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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



in this issue:
REHAU adding 200 jobs as part of massive new expansion
Alabama automobile production up 14 percent
Brasfield & Gorrie building $2 million Fravert Services expansion
Report: Defense spending cuts could damage shipbuilding industry
3 Alabama newspapers cutting about 400 jobs

REHAU adding 200 jobs as part of massive new expansion

By Trent Moore The Cullman Times Tue Jun 12, 2012, 08:47 PM CDT


CULLMAN - Having picked up a major new contract earlier this year, the Cullman REHAU manufacturing plant is gearing up for a massive expansion that should create 200 jobs over the next two years.

Officials plan to add 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and are looking at construction options now for a new building at or near the current Industrial Drive site at the city Industrial Complex. Approximately $30 million in new equipment will be added immediately, not including additional equipment, a technology and technical center and investment for construction that could total over $100 million.

New injection molding equipment and fabrication devices will also be installed as part of the expansion, and the current paint line will be replaced with an environmentally safe water-borne system.

The new jobs will run the gamut from assembly workers to engineers and upper-to-mid-level managers.

The expansion is needed to accommodate a new long-term contract with Mercedes-Benz to develop and produce bumper assemblies for the C-Class and M-Class automobile lines.

Once the new line is in full swing, production will increase drastically from 90,000 bumpers-per-year to 540,000 bumpers-per-year.

REHAU representatives from the German office were in Cullman Tuesday to meet with local plant employees, and considering the rapid pace of the project, opted to make the announcement at a lunch with city officials.

"This contract win from Mercedes-Benz is significant not only for our Cullman plant in North America, but for REHAU as a global company, as we will be collaborating across several international regions to develop bumper solutions that can be used on vehicles in numerous countries," REHAU Automotive CEO Niklas Braun said. "We contribute our success in securing this contract to our internal collaborative capabilities, as well as to a solid history of operational collaboration with Mercedes-Benz. This has been a valued customer relationship for us, and we look forward to the opportunities presented by our latest contract with the company."



Cullman Times



Alabama automobile production up 14 percent

Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 6:15 AM Updated: Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 6:46 AM
 By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
Alabama's auto production rose 14 percent through the first five months of this year, as the state industry continues to build on the recovery that started in 2010 and models made here keep climbing the sales charts.

Honda's Talladega County assembly plant is responsible for most of the year-over-year growth. Last year, the Japanese automaker's output suffered amid a parts shortage caused by natural disasters in Asia; this year, the plant is running wide open.

Production of the plant's two key products, the Odyssey minivan and the Pilot SUV, grew by 44 percent and 28.4 percent, respectively, according to output estimates from trade journal Automotive News.

Meanwhile, production of a niche vehicle, the Ridgeline pickup, has grown 52.6 percent.

Officials at the Lincoln plant said it is now producing more than 1,300 vehicles per day and ramping up to a 1,500-per-day rate, which is expected in 2013.

"At Honda, we're pleased to see the demand for our products continues to increase. The sales numbers for May are impressive for the Odyssey, Pilot and Ridgeline and our 4,000 associates are committed to meeting customer demand," plant spokesman Mark Morrison said.

In May, Honda reported a 47.6 percent improvement in U.S. sales across its model lines, including big gains for all three of the Alabama-built models.



Birmingham News


Brasfield & Gorrie building $2 million Fravert Services expansion
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 2:53 PM Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 2:53 PM  

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Brasfield & Gorrie LLC and Fravert Services broke ground Monday on a $2 million, 22,500-square-foot manufacturing and office expansion, boosting the signage and lighting services company's total manufacturing space to over 40,000 square feet.

Brasfield & Gorrie broke ground on Fravert Services' original facility more than 20 years ago and is now handling the expansion at the Oxmoor Industrial Park building.

The expansion, which will employ more than 20 local companies and 100 craftsmen, is expected to be complete in October.

Brasfield & Gorrie is one of the nation's largest privately held construction firms and Fravert Services has been providing signage design, wayfinding, master planning and installation services since 1946. Fravert also does interior and exterior lighting retrofits, repairs, and maintenance services.


Report: Defense spending cuts could damage shipbuilding industry
Published: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 12:45 PM Updated: Tuesday, June 12, 2012, 12:46 PM
Bloomberg is reporting that automatic defense spending cuts set to take effect in January could potentially devastate the shipbuilding industry, including several local companies.

The cuts, which would amount to $55 billion a year through 2021, will be triggered if lawmakers don't agree by year's end on ways to reduce government debt by $1.2 trillion over a decade, according to Bloomberg.

President Barack Obama's proposed 2013 defense spending plan includes funding for three Austal USA-made vessels, two littoral combat ships and one JHSV -- and one Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. vessel, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer (DDG-51).

Two $683 million national security cutters to be built by Ingalls at its Pascagoula, Miss., yard were dropped from the budget request sent to Congress in February.

Ingalls, which employs about 11,000 people at its Pascagoula yard, received almost all of its $6.6 billion 2011 revenue from the Defense Department or the Coast Guard, Bloomberg reported.

Austal USA, in May led representatives of over 50 suppliers from 25 states to a conference in Washington D.C., to remind lawmakers of the defense and economic value of its ships.

"Besides the needs expressed by the Navy for the LCS program to continue to deliver ships in support of their vital multi-mission capabilities, we need to ensure that representatives from around the country realize that folks are employed beyond the borders of the shipbuilder's home state," Austal USA's president and CEO Joe Rella, said in a statement. "Thousands of people are employed directly as first tier suppliers in over 25 states and when considering second tier suppliers the reach extends to the entire nation."

Austal USA is the Mobile area's largest industrial employer, with about 2,800 employees.



Press Register

3 Alabama newspapers cutting about 400 jobs
 BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Alabama's three largest newspapers announced Tuesday they are cutting about 400 employees as part of their shift from daily publication toward online news.

The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, the Press-Register in Mobile and their al.com website started notifying employees whether they would be offered positions with two new operating companies. The changes come as the newspapers plan to reduce publication to three days this fall to put more emphasis on the website.

The two new operating companies, Alabama Media Group and Advance Central Services Alabama, said they plan to post more than 100 positions, and all current employees are eligible to apply.

A sister publication, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, announced 200 cuts Tuesday. The four newspapers' parent company, Advance Publications, is shifting its focus in the digital age.

A spokesman could not say how many employees the three Alabama newspapers had before the cuts were announced Tuesday.

Steven Padgett, director of the Hall School of Journalism and Communication at Troy University, said a lot of newspapers consider their economic model broken and are looking for ways to fix it, like the three Alabama newspapers. But he said that conflicts with Warren Buffett buying 63 newspapers because he believes they have a bright future.

"Warren Buffett didn't become a billionaire by making really bad investments," Padgett said


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