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.
Film productions spent $22.5 million in Alabama last year
Published: Monday, February 27, 2012, 2:38 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Film makers put in 112 requests to the Alabama Film Office in 2011, and production companies spent $22.5 million in the state the same year, according to the film office.
The Alabama Film Office said today that film productions made requests for assistance on projects ranging from big budget feature films, independent films, television and Internet-based productions.
The requests came from around the world as productions scouted locations in all parts of the state, the film office said.
As a result, 18 commercials, seven television series, five films and four music videos were shot in Alabama in 2011. That does not include individual episodes of such television programs as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," "Wife Swap," "Hoarders," "Dirty Jobs," "Storm Chasers" and the "Today Show."
Of the $22.5 million production companies spent in Alabama last year, the companies were able to get reimbursed more than $5.6 million through incentives approved in the 2009 Alabama Entertainment Act, according to the Alabama Film Office.
Alabama economic development plan gets first burst of 'accelerators'
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 7:30 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A collaboration among the University of Alabama, the state's two-year college system, AIDT and Mercedes-Benz could be the first tangible action from a new statewide economic development strategic plan.
Members of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance met, in private, for the first time last week since the Accelerate Alabama plan was unveiled in Birmingham in late January. The goal now is to begin implementing elements of the plan to ensure it doesn't become just another document collecting dust on a shelf.
The 76-page Accelerate Alabama plan includes 33 pages of what are called "accelerators" -- actions that need to be accomplished if the plan is to be fully realized. Among them:
Recruitment efforts that provide a trained work force ready to meet the needs of future prospects, sites with infrastructure ready for new industry, incentives and financing options, as well as a strategy for global recruitment and lead generation;
Retention efforts that align the state's work force services with the Alabama Community College System under the umbrella of the Alabama Workforce Training System, strengthens the Training for Existing Business and Industry program at each college, assists small businesses, markets programs available to businesses, increases exports, and supports military assets and contractors in the state;
Renewal efforts that create a statewide organization focused on innovation, coordinates and increases commercialization efforts, develops a legislative agenda focused on innovation, builds research and development capacity, supports existing industry, develops the information technology sector, fosters entrepreneurship and creates financial support for innovation-based commercialization.
Redstone Arsenal team delivers customized helicopters to help Mexico fight drug war
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 6:01 PM Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012, 6:13 PM
By Kenneth Kesner, The Huntsville Times The Huntsville Times
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A team of engineers and managers on Redstone Arsenal is helping Mexico fight its drug lords.
As part of a U.S. State Department program, groups on the arsenal worked for months to quickly customize two new UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Federal Police of Mexico. In a ceremony this afternoon, Army Col. Thomas Todd III handed over the keys and logbooks to William Brownfield, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
"It will make a difference, no doubt about it," said Todd, Utility Helicopters Project Manager for the Army's Program Executive Office-Aviation.
Brownfield knows the aircraft are effective. He said these Black Hawks are the last of six delivered during the past couple of years as part of the 2008 "Merida Initiative," a $1.6 billion security agreement forged with Mexico that recognizes the shared responsibilities of the governments in countering drug violence.
Mexico's local and state police don't have the resources to fight the wealthy and well-equipped drug cartels, Brownfield said. The federal police were a weak link, too, when the Merida Initiative programs began; he said that even people in Mexico thought they were more part of the problem than the solution.
"No one says that anymore," Brownfield said. "Their quality has changed enormously."
Mexico's federal police, along with prosecutors and others, have received training and other support from the United States. The police, especially, needed equipment to match that of the drug traffickers, who are organized, agile and essentially paramilitary, he said.
"What they required, obviously, was the ability to deploy, and deploy very quickly," Brownfield said, sitting in the Black Hawk. "That's where these puppies come into play."
Austal gets $322M for next two JHSVs
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012, 4:44 PM Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012, 5:27 PM
By Dan Murtaugh, Press-Register Press-Register
MOBILE, Alabama -- The U.S. Navy just exercised its options on its eighth and ninth joint high-speed vessels, awarding Austal USA $321.7 million to build the transport ships.
The Navy has one more option left on the deal it signed with Austal in 2008. The first ship in that contract, Spearhead, is nearly finished and floating in the water in front of Austal's Mobile River shipyard.
Ships eight and nine are not scheduled for delivery until the summer of 2015 and the winter of 2016.
The news came on Friday as Austal USA announced its earnings for the last half of 2011 period. The company's revenue jumped to $240.8 million from $149.1 million over the same period the year before. However, its profit before tax fell from $13.3 million in the same months of 2010 to just $1 million in that period for 2011.
The company blamed the margin deterioration on "first-in-class" problems with the JHSV ship program and the inexperience of new workers as it ramped up its military production.
Austal is Mobile's largest industrial employer, with more than 2,600 employees. The company is expanding its workforce to 4,000 by the end of next year to build the JHSVs and littoral combat ships it has under contract with the Navy.
JHSVs are 338 feet long, weigh 727 tons, can carry up to 600 tons of cargo and travel at an average speed of about 35 knots, or 40 mph. The ships will be used to move troops, weapons or cargo, but are not designed as combat vessels.
Electricfil to add up to 200 jobs
A long way to go'
ADO director delivers keynote at Chamber event
By Trent Moore The Cullman Times Sun Feb 26, 2012, 11:50 AM CST
CULLMAN - A lot of jobs come with pressure, but Alabama Development Office Director Greg Canfield is more than just a little under the gun. If he doesn't do well, his boss Gov. Robert Bentley could serve four years and never get a paycheck - and Canfield knows that's not the best route to job security.
"I don't know if you've ever started a job like I did," Canfield told a packed house at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce dinner Thursday night at the Cullman Civic Center. "The governor hasn't taken a paycheck since taking office, and it's my job to get the unemployment rate down so he can."
Bentley made a campaign promise to not accept one cent in salary until the state is below 5.2 percent unemployment, and Canfield was proud to report Alabama's unemployment has dipped from double-digits to 8.1 percent in the latest report. But, he was quick to note: Work has only just begun.
"While 8.1 percent is good news, I've also got some sobering news - we were at 5.1 percent before the recession," he said. "We still have a long way to go."
Just as much as the state office, Canfield credited local economic development agencies in Alabama communities for helping attract projects and create jobs that led to the rebound.
"We are just a small part of that, and you here in Cullman have a big role in that, with Peggy Smith and Dale [Greer] at the economic development office, Sammie Danford at the county economic development and the chamber," he said. "You have created an environment that attracts on an international level."
Reinventing Our Community: High-tech jobs key to vibrant Birmingham area work force
Published: Sunday, February 26, 2012, 5:00 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
And the obvious heart of that work force is jobs -- but not just any jobs.
The types of positions that will help truly transform metro Birmingham are the well-paid, high-tech jobs in fields such as biotechnology, engineering and computer science.
The people who fill these jobs are the real benefit, because they contribute to an "innovation ecosystem" that goes beyond their office, said Rick Davis, senior vice president of economic development for the Birmingham Business Alliance.
"If you bring somebody into this community who is a really smart, educated, motivated person, their contributions to this community don't stop at 5 o'clock," Davis said.
They get involved in school PTAs, nonprofit groups and other organizations that leverage their talents, he said. Some are entrepreneurs who create start-up companies that grow and create even more high-tech jobs.
"The downstream benefit is that when you start bringing a lot of these people into your community, you start seeing things happen in areas where you had no idea it would be good," Davis said.
High-tech jobs, specifically those in the biological and medical technology fields, are one of the seven sectors targeted for expansion under Blueprint Birmingham, the BBA's strategic plan for the region.
And one way the BBA is trying to grow those jobs is by promoting what metro Birmingham already has.
A recent survey shows there are 773 technology companies in the metro area, and the BBA is trying to tell each one's story in hopes that it will raise the community's profile as a center for such business.
Please feel free to forward along to someone who can use it by clicking on the "I'd like to forward this to a contact" link below the green bar.
Note also, that you can now make changes to your e-mail address and contact information through the link at the bottom.
As always, if you have news or suggestions, please forward them along to me.
Enjoy the day,
Wendy Wallace Johnson