly likely that the rate increases could actually be more (than those proposed in the settlement)," McManus said tonight. "It's going to put a cloud over the county that's going to take us a while to work our way through."
And while McManus said he sees no positives in today's filing, he said the BBA is committed to moving past it.
"We're dedicated to trying to overcome it, move forward and deal with this issue the best way we know how and try to grow the region," he said. "But we are definitely disappointed in this outcome."
ECDI "Managing Resources to Support Local Economic Development"
On December 8-9, ECDI will be presenting a new short course called, "Managing Resources to Support Local Economic Development." The course will begin at 8 AM on the 8th and end before lunch on the 9th. It will be held at the Hotel at AU and Dixon Conference Center. Please find more information about the course below.
Course Overview: Sponsored by the Economic & Community Development Institute, this course will focus on successfully managing and funding a local economic development organization (EDO) and financing economic development. It will begin with an overview of the key principles and practices involved in managing resources to support local economic development. This overview will focus on both human and financial resource management. The agenda will include "real-world" examples from leading economic development professionals who have successfully managed local EDOs. Other speakers will tell about bringing dreams to fruition through creative economic development financing. Presenters will include some of Alabama's top economic developers, as well as national experts from other states.
Course Topics: Achieving and Maintaining Organizational Excellence; The Role of the Economic Development CEO; Human Resource Management for EDOs: Leadership, Motivation, and Working with People to Get Things Done; EDO Board Development; Local Economic Development Strategic Planning; and Financial Management for EDOs
Registration: You can register online at the following link: http://bit.ly/managing_edos . The course registration fee is $225.
Accommodations: We have reserved a block of hotel rooms at the Hotel at AU at a special course rate of $104 per night. Please call the Hotel at 1-800-228-2876 to make reservations. Directions to the Hotel are available online at http://auhcc.com/connect/locationDirections-en.html .
For More Information: Please contact Amelia Stehouwer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334.844.5394.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson