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.
ThyssenKrupp Stainless USA makes $1.3 million order for melt shop equipment
Published: Monday, January 16, 2012, 11:07 AM Updated: Monday, January 16, 2012, 11:17 AM
ThyssenKrupp Stainless, which was renamed Inoxum last year when its parent company decided to divest the unit, employs about 550 people at its north Mobile County facility. It shares a campus with ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, which makes carbon steel and employs 1,750 people.
The melt shop, which will melt scrap into new stainless steel, will allow stainless to make its own steel for processing. The carbon side processes steel slabs produced in Brazil.
Euro blues? Experts say Alabama units of European companies not threatened by eurozone crisis
Published: Monday, January 16, 2012, 10:29 AM Updated: Monday, January 16, 2012, 10:31 AM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
But does the uncertainty surrounding the eurozone -- the economic and monetary union of 17 European nations -- mean trouble for the Alabama operations of those firms?
Not likely, according to experts.
The fundamental strength of multinational companies isn't tied directly to their nation of origin, said Keivan Deravi, an economist at Auburn University Montgomery.
And while the market for goods in Europe may suffer as a result of the crisis there, most firms opened shop here for access to North American markets, which are relatively stronger.
"In fact, they may be glad that they are here" because of the eurozone crisis, said Semoon Chang, a University of South Alabama economist.
Reporter's notebook: Birmingham metro-area industrial real estate has fewer vacancies
Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012, 10:00 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Year-end figures compiled by EGS Commercial Real Estate suggest the industrial market seems to have found a cure for its vacancy ills faster than the other two sectors.
Industrial space was 84 percent occupied in the metro area at the end of 2011, according to EGS's market report. That's up from 78.9 percent last year and the highest point since before the recession's impact began to be reflected in the real estate market.
"The biggest thing was how the southwestern market healed," said Mark Byers, head of the industrial division at EGS. "It just took a couple of nice-sized deals for it to happen."
Byers said it's encouraging to see how one or two big deals can take chunks of space off the market and quickly boost occupancy levels for an entire market.
It's going to take more of that to spur new development, though.
"I think the market is going to have to get a lot tighter before you see new construction, unless it's a build-to-suit," Byers said.
Christening ceremony ends good week for Littoral Combat Ship
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 1:52 PM Updated: Sunday, January 15, 2012, 12:18 AM
MOBILE, Alabama -- High-ranking U.S. Navy officials lauded the work of Austal USA shipbuilders today during the christening of the future U.S.S. Coronado at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center.
"These people, they are the people that matter," said Rear Adm. James Murdoch. "The ones that bend it, weld it, pull it, connect it and test it -- they build America."
Hundreds of employees of the Mobile River shipbuilder were on hand at the convention center along with Navy sailors and officers as Susan Ring Keith christened the littoral combat ship by smashing a bottle of Hotel Del Coronado champagne against its hull.
The christening marked the end of a good week for the littoral combat ship program and, by association, for Austal. The company is Mobile's largest industrial employer, with a workforce of 2,600 that is expected to grow to 4,000 by the end of next year.
The company's Mobile River shipyard builds both littoral combat ships and high-speed transport vessels for the Navy.
In Washington last week, Navy officials made several positive comments about the LCS program. Murdoch, who is the program executive officer for LCS, told industry officials that the ship's scope was being expanded to include humanitarian aid and maritime security missions, according to an AOL Defense report.
Unlike traditional vessels, LCS don't have all the capabilities built into the ship. Instead, the boat acts as an empty canvas that can carry a variety of different equipment packages to suit different mission needs. In addition to the two new missions, the LCS also has packages for surface warfare, mine-hunting and submarine-fighting.
Navy officials also said the LCS gives the Navy the opportunity to have a presence in places like the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf without the backlash that a destroyer or aircraft carrier might have, according to an AOL Defense report.
The Navy has plans to build 55 LCS, purchasing boats both from Austal and from a Lockheed Martin Corp. team based in Wisconsin.
UA System Chancellor Malcom Portera to retire
By Stephanie Taylor, Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.Last Modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 11:04 p.m.
The longest-serving chancellor of the University of Alabama System announced Monday that he plans to retire.
Malcolm Portera spent the past 10 years at the helm of the system that includes campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville.
"The time is right for a transition in leadership for the state's largest system of higher education," Portera, 65, said in a release.
Portera's career with UA and the system spanned more than three decades, during which he worked to improve economic development and job creation in Alabama through local and global programs and academic partnerships. He has been a key player in the state's industrial recruiting, and was heavily involved in the recruitment of Mercedes to Tuscaloosa County in the early 1990s.
Under his leadership, the UA system grew from 45,000 students in 2002 to 57,000 in the 2011-12 academic year. The budget for the system more than doubled from $2.1 billion when Portera took over in 2002 to $4.6 billion this year.
"Chancellor Mac Portera has been a visionary and highly effective academic leader," UA President Robert Witt said. "The University of Alabama System has made extraordinary progress under his leadership, and that progress will be his legacy."
1st Quarter ARECI: AL real estate industry more optimistic entering 2012
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 8:30 AM By Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) al.com
The survey projects expectations for the 1st quarter of 2012. The scale ranges from 0-100 with 0 being much worse, 100 being much better, and 50 indicating no change expected.
The outlook for sales (yellow) for the 1st quarter is back up into the expected expansion area at 56, a full ten point improvement from last quarter. This is approximately even with the score for the last two years at this time, it appears that there is some seasonality built into the expectations.
The national score at 48, up from 38 last quarter, indicates that respondents are fairly neutral on the overall economic picture. The participants moved to positive sentiment on the statewide conditions at 54 up 9 points from last quarter. The statewide overall score declined (see green line above). Sales expectations are more positive at 56 again up 10 points from last quarter. Inventory, price and credit indications are all below the 50 mark, indicating continued pressure on these metrics, but markedly improved from last quarter. Sellers are likely to be frustrated by competition and pricing, and buyers will continue to have challenges getting financing.
Commercial market participants (the majority of the respondents are from the Birmingham market area) moved to projecting an improving market this quarter at 54 this quarter vs. 47 last for sales expectations. Price expectations remain weak, at 45 vs 41 last quarter indicating continued pricing pressure in all markets. The score for credit availability is neutral, at 48 up 7 points from last quarter.
2012 Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA) Winter Conference
January 23 - 25, 2012 at the Wynfrey Hotel, Birmingham, AL.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson