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.
Alabama Senate passes bill that could let commission borrow $127 million more for incentives
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 1:12 AM Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 2:17 AM
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- The Senate about 1 a.m. today gave final legislative approval to a plan that, if state voters agreed, would rewrite the state constitution to change rules under which a five-member commission led by the governor can sell bonds to borrow money for economic-development projects.
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated the plan could let the commission borrow about an extra $127 million for economic incentives designed to help recruit companies to Alabama.
Under the proposed amendment, the value of refunding bonds sold to pay off higher-interest bonds would not count against the commission's borrowing cap of $750 million.
Money borrowed by the commission is repaid from a fund that gets some of the royalties paid the state by companies that pump natural gas offshore.
The Senate voted 33-2 for the plan, House Bill 12 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, which the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 101-1 on Monday.
Alabama automobile manufacturing growth strong, but other industries grow slowly
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 6:55 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- With the exception of a hot automotive industry, job growth in Alabama's hard-hit manufacturing sector trails most other states as the anemic economic recovery struggles to take hold, economists said Tuesday.
While Alabama had 239,400 manufacturing jobs in March, the highest level since October 2009, it remains far below the pre-recession peak of 297,800 in January 2007, figures from the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations show. Factory jobs fell by 100 last month to 239,300.
Last Friday, in announcing via a press release that Alabama's jobless rate fell for the ninth-straight month to 7.2 percent, the lowest level since November 2008, Gov. Robert Bentley touted strength in Alabama's automotive base. The Mercedes plant in Vance, Honda plant in Lincoln, and Hyundai plant in Montgomery, which is adding a third shift, have all announced additional jobs over the past year.
Employment in Alabama's auto manufacturing parts industry increased by 13.1 percent over the past year, leading the state, while auto plant employment grew by nearly 4 percent, state figures show.
Last week, the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville said it is adding a new 300,000-square-foot building that will create 125 jobs as it increases North American production of V6 engines. And in March, Navistar International said its Colbert County plant will begin producing a new work truck for U.S. and Canada customers in early 2013.
John Norris, managing director at Birmingham's Oakworth Capital Bank, said despite all the talk about a resurgence in manufacturing jobs, Alabama doesn't appear to be keeping up with most of the rest of the country. Since December 2009, manufacturing employment has grown 4.2 percent across the country, but is up only 0.5 percent in Alabama, he said.
Austin Monk named director of Washington County economic development
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 9:14 AM Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 9:26 AM
JACKSON, Ala. -- The Washington County Economic Development Initiative and the Mobile Area Chamber have named Austin Monk director of economic development.
A native of Cullman, Ala., north of Birmingham, Monk was drawn to the Washington County area because it is similar to where he's from with a larger city close by.
"I want to get involved in this community, lock arms and continue to build economic development activities with our stakeholders," he said.
He is a recent graduate of Auburn University and the first candidate to achieve an accelerated bachelor's/master's degree offered to students that earn and maintain a certain grade point average. The program helps students earn a master's degree quicker than the traditional route, allowing them to count approved courses towards their bachelor's and master's degrees.
Monk's education includes a master's and bachelor's degree in public administration with a minor in economic and community development; and an associate's degree from Wallace State Community College. Recently he worked with the Economic & Community Development Institute at Auburn University and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
"Austin's great work ethic and youthful enthusiasm will benefit us greatly," said Chatom Mayor Harold Crouch, who leads the Washington County Development Initiative.
"He's willing to go anywhere and do anything. I don't feel like we could have made a better choice."
Robert Trent Jones golf trail has been Alabama economic driver for 20 years, David Bronner says
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 3:32 PM Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 7:59 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Alabama pension chief David Bronner today said the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has for 20 years been economic development magnet that is still paying dividends, with current industrial projects in northwest Alabama and south Alabama to its credit.
"It has made a difference in Alabama," Bronner said at the Oxmoor Valley course in Birmingham, during a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the string of resort-quality golf courses at 11 sites throughout the state. "It has given people a reason to stop in Alabama as opposed to passing through Alabama."
Bronner was the impetus behind the construction of the courses, designed at the time by famed golf architect Robert Trent Jones. His idea was to use money from the Retirement Systems of Alabama to buy the land and build the courses, then lease the sites to an operating company, SunBelt Golf.
He said the plan in 1992 was to spur tourism, create positive vibes about the state and improve the Alabama economy, which he figured would only benefit the 300,000 retired and active state workers depending of RSA assets for their retirement income.
There are a litany of economic projects in which the trail has figured prominently, Bronner said, including hosting events for all three automakers with factories in the state. Mercedes, Honda and Hyundia all talked business on trail courses with elected officials and economic developers before they decided to create the tens of thousands of jobs they did in Alabama.
Segers Aero of Fairhope, Rolls-Royce announce maintenance pact
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 1:52 PM Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 4:20 PM
By Dave Helms, Press-RegisterPress-Register
MOBILE, Ala. -- Segers Aero Corp. has been named an authorized maintenance center for the Rolls-Royce T56 series of engines, according to a news release.
The designation will potentially open new markets in Central and South America for the Fairhope company, which repairs and overhauls large turbine engines on the Lockheed C130 Hercules and P-3 Orion aircraft, according to Howard K. Hadley, the company's president and chief executive.
The company employs about 104 people working on engine modules, turbines, compressors and gear boxes.
It works on about 45 engines a year, Hadley said.
Rolls-Royce of Indianapolis announced the new 10-year agreement naming Segers Aero as a new member of the Rolls-Royce AMC Global Network. The Rolls-Royce T56 engine has been in production for 58 years, holding the record as the longest-running continuous production engine in the large turboprop class.
More than 16,500 T56 engines have been produced, on aircraft including the Lockheed C130 Hercules, C-2A Greyhound, E-2C Hawkeye and the Lockheed P-3 Orion.
AL Legislature commends Auburn University for cyber security innovation
Posted: May 22, 2012 2:50 PM CDTUpdated: May 22, 2012 3:28 PM CDT
AUBURN - The Alabama Legislature recently passed a resolution commending Auburn University for its innovation in cyber security technology, research and education.
The resolution recognizes cyber security as a rapidly expanding field that represents economic development opportunities as well as challenges posed by potential threats from electronic attacks to government, business and industry.
"The defense and homeland security communities, law enforcement, financial institutions and many others face new cyber challenges every day," said Rodney Robertson, director of Auburn's Huntsville Research Center. "We're eager to help analyze and guard against threats, protect sensitive data and increase productivity."
The resolution was sponsored by State Sen. Tom Whatley of Auburn in the Senate and, in the House, by Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn and State Rep. Greg Wren of Montgomery. It noted that Auburn University's "technology transfer, commercialization of intellectual property, active recruitment of cyber security interests" and partnerships with universities and the private sector will "help attract industry to the state."
Auburn's cyber projects are both classified and unclassified.
"Engineers and scientists at Auburn are working across the broad cyber spectrum, ranging from supply chain risk management and open source intelligence to encryption technology and workforce development," said John Mason, Auburn's vice president for research.
Seafood industry 'fighting for life' on the Alabama coast
Published: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 9:36 AM Updated: Thursday, May 24, 2012, 9:36 AM
By The Associated PressThe Associated PressFollow
BON SECOUR, Alabama (AP) -- Aching from an oil spill hangover and a decade of problems, Alabama's commercial seafood industry is fighting for survival.
Sales are down about 10 percent to $146 million in the two years since the BP gusher, according to an Auburn University study obtained by The Associated Press. The downturn represents nearly $16 million in lost sales and was made all the worse because it followed years of hurricanes, spiking fuel prices and foreign competition that left few fishing boats around industry hubs like the Bon Secour River off Mobile Bay.
Now, boat captains, processing companies, and retailers are pinning their hopes for a turnaround on a five-year, $5 million marketing blitz that began this month.
The campaign on websites, TV commercials, billboards and print ads will try to increase demand for Alabama seafood by convincing people that fish, shrimp, crabs and oysters produced on the state's coast are a healthy choice that's worth paying for both at home and in restaurants. It is funded by a grant from BP -- the oil giant many blame for the region's latest woes.
At Bon Secour Fisheries Inc., docks that once unloaded 85 boats a season, now process seafood from just three. Vice president Chris Nelson sees the marketing push as a way to make up for years of missed chances and bad luck.
"I hope the campaign will actually address a lot of issues that were pre-oil spill," said Nelson, whose family has run the business in southern Baldwin County for four generations. "For example, we were fighting imported shrimp and lower prices. We had a failure to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace."
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