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Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. 


in this issue:
Israeli Company Selects Auburn - Release
SET Enterprises project in Alabama gets $12 million in SBA loans, Mercantile Capital Corp. says - Birmingham News
275 jobs retained in Dothan after group buys Twitchell - Dothan Eagle
Birmingham's Corridor X interchange on schedule - Birmingham News
Alabama mines find good news with projected coal industry growth - Birmingham News
Alabama sheds 7 percent of its construction jobs in year, Associated General Contractors trade group says - Birmingham News
UAH places three teams in Alabama Launchpad competition - 42 blog
Alabama Launchpad Competition Propels UAB Start-Ups - UAB Magazine
ACRE's Alabama Commercial Real Estate Conference (ACREcon) unveils new website


Israeli Company Selects Auburn

Auburn, Ala. - Arkal Plastic Products will establish a manufacturing facility to produce plastic parts for the automotive industry in Auburn, Alabama. The Israeli-based company will open its first U.S. manufacturing operation under the name of ARKAL Automotive USA, Inc. in a brand new 32,000 square foot facility in Auburn Technology Park West with future expansion plans of up to 110,000 square feet. The building is currently under construction and anticipated for completion in December 2011. In the first phase of this project, the new company location will result in an investment of approximately $7.2 million and 25 jobs.


"For the last two years ARKAL has collaborated in a partnership with another Auburn-based company. Business at both companies apparently is strong enough to enable both companies to expand beyond that partnership," explained Mayor Bill Ham. "It is a good day for Auburn when a technology-driven company is planning to invest and hire people in our community," Ham added.

ARKAL Automotive, a division of ARKAL Plastic Products, was founded in 1997 and since then, ARKAL has developed a worldwide reputation for design excellence, utilizing state-of-the-art engineering, advanced thermoplastic technologies, and the latest developments in high-quality materials to produce affordable, durable long-life products. ARKAL Automotive headquarters is located in the Northern part of Israel and is the second company from Israel to start a manufacturing operation in Auburn.


Mr. Ram Drori, General Manager of ARKAL Automotive Plastic complimented Auburn's economic development program. "The pro-business attitude and valuable input provided by the economic development team made the difference over other locations that we evaluated. We are looking for a long and good relationship with Auburn that will support our strategy of growing in this area."  


With the formation of a division strictly focused on the automotive industry, ARKAL is building a network of manufacturing operations which will allow it to service its globally operating customers. While a Canadian facility is mainly serving the automotive cluster in Michigan and Ontario, the Auburn facility will focus on supplying car manufacturers in and around Alabama. The company is also operating in Germany, Spain, Poland and China.

For more information, please see ARKAL's web page at www.arkal-automotive.com or contact the City of Auburn Economic Development Office at (334) 501-7270.



SET Enterprises project in Alabama gets $12 million in SBA loans, Mercantile Capital Corp. says
Published: Monday, November 28, 2011, 12:01 PM     Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011, 12:12 PM  
By The Birmingham News The Birmingham News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Orlando-based Mercantile Capital Corp. said it has closed on a pair of U.S. Small Business Administration 504 Loans that will help build and equip a steel processing plant in Jackson, Ala., valued at more than $12 million.

SET Enterprises Inc., a provider of steel processing services that has operations in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, expects to initially employ some 30 workers when it opens a 70,000-square-foot plant in Alabama next year. The facility may ultimately employ as many as 50 workers, Mercantile Capital CEO Chris Hurn said in a statement.

"At full capacity, this new plant can process 360,000 tons of material," Hurn said.

Most of the steel will support production for the automotive and drilling industries in the Gulf Coast region, he said. The project was announced in May.

The SBA 504 loan, which helps to finance new plant equipment as well as construction, was provided in conjunction with Bank of America and First United Security Bank of Thomasville. The SET Enterprises loan also ranks as Mercantile Capital's largest single SBA 504 transaction to date.



Birmingham News




275 jobs retained in Dothan after group buys Twitchell
By: Lance Griffin
Published: November 23, 2011




Twitchell president Jeff Register announced Wednesday that the company was bought Tuesday, allowing it to restructure debt and stay in Dothan.


"This puts us in a much stronger financial position," Register said. "Now, our future is as bright as ever. This allows us to continue in our existing markets and hopefully expand into new ones.


Twitchell has been operating continuously in Dothan since 1922. It currently manufactures synthetic fabrics, yarns and coatings.


Officials declined to reveal the purchase price. When investment group Wind Point Partners acquired Twitchell Corporation in 2000, the total investment was reported to be $70 million including assumed debt.


The local investment group is headed by businessman John Watson. Other local investors were not revealed. Capital Partners, LLC of Greenwich, Conn., is the actual purchasing group. Capital Partners is a private equity investment group that has successfully invested in more than 60 companies.




Dothan Eagle



Birmingham's Corridor X interchange on schedule
Published: Monday, November 28, 2011, 8:30 AM     Updated: Monday, November 28, 2011, 8:46 AM
By Jeremy Gray -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Work on the interchange linking Corridor X and Interstate 65 --the largest road project in Birmingham-area history -- is expected to be completed by its original target date of Oct. 15, 2014, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation.


The $168.6 million project began on Aug. 5, 2010. While 30 percent of the project's time frame has elapsed, the work was 18.9 percent complete as of last week.


ALDOT division engineer Brian Davis said the first phase of the project required blasting away and removing rock before construction could begin. That work typically takes longer than the actual construction, Davis said.

The blasting has to be done in daylight and when it's not raining. The explosive charges have to be strong enough to destroy rock, but weak enough to keep from damaging nearby buildings.


"You know you're going to get behind (during blasting), but we're basically on schedule. We're almost to the items where you can get ahead," Davis said.


In the coming weeks, columns protruding from the ground at the north Birmingham work site will begin looking more like bridges, Davis said.


"It's like an assembly line," Davis said of the upcoming work that will add girders and bridge decking to those columns. "Once you get to that, it starts to look like a bridge."


The finished project -- roughly 1.5 miles with 14 ramps and 14 bridges -- will all but complete Alabama's roughly 96-mile portion of the Birmingham-to-Memphis interstate that will be known as Interstate 22.




Birmingham News




Alabama mines find good news with projected coal industry growth
Published: Saturday, November 26, 2011, 11:30 AM  


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- There is good news for Alabama's big coal miners, according to an investment report.

The Paragon Report, an independent investment researcher, said in a recent research note that coal demand is projected to increase significantly over the next 25 years due to industrial growth in emerging markets. Most analysts argue that the coal market is set to explode, the report said.


The report cited the prospects of Birmingham-based Walter Energy, a publicly traded company that operates two large underground metallurgical coal mines in Tuscaloosa County. The company also operates Walter Coke in Birmingham, Black Warrior Methane, Taft Coal Sales in Jasper and Tuscaloosa Resources, which produces steam and industrial coal.

The Paragon Report also cited a top official of Birmingham's Drummond Co., which is family owned, who said coal prospects are rising after the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan.


"Drummond Coal sales president George Wilbanks says coal demand rose over the past decade as China led growth in Asia and may accelerate to push up export volumes after the potential shock of Fukushima to the previously anticipated role for nuclear power generation," the report, issued this month, said.


Coal-fired power plants produce slightly less than 50 percent of U.S. electricity. Electrical power generating stations accounts for more than 90 percent of U.S. coal consumption. It is an important Alabama industry, producing about 20 million tons a year and employing about 4,200 people.



Birmingham News


Alabama sheds 7 percent of its construction jobs in year, Associated General Contractors trade group says
Published: Monday, November 28, 2011, 3:02 PM     Updated:

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama lost 7 percent of its construction jobs over the 12-month period ending in October, a rate higher than all but three states, an industry trade group says.

Alabama saw 6,100 of its 86,800 construction jobs disappear over the past year, according to an Associated General Contractors analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Among the states, Georgia fared the worst during the 12 months, shedding 9.5 percent, or 13,800 construction jobs. New Mexico's 9.2 percent drop (4,100 jobs lost) was next, followed by Wisconsin's 8.6 percent decline (8,100 construction jobs).


North Dakota showed the strongest construction job gains, with a 19 percent surge, or 4,100 new jobs added over the past year, according to the AGC.


From September to October, Alabama lost 2,700 construction jobs, a 3.2 percent one-month loss that was the second highest nationally. Only Nevada's 4.6 percent decline (2,600 construction jobs), surpassed Alabama's.



Birmingham News



Published: Friday, November 25, 2011, 10:07 AM 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -The 2011-2012 Alabama Launchpad class teams have been announced, and three teams from UAH have been named finalists among the 16 college teams statewide.

It's the first time UAH has produced three teams, which pits teams from all the state's six partnering universities: Alabama State, Auburn, the University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama at Huntsville, and University of South Alabama, in a competition for entrepreneurial startup funding.

The winners were chosen from a field of more than thirty entrants by a review panel consisting of entrepreneurs, investors, and university officials from the partnering universities.

In the next stage of the competition will, the 16 teams will submit business plans for review by a second set of reviewers. Following a market assessment performed by Frost & Sullivan, the fledgling firms will be grouped by seed and proof-of-concept companies. Seed companies will compete for a $100,000 grand prize, while proof-of-concept companies will compete for up to four $25,000 prizes.

The three UAH teams are Arch Data Intelligence, Inc., Oblique BIO, Inc. and RaptorX. UAH faculty developed or contributed heavily to the development of the business concepts for all three teams.

Formed by three recent UAH engineering and MBA graduates, Arch Data Intelligence, Inc., has developed Arch Patent, a new, free-to-use patent search database that caters to both experienced and beginner patent researchers. 

Co-founder Brad Chassee said the easily downloadable database is easier to use than competitive databases, and will feature a complete survey of U.S. patents dating back to 1920. He said the database will help make patents more secure in a market where more than $400 million are awarded in settlements of patent infringement lawsuits.


42 blog




Alabama Launchpad Competition Propels UAB Start-Ups

By Cary Estes


When the team at Innovative Composite Solutions made its first attempt at wowing the judges-and scoring $100,000 in seed money-in the Alabama Launchpad competition in 2008, its proposal didn't even get off the ground. But that initial setback proved to be an important step in transforming the UAB researchers' tech-fueled dream into an actual start-up company.


The annual Alabama Launchpad competition, which is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation, is designed to help bridge the gap between research technology and marketplace reality. Innovative Composite Solutions, led by UAB School of Engineering assistant professor Selvum "Brian" Pillay, Ph.D., had formulated a thermoplastic composite that is a lighter and stronger alternative to metal. It was an ideal product to market to the military and aerospace industries.


"The first proposal we wrote was very technical. Being engineers, that's what we do," says Pillay. The Launchpad judges "cut out about 90 percent of our first proposal, and they said we still had too much technical information," he recalls.


"We thought everybody wanted to know about the technology. We found out that nobody wanted to know about the technology, and everybody wanted to know about the business."



UAB Magazine 










ACRE's Alabama Commercial Real Estate Conference (ACREcon) unveils new website; announces agenda and speakers for January 27th annual educational forum
Published: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 8:30 AM



Early Bird Registration (take advantage of discount) is available now at the new conference website:  www.acreconference.ua.edu which includes this year's agenda and speakers.


The new mindset of interconnected global thinking is considered by some to be the "new normal" and provides the foundation for this year's conference theme, "Alabama Commercial Real Estate enters The Shift Age".


The state's premiere commercial real estate conference, known as ACREcon, is in its 12th year, and annually hosts a day of intense networking and professional development & education for 400 business and real estate industry leaders.

ACREcon offers an exciting and informative schedule of presenters throughout the day, addressing timely subjects in today's challenging commercial real estate market. We hope that you will join us for this outstanding networking and educational opportunity (approval pending for 6 hours of CE credit).


Conference speakers include both locally and nationally recognized real estate professionals who will provide a broad perspective of the industry and emerging trends. It is ACRE's goal that attendees will come away from our conference with cutting edge information and useful knowledge that will benefit your practice.


Corporate tables (7 seats) are available upon request by calling Rachel Jennings, ACRE Outreach Coordinator, at 205-348-0188 or rtjennings@cba.ua.edu. She can also answer all questions concerning available conference partnerships & exhibit space.


If you have any issues with online registration, please contact Jessica Callies at 205-348-4117 or jlcallies@cba.ua.edu.








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