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 company helping rebuild Afghanistan
Published: Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 6:00 AM
By Martin Swant --- The Birmingham News
PELHAM, Alabama -- On his third and final tour overseas, U.S. Army Ranger Matt Bacik in 2005 lost his heel in an explosion. After months of surgeries and hospitals, he subsequently lost much more of his leg and medically retired from the military. He was awarded a bronze star and three purple hearts.
Now, the Ohio native's company works on the other side of the battle -- consulting on how to manage base infrastructure and work with local suppliers. The Bacik Group has won nearly $20 million in contracts from the U.S. government for work in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and several stateside operations.
"Part of what I like about it is I spent so much time overseas doing missions, as a Ranger and other direct-action work," Bacik said. "You know, infantry stuff like raids. I never had a chance to interact with the locals because most of what we did was at night. I don't want to say it's fun -- what's the right way to say it? -- Yeah I guess it's fun to go back over and see how the military mission has changed, how we can help support it and utilize some of the local resources to provide value."
Bacik, a 2002 graduate of West Point, founded the company in 2009 after receiving his masters of business administration from Auburn University in 2007. The company, based in Pelham, recently opened an office in Huntsville as it looks to continue expanding business both in the U.S. and other countries. It has around 40 employees, although some of them work at overseas installations.
[The Birmingham News]
Two-year colleges help meet employers' growing needs
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 3:30 a.m.
By Kim Eaton
Community colleges are often seen as economic engines, producing a workforce necessary to keep business and industry going.
With continued cuts to education funding, that goal is becoming increasingly more difficult, and that could mean serious ramifications for local communities and the state.
"It is in the best interests of Tuscaloosa and the state that our local community colleges have the capacity to prepare the high-skilled workforce that Mercedes and other companies need," said Dr. Stephen Katsinas, director of the University of Alabama Education Policy Center and co-author of "Workforce Training in a Recovering Economy." "If we can't do that, major employers will go out of state to bring in workers. Over time, that could have a negative impact in our ability to attract additional high-wage employers to our area."
The manufacturing industry has struggled to fill positions for years. Even at the height of the recession, 32 percent of U.S. manufacturers reported they had jobs unfilled because they could not find workers with the right skills, according to a 2010 report by the National Association of Manufacturers. With an estimated 2.7 million manufacturing employees who are 55 years and older likely to retire during the next 10 years, the demand for technically trained workers will continue to grow.
Vina opens spec building
By Hannah Mask
VINA - After 10 years and millions of dollars, Vina's spec building is ready for a business to move in, Mayor D.W. Franklin said.
The approximately 40,000-square-foot building on Industrial Park Drive cost more than $1 million to construct, Franklin said. Most of that funding came from state grants Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, helped to secure, Franklin said.
In addition to the building's construction costs, the town spent more than $300,000 on the 400-acre plot for the industrial park, $75,000 on an environmental study and a combined $800,000 on the roads and sewer system to serve the park.
However, the potential payoff for the city could make all of the funding seem like mere pennies, especially in terms of a morale boost for Vina's residents, Franklin said.
"We're hoping to get some industry in there that will work at least 100 people," he said. "We really need it for our little town. We've got a motor home plan here that (employs) about 30 people, and that's about it (for industry)."
The project, which was headed by the Franklin County Industrial Development Board, was celebrated Thursday with an open house and dedication ceremony at the new building.
Alabama's auto worker training programs face pressure as industry demand mounts
Published: Monday, September 03, 2012, 6:30 AM
By Dawn Kent -- The Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Like the fuel that powers a car engine, worker training is vital to the success of Alabama's auto industry. And in an age of increasing output and growing employee rolls in the sector, those workforce development programs are under pressure.
In the past few years, the auto plants of Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai, along with Toyota's engine factory and other suppliers in the state, have dramatically increased their output as U.S. auto sales rebound from the deep downturn of 2008 and 2009.
In fact, Alabama's auto industry is on track to produce a record number of vehicles this year, topping the nearly 750,000 built during 2011.
But with that growth comes growing pains, and automakers, as well as state agencies charged with work force training, are trying to keep pace.
Automakers say they're pleased with the help the state is giving them, but they do have a hard time finding qualified applicants in certain areas. And some knew there would be gaps in training in the wake of the state's success in economic development, and they began planning long ago to fill them.
Meanwhile, Alabama's two-year college system is trying to accelerate the pace of training programs for jobs that are in particularly high demand, such as industrial maintenance technicians, said Lew Drummond, executive director of the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association and director of workforce development at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
[The Birmingham News]
Isaac was a reminder about the need for a new bridge (editorial)
Published: Sunday, September 02, 2012, 5:05 AM
By Press-Register Editorial Board
NOW, MORE than ever, south Alabama needs an Interstate 10 bridge over Mobile River.
Just ask Baldwin County motorists who were stuck in traffic during their morning commute Thursday into Mobile. As they know all too well, a couple of mishaps can easily turn the Bayway into a veritable parking lot.
In Thursday's case, four separate crashes involving about eight vehicles backed up the Bayway and clogged U.S. 98/90, U.S. 31 and other major arteries that feed into westbound I-10. The customary relief-valve - the Causeway - had been flooded by Hurricane Isaac, so motorists couldn't use it as an alternative.
Luckily, there were no injuries, but the formula for keeping traffic flowing on the Bayway is becoming more easily disrupted - and dangerous - by the day.
What's needed is a route that circumvents the bottleneck of the George Wallace Tunnel and is wide enough to handle future traffic growth on the Bayway itself. Alabama highway officials say they're getting closer to that goal, but several hurdles need to be overcome.
Annual Industrial Development Conference Recognizes Excellence in Economic Development
Peggy Smith, Director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency, was awarded the North Alabama Industrial Development Association (NAIDA) President's Award for excellence in local economic development Tuesday, August 28, 2012.
The award was presented by Tate Godfrey, President/CEO of NAIDA at their Annual Industrial Development Conference held at The Westin in Huntsville, Alabama.
The North Alabama Industrial Development Association developed the President's Award for excellence in local economic development. This award recognizes a local economic development professional in North Alabama who exemplifies the highest standards of the profession.
Godfrey stated "Peggy Smith is very deserving of this recognition. She is one of the most well-respected economic development professionals in Alabama. She has set a great example for others in our profession and has done a wonder job of representing Cullman for many years."
Newell M. Baker, Assistant Vice President, Norfolk Southern Railroad was awarded the Michael D. Roberts North Alabama Excellence Award on Tuesday, August 28, 2012. The award was presented by the North Alabama Industrial Development Association at their annual conference in Huntsville. The award is symbolized by an original blown glass "Flame of Excellence" by artist Hans Godo Frabel of the Frabel Studio in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr. Baker was chosen for his contributions to economic development in Alabama and, specifically, across the North Alabama Region. Set to retire in February, 2013, Newell Baker has been involved in industrial development for over 30 years. Before being named Assistant Vice President overseeing all of Norfolk Southern's industrial development efforts, he served as Industrial Development Manager for Alabama. In this role he was involved in the location of many major industrial projects around the State. He and Norfolk Southern have been tremendous partners to the economic development community in Alabama.
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