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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 moves forward with $70 million, 600-job expansion
Is U.S. manufacturing making a comeback - or is it just hype?
Alabama business leaders see growing optimism
Time is running out to apply for 1,000 new jobs at Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant
Bunge opens new packaging facility in Alabama
Cullman ranks No. 1 in state for new and expanding industry; Also near top of several other 2012 economic indicators
Bice talks education at EDA meeting
Kirchner Group Partners with Crestline Investors to Launch a New Business Focused on Underperforming and Undervalued Private Equity Assets


Mercedes-Benz moves forward with $70 million, 600-job expansion
By Dawn Kent | dkent@al.com 
on April 30, 2013
Mercedes-Benz will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday for the latest expansion at its Alabama auto plant: a 900,000-square-foot parts consolidation center.

The facility will create about 600 jobs, although plans are still being finalized and it's not clear how many of those people will be employed by Mercedes or its contractors and service providers. A combination of all three are expected to work from the facility, which will streamline logistics operations and support the receiving, handling and sequencing of parts.


Work has already begun on the facility, which is being built by Birmingham's B.L. Harbert International.


The German automaker announced the expansion last month, but new planning details pushed the employment projections up from 500 initially, said Felyicia Jerald, a spokeswoman for the plant. The project, which is in line for about $3.9 million in tax abatements, was prompted by growth at the plant.






Is U.S. manufacturing making a comeback - or is it just hype?

Posted by Brad Plumer 

on May 1, 2013


It's hardly news when a U.S. firm moves its manufacturing operations abroad to China. But what about when a Chinese company sets up a factory in the United States?


That actually happened in January, when Lenovo, a Beijing-based computer maker, opened a new manufacturing line in Whitsett, N.C., to handle assembly of PCs, tablets, workstations and servers.


The rationale? The company is expanding into the U.S. market and needs the flexibility to assemble units for speedy delivery across the country, says Jay Parker, Lenovo's president for North America.


But also - and this was crucial - the math added up. While it's still cheaper to build things in China, those famously low Chinese wages have risen in recent years. "We reached the point where we could offset a portion of those labor costs by saving on logistics," Parker says.


U.S. firms that have long operated abroad are making similar moves: Caterpillar, GE and Ford are among those that have announced that they're shifting some manufacturing operations back to the United States. And economists are now debating whether these stories are a blip - or whether they signal the beginning of a major renaissances for American manufacturing.




[Washington Post]



Alabama business leaders see growing optimism
By Patrick Rupinski
Business Editor
Published: May 1, 2013 

State business leaders have become slightly more optimistic about the economy than they were at the start of the year, according to University of Alabama researchers.


Researchers Sam Addy and Amad Ijaz of UA's Center for Business and Economic Research have updated their 2013 economic forecast released in January after surveying the business leaders again in March. They used that survey and other economic data to predict where the state economy will be for the rest of the year.


"The most noticeable change is people are slightly more optimistic than they were in the fourth quarter (of 2012)," Ijaz said. "But we still see a struggling economy."


The new forecast indicates the state's economy will grow 1.5 to 2 percent this year, but that is not enough to return the employment picture to its pre-recession level, he said.



Time is running out to apply for 1,000 new jobs at Alabama's Mercedes-Benz plant
By Dawn Kent | dkent@al.com 
on April 30, 2013 

The deadline to apply for the latest round of new jobs at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa County is less than two weeks away.

Alabama's worker training agency, AIDT, is scheduled to remove the job ad from its website, www.aidt.edu/jobs, May 10.


The German automaker is hiring 1,000 workers as it prepares to add the C-Class sedan to its assembly lines in 2014.



Bunge opens new packaging facility in Alabama
by Jeff Gelski
May 1, 2013

DECATUR, ALA. - Bunge North America on April 30 held a grand opening for a new packaging facility and an expansion of its refinery in Decatur. The 130,000-square-foot packaging facility, which is adjacent to the refinery, created 48 new jobs. It improves Bunge's manufacturing processes to better serve customers in the southeastern United States, according to the company.


"The efficiency gained by packaging products in Decatur rather than shipping oils to other Bunge locations is key to improving our customer service," said Beau Meneley, director of operations in Bunge Oils southeast region. "With this facility, we were also able to incorporate the latest food safety and safe quality food (SQF) requirements into the design."


The plant in Decatur takes soybeans and crushes them to extract the oil and use the remaining protein meal for animal feed.


"As the oil experts, Bunge is committed to creating high quality, innovative products that meet customer demand for more functional, healthier oil products," said George Allard, vice-president and general manager for Bunge Oils. "Our investment in this state-of-the-art facility enables Bunge to use the latest technology to continue to work toward eliminating trans fat and reducing saturated fat while providing manufacturers with the functionality they need."



Cullman ranks No. 1 in state for new and expanding industry; Also near top of several other 2012 economic indicators

By Trent Moore

April 30, 2013


For the second year in a row, Cullman has ranked among the top Alabama communities for industrial and economic growth, having more new and expanding industry and expanding industries than any other county in the state.

Cullman also had a strong showing in several other indicators, tying for second in new industries, placing seventh in job creation and eighth in capital investment.

These numbers put Cullman County in contention with much larger counties like Jefferson and Montgomery, an accomplishment Cullman Economic Development Agency Director Peggy Smith credited to the quality and diversification of local industries.

"Our office is honored to have the responsibility of assisting our existing companies and there is no better achievement in economic development than to see your local industries expand and create new jobs," she said. "How fortunate we are to have so many great industries and distribution centers that call Cullman home."

Cullman recorded 50 new and expanding industries in 2012, for a total investment of $164,751,467. The vast majority of those projects were expanding industries, most notably REHAU, Alabama Cullman Yutaka Technologies, Cash Acme and Webb Wheel products.




[Cullman Times]


Bice talks education at EDA meeting
By Robert Hudson
April 27, 2013 

Business people and educators gathered Friday to hear state superintendent Tommy Bice share how industry and education can come together for the benefit of both.


Bice was a guest speaker for Friday's Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance annual luncheon in the Betty Carol Graham Technology Center.


Upon taking over as state superintendent, Bice said he saw a unique opportunity.


With Alabama set to be released from No Child Left Behind, Bice said the chance to redefine what a high school graduate is in the state and better prepare students to join the workforce presented itself.


"The reason we needed to do it is because we realized, under No Child Left Behind, for the last 10 years in public education we've been preparing children to take a test rather than preparing them for a future," Bice said.

Bice said the change in definition was important because now it sets the stage for changing how students are prepared for their future in the state's workforce.


And to find out what the workforce and industry needs from those students, Bice said he worked closely with those in business.




 Kirchner Group Partners with Crestline Investors to Launch a New Business Focused on Underperforming and Undervalued Private Equity Assets


FORT WORTH, Texas - April 30, 2013  - Kirchner Group, today announced that it has partnered with Crestline Investors, Inc. ("Crestline"), an institutional alternative investment manager, to launch a new business unit on the Crestline platform. The Kirchner team will be the cornerstone of this initiative, called Crestline-Kirchner Private Equity Group, focused on acquiring, managing and investing in underperforming private equity assets, portfolios and funds. Crestline's new business line will be led by W.B. (Bud) Kirchner, founder of the Kirchner Group and architect of its "Successor GP" Program.

This business complements Crestline's industry leading position in hedge fund secondary investing and allows the firm to provide a full-service solution to institutions with underperforming private equity and hedge fund portfolios. It also adds significant opportunities for Crestline to deploy capital on behalf of its investors.

"We are pleased to welcome Bud and his team to Crestline and to add a powerful new business to our institutional platform," said Douglas K. Bratton, President and Chief Investment Officer of Crestline. "The team brings to Crestline a 28-year track record of restructuring companies and has been successfully deploying its model across a series of portfolios ranging from early stage venture to mid-market buyout since 2004."  

There is an estimated $100 billion in private equity assets managed by funds past their investment periods, according to industry estimates.  Many of these so-called "zombie funds" have serious issues of alignment between the general partner and limited partners. As a result, an increasing number of institutional investors are looking for creative and effective ways to restructure these funds and rationalize their private equity portfolios.

"This partnership provides tremendous validation of a model that we pioneered years ago at Kirchner Group," said Bud Kirchner. "Limited partners are realizing that there are alternative solutions to underperforming funds, and now is the right time for us to scale up to meet rapidly increasing market demand. I am excited to join with Crestline to continue building on the business lines that we have developed, giving us the institutional infrastructure and access to capital to best serve investors."

The new business unit will focus on the following:

  • Successor General Partner: Acting as a fiduciary to replace or complement the general partner in order to help better align interests, find liquidity and maximize value for limited partners.
  • Advisory Services for Limited Partners: Managing or monitoring an existing troubled portfolio of private equity funds on behalf of limited partners.
  • Successor Fund Creation: Consolidating direct private equity investments into a fund structure to help manage, monitor and exit positions on behalf of a direct private equity investor or group of investors.
  •  Investment Opportunities: Sourcing and structuring investment opportunities derived from the aforementioned activities, including:
    • Secured lending and/or investments in private equity portfolios to provide follow-on capital at the portfolio level
    • Secondary purchases of some or all of a fund's limited partnership interests
    • Providing follow-on capital at the underlying company level
The business will be headquartered in Fort Worth, with additional offices in New York City and Toronto.

About Kirchner Group
The Kirchner Group provides asset management services for institutional investors as well as operational and transactional support for companies. Kirchner Group's proprietary platform is built on the premise that pairing deep domain expertise with process experts provides superior results. Kirchner Group manages assets on behalf of some of the world's largest insurance companies, commercial banks and institutional investors. In addition, our transaction and operational clients range from some of the most promising entrepreneurs, to Fortune 500 companies and their investors.

  Bud Kirchner is the designer and architect of several proprietary business method models including "PortfolioWorks" and "Crystallizing Value in Intellectual Property," with over 40 years of successful entrepreneurial, operational, transactional and international experience in numerous private equity and debt investment scenarios. He has been a principal or agent in over 300 financings, mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, workouts and turnarounds.




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Val Walton
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