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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's tourism up 5 percent, state welcome center director says
Alabama Hyundai plant breaks production record
The Steel Caucus: U.S. senators, including Jeff Sessions, form coalition to promote/protect American steel industry
Parents magazine names Gulf Shores one of America's 10 Best Beach Towns for 2013
Initiative to Boost Rural Economic Growth...and Opportunity in Alabama





Alabama's tourism up 5 percent, state welcome center director says
By William Thornton | wthornton@al.com 
on May 06, 2013 

OXFORD, Alabama --- The director of Alabama's Welcome Centers says tourism is up 5 percent over the past year, at a time when the economy is challenging all states throughout the region.

Frances Smiley, with the Alabama Tourism Department, said one of the reasons Alabama has been able to thrive is because of cooperation between government and private entities in spotlighting the state's resources. One of the best years for the state's Gulf Coast region was following the 2010 BP Spill, she said.


"Not everyone in the Southeast can say that," she said of this year's increase. "It's because we're all working together throughout the state and people can see that."


Smiley was speaking at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce's Tourism Celebration today. She has overseen the state's eight welcome centers since 1999. She said the centers get 6 million visitors in an average year. For example, the Cleburne Welcome Center off Interstate 20 has between 650,000 to 850,000 visitors in a year's time.





Alabama Hyundai plant breaks production record
By Brad Harper
May 6, 2013

The Hyundai plant in Montgomery built a record number of cars in April, and it's poised to build even more in May as it works to keep up with demand for the hot-selling Elantra and the company's No. 2-selling car, the Sonata.


The facility rolled out 37,372 vehicles last month, 172 more than the previous record it set in October 2012 shortly after it added a third shift and went to round-the-clock production.


The Alabama plant's new production record came in a month when the company set an April sales record in the U.S., led by strong sales for the Elantra. Hyundai Motor America said it's working to meet rising demand for the car and replenish low Sonata inventory.




[Montgomery Advertiser]



The Steel Caucus: U.S. senators, including Jeff Sessions, form coalition to promote/protect American steel industry
By Charles J. Dean | cdean@al.com 
 May 06, 2013 

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - The Steel Caucus.


Sounds a little like a summer movie, maybe competition for Iron Man 3?


But alas the Steel Caucus is not a movie about super heroes, unless you consider four United State senators - including Alabama's Jeff Sessions -- super heroes.


The Steel Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of senators who say they are dedicated to promoting American manufacturing and the steel industry. The formation of the caucus was announced today in Washington by the four senators who will be its leading members. The four include Sessions, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D- West Virginia, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania. All four senators hail from states where steel production is a leading provider of jobs and dollars in the economy.


Sessions and Rockefeller will serve as co-chairs of the caucus.




Parents magazine names Gulf Shores one of America's 10 Best Beach Towns for 2013
By Marc D. Anderson | manderson@al.com 
on May 06, 2013 

GULF SHORES, Alabama -- Parents magazine has named Gulf Shores among the 10 Best Beach Towns for Families in America in its June issue.

The magazine with more than 2 million subscribers, touting that it's "a leading voice for a community of more than 15 million moms," ranked the Alabama beach city No. 9 on its 2013 list.







Initiative to Boost Rural Economic Growth

and Opportunity in Alabama


AUBURN, Ala., May 2, 2013 - Ron Sparks, Director of the Rural Development Office, Commissioner of Agriculture John McMillan, and State Food and Agriculture Council Chair

Dr. William Puckett today announced the launch of the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity in Alabama.  Currently, 90 percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural America. The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation.


The kickoff was held at Al Hooks' Produce Farm in Macon County, Alabama.  Mr. Al Hooks, Dr. Gilbert Rochon, President of Tuskegee University; and Dr. Walter Hill, Vice Provost and Dean, College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Services, Tuskegee University, welcomed the group and spoke about the importance of working collaboratively with other agencies and organizations to make this initiative work.  Erin Swanson-Hall, Deputy Regional Administrator, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Atlanta, Georgia, spoke about meeting nutritional needs; and John Zippert, Director of Program Operations for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Epes, Alabama, discussed the importance of partnerships with community-based organizations.


Another event to introduce community-based organizations to the initiative will be held Friday, May 10, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon at the Central Farmers Co-op, 2519 U.S. Highway 80 West, Selma, Alabama.  Congresswoman Terri Sewell will be the guest speaker at this event.


U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack started the "StrikeForce" initiative as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in three states: Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi. In 2011 it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. In 2013, Secretary Vilsack announced new efforts to bring the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.


"USDA in Alabama is actively involved in community outreach, service, and economic development," said State Food and Agriculture Council Chair and StrikeForce Lead Dr. William Puckett. "We look forward to expanding this effort to help rebuild and revitalize rural communities in targeted areas."  The StrikeForce team will focus on creating jobs, improving

quality of life, expanding business and community development, and building partnerships in the following 23 persistent poverty counties in Alabama: 


Bibb                                        Dallas                          Monroe

Bullock                                    Escambia                     Perry

Barbour                                   Greene                         Pike    

Butler                                      Hale                             Pickens

Choctaw                                  Lee                              Russell

Clarke                                      Lowndes                     Sumter

Conecuh                                  Macon                         Wilcox

Crenshaw                                Marengo


Participants in StrikeForce include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency, the Food and Nutrition Service, and other USDA offices and state agencies.  



Contact: Julie B. Yates, Director of Communications, Marketing, and Outreach





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