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.
Gov. Robert Bentley in Germany to thank Mercedes executives for planned expansion of Alabama plant
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 1:12 PM Updated: Friday, July 06, 2012, 1:21 PM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Gov. Robert Bentley today met with Daimler AG executives in Stuttgart, Germany to thank the company for deciding to expand its Mercedes-Benz assembly plant in Tuscaloosa County, the governor's office announced.
Bentley met with Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board at Daimler and head of the company's car division.
"It was nearly 20 years ago when Mercedes-Benz chose Alabama as the site of its U.S. assembly plant, and since then, Mercedes-Benz has been an excellent corporate citizen in Alabama," Bentley said in a prepared statement. "Today's meeting was a great opportunity to thank Dr. Zetsche for the continued updating of the Alabama facility in order to meet market demand."
In 2014 Mercedes plans to add production of the C-Class sedan at the Alabama plant, which currently produces SUVs.
The state is working with Mercedes to help it secure suppliers to support C-Class production, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
"It is clear that Dr. Zetsche has a vision for Mercedes and that Alabama can have a role of growing importance in the future," Canfield said.
Honda parts supplier to open plant at Talladega
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 6:36 AM Updated: Friday, July 06, 2012, 6:36 AM
TALLADEGA, Alabama - Officials say another Japanese automotive supplier will be operating in east Alabama by this fall.
M-Tek will make parts for the Honda Odyssey and Pilot and the Acrua MBX at an industrial park near Talladega. Talladega County's economic development director, Calvin Miller, says the plant should be running by October.
Getting an existing building ready for production is expected to cost $6.5 million. The company is expected to have about 200 workers and a payroll of $7 million after three years.
The new factory will have a job fair on July 11 in Talladega. Most positions will pay to $14 to $15 an hour.
M-Tek already has one plant operating in Alabama. It manufactures automotive parts in Prattville.
The company's North American headquarters is in Tennessee.
University of South Alabama students will benefit from Airbus plant
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 3:00 AM
MOBILE, Alabama -- The University of South Alabama's College of Engineering is flying high with the recent announcement that Airbus will locate an aircraft assembly plant in Mobile.
The Airbus news revealed last week means that more USA engineering students will have a chance to stay in Mobile after graduation and work in their field with a local company.
A partnership between Airbus and USA was already in place prior to the announcement, but the latest news boosts the relationship, meaning more USA engineering graduates could be hired on by Airbus.
"This will increase that very productive relationship between Airbus and USA," said John Steadman, dean of USA's College of Engineering.
"It will give us an opportunity to be bigger players in the design and development of Airbus aircraft," said Steadman.
When Airbus established the design center in Mobile almost five years ago, the company began hiring USA engineering students as interns and graduates as full-time employees, according to Steadman.
Gregory Hickman was one of those students who received an internship.
Hickman, a second-year master's student in mechanical engineering at USA, worked with Airbus more than three years doing cabin and cargo engineering for all of the aircraft. He even spent time in Germany with Airbus.
New irrigation tax break could aid Alabama farmers
Published: Friday, July 06, 2012, 7:00 AM
A new tax incentive meant to help Alabama farmers irrigate crops likely will have a huge impact on agriculture in the state, increasing revenue for farmers and cutting costs for poultry and livestock producers, according to Auburn University.
The Agricultural Irrigation Systems Tax Credit signed by Gov. Robert Bentley on May 14 gives farmers a tax credit equaling up to 20 percent of the cost of new or improved irrigation systems, with a cap of $10,000 per farm.
In a survey conducted last year by Auburn's Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, six in 10 farmers said they would be more likely to add irrigation if such an incentive were available.
Just 120,000 acres of Alabama farmland is irrigated out a possible 2.5 million acres, said Sam Fowler, director of the Auburn University Water Resources Center. Mississippi and Georgia each have about 1.5 million acres of crops under irrigation.
Increased irrigation would benefit farmers by boosting the yield on row crops, and it would benefit poultry and livestock operations by creating a cheaper source of feed grains, Auburn said. The state's poultry and livestock producers import $1.4 billion in grain a year, according to the university.
"We feel confident ... that we have the potential to do a lot more irrigation in Alabama," Fowler said in a prepared statement.
Boatright Cos. hiring for jobs in Clanton, Montevallo
Published: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 4:02 PM Updated: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 4:06 PM
By Stan Diel -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Boatright Cos.,
which is investing $55 million in a new railroad crosstie plant in Chilton County, is hiring workers for that plant and an existing one in Montevallo.
The company will hold a job fair on Tuesday at the Clanton Recreation Center, 305 1st Street North in Clanton, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., company officials said in a prepared statement. The company is hiring fork lift operators, wheel loaders, and general laborers, it said.
Boatright did not indicate how many jobs will be filled but last month Shane Boatright, president and CEO said he expects the new plant to begin operating early next year with about 50 employees. By the end of the third quarter of 2013, that figure likely will be closer to 100, he said.
Airbus effect: Fairhope airport ready to capitalize on assembly plant
Published: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 10:29 AM Updated: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 10:43 AM
FAIRHOPE, Alabama - For years, the Airport Authority here has been working quietly to turn the H.L. "Sonny" Callahan Airport into an economic development engine. With Monday's announcement that Airbus will build a jet assembly plant at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, the Fairhope airport, too, can take off.
"I think the groundwork that we have done at the airport board has put us in a good position to get some of their vendors and contractors," said City Councilman Dan Stankoski, who represents the council on the Airport Authority's board of directors.
"Now is the time to bring all of this to fruition. The timing is perfect."
Airport Authority chairman Charles Zunk had briefed the council a week before the announcement about the airport's plans. "It's not just a place where people go out and fly airplanes and do stuff like that," Zunk said.
The Airport Authority bought 250 acres adjacent to the runway in 2007. The runway itself was expanded a few years earlier and can handle commercial or military aircraft the size of Boeing's 737.
Over the years, the Airport Authority has received $15 million in federal and state grants; it owes $8.9 million on a bank loan.
The two smaller airports best positioned to benefit from the giant assembly plant are those in Fairhope and Pascagoula, Miss., Zunk said.
U.S. Entrepreneurs from Alabama Find Growth Potential in Bremen
Bremen, Germany - The 'Mercedes Day' marked the end of a four-day visit of a delegation of American businessmen, scientists, and business developers from the US State of Alabama. It was no surprise that this last day of their stay was all about the automotive industry. Andreas Heyer, CEO of Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen (WFB), Bremen's Economic Development entity, stated that Daimler, with its facilities in Bremen and Tuscaloosa, would be the cornerstone of the cooperation between the German city-state and the state in the southeast of the US.
A total of 18 delegates had made the trip to Germany in order to take a closer look at Bremen. Automobile manufacturing, construction, logistics, aviation and aerospace and wind power were at the focus of attention.
The visit took place after a business delegation from Bremen traveled to Alabama to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) officially confirming cooperation between both states' business development agencies. "This visit of the Alabama delegation fortifies our MOU", Heyer said.
The Americans got an impression of the future benchmark for their Mercedes plant while visiting the Mercedes plant in Bremen. From 2014, when Daimler plans to introduce its next C-Class, the Bremen plant is going to be the worldwide competence center for the car maker's most important car model. Bremen will be responsible for production for all worldwide facilities assembling the C Class - Tuscaloosa for the Americas, Beijing for China, and East London, South Africa for Africa.
William Taylor, the former head of Daimler in Tuscaloosa and president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, a private business development agency in Alabama, regards the Daimler cooperation as a project of the utmost importance for Alabama. "Tuscaloosa has only been as successful as it is because we received crucial help from the colleagues in Germany", he said. Between 200 and 300 Germans are working at the plant at any given time. The number increases steadily as the production start of the C-Class approaches. At the same time, five Americans are in Bremen right now, and that figure is going up to a peak of 30. "Both sides profit from this cooperation", Taylor stated.
Other companies in the southeast of the US plan to profit, too. One of those is led by Jeff Smith. His company, Kaiser Aircraft Industries, specializes in the maintenance and repair of aircraft. "We hope to find new partners for our growth plans in Germany through this contact", he said. Smith is full of praise: "We all were very impressed with the hospitality and helpfulness of our Bremen hosts."
Fernando Valentin, CEO of packaging specialist Trinity Design Group, has also taken to Bremen. "We already cooperate closely with BLG Logistics in Tuscaloosa", he said. Trinity produces boxes that logistics companies use to transport components, for instance for automobile production. "We have begun very promising talks", he added. The US delegation regards Bremen and the cooperation as a kind of 'communication hub' in Germany that can be used to set up new projects.
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