Huntsville Council Member, Will Culver, was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Sunday morning according to jail records. Culver represents the 5th district which is the furthest west district according to the Huntsville City Council website.
Records show that 57-year-old Culver was booked into the Madison County Jail at 2:26 a.m. and is also charged with Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road, Failure to Signal and Improper Lane Change.
The No. 2 Auburn equestrian team put together a true team effort Saturday afternoon and captured the 2018 NCEA Championship crown, defeating No. 1 Georgia, 10-5, in the Extraco Events Center in Waco, Texas.
The national title was the program’s fifth overall and the 21st in Auburn athletics history. Coach Greg Williams’ equestrian team has won the last four of those in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2018.
“It’s always wonderful to win a national championship, but it was also very nerve-wracking when you go in with a team that should win it like the one we had,” Williams said. “Georgia is a great team and they weren’t going to give it to us. This Auburn group deserves it and I’m so proud of everyone for their efforts this whole week.”
A Center Point homeowner is fed up with the crime in her neighborhood.
She said that around 6 p.m. on Friday she was stopped at a traffic light on Center Point Parkway when the two cars in front of her started shooting at each other.
As other cars swerved to avoid getting hit, the two cars then sped off.
She said she immediately called police.
For safety reasons, she didn’t want to give her name or show her face on camera.
“Everyone is very frustrated,” she said. “It’s common news now because it happens so often. It’s negative right now because there’s nothing being done. We just need to stick together and eventually something will be done.”
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Alabama ranked among top states for auto manufacturing, foreign investment
Business Facilities magazine rated Alabama among the top states for workforce training programs, auto manufacturing strength, and foreign direct investment in its 2016 rankings.
In addition, the economic development-focused publication rated Huntsville No. 1 among U.S. cities for STEM job growth, and No. 3 for economic growth potential. The Rocket City was No. 5 for cost of living.
“This recognition underscores Alabama’s growing competitiveness on a global stage and shows that our strategic efforts to advance the state’s economy are paying off,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Going forward, our team will continue to pursue significant projects that bring new investment from around the world to Alabama, creating well-paying jobs that lift families and communities,” he added.
Late last year, Business Facilities named Alabama its “State of the Year” for 2015, citing a series of dynamic economic development projects from companies including Google and Polaris Industries.
In its 2016 rankings, Business Facilities ranked Alabama No. 3 for its workforce development programs, led by AIDT, a part of the Alabama Department of Commerce. The magazine citied an innovative training center AIDT opened in Birmingham.
“The new 56,000-square-foot facility, located in Birmingham, the state’s largest metro area, will allow for manufacturers, contractors and other industries to link up with AIDT along with public education and the two-year and even four-year colleges to equip students with specific skills needed to fill jobs,” it noted.
Business Facilities ranked Alabama No. 4 for automotive manufacturing strength, the third consecutive year for a high ranking. In 2015, Alabama’s auto assembly plants produced more than 1 million vehicles in a year for the first time.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the high rankings represent a strong endorsement of his city and the state.
“We take a ranking from Business Facilities as a great honor. This is a prime publication for site selection and it is a great resource for businesses and industries bringing new jobs and growth to our region,” Mayor Battle said.
“It is evidence of what we have been promoting in Huntsville and Alabama. We are the location of choice.”
Since 2014, Huntsville has landed major manufacturing projects from Remington, Polaris and GE Aviation, while its vibrant aerospace sector has seen advances.
Business Facilities is a national publication aimed at corporate site selectors and economic development professionals for more than four decades. It is owned by New Jersey-based Group C Media.
Also this month, global consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP issued a report ranking Alabama No. 5 among the states for new capital investment in 2015 and No. 4 for foreign investment spending.
Global consulting firm ranks Alabama a top 5 state for investment, predicts major jobs growth
Companies that could have invested anywhere in the world chose Alabama to the tune of more than $5 billion. (iStock)
Global consulting firm Ernst & Young says companies from around the world poured more than $5 billion into capital projects in Alabama last year, earning the state a place near the top of its investment rankings.
Ernst & Young’s closely watched “US Investment Monitor” ranked Alabama No.5 among the states for mobile capital investment last year, with a total of $5.3 billion. The firm also ranked Alabama among the top states for foreign investment spending.
The London-based firm describes its Investment Monitor as a “leading indicator showing where new investment spending and jobs can be expected to occur over the next several years.” It defines mobile capital investment as spending for facilities such as office buildings, call centers, factories and distribution centers. These projects are called “mobile” because companies can build them anywhere, regardless of their headquarters locations.
“There’s no question that 2015 was a significant year for Alabama’s economic development team, with a record level of capital investment and high-impact projects from major international companies,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“But we’re not standing still. We’re pursuing a pipeline of important projects across the state and developing new initiatives that will help us create more knowledge-based jobs in fields such as R&D and engineering,” he said.
Under the direction of Gov. Robert Bentley, Alabama’s economic development team continues to attract concentrated capital investments in automotive manufacturing and aerospace, two sectors that received significant investments in 2015.
Alabama trailed only Texas, Louisiana, California and Kentucky in Ernst & Young’s 2015 mobile investment rankings. Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, New York and North Carolina rounded out the top 10.
Alabama ranked higher – No. 4 – when the 2015 investment figure is considered as a percentage of state GDP, according to the Ernst & Young analysis.
Ernst & Young noted that Alabama’s 2015 mobile investment figure was twice the state’s annual average for the 2010-2014 period, measured at $2.5 billion.
In addition, the firm’s Investment Monitor ranked Alabama No. 4 for foreign investment spending in 2015, trailing only Texas, Louisiana and New York.
Earlier this year, an analysis by the state commerce department showed that nearly half of the new capital investment announced in Alabama during 2015 originated from foreign companies. The commerce report counted 95 projects from 18 foreign countries.
Germany was the No. 1 source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Alabama last year, led by Mercedes’ $1.3 billion expansion at its assembly plant near Tuscaloosa. Companies based in Canada, South Korea, France and Japan also announced substantial investments in Alabama during 2015.
The IBM report ranked the Mercedes expansion as one the Top 20 FDI projects in the U.S. in 2015.
IBM’s Global Location Trends report also said Alabama and several of its Southern neighbors have seen solid growth in FDI linked to advanced manufacturing.
“These Southern states offer competitive operating costs and good logistics infrastructure, and they have benefitted substantially from companies seeking operations closer to the North American market,” the analysis says.
Andrew Phillips, principal at Ernst & Young, said, “Many factors contribute to a company’s decision to invest in a particular location, and awareness of industry trends, workforce development levels and the availability of state and local tax incentives can help businesses choose where to locate their mobile capital investments.
“States should continue to find their competitive edge to attract a wide variety of investment types and maintain a healthy economy,” Phillips added.
The community is well positioned to support the Dream Chaser because of its ongoing work with NASA, experience that is a good fit for the emerging commercial space industry, said Lucia Cape, the chamber’s senior vice president for economic development.
There is a long history of managing space payloads in flights, and currently all payloads on the International Space Station are monitored at Marshall Space Flight Center, she said.
Now, the goal is to identify business opportunities for local companies in support of landing the Dream Chaser, as well as payload development, operations and processing, vehicle maintenance and turnaround.
“The advantage the Huntsville community offers to any flight that lands here is the actual physical turnaround done at airport, as well as the processing of payloads,” she said. “We’re trying to find ways to leverage our existing assets and also find ways to grow our business community in emerging markets.”
SPACE STATION MISSIONS
It was during the Paris Air Show a year ago that Huntsville officials announced they had launched preliminary studies on the possibility of the Dream Chaser landing at the city’s airport.
The spaceplane launches on a rocket and lands on a runway, like the Space Shuttle. NASA has announced the vehicle as one of the spacecraft that will provide cargo delivery, return and disposal services on at least six missions to the International Space Station from 2019 to 2024.
The company also plans to operate the Dream Chaser on other missions for U.S. and international customers.
Along with the chamber, the project team working on the Dream Chaser landing includes the cities of Huntsville and Madison, Madison County, the Huntsville Airport Authority, Teledyne Brown Engineering, SNC and the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
NEW HUNTSVILLE FACILITY
Meanwhile, Sierra Nevada (SNC) is deepening its roots in North Alabama through another project. Earlier this year, the company broke ground on an aircraft modification and upgrade facility at the Madison County Executive Airport.
Construction is under way on the 130,000-square-foot facility, and it is expected to be complete early next year. Plans call for as many as 200 new jobs.
“We are excited to continue our successful partnership with U.S. Army Aviation, our strategic partners, and the local Huntsville community at large,” said Tim Owings, corporate vice president for Sierra Nevada’s Integrated Mission Systems business area.
“Huntsville is a hub for many of SNC’s key customers, including the U.S. Army. This aircraft modification and upgrade facility is representative of SNC’s continued commitment to the community and to Army aviation.”
The facility is being built in two phases. The first phase consists of a 30,000-square-foot hangar for aircraft modifications and upgrades supporting SNC programs currently in or near production.
The second phase, a 100,000-square-foot hangar, is being planned in preparation for future fixed- and rotary-wing support.
Sierra Nevada’s Huntsville facility has been in operation since 2012 and supports three of the company’s significant business areas: Integrated Mission Systems, Space Systems, and Communication, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management. Combined, Sierra Nevada’s locations in Huntsville and Hagerstown, Maryland, support about 600 employees, plus numerous other sub-contractors in Alabama.
Cape said the Huntsville community is happy to see Sierra Nevada thriving in all of its sectors locally.
“The company is growing in the Huntsville area in both its defense side and its space side, and we’re looking forward to helping them grow more,” she said.
Space Camp in Alabama becomes its own international space station
Two members of a 12-student group from Algeria and Morocco learn about being an astronaut at Space Camp in Huntsville. (U.S. Embassy, Rabat)
A group of 12 youngsters from Morocco and Algeria got an intensive look at what it’s like to be an astronaut during a visit last week to Space Camp at the U.S Space & Rocket Center.
The students – six from Morocco, six from Algeria – spent the week undergoing hands-on drills while learning about the mental and physical demands of being an astronaut, engineer and technologist.
The visit to Space Center was made possible through a partnership among the U.S. Embassies in Rabat, Morocco, and Algiers, along with the U.S. Commercial Service. The astronauts-in-training were selected after submitting three-minute videos and an interview.
“The kids are all excited about science and space, and were selected from a large group of applicants to our ‘Race2Space’ competition,” said Janelle Luna, press attaché at the Embassy in Rabat.
LONDON — As aerospace companies continue to grow their operations in Alabama, their shipments of local products sent around the world are also on the rise.
In 2015, Alabama’s aerospace industry exports topped $869 million, a 16 percent growth from the previous year, U.S. trade data shows. So far this year, the numbers are increasing at an even more rapid pace, as exports are up more than 140 percent from the same period last year.
Civilian aircraft, engines and parts make up the lion’s share of Alabama’s aerospace industry exports, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Helicopters and parts seem to be growing in this industry sector, she added.
“This entire industry sector is growing as our companies have the experience and technology to meet a broad range of requirements that is now in demand throughout the world,” Lockhart said. “Once again, the world wants quality products for safety and they rely on the U.S. for trusted parts.”
The growth in aerospace exports is a trend seen throughout the region, said Neal Wade, chairman of The Aerospace Alliance, a consortium of business leaders, economic developers and government officials who aim to establish the Gulf Coast as a preeminent aerospace, space and aviation corridor.
Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are all represented in the organization.
“We are seeing growth in exports in all four states, as the industry grows,” Wade said.
The potential for continued growth, both in exports and in local jobs and investment for the states, is significant, he continued, as companies are drawn to the influx of activity by their industry peers.
“This is a perfect place to locate and then create product that can then be exported around the world,” Wade said. “It’s much easier to build and sell off that foundation than if you’re trying to create something new.”
Alabama’s aerospace exporters include RMCI Inc. of Huntsville, which has participated in state-led trade missions.
The company, which specializes in helicopter health monitoring technology and analysis, announced plans at last year’s Paris Air Show to open an office in the United Kingdom to meet growing demand.
“The demand for the technology that we are on the leading edge of developing is dramatically expanding globally,” RMCI Chief Executive Ken Speaks said at the time. “We are able to detect emerging failures in helicopter drive-train systems well in advance of an incident that could cause collateral damage or catastrophic damage. Demand for that type of technology in safety critical systems — saving lives, reducing costs — is rapidly growing.”
France, home base of Airbus, was the top export market during 2015 for Alabama aerospace products and parts, with a total of $237 million in shipments. Over the last decade, exports to France in this sector have increased 98 percent.
Germany was No. 2, with the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Brazil rounding out the top five.
Notable growth has been seen in the UAE. Last year, Alabama aerospace exports to the country were valued at $92 million, a 126 percent increase from 2014. So far this year, exports have grown more than 19,000 percent.
German auto supplier to create 235 jobs in Alabama, build $37M facility
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – At a groundbreaking ceremony today, German auto supplier Gerhardi Kuntstofftechnik announced plans to invest $37.9 million and create 235 jobs in Montgomery to create its first North American manufacturing facility.
“This is a great opportunity for Gerhardi, and we are very excited,” Gerhardi Managing Director Reinhard Hoffman said. “Montgomery Industrial Park offers a great infrastructure, attractive support and is located close to many OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
“These benefits convinced us that this is the best place for our new facility.”
Gerhardi officials were joined at the groundbreaking ceremony this morning by state and local leaders, as well as officials from the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce. Construction on Gerhardi’s new Alabama facility will begin in 2017, with the start of production slated for 2019.
“Alabama’s leading advanced industry is the automotive industry, and it’s closely followed by the aerospace industry, which has grown tremendously thanks to Alabama’s involvement in the Farnborough Airshow this week and others in previous years,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “This week, while I’m continuing Alabama’s aerospace mission in London, I’m honored to welcome Gerhardi’s first US automotive supplier plant to Montgomery.
“We look forward to forging a strong and lasting partnership with the company,” he added.
BOOSTING A ‘GLOBAL PRESENCE’
Gerhardi, which was founded in 1796 as a maker of brass and copper buckles, now focuses on the production of innovative interior and exterior auto plants. It produces radiator grilles, handles, chrome trims and other parts for clients worldwide.
The company will join a large network of auto suppliers in the Montgomery region.
“Montgomery has assembled a robust network of Asian auto suppliers to service the Hyundai assembly operation,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “As a German company, Gerhardi adds another dimension to Montgomery’s auto supply chain, along with 235 new jobs.”
Gerhardi is headquartered in Lüdenscheid, Germany. It employs approximately 1,400 workers at four production plants throughout Germany and has annual sales totaling $200 million.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said landing Gerhardi’s first U.S. plant in a major victory for the city, which has developed a strong and expanding automotive manufacturing cluster.
“Gerhardi could have chosen any place in North America to locate this facility and they chose the ‘Capital of Dreams,’” Strange said. “This shows that we are not only excelling nationally, we are also continuing to boost our global presence.”
Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton N. Dean Sr. said a cooperative effort helped land the Gerhardi and that support for the company will continue as the project gets under way.
“This is a company that has both a rich history and a solid reputation for being on the cutting edge of the future,” Dean said. “Their investment in the River Region speaks volumes about what we have to offer.”
Montgomery Chamber Chairman A. Bruce Crawford said Gerhardi’s decision sends a message about the area’s advantages for businesses.
“In Montgomery they saw a place that could uphold their high standards of excellence,” he said. “It is certainly exciting to know that we are part of an organization so firmly rooted in the future.”
WHEELS UP: Alabama’s aerospace industry continues soaring to new heights
Huntsville's continuing crucial role in rocket development is part of Alabama's growing importance in the aerospace industry. (Made in Alabama)
Alabama’s aerospace industry is soaring to new heights.
With Airbus ramping up passenger jet production in Mobile and companies such as GE Aviation and UTC Aerospace Systems expanding their presence in the state, Alabama is primed for growth in the sector.
“Alabama has a long history in aerospace and aviation, but the future for this industry in our state looks brighter than ever as Airbus’ manufacturing operation scales up and a series of new projects come to fruition,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Alabama’s aerospace industry is richly diverse, with activities covering the spectrum from research and development to final assembly,” he added. “We’ve got it all.”
To help tell the growth story to global industry leaders, Commerce is rolling out a new video that focuses on the pivotal developments that are propelling Alabama’s aerospace sector forward.
The video is making its debut as aerospace and defense leaders converge on the Farnborough International Airshow, an iconic global trade event that’s the scene of multibillion-dollar aircraft deals and top-secret business talks.
Beginning July 11, Commerce’s video will be on display at the “Made In Alabama” booth in the U.S. Pavilion at Farnborough. The booth will be the home base for Alabama’s air show delegation, which is being led by Gov. Robert Bentley.
Center of gravity
Since the Paris Air Show in June 2015, Alabama’s aerospace cluster has seen a steady flow of announcements outlining new facilities and expansions, many of them tied to Airbus’ $600 million A320 family assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex.
A significant new aerospace project not tied to the Airbus assembly line is GE Aviation’s plan to open $200 million adjacent factories in Huntsville to produce materials for a new generation of ultra-lightweight jet engine components.
GE Aviation introduced additive manufacturing – also called 3-D printing – to fabricate jet engine fuel nozzles at a plant in Auburn. The project was announced at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow.
“GE Aviation’s unique materials factories in Huntsville, along with its additive manufacturing center in Auburn, promise to revolutionize how jet engines are made,” Canfield said. “At the same time, these projects strengthen Alabama’s aerospace and aviation sector, positioning us for new investment and job creation.”
The “Value of Bioscience Innovation in Growing Jobs and Improving Quality of Life 2016” Report examines metrics including the number of employees and companies in the field, wages, academic research and development expenditures, patents, and venture capital investments.
• Alabama’s bioscience industry employment totaled nearly 14,000 people at 808 companies.
• Bioscience generates more than 70 percent of total science and engineering investment in Alabama, ranking the state in the top 10 nationally for the concentration of academic bioscience R&D expenditures.
• Alabama also ranked in the top 10 states in the growth of National Institutes of Health funding in 2015, with $280 million, an increase of 10.7 percent from the previous year.
• Venture capital investment in the state has totaled $101 million since 2012.
The report was released at the BIO International Convention in San Francisco this month. An Alabama delegation including state bioscience leaders and company executives attended the conference, which is the biotech industry’s largest trade and networking event.
“The biotechnology and life sciences industries have proven their value in generating important innovations that improve quality of life and creating high paying jobs in our state,” said Ted Clem, director of Business Recruitment and Retention Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“We are encouraged to see our work in the bioscience industry validated in this report and remain focused on bringing more bioscience companies and jobs to the state,” added Clem, who attended the conference in San Francisco.
POWER OF DISCOVERY
BioAlabama, an organization representing the industry in the state, said bioscience growth in the state is being driven by three key sectors: drugs and pharmaceuticals; medical devices and equipment; and research, testing, and medical laboratories.
BioAlabama noted that the TEConomy/BIO report pointed to several metro areas that ranked highly on important performance measures.
• The Auburn-Opelika area was highlighted as one of only 32 metros in the nation with specialization in at least three of five bioscience subsectors.
• Mobile has the sixth highest specialization among medium markets in agricultural feedstock and chemicals, while Decatur ranked ninth among small markets.
• Huntsville ranked No. 8 among medium markets in research, testing and medical laboratories, and No. 11 in drug and pharmaceutical specialization.
“This report demonstrates the growing importance of biotechnology to our state economy,” said Carter Wells, a BioAlabama board member and vice president for economic development at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
“We will continue to foster that growth and build biotech in Alabama through discoveries at our research leaders — UAB, Auburn, Southern Research, USA, and HudsonAlpha, among others,” he added. “Those discoveries lead to new industry and new jobs.”
Alabama claims big-time economic development award for 2015
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama’s economic development team earned a Silver Shovel Award from Area Development magazine for its strong performance in 2015, keeping alive a winning streak that dates back a decade.
The publication, which targets economic developers and site selection experts, announced the award today, noting that Alabama secured 2015 projects involving $7.1 billion in new capital investment and nearly 20,000 jobs.
“Much of this growth is in key sectors such as technology, aerospace, and automotive,” Area Development noted. “This investment figure is twice the 2014 total and one of the highest annual totals in recent years. Alabama also attracted foreign direct investment approaching $3.5 billion in 2015.”
Area Development’s Gold and Silver Awards are meant to recognize individual states for their overall economic development effectiveness. Alabama has won one of the awards each year since 2006, when it won a Gold Shovel. It won another Gold in 2012, and Silver in 2013 and 2014.
Joining Alabama with a 2015 Silver Shovel among states with populations between 3 and 5 million were Kentucky and Louisiana.
Polaris Industries’ off-road vehicle manufacturing facility in Huntsville, which could eventually have as many as 2,000 jobs, was selected as one of the magazine’s “Automotive Projects of the Year.”
“The Alabama economic development team is committed to bringing high-caliber jobs to the state’s citizens by following a strategy that seeks to maximize growth in target sectors such as automotive, aerospace and bioscience,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“This Silver Shovel Award is a testament to the results being delivered by the state’s hard-working economic development organizations.”
“My chief priority continues to be the focus of creating jobs and new opportunities for citizens across the state,” Governor Robert Bentley said when the report was released. “This new report shows once again that Alabama is well-positioned to achieve those goals because of a skilled workforce, proven job-training programs, and a business climate that promotes growth.”
Alabama’s economic development successes during 2015 have already drawn attention.
Business Facilities, a magazine focusing on economic development, selected Alabama as its “State of the Year” for 2015, while Trade & Industry Development, a similar publication, picked three Alabama projects for investment impact awards.
Eissmann Automotive to expand Alabama operation with 200 new jobs
PELL CITY, Alabama – German auto supplier Eissmann Automotive will invest $14.5 million to expand its St. Clair County facility with a 130,000-square-foot building and advanced manufacturing equipment for a new production line, officials said today.
Eissmann, which has expanded its Pell City facility six times since opening a decade ago, will hire 200 additional workers as part of the expansion project. It will also introduce a new manufacturing process that is currently performed only at Eissmann facilities in Slovakia and China.
“We have been very pleased with our experience working with the City of Pell City, the St. Clair County Commission, and Alabama’s Department of Commerce,” said Michal Vozak, managing director of Eissmann Automotive.
“They have been wonderful partners as we continue to invest in Pell City to provide quality service and products to our valued customers.”
Eissmann specializes in car interiors, built-to-print trim components, shifter modules and other parts for automakers that include Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jeep, Tesla, Porsche and Volkswagen. Based in Bad Urach, Germany, the company operates 13 production facilities on three continents.
“Alabama’s superior business climate continues to attract new investment, which creates new jobs and fuels economic growth,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Eissmann has launched several expansion projects in Alabama, and I welcome the company’s decision to add new jobs and introduce new manufacturing technologies with another project in Pell City. Creating good jobs for Alabama citizens will always be my top priority.”
AUTO SECTOR GROWTH
The project comes amid a powerful growth phase for Alabama’s auto industry, which recorded new investment topping $3 billion in 2015. Much of that came from suppliers planning to open facilities in the state or expanding existing Alabama operations.
Watch a video about auto industry growth in Alabama.
“Eissmann is making another significant investment in its Alabama operation, expanding its Pell City workforce and introducing new technology at its manufacturing facility,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Eissmann is an important player in the state’s growing auto supply chain,” he added.
During the last decade, Eissmann has grown to be the largest industrial employer in St. Clair County. Starting out with 85 employees in its first phase, the company’s Alabama operation has grown to have 650 today, according to the St. Clair County Economic Development Council.
“It is always beneficial to both our community and the company when higher paying jobs with more advanced technology are announced,” said Paul Manning, chairman of the St. Clair County Commission. “This is a testament both to the company’s ability to produce a great product and the faith they have in St. Clair County’s workforce.”
Officials in St. Clair County welcomed Eissmann’s expansion plans.
“They have always been a great partner in the community, and this new standalone facility will feature their state of the art technology,” Pell City Mayor Joe Funderburg said. “We are looking forward to their continued success and the new jobs that will soon be available in our city.”
“Eissmann Automotive is a great company who has experienced much growth and success here in St. Clair County,” said Joe Kelly, chairman of the St. Clair Economic Development Council. “We are excited to learn that they are making this new investment in their Pell City facility.”
The company that makes in-flight entertainment possible is expanding into Alabama
MOBILE, Alabama – The Mobile Airport Authority announced today that Panasonic Avionics Corp. will open an office at Mobile Aeroplex, adding another prominent industry player to the aerospace cluster growing around the Airbus final assembly plant.
Panasonic Avionics is a leading supplier of inflight entertainment and communication systems in passenger aircraft. A unit of the global Panasonic Corp., the California-based company has more than 4,100 employees at 80 locations around the world.
Panasonic Avionics is the latest in a string of aerospace companies with global roots to establish a presence at Mobile Aeroplex, where Airbus constructed a $600 million facility to assemble A320 Family passenger jets.
“The Mobile Airport Authority continues to prosecute a well-researched, thoughtful, and programmatic recruitment strategy, crafting tailored solutions with highly flexible terms to meet the dynamic needs of the global aerospace supply chain,” said Roger Wehner, the authority’s executive director.
Since last summer, the Aeroplex has seen a flurry of activity as companies announced plans to open facilities at the 1,700-acre industrial complex. Many of these suppliers and support companies are starting with small operations that could grow over time. Most are linked to Airbus.
For example, Zodiac Aerospace, a French company that specializes in aircraft cabins, announced plans to opened a small location at the Aeroplex in January. Zodiac will share space in a building with Germany-based Vartan Product Support, another newcomer to the complex.
According to data in the Alabama Department of Commerce’s 2015 New & Expanding Industry Report, aerospace projects announced last year for the Mobile Aeroplex will bring a total of $56 million in new investment and more than 300 jobs.
APPETITE FOR GROWTH: Alabama food companies are booming, expanding operations
Companies across Alabama are investing millions of dollars in new and expanded specialty food processing operations that tap into growing national trends.
From pickled okra and salsa in Pike County to dehydrated fruits and vegetables in Foley, the projects were part of a record year of economic development for the state in 2015, with overall announcements that totaled $7 billion and 20,000 jobs.
They seek to capitalize on the popular push among consumers to eat more locally sourced foods. At the same time, they’re providing employment and investment in Alabama’s rural areas, as well as new avenues for the state’s farmers to bring their own products to market.
“Alabama’s roots are in agriculture, so food processing operations are a natural way to grow the state’s economy,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “These businesses are also poised to benefit from the latest consumer food trends.”
In Baldwin County, Bon Secour Valley Ingredients is a new company that will dehydrate fruits and vegetables and also mill them into flours and powders. Products will include sweet potatoes, chicory, carrots and kale, sourced from farms in Alabama or elsewhere in the Southeast.
The $8 million, 65-job operation in Foley is scheduled to start up this summer.
BSVI is a new division of the Woerner Companies, a family agriculture business that primarily sells turf products.
“We’re trying to move into sustainable agriculture and to do that, dehydration and food ingredients are where it’s at,” said Christina Woerner McInnis.
BSVI will use local produce that’s not pretty enough to make the cut for supermarket shelves but still has the same taste and quality. The result will be new markets for produce that might otherwise go to waste, McInnis said, particularly when it’s turned into powders.
“We could sell it to a food company that might put it in a soup or to a company that would put it in a dog treat,” she said.
Mike Murphy, general manager for BSVI, said the business aims to capture some of the massive food waste that occurs in distribution channels, estimated at 1.3 billion tons globally.
“A third of the food that’s grown in the world never makes it to the fork,” he said.
INVESTMENT ON THE MENU
Another new company is iSpice, which is investing $9 million in the Clarke County town of Jackson, where it is renovating a building. While the facility will mainly be a packaging operation, it also will have grinding and blending capabilities.
Large retailers and food service companies will be iSpice’s key customers. Operations are expected to begin this summer.
In Pike County, Southern Classic Food Group in Brundidge is starting a new division called Magnolia Vegetable Processors, which is scheduled to begin producing pickled okra in August, followed by pickles and pickle relish.
“For years, we’ve had people ask us about whether we do pickles, and we’ve always used pickles as an ingredient in our tartar sauces and Thousand Island dressing,” said Chuck Caraway, president of Southern Classic Food Group.
The company is spending $5.5 million on the project and plans 60 new jobs. In the second phase, the plan is to make salsa, now the No. 1 condiment in the U.S.
An expansion also is under way in the main business, Caraway added. The company is spending $3.2 million and adding 21 jobs in a project that is installing a new production line for fruit juices.
Southern Classic Food Group makes a wide range of condiments, the largest being mayonnaise, that is sold to retail, food service and industrial customers that use it in chicken, potato and pasta salads.
Other established food producers in Alabama are expanding, too.
The company, launched 10 years ago by Bullock County native Peggy Sutton, is the world’s biggest producer of organic sprouted grains and flours with more than 50 products. Current production averages 50,000 pounds per week.
Sprouted products have surged in popularity in recent years, thanks to their taste and nutritional benefits, and the total market is expected to soon eclipse $250 million in revenues.
To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co. exports to several countries and counts among its customers big names such as Kashi, Nature’s Path, Amy’s Kitchen and Whole Foods Market.
The well-known Sister Schubert’s brand, maker of dinner rolls, sausage wraps and other baked goods sold in thousands of stores across the U.S., also continues to invest in its Alabama operations. The most recent is a $2.2 million wellness center at the company’s bakery in Luverne.
The facility features comfortable chairs, big-screen TVs, showers, vending machines and large windows that bring in plenty of light, said Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes.
“This is an affirmation of how important our employees are to us,” she said. “When they take a break, they need something like this. At the same time, we’re constantly adding things to the bakery and improving it.”
Barnes said there are new products on the horizon for Sister Schubert’s, but it’s too early to talk about them. She feels blessed to be in Alabama, and she considers herself an ambassador for state-made products.
“I love all Alabama products and I do often go to seminars and give speeches and help people who are trying to start another business here,” Barnes of Sister Schubert said. “It’s a real joy for me to be able to inspire people to do what I did 25 years ago.”
Germany’s Berghoff Group to open Alabama production facility
HANNOVER, Germany – The Berghoff Group announced plans today to set up its first U.S. manufacturing plant in Auburn, where it will invest $30 million and create 100 precision-machining jobs over the next five years.
John Emerson, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, announced the deal today at the 2016 Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair. The U.S. is the event’s official partner country this year, and President Barack Obama joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel to officially open the fair on Monday.
“The Berghoff Group is a family-owned firm with a strong tradition here in Germany,” Emerson said. “We are proud to join that tradition with U.S. productivity and innovation – among the many reasons foreign firms choose to invest in the United States.”
Starting in 2017, Berghoff Precision Machining will use its manufacturing expertise to produce parts for key customers in equipment fabrication, semiconductor and aerospace industries.
“With the North America operation we will be able to serve our global customers both from Europe and the U.S.,” said Oliver Bludau, CEO of the Berghoff Group. “Berghoff’s principles and processes will create the same quality and value for our customers for products made at our Auburn location.
“We are very grateful to the State of Alabama and the City of Auburn for the support that our project is receiving,” Bludau added.
The Berghoff Group specializes in the mechanical processing of highly complex workpieces, including five-axis and high-speed machining. It machines a variety of high-performance metals in the high-mix, low-volume and high-complexity fields.
FIFTH GLOBAL LOCATION
The German company said the presence of Auburn University and its well-regarded engineering program played an important role in its location decision. The Auburn facility will be Berghoff’s fifth manufacturing location, joining operations in Germany and Switzerland
“The Berghoff Group’s decision to open a facility in Alabama means 100 well-paying jobs and another world-class company operating in the state,” said Greg Canfied, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“The Berghoff Group is widely known as a high-quality manufacturer, and its investment in Alabama is a powerful endorsement of the state as an ideal location for expansion,” he added.
The Berghoff Group will strengthen the reputation of the Auburn area as center for advanced manufacturing. Auburn University has launched a broad initiative to become a leader in 3-D printing – also known as additive manufacturing – while GE Aviation is preparing its Auburn plant to 3-D print fuel nozzles for jet engines.
Last year, another German company, Schmidt Maschinenbau GmbH announced plans to open a $17 million manufacturing facility in Auburn to produce precision engine components for automakers.
Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. said the Berghoff Group is a solid addition to the city’s industrial base.
“The announcement today is great news for Auburn, and this expansion will provide excellent job opportunities for our residents,” he said. “I am extremely grateful for the support that the project has received from the State of Alabama, and I’m proud to welcome the Berghoff team to Auburn.”
Alabama’s world-famous Barber Motorsports Park gears up for Indy races
Barber Motorsports Park is preparing to welcome about 80,000 visitors this weekend for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the annual three-day event that showcases the Birmingham racing venue.
Many will take in the sights at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which houses the world’s largest collection of motorcycles and is undergoing a major expansion.
Days ago, Barber officials and Birmingham-based contractor BL Harbert International held a topping out celebration for the project, which is expected to be complete this fall and is slightly ahead of schedule, said Jeff Ray, the museum’s executive director.
The expansion is adding 85,000 square feet to the current facility, bringing the total to 250,000 square feet.
That means the museum, which already houses a soaring glass and steel display of motorcycles, will have even more space to show off the collection of dairy magnate and park founder George Barber.
“It will be an even bigger wow,” Ray said, adding that the extra room should allow for more multimedia exhibits and events at the facility. “Anything we can do to bring more people to Birmingham, that’s what we want to do.”
Barber’s collection, certified in 2014 by Guinness World Records, now tops 1,500 vintage and contemporary motorcycles. But the museum doesn’t have enough room now to display them at the same time, so the exhibits are rotated in and out.
BL Harbert broke ground on the expansion in September 2015. Once it is complete this October, more than 5,800 cubic-yards of concrete and 435 tons of rebar will be used in the project. Williams Blackstock Architects is the designer.
“Mr. George Barber has created a world-class facility, spurring economic development, tourism and even a world record, right here in our backyard,” said Parker Evans, senior project manager for BL Harbert. “BL Harbert is honored to be a part of the next chapter of growth for the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.”
Economic developers have been known to use the racing venue as a recruiting tool, entertaining prospects at private dinners among the museum’s exhibits or during the festivals and races held on park grounds.
The park’s centerpiece is a 17-turn, 2.38-mile road racing track. Set among lush landscaping and the rolling hills of Central Alabama, the scene has earned Barber the nickname, “the Augusta National of motorsports.”
The park also is home to the Porsche Sport Driving School and has served as the backdrop for a number of automotive product launches. Another section, the Barber Proving Grounds, provides additional track space for events while the main track is in use.
New additions to the park over the past year include new garages for clients, a new classroom at the Proving Grounds and a second pedestrian bridge.
The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama kicks off Friday and will feature 11 races throughout the three-day weekend.
One of America’s largest transportation fleets opens Alabama office to support Airbus
Miller Transfer transports the latest batch of major component assemblies from the Port of Mobile to Airbus’ $600 million U.S. Manufacturing Facility at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley on Thursday, March 24. (Courtesy /Mobile Airport Authority Executive Director Roger Wehner)
The office, which currently employs one person, is responsible for the logistics of physically moving the major component assemblies required by Airbus to assemble A320-family aircraft at its $600 million campus, also located at Brookley. The facility is slated to deliver its first Mobile-assembled A321 to JetBlue soon and reach production of four aircraft per month before the close of 2017, and as many as eight per month in the years following.
“We believe that (Miller Transfer’s) decision to join us at the Aeroplex is another byproduct of our commitment to a well-thought-out and deliberate aerospace incubator strategy and adds just one more world-class capability set to the Aeroplex and Mobile,” said Roger Wehner, the airport authority’s executive director.
The airbus incubator strategy offers low-cost, flexible solutions to attract suppliers to Mobile during Airbus’ initial low rate of production.
Wehner called the logistics announcement a “big piece” of the broader Airbus and Brookley strategies.
Praising Miller Transfer as a “great company,” he said the firm expects to employ as many as five in its large 9th Street office, while also operating a small truck yard and potentially taking advantage of exterior storage options.
“Miller Transfer provides world-class, specialized logistics solutions that could serve many large, high-value applications well,” Wehner said.
Founded in 1968, Miller Transfer was ranked 31st globally by International Cranes and Specialized Transport for 2015, and boasts one of the largest fleets in terms of capacity in the nation. The Mobile location will be the company’s first in Alabama.
Dramatic images capture first Alabama-made Airbus A321’s inaugural flight
MOBILE, Alabama — The maiden flight of the first Alabama-made Airbus A321 lasted for less than four hours, but the dramatic images capturing the test mission will linger as a reminder of a pivotal moment in the future of the state’s aerospace sector.
Monday’s test flight from Mobile Aeroplex was designed to test the aircraft’s performance and systems, but its symbolic value was crystal clear.
“We’re building and flying now airplanes built in Mobile, Alabama,” Barry Eccleston, president of Airbus Americas, said after the A321 returned to Mobile Aeroplex.
“Airbus gives all Mobilians something that we can be very, very proud about,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson added.
THANK A FARMER: The stunning impact of Alabama’s massive ag industry
Alabama’s agriculture industry leaders are exploring new methods and markets to extend the reach of the state’s farmers.
Agriculture, forestry and related industries have a $70.4 billion economic impact in Alabama and are responsible for more than 580,000 jobs. Products from farms and forests represent key categories in Accelerate Alabama, the state’s strategic development growth plan.
Representatives of the Alabama Farmers Federation, who are looking to build on that substantial economic impact, recently returned from a conference in California with promising leads for fruit and vegetable growers, said Brian Hardin, director of governmental and agricultural programs for Alfa.
Fruit and vegetable production in the state is now largely limited to a fresh market, with produce being sold in its raw form through local farmers markets. Sometimes, the produce is under-utilized, because of blemishes that don’t affect taste or quality.
“It’s just as good, it just may not look as pretty,” Hardin said.
Alfa, along with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, is exploring how farmers can add value to their crops through additional processing. That could happen through more supplier relationships with companies that make sauces, jams and other foods or through their own equipment that would extend the shelf life of the produce.
For example, if farmers can dehydrate part of their fruit crops and sell them in that form, they can make money well past the growing season.
“It extends the time that someone can purchase that product, and a longer shelf life means a more reliable income for the farmer,” Hardin said.
The hope is to capitalize on the popular “know your farmer” movement, which is being seen across grocery store aisles. Consumers are increasingly interested in the source of what they’re eating, whether it be a single tomato or a jar of tomato sauce.
“We’re on the cusp of this,” Hardin continued. “We’re a young state in looking at these opportunities and pushing them out to farmers. We don’t have the volume of Florida or California, and we have limitations on the growing season and humidity to deal with. But there are many opportunities in people being connected with their food, and we’re looking at providing more of them for farmers in the state.”
Meanwhile, the No. 1 sector in the Alabama agriculture industry is flourishing.
Poultry, which has a $15 billion economic impact and supports more than 86,000 jobs, is growing across the state.
Last year, the sector added 615 new or expanded poultry houses, for a combined construction investment of $296 million. That’s up from 129 new or expanded facilities and a $30 million investment in 2010, with the numbers increasing gradually each year.
The poultry industry’s growth is particularly strong in Decatur, Gadsden, other part of eastern Alabama and the Wiregrass, Hardin said, and there is room for more.
“We would like to see more growth in West Alabama,” he said.
Elsewhere, Alabama’s forestry industry is poised for a comeback, as the U.S. housing market last year registered its best year since 2007.
Home construction is a major driver of the forestry industry in the state.
2016 started off slow, with new home sales dropping 9 percent in January. But relatively low interest rates and ongoing job creation point to an optimistic outlook, the National Association of Homebuilders says.
“After an unusually high December reading, some pullback is to be expected,” said Ed Brady, an Illinois developer and homebuilder who serves as NAHB chairman. “On the positive side, builders are adding inventory in anticipation of future business.”
The latest analysis of Alabama’s agriculture, forestry and related industries – showing the $70.4 billion economic impact – was released in 2013 and based on 2010 data.
Top sectors are timber production and processing, $21.4 billion; poultry and egg, $15.1 billion; soybean, corn and wheat, $576.5 million; greenhouse, nursery and floriculture, $561.6 million; beef, $524.5 million; cotton, $290.1 million; peanuts, $211.4 million; and catfish, $158.2 million.
New economic impact numbers are expected to be released later this year.
The 16-member state delegation is nearing the end of the trade mission, which kicked off in Spain with business-to-business meetings, networking opportunities and visits to several companies with a major presence in Alabama.
The group toured an Airbus facility in Madrid where tail sections of the A320 family of aircraft are fabricated, and they saw a tail wing assembly that will soon be shipped to Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Mobile.
The tour was hosted by Rafael González-Ripoll, chairman of the board of Airbus Spain and Latin America.
The Alabama trade team also toured the operations of Gestamp, a Spanish auto supplier with a facility in McCalla, and they met with the leadership of financial giant BBVA, including Executive Director José M. González-Páramo.
Elsewhere on the agenda was a reception hosted by James Costos, U.S. ambassador to Spain, and a seminar held by the Spain Chamber of Commerce that drew 25 Spanish companies.
Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield also reported that a new prospect for the state’s automotive sector has been identified.
Hilda Lockhart, director of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Division, said there is a significant opportunity to expand trade between Alabama and the two countries.
“The trip is going exceptionally well,” she said. “We are being so well received and there is great interest in why we are here. It is an exciting time to have our companies meet face to face with so many great opportunities.”
At the same time, companies represented in the Alabama trade team are making progress on their individual trade goals.
Alabaster’s Sealing Equipment Products Co. Inc. is looking to promote its thermal and abrasion management products to the aerospace industry and its industrial sealing products to the materials processing industries.
The company also is seeking to develop distributor relationships, said Chris Wilder, the firm’s CEO.
“The trip has been a great success so far,” Wilder said. “The arrangements and connections have been flawless so far. It has allowed me to further strengthen some of our international relationships and increase the prospects for additional export volume.”
POTENTIAL IN MOROCCO
Exports of Alabama products to Spain topped $95 million in 2015, rising 22 percent from the previous year. Top export categories were minerals and ores, paper, and chemicals.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s exports to Morocco totaled just $9.4 million. They were led by agricultural products, chemicals, and miscellaneous manufactured commodities.
Lockhart said Morocco is a market with significant potential. During the stay there, the delegation has met with business and trade representatives and attended a reception hosted by Nicole D. Theriot, U.S. Consul General to Morocco.
“Very few states are seizing this moment to capture the potential of Morocco and more importantly to use this country to jump off to the African market,” Lockhart said.
Also participating in the trade mission are McWane International, the global marketing arm of pipe manufacturing giant McWane Inc., carpet maker Masland Contract and RMCI Inc., which specializes in helicopter health monitoring and analysis.
Other Alabama companies represented in the delegation include Advanced Optical Systems Inc. of Huntsville, Mitternight of Satsuma and Hubbell Power Systems of Leeds.
Canadian auto supplier coming to Alabama, bringing jobs to new facility in Calhoun Co.
Photo By: Kobay Enstel
OXFORD, Alabama — Canadian automotive supplier Kobay Enstel announced plans today to create at least 75 jobs over three years at a new facility in Calhoun County.
The Calhoun County Economic Development Council said Kobay Enstel, which stamps metal parts for auto seats, is leasing a 60,000-square-foot speculative building on McIntosh Road in Oxford under a 13-year agreement with the EDC and the City.
“Our mission is to bring jobs to Calhoun County,” EDC Chairman Larry Deason said. “These are the kind of skilled labor jobs that we seek, as they match our workforce profile and strengthen our position as a player in Alabama’s growing automotive industry.”
Kobay Enstel has a long relationship with Honda and says about 70 percent of its products are manufactured for the Japanese automaker. Honda has invested more than $2.2 billion in an Alabama auto assembly plant, just minutes away from Calhoun County in Lincoln.
“We are excited about the opportunity for growth and expansion in the South,” said Gavin Galansky, president of Kobay Enstel–South.
The project was brought to Calhoun County by the Alabama Department of Commerce. Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the EDC’s 2011 investment in the expandable speculative building was a key factor that made Calhoun County the destination of choice for Ontario-based Kobay.
“Speculative buildings are constructed for companies on a short timeline,” Secretary Canfield said. “Kobay Enstel wants to start production during the first quarter, so the EDC’s portfolio of spec buildings puts Calhoun County on the short list.”
The EDC has three move-in-ready speculative buildings and is constructing a fourth in the McClellan Industrial Park.
Also critical was the EDC’s positive working relationship between local municipalities such as Oxford to put up the necessary investments to seal the deal, Canfield said.
The EDC will waive two-years’ rent for the building space, and the City of Oxford will cover the rent for a third year, provided Kobay Enstel hires at least 75 employees in the first three years, Deason said.
“We are thrilled that Kobay Enstel is our newest corporate citizen,” said Steven Waits, president of the Oxford City Council. “Oxford has proven over and again that investing in jobs has a tremendous payback for the city and the region.”
Alabamians just finished building the first ever US-made Airbus airplane and it’s beautiful
First Alabama-made Airbus aircraft emerges from the paint shop. (Image: Airbus)
MOBILE, Alabama — The first Alabama-made Airbus A321 is sporting JetBlue colors.
Airbus said today that painting of its maiden U.S.-built passenger jet has been completed in its paintshop at the company’s new, $600 million facility at Mobile Aeroplex. The aircraft emerged wearing JetBlue livery.
“This latest milestone shows that the first aircraft to be produced at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility is progressing well on its route to first flight and delivery in spring 2016,” Airbus said in a release.
The aircraft left the production floor at the Airbus Alabama campus last month for the paintshop, which is operated by Ireland-based MAAS Aviation.
Airbus’ Alabama workforce started assembling the first aircraft shortly after the plane’s major components arrived at the Port of Mobile last June via cargo ship from Europe. Airbus plans to assemble four to five aircraft per month at the Alabama facility once production ramps up. The manufacturing operation will eventually support 1,000 jobs in Mobile.
Also today, another shipment of major aircraft components arrived at the Airbus campus.
NEW RECORD: From the Far East to the Arabian Desert, Alabama exports top $7 billion
From the Far East to the Arabian Desert, Alabama-built vehicles continue to make their mark across the globe.
The value of Alabama auto exports topped $7 billion last year, a record annual total and a 5.8 percent gain from 2014. Meanwhile, overseas shipments of Alabama-made motor vehicle parts reached $1.2 billion, an 18 percent increase.
In 2015, China was the top export market for Alabama vehicles, growing nearly 9 percent to $2 billion and knocking Canada out of the top spot, according to trade data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Canada was No. 2, with Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom rounding out the top five.
Rapid growth in overseas shipments has propelled Alabama to a No. 3 spot ranking auto-exporting states, trailing only Michigan and South Carolina. Over the past 15 years, Alabama’s vehicle exports have risen tenfold.
“Alabama’s auto industry has become an exporting powerhouse, with vehicles produced in the state finding markets around the world,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “This creates jobs in our state and solidifies the position of the Alabama auto assembly plants in a global business.”
The Mercedes-Benz factory in Tuscaloosa County accounts for the lion’s share of Alabama’s auto exports, but the assembly plants operated by Honda and Hyundai contribute to the total, too.
In Honda’s case, the redesigned Alabama-made Pilot SUV is turning heads in countries including Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.
The 2016 Pilot is equipped with Honda’s new “Intelligent Traction Management” all-wheel drive system, which is designed to excel in mud, snow and sand.
A few months ago, an engineer from Honda’s Talladega County plant traveled to Dubai, where the new Pilot’s capabilities were demonstrated by driving up and down large sand dunes.
The Dubai Honda sales team was impressed.
“They are really excited about it because now they can take this Pilot out to the sand dunes whereas the old one didn’t have that capability,” said Jeff Tomko, head of Honda’s Alabama operations. “That plugged the gap on why it didn’t sell more than it could; now, the Pilot will probably outsell the Odyssey in Dubai.”
The Talladega County plant typically exports 10 to 15 percent of its annual output, a number that varies depending on the global vehicle market. Honda produced nearly 350,000 vehicles at its Alabama plant last year.
Each export region requires different certification, and that testing can take time.
“We’re sending a lot of our associates to customers in Dubai and Russia and China and Korea to understand their expectations because their expectations may be different from the customer in the U.S., Canada or Mexico,” Tomko said.
For example, South Korean customers are strongly focused on paint quality, fit and finish. And in Russia, they want a sturdy suspension to cope with rugged roadways.
While the Odyssey and Pilot vie for the most popular Alabama Honda export, the Alabama plant – which also produces the Ridgeline pickup and Acura MDX sport utility – supplies every export region that wants one of those vehicles, Tomko added.
“That puts a big demand on us, but the benefit of that is when the market has a downturn in the U.S. or North America, those markets may not be in that same downturn,” he said. “That keeps us running at a higher percentage than we normally would under those circumstances.”
SPANNING THE GLOBE
Australia was the sixth most popular market for Alabama auto exports last year, according to figures from the U.S. Commerce Department. United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Korea and Chile rounded out the top 10.
Strong growth was seen in several top markets, including Germany and the United Kingdom, each registering a 23 percent growth in Alabama-made vehicle shipments from 2014, and Chile, with 46 percent growth. Qatar and Oman were among the big gainers, with increases of 148 percent and 117 percent, respectively.
Alabama-made vehicles were shipped to 76 countries last year, spanning the globe.
While the global economy struggles, Alabama exports remain near record highs
MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Despite headwinds in global markets, Alabama exports in 2015 held steady at near-record levels on growing overseas shipments of products such as transportation equipment, primary metals and machinery.
Figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show that Alabama exports totaled $19.37 billion last year, just below the all-time record of $19.58 billion set in 2012. Last year’s total represents a slight decline — 0.36 percent – from the figure for 2014 — $19.44 billion.
Alabama exports have grown 25 percent since 2010 and 78 percent since 2005, these figures show.
“Alabama companies operating in the global economy through exports continue to be one of the state’s most powerful growth engines,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “By trading Alabama-made products overseas, these companies support Alabama communities and create well-paying jobs for citizens across our state.
“We want to continue helping Alabama companies reach new customers around the globe because their exporting activities pay significant benefits here at home,” he added.
COAL SHIPMENTS SLUMP
Alabama companies exported goods to 188 countries in 2015, with transportation equipment once again the No. 1 category with shipments valued at $9.3 billion, an increase of 7.5 percent from the prior year. Other top export categories were chemicals, iron and steel, machinery and paper.
Foreign shipments of Alabama minerals and ores – primarily coal – declined 38 percent to $705.8 million last year, dragging down the state’s overall export total. In 2011, Alabama mineral exports topped $2.2 billion, and the decrease reflects the mounting difficulties of the global coal industry and sharply reduced demand for the product.
“Alabama’s exports remained vital last year in spite of turbulence in the global economy, which included a collapse in oil prices and a slowdown in China,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Exports of Alabama-made vehicle and parts continue to expand, underscoring the state’s status as a major player in this international industry, while there were also meaningful gains in exports of aerospace parts, machinery and paper.”
While Alabama exports held steady in 2015, U.S. exports overall were down 7.5 percent from the prior year.
The Top 5 markets for Alabama 2015 exports were:
• Canada: $4.1 billion, down 4.7 percent
• China, $3.2 billion, up nearly 1 percent
• Mexico, $2.9 billion, up 24 percent
• Germany, $2.5 billion, up 15 percent
• United Kingdom, $610 million, up 2 percent
Exports of Alabama-made vehicles climbed 5.8 percent to $7 billion last year, while overseas shipments of motor vehicles jumped 18 percent to $1.2 billion, figures show. Exports of Alabama-made aerospace products and parts rose 16 percent to $868 million.
Other major export categories with gains in 2015 were:
• Primary metals, $1.6 billion, up 5 percent
• Machinery, $1.1 billion, up 25 percent
• Paper, $805 million, up 19 percent
• Plastics and rubber products, $423 million, up 12 percent
“The economic benefits of exporting are very clear,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Office. “Our focus at the Alabama Department of Commerce has always been to work with small- and medium-sized companies to help them sell their products in new and expanding markets.
“The trade and business development missions we undertake each year are a key component of our international strategy,” she added. “For Alabama companies, the opportunities far outweigh the challenges when you have our agency, along with the Export Alabama Alliance, providing assistance in every nuance of international trade.”
Made In Alabama asked Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle to outline his economic development priorities for 2016 and provide insight on why the city has been able to land a series of major projects in the past couple of years.
Here are his remarks.
Q: What are your economic development priorities in 2016 and what would you like to see happen?
A: Our success in the advanced manufacturing sector has helped us diversify our federal economic base, and we expect Huntsville will benefit for decades to come from the spinoff businesses related to our newest partners at Remington, Polaris, and GE Aviation.
Looking ahead, however, we plan to return to our roots and focus more on research and development. These are the jobs that vaulted Huntsville from a cotton town in the 1950s to a rocket city. We have the highest concentration of engineers in the country and our highly specialized workforce is already geared for positions in robotics, biotech, cyber security and computer programming. Our research park, second largest in the U.S., just celebrated its 50thanniversary and we are master planning to position it for the next 50 years to accommodate more start-up companies and live, work, play options.
We will also continue emphasizing redevelopment in our core and that includes public-private partnerships that benefit downtown, our primary retail corridors and other quality of life amenities for citizens.
Q: What industries in Huntsville are best positioned for growth?
A: We expect more suppliers to enter our market as they support the advanced manufacturing sector. This includes automotive suppliers for Polaris and Toyota and new industries related to commercial space applications such as small satellites.
HudsonAlpha’s biotech campus has the first genomic medical clinic in the world and will attract more biotech companies. GE Aviation’s new plant will be the first of its kind to produce ceramic matrix composites. The expansion of the composite manufacturing field in Huntsville will boost companies in aviation, missile manufacturing and deep space exploration. 3D printing, as designed by NASA, is drawing global attention.
And, finally, from high tech to master brewing, the craft beer business is rapidly expanding to include dozens of microbreweries and brewpubs. Lots of diversity from genomics to composites to craft brews — Huntsville’s conversations are never dull.
Q: What strengths can Huntsville build on in 2016 to advance economic development?
A: Our greatest strength has to be teamwork. Huntsville is blessed with competent leadership and regional partners that work together for the greater good. We believe in smart planning, keeping up with our infrastructure – and that includes fiber – and holding government bureaucracy to a bare minimum.
As a result, we have a high quality of life, good schools, a smart workforce, low cost of living and an average 18-minute commute to work. Q: What are the 2015 highlights for you?
A: We’ve seen years of hard work and strategic planning come together with major announcements from Polaris and GE Aviation. National retailers such as Whole Foods, Cabela’s and At Home opened their first regional stores here.
Huntsville’s entrepreneurial community has taken off with a host of incubators and we landed three of the state’s top five finalists, and the winner, in the recent Alabama Launchpad competition with a $50,000 purse for a new business start-up.
Made in Alabama asked Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson to share his economic development priorities for 2016, which is shaping up to be a monumental year for the Port City.
Here’s what the mayor said.
Q: What are your economic development priorities in 2016 and what would you like to see happen?
A: Our economic development priorities for 2016 are to capitalize on the incredible opportunities we have in the aerospace industry, to continue the positive momentum along our waterfront and the Port of Mobile, to further develop and foster technology and innovation corridors throughout downtown, and to establish “Destination Mobile” as a great city not only for tourists, but also for corporate executives looking for a fantastic city within which to locate.
We look to build on the success we had in 2015 and continue to make strides in 2016 to reach that vision.
Q: What industries in Mobile are best positioned for growth?
A: Certainly everyone recognizes that the aerospace industry is in a prime position for growth, particularly with delivery of the first Airbus A320 from the Mobile final assembly line in early 2016.
But we are greatly encouraged by the emergence of a technology corridor along St. Louis Street downtown, and to see traction on entrepreneurship. Those will be key areas of focus going forward.
In addition, there are some incredible things happening with research and development led by the University of South Alabama, and we’re excited to see where that can take us.
Q: What strengths can Mobile build on in 2016 to advance economic development?
A: It starts with a great team that includes the City, Mobile County, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the Port of Mobile, the Mobile Airport Authority and the University of South Alabama. We’ve had a great run of success working together and it’s important we keep those partnerships strong.
The other is just the excitement we’re seeing across the city, whether it’s the return of Carnival Cruise Lines or winning the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Innovation Grant or even just the fantastic new restaurants and small businesses we’re seeing pop up almost every week.
It’s a great time to invest in Mobile.
Q: What are the 2015 highlights for you?
A: I’m proud of the effort put forward by Team Mobile. We brought the cruise industry back to Mobile, we landed a string of world-class aerospace suppliers, we saw the grand opening of the Airbus assembly plant and we joined Austal in launching its 12th Littoral Combat Ship for the U.S. Navy. We closed the year on a high note with a great software development company, Rural Sourcing Inc., opening a new, state-of-the-art office in a historic building downtown.
All of that helped us to be recognized as one of the 15 hottest cities in the United States for 2015 and to be named as one of America’s best cities for global trade. There are some great things in the pipeline that have us very excited about the year ahead.