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.
New push to commercialize UAB research includes business community
Published: Sunday, January 08, 2012, 9:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A new initiative aims to turn brainpower at UAB into a wave of business start-ups.
Representatives of the research, education and economic development communities have been meeting since September to explore new ways to commercialize research being conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The first component of the initiative is called i2i -- short for Invention to Innovation -- and it seeks to create viable businesses from work at the university.
"Now is the perfect time," said Dennis Leonard, an innovation consultant for the UAB Research Foundation. "I think what we are creating is maybe one of the most dynamic economic development tools this state has seen in a long time."
Leonard is working with Joel Dobbs, an instructor of the UAB Business School, and Steve Ceulemans of the Birmingham Business Alliance on the i2i initiative. Ceulemans, the former director of technology commercialization for the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, joined the BBA last September as vice president of innovation and technology.
The push, which directly links the business community to university research activities, has great promise, according to UAB President Carol Garrison.
"Our on-campus, interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty are vital to sparking innovation and creating more jobs," Garrison said. "Having Dennis Leonard from the UAB Research Foundation, Steven Ceulemans from the BBA and Joel Dobbs from UAB's Business School working together gives the whole tech-transfer initiative additional synergy, and will allow us to maximize our potential like never before."
Austal: Coronado on its way into Mobile River
Published: Monday, January 09, 2012, 12:23 PM Updated: Monday, January 09, 2012, 12:39 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Austal USA is in the midst of launching its second Independence-variant littoral combat ship, Coronado. The going is slow, but Austal officials say the ship should be fully in the water by this evening.
The company plans a christening ceremony this weekend.
Hyundai Elantra wins car of the year at Detroit auto show
Published: Monday, January 09, 2012, 9:20 AM Updated: Monday, January 09, 2012, 9:40 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Alabama-made Hyundai Elantra has won the title of 2012 North American Car of the Year.
The 2011 model of the Elantra sedan, currently manufactured at the Montgomery Hyundai plant.
The Elantra, made at the automaker's Montgomery plant, was chosen by a jury of 50 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada, according to a press release announcing the winner. The winners were announced this morning
at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
"The awards are designed to recognize the most outstanding new vehicles of the year," the release said. "These vehicles are benchmarks in their segments based on factors including innovation, comfort, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar."
Other top finishers were the Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Focus, which came in second and third place.
EnGenius Consulting Group moves headquarters to Huntsville
Published: Sunday, January 08, 2012, 6:40 AM
By Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- EnGenius Consulting Group, an IT professional services firm founded in Atlanta in 1996, has moved its corporate headquarters to Huntsville to better support Redstone Arsenal customers.
"It only makes sense for us to move our headquarters to Huntsville," said enGenius President Rich McAdams. The company's support for Army customers has grown much over the last 16 years, he said, and Huntsville became its "single largest location."
The company has about 130 employees in all, and 51 are in Huntsville, McAdams said.
"As a second-generation Army combat veteran, I feel a strong sense of duty to help our soldiers and our Army in any way I can," said McAdams. "I really believe that moving our headquarters here will help enGenius do just that."
Over the years, the company had opened offices in Washington, D.C., Denver and Huntsville and, five years ago, the enGenius Huntsville operations expanded to include the president's, contracts and proposal offices while other corporate operations remained in Atlanta.
The company's accounting and human resources functions will remain in Atlanta, McAdams said.
With the move of the Army Materiel Command, Army Security Assistance Command, Missile Defense Agency and other agencies to Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal, "we felt that it was strategically important for us to move our corporate headquarters here to allow us to better serve the Redstone Arsenal community," said S.P. Reddy, the founder, owner and CEO of enGenius. Reddy received a master's degree in computer science from Alabama A&M.
Auto industry, UA and rebuilding efforts expected to drive economy
By Patrick Rupinski Staff Writer
TUSCALOOSA | Three forces will drive the Tuscaloosa area economy in 2012 - the automotive industry, the University of Alabama and an accelerating rebuilding from last year's devastating tornado, according to local economists and business leaders.
That should result in economic growth, although it will be slow and far short of the robust activity seen before the Great Recession, they said.
"Certainly our local economy is going to continue to be bolstered by two big economic engines - the continued growth of the University of Alabama and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (in Vance)," said Terry Waters, the recently retired executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama.
"We are extremely fortunate to have those economic engines in our community."
UA's growth will continue to bring more students, faculty and staff to the community, he said. That in turn should help increase sales activity in the area.
As for Mercedes, which opened the state's first auto assembly plant in Vance in 1997, it will drive West Alabama's manufacturing sector. The Vance plant had a good 2011, with sales and production picking up and the announced decision to expand the facility. All indications are that it and the area's automotive suppliers will have an even better 2012.
LawCo IDB director: 'Our people are our best assets'
Q&A with Tony Stockton LawCo IDB director: 'Our people are our best assets'
The Lawrence County Industrial Development Board has hired Tony Stockton as its director. Stockton, 62, of Moulton, retired in August from Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. of Huntsville, where he was senior facilities project manager and strategic planner. Stockton said Lawrence County residents are the county's best asset in recruiting industry. He started his new job on Wednesday.
Question: What are some of your goals for industrial development in Lawrence County?
Answer: One of the first things we will do is develop a strategic plan. We've got to decide what kind of industries we really want in Lawrence County and how we go about bringing those kinds of industries in. There are some industries of course that don't fit and some that we probably could not bring in, but you've got to have a plan to be able to reach goals. We have different properties in Lawrence County, and in this strategic plan, we will include all the properties we have in Lawrence County, not just a specific site. Another thing that we want to be sure of when we're out recruiting is that our properties are shovel-ready. In other words, do we have the infrastructure in place before we bring an industry in? Power, water, sewer, all of those things are really inherent to having a successful project onboard. We also have to develop some kind of creative options for incentives and that's something the board will be very involved in developing. Then, probably as important as anything, I'll be working with existing businesses to maintain a good working relationship with them and assisting them and any follow-on business that they may have come in.
Q: What have been the county's challenges in recruiting industry and how would you address those?
A: Money is always an issue for any recruiting venture, and of course we have to watch our budget. Our county has made good strides in past few years, I think, in getting infrastructure in place, particularly in the Mallard-Fox Creek West area.
Business Council of Alabama nominates Turner Medical of Athens for Dream Big award
Published: Friday, January 06, 2012, 3:01 PM Updated: Friday, January 06, 2012, 3:11 PM
ATHENS, Alabama -- The Business Council of Alabama's Small Business Committee has nominated Turner Medical Inc. of Athens for the 2012 Dream Big Small Business of the Year award.
The award, presented annually by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, recognizes the nation's small businesses and their contributions to economic growth.
"Existing Alabama industries like Turner Medical are the backbone of our economy," said BCA president and CEO William J. Canary, in a release. "As we continue to recover from this economy, it is imperative to recognize the small businesses that continue to fuel the economic engine of Alabama."
According to the BCA, Turner Medical, faced with supplying an obsolete niche market, transitioned from a supplier of automated equipment for the automotive and appliance industries to a manufacturer of surgical instruments for the medical industry. The firm began working exclusively in the medical industry in 2008.
In 2010, the BCA named Turner Medical the Small Alabama Manufacturer of the Year
The Dream Big award is presented to a small business that puts an emphasis on staff training and motivation, community involvement, customer service, business strategies and goals, and financial performance and business history.
The award will be presented in Washington, D.C. on May 22 during the America's Small Business Summit.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson