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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



in this issue:
Navistar to build truck in Colbert
oundbreaking marks official start of Lear plant
New Mercedes supplier to break ground in Tuscaloosa County
Decatur plant on a roll...Nucor to invest $43 million in River City facility
US Airways begins nonstop flights from Birmingham to Washington, D.C
ax credit would boost research in Alabama
Head of Honda's Alabama operations named to North American operating committee
Dothan losing 128 jobs when bakery closes
Alabama's Johnston Textiles closing 2 plants, securing new capital



Navistar to build truck in Colbert
By Mike Goens Managing Editor

Navistar is gearing up to produce a newly created work truck at its Colbert County plant, with production scheduled to begin in early 2013, company officials confirmed Friday.

The International LoadStar truck will have multiple uses that include service to industries such as waste haulers, concrete pumping and airplane refueling.

"This is a completely new product," Navistar spokesman Steve Schrier said. "It was designed and developed from the ground up."

He said the waste business will likely have the most use for the trucks, "but there are many possibilities."

Navistar unveiled LoadStar at a trucking show in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday. Company officials say the truck has created interest from several potential customers.

Orders won't be accepted until the second half of this year.

Navistar took over the nearly mile-long plant in Barton Riverfront Industrial Park on Jan. 1, after buying the facility from National Alabama, a railcar manufacturing operation.

State officials who helped put together an incentive package for Navistar said as many as 2,200 workers could be affiliated with the plant within four years. At present, Navistar has 185 workers on site.

Company officials said Friday they are not prepared to release the number of jobs that will be associated with building LoadStar trucks.

They said other truck products will be built in Barton, but it's unclear when the company will announce those plans.

"We're heading in that direction," said Jim Spangler, chief communications officer at Navistar. "We do not have a timetable for making that announcement.

"We're very excited about this announcement, though. This is the only truck of its type and we will be assembling the entire truck at one facility."

Economic development officials in the Shoals applauded Friday's announcement.

"We're excited that this good news is now public and look forward to other product announcements in the months ahead," said Forrest Wright, president of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. " Navistar is a world-class company manufacturing world-class products here in the Shoals."



Times Daily



Groundbreaking marks official start of Lear plant
By Patrick Rupinski  Staff Writer
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.Last Modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 at 11:30 p.m.

VANCE | It might have been the cleanest groundbreaking ever. Not a whiff of dust was stirred. Not a speck of dirt hit the sparkling silver spades used to ceremoniously mark the official start of construction of a new factory.

Such was Friday morning's groundbreaking for Lear Corp., the newest manufacturer that will join Tuscaloosa County's growing automotive industry.

Rain forced Lear, which will make seats and seat components for the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, to move its groundbreaking for a new $19.5 million plant on Brookwood Parkway to the Mercedes plant's training center.

There, on polished hardwood floors, Gov. Robert Bentley,

local officials and business leaders donned hard hats, grabbed shovels and at least went through the motions of a groundbreaking.

Meanwhile, about a mile up the road in Brookwood, a large banner blew in the wind, marking the site where Lear's 150,000-square-foot plant will be built. The site is across the road from Borgers AG, another Mercedes automotive supplier.




New Mercedes supplier to break ground in Tuscaloosa County
By Patrick Rupinski
Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.Last Modified: Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA | Lear Corp., a global automotive supplier, announced Thursday that it will build a $19.6 million plant in Brookwood to make seats and seating frames for the Mercedes-Benz auto assembly plant in Vance.

Ray Scott, Lear's senior vice president and president of its seating unit, said the plant will open next year and will have about 100 employees by the end of 2013 and about 150 employees by the end of 2014.

The 170,000-square-foot facility will make seating for Mercedes C-Class sedans, which the Mercedes plant in Vance will start making in 2014. Lear also will make metal seating frames for Mercedes' M-Class and GL-Class sport utility vehicles, Scott said.

Lear will initially make about 77,000 seating units for the C-Class, "and we hope to increase this amount," Scott said.

The plant also will make about 150,000 seating frames for the Mercedes SUVs that have been the mainstay of its Vance production.

The Lear plant will be built on a 30-acre site in the Brookwood Corridor Industrial Park, near the Mercedes plant. A formal groundbreaking with Gov. Robert Bentley will be held this morning. Construction will begin in April and the plant should be ready to occupy in January 2013, Scott said.



Decatur plant on a roll
Nucor to invest $43 million in River City facility, receive $3.5 million in tax breaks

Decatur Industrial Development Board on Friday approved $3.5 million in tax breaks for a $43 million Nucor expansion that will create eight jobs.

Nucor's abatement application described four projects with capital investments ranging from $2.8 million to $29 million.

In its application, Nucor said the investments "would enhance the security of all at Nucor and would help to secure the future of Nucor's operations in Decatur."

According to Morgan County tax records, the assessed value of Nucor's Decatur plants and property was $676.3 million in 2010.

"I don't want the impression to be that we're just rubber-stamping these projects," IDB chairman Jack Fite said after the board unanimously approved all four projects. "There's a lot of thought that goes into every project."

The IDB board has never rejected an abatement request.

"We get a number of requests that never even get to the board," IDB attorney Barney Lovelace said. "We do some vetting there."

Nucor Division Controller Chad Potter said a $15.2 million computer project would add eight permanent jobs and numerous contractor jobs during installation. The abatement request is only for taxes on $8.2 million of the investment, Lovelace said, because the other $7 million in consulting fees is not subject to an abatement.

Nucor will spend $3.1 million improving its pickling line, an acid bath that removes a layer of oxide from steel.

"It's not a real nice, smooth surface, so we run the steel through a hydrochloric acid bath in the pickling line," Potter said. "It goes in black and comes out this nice, gun-metal gray. It improves the surface quality. We sell that or we take it and further process it."



Decatur Daily

US Airways begins nonstop flights from Birmingham to Washington, D.C.
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012, 9:48 AM Updated: Monday, March 26, 2012, 10:40 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Daily, nonstop service flights from Birmingham to Reagan National Airport -- the downtown airport for Washington, D.C. -- began Sunday, according to US Airways.
A US Airways jet sits on the runway at Reagan National in Washington, D.C. The airline began non-stop flights on Sunday between Birmingham and Reagan National.

US Airways is the only airport providing nonstop service between the two cities, the company said. Flights are operated by US Airways subsidiary PSA Airlines and Express partner Air Wisconsin. There will be usually three flights daily, with the exception of Saturdays, when there is only two.


Tax credit would boost research in Alabama
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012, 8:00 AM
 By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- A proposal that aims to boost research and development activity by businesses and universities across Alabama could put the state on equal footing with others around the country, legislators and officials say.

The Alabama Research and Development Tax Credit Act, or SB368, would give a company a tax credit of 6.5 percent on money spent on qualified research expenses.

A business would receive a greater tax credit -- 15 percent -- if the research is conducted by UAB or another state university, or by research outfits such as Birmingham's Southern Research Institute or Huntsville's HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

"This made not only sense for UAB but also the entire state," said state Sen. Slade Blackwell, R-Mountain Brook, a sponsor of the bill. "When you can create jobs, this is what you want to do."

Supporters of the legislation say Alabama is one of a few states that doesn't already have an R&D tax incentive program, and they think the measure could lure businesses to the state and encourage businesses already here to conduct more research that turn into new products. They say Alabama is the only Southeastern state with a corporate income tax that doesn't offer the break.



Birmingham News



Head of Honda's Alabama operations named to North American operating committee
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012, 8:30 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News

Tom Shoupe, head of Honda's Alabama operations, is one of the first three American executives named to the Japanese automaker's newly-expanded North American regional operating committee.

Shoupe, president of Honda Manufacturing of Alabama Inc., joins Erik Berkman, president of Honda R&D Americas Inc., and John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co. Inc., as the new additions. The eight-member board is responsible for regional strategy and the development of business planning and execution across the company's North American operations.

New growth and investment by Honda in the region is one reason behind the change, which will speed decision-making and increase efficiency and competitiveness, said company spokesman Jeffrey Smith.

"Second, the addition of these executives is a solid acknowledgment of the development of our associates in the U.S., and that we will leverage their deep expertise and regional knowledge, which in turn will serve our company and customers well into the future," he said.


Birmingham News





Dothan losing 128 jobs when bakery closes
By: Jimmy Sailors | Dothan Eagle
Published: March 22, 2012 Updated: March 22, 2012 - 5:43 PM

A manufacturing plant that employs 128 people is closing in Dothan.

The Sara Lee/Colonial Baking Company bakery on Bell Street at Tate Drive will cease operations by May 21, Bimbo Bakeries USA announced on Thursday.

Sara Lee Corp. sold its North American bakery business to Grupo Bimbo last November for $709 million. The bakery in Dothan produces bread and buns and will shift production to other sites in Bimbo's manufacturing network.

Mayor Mike Schmitz said he talked with Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Parker on Thursday about retraining for the employees.

"Any time you lose jobs, it's disappointing," Schmitz said. "We're just going to have to work hard to find jobs for these people."

The company said human resources employees will meet with employees and union representatives to discuss severance, other benefits and resources available to assist them.



Dothan Eagle





Alabama's Johnston Textiles closing 2 plants, securing new capital
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012, 11:14 AM Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012, 2:30 PM
By The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Phenix City-based Johnston Textiles Inc. said today that it closed two Alabama plants as it consolidates operations and lined up additional capital for growth.

The company said it closed plans in Opp and Shawmut plants and moved all manufacturing and finishing to its 700,000-square-foot Phenix City facility, a move that will increase efficiency.

A statement from the company didn't say how workers were affected by the shift. The "Alabama Manufacturers Register" for 2011 said the Opp plant employed 135 workers, but the publication didn't list information for the Shawmut facility.

Johnson Textiles said Meriturn Partners, a San Francisco-based investment firm that owns the company, is backing its growth plans. Meriturn said it had arranged $17.5 million in bank financing for Johnston Textiles.

"We still have work to do, but there is a great desire for quality made US goods, and we are committed to serving the needs of our marketplace with improved service and delivery," Johnston Textiles CEO Jim Morelli said in a statement.



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