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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:
Mercedes-Benz launching armored version of its Alabama-made M-Class
Energy Huntsville Initiative has powerful new partner in U.S. Space & Rocket Center
State of the City/County: Mobile in 'midst of transformation from potential to prosperity
Sessions wants more American production
Alabama ranks among best states for small businesses.
Blue Cross of Alabama gets high ranking from marketing giant



Mercedes-Benz launching armored version of its Alabama-made M-Class
By Dawn Kent | dkent@al.com 
on April 04, 2013

Mercedes-Benz is adding a new model to its lineup of armored vehicles: one that's made from the Alabama-built M-Class SUV.


The German luxury automaker is expanding its Guard family, which now includes nine models that are designed to protect against ballistic attacks.

Mercedes revealed few details of its Tuscaloosa County plant's involvement in the new M-Guard, except to say that the base vehicle will be produced there and modifications will happen elsewhere.

But in touting the vehicle, Mercedes cites a production process that integrates protection elements in the raw vehicle shell from scratch.
















Energy Huntsville Initiative has powerful new partner in U.S. Space & Rocket Center
By Steve Doyle | sdoyle@al.com 
on April 03, 2013

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has joined a volunteer effort to make Huntsville a national leader in clean energy.


During a Wednesday news conference, CEO Dr. Deborah Barnhart announced that the space center will provide an office for Mayor Tommy Battle's Energy Huntsville Initiative. Barnhart said the group's expertise will help the space center toward its goal of becoming the nation's first "net zero" museum that produces as much energy as it uses.


Meanwhile, Energy Huntsville gets a high-profile home where it can demonstrate and teach the public about cutting-edge energy technology coming out of the Rocket City.











State of the City/County: Mobile in 'midst of transformation from potential to prosperity'
By Kelli Dugan | kdugan@al.com 
on April 03, 2013 

MOBILE, Alabama - Mobile Mayor Sam Jones attributes the city's current economic optimism to a variety of moving parts, but chief among them are jobs, partnerships, jobs, resilience and jobs.

"The state of our city is about creating thousands - not hundreds - of jobs," Jones told a packed house of business leaders convened Wednesday at the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center for the 16th Annual State of the City & County Lunch.


"Mobile is designing and manufacturing cutting edge technology that will change the globe," he said, adding, "Mobile is not just on the map. Mobile is now on the world stage, and I plan to keep us there."






Sessions wants more American production
By Greg Phillips
April 3, 2013

GENEVA -- A prominent Alabama senator got a firsthand look at Wiregrass manufacturing in action Wednesday.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, toured Reliable Products in Geneva and complimented the workers on their production.


"This is a great plant for the whole region," Sessions said.


Sessions said the plant's 450 workers illustrate the importance of American manufacturing.


"We need a renaissance in manufacturing," he said. "We need to manufacture more products in the United States. Good companies like this can do that. They can be competitive with other countries around the world. We need to get our unemployment down, and manufacturing is fabulous."


While Sessions spent much of his time addressing the importance of reducing the nation's debt, he pointed out the importance of industry to local economies.




[Dothan Eagle]







Alabama ranks among best states for small businesses
April 3, 2013

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -Alabama is among the best states for small businesses, according to a national survey by Thumbtack.com and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


Alabama ranked No. 2 for overall small business friendliness in the 2013 survey, trailing only Utah. Alabama's rank improved from No. 10 among the states in a 2012 survey. In the new survey, Alabama ranked No. 1 in the ease of hiring of a new employee and placed in the top 10 in all 11 survey categories.


Additionally, Alabama was among the top states for anticipated hiring activity by small businesses in 2013, according to Thumbtack.com, an online service that connects employers with available workers.


"Alabama has numerous programs in place that help reduce the red tape that can often accompany starting a small business," said Eddie Postell, manager of the small business division at the Alabama Department of Commerce.


 "We are excited that the state rose in rankings from number ten last year to number two this year and that we also ranked number one in ease of hiring employees. We will continue to work with our small business community and hope to expand these services so that small businesses always thrive in Alabama."












Blue Cross of Alabama gets high ranking from marketing giant
Yann Ranaivo Reporter-Birmingham Business Journal
April 3, 2013

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ranks the highest overall in member experience among health plans in the region spanning Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, according to a study from global marketing firm J.D. Power and Associates.


The annual study, titled the J.D. Power and Associates 2013 Member Health Plan Study, looked at seven key factors: coverage and benefits, provider choice, information and communication, claims processing, statements, customer service and approval processes, according to a BCBS of Alabama news release. The study, the release said, also looked at members satisfaction among 141 health plans in 17 U.S. regions.


"It is an honor to again be the recipient of this esteemed award," BCBS of Alabama President Terry Kellogg said. "We remain devoted to our members and putting the customer first by providing them access to quality and affordable health care. It's very reinforcing to know our members value our commitment to them."





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