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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:
Alabama one of the best states for retirement
Mobile's Exscien Corp. wins big with Alabama Launchpad startup competition (updated)
Vector Aerospace expanding Alabama helicopter overhaul facility
Honda plant begins production of Acura MDX
Regions economist: jobs report a 'relief,' shows 'world did not end'
Hedge Fund Investor, Merchant Bank Team Up to Hunt Zombie Funds




Alabama one of the best states for retirement

Brent Godwin Online editor-Birmingham Business Journal

May 6, 2013


A Bankrate.com survey finds that Sweet Home Alabama ranks as the No. 8 place to retire in the U.S--ahead of usual suspects Florida (No. 19) and Arizona (No. 33.)


States from the Southeastern region of the U.S. took up nearly half of the spots on the top 10 list of best places to retire because of climate, tax rates, access to health care and cost of living, among other factors.


"Some of the states you would expect to be in our top, like Florida, are great. Florida has beaches and year-round sunshine and everything that you would expect, but also a relatively high cost of living [and] a relatively high crime rate," said Chris Kahn of Bankrate.com.





Mobile's Exscien Corp. wins big with Alabama Launchpad startup competition (updated)
By Kelli Dugan | kdugan@al.com 
on May 03, 2013 

MOBILE, Alabama - Mobile's Exscien Corp. took home more than half of the $100,000 in funding awarded to Friday's three winners in the 2013 Alabama Launchpad Startup Competition.


Exscien, a biotechnology firm that develops drugs to repair damage to mitochondrial DNA, was awarded $54,000, while Nutripilot took home $38,000 and Carbon Nanotube Engineered Surfaces won $8,0000.


For the unacquainted, Launchpad is the brainchild of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation that allows "pre-seed" companies to compete in an entrepreneurial-infused environment for their share of start-up funding. Competitors must prove their commercial relevance to a five-judge panel comprised of entrepreneurs, investors and corporate stakeholders.







Vector Aerospace expanding Alabama helicopter overhaul facility
May 3, 2013

ANDALUSIA, Alabama - Vector Aerospace is adding more than 75 jobs as it invests $3 million to expand an Andalusia facility that maintains and overhauls helicopters for the U.S. military and other customers.


Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said new aerospace jobs like those being created by Vector "put Alabamians back to work with well-paying jobs."


"Alabama is an easy sell for me.  I know we have the best workers in the world. That helps industries like Vector grow," Gov. Bentley said today in a Twitter message.


Vector currently employs about 150 people maintaining U.S. Army TH-67 helicopters based at nearby Fort Rucker and repairing U.S. Navy TH-57 helicopters based at Whiting Field near Milton, Fla., according to a report on al.com. Vector also operates a business development office at Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal, where the U.S. Army's helicopter program is based, the publication said.




Honda plant begins production of Acura MDX
By Patrick McCreless
May 02, 2013

Having grown up just three miles from where Lincoln's Honda automotive manufacturing plant now stands, Louis Williams understands the effect the facility has had on the area.

"To see the economic stimulus growth and the overall impact Honda has had on the economy has just been overwhelming," said Williams, a team manager at the plant.

Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln began production of the 2014 Acura MDX luxury SUV Thursday, adding to the three models already produced there. The new vehicle means hundreds more jobs and further economic stability for the area. But to companies that might want to locate in Alabama, it's a signal that industry can thrive and grow in the state, government leaders and economic development experts say.

More than 1,000 white-uniformed Honda employees took a break Thursday morning to gather together and witness the first 2014 Acura MDX roll off the plant assembly line. The facility is now the exclusive global producer of the MDX, one of Honda's top-selling products. The plant was already the sole producer of the Odyssey minivan, Pilot SUV and Ridgeline pickup truck. The MDX was previously manufactured at a Honda plant in Canada.



Regions economist: jobs report a 'relief,' shows 'world did not end'
By Alex Walsh | awalsh@al.com 
on May 03, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- All signs had pointed to April bringing a second consecutive weak jobs report, but instead the latest data release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics brought good news, says Regions Financial Chief Economist Richard Moody. 

"After a rash of data that can without exaggeration be characterized as lousy, expectations for the April employment report were exceptionally low," Moody said of the economic community's feelings prior to today's release.

Then, the data showed that the economy added 165,000 jobs in April -- plus another 114,000 new jobs from February and March that were added after normal revisions.



Hedge Fund Investor, Merchant Bank Team Up to Hunt Zombie Funds 
By Steve Gelsi  

Posted on: May 02, 2013


In what could the start of a trend to free up an estimated $100 billion trapped in U.S. buyout shop funds with little hope of raising fresh cash, an Alabama-based merchant bank and a Texas hedge fund investor with roots to the oil fortune of Perry R. Bass announced plans to form Crestline-Kirchner Private Equity Group.


W.B. (Bud) Kirchner, the founder of 28-year-old Kirchner Group, a Birmingham, Ala.-based bank with a specialty in working with portfolio companies and limited partners in the buyout world, will head up the new firm.  But most of the staffing and capital for the venture will come from Ft. Worth, Texas-based Crestline Investors Inc.

Crestline will group the new zombie business under $1.9 billion in capital allocated under its "opportunistic investments" umbrella. Those investments include its role in the secondary hedge fund market of providing liquidity to investors in exchange for their stakes in funds. All told, 16-year-old Crestline currently  handles $7.3 billion as a leading alternative asset management firm.


Kirchner Group has made a name for itself as a specialist in zombie deals. It took over management of the Brantley Partners V LP from Brantley Partners and renamed it Emerald Partners V LP fund, which it continues to run.

"This is for us an ongoing business model," said Paul Choy, managing director of Kirchner Group. "We replace or complement the GP in underperforming funds, turn them around on behalf of the LPs, accelerate return of capital, and recover value within the portfolio. With the joint venture with the Crestline Investors, we are accelerating and expanding that program."


And not a moment too soon. Demand for these types of services may increase not only in the U.S. but in Europe. LPs are looking for ways to shore up their positions in ailing private equity funds that fell victim to the 2008-2009 financial crisis and other woes.


In another example of a new zombie specialist, Zurich-based Evoco Ltd. has marked its one year anniversary after moving into the space on the other side of the Atlantic.  Michel Galeazzi, a partner at Evoco, came into the category after working at HgCapital, 3i Group PLC and UBS.


"We are a general partner - we can work with the company's management team, sit on the board, do the heavily lifting," he said in a phone interview.  "There's a huge need for a GP who can work with a distressed fund and a distressed portfolio in Europe."




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Enjoy the day, 

Val Walton
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