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.
Toyota plans to expand Huntsville engine plant with a new building, 125 jobs
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 3:09 PM Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 3:09 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Toyota plans to expand its Huntsville engine plant again with a new 300,000-square-foot building that will increase the company's North American production of V6 engines.
The expansion will mean about 125 new jobs, bringing employment at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama to 1,150, according to Toyota. The building now takes in 780,000 square feet.
Gov. Robert Bentley made the announcement today. He was joined by Jim Bolte, TMMAL's president, and Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, North America.
The increased production is scheduled to begin in March 2014.
The new investment of about $80 million at the plant will bring the total investment to more than $700 million.
The move will allow the plant to build 216,000 more engines each year, increasing its total V6 annual capacity to 362,000.
In 2003, the plant in North Huntsville Industrial Park started producing Toyota's first V8 engines made outside of Japan. It now builds four-cylinder engines for the Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Sienna and Venza vehicles, and V6 and V8 engines for the Tundra and Tacoma pick-up trucks and the Sequoia SUV.
The plant started building four-cylinder engines last September, and that expansion created 240 new jobs. It's the only Toyota plant in the world to produce four-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines at the same facility.
This latest investment will increase production at the Huntsville plant to more than 700,000 engines a year and will increase Toyota's total engine production in the United States to more than 1.4 million a year.
Toyota also builds engines in Kentucky and West Virginia.
Lockheed Martin to screen documentary, host panel discussion on career tech education
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, 7:25 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Lockheed Martin will tonight host the debut screening of a documentary emphasizing the need for a greater focus on career technical education in the public schools.
The documentary, "Pathways to Success: Rethinking Education in Alabama," will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Building 403 on the Lockheed Martin campus. The show will be followed by a panel discussion about making career tech a higher priority in the state.
The public is invited to attend.
The documentary was part of a project by a group within the 25th class of Leadership Huntsville-Madison County. Denise Vickers, news director of WHNT News 19 and a member of the group, explained that the six-member group was focused on state government.
"Even though (career tech) is about education, we thought the project suited the state government group because it needs state lawmakers to promote the concept," Vickers said.
Vickers credited Dr. Camille Wright, director of secondary instruction for Madison City Schools, as the brains behind the initiative. Wright is an avid proponent of career tech and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
"There's been a renewed focus on career technical education at the national level, as well as the state level," Wright said Friday. "People are beginning to understand that career tech should be for all students."
Wright said that career tech has changed significantly over the past several decades. What used to be a curriculum path for students who did not want to go to college has evolved.
Auto industry supplier G&B Global relocating HQ to McCalla
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 11:00 AM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
A Michigan-based automotive supplier is relocating its North American headquarters from the Detroit area to McCalla, with plans to create up to 75 jobs.
G&B Global of Rochester, Mich., is investing $4.8 million in a 60,060-square-foot space it is leasing in the Jefferson Metropolitan Park McCalla that will become its new headquarters.
Ernie Young, vice president of marketing with G&B Global, said the company will supply interior switches, hubs and bearings and injection molded seating parts to General Motors, Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz with plans to add other automakers and other industries.
"We're planning on making a big move in the aerospace industry and bring more of that business to the state of Alabama," he said. "We will also be making a move to supply the other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the area in addition to Mercedes-Benz."
Apart from the headquarters, G&B has facilities in Asia.
The McCalla operation will ramp up quickly, Young said.
"Our goal is to start at 25 and grow that to upwards of 60 to 75 jobs," he said.
He said the company is bringing in seven new Engel injection molding presses from Austria in July and has plans to get to 28 presses in the first 18 months of operations at McCalla.
The company plans to be up and running and will host an open house and ribbon cutting in September.
Ted vonCannon, executive director of the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority, which operates the JeffMet McCalla park, said the company is a welcome addition.
Editorial: Education part of economic plan
12:14 AM, May. 19, 2012 |
The tendency to look for shorter-term measures and shorter-term results in economic development efforts is understandable. Alabama's need for more jobs and expanded economic opportunity is immediate and pressing.
At the same time, however, it is crucial to understand that longer-term considerations are no less important and that a well-prepared workforce ultimately is the best economic development tool. That means looking farther down the economic development road, to the prospects that could await children who are in Alabama's early grades today, children a decade or more away from entering the workforce.
In light of that, it is encouraging to see a new position created on the board of the Alabama Economic Development Alliance - a seat for the state superintendent of education. That not only gives the board a voice for K-12 education, but also gives Superintendent Tommy Bice a greater opportunity to absorb the concerns of other parties working on economic development issues.
"The addition of Dr. Bice to the Alliance completes the workforce development picture by ensuring that career tech and other K-12 programs are aligned with the opportunities in the state's economy and our children are prepared for success," state Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said in a statement.
Earlier this year, the Alliance unveiled Accelerate Alabama, a three-year economic development plan to steer the state's work in this regard. Alabamians should hope that this proves to be more than just another nicely crafted document, but instead becomes a clear-eyed, serious look at economic development issues.
There are encouraging signs of that already. The Alliance has developed a process for measuring progress in specific areas, such as recruitment of new businesses, expansion of existing businesses and retention of workers.
On The Record with Chris Lewis, President and CEO of South Region Minority Supplier Development Council
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012, 3:00 PM
Before leaving to open a janitorial company, Lewis spent seven years as director of supplier diversity at Birmingham-based Motion Industries, working with minority and women-owned businesses seeking business contracts with the company. He also served as board chairman of the South Region Minority Supplier Development Council, an minority advocacy agency that Motion helped relocate from Mobile to Birmingham by offering space near its Alton Road headquarters in Birmingham.
In February, Lewis was selected as the new president and chief executive of the SRMSDC, one of 37 state affiliates of the National Minority Supplier Development Council. The South Region Minority Supplier Development Council certifies minority businesses seeking contracts with companies across the state and nation that belong to the agency.
In an interview, Lewis talked about how he hopes to revitalize the council, which has gone through a series of directors over the past few years, and why he thinks it is important for companies to support women and minority-owned businesses.
Share some of the history of the South Region Minority Supplier Development Council.
The SRMSDC was founded in Alabama in 1983 and our mission is to facilitate relationships between corporations, educational, governmental and health care entities and certified minority business enterprises.
Alabama jobless rate fell to 7.2% in April
Published: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 8:03 AM
By Roy L. Williams -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama's unemployment rate continued its downward trend in April, falling for the ninth straight month and hitting the lowest level since the recession began squeezing the state's economy, officials said Friday.
The state's jobless rate was 7.2 percent in April, down from March's revised rate of 7.4 percent and 9.2 percent in April 2011, according to figures released Friday. There were 154,307 Alabamians unemployed in April, down from 157,494 in March and 203,520 a year earlier.
The last time Alabama's jobless rate was at or below 7.2 percent was November 2008.
"Alabama hasn't seen an unemployment rate this low since the start of the recession," Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement.
The unemployment rate in the Birmingham-Hoover metro was 5.9 percent in April, down from 6.5 percent in March and 8 percent a year earlier. The Birmingham metro rate has declined nine of the last 10 months.
The U.S. unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in April, down from 8.2 percent in March and 9 percent a year ago.
Birmingham Water Works to hire economic development director
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated:
Friday, May 18, 2012, 7:04 AM
By Joseph D. Bryant -- The Birmingham News The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Birmingham Water Works plans to add an economic development director to its staff, a move that signals a new mission for the utility serving five counties.
The new employee would monitor ongoing and possible development, as well as serve as a liaison between the utility and its member municipalities. All board members agree with the concept, with details still under development.
"In our strategic planning process, we have focused on growth and expansion of the system through business development, adding new customers and growth in undeveloped areas," said Mac Underwood, Water Works general manager. "Therefore, we are considering adding a new position that will be focused on growth and economic development."
Specifics, including the position title, have not been finalized, and no official action has yet been taken.
"I'd like to better align the Water Works with the other utilities' and economic driving entities in the area," said Board Chairman Jackie Robinson. "If we move forward then we need a person to drive it. It can't be a part-time job for our already lean executive staff."
In addition, Robinson said the new post would focus on revenue-generating initiatives that extend beyond traditional water delivery. As an example, he mentioned possible use of the utility's water laboratory.
Birmingham Business Alliance displeased over Legislature's inaction on Jefferson County
Published: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 5:32 PM Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012, 5:39 PM
By Michael Tomberlin -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- The Birmingham Business Alliance today said it was disappointed in the Alabama Legislature's failure to take action to aid Jefferson County's bankruptcy and financial crisis and worried what the inaction may mean for the county, its business community and economic development efforts.
"The BBA and the Birmingham regional business community are certainly disappointed the Jefferson County delegation and the Legislature did not come to a consensus on a plan to bring financial stability to Jefferson County," Johnny Johns, BBA chairman and chief executive of Protective Life Corp., said in a statement. "We remain deeply concerned about the long-term adverse impact of the Jefferson County financial crisis on economic development and growth -- and ultimately the quality of life -- in both the region and the state."
One economic development official revealed today he had learned of specific projects the county had lost due to concerns over its financial health.
Johns said the Legislature should have done something to ease at least a component of Jefferson County's multi-pronged problems.
"We fully acknowledge that the county's general fund crisis is only one piece of a complex puzzle that must be solved," he said. "The other components -- the sewer debt, the financial viability of Cooper Green Mercy Hospital and quality of indigent health care, the lack of transparency and accountability with respect to county finances and even structural issues relating to how the county is organized and managed - are all critically important and must be addressed ultimately as part of a comprehensive solution to the county's woes. At the same time, getting the county's general fund on a sound financial basis must be the starting point."
Business official encourages partnership with educators
By: Ebony Horton | Dothan Eagle
Published: May 17, 2012 Updated: May 17, 2012 - 5:00 PM
DALEVILLE-The state's economic strengths in the aviation and automotive industry could be enhanced by a stronger focus on pre-K and elementary education, while bioresearch could also become part of the state's business model, a business leader said Thursday.
Business Council of Alabama President William Canary met at Larry's BBQ in Daleville Thursday with members of the Daleville Chamber of Commerce. Canary said the council's continued interest is relative to education and reform, which leads to more emphasis on graduation rates and pre-K through third-grade reading levels.
"In order to compete on a global level, the general thinking is that you have to have at least one year beyond a high school level education. ... If we can strengthen the partnership with the business and education community, we will have better educated students, a better educated workforce and a better work environment," he said.
"More than 85 percent of all new employment will come from existing industries. We have to look at how to enhance that environment for existing industries, and that can be done by the business community stepping out of its comfort zone, which is why we're putting together the Business Education Alliance. ... No person ever stands taller than when they bend over to pick up a child."
Canary praised the efforts by local chambers and their support of local businesses.
He also encouraged the exploration of more opportunities in bioresearch.
"The beauty of it is this is a great, diverse state where there is this opportunity for diversity in bringing industry and manufacturing into our state. Aviation is the single largest employer in the state and nearly 1 million automobiles are manufactured here a year. At the end of the day, it is the evolving area of high tech, bioresearch, that can also show how the state would be viewed for our ability to bring enhancements into our area," he said.
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