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.
Attorney to ask Alabama Supreme Court for reversal of open meetings ruling
Ala. Supreme Court may review its 5-4 decision
11:33 PM, Jun. 22, 2012 | Written by Jay Reeves Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM - The Alabama Supreme Court will be asked to reconsider a fractured ruling that media advocates said gutted the state's open meetings law by giving public officials the right to discuss issues privately in small groups almost anytime they want.
Mark Montiel, representing former Montgomery County interim school superintendent Clay Slagle, said Thursday he will ask the court to revisit the decision released last week.
Montiel said there's a good chance the justices will agree to review.
"On a 5-4 decision like this, obviously the chances of the court granting a rehearing are greater than with an 8-1 opinion," he said.
If it stands, the ruling could clear the way for members of public boards and commissions to gather in small groups and talk without providing public notice, Montiel said.
But the head of the Alabama Association of School Boards, which backed Montgomery County school officials in a lawsuit filed by Slagle, said concerns about government secrecy following the decision are overblown.
"I think it's an overreaction to say the open meetings law has been gutted, and I don't expect public bodies to behave as though it has been, especially school boards," said Sally Howell, executive director of the association.
A lawyer for the Alabama Press Association, Dennis Bailey, said the Supreme Court decision was a blow to public access in the state because officeholders could use it as justification to meet without the public.
AP via Montgomery Advertiser
Alabama automobile industry: New Benz rolls out
Published: Sunday, June 24, 2012, 6:00 AM Updated: Sunday, June 24, 2012, 7:25 AM
Mercedes-Benz will officially kick off production of the redesigned 2013 GL-Class at its Alabama factory this week, another milestone for the facility that launched the state's auto industry.
The luxury full-sized sport utility vehicle, which is entering its second generation, accounts for roughly 35 percent of the output at the German automaker's 2,800-employee plant in the Tuscaloosa County town of Vance.
Through the first five months of this year, U.S. sales of the GL-Class are up 14 percent over the same time period in 2011, and the outlook for luxury purchases remains strong.
The new GL-Class goes on sale in the U.S. in September. Pricing has not been announced, but the 2012 models start at $62,445.
"It is very expensive, but it does have a market that is looking for it," said Ivan Drury, an auto industry analyst with Edmunds.com. "It's very large, with very masculine styling."
However, it will likely be late this year before there's a full picture of consumers' response to the updated model, he said. December is always a key month for luxury automakers, as they offer a host of deals to finish out the year on a strong note.
This year, those campaigns may start earlier, since the contest between Mercedes and fellow luxury German automaker BMW came down to the wire last year. Both companies delayed reporting their 2011 sales by one day, and BMW edged out Mercedes for the U.S. luxury auto sales crown
Mayor considers training options
By Hannah Mask Staff Writer
Increasing opportunities for Russellville residents to learn technical skills is important, said Mayor Troy Oliver, and one of his most recent ideas includes recruiting retired veterans and city employees to teach career tech classes to people of all ages.
"We have veterans who have retired and have good communication skills and are highly qualified (to teach)," Oliver said.
"Right now, we have about a 7 percent unemployment rate in Franklin County. We're down to the unskilled and the inexperienced - that's who is on the unemployment rolls, and we've got to teach them skills.
"They can't get experience until they're skilled."
Oliver added that he has also spoken with judges about possibly giving people time off their probation if they're willing to take skills classes. The idea is in its infancy, but Oliver said he's working with the Russellville city school district to try to get additional classrooms and offices built to facilitate the extra career tech classes.
However, Superintendent Rex Mayfield said there could be some obstacles to overcome before the program gets on its feet.
"If someone is going to teach a class to the community at large, that's not a problem, but for somebody to teach a class to a high school student, they'll have to be certified in the curriculum designated by the state," he said.
Jobs program for depot workers having positive economic impact
Even though the Anniston Army Depot had hired Adrian Quinn as a temporary worker, he was still surprised when he was let go.
"I just figured that after working there for seven years, that I wasn't going anywhere," Quinn said. "Then all of a sudden, it was over."
Knowing his work as a machine tool operator would expire April 13, the Ohatchee resident decided two weeks earlier to visit a jobs fair hosted by "Operation: 1st Rate," a federally funded program set up to help displaced depot employees find new jobs. He wasn't there an hour before he got an interview with Aerospace Coatings International in Anniston.
He has worked there ever since.
The program, operated by the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, has so far helped find new local jobs for 34 depot workers displaced this year - generating an estimated $7.9 million annual impact on the area economy in the process, according to the chamber.
"I probably would still be looking for a job if it wasn't for the job fair," Quinn said. "I've put in application after application to other places and haven't gotten calls back."
The depot announced earlier this year that it would lay off about 480 temporary and term employees due to budget cutbacks. Temporary workers are hired for short-term periods based on the army's needs. Term workers are hired for between one and four years and their contracts are renewable if there is need for them.
To date, about 100 of those temporary and term depot workers have lost their jobs.
SUSTA helps small businesses get into the 'export game'
Published: Monday, June 25, 2012, 10:47 AM Updated: Monday, June 25, 2012, 10:57 AM
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- For small businesses who want to get into the "export game," there is an organization out there.
The Southern United States Trade Association is a partially government-funded nonprofit organization that provides programs and money to help small businesses that produce high-value food and agricultural products expand their businesses through exporting.
"Our goal here is to help small businesses get in the game of exporting," said SUSTA Executive Director Jerry Hingle. "You've got a whole world out there."
He said Alabama is one of the success stories of exporting, particularly in poultry, which is "just blowin' and goin'."
"On the ag side, they're going to Africa, southeast Asia," Hingle said. "We've got 9.1 billion people on the face of the Earth. They've got to be fed."
He said the biggest new category of exports is the packaged products line, which is predicted to be larger this year than bulk categories, and that fits the mold of small businesses.
Among its many services, SUSTA provides strategic assistance to potential and current exporters in product packaging, flavoring and portion sizes that are appealing to and preferred by global consumers.
Please feel free to forward along to someone who can use it by clicking on the "I'd like to forward this to a contact" link below the green bar.
Note also, that you can now make changes to your e-mail address and contact information through the link at the bottom.
As always, if you have news or suggestions, please forward them along to me.
Enjoy the day,
Wendy Wallace Johnson