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.
Auto Parts Suppliers Hiring As Fast As They Can
Detroit automakers are creating thousands of new jobs amid a sales boom. And as they expand, their suppliers are racing to keep up, adding tens of thousands of new jobs.
At Bridgewater Interiors in Warren, Mich., for example, the pace is intense. Hundreds of union employees scurry to fill a growing list of orders. The factory floor is packed with stacks of foam cushions, seat covers and headrests.
Vice President Ron Hall, wearing safety glasses and a bright yellow vest, provides a tour. He points out a large, blinking screen overhead. It's linked to a Ford Motor Co. truck plant. That electronic information enables Ford to tell Bridgewater exactly what kind of seats it needs for each truck moving down the auto company's assembly line 30 miles away.
"And so we've got to be able to get that exact configuration and do it in a 3 1/2-hour window, and do it all in sequence," Hall says
Strong backlog of projects helping B.L. Harbert International weather industry slowdown
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 6:26 PM Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 6:53 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama--Birmingham-based B.L. Harbert International LLC has been able to weather the construction industry slowdown thanks to a strong backlog of projects, its president and chief operating officer says.
Jim Rein told Birmingham business leaders today that after averaging 16 percent annual growth for years, B.L. Harbert International saw revenue flatten during the economic downturn that began in late 2007. Officials with Associated General Contractors and Associated Builders & Contractors have said many Alabama contractors have seen business slow down as clients put construction projects on hold.
A report released by Associated General Contractors this week said Alabama's construction employment fell by 9 percent over the 12-month period ending in January, the biggest percentage drop in the nation. B.L. Harbert International has been able to withstand the industry thanks to its strong international business and construction projects across the state, Rein said.
"Our backlog stands at $1.6 billion, which should carry us through," Rein told members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham at a Harbert Center luncheon today.
"I believe 2012 will be another challenging year for the industry," he added.
Alabama companies recognized with export awards
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 3:58 PM Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 4:22 PM
Three metro Birmingham companies were among eight firms statewide recognized today by Gov. Robert Bentley for excellence in trade activities.
The companies are Alignment Simple Solutions
of Pelham, MCM Custom Vehicles
of Trussville and Mid-America Engine
Bentley presented the seventh annual Governor's Trade Excellence Awards during a ceremony at the state Capitol.
Exporting by Alabama companies boosts the state's reputation around the world, Bentley said.
"At the same time, our local communities benefit from companies engaging in business across the world -- while keeping their roots here at home," the governor said in a prepared statement.
Last year, Alabama exports reached an all-time high, with $17.9 billion in goods shipped globally. It was a 15.4 percent increase from the previous year.
The state's auto industry drives exports, but other companies, from small firms to large corporations, also are involved in global trade.
Other companies receiving awards today were: AZ Technology of Huntsville, CentraLite of Mobile, Dunbarton Corp. of Dothan, Henderson Sewing Machine Co. Inc. of Andalusia and Kappler Inc. of Guntersville.
UAB College of Arts and Sciences seeks drug delivery ideas
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 6:30 AM Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 9:07 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Last fall the UAB College of Arts and Sciences put a spotlight on creation of new ideas and their possible commercialization.
It named physicist Yogesh Vohra as associate dean for interdisciplinary and creative innovation, and one major effort this year is a series of interdisciplinary forums.
The second forum, on innovations in drug delivery, met Tuesday.
Polymer scientist Art Tipton gave the overview talk. Tipton was founder of Brookwood Pharmaceuticals, a spinoff from Southern Research Institute that was bought by SurModics Inc. in 2007, and then acquired by the international specialty chemicals company, Evonik Industries, last fall.
Tipton explained how pharmaceutical companies make an immense investment to bring a drug to market -- $800 million to $1 billion -- as they go through the steps of discovery, preclinical studies, clinical trials, FDA review, the scaling up of manufacturing and post-marketing efforts.
Drug delivery research is a part of that effort, aimed at problems like getting a drug to its target, maintaining a smooth level of drug in the system or improving a patient's compliance in taking the drug.
Effective drug delivery can be better for patients, but can also pay off handsomely for the drug manufacturer.
Pfizer's Procardia, for example, had to be taken as a pill four times a day and was a $400 million product. When an improvement in timed release turned it into a once-a-day pill, sales jumped to $1.4 billion.
Business leaders from U.S. and China to meet to talk about job creation
Posted: Mar 15, 2012 10:20 AM CDTUpdated: Mar 15, 2012 10:21 AM CDT
Monroeville, AL (WSFA) - One of the biggest economic events possibly ever for Alabama is about to begin.
Hundreds of business leaders from across the U.S. and China will meet in Monroeville to talk about bridging the gap between the two countries and their cultures and creating jobs.
In small towns across America; squares with iconic buildings are very common. They're distinctive.
What you don't see every day in those same small towns across the country are signs written in a foreign language.
Executive Director Glen Haab says, "Just the response of people wanting to volunteer and get behind what we're trying to do has been very inspirational and motivating to us here."
Judge Greg Norris grew up here and says this new venture, the Alabama-China partnership is perhaps the most important project the town has ever taken on.
Monroe County Probate Judge Greg Norris says, "We are open to new opportunities, new ideas, and new people. Monroe County hopefully this is an opportunity to showcase not only Monroe County but also the whole state of Alabama."
Norris says he hopes Monroe County and Monroeville become distinctive for something new in Alabama sparking that lucrative relationship with Chinese businesses.
State leaders hope partnership brings jobs to Alabama
Posted: Mar 14, 2012 10:35 PM CDTUpdated: Mar 15, 2012 7:18 AM CDT
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
60 Chinese companies are represented in the first Alabama-China Partnership conference.
"This is gonna be really a significant meeting," says Governor Robert Bentley.
"It's an incredible opportunity with incredible response," adds Director of the Alabama Development Office, Greg Canfield.
All eyes are on economic development.
"So that they can create jobs and capital investment in Alabama," adds Canfield.
The goal--show Chinese executives how to grow their businesses here.
"We're trying to encourage companies to come to rural areas of the state," says Bentley.
Canfield believes it's a win-win for Alabamians and the Chinese--helping their businesses succeed while bringing much needed jobs our way.
"Manufacturing for products from Chinese companies could be manufactured right here at home," adds Canfield.
State development leaders identified 11 types of industry they want to attract to Alabama.
Canfield says these Chinese companies satisfy them.
"Forest products to aerospace to automotive, specialty chemicals."
Canfield says China is our state's second largest export market. Many Chinese companies are already looking for areas in North America to expand.
UAB experiments with high-tech implants, like diamond-coated hip joints
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 5:31 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Replacing a damaged hip or knee joint with an artificial implant is a common major operation in the United States.
U.S. patients get those life-changing procedures more than 600,000 times a year, and the number is expected to increase to 4 million a year by 2030, according to projections published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
But problems with wear can limit the long-term success of the implants - which for the patient means pain, loss of mobility, loosening of the joint and the need for another major surgery to replace the failing joint. Those replacements - which surgeons call "revisions" - may account for 15 percent or more of the total hip and knee operations each year, said UAB physicist Yogesh Vohra.
"It's an important problem," Vohra said.
Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham hope to achieve a better design using a high-tech approach - coating the metal surface of an implant joint with a thin layer of diamond deposited by a patented method discovered at UAB.
UAB has taken two recent steps along the long research trail toward a possible product.
It has bought a $150,000 hip simulator testing machine that arrives next month. The machine will repeatedly move a diamond-coated, ball-shaped hip implant against a hardened polyethylene hip implant socket, to mimic the kind of load and movement a human hip joint encounters but in a vastly compressed amount of time.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum named among top in the world
Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 10:26 AM Updated: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 11:35 AM
The Four Seasons magazine has listed the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as one of the must-see private museums in the world.
Barber is on the list along with spots in Miami, Italy, Switzerland, Thailand and Germany. The list can be found here at the magazine's online site.
Here's what the publication had to say about Barber:
"The spacious and utilitarian Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is home to the world's largest collection of motorcycles - nearly 1,300, including street bikes, dirt bikes and rarities, along with vintage and restored vehicles and racing machines from around the world. Founder George Barber may call his museum a "parking garage," but the complex also has a 2.38-mile, 17-turn track, and it hosts sports-car rallies, a grand prix and the Porsche Driving School."
Breeding Industrial Park South-Athens, AL receives Advantage Site designation
RELEASE - ATHENS, AL - March 15, 2012 Breeding Industrial Park South in Athens, Alabama has received an Alabama Advantage Site designation.
The AdvantageSite Program requires that community economic development organizations provide documentation specific to a proposed industrial site, including a set of standard data related to ownership/control, environmental and geotechnical conditions, and infrastructure status. Sites must also meet size, zoning and accessibility requirements.
"Competition for projects is global, so to get a prospect to locate we must be ready with sites and infrastructure in place, which is what we have at our Breeding South Industrial Park," said Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks. "In this site all utilities, road infrastructure, and rail are in place just off Interstate 65 which makes it a very appealing location for light to heavy industrial clients."
"We commend the City of Athens and the Limestone County Economic Development Association for pursuing AdvantageSite designation for the Breeding Industrial Park South Site," said Greg Knighton, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama vice president and director of business information. "This designation demonstrates that key site information is documented and available for prospective industry."
AdvatageSite is a voluntary industrial site preparedness program created in order to make the state more competitive for companies considering a location in Alabama.
The program is jointly sponsored by the Alabama Development Office, Alabama Gas Corporation, Alabama Power Company, EDPA, the North Alabama Industrial Development Association and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.
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