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.
Steel & mettle: Gulf Coast Ports evolving cargo and 'game changers' create new normal
Published: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 3:30 PM Updated: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 3:30 PM
These represent game-changers for the ports of Mobile, Gulfport and Pascagoula, respectively. And they illustrate that although some trends hold true, it's impossible to predict exactly what the future will bring.
"There are always surprises," Alabama State Port Authority Director Jimmy Lyons said. "You can be the best planner in the world and not see a ThyssenKrupp coming."
When ThyssenKrupp AG built a steel mill in Calvert, it prompted the port to build a $100 million terminal specifically to handle steel. Not only did that increase traffic on the river, but what also followed was a dramatic shift in cargo mix that's still going on.
"Steel has been the big story," Lyons said. "Forest products have always been our No. 2 behind coal with a little over 2 million tons a week. But we passed that like it was standing still last year, and it's going to be even more this year."
The port just had its largest steel shipment to date in March 4,259 slabs weighing 94,210 tons and expects to top that this month. Besides ThyssenKrupp, the port of Mobile handles steel for Severstal in Columbus, Miss., and Nucor near Tuscaloosa.
The port has seen the total volumes of steel products handled more than triple in two years to 3.6 million short tons in 2011.
"Our book of steel business is excellent," Lyons said.
Gulfport, Mobile expand port facilities: Area preparing for future growth with upgrades to West Pier, McDuffie terminal
Published: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 2:32 PM Updated: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 2:32 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- The ports of Mobile and Gulfport are making significant investments to position themselves to grow as they adapt to an evolving global marketplace.
In Mobile, that means a $12 million upgrade of McDuffie Coal Terminal to handle additional exports, with funding generated by assessments paid by existing export customers.
In Gulfport, meanwhile, the port is raising its West Pier in phases, a massive, $570 million project that will enable it to accommodate a new, larger breed of container carrier.
Following a 60-acre addition completed last summer, the first phase of the fill project in Gulfport is under way now. It will raise a 43-acre parcel of land from roughly 10 feet above sea level to 25 feet.
The port awarded a $19.1 million contract last month to W.C. Fore Trucking of Biloxi, which will be hauling about 200 loads of dirt a day into the port.
In all, said Director of Port Restoration Joe Conn, it will take about 1.5 million tons of dirt to raise the first chunk of land. Concurrently, the port is dredging and filling a 24-acre parcel. That 300-foot wide strip along the west edge of the pier will be dredged down to minus 20 feet sea level, then built back up to 10 feet, Conn said.
MOBILE, Alabama -- Even though a Korean transformer manufacturer ended up choosing Montgomery rather than the Mobile area for a new production facility, Barnhart Crane & Rigging doesn't regret its decision to bring heavy-lift crane capacity to the Alabama state docks a little more than two years ago.
Hyundai Heavy Industries would have meant big business for Barnhart and its 400-ton capacity crane. But the company is carving its niche in heavy lifting anyway, and has even handled some of the lifts for the transformer manufacturer.
"We are committed to providing Alabama with an alternative to a very large shore crane," said John Mickler, Barnhart's national logistics development manager, who is based in Fairhope.
The Barnhart crane, nicknamed Big Al for the state of Alabama and company President Alan Barnhart, is mounted on a barge. Mickler said that makes it more versatile and less costly to use than a fixed crane.
Good intentions can lead to bad results
Published: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 1:39 PM Updated: Wednesday, April 04, 2012, 1:39 PM
Sometimes, laws that look good on paper yield results that do more harm than good. The flawed immigration bill passed in Alabama in 2011 is an obvious example, and in "my opinion" current Senate Bills 384 and 385 are such legislation.
With your permission, I will paint a couple of fictional but very realistic scenarios to help you decide whether Mobile, Baldwin County and Alabama need these laws.
A local community needs to buy 5 acres of property in a certain area of town to build a new fire station. There are two great pieces of property available directly across the street from each other. Someone bought one of those pieces of property in 2007, with a house on it, before the real estate market collapse, and paid $500,000 for it.
You bought the acreage across the street and paid $300,000 for it. Since that time, residential property values have collapsed and the first home and 5 acres are now appraised at $300,000. However, your property has been rezoned commercial, a fast food establishment has been built next door and your property is now valued at $1.5 million.
The first property owner is willing to sell his/her property for $400,000 which is what they owe on it, but which is $100,000 over current appraised value. You want the appraised value of $1.5 million for yours.
Either is perfect for the fire station. Which is best for the tax payers? Senate Bills 384 and 385 together presumably would not allow the city to buy the $400,000 property but would allow the city to buy yours, at over $1 million more than the other, all because of an appraisal. Doesn't make sense to me; certainly not good for the taxpayers.
You own a 1,000-acre piece of timberland. I own similar property. Mine is on a gravel road, 20 miles from an interstate and rail, in the middle of nowhere. Certainly not marketable for industry, distribution, service or retail businesses. The value is obviously as timberland.
Gulf Coast Business / Press Register
Polishing up the gem that is the Brookley Aeroplex
Even as renovations continue at the Mobile Regional Airport terminal facilities, the Brookley Aeroplex is undergoing its own facelift. The Aeroplex is owned and operated by the Mobile Airport Authority and is one of the largest industrial parks along the entire Gulf Coast.
Brookley occupies some 1,700 acres along a 2-mile stretch through Mobile. It has more than 70 tenants employing more than 3,500 people. The Aeroplex is strategically located at the junction of Interstates 10 and 65 and is located adjacent to the Alabama State Port Authority's Mobile Container Terminal. The Mobile Downtown Airport is located within Brookley, and features a 9,600 foot runway capable of landing any size aircraft.
Brookley's logistics make it one of the region's most marketable economic development assets.
For the first time in history, bonds were recently issued to pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements at Brookley. This past fall, the Airport Authority issued more than $7 million in capital improvement bonds to be used for general infrastructure upgrades throughout the Aeroplex.
Most notably, the Aeroplex's drainage system is being repaired and/or replaced. The streets and drainage are more than 50 years old, dating back to World War II when Brookley served as an Air Force base. A more attractive closed drainage system will replace an existing open ditch drainage system which cannot handle the region's frequent downpours. In the process, the new system will help reclaim some much needed real estate.
Gulf Coast Business / Press Register
Bell Helicopter may add workers at Ozark facility
Birmingham Business Journal Date: Thursday, April 5, 2012, 12:02am CDT
Officials confirmed this week that a self-funded project involving the maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may increase the workforce at Bell Helicopter's Bell HelicopterLatest from The Business JournalsFollow this company facility in Ozark.
According to the Dothan Eagle, Bell Helicopter, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, plans to begin the project later this year.
Barry Ford, general manager for the Ozark facility, said there could be a need for more personnel depending on the number of aircraft modifications at the Ozark site.
more via the...
Pork firm setting up in old emu plant in Eva
A plant in Eva used to be in the business of handling birds, but hogs are about to move in.
The former emu operation that provided products for purses, shoes and even an ointment for pain is about to become a pork processing plant for a chain barbecue restaurant. The plant has been dormant for almost a decade.
The Rural Morgan County Industrial Board recently got the OK from the Morgan County Commission to release $300,000 of the board's money to pay for renovation and equipment for the plant on Daniels Chapel Road. The amount is half of a $600,000 grant the board received from the state.
The commission is custodian of the board's money in accordance with state law, but it does not provide any of the funding.
Jeff McClemore, chairman of the board, said chain Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q is acquiring the facility to process its own pork.
"We've got a lease-purchase agreement with the group that includes Jim 'N Nick's," McClemore said. "They've got about 60 restaurants, and they intend to be in on the total process."
Jim 'N Nick's owner Nick Pihakis said he will hire as many local employees as needed to run the plant.
Mercedes-Benz debuts new GL-Class in the Big Apple
By Patrick Rupinski Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.
The second generation of the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which is made in Vance, debuted Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.
The new vehicle, Mercedes' top-of-the-line SUV, is slightly bigger than its predecessor, is lighter weight and features some of the latest advancements in technology. It will go on sale at dealerships in September with the 2013 model year.
The Vance plant will begin making the next-generation vehicles in late June or early July, and the vehicle's price will be announced in July, said Mercedes spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald.
The 2012 GL-Class' prices ranged from about $63,000 for GL350 to about $87,000 for the highest-end GL550.
As for the new generation of the GL-Class, here's what some automotive writers have reported after seeing the vehicle:
Car and Driver's Justin Berkowitz noted the vehicle has a "far more aggressive style." Up front, it features "projector lamps and some LED light signatures as well as a simple two-slat grille."
He also noted it has "plenty of safety gizmos and technological baubles, including active headlights that turn around corners and dip to avoid blinding other motorists, radar-based cruise control and lane-keeping assistance and fully automated parking."
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Wendy Wallace Johnson