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.
Walter Energy's new mine in Tuscaloosa County to bring 530 high paying jobs and investment in support projects in three other counties
Published: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 3:48 PM Updated: Tuesday, May 01, 2012, 4:07 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Walter Energy said Tuesday it plans to build a massive underground coal mine in Tuscaloosa County, the biggest part of a six-year, $1.2 billion energy project with related economic developments in three other counties.
The investment will create a new mine from scratch in northern Tuscaloosa County off Brandon School Road near Whitson. The newly named Blue Creek Energy project is slated to begin producing up to 4 million tons of coal for export of steel mills worldwide starting in 2018.
Employment is expected to reach 530 workers earning an average of $120,000 year, benefits included, Hoover-based Walter and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said Tuesday in Montgomery.
The project has been whispered about for years, and gained momentum with recent developments. This year, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill allowing tax credits for coal companies investing in the state.
Last year Walter Energy secured leases on 75 million tons of reserves in Tuscaloosa County from Chevron Corp., and completed the purchase of Chevron's North River Mine, which straddles both Fayette and Tuscaloosa counties.
"Alabama really gets it when it comes to working with businesses to improve the state's economic prospects," said Dennis Hall, a spokesman for Walter, which moved its corporate headquarters from Tampa to Hoover this year.
The scope of the development came into sharp focus Tuesday. The Tuscaloosa County mine's estimated production of 4 million tons per year will be about a fifth of the state's entire output of 20 million tons. Related projects to support the mine have economic development implications for three other counties:
Calera Megasite receives EDPA's AdvantageSite designation
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 9:32 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 9:41 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Economic Development Partnership of Alabama has given an AdvantageSite designation to the Calera Megasite in Shelby County.
The EDPA awards designations to organizations after a documentation process, which requires documentation related to "ownership/control, environmental and geotechnical conditions, as well as infrastructure status," according to a statement from the EDPA about the award.
The program was created to make Alabama more competitive for companies considering a location in the state. It is managed by EDPA in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Gas Corporation, Alabama Power Company, the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative.
There are now 35 AdvantageSites in 19 counties in Alabama since the program launched in 2008. The sites designated are featured on the EDPA's buildings and sites database, which is used by site selection consultants, state economic developers and companies looking to expand in Alabama.
"As a land resource organization, The Westervelt Company proactively participates in certification and assessment programs to ensure the land resources accurately reflect both its stewardship practices and sustainability mission," Westervelt Realty Vice President Tom Chambers said in a prepared statement. "Third party assessment ensures the integrity of our operating philosophy and adds both short and long-term value for the customer."
Spotlight on Alabama: legislature creates new incentives to lure data processing centers
Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz PC
Alabama has adopted a strong set of tax incentives under the Alabama Data Processing Center Economic Incentive Enhancement Act (the Act).
The Act demonstrates Alabama's increased desire to lure data centers to the state by expanding the scope and breadth of the incentives available for investments in these centers. For this purpose, a data center is defined as a location engaged in providing specialized reports from data, data processing and data entry services, infrastructure for hosting or data processing services, specialized hosting activities, application services, time-share mainframe facilities, or some combination of the foregoing, without regard to whether any other activities are conducted there.
Under pre-Act law, data processing centers could receive abatements of non-educational construction-related transaction taxes (ending on the date the center is placed in service), and up to a ten-year maximum of non-educational ad valorem taxes. In order to qualify under pre-Act law, the data center would have to create fifty new jobs.
Under the new Act, the new job requirement is lowered from fifty to twenty new jobs with an average total annual compensation of $40,000, including benefits. In addition, the property that is subject to abatement of ad valorem taxes now includes property added to the center within the abatement period, and the maximum abatement period is lengthened for larger capital investments. Specifically, for projects with aggregate capital investment of $200 million or less within a ten year period beginning on the commencement of the acquisition, construction or equipping of the data center, the maximum abatement period remains 10 years. For projects with aggregate capital investments of greater than $200 million but less than $400 million within that ten year period, the maximum abatement period is 20 years. And for projects with at least $200 million of capital invested in the first ten year period and at least $400 million of capital invested throughout the first 20 years, the maximum abatement period is increased to 30 years.
Economic growth at fastest pace in 10 months
U.S. manufacturing grew last month at the fastest pace in 10 months, suggesting that the economy is healthier than recent data had indicated.
New orders, production and a measure of hiring all rose. The April survey from the Institute for Supply Management was a hopeful sign ahead of Friday's monthly jobs report and helped the Dow Jones industrial average end the day at its highest level in more than four years.
The trade group of purchasing managers said Tuesday that its index of manufacturing activity reached 54.8 in April, the highest level since June.
Readings above 50 indicate expansion.
The sharp increase surprised analysts, who had predicted a decline after several regional reports showed manufacturing growth weakened last month. The gain led investors to shift money out of bonds and into stocks. The Dow Jones industrial added 66 points to 13,279, its best close since Dec. 28, 2007. Broader indexes also surged.
The ISM manufacturing index is closely watched in part because it's the first major economic report for each month. April's big gain followed a series of weaker reports in recent weeks that showed hiring slowed, applications for unemployment benefits rose and factory output dropped.
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