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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:
Alabama auto industry: Colbert County plant to make LoadStar work truck
New auto-supply jobs coming to Oxford
U.S. House passes JOBS Act to help start-up companies
Southern Research Institute receives donations from Daniel Foundation, Alabama Power Foundation
More than a launch pad Entrepreneurial Center boosts revenues, jobs while incubating small business


Alabama auto industry: Colbert County plant to make LoadStar work truck
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 6:15 AM
Navistar International Corp. says its massive Colbert County plant will begin producing an all-new work truck -- the International LoadStar -- for U.S. and Canada customers in early 2013.

It's the first time the Lisle, Ill.-based company has said what it will do at the former National Alabama rail car plant, which it is leasing from the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the state pension plan that had bankrolled the rail plant project.

Navistar unveiled the new truck at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky., last week. Navistar designed the truck from scratch after seeking input from drivers and fleet managers.

Its primary customer will be the waste industry, as a garbage truck, but Navistar believes the design is flexible enough to reach other sectors such as the concrete pumping and airplane refueling markets.

"It's primarily for the waste and refuse industry, but it's a work truck, so depending on what kind of body you want to put on the back of it makes other applications possible," Steve Schrier, spokesman for Navistar, said Monday.

Schrier said the total market for similar trucks in the U.S. and Canada is around 5,000 to 8,000 vehicles per year.

"Depending on what kind of market share we get, it will impact our production levels," he said. "We will be taking orders in the second half of 2012 with production beginning in early 2013."

That leaves a great deal of capacity at the former National Alabama rail car plant, which has more than 2 million square feet and stretches for a mile in the Barton Riverfront Industrial Park.



Birmingham News




New auto-supply jobs coming to Oxford
by Patrick McCreless  Anniston Star   Mar 28, 2012

OXFORD - Auto manufacturing jobs are coming to Oxford this year.

A representative for auto supplier Bridgewater Interiors said during the Oxford City Council's work session Tuesday that the Oxford company would expand its facility and create 87 jobs. The company announced in December that it might expand its facility but had not finalized the plan.

"The project is moving forward," said Farrah Woodley, plant controller for Bridgewater Interiors. "We've started the selection process for bids for the building construction."

Woodley attended the meeting Tuesday to see the council approve an amendment to a tax abatement for Hoover Universal Inc., which is in a joint venture with Bridgewater Interiors and will provide equipment for the expanded facility. The tax abatement, passed in December, needed amending because it stated the expansion project would cost approximately $4.2 million. The company has since learned, due to a miscalculation on equipment costs, that the expansion will cost about $5.5 million.

Woodley said work on the expansion project would begin in early April. She added that Bridgewater would begin hiring 60 employees in June and then hire another 27 in 2013.

Bridgewater Interiors, which manufactures seats for the Pilot SUV produced at the Honda automotive plant in Lincoln, opened in 2003 and currently employs more than 250 people. The expansion is under consideration as a direct result of Honda's expansion plans announced last year. The Japanese-based automaker announced it would invest a total of $191 million in its Lincoln plant to expand annual output, improve manufacturing flexibility and transfer production of the Acura MDX luxury SUV from a Canadian facility. Honda's expansion is under way and is expected to be complete in 2013.


U.S. House passes JOBS Act to help start-up companies 
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 2:30 PM Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 2:30 PM  


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed the JOBS Act this afternoon by a vote of 380-41.
AP PhotoCongress passed bi-partisan legislation this month that would make it easier for small and mid-sized companies to attract investors. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The JOBS Act, a bi-partisan package of six bills,
and comply with securities laws. Proponents say it would help start-up companies create jobs. Critics say it would create more opportunity for investment fraud by making regulations too loose.

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, is one of the act's sponsors. In an
, Bachus said the bills would help companies like those at Birmingham's

During his statements on the House floor today, Bachus again mentioned Innovation Depot and how it would be affected by the legislation.

"With the JOBS Act, startup companies like those at the Innovation Depot will find it easier to attract investments because we remove unnecessary and outdated government barriers to capital formation - so these entrepreneurs have more freedom to access capital, hire workers and grow their businesses," Bachus said.


Southern Research Institute receives donations from Daniel Foundation, Alabama Power Foundation

Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 9:24 AM Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012, 9:40 AM

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Daniel Foundation of Alabama and the Alabama Power Foundation are helping fund a new building for Southern Research Institute's Engineering Research Center campus, Birmingham-based Southern Research announced.

Southern Research last year announced the construction of a new research facility, using bond funding it received from the City of Birmingham in 2009. Also last year, the Daniel Foundation offered Southern Research a Challenge Grant of $300,000 and the Alabama Power Foundation matched it. Funds from the foundations will also go to recruiting new engineers and help expand new research areas and programs. 

"We are very grateful for these gifts from the Daniel Foundation and Alabama Power Foundation, and are encouraged by their desire to support the work we do," John A. "Jack" Secrist III, president and CEO of Southern Research, said in a statement. "We pride ourselves in being operationally self-sustaining. However, one of our greatest challenges is being able to attract and retain top talent in high-technology disciplines in Birmingham. Doing so requires state-of-the-art office and laboratory facilities that allow senior engineers and scientists the ability to develop and grow new program areas."

Endowments held by Southern Research from Alabama Power Foundation, the Hess Family and the Ingalls Family are are used mainly to help newly-hired scientists on Southern Research's Birmingham campus establish their labs in order to conduct research in cancer, infectious diseases, and disorders and diseases of the nervous system.



Birmingham News





More than a launch pad Entrepreneurial Center boosts revenues, jobs while incubating small business start-ups 
By Bernie Delinski Staff Writer  

Jeff Rogers is in the position a lot of business owners would envy: He can focus on operating his company.  

"I don't have to worry about incidentals, and that lets me concentrate on my business," said Rogers, owner of the plastic-injection molding business, Steff Industries. "This facility has made this possible."  

Rogers' business is at the Shoals Entrepreneurial Center in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park.  

The business-incubator center has operated for 20 years. Since that time, its graduates and existing clients have generated more than $10.2 million in tax revenue and supported 1,455 jobs, according to figures provided by the agency.  

The center does more than provide a place to launch a business. It helps new companies with business issues and tutors owners on matters associated with starting and having a business.  

"The staff up front is always there for me when I have any question, no matter how small or big," Rogers said.  

Russell Killen, manager of the industrial insulation contractor Progressive Insulation, said many costs are reduced by starting at the center.  

"For us, it was a lot less expensive to get started," Killen said. "They provide office equipment, access to the mail room, a warehouse, office access and other services. The center had what we needed."  

The idea for an entrepreneurial center began in 1987 when the University of North Alabama's Industrial Development Research and Extension Center proposed a business incubator.



Times Daily



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