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.
Souped-up Honda Odyssey minivan set for One Lap of America endurance race (slideshow, video)
Published: Thursday, May 03, 2012, 5:45 AM Updated: Thursday, May 03, 2012, 6:27 AM
LINCOLN, Alabama -- The Honda Manufacturing of Alabama Racing Team will compete in the 2012 Brock Yates One Lap of America endurance race, driving a souped-up Odyssey minivan in the contest that starts Saturday in South Bend, Ind.
Two members of the HMA Racing Team, Paul Street and Steve Manley, will represent Honda's Lincoln auto plant in this year's race. The One Lap circuit includes track events in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin over the course of a week.
The time trials are on road courses, banked ovals and drag strips.
The souped-up Odyssey has a modified V-6 engine with 523 horsepower, thanks to the help of a single turbocharger. A stock Odyssey 3.5-liter V-6 is rated at 266 horsepower.
A team from Honda Manufacturing of Alabama will go to South Bend, Indiana, to participate in the 2012 Tire Rack One Lap of America race. The event covers 10 states and 8 tracks in 7 days. They have modified an Odyssey to drive in the race.
The HMA Racing Team competed in the One Lap races in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but participation was suspended until this year because of the global auto industry slowdown.
Employees, however, continued to voluntarily build race vehicles on their own time, including modified Odysseys, Pilot SUVs, Accord sedans and Ridgeline pickups. The vehicles are used in morale and team-building activities at the Honda plant.
BLS: Alabama unemployment rate decline in March tops among states
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 1:24 PM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 1:48 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama's unemployment rate decline over the past year tied with Michigan's as the steepest drop among the states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And the Birmingham-Hoover area tied with Orlando for the fourth biggest year-over-year unemployment rate decline among the nation's large metro areas, according to a BLS report issued today. The report covered the March 2011 to March 2012 time frame.
Alabama's jobless rate in March was 7.3 percent, down 2 percentage points from a year earlier. Michigan's unemployment rate was 8.5 percent in March, down from 10.5 percent.
Metro Birmingham's unemployment rate was 6.5 percent in March, falling 1.9 percentage points in March 2011. Orlando's declined from 10.5 percent to 8.6 percent.
Among all states and Washington, D.C., Alabama's 7.3 percent unemployment rate in March tied for 25th.
Alabama, Mississippi move up the ladder in CEO survey of best states to do business
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 11:47 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 12:24 PM
In Chief Executive magazine's eighth annual survey of CEO opinion of Best and Worst States in Which to do Business
, Alabama moved up five spots to 21, and Mississippi scored a big gain by coming in at number 30, moving up eight places on the list.
This year, 650 business leaders responded to the annual survey, up from 550 in 2011, the website said. CEOs were asked to grade states in which they do business among a variety of areas, including tax and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment.
Texas clinched the No. 1 rank, the eighth successive time it has done so, the website said. California was ranked last for the eighth consecutive year. The Lone Star State was given high marks foremost for its business-friendly tax and regulatory environment.
The top 10 on the list were dominated by Southern states. Florida moved up from number three last year to number two. North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Utah held their positions in the top 10, with Indiana moving up a notch to fifth, the story said. Louisiana moved up a whopping 14 places.
It may be no accident that most of the states in the top 20 are also right-to-work states, the website noted, as labor force flexibility is highly sought after when a business seeks a location.
Auto suppliers a hidden pillar of Calhoun County economy
An auto supplier changed Curtis Moss' life.
A 2005 graduate of Wellborn High School, Moss earned money painting cabinets before he applied for a job at Atlantic Tool and Die Alabama -- a metal stamping and welding auto supplier in Anniston.
Beginning as a basic press operator, Moss helped higher-level technicians when he could and learned along the way. Managers soon noticed his work and after promoting Moss, they sent him to train in welding and robotics. Moss is now a senior welding technician at the plant.
"I would say, they pretty much set me up for life," Moss said of Atlantic Tool and Die. "I have no interest in leaving here ... but I feel like I could do any company good now."
Moss is one of 130 people employed at Atlantic Tool and Die, which came to Anniston in 2003 solely to manufacture metal brackets for the Honda automotive assembly plant in Lincoln. Though several major auto manufacturers like Honda have located in Alabama and hired many people, many more suppliers like Atlantic Tool and Die have also moved to the state, creating or supporting thousands of jobs and stimulating the overall economy.
"There is no question about it, the impact has been enormous," Steve Sewell, vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said about state's auto suppliers and the auto industry in general. "One of the reasons auto manufacturers are so coveted is because of their supply chains."
Sewell, whose group is a private non-profit that recruits industry to Alabama, said Alabama's major auto manufacturers each brought supply chains with them, creating many jobs around the state.
"That broadens the impact because those suppliers locate in areas throughout the region," Sewell said.
Inventure Renewables gets $5 million in funding from Singapore's Wilmar International
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 10:39 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 10:51 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Tuscaloosa-based Inventure Renewables
said it has received $5 million in funding that will go toward a plan to build a facility to convert palm fiber waste and a sugar cane byproduct into ethanol, butanol and other products.
Lead investor Wilmar International of Singapore has taken an equity stake in both Inventure Renewables and its sister company, Inventure International. The funding eventually could rise to $12 million, Inventure says.
"The market potential for converting palm waste and sugar cane bagasse into sugars is tremendous," Inventure Renewables CEO Mark Tegen said in a statement. The funding, he added, "will allow us to illustrate our technology's efficacy with the pilot plant, and proceed to large scale operations."
Inventure Renewables develops processes to produce "green" chemicals, synthetic jet fuel, biodiesel, and "green" gasoline from biomass. It operates at the Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneur Center at the University of Alabama.
Birmingham's Southern Research to collaborate with Galveston National Laboratory
Published: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 9:07 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 9:51 AM
The agreement will take advantage of Southern Research's expertise at developing tests and Galveston National Laboratory's expertise regarding hemorrhagic fever and other dangerous viruses.
"Combining our strengths and the expertise of Southern Research and the Galveston National Laboratory will create a research environment that is uniquely positioned to address emerging public health threats, to better understand the pathogens involved, and to find solutions for controlling the situation," Mark J. Suto, vice president of Drug Discovery at Southern Research, said in a prepared statement.
James W. LeDuc, director of the GNL, said the partnership will pay dividends in the form of new treatments for dangerous illnesses.
"This work represents the next phase of disease therapy discovery," he said.
The nonprofit Southern Research Institute employs about 550 scientists and engineers conducting research regarding cancer, infectious diseases, materials, the environment and energy. In addition to Birmingham, it has facilities in Huntsville, Wilsonville, Frederick, Md.; Durham, NC; New Orleans and Washington, DC.
Japan-America Society of Alabama (JASA) Annual Dinner
The Japan-America Society of Alabama (JASA) 23rd would like to welcome you to our Annual Event on Thursday, May 17th.
The event is attended by 200 Japan-affiliated participants from around the state and the southeast.
Reception and Registration (5:00 p.m.) followed by Dinner (6:30 p.m.) will be held at The Club in Birmingham.
JASA is a member of the National Association of Japan-America Societies (NAJAS) - with over 40 societies across the U.S. www.us-japan.org .
Further information and registration and sponsorship opportunities: www.jasaweb.org
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Wendy Wallace Johnson