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.
Birmingham biotech company wins National Institutes of Health $1 million grant
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 12:00 PM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- A Birmingham-based biotechnology company has won a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health as the company develops a machine to help pharmaceutical companies in part of the drug development process.
Soluble Therapeutics Inc., based at Innovation Depot, won the NIH grant as part of the Small Business Technology Transfer Program. The money will go toward accelerating Soluble Therapeutics' commercialization of a technology that pharmaceutical companies can use in identifying formulations for protein-based drugs, often injectable drugs such as for cancers and auto-immune disorders. Last summer, Soluble Therapeutics received a $1 million round of venture funding for the project. This will be the third generation of the technology, but the first to be sold commercially.
"In a lot of cases, diseases are caused by the body not producing the right amount of a protein or the right type of a protein," John McCarter, director of business development for Soluble Therapeutics said.
Soluble Therapeutics was founded in 2008, specifically for the commercialization of the HSC Technology, which was spun off of research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The HSC Technology is used in the stage between in vitro developments of the drug and before it's used in animal models.
The current chief executive, Joseph Garner, was formerly a Maryland-based biotech entrepreneur before he joined the company in 2010 to spearhead the commercialization. The technology helps determine whether a certain protein interacts with the formulation that keeps the protein drug active and effective in the body.
Vehicles, coal, plastic help push Alabama exports up 17 percent
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 10:00 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
Alabama exports continue to climb this year, with the latest data showing a 17 percent rise over 2011.
Through April, the value of state goods shipped around the world stood at $6.5 billion, according to data provided by the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Canada is the state's top trading partner so far this year, followed by China, Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
There has been double-digit year-over-year growth in each of those markets, except for China, where Alabama exports have grown 9 percent so far this year.
Vehicles continue to be the state's top export. Coal, industrial machinery, plastics and organic chemicals round out the top five.
The state commerce department led a trade mission in China last week, taking representatives of seven state companies to Guangzhou and Shanghai.
"We don't know the outcome of success but the appointments sounded and seemed good," said Hilda Lockhart, director of the department's International Trade Division.
Chilton County crosstie plant picks up steam
Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 8:00 AM
Boatright Companies has boosted its investment in a new Boatright Railroad Products railroad crosstie plant in Chilton County from $40 million to $55 million with plans to have 100 workers by the end of next year.
The new 400,000-square-foot facility on 100 acres in the Chilton County Industrial Park will put the Boatright plant on a CSX rail line and give the company the ability to more than double its current railroad tie production capacity.
Shane Boatright, chief executive of the Boatright Companies, discussed specifics for the first time in an interview with The Birmingham News as the plant is less than a year from opening.
The plant will be able to season, treat and distribute up to 2 million railroad ties per year, the same volume as at the company's current plant in Montevallo, he said. But the Chilton County plant will also have room to expand and boost capacity by another 1 million ties per year, if the need arises.
Boatright said another advantage of the Chilton County plant is the company is able to incorporate the latest technologies and design by building it from the ground up today versus the Montevallo plant, which was retrofitted with some of the improvements after the fact.
"When you do an acquisition of a plant like we did in Montevallo, you have to work with what's there," he said.
Boatright said the company has spent $20 million over the last five years making improvements to the Montevallo facility.
Quality Filters sets summer start for new Lysol filter production
Published: Friday, June 15, 2012, 1:54 PM Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012, 1:57 PM
ROBERTSDALE, Alabama -- Quality Filters Inc., in Robertsdale will begin production this summer of air conditioner and furnace filters as part of a four-year agreement with Reckitt Benckiser, parent company of Lysol.
The company will produce the filters at its recently expanded manufacturing plant, a 20,000-square-foot project completed in March.
Quality Filters will be the exclusive manufacturer and distributor for filters carrying the Lysol brand in the United States and Canada, a move that could mean five times the business for the Baldwin county company and the creation of as many as 150 jobs over the next four years.
Quality Filters was recently named SCORE Client of the Year by the Baldwin County SCORE chapter, a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and small businesses.
The company has been in the air filter distributor market since 1983 and employs 100 people at its plant making heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters for distributors nationwide.
Editorial: Auto plants rev up state's economy
10:08 PM, Jun. 15, 2012 |
Encouraging signs aren't always easy to find in this difficult economy, but Alabamians can take heart in some gratifying numbers in the state's automotive industry. Vehicle manufacturing has been a critical component of Alabama's economy for years now, so seeing figures on the rise is especially good news.
Here in the River Region, the focus naturally falls on the Hyundai plant in Montgomery. Production of the popular Sonata and Elantra sedans has been strong, so strong that the plant has operated on overtime schedules for most of the past two years. Hyundai is now hiring almost 900 workers and adding a third shift to the operation.
That's great - for the company, of course, but also for this community. The new jobs, and the spinoff benefits that come with new jobs, will be a real boost to the local economy. This is one more example of why the investment made to bring Hyundai to Montgomery was such a sound one.
Elsewhere in Alabama, there are still more gratifying statistics. The Honda plant in Talladega County is producing vehicles at a vigorous rate once again after last year's slowdown. The plant was hampered last year by parts shortages related to the tsunami and the nuclear plant disaster in Japan.
Now, however, the plant is making about 1,300 vehicles per day in its Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline truck lines, with expectations of 1,500 per day in 2013.
2012 Gold & Silver Shovel Awards: Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky Awarded Silver Shovels
States with 3+ to 5 million Population
These states' innovative economic development policies attracted new employers in 2011, as well as catalyzing investments in facility and operating expansions by existing local businesses, driving significant in-state job growth.
Alabama has been honored every year since Area Development's inception of this award, receiving a Gold Shovel in 2006 and Silver Shovels in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. According to the 2012 Alabama Manufacturers Register, Alabama's manufacturing industry held steady in 2011, losing only 129 jobs.
"The recovery is gaining momentum in Alabama," indicates Tom Dubin, president of Manufacturer's News. "The state's friendly business environment has been a draw for a variety of enterprises, particularly in the auto sector," he further notes.
Automotive assembly and parts production continues to be robust, showing a gain of more than 38,000 workers over the last year. Big expansions were initiated in 2011 by Mercedes Benz in Vance ($289 million, 1,000 new jobs); Topre America in Cullman ($109 million, 250 workers); North American Lighting in Muscle Shoals ($35 million, 250 employees); and Honda in Lincoln ($191 million, 110 workers). Hyundai is also spending $173 million to expand its operations in Montgomery, adding more than 200 workers and increasing production to 300,000 engines a year. Another major Alabama manufacturing project is being undertaken by Carpenter Technology Corp. (CTC), which is constructing a $500 million, 400,000-square-foot facility in Athens. The facility will hire 203 workers and produce premium alloy products for the aerospace and energy industries.
People in business
The Morgan County Economic Development Association recently announced the hiring of Kayla Riggs as coordinator of marketing, communications and membership. Most recently, Riggs worked for the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau as the director of special events and sports marketing. Originally from Moulton and a graduate of Lawrence County High School, Riggs has a bachelor's degree in public relations from the University of North Alabama. She resides in Decatur with her husband Brett and their 2-year-old son Camden.
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Wendy Wallace Johnson