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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:
Donated equipment from closed Huntsville plant benefits engineering labs at UAH, Auburn University
Vulcan plans major expansion at Foley plant...
Thompson Tractor CEO talks about challenges of doing business in Russia
Energen Corp. plans increased exploration investment


Donated equipment from closed Huntsville plant benefits engineering labs at UAH, Auburn University

Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 8:09 AM Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 8:32 AM  

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Production at the local Continental plant ended in late 2010, about a year after the announcement that it would close.

Now, equipment from the plant at Wall-Triana Highway and Electronics Boulevard, which had specialized in electronic systems and radio and navigation equipment for several automakers, has a new home - in the academic world.

Some of the donated Continental equipment went to the new automotive manufacturing systems laboratory at Auburn University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and other equipment is part of the electronics manufacturing systems lab in the College of Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

"UAH has the opportunity to establish this lab that would have been a challenge to establish (without the donated equipment) because of the cost," said Dr. Phil Farrington, a professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Engineering Management. "It allows UAH and Auburn to collaborate on projects more extensively than we have before."

This summer, the UAH lab will be used primarily for an electronics manufacturing course for industrial and electrical engineering students to give them hands-on experience with electronic manufacturing processes, like putting chips on electronic circuit boards, and a chance to work with industrial-grade equipment. It also will support student research.

"Our goal is to partner with local industries and provide a resource for them," Farrington said.



Vulcan plans major expansion at Foley plant
Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 4:43 AM Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012, 6:29 AM
By Guy Busby Press-RegisterPress-Register

FOLEY, Alabama -- A multimillion-dollar expansion of Vulcan Inc. should double the Foley aluminum plant's production and create more than 40 jobs, company officials announced Wednesday.

The project, to be done in several phases, is scheduled to be completed by April 2016. The cost will be $17 million to $20 million, according to company estimates.

"It's tremendous for Foley and tremendous for the county as a whole," Robert Ingram, director of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, said.

The expansion is needed to meet a growing demand for aluminum, according to a Vulcan statement issued Wednesday.

"They tell us that their sales are increasing dramatically and they are doing this expansion not only to take care of current demand, but to help them keep up with what they anticipate as future demand," Ingram said.

He said the move reflects a trend that extends beyond Foley, and is good news for the region and country.

"I think it's a reflection that the economy is a whole lot stronger and manufacturing is a whole lot stronger right now in the U.S. than what a lot of the economists are saying," Ingram said. "We're seeing activity pick up locally and companies looking up. I'm very encouraged about what's going to happen over the next few years."





Thompson Tractor CEO talks about challenges of doing business in Russia
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 1:42 PM Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 4:27 PM  
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Thompson Tractor overcame many obstacles to build a thriving retail business in Russia over the past decade, the company's president and CEO told members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham today.

Mike Thompson, during a luncheon address in downtown's Harbert Center Center, said the company's two stores in Russia now do a combined $80 million in sales of goods and services annually, up from just $13 million when the Birmingham-based Caterpillar dealer set up shop with a single location.

Thompson, who was just two when father Hall Thompson moved the family from Nashville to Alabama in 1957 after buying an existing tractor company, said Thompson Tractor got into Russia by accident only after company officials encountered a Russian fisherman who wanted to buy some tractors.

"We said no to doing business in Russia for two years before went there," said Thompson, whose company sells mostly in Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

Thompson said Russia can be a very difficult environment to do business, with rough weather and remote outposts. In some cases, Thompson employees make deliveries via reindeer and sleds when roads are impassable.

Thompson has four divisions: Thompson Tractor Co., Thompson Power Systems, Thompson Lift Truck Co., and The Thompson Cat Rental Store. It has full-service facilities in Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, Oxford/Anniston, Shelby County, Thomasville, and Tuscaloosa in Alabama, and Panama City and Pensacola in Florida.

The company has parts branch facilities in Attalla/Gadsden, Opelika/Auburn and Tuscumbia in Alabama, and Crestview and Marianna in Florida, and a Cat Rental Store based in Birmingham with branches across Alabama and northwest Florida.

In addition to its locations in Alabama and Florida, Thompson Lift Truck also has facilities in Albany, Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah in Georgia.



Energen Corp. plans increased exploration investment

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:07 PM Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:38 PM  


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Energen Corp. is planning to spend $950 million toward drilling and developing the oil and natural gas assets it owns in 2012, the most the company has spent in one year.

James McManus, chairman and CEO of the Birmingham-based oil and gas company, addressed shareholders at the company's annual conference in downtown Birmingham this morning. Last year, Energen spent $810 million on drilling and development in the Permian Basin, the focus of Energen's operations. The $950 million figure for 2012 is up from a previous estimate of $890 million.

An estimated 95 percent of capital investment for drilling and development in 2012 will go to the same region in Texas and New Mexico, which accounts for 54 percent of the company's proved oil reserves.

Along with record investment, McManus said he expects Energen will have record production in 2012. The company expects to increase production this year to 24 million barrels of oil equivalents, a 17-percent increase over last year's level. Production of oil and natural gas liquids is expected to increase 33 percent in 2012.

"We've made a commitment to the Permian Basin and to the production of oil and liquids," McManus said at the meeting.

Energen Resources, the drilling and exploration unit of the company, had proved reserves -- the estimated quantities of crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids that geological and engineering data indicate can be recovered in future years from known reservoirs -- increase 13.3 percent in 2011 to a record 343 million barrels of oil equivalents.

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Wendy Wallace Johnson
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