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.
Economic Development Alliance Unveils Plan
The Alabama Economic Development Alliance today unveiled its strategic plan, Accelerate Alabama, at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's 2012 Winter Conference.
The plan, which will provide direction for Alabama's economic development efforts over the next three years, was developed through a four-step process over a six-month period, with input from more than 1,200 Alabamians, including community, business, and state leadership. Input was collected from nearly 500 individuals through eight visioning meetings and more than 700 surveys of companies, economic development practitioners, university leaders, residents and legislators. The Alliance engaged Boyette Strategic Advisors to facilitate the planning process.
"My purpose from the beginning was to develop a strategic, coordinated approach to job creation that is inclusive of the many assets in Alabama that contribute to our success," said State of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. "Together we are greater than the sum of our parts. I believe that this team approach will keep Alabama at the front of the pack as we compete globally for the jobs of tomorrow."
The plan is organized around three key economic development drivers defined as: · Recruitment: Programs that focus on the attraction of new business and industry · Retention: Programs that focus on the retention and expansion of existing business and industry · Renewal: Programs that focus on job creation through innovation, entrepreneurship, research and development, and commercialization.
Alabama Development Office Press Release
Read the Executive Summary of the plan HERE
Access the Accelerate Alabama Strategic plan HERE
Alabama governor outlines for economic group part of his new development plan
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 1:20 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 1:20 PM
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley will present a new economic development strategy for Alabama today in Hoover.
HOOVER, Alabama -- Gov. Robert Bentley, touring storm damage across the state today, made a brief stop at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's Winter Conference to talk about job creation and his plan to streamline the state's economic development efforts.
Bentley revealed few details of the Accelerate Alabama plan, which will be unveiled later today at the conference being held at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. But he said it will focus on three key areas, including recruitment of new projects and retention of existing businesses. It also will address renewal, which would involve, in part, taking the ideas of researchers at UAB and Huntsville's Hudson Alpha Institute, for example, and helping to develop them into job opportunities for Alabama residents.
The streamlining efforts used in economic development could be duplicated in other state agencies, the governor said. "Instead of having little silos....let's come together and work together and we can make progress," he said.
Since his inauguration, Bentley said 13,682 new jobs have been announced for the state. He also noted a decline in Alabama's unemployment rate, crediting companies and local economic developers for the increase in hiring.
Ala. gov announces new economic development plan
(AP) HOOVER, Ala. - Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced a new economic development strategy that aims to turn bright ideas at universities and private research institutions into products that can be made by companies hiring state residents for good-paying jobs.
Bentley, a Republican who was elected in 2010 on a platform of job creation, released the so-called "Accelerate Alabama" plan at a meeting of economic developers Tuesday.
With unemployment down since Bentley took office but still at 8.1 percent, state leaders are expected to focus on job creation in the coming months.
"We have not used the bright minds we have in this state," Bentley said.
Bentley created the Alabama Economic Development Alliance in July to come up with a plan to guide his administration's job-creation efforts for the next three years.
Bentley made the announcement Tuesday along with Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the University of Alabama System.
Portera, who helped develop Bentley's plan, said emphasizing "mind power" and innovation is critical to creating jobs in Alabama. Bentley cited North Carolina as a state that has used this approach successfully. Bentley persuaded the Legislature to include $5 million in this year's state budget to help business startups based on innovative ideas. Portera suggested it soon be raised to $25 million...
more...AP via CBS News
Teamwork saved Wrangler plant in Hackleburg, officials say
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 12:45 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 12:57 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Tornado-ravaged Hackleburg was in danger of losing its largest employer last spring, but a team effort of state agencies and local governments helped save and grow the Wrangler jeans distribution center.
The facility, owned by VF Corp., employed 150 people when it was destroyed in the April 27 tornado outbreak. Now the company is making plans to rebuild a larger, $31 million distribution center that could eventually employ 250 people.
The journey of what happened in between was outlined today at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's Winter Conference, being held this week at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover.
Jim Byard Jr., director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said a meeting was held in Birmingham about two weeks after the storms and included representatives of local and state governments, utilities and the company.
"The governor said, 'We're going to save the Wrangler plant,'" Byard said. "Everybody who was asked, they came through."
That included incentives put on the table by Hackleburg and Marion County, which were already stretched by tornado losses and cleanup. Alabama Power also offered breaks, and the state assisted with grants and loans.
Forget Florida. Mobile's Future May Hinge on French Elections
Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 7:01 AM
By George Talbot Press-Register
EADS chief executive Louis Gallois is set to retire May 31. Political eyes are riveted on Florida and the Republican Party presidential primary, but a pair of springtime elections in France could have tremendous import on Mobile.
Louis Gallois, the French chief executive of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., is set to retire on May 31. EADS has yet to name his successor, though insiders have long speculated that Tom Enders, the German chief executive of Airbus, will be promoted to head of the parent company.
A smooth transition is pivotal to Mobile's prospects for landing an assembly plant for Airbus aircraft. EADS has made no secret of its ambitions to establish production on American soil, a move that would expand its global reach, balance its financial risk and establish a strategic foothold against its arch rival, Boeing Co.
From Mobile's perspective, Enders would be an ideal choice. He visited the city numerous times during EADS' five-year battle with Boeing for the Air Force tanker contract, and doggedly continued the fight even when many - including some within his own company - advised him to cut his losses and invest elsewhere.
Enders, a former German paratrooper who studied economics, history and political science at the University of California, also is a believer in U.S. innovation and advanced manufacturing. That's a unique viewpoint inside a company run by European shareholders who would prefer to spend the company's vast cash reserves - currently more than $16 billion - on their home turf.
Any move to shift production out of Europe could bring a political backlash from the company's labor unions in England, France, Germany and Spain, creating a political lightning rod in the French presidential election this spring. Incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, trailing in the polls, faces intense pressure to revive the French economy and can ill afford to see Airbus - a European icon - announce a major investment across the Atlantic.
Birmingham-area's economic recovery to linger until 2016, IHS Global Insight study says
Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012, 10:00 AM
The economic downturn's bite on the Birmingham metro area is not going to let up anytime soon.
A study by IHS Global Insight, a Massachusetts-based research firm, predicts that it will take until 2016 for Alabama's largest metro area to recover all the jobs it lost in the recession that began in late 2007. The study, released last week, also places Birmingham among the 10 slowest growing metro areas in the country.
Birmingham is not alone in still feeling the pain.
Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. metropolitan areas have returned to peak pre-recession employment levels, a New York Times analysis of the IHS data noted, and only another 10 percent are expected to regain those jobs by the end of 2012. The IHS study was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Last week, mayors of 250 cities -- including Birmingham's William Bell -- convened in Washington, D.C., to discuss economic growth, job creation, foreclosures and other issues facing their metro areas.
Birmingham has shed a total of 44,000 jobs -- 8.4 percent of its total work force -- since the first quarter of 2007 and won't return to its pre-recession peak until the third quarter of 2016, IHS projects. The firm's economists expect the Birmingham region's unemployment rate to fall 1.8 percentage points between 2010 and 2013.
EGS Commercial Real Estate president forecasts more real estate deals in 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012, 12:45 PM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
295 deals are a clear indication that business is on the rise.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- EGS Commercial Real Estate handled nearly 300 transactions last year, totaling 4.5 million square feet and valued at $110.6 million.
Bill Pradat, president of EGS, said the 295 deals, mostly in Alabama, are a clear indication that business is on the rise, he said.
"Certainly, activity has picked up," Pradat said. "Our 2011 transaction volume was up 30 percent over 2010 and our square footage transactions increased 36 percent."
Pradat said businesses have started growing again, after retrenching during the worst economic downturn in decades.
"Companies that had been sitting on the sidelines have started putting their plans into action," he said. "It was applicable on both the office and industrial sides or our business."
Pradat said the signs remain positive.
"In 2012, the prognosis is the growth will continue," he said. "I think everyone will tell you their pipeline looks more vibrant for '12 than '11, and that's a good thing."
The increased activity is not entirely related to bad properties being dumped by banks, Pradat said.
"Not as much as you might think were distressed deals," he said. "While the banks might be writing some of it down or selling notes, they're not just out-and-out selling distressed assets to the extent some expected, particularly in these markets. Most of it were traditional real estate deals."
Pradat said the Birmingham market still has significant vacancies in most of the metro area's submarkets, though the midtown market that includes Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills is tight enough to justify new construction.
Alabama business leaders glimpse improving prospects, survey says
Published: Monday, January 23, 2012, 11:12 AM Updated:
Monday, January 23, 2012, 11:55 AM
By The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
The organization's Alabama Business Confidence Index retuned to positive territory at 50.8 points for the first quarter, up from 45.5 in the fourth quarter. An index score above 50 signals expected expansion. One year ago, the score was 55, meaning sentiment remains more subdued.
"On average, industry profits and capital expenditures should post modest gains, while the pace of hiring will be unchanged from the fourth quarter," the center said in a statement. "Although economic conditions in the state should be positive, the broader national economy is still expected to have a negative impact."
Confidence improved most strongly in manufacturing, transportation, information and utilities. Health care executives were the most pessimistic in the survey.
Business leaders in Birmingham-Hoover and Montgomery are expecting broad-based improvement in economic activity, while Huntsville executives glimpse weakness, the center said.
Shoals tax netting results
Fund lures jobs, brings strong reputation for business
By Bernie Delinski
Thacker Casket Manufacturing is teeming with more than 200 employees these days.
The Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park business already had 153 workers in 2010 when plant manager Jim Spinks approached the Shoals Industrial Development Committee with a funding request.
Spinks said his company wanted to expand and add about 40 employees. The committee contributed $50,000 to assist in Thacker's $1.65 million project.
Thacker's case is an example of the vision local leaders had when they created the Shoals Economic Development Fund in 2007 and levied a half-cent sales tax to provide money for it.
Today, the committee, which oversees the fund, has committed more than $32.3 million to projects which are expected to bring 2,629 jobs and $673 million in capital investments to the Shoals.
"The only reason they do it is to bring jobs into the area," Spinks said. "We did a capital expansion where we added equipment and jobs. It was completely related to the money we were spending ourselves and the number of jobs we were bringing. We had thresholds based on the number of jobs and the equipment.
"The fund certainly incentivizes companies to move into this area. We had a good pool of workers and also needed assistance to help with our growth, and the (fund) helped provide it."
The major purpose for the fund's creation was to lure National Steel Car into opening a railcar plant at Barton Riverfront Industrial Park.
The company selected the Shoals, largely because of some $23 million committed by the fund, and started building the mammoth $350 million National Alabama plant in 2007. But the national economy crippled the vision company officials had of providing 1,800 jobs.
Eventually, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, which invested heavily in the plant, took over operations. With more than 100 people on staff in September, the plant was leased to Fortune 500 company Navistar International Corp. Gov. Robert Bentley said it will provide some 2,200 jobs at full production.
The economic development funds that initially had been dedicated toward National Alabama now are set aside for Navistar. Company officials said that played a large role in their decision to come to Barton. David Bronner, RSA's chief executive officer, had close ties with Navistar officials and told them about the Shoals and the fund, triggering the company's interest.
Skilled Craft Tradesman Recruitment Program Expands Into Georgia, Looks to Other Southern States for Further Growth
Workforce Development Initiative takes Go Build brand to Georgia, continues partnership with national labor champion and television star Mike Rowe
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Jan. 23, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Following the success of Go Build Alabama, the Alabama Workforce Development Initiative has expanded its recruitment program to Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Governor's Office of Workforce Development. Go Build aims to enhance the image of the skilled craft trades and recruit the next generation of workers, with an emphasis on industrial and commercial construction careers.
On January 17, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced plans to launch Go Build Georgia, which will build on the success of Go Build Alabama, launched in August of 2010.
Both recruitment programs are partnering with Mike Rowe, executive producer and host of Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs," and his mikeroweWorks.com initiative. Rowe's website and foundation call attention to the growing skills gap while providing a comprehensive resource for anyone looking to investigate a career in the skilled trades.
The Alabama Workforce Development Initiative, a 501c3 which was created to develop a successful recruitment program for skilled craft trade labor, worked to establish the Go Build brand with the goal of expanding it across the South and beyond. Go Build aims to address current and forecasted needs in skilled labor. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Current Population Study, more than one third of skilled tradesmen are over the age of 50. For every three tradesmen who retire, only one is in the education pipeline to replace them.
Bob Woods, executive director of AWDI, said his organization hopes to develop partnerships with additional states to combat this looming shortage with a common message - Go Build.
"We have Alabama in our title because our organization was born in Alabama where forward-thinking industry leaders were willing to pilot this program, but AWDI was formed really to develop a recruitment program that would be regional and eventually national in scope," Woods said. "Ultimately, skilled labor workers such as welders, pipefitters, equipment operators, road builders - they are in such demand that they don't know state lines. It isn't uncommon for crews to travel from one state to another to work on a big project."
Port Authority books Q1 profit after two years in the red
Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 5:58 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012, 6:02 PM
Port Authority Executive Director Jimmy Lyons said he's cautiously optimistic that the economy is recovering from its doldrums, and he is intent on launching another period of capital projects and expansions at the Port of Mobile to take advantage of that.
The authority posted a net income of about $5.1 million on revenue of about $35.3 million in the October-December period. About $4 million of that was in non-recurring income, most stemming from the sale of assets, such as a piece of the old International Paper mill site.
It's the first time in three years that the authority has been in the black during its first quarter. Last year, the authority had a net loss of about $500,000 during those months.
"I'm not ready to jump up and start singing 'Happy Days,' but I'm optimistic we may be coming out of this," Lyons said.
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