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.
Bill designed to help Huntsville's pursuit of new industry still alive in special legislative session
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, 6:36 PM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- A Huntsville-backed economic development bill that died in the regular session of the Legislature has new life in the ongoing special session.
The "Major 21st Century Manufacturing Zone" act - co-sponsored by Republican state Sens. Arthur Orr, Bill Holtzclaw and Clay Scofield - would broaden current tax increment finance, or TIF, laws to include large industrial sites capable of attracting more than $100 million in private investment.
Conceived as a way to help lure a major employer to the 1,500-acre Sewell farm in southeast Limestone County, the bill was amended in April to apply statewide.
It passed the Senate unanimously and was on track to be considered by the House last Wednesday, the final day of the regular session.
A lengthy debate over a proposed occupational tax in Jefferson County scuttled those plans, so Orr, Holtzclaw and Scofield refiled the bill - now known as SB 7 - for the special session.
State Rep. Mike Ball, R-Madison, filed a companion bill in the House.
Gov. Robert Bentley called state lawmakers back to Montgomery on Thursday to draw new legislative districts mandated by population changes in the 2010 Census - a process that is expected to take several days.
Ball said the TIF bill has already cleared a Senate committee and stands an "excellent chance" of passing before the special session adjourns.
"As far as I know, there's no opposition to it," he said Monday.
The bill would allow Huntsville to borrow money to buy land, improve roads, add water and sewer lines, and even construct manufacturing facilities at the Sewell farm, located off Greenbrier Road in the city's mostly undeveloped western fringe.
Birmingham's Brasfield & Gorrie Atlanta project scores new high for LEED
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, 12:55 PM Updated: Monday, May 21, 2012, 6:18 PM
Work on the eight-story, 90,000-square-foot building and below-ground parking deck at 1315 Peachtree Street scored 95 points and earned LEED Platinum certification. It involved the demolition of all existing finishes, removal of 2,000 square feet of post-tensioned concrete slab, and recladding of the exterior glass curtain wall.
Other enhancements included the addition of an elevated steel terrace that gives the architecture firm prominent views of Peachtree Street and the High Museum.
The project also included a full interior build-out and replacement of all plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems.
Brasfield & Gorrie worked with Perkins+Will to achieve the exceptional LEED score by incorporating sustainable methodologies and elements throughout the course of the construction process, to include:
Newsweek ranks Alabama School of Math and Science No. 3
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 10:12 AM Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 10:14 AM
By Rena Havner Philips, Press-Register
The Alabama School of Math and Science in Mobile is the third-best public high school in the state, according to the latest rankings by Newsweek magazine.
It was the only local school to make the magazine's list of the nation's 1,000 high schools that are the most effective in turning out college-ready graduates.
Overall, the school on Dauphin Street in Mobile's Midtown area ranked 182.
Alabama's top school, according to the magazine, is Jefferson County International Baccalaureate in Birmingham, which placed sixth overall. Mountain Brook High was 144.
The Alabama School of Math and Science's 220 students come from across the state and live in dormitories. They take college-level courses, such as calculus 3, genetics, nuclear engineering and organic chemistry, often from teachers with doctoral degrees.
Typically, 100 percent of the graduates go to college, with 92 percent of them receiving scholarships, according to school spokesman John Hoyle.
School officials on Monday were pleased with the ranking. But, they pointed out, Newsweek gives more weight to schools that offer a number of Advanced Placement courses or the International Baccalaureate program.
The Alabama School of Math and Science has just three Advanced Placement courses - chemistry, biology and art - but plans to add American History and English 11 next year to help it in such rankings.
On Monday, a group of students were in the library, studying for final exams. They talked about how much they like the challenging courses, hands-on laboratory work and the involvement of their teachers, who organize study groups and help them excel.
Aaron Stuber, 17, of Alanville near Tuscaloosa, recalled winning the state's science fair this year with a project he completed in a research class. He separated the proteins from the pigments of a cabbage and was able to pull out the specific molecule that causes some people to be allergic to the vegetable.
Seize the opportunity
Company growth helps Valley Rubber's Connell win small business person award
By Lucy Berry
When Cronan Connell saw Valley Rubber LLC failing more than 10 years ago, he didn't abandon the dying company but instead seized the opportunity to help it flourish in a struggling economy.
The efforts he and his team made transformed Valley Rubber into a business that prides itself on being "big, black and ugly."
Since Connell, 45, has led the company, Valley Rubber of Falkville has offered products that consumers need, but also weathered a recession with a 40-percent jump in growth in the last year.
Connell, Valley Rubber president, watched sales increase from $10 million to $14 million after entering foreign markets. In the last 12 months, the company has added 35 new employees.
For his efforts, Connell walked away Thursday with the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce's 2012 Small Business Person of the Year award.
"There is a quote in the Bible that says, 'Prepare the horse for the day of battle, but victory belongs to the Lord,' meaning that we have to work hard, be smart and plan," Connell said. "As a team, we have done that."
Valley Rubber provides rubber molding products for the mining and aggregate, marine, offshore, railroad, road and bridge, and material handling industries.
Connell is hesitant to say he deserves the award.
"I have mixed emotions," he said. "I'm honored by it and very pleased that I would be thought of in that way. ... I don't really think I'm deserving of that kind of recognition."
Connell is just being modest, sales manager Damon Tumbleson said.
"It's a well-deserved award," Tumbleson said, "for the focus that he brings to the 120 employees we have working there."
Birmingham's Railroad Park one of 5 parks in running for Urban Land Institute's Urban Open Space Award
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012, 6:30 AM
Railroad Park is among five finalists selected to compete for the Urban Land Institute's Urban Open Space Award.
"I'm ecstatic," said Railroad Park Executive Director Camille Spratling. "This is recognition that this is a world-class park, and that recognition is coming from the authority on urban design."
The winner will be announced at ULI's October meeting. Railroad Park, the $22 million, 19-acre green space just south of the downtown rail corridor, will be squaring off against two New York City parks: High Line, the elevated railway that was converted into a landscaped promenade; and Pier 25 at Tribeca Section of Hudson River Park, former river piers converted to recreational uses. Other finalists are the RiverWalk Urban Waterfront in Calgary, Alberta, and Tanner Springs Park in Portland, Ore.
The jury selecting the winner includes architects and real estate development experts from across the U.S. and abroad. ULI is a leading research and education organization focused on urban planning, land use and development. It has 40,000 members nationwide.
The competition considers not only aesthetic design but how successful the space has been at drawing users and the effect it has had on encouraging economic development in the surrounding area. The winner will receive a $10,000 cash award.
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