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.
Governor Bentley, Staff Celebrate New Department of Commerce
Department of Commerce News Release - MONTGOMERY - Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed legislation that will help the state further its efforts to recruit additional jobs.
House Bill 151 renames the existing Alabama Development Office as the new Department of Commerce. The bill also renames the AlabamaDevelopment Office Director as the Secretary of Commerce.
"When prospective companies seek to do business with a state, they look for the state's Commerce Department or the Secretary of Commerce. By renaming the ADO as the Department of Commerce, we are making a change that will better identify the department's purpose to prospective companies," Governor Bentley explained. "This is a change that will have an impact in the business community as we continue our job creation efforts."
The Department of Commerce will continue the ADO's mission of pursuing additional industries and jobs for Alabama. The name change will help open new doors for Alabama in the global marketplace.
"In some of the countries we visit, the function of the Alabama Development Office is not immediately recognized," Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said. "Everyone recognizes the status and credibility of departments of commerce in other states, and by making a simple change, we are taking a step that can bring new opportunities for additional investment and trade in Alabama."
As part of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, the Alabama Department of Commerce will focus on recruitment of new industries, retention and expansion of existing industries, and programs that focus on job creation through innovation, entrepreneurship, research and development, and commercialization.
The Department of Commerce also seeks to increase exports from Alabama through its international trade division, film production through the Alabama Film Office, and small business growth through its small business division
SiO2 to break ground on new facility in Auburn, 250 jobs
Posted: Apr 09, 2012 8:12 AM CDTUpdated: Apr 09, 2012 10:31 AM CDT
By Fadell Pitts
AUBURN, AL (WTVM) -
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley will be in Auburn Monday morning. He and other leaders will break ground on a new multi-million dollar medical facility, expected to bring some 300 jobs to the region.
SiO2 supplies the medical industry with products for biological drugs. This facility will produce pre-filled syringes, cartridges, and vials. It's expected to be fully operational by the spring of 2013.
The ceremony is set for 11:00 a.m. in Auburn's Technology Park.
Lee County has one of the state's lowest unemployment rates. Its preliminary jobless rate for February was 6.4%.
Baldwin County EDA plans for future success
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 8:28 AM
Failure to plan, so the old saying goes, is planning to fail.
With that notion in mind, the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance is working to define its future.
The alliance was formed in 1995 to unify economic recruitment in a county that is Alabama's largest geographically and among the most diverse in the state. Its members and friends will, in coming days, be asked to participate in a survey coordinated by Troy University. Their responses, plus information gathered in focus groups also coordinated by the university, will be used by a steering committee to develop a new strategic plan.
"The last one was developed in 2005 and it was really for fundraising purposes. This one is totally different," Robert Ingram, president and CEO of the alliance, said last week. "Sometime within the next two years I plan on retiring or semi-retiring. When I leave, I want this organization to be on sound footing, not only financially, but organizationally."
Even further, he said, the goal is to ensure that the alliance remains true to its mission.
"We want to make sure that we can continue to do what we're doing, which is continue diversifying the economy with good-paying, non-service-oriented jobs."
Troy University also is working up economic impact data on the alliance's past accomplishments, Ingram said.
BCEDA says that it helped create 5,900 jobs and more than $250 million in capital investment during its first 10 years.
Huntsville eyes 'TVA Megasite' status for 1,500-acre farm in Limestone County
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 8:00 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- When Volkswagen officials toured the 1,500-acre Sewell farm in eastern Limestone County in 2008, the property had yet to be studied for soil contamination and a host of other potential hidden problems.
"We told them we could have power to them by a certain date, but we couldn't tell them all the facts about the property," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle recalled Wednesday.
Volkswagen ended up building its first U.S. automotive plant at a site in Chattanooga, Tenn., that had been painstakingly vetted by an army of geotechnical engineers and consultants.
Chattanooga, rather than Huntsville, reaped the economic benefits of a $1 billion factory that employs 2,700 people churning out VW's Passat sedan. Another 800 high-paying jobs are being added as part of an expansion announced last month.
With Audi and Volvo both reportedly on the lookout for U.S. manufacturing sites, Battle and local economic development officials are determined to get the Sewell farm back in play.
Last fall, the city began quietly gathering data needed to have the Greenbrier Road property certified as a Tennessee Valley Authority Megasite -- the program that helped Chattanooga land VW.
In February, the city hired former Huntsville Planning Director Dallas Fanning as a $200-an-hour consultant to assist the Megasite effort. It is also paying the Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon engineering firm $212,000 to produce detailed topographical maps of the Sewell property, which was annexed into the city several years ago..
Shane Davis, Huntsville's director of urban development, said he hopes to submit a request for Megasite consideration in the next 60 days.
Operation New Birmingham, Main Street Birmingham to merge
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 9:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Operation New Birmingham and Main Street Birmingham have decided to merge to form a new organization that aims to do more together than the two organizations now do separately to revitalize downtown Birmingham and surrounding neighborhoods.
ONB President David Fleming said the boards of the two organizations have been exploring the idea for about six months and both recently gave unanimous approval to pursue the merger. The talks have not been announced.
"ONB has evolved over the years," Fleming said. "Now seemed like the perfect time to see what the next evolution might be."
Fleming became president of ONB in October after leading Main Street Birmingham since its formation in 2004. Prior to leading Main Street, Fleming worked at ONB.
ONB focuses on the revitalization and economic development of downtown Birmingham. Main Street Birmingham targets improvements to nine commercial revitalization districts in surrounding Birmingham neighborhoods.
Elizabeth Barbaree-Tasker, executive director of Main Street Birmingham, said a combined organization can end up accomplishing more together.
"We can be more efficient and effective with our existing skill sets while we identify the new skill sets we need to accomplish the entirety of what we aim to do," she said.
The two boards have given the staffs of the organizations up to 60 days to finalize a merger plan that works out what the new organization will look like and how it will function. The combined organization likely will have a new name.
Real estate market report paints positive picture for Birmingham area
Published: Sunday, April 08, 2012, 5:30 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The hangover appears to be lifting for the Birmingham area's commercial real estate industry.
That's the underlying message of EGS Commercial Real Estate Inc.'s just-published "2012 Annual Market Report," which provides a year-end snapshot and assessment of Birmingham's industrial, office and retail markets. The report is closely followed in commercial real estate circles.
With the lingering efforts of the economic downturn that hit the real estate industry particularly hard, one wouldn't expect the EGS report to be full of sunshine and rainbows. But the progress shown in the last year in the sector is an encouraging sign for all three property types, EGS officials said.
Here is a rundown of the report, mailed to real estate professionals and clients, and what EGS experts had to say.
By the numbers: Birmingham's retail market was the definition of "flat" for 2011, ending the year with 87.6 occupancy, which is exactly where it began the year. The average rental rate of $15.27 per square foot per year was actually a little lower than the $15.77 a year ago.
That's not to say there was no activity. Some submarkets posted higher vacancies -- led by a net loss of 93,000 square feet in the western area (Fairfield, Hueytown, Bessemer, Pleasant Grove, McCalla) -- while others posted gains in occupancy, led by the 18,125-square-foot net gain in the U.S. 280 market. The U.S. 31 South submarket (Pelham, Alabaster, Helena, Calera) was the only one with occupancy over 90 percent, ending the year at 94.6 percent.
The expert: Emris Graham, senior vice president over retail at EGS
Alabama Legislature passes tax break bill for aircraft renovation and repair
Published: Thursday, April 05, 2012, 4:29 PM Updated: Friday, April 06, 2012, 7:16 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- The Alabama Senate today gave final legislative approval to a proposed tax break, worth an estimated $2.4 million to $3.5 million a year, that would benefit companies that repair and renovate military aircraft and larger commercial aircraft.
The Senate voted 34-0 for a version of the tax plan, House Bill 39, that the House of Representatives passed Tuesday.
The bill will become law unless Gov. Robert Bentley objects, but Bentley spokesman Jeremy King said the governor supports it.
The plan starting Oct. 1 would exempt from the state sales tax the parts, systems and components used to repair or renovate military or transport-category aircraft that are based out-of-state.
Transport-category aircraft include jets with a take-off weight greater than 12,500 lbs. or with 10 or more seats, and prop aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of more than 19,000 lbs. or with 20 or more seats.
The sales-tax exemption for aircraft parts and systems under the bill would expire in May 2022 unless extended by the Legislature.
Bill Hafner, vice president of operations at ST Aerospace Mobile Inc., which runs a facility in Mobile that repairs and renovates airliners, said the plan could protect and add jobs there by creating a tax exemption enjoyed by aircraft-repair facilities in Florida, Georgia and other states that already have similar tax breaks.
''I'm very pleased,'' he said. ''It puts us on a level playing field, so now we're not imposing additional costs to our customers.''
Troy Cable's connectivity project across rural region nearing completion
By: Ebony Horton | Dothan Eagle Published: April 08, 2012 Updated: April 08, 2012 - 6:21 PM
TROY- A multi-million dollar project expected to both enable and enhance connectivity between thousands of homes in rural communities in southeastAlabamais more than halfway complete, officials said.
Troy Cable received a grant totaling $26,068,284 in 2010 to assist in the $34 million Southeast Alabama SmartBand Project that deploys a fiber optic Middle Mile network across 595 miles in the region. Troy Cable Special Projects Director Jimmy Copeland said more than 380 miles - or more than 60 percent - of the project is complete. Officials expect to have the entire project done by the summer of 2013.
Officials said the project is expected to provide a critical new broadband route between Pike, Crenshaw, Coffee and Dale counties that could impact an estimated 3,600 businesses and 53,000 households with available speeds between one megabyte and one gigabyte.
In addition, the project is expected to provide direct connections to an estimated 147 public safety entities, schools, libraries, university and community colleges, healthcare facilities, public housing authorities, government buildings and other community support organizations, according to Troy Cable.
Copeland said the company intends to expand the project later in an effort to offer a greater level of services and connectivity to its customers.
Some locations in which fiber optics are being installed never had access to cable or Internet services before, he said.
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