Here is today's summary of economic development news, a free service of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, representing Alabama's private sector investment in economic development. If you enjoy NewsFlash, thank an EDPA Partner.
Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:30 AM Updated: Sunday, December 11, 2011, 7:43 AM Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Alabama's annual auto production is expected to near 900,000 in the next few years, a mark that could push it into the top three automaking states in the U.S.
Currently No. 5, the state's auto industry will get a capacity boost with planned expansions at the plants operated here by Mercedes-Benz and Honda, as the automakers aim to keep pace with projected sales and make room for new additions on their assembly lines.
And Hyundai, while it hasn't announced an expansion, already has surpassed the capacity at its Montgomery factory this year, and growing demand for its vehicles should help that trend continue.
It's a notable turnaround from just two years ago, when Alabama's auto production bottomed out at just under 468,000 in the midst of the global industry downturn.
"It's significant to be No. 5 in the country, but you could potentially be looking at the position of No. 3 or No. 4 in the U.S. in automotive production, which is phenomenal given that it's happened in the last 15 years," said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and a board member for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association.
Viper Motorcycle Co. reaches deal with European distributor
Published: Monday, December 12, 2011, 2:54 PM Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011, 3:07 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Auburn-based Viper Motorcycle Co. has reached a deal with a company to act as its exclusive distributor in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.
The plan is to have the agreement between Viper and AMV Motorcycles in place by the first quarter of next year, according to Colbert Seagraves, Viper Motorcycle's vice president of marketing and racing operations.
AMV Managing Director Graham Manchester said the company will start off with two outlets in the United Kingdom -- one in the northwest and another in London. After that, AMV will start targeting markets in other parts of the continent.
"The Viper Diamondback Super Cruiser is in a league of its own and we are setting up a worldwide distribution network to match," John Silseth, CEO of Viper Powersports, said in a statement. "We recently signed our initial Platinum distributor out of Dubai, and bringing AMV motorcycles on as our second overseas distributor is key to developing Viper into a truly worldwide brand."
ThyssenKrupp Steel USA announces new CEO
Published: Monday, December 12, 2011, 1:11 PM Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011, 1:21 PM
He will be in charge of the company's carbon steel operation in Calvert, which employs about 1,750 people.
Dohr is currently president and CEO of ThyssenKrupp's TWB Company, a tailor welded blank manufacturer based in Monroe, Mich.
Dohr will be replacing Christoph Lackinger, who helmed the company for the past two years as it finished building its facility and ramped up operations. ThyssenKrupp announced recently that Lackinger would be leaving his post but staying within the company.
A ThyssenKrupp news release said that Dohr has executive management and marketing experience that will help the Calvert operation reach its goals in sales, customer service and quality.
"ThyssenKrupp remains unquestionably confident in the success of its new operations in Alabama and its ability to provide industry setting standards in quality and service to our current and future customers," Dohr said in a written statement. "I'm fortunate to be inheriting an assembled Team of nearly 2,000 talented and dedicated people. I'm looking forward to supporting them in our mission of becoming the premier steel producer in the NAFTA market."
CALVERT, Alabama -- Chris Lackinger, Thyssen Krupp Steel USA's outgoing chief executive, said now that the company's $5 billion facility is up and running, it is a natural step to replace him with someone who has a background in marketing the products it makes.
Lackinger, who has worked at ThyssenKrupp for 22 years and has been CEO since 2009, also said that while he doesn't know what his next assignment will be, he hopes it lets him stay in Mobile.
"The people were so warm and welcoming, it took just a few weeks for my family to settle in and fall in love with Mobile," he said.
ThyssenKrupp said last week that its Steel Americas division, which includes the Mobile plant and a facility in Brazil, had an operating loss of 3.1 billion euros ($4.1 billion) in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The result included a 2.1 billion-euro impairment charge based on cost overruns in Brazil and weak markets in the U.S.
At the same time, ThyssenKrupp announced that the Americas unit's chief executive officer, Hans Fischer, will leave the company and made public the plan to move Lackinger to new duties.
Lackinger, who oversees about 1,750 workers at the steel mill in north Mobile County, reflected on building that facility, creating a home in Mobile and larger trends in the economy during an interview with the Press-Register last week.
Q: What has your experience been here in Mobile?
Lackinger: Looking back five years ago, I took over technical responsibility for the project ... about half a year before we selected Calvert as our new home base for our American plant.
During that time, the engineering and plant layout had to be done. Then I took over the assignment of starting to build that plant from a project management perspective, directing all the construction companies, equipment suppliers and really building everything from scratch to what you see now.
In 2009, in addition to that whole technical responsibility, I also (added the) CEO position, being in charge of the whole company, and building up the team in every area.
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama _ The beginnings last week of a national rocket propulsion center in Huntsville mark "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" in the unfolding world of next-generation rocket development.
If all goes as planned, the proposed National Institute for Rocket Propulsion Systems will blend the expertise of government, academia and industry into a one-stop national think tank for rockets.
And there is no better place for it to be located than the Rocket City, where Wernher von Braun's rocket team designed and built the rocket engines that put man on the moon. Huntsville today remains a world leader in space and missile technology with a brain trust of engineers ready to meet the challenge.
Strategy teams were named to lay the foundation for NIRPS at the Joint Army Navy NASA Air Force propulsion conference last week at the Huntsville Marriott.
Development of the propulsion institute comes against the backdrop of shrinking government investment in America's space program. Private aerospace companies, working with NASA and research schools like the University of Alabama in Huntsville, will play a vital role in developing the space vehicles of tomorrow.
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- In recent years Huntsville has been called the new "federal city" and a "Pentagon of the South." The area has been touted as an "oasis of prosperity" with growth from Base Realignment and Closure decisions and government work providing some insulation against the economic chill felt across the country.
But November's failure of the congressional "Supercommittee" to come up with a plan for reducing the deficit by more than $1 trillion has raised the specter of a decade of automatic, massive, across-the-board federal budget cuts beginning in 2013.
If Congress doesn't take action, the Budget Control Act passed last summer - it created the Supercommittee - will cut more than $600 billion from the Department of Defense over 10 years. That's in addition to about $450 billion in reduced defense growth over 10 years already agreed upon.
Is federal-heavy Huntsville facing years of pain after years of prosperity?
"From everything we can tell, we're not," Mayor Tommy Battle said.
First, the cuts to defense may not turn out to be as deep as feared, he said. And second, even under the worst-case scenarios, the kind of high technology, intelligence and program management work done on Redstone Arsenal and by contractors here will have to continue. Technology is one area leaders will turn to for ways of increasing efficiency.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Pittsburgh are hosting an online presentation showing how the school are working to turn research endeavors into companies and commercial products.The webinar, one in a series entitled, "President Obama's Initiative on University Research Commercialization: How Universities Plan To Respond," is part of a goal to strengthen commercialization of almost $148 billion invested annually by federal research and development dollars. Dick Marchase, UAB's vice president for research and economic development, will be speaking on behalf of the university. He'll be presenting with Marc Malandro, association vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization for the University of Pittsburgh.
"On Sept. 16, 2011, President Obama announced new steps that will help America's universities and research labs convert ideas into new products, create startups, expand the economy and create high-value 21st century jobs," according to a statement about the series. "In coordination with the Administration, 135 university presidents committed to working more closely with industry, investors, and agencies to bolster entrepreneurship, encourage university-industry collaboration, and advance the nation's social and economic interests."
The webinar will be held at 1 p.m. on Dec. 13 and can be accessed here.
The Birmingham Business Alliance has surpassed its $22.5 million Blueprint Birmingham campaign drive thanks to thousands of dollars from an unlikely source.
The Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association is pledging "a high six-digit figure" to take the BBA over its goal for its five-year strategic plan. The exact amount of both BADA's pledge and the total raised in the campaign will be revealed at the BBA's annual meeting Dec. 15.
"There has been a lot of sacrificial giving to get us to this point," said Tom Cosby, vice president of investor relations at BBA. "None of them were more sacrificial than the Birmingham Automobile Dealers Association."
Of all of the industries hurt by the Great Recession, car dealerships were among those that suffered the longest and hardest.
For BADA, the decision to support Blueprint Birmingham and BBA's campaign is a sign the dealers are bouncing back, according to Bruce Limbaugh, immediate past-chairman of BADA and a member of BBA as owner and president of Limbaugh Toyota.
"In spite of the last three years, we wanted to commit to the future of the region," Limbaugh said. "This is an unprecedented area where BADA is the only association to commit to the campaign and, not only that, we're able to put them over the top."
Phillip McWane, chief executive of McWane Inc., is the chairman of the Blueprint Birmingham campaign. He said the committee was set to spin the positives of getting close to the goal before BADA's pledge.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson