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.
Reporter's notebook: Alabama-built auto sales up 4 percent over 2011 in 'modest' recovery
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 8:45 AM
U.S. sales of Alabama-built autos so far this year are up 4 percent from 2011, as national forecasts show continued recovery for the sector.
During the first four months of 2012, combined sales of the vehicles assembled at state factories for Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai totaled 237,166.
The volume leader is the Hyundai Sonata sedan, with 75,716 in year-to-date sales, followed by the Hyundai Elantra, with 61,237 in sales.
The Korean automaker is ramping up production at its Montgomery plant, with plans to hire 877 workers for a third shift, beginning later this year.
As for sales growth, the biggest jump belongs to the Mercedes-Benz M-Class SUV, the vehicle that birthed Alabama's auto industry when it went into production at the German automaker's Tuscaloosa County plant in 1997.
So far this year, U.S. sales of the M-Class are 14,537, a 58 percent improvement over the first four months of 2011.
The vehicle, which was redesigned last year also is doing well in global sales, Mercedes parent Daimler AG said. In April alone, the SUV's sales around the world rose more than 32 percent, compared to the year-ago period.
That growth, along with continued demand for the Alabama-made GL-Class full-sized SUV, has helped fuel an 8 percent rise in year-to-date global sales for Mercedes' SUV segment.
Michael Ward, an auto industry analyst for Sterne Agee, said the firm's current forecast for this year's U.S. light vehicle sales is 14 million, up 10 percent from 2011. In 2013, that total is expected to reach 14.75 million.
On the record: Susan Matlock, CEO and president of Innovation Depot
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 10:00 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- This month marks a milestone in Susan Matlock's career in helping early stage entrepreneurs grow successful businesses.
It's the fifth anniversary of Innovation Depot, an incubator at 1500 Second Ave. North downtown created from the merger of the Entrepreneurial Center, an incubator Matlock founded over a decade ago, and Office for the Advancement of Developing Industries, a high-tech incubator formerly at UAB.
In an interview, Matlock talked about the success of Innovation Depot, which last year won the 2011 Technology Incubator of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association. Matlock also shared her Mother's Day perspective on how women can balance parenthood and the workplace, and her thoughts on the growing number of successful women executives in metro Birmingham.
Q. Innovation Depot has won many national accolades over the years. What do you feel has been the key to its success?
I think it's because we do what we say we're going to do and keep our focus on what we're best at. We were named the national technology incubator of the year last year, and 10 years ago won national incubator of the year.
We get calls all the time from people wanting to see what we do. (Last week), we had 15 Swedes who are all part of incubator programs who were here touring our facilities from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
A few weeks ago, I got a call from a governor's office in a state outside the Southeast that I won't name, wanting information about our incubator program because he wants to do one in his state.
Q. What do the latest statistics show on the economic impact of Innovation Depot?
We have had over $1 billion economic impact over the past four years. We consistently keep doing that every year. We have 85 tenants with a combined 470 employees. We were featured in CNN Money and NBIA's Best Practices in Action publication.
Redstone Arsenal accounts for 6 percent of Alabama's GDP, says new study
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 9:30 AM Updated: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 9:49 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- No one would be shocked to learn that the Army, NASA and other federal agencies on Redstone Arsenal lie at the heart of the area economy. But even Mike Ward, vice president for Government Affairs at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, was surprised by the numbers in a new study of the arsenal's impact.
Among the findings: Redstone Arsenal's annual economic activity in the region is valued at $11.47 billion and approximately 101,000 jobs. In Madison, Limestone, Lawrence and Morgan Counties alone it accounts for $10.57 billion and 90,500 jobs - approximately 6 percent of Alabama's total 2010 Gross Domestic Product.
"It was very eye-opening to see Redstone's economic impact put in terms of statewide economic influence. I had not seen that before," Ward said.
Alabama's GDP in 2009-10 was roughly $170 billion, said Jeff Thompson, director of the Center for Management and Economic Research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Business Administration.
Government spending -- federal, state, local -- is about 17% of that, he said. "Durable goods" manufacturing -- automobiles, engines, golf carts, refrigerators and other longer-life products -- accounts for from seven to 10 percent.
"Having 6 percent (of the state GDP) at Redstone Arsenal gets you pretty close to a manufacturing-size industry in the state," Thompson said. "It's not as big as all the durable goods manufacturing, but it's a good size.... If you're looking at GDP, Redstone Arsenal is extremely important to the state of Alabama's economy."
Teledyne Brown Engineering and Aerojet alliance a marriage made in the heavens
Published: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 7:24 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Call it a marriage made in the heavens.
Last June at the Paris Air Show, Teledyne Brown Engineering and Aerojet announced a partnership to, essentially, "put the rocket back in Rocket City" by manufacturing rocket engines in Huntsville.
Now the two are ready to take the next step and will unveil Aerojet's AJ26 liquid rocket engine Monday at Teledyne's manufacturing facility on Sparkman Drive.
Executives from the companies will join Gov. Robert Bentley and other elected officials at the ceremony.
"I'm pleased that people are recognizing the work here," said Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet's vice president, Space and Launch Systems.
Van Kleeck said the alliance is proving to be a "great relationship."
"It feels like we've been together forever," she said.
Teledyne Brown President Rex Geveden - who said last year the alliance would "put the rocket back in Rocket City" - echoed Van Kleeck.
"I think we have a functional marriage," he said. "Unveiling the AJ26 is emblematic. (It) represents the relationship that we have.
"It's been a great year between the two companies doing great work together."
The team is pursuing NASA's Space Launch System heavy-lift launch vehicle and the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles as the alliance customers that would benefit greatly from lower-cost, high-quality rocket engines, he said.
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