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.
Golden Dragon Plant in Alabama could bring up to 500 jobs
Published: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 7:45 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham News
Nearly $200 million in state and local incentives helped lure China's Golden Dragon Copper to build a $100 million copper tubing plant in Wilcox County and create a chance for up to 500 jobs in the Alabama county with the highest unemployment rate.
Golden Dragon Copper signed a deal Tuesday to build the plant in Pine Hill in Wilcox County, nearly a year after it announced and then backed out plans for a similar project in neighboring Clarke County last year
The plant will operate as GD Copper (USA) Inc. with initial plans to hire 300 workers in the first three years and the possibility of adding 200 more later.
AIDT, the state's worker training program, will handle hiring and training for the company. The Alabama Department of Transportation and local governments also committed to assisting with some site preparation, access and infrastructure improvements.
GD Copper's investment and job creation qualifies for certain statutory incentives such as tax abatements the state gives to manufacturers, but Greg Canfield, director of the Alabama Development Office, said in an interview that Alabama committed to $20 million in cash payments if GD Copper can build its plant quickly and hire hundreds of workers.
"We've layered in discretionary incentives based on Golden Dragon hitting employment targets and start-up over time," Canfield said. "They will have the opportunity to hit milestones and earn a maximum in discretionary incentives of $20 million, but that would require them to reach and maintain at least 500 jobs."
420 bills submitted as Alabama Legislature opens 2012 session
Published: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, February 08, 2012, 7:37 AM
By David White -- The Birmingham News
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- State lawmakers kicked off this year's regular session of the Legislature on Tuesday by submitting more than 420 bills that could be debated between now and May 21, the last possible day of the session.
Some of the hot topics expected this session include plans that would revise the state's immigration law, allow charter schools, borrow money for highway repairs and scale back retirement benefits for new teachers and new state employees.
Soon after the House of Representatives opened for business, Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, the House leader, gave the oaths of office to Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills, and Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds.
Drake, co-owner of Drake Lawn Maintenance in Leeds, won a special election to fill the seat left by the death of Rep. Owen Drake, R-Leeds, his brother.
Carns won a special election to replace Rep. Greg Canfield, R-Vestavia Hills, who resigned to become director of the Alabama Development Office. Carns is a former Jefferson County commissioner who served in the House in 1990-2006.
Republicans now hold 66 of the 105 House seats.
Lawmakers plan to meet today -- with the House returning at 8:30 a.m. and the Senate at 2 p.m. -- and again Thursday, when Hubbard said the House would debate bills meant to spur job creation.
Researchers: Alabama's economic output should expand in 2012
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 9:24 AM Updated:
Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 9:31 AM
The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama's economy will expand by about 2.5 percent this year, with job gains for heavy manufacturers and service providers, according to a forecast issued today by researchers at the University of Alabama.
The university's Center for Business and Economic Research says the state should add about 20,000 jobs in 2012, expanding the nonfarm employment base by 1.1 percent. Most of those gains will be in services, retail, metals and transportation equipment manufacturing, including automakers.
"Large manufacturing and services employers will be the major economic drivers in 2012," the center's report notes.
The report says certain industries will prosper more than the overall state economy. This group includes makers of autos, chemicals and computer and electronic products, as well as industries including transportation and warehousing.
"However,improvement in the employment picture will encourage more Alabamians to enter or reenter the labor force, keeping the unemployment rate relatively high during the year," the report notes.
Limestone approves $22M in tax breaks
By Ben Montgomery
ATHENS - Limestone County commissioners Monday granted Carpenter Technology Corp. more than $8 million in sales-tax breaks over two years and $13.9 million in property-tax abatements over 10 years as incentives to build a $500 million steel plant on U.S. 31 in Tanner.
Under state law, educational taxes may not be abated, and Carpenter will pay just over $5 million in educational sales taxes through 2014 and $10.6 million in educational property taxes.
"Once workers start coming in, they'll buy homes and groceries," commission chair Stanley Menefee said. "Once they go to work, revenue should start coming in almost immediately."
Carpenter Advanced Engineering Vice President Bernard Mara said details of the state's capital investments incentives would probably be revealed later this week when Gov. Robert Bentley signs the contract, but he confirmed that the state incentives totaled about $98 million over 20 years.
"The bulk of that is tax credit," he said.
The plant's building, new manufacturing equipment bought for the plant and other personal property are subject to local sales tax.
The commission also will reimburse Reading, Pa.-based Carpenter up to $1 million for costs accrued during the plant's development. The amount will be paid out of the county's general fund in three equal installments over a three-year period beginning in 2014 and ending in 2016. Carpenter must meet specific employment benchmarks each year to receive the reimbursements: 50 full-time employees by July 2014, 100 by July 2015 and 200 by July 2016.
Mara said 40 to 50 other jobs would be created in the plant's development, such as contract construction workers.
Navistar implementing Huntsville employees' ideas to cut costs, improve efficiency
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 6:15 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 6:30 AM
By Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- At Navistar's diesel engine plants in Huntsville, the company is implementing 240 ideas submitted by employees to cut costs and improve quality and efficiency -- ideas that represent $3.6 million in business improvements.
Today, Navistar is recognizing the contributions of its Engine Group employees in Huntsville and at four other facilities to the 2011 New Ideas program. Workers who submitted ideas that were put in place will take part in a raffle to give away a new 2012 Ford Taurus SEL.
According to the company, 330 Huntsville employees came up with about 1,000 ideas. Among the winning ideas: lowering temperatures during tests to use less energy.
The two Navistar plants at Jetplex Industrial Park next to Huntsville International Airport have a total of about 800 employees.
Across the United States, Navistar employees submitted more than 4,000 ideas that represent more than $15 million in savings and operation improvements.
"At Navistar, we value the input of our employees and believe that if we are to succeed, it will take all of us, working together," said Eric Tech, president of Navistar Engine Group, in a release. "Every employee has a voice and the ability to drive positive change."
Lance Fulks, the Huntsville plant manager, said all ideas are welcome "whether they save a million dollars or just make it easier to do our jobs.
Business Council of Alabama's legislative agenda focuses on job growth, education improvement
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 8:30 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 9:54 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Job growth in the private sector and improving education in Alabama will be top priorities for the Business Council of Alabama this legislative session, the organization says.
In a statement announcing the organizations goals for the 2012 Alabama legislative session, which begins today, the BCA said the two priorities complement each other. More businesses in the state create more tax revenue for the state's education budget, and businesses benefit when the state has smarter students who become talented employees.
"When existing businesses are successful and hire more people, the education trust fund grows, and we are able to provide more opportunities for our students," BCA CEO William J. Canary said. "We must also support education policies that allow for new and innovative ways to teach our children. The status quo is no longer an option. Our children and teachers deserve better."
The BCA pointed out the following legislative goals it plans to follow closely this session:
>>>The proposed Regulatory Reform Act, which would require any state regulators to provide an economic impact analysis before imposing regulations that could harm small businesses.
>>>Promoting more education options for parents concerning where to send their children to school.
>>>Helping companies comply with the Alabama Immigration law, while also working to prevent the paperwork burden from negatively impacting businesses
International Center salutes India's ties to Birmingham
Published: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Tuesday, February 07, 2012, 8:03 AM
By Roy L. Williams -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Dr. Amrak Walia was born in India, but has made his mark on metro Birmingham as an entrepreneur.
After obtaining a medical fellowship at UAB, Walia helped found the school's Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries, a high-tech incubator that is now a part of Innovation Depot downtown. Walia spun two companies out of that incubator, Spa Moksha and American Health Research Institute, which together employ nearly 20 people in a facility on U.S. 280.
"I have a lot of passion and love for Birmingham. It's a great place to run a business," said Walia, a former instructor in the Department of Surgery at UAB before forming his own businesses.
Walia is a part of a growing number of businesses with ties to India that are making a positive impact across Alabama's largest metro area. Others include CTS, a computer software company in Hoover whose partners include Sanjay Singh, a native of India who is active in the business community, and Electrosteel USA, a ductile iron pipe manufacturer with an office on Doug Baker Boulevard.
Their contributions are being spotlighted this year as part of the Birmingham International Center's Salute to India.
Center director Iris Gross said the center, founded in 1951, first saluted India 30 years ago. She felt it was time to raise awareness again about one of the world's biggest global markets.
"Education is a big component of what we do," said Gross, whose center has spotlighted Japan, Germany, Canada, South Africa and other countries over the past two decades. "My hope is that we help businesses desiring to sell their goods and services in India."
Baldwin Business Support Center: born of crisis but evolving
Published: Monday, February 06, 2012, 10:00 AM Updated: Monday, February 06, 2012, 10:07 AM
By K.A. Turner, Press-Register Press-Register
The Baldwin Business Support Center emerged during a crisis on the coast, its primary mission to help businesses navigate the claims process that flowed from the BP oil spill.
That mission has largely been fulfilled, says Rick Miller, the new executive director of the program housed on the campus of Faulkner State Community College.
But that doesn't mean the job is done.
"Our role has changed," Miller said recently. Rather than claims, he said, the center has concerned itself with three new "C"s -- counseling, connecting and competing -- all with the goal of making the coastal business community more resilient before the next crisis comes.
"We don't know if this is going to survive," Miller said with candor. "I took the position to help businesses learn to become more sustainable and also to create a sustainable funding platform for the center."
Footing the bill are chambers of commerce, foundations, Faulkner State and the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.
Much like its earlier version, the center brings together a variety of resources in a one-stop shop.
As Miller envisions it, the center will offer counseling to startup and existing business, helping owners and managers improve their operations. It will connect the business community, putting people in touch with the right organizations to help with financing, credit, government assistance and more.
And it will help businesses compete.
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