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.
Limestone County Commission OKs land swap
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 6:20 AM
ATHENS, Alabama - Carpenter Technology, a steel manufacturer with headquarters in Reading, Pa., already plans to build a new $500 million facility near Calhoun Community College. NowCarpenter will also remodel Delphi building 23 at a cost of about $4 million.
The renovated plant, which could add another 50 high-paying jobs, should open later this year.
But first came a complicated land swap involving Carpenter and the State of Alabama, the Limestone County Commission, and OAX, a private, Florida-based investment company.
"This is going to bring a lot of assets and high-tech jobs to the area," said County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee of the renovated building. "The pay scale is expected to be about $25 (per hour) and will include about 50 employees."
After a public hearing Monday, the commission approved a deal that involves three buildings once used by Delphi to make auto parts.
Two of the three empty Delphi buildings, 21 and 23, had been purchased by OAX. But OAX this week traded building 23 and its 29 acres to Carpenter.
In exchange, OAX will get building 22, which had been deeded to the state. The state gave the land where building 22 is located to Limestone County on the condition it be used for economic development. And Limestone County gave the building to OAX.
PNC Bank buys RBC branches in Birmingham area
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 6:00 AM
Russell Hubbard -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The newest entrant into Birmingham's banking scene is PNC Bank, and company officials said Tuesday they plan to convert branch signs and customer accounts next month.
Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services last year bought the U.S. banking unit of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC Banks operates 17 branches in the metro area acquired from Alabama National BanCorp. in a $1.6 billion deal in 2007. They will become PNC Bank branches starting in early March, said Scott Stafford, regional vice president for retail banking.
Stafford said the bank plans to unveil new branch signs with the new name starting March 2 and finishing up by the start of business on March 5. Stafford also said customer accounts will be converted to PNC Bank over that weekend. He said customers will not need to do anything different and that most will notice no changes.
It is becoming a familiar refrain for Alabama bank customers. Since 2005, customers of the following banks have found themselves with new owners courtesy of mergers, acquisitions or other combinations: AmSouth, Compass, Superior, New South Federal, CapitalSouth, Nexity, Wachovia and Colonial.
PNC is one of the nation's largest banks, with $271 billion of assets, 2,500 branches and 52,000 employees in 16 states.
Gov. Robert Bentley delivers a grim diagnosis for Alabama budget
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 7:10 AM
Gov. Robert Bentley, the state's physician-in-chief, has examined Alabama's ailing finances and delivered his diagnosis to lawmakers.
The news is grim: Alabama faces a deficit of more than $400 million, and the state must make painful cuts to a range of agencies and departments already stretched thin by declining revenue.
Bentley discussed his budget plan and a variety of state issues during an hour-long interview at the Press-Register on Friday.
"We considered just putting a dire budget out there for the general fund and let it stand in contrast to a relatively good budget on the education side," he said. "That would really show the difference and why I believe we really need one (unified) budget. But I decided that was just presenting a problem without a solution, and I wanted to give a clear solution."
Initial response has not been good. Both Democratic and Republican legislators alike have rejected Bentley's proposal to shift money from the state's Education Trust Fund to pay for Medicaid expenses, prisons and other state agencies.
Bentley, however, said lawmakers have yet to realize the extent of the state's financial problems
Huntsville sees positive side of Robert Lightfoot's promotion to NASA Headquarters
Published: Wednesday, February 22, 2012, 8:08 AM
By Lee Roop, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Outgoing Marshall Space Flight Center Director Robert Lightfoot expects his new position as one of NASA's top Washington managers to go from acting to permanent, and Huntsville industry and government leaders say that's good for the city and Marshall.
Early reaction in Huntsville Tuesday was also positive to the elevation of Lightfoot's deputy, Gene Goldman, to the post of acting Marshall director. Goldman's management experience includes a past stint at Marshall and as director of the key engine-testing Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
One Huntsville aerospace executive called Lightfoot's move to headquarters "very good" news for Huntsville. It means "someone who understands space transportation is now in a key leadership spot," said Steve Cook, director of space technology development for Dynetics and former NASA Ares rocket project manager.
"Robert has been an asset to the Marshall Space Flight Center, and I know he will continue to advocate for Huntsville," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a statement.
Another former Marshall director, Dynetics Executive Vice President David King, said the move is good for NASA, too. "Robert is a strong leader and will do the agency well," King said late Tuesday. "It won't hurt to have someone who knows the centers well at HQ in such an important position."
Honda Alabama plant executive leaving for Ohio job
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 12:00 PM Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 12:00 PM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
An executive who has been responsible for all phases of development at Honda's Lincoln auto plant is leaving the state for a job with the automaker in Ohio.
Chuck Ernst has been named chief engineer of the Powertrain Function at the North American Engineering Center at Honda of America Mfg. Inc. in Ohio.
In his new post, he will help expand Honda's new engine technologies for its North American operations.
He is currently senior vice president at the Alabama plant, responsible for engine and vehicle manufacturing operations.
Ernst has been a member of the plant's senior leadership since its inception in 1999 as "the Alabama project."
"Chuck has been an integral leader in the development and sustainability of Honda's successful operations in Alabama for more than a decade," Tom Shoupe, president of Honda's Alabama operations, said in a prepared statement. "Under his leadership, our team has grown to more than 4,000 associates and produced more than 2.3 million vehicles.
"Chuck's extensive knowledge of construction, manufacturing, engine and vehicle operations, along with overall business operations will serve Honda well in his new role with the North American Engineering Center," Shoupe said.
Ernst has been with Honda since 1985. Before arriving in Alabama, he was involved in the start-up of Honda's Anna Engine Plant in Anna, Ohio, and was vice president of Findlex Corp., a Honda supplier.
Most workers at closing Mercedes supplier kept by new supplier
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012, 2:29 PM Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012, 2:32 PM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
The Mercedes-Benz auto factory in Vance has transferred operations of its parts consolidation warehouse from Syncreon to BLG Logistics, and BLG Logistics kept most employees who worked for Syncreon, according to the German automaker.
Syncreon filed a mass layoff notice with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs that noted its closing, costing 312 jobs. Federal law requires the agency to be notified when layoffs or job cuts at a location reach a certain threshold.
Attempts to reach officials with Michigan-based Syncreon were unsuccessful.
But Felyicia Jerald, a spokeswoman for Mercedes' Vance plant, said BLG Logistics has kept the vast majority of those workers and plans to increase its work force in the future.
BLG Logistics, which has done other work for the plant, is operating out of the same location that Syncreon did, providing warehousing and delivery services.
Urban Economic Forum to be held March 5 in Birmingham
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 6:51 PM Updated:
Tuesday, February 21, 2012, 6:58 PM
The Urban Economic Forum, one of many planned for cities across the country this year, will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at The Forum Building at the BJCC on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard, formerly known as the Medical Forum.
In a release, the White House said the event is among many planned "highlighting the positive economic momentum occurring in urban centers across the country."
The Birmingham meeting will feature high level discussions between senior White House Administration officials and successful entrepreneurs, speed mentoring sessions with entrepreneurs, networking opportunities, and a resource expo designed to connect entrepreneurs with the public, non-profit and private sector resources that can help them grow.
"The forum in Birmingham is part of a multi-city series designed to bridge the president's economic vision with the needs of urban entrepreneurs by connecting them with the local and national resources and networks they need to grow their businesses and create jobs," the White House said in a statement.
Area of focus for new Huntsville/Madison County chamber CEO will be placing more emphasis on small business
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 10:58 AM Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 11:08 AM
Marian Accardi, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Donald C. "Chip" Cherry Jr.'s first job with a chamber of commerce was serving as an intern while attending North Carolina Wesleyan College.
And, for the last 30 years, he has worked with chambers in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. On Dec. 15, he joined the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County as its president and CEO.
In introducing Cherry at a news conference in November, the chamber's 2011 chair Charlie Kettle said Cherry had discovered a passion for the chamber's mission as an intern, "and he has never wavered from that cause."
"You do have to have a passion for it," said Cherry, who was hired here after spending 10 years as president and CEO of the Greater Macon (Ga.) Chamber of Commerce, a group that was struggling financially when he arrived. He led the chamber's $2.5 million economic development initiative called Macon NOW! that helped generate almost 4,500 new jobs.
"Our challenge," he said, "is to advocate for the missions at Redstone, champion the development of small business, support the growth of both traditional and leading-edge companies and manufacturers and recruit new companies to the region which will enhance our economy.
"We are blessed with an amazing blend of companies and an astonishingly bright population. Our challenge is that we need to diversify our economic base while continuing to cultivate our core areas of expertise."
An area of focus for Cherry will be putting a greater emphasis on small business.
A new day for data centers under proposed tax breaks
Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 7:15 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
Alabama lawmakers, economic developers and business leaders are hoping a bill meant to lure data centers will create jobs and boost capital investment throughout the state.
The bill would extend tax breaks for companies building data centers that employ at least 20 people earning an average pay of $40,000, and supporters say it will level the playing field as Alabama competes with other states for the projects.
"When it comes to economic development in Alabama, we've just sort of been getting beat in the last year or two with a lot of stuff," said state Rep. Dan Williams, R-Athens, the bill's sponsor. "And now with the economy as it is, you sort of have neighboring states raiding another state, trying to get a company to move there. So really these incentives are something we need to counter that."
The push reflects the fact that data centers -- sprawling facilities used to store and manage computer servers -- have become a coveted prize for economic developers, despite the fact that the projects don't always create many jobs.
The Alabama Data Processing Center Economic Incentive Enhancement Act of 2012, or HB154, passed the House earlier this month on a vote of 72-18. It's now in the Senate committee on Finance and Taxation Education. If it gains approval this session, the bill would reduce the employment level a data center project needs in order to qualify for tax credits from 50 jobs to 20, as long the average wage requirement is met. The bill also would extend the period for tax abatements from 10 years to 30.
Birmingham, Alabama native to help lure foreign investors
Published: Friday, February 17, 2012, 5:45 AM
By Roy L. Williams -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
A Birmingham native will play a major role in a new federal effort to stimulate new business investment in the United States by both international and domestic companies.
Barry Johnson, who graduated from The Altamont School and whose parents live in Hoover, is the executive director of SelectUSA, a U.S. Department of Commerce initiative created by President Obama last year to help recruit foreign investment and to support the expansion of domestic and foreign-based companies.
As executive director, Johnson manages a program that works with state and local governments and business leaders to encourage job-creating business investments. SelectUSA maintains a state-appointed liaison in each of the 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
On Wednesday, President Obama during an appearance at Master Lock Co. in Milwaukee announced that later this year the Commerce Department will host its first SelectUSA Investment Summit, bringing companies from around the world to meet with governors, mayors, federal agencies, state and local economic development organizations to discuss the benefits of investing in the U.S.
Johnson, in an interview, said SelectUSA aims to be a single-point of entry to the federal government for companies based in the United States and overseas looking to expand.
Johnson said Alabama is a perfect example of the important role foreign investment can play in stimulating economic growth. U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms now employ 78,400 workers in Alabama, including 45,200 factory jobs, according to the Department of Commerce. That's about 5 percent of the state's private-sector work force.
Group hopes to attract a "mega" industry to region
Several sites identified in Florida/Alabama effort
By: Matt Elofson | Media General News Service
Published: February 17, 2012 Updated: February 17, 2012 - 4:00 AM
Economic developers from the Dothan area and Northwest Florida are working together to bring a "mega" industry to the region in an effort to provide more jobs to the area.
Neal Wade, the Executive Director of the Bay Economic Development Alliance, said area economic development representatives have identified several possible sites they hope will attract industries to the region.
"I thought what a natural partnership between Southeast Alabama where you have a strong population base and what we have here in Northwest Florida you've got large tracts of land that could be potential sites for development," Wade said, the co-chairman of the development effort. "You have a larger population there coupled with larger tracts of land and I-10 and U.S. 231. So I think it's a perfect marriage of assets from Alabama and Florida."
Wade said they've been looking at sites for several months, but have not identified a specific site because there are several that could meet a company's goals.
Matt Parker, the president of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, said they're working to develop a mega site or sites with large tracts of land ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 acres.
"You just don't find that kind of site over night, so by working together it gives us our best chance for success," said Parker, said co-chairman of the effort. "We're right at the point when we're going to get ready to be pre-certified. We're going to be marketing it."
Jackson County Floridian
Dothan business expansion to create new jobs
By: Greg Phillips | Dothan Eagle
Published: February 15, 2012 Updated: February 15, 2012 - 4:43 PM
A Dothan-based business is expanding its operations, a move expected to bring at least 20 new jobs to the area this year.
Panhandle Converter and Scrap Co. announced Wednesday the purchase of a new building and an expansion plan that will create between 20 and 25 new jobs within the next year and a half.
Panhandle specializes in recycling catalytic converters and selling the scrap metal to various entities around the world.
The company now hopes to expand its customer base and is moving into recycling steel, iron and other ferrous metals.
"We're making a national push," said Panhandle Chief Operating Officer Lyle Peluso Jr. "It involves some investment in new facilities along with the creation of around 22 jobs that we need to find skilled workers for. We're currently in three locations. We've actually added a new facility, which is consolidating two of our smaller facilities. This will allow us to do our own manufacturing and regional sales and administration in our executive offices out of the new building. We're also expanding on Beverlye Road."
Panhandle has purchased a building on Murray Road that once belonged to Dunbarton Corp., a move that gives the company about 120,000 square feet of space and 14 additional acres for future growth.
Peluso said five to seven job openings are immediately available, with more to come as the plan develops throughout the year.
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