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.
Is construction ready for a comeback?
Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2012, 6:00 AM
By Roy L. Williams -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Some privately-funded construction projects -- the kind that sat on the sidelines the past few years during the economic downturn -- are poised to come to fruition in 2012, according to an executive for Birmingham's Gary C. Wyatt construction firm.
"The projects we are specifically working on at the moment that are privately funded are projects that were placed on hold in 2009," said John Wyatt, whose father, Gary, founded the firm. "We hope that more projects that have been on hold will start to reappear in the coming weeks and months."
It's a positive sign for an industry that has been hit hard in recent years, and Alabama joins a national trend in which construction firms across the country enter the year with a brighter outlook. The evidence: Far fewer firms planning to lay off employees than in previous years, according to a study by the Associated General Contractors of America.
The report by the Washington, D.C.-based trade group, conducted as part of its 2012 Construction Industry Hiring and Business Outlook, shows that many firms expect key private sector market segments to expand this year even as the overall outlook for construction remains mixed.
Company: Outokumpu deal won't change operations at ThyssenKrupp stainless plant in Calvert
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 4:10 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 4:30 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
MOBILE, Alabama -- Executives with Finland's Outokumpu Oyj said today that its acquisition of ThyssenKrupp AG's stainless steel unit will not affect the stainless steel operation in Calvert, and that the ramp-up of the new melt shop there will proceed as planned.
Mika Seitovirta, chief executive officer of Outokumpu, said in a statement, "We see considerable growth opportunities by joining forces, especially in the Americas and Asia.
Outokumpu's North American operations and ThyssenKrupp's Calvert facility appear to complement each other. Outokumpu -- pronounced ow-too-KUM-poo -- makes stainless steel pipes, bars and plates in America, but it imports from Europe the stainless steel coils it sells here. The Calvert facility specializes in making stainless steel coils.
Outokumpu does not have a melt shop -- in which scrap is melted into new stainless steel -- in America. That's what ThyssenKrupp is in the process of building in Calvert.
And Outokumpu's website says that growth outside Europe is among its top strategic priorities.
A source with ties to the local ThyssenKrupp operation said executives there don't expect any negative consequences. "They're looking on this very favorably and positively," said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.
The deal values ThyssenKrupp's global stainless division, which it renamed Inoxum last year, at 2.7 billion euros ($3.6 billion). Outokumpu will pay ThyssenKrupp 1 billion euros cash and ThyssenKrupp will get 29.9 percent of Outokumpu's stock.
Gulf Coast employment picture starting to brighten after a few dark years
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 3:30 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 7:34 PM
By Kaija Wilkinson Press-Register
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton's crew prepares to leave Ingalls Shipbuilding's Pascagoula yard. (File photo)
Economic development officials in south Alabama and Mississippi admit the shock of losing a $600 million, 1,500-worker aircraft assembly plant at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex that would have grown up had the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. landed the $40 billion U.S. Air Force tanker contract. But that's starting to wear off, they said, and positive developments such as expansions of existing businesses, new employers and prospects suggest that a turnaround could be in the cards.
Although far from the lows of the mid-2000s, unemployment is generally on a slow, downward slide, according to the latest figures.
Unemployment rates in south Alabama in December fell below the national average for the first time since 2009. Mobile County's unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, down from 9.1 percent in November and 9.7 percent in November 2010. South Mississippi unemployment rates have also been falling, according to the latest figures, but exhibit a more up-and-down trajectory than south Alabama's. In Jackson County, for example, the November rate was 10.1 percent, down from 10.7 percent in October but up from 9.2 percent in November 2010.
Speculation on what it will take to spark a true turnaround varies. A change in national leadership and an improved economy at the national level are oft-given answers, but other factors are particular to various parts of the coast. Employment in Baldwin County and all of coastal Mississippi, for example, is heavily reliant on tourism.
The latest numbers suggest that "we are starting to see the curve on the other side," said Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
Mobile misses 2011 jobs goal, but excels over last five years
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 3:14 PM
By Kaija Wilkinson Press-Register
MOBILE, Alabama -- The 622 new jobs that were announced in 2011 fell slightly short of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce's stated goal of 750 new jobs, according to Troy Wayman, the group's vice president of economic development.
But that number still promises more than $130 million in capital investment, and the jobs come with average annual salaries of more than $50,000. Plus, 2011 was the first time in five years that the chamber has finished short of its target, he said.
Looking at the cumulative goal for 2008-12, the chamber has far surpassed its target, with 6,176 jobs against a goal of 3,750.
The quality of those jobs, overall, was also better than expected, according to the chamber, with average annual salaries averaging $52,552 against a target of $38,500 annually.
Wayman said it looks like the positive trend will continue.
"December 2011 was the busiest month we've had in 12 months," he said.
SAWDC's vision of a workforce meets needs of employers
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 12:45 PM Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 7:38 PM
By Gulf Coast Business Press-Register
Workforce development has become a common subject of discussion among chambers of commerce and other economic development organizations. The importance of a trained workforce with a superior work ethic is obvious to any and all that understand anything about business and what it takes to succeed in today's ultra-competitive world. South Alabama is fortunate to have an organization and some passionate and visionary individuals that have made it their mission to address the needs of our employers.
The Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC) has a vision to develop a comprehensive, integrated workforce development system that creates a skilled, diverse, motivated, adaptable workforce that better meets the needs of employers and leads to a better quality of life for our citizens. Its mission is to develop strategic partnerships to attract, educate and train students and workers to better meet employer needs and foster economic growth in a global marketplace.
SAWDC is not the proverbial silver bullet for workforce issues, it is an organization that has the power to convene and focus the multitude of organizations already carrying out the good work of preparing today's workforce. Many of SAWDC's strategic partners and leaders have shown tremendous conviction through the growing pains of standing up such an organization. These partners include the Mobile Area Education Foundation, Alabama Power Co., Community Foundation, county partners, Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, Georgia Pacific, the city of Mobile, Austal USA, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and many others. The chamber has been an ardent supporter of SAWDC since its inception.
Birmingham Business Alliance to profile nearly 800 Birmingham area tech companies
Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 8:18 AM Updated: Tuesday, January 31, 2012, 9:12 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Nearly 800 Birmingham-area technology companies will be profiled by the Birmingham Business Alliance and other organizations that hope to see tech startup companies flourish in the region.
The BBA -- in partnership with Innovation Depot, TechBirmingham, Birmingham Venture Club, Biotechnology Association of Alabama and Birmingham Startup Drinks -- will begin profiling each company's services and why the company hopes to grow its business in the area.
"To have that many businesses in the Birmingham area to generate technology is amazing," said Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. "We plan to tell each and every one of their stories to show the world what Birmingham has to offer."
One profile will be emailed to the BBA's 4,500 members and member contacts each week, along with being archived on the organization's website.
ThyssenKrupp's new CEO takes over in tumultuous times
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012, 2:31 PM Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012, 2:34 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- As managing director for ThyssenKrupp AG's tailored blanks division, Christian Dohr helped grow the business from one shop employing 60 people to 14 facilities in eight countries employing more than 800.
Now Dohr has an even bigger task. As chief executive officer of ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, he oversees the company's carbon steel mill in north Mobile County that employs 1,600 workers.
"We have great equipment here, we hired great people, now it's really about building a great company out of those two things," said Dohr, who took over Jan. 1.
ThyssenKrupp has spent $5 billion building the carbon steel mill and a separate stainless steel facility at the site. With construction nearing completion, ThyssenKrupp announced in December it would replace former CEO Chris Lackinger -- an engineer -- with someone who had more experience in sales.
Dohr is taking over in tumultuous times. Thyssen- Krupp announced in December that its Steel Americas division, which includes the Mobile carbon steel 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 blamed on cost overruns in Brazil and weak markets in the U.S.
Hyundai's Alabama plant, employees to be featured in Super Bowl ad
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012, 2:04 PM Updated: Monday, January 30, 2012, 3:27 PM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Nearly 200 employees of Hyundai's Montgomery auto plant will be featured in a TV spot to air during this Sunday's Super Bowl.
The Korean automaker, in its fifth consecutive year as a Super Bowl sponsor, has used the big stage to show off its Alabama employees and products in previous years.
This year's ad, one of a slate of five overall, is called "All for One." It features the theme song of the movie "Rocky," and the company used a vocal coach to train the Montgomery workers.
Another ad is all about the Elantra, the Montgomery-made compact sedan that won the North American Car of the Year award at this year's Detroit auto show.
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