Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Tennessee Valley Corridor summit to discuss lessons, opportunities from spring tornadoes
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 5:00 PM
-- Lessons from and opportunities created by the April tornadoes that tore through North Alabama will be at the heart of the Tennessee Valley Corridor
's "Fall Partnership Event" at the Von Braun Center Monday.
"Turning Regional Resiliency Into Economic Development" is the theme chosen by TVC, which works across five states to spotlight the science and technology centers in the Tennessee Valley Corridor, promote job creation and both government and private investment.
"What happened last spring allows us to take a look at what it means to be resilient, what it means to be robust," said Erin Koshut, a TVC spokeswoman.
Through presentations and roundtable discussions that will include the audience, leaders from government and industry will discuss those ideas not just in response to disasters, she said, but also in relation to diversification of industry, keeping a talented work force, and more.
Al Martinez-Fonts, vice president of U.S. Chamber of Commerce and executive vice president of the U.S. Forum for Policy Innovation will be the keynote speaker for the event luncheon. Rob Manning, executive vice president of Power Systems Operations for the Tennessee Valley Authority will be the featured presenter for an afternoon session, "Building Upon the Lessons Learned."
The long list of other presenters and roundtable participants - "senior level people within their organizations," Koshut said - includes former U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer; Ron Gray, executive director, Tornado Recovery Action Council of Alabama; former NASA Director Dr. Michael Griffin, now Director/King-McDonald Eminent Scholar and professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Center for System Studies, University of Alabama in Huntsville; Col. John Hamilton, Garrison Commander for Redstone Arsenal; Dr. Thom Mason, director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; and Jay Stowe, chief operating officer, Huntsville Utilities.
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 10:24 AM Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 11:36 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama AFL-CIO president Al Henley pleaded for help from a delegation of national labor leaders visiting Alabama this week to investigate the impact of Alabama's new immigration law.
At a morning briefing with the group at downtown's Redmont Hotel, Henley said the immigration bill, along with anti-union legislation passed or proposed, is the product of the now-overwhelming dominance of Republicans in the Alabama Legislature. He added that dominance is due, at least in part, to the national labor movement giving up on Alabama and the South as a lost cause.
"We are powerless in the Alabama Legislature," Henley said. "It's a shame it got this way, but what do you expect when you ignore the South."
Henley called the immigration legislation "hate-filled."
"It looks bad on Alabama," Henley said. "It looks like the old racism of the civil rights era."
But it is also presents an opportunity, Henley said, for the labor movement to engage in the struggle against the law and also organize union and political efforts more broadly in the state.
The national delegation, consisting of African American labor leaders, are meeting with community and political leaders and visit effected communities, schools and businesses.
Immigration law may cost Alabama a key economic recruit
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 7:27 AM Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 8:33 AM
A Chinese company hailed as an economic lifeline for Alabama's downtrodden Black Belt region may be looking to move elsewhere - and at least one top state official says the state's new immigration law is to blame.
Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, which announced earlier this year its plans to build a $100 million plant in Thomasville, "is having second thoughts" about Alabama in light of the controversial law, according to David Bronner, chairman and chief executive of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
"They're not happy," said Bronner, citing conversations with Golden Dragon executives. "They have expressed their concerns to me on numerous occasions."
But Greg Canfield, the state's top industrial recruiter, said he's heard no such complaints during his ongoing negotiations with the company. Instead, he said, Golden Dragon has expanded the scope of the 300-job project, and is evaluating additional sites in Alabama and other states as a potential home.
"What has changed is the size of the project, and so they're looking at alternative locations," Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office, said by phone from Tokyo, where he was participating in an automotive industry hunting trip. "It had nothing to do with the immigration law. We're actively talking to them and they've made no mention of that."
Alabama immigration law changes in the works; GOP senators say bill has 'unintended consequences
'Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 6:30 AM Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 7:15 AM
Key Republican senators say they are compiling a list of changes that need to be made to Alabama's new immigration law
, described as the nation's toughest.
Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills, who on Tuesday replaced immigration bill sponsor Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, as chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee, said there is wide agreement the bill had several "unintended consequences" that need to be addressed.
"We are looking at different fixes," he said.
More blunt was Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, who is one of the senators helping craft a package of amendments.
"It's just common sense. Let's step up and say we've made some mistakes," Dial said. "It doesn't weaken the bill."
Dial said the bill's requiring proof of legal residence or citizenship for every transaction with a state or local government, including all license renewals, is too cumbersome.
The bill's requirement that potentially criminalizes giving charitable aid to illegal immigrants goes too far, he said.
And though he expects opposition, Dial said he would push to remove the requirement that educators verify the immigration status of students in schools. "I think that was one of the worst things that was put in the bill," said Dial, who once worked as a teacher and a coach. "That may be a point of contention but I am for taking that out. Teachers and educators have enough to contend with today."
Alabama Republicans say job creation will be top priority in session
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 8:12 AM Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 8:17 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Republicans in the Alabama Legislature said job creation will be their top priority in the upcoming session and plan to push a package of bills -- including tax credits and a new small business loan program -- to urge employers to start hiring again.
"Our number one focus is going to be on job creation," Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said at a press conference announcing the agenda.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said legislators hope to create a pro-business climate so private industry can begin creating the jobs that Alabama needs.
"Every move we make is with the conscious effort to create more jobs in the state of Alabama," Marsh said.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said Republicans are trying to mask the fact that Alabama's unemployment rate has risen from 9 percent in November 2010, when the GOP took control of the Legislature from Democrats, to 9.8 percent now.
"I see a lot of government spending in their plan; what I don't see are real solutions. Instead of throwing money at big corporations, we should close the corporate loopholes which allow companies to take advantage of our tax laws," he said.
The legislative session starts Feb. 7.
A key proposal will be to give the governor and the Alabama Development Office broader authority to seek bond issues and give tax abatements through a one-time constitutional amendment. Lawmakers said through legislation they would set parameters for the size and type of projects to receive the state incentives.
OUR VIEW: Honda's Lincoln plant has been a great success story for the company and for Alabama
Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011, 5:44 AM
The Honda folks in Lincoln probably keep a close eye on the weather these days, and not just because their 4,000-worker auto assembly plant sits in a tornado-prone area.
Honda has been belted by the weather this year. In the spring, an earthquake and tsunami in Japan damaged supplier operations there, causing a parts shortage that forced Honda to cut U.S. production. This month, flooding in Thailand hurt parts-makers and created another shortage that slowed production.
Both events hurt the Lincoln plant. After the Japanese disaster, the plant slashed its output. Cutbacks continue because of the Thailand flooding.
Monday, though, came good news for Honda and for Alabama as the company celebrated its 10th anniversary since the first Odyssey minivan rolled off the production line at the Lincoln factory. The plant is expanding its vehicle-making capacity to 340,000 a year, up from 300,000. Honda also will add 100 new jobs and invest another $84 million at the plant.
Combined with previous announcements from earlier this year, that brings Honda's total additional investment to $275 million and 140 jobs. Honda will not only increase the number of vehicles it can manufacture but also its manufacturing flexibility at its Alabama operations.
The latest $84 million investment will add a third stamping line to the plant's two existing stamping lines, which produce steel and aluminum vehicle body parts. That project is part of adding the Acura MDX sport utility vehicle to the plant's assembly lines. The vehicle, from Honda's luxury division, is set to arrive in Lincoln in 2013 and will be the first Acura product made by Alabama auto workers. Workers in Lincoln now build the Odyssey, the Pilot SUV and the Ridgeline pickup truck.
By 2013, the company's total investment in Lincoln will top $2 billion.
"Thank you for building a quality product and for making our state a stronger state every day," Gov. Robert Bentley told Honda's employees at Monday's announcement.
Honda, along with the Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai assembly plants, the Toyota and Navistar engine plants, and the parts suppliers that located in Alabama, really have made the state stronger.
The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in partnership with a consortium of institutions including the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Georgia State University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has opened a research data center (RDC) laboratory in Atlanta.
(Media-Newswire.com) - The Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau, in partnership with a consortium of institutions including the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Georgia State University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has opened a research data center ( RDC ) laboratory in Atlanta. The center is located at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
RDCs are secure Census Bureau facilities where qualified researchers from academia, federal agencies and other institutions with approved projects conduct statistical analyses using unpublished Census Bureau demographic and economic microdata files for statistical purposes. These secure facilities are staffed by Census Bureau employees and meet stringent physical and computer security requirements.
"The Atlanta Census Research Data Center will allow the research community across the Southeast to conduct statistical analyses that otherwise would not be possible on a wide range of research projects in the social sciences," said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. "Making microdata records available in a controlled, secure environment to sophisticated users will uncover the strengths and weaknesses of these records, thereby providing us with the best way to check the quality of the data we collect, edit and tabulate."
In order to conduct research in an RDC, researchers must submit proposals to the Census Bureau for approval. The review process ensures that proposed research is feasible, has scientific merit and benefits Census Bureau programs. In addition, RDC operating procedures, strict security and strong legal safeguards assure the confidentiality of these data as required by law. Researchers, for instance, must pass a full background investigation and are sworn for life to protect the confidentiality of the data they access, with violations subject to significant financial and legal penalties.
Modeling and simulation is for much more than space and military
Published: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 4:27 PM
On a large computer monitor, Dr. Mikel Petty watches lines of dots as they move along the highways of a map of south Alabama.
Like ants crawling along twigs, the dots, each one representing a vehicle, move up and down the highways, while other groups - much less concentrated - move along lines representing railroads. The dots swarm together at Mobile, fusing into one large, black mass.
What's on the screen at the offices of the Center for Modeling and Simulation Analysis at the University of Alabama in Huntsville is a model of traffic flow in South Alabama.
It's part of a transportation modeling and geospatial visualization project the CMSA is doing for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
A grant from the EDA funded the study as a way to boost the South Alabama economy after the April 2010 oil spill damaged Alabama's Gulf beaches and brought coast tourism to a halt.
"They want to mitigate damages done by the spill," said Petty, CMSA founder and director. One of the alternatives that CMSA is modeling is a larger Interstate 10 bridge into Mobile that would ease traffic congestion through the tunnel under the Alabama River.
Automotive Manufacturing Has Big Impact on Economy
The last few weeks we've seen several important indicators that automotive manufacturing in the U.S. is improving and and making an important contribution to our economy. In case you missed it, late last week the Center for Automotive Research in partnership with Hyundai Motor America released the findings of a study on Hyundai's impact on the U.S. economy.
This study shows that Hyundai's U.S. operations and dealerships have contributed to more than 94,000 private sector jobs and more than $7 billion to our nation's GDP in 2011. Of those jobs 33,313 are directly related to Hyundai's manufacturing activities with wages estimated at $2.4 billion.
Hyundai is providing a significant boost to the manufacturing economy in the U.S. and job creation.
Also in the news today is the announcement that Honda Motor Co. will be expanding its production facility in Alabama to produce light trucks and engines. The company will invest $84 million and hire more 100 workers for the expansion.
Automotive manufacturers are continuing to have a large impact and play an import role in the U.S. economy and economic recovery.
Gov. Bentley mulling payroll tax breaks for industry
Gov. Robert Bentley says Alabama not only afford its current tax incentives to lure industry despite decreasing revenue -- it could stand to gain some new ones.
State lawmakers are working on legislation that would give payroll tax abatements to Alabama businesses considering expanding their facilities. The idea is that the abatement will encourage job creation -- offsetting the loss in tax revenue -- while making Alabama more competitive with other states vying for industry in the process.
"We do not have as much revenue as we've had, but we'll still give incentives," Bentley said Monday during a visit to the Honda auto manufacturing plant in Lincoln. "We're working on innovative legislation to give incentives through tax abatements."
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, confirmed there was a plan for the legislation, adding that it would be a constitutional amendment that will be put to a vote by the people. Marsh said the legislation needs to be in the form of a constitutional amendment to protect it from court challenges.
The state once had a payroll tax abatement deal with the Mercedes auto plant in Vance, but it was struck down after the Alabama Education Association challenged it in court, Marsh said.
The Legislature was forced to cut the state budget significantly this year due to declining revenue brought on by the sluggish economy. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, Alabama collected fewer tax dollars per resident than any other state in 2009.
But like Bentley, Marsh is confident cutting more taxes to businesses will help generate more revenue for the state in the long run.
"By encouraging businesses to expand, that will create more jobs, and people with jobs will spend more money and create more sales tax revenue," Marsh said.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson