Here is today's summary of economic development news, presented by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama.
Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 12:17 PM Updated: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 1:20 PM
BAY MINETTE, Alabama -- Baldwin County commissioners voted unanimously to approve the first step in a $114 million project to link Interstate 65 and Interstate 10 described as "an enormous undertaking" by staff members.
Five firms will split engineering work on the 25-mile project, which would include $7.5 million in engineering costs. Firms sharing in the work would be Volkert and Associates, Preble-Rish, Hatch Mott MacDonald, HMR and Neel Schaffer. Commission Chairman Bob James abstained from all five items citing his son's employment with Volkert and Associates as well as business relationships with several others.
The proposed route will offer an alternate access to Baldwin County beaches that officials say will ease congestion on Ala. 59 and improve hurricane evacuation. The project will add some 100 jobs in the engineering phase and potentially thousands in construction, according to firms represented at today's meeting. The proposed route will connect to the Foley Beach Express on the eastern side of Baldwin County through largely undeveloped areas.
Birmingham Business Alliance calls for immigration law revision
Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 11:18 AM Updated: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 11:40 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The Birmingham Business Alliance today said the Alabama Legislature needs to make significant revision to the state's controversial immigration law during the upcoming 2012 legislative session.
The largest business organization in the seven-county metro area said employers in the region have expressed concerns about the new law and the unintended consequences it has imposed on employers, particularly those already struggling in an uncertain economy.
"Furthermore, business leaders believe the law as currently written does not reflect the values of fairness and compassion embraced by Alabama citizens," the BBA said in a release.
"The BBA believes it is important to enact immigration laws that can be administered in a fair and even-handed way. Revisions to the current law are needed to ensure that momentum remains strong in our competitive economic development efforts," James T. McManus, chairman of the BBA and chief executive of Energen Corp., said in the release, "We value the leadership of Governor (Robert) Bentley in acknowledging that simplification of the law is necessary. We also appreciate the willingness of the legislative leadership to improve the law. We stand ready to work with all of them to develop revisions to the statute that will preserve our ability to grow Alabama's economy and create jobs."
The BBA's release said it is concerned that the law "taints the image and perception of Alabama, both nationally and internationally; that penalties on businesses and individuals violating the statute are uncertain and in some cases unreasonably severe; and that limited resources at a local level make enforcing the law a burden on struggling governmental entities."
Proponents of the bill and Bentley have suggested some revision is possible but bristle at calls for a wholesale appeal of the immigration law.
Alabama ranked sixth friendliest state for entrepreneurship
Published: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 9:15 AM Updated: Tuesday, December 06, 2011, 10:26 AM
Updated: Governor says he's reassuring foreign industries they're welcome in Alabama
Published: Monday, December 05, 2011, 1:53 PM Updated: Monday, December 05, 2011, 9:43 PM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama - Alabama's governor said Monday he is worried the state's tough law cracking down on illegal immigration
could hurt the recruitment of foreign industries, so he's reaching out to foreign executives to let them know that the state welcomes them.
"We are not anti-foreign companies. We are very pro-foreign companies," Bentley told reporters at the Capitol.
The Republican governor and other supporters of the law have described it as the nation's toughest. Some parts of it were put on hold by the federal courts, but major provisions took effect in late September, including allowing police to detain motorists who can't produce a valid driver's license. Since then, two foreign workers with the Mercedes-Benz and Honda auto assembly plants in Alabama have run into problems.
On Nov. 16, a German manager with Mercedes-Benz was arrested under the law in Tuscaloosa for not having a driver's license with him while driving a rental car. The charge was dismissed after the man provided documents in municipal court. Bentley said he learned about the arrest in a call from someone with Mercedes, but he did not say whom.
Last week, a Honda employee from Japan was detained under the law in Leeds. Police at a roadblock found him carrying an international driver's license and passport, but not an Alabama license or Japanese license as required by the law. Leeds police said they released the man under the immigration law at a magistrate's recommendation, and a city judge dismissed a charge of driving without a license.
Before the auto workers' problems, in early November, Bentley told a Birmingham business audience that the law had not hurt Alabama's image with industrial prospects. But Bentley now says the two arrests involving foreign auto workers "theoretically" could hurt Alabama's ability to recruit foreign industries.
University of Alabama had $2 billion economic impact, report says
Published: Monday, December 05, 2011, 12:41 PM Updated: Monday, December 05, 2011, 11:05 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The University of Alabama had an economic impact of more than $2 billion during the 2009-2010 school year, when it generated 10,346 jobs statewide, according to a report released by the university today.
The study by Samuel Addy and Ahmad Ijaz of UA's Center for Business and Economic Research said that the University of Alabama football team's seven home games last year had a total impact of $162.7 million for the state -- an average of $23.2 million per game.
In the three-county Tuscaloosa metro area alone, the average impact per Crimson Tide home football game was $16.3 million, or $113.9 million for all seven games combined.
The report also said Alabama's investment in UA pays off. For every $1 of state appropriation, UA generated a $14.68 statewide impact, it said. Alabama will realize a 13.4 percent annual rate of return on the $138.5 million in state funds to UA over the working life of the 2009-2010 graduating class, from $1.03 billion in additional income and sales taxes.
Despite state proration that cut funding to UA by $18 million for the 2009-2010 school year, the university set a record with more than $1.4 billion in economic impact and 9,500 jobs in the Tuscaloosa metro area, the report says.
Cullman named top Alabama city to raise kids
CULLMAN - Cullman was recognized nationally Friday, as the publication Bloomberg Businessweek named the city the best place to raise children in Alabama.
The national business magazine cited the success of the Cullman City Schools system as one major factor, as well as the size and location of the city.
"As a lifelong resident of Cullman, I've always known it was a good place to raise children, but what this does is verify that," Mayor Max Townson said. "The article talks about schools, park and recreation, employment, and numerous things we have to offer here ... This is just a magnificent place to live and raise children."
West Elementary School in the city and West Point Elementary School in Cullman County were both recently named National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Department of Education.
In the city school system, the average math score is 93.88, more than 10 points over the state average of 81.06. Reading scores are also consistently above the state average, with the latest numbers at 95.54, compared to the state average of 84.98.
"I didn't need a magazine to tell me this, because I already knew it was the best place to raise children," Cullman City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris said. "Never have I seen a community that embraces its young people like the citizens of Cullman do."
The piece also notes the city population of 14,697, and median family income of $52,207. The fact that Cullman residents recently voted to allow alcohol sales within the city limits is also mentioned.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson