The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

19 hours ago

Southern Research to develop smart robots for next-gen nuclear reactors under DOE grant

(Southern Research/Twitter)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a team led by Southern Research a $2.8 million grant to develop smart maintenance robots that will work autonomously in the challenging conditions inside next-generation nuclear reactors.

The team working on the project, funded by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to train the robots to complete maintenance tasks at a future molten salt reactor (MSR) large component test facility.

Autonomous maintenance is seen as an enabling capability to making MSR technology economically viable as a safe, carbon-free energy source, according to Robert Amaro, Ph.D., a mechanical engineer and advanced manufacturing specialist at Southern Research’s Engineering division.

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“The MSR technology is very promising because of its inherent safety, but the high-temperature, high-radiation environment makes it necessary to remotely maintain the reactor. Training robots to perform maintenance tasks is a key capability in the development of these reactors,” Amaro said.

As the project’s program manager, Amaro will prepare the robots for their mission, but what is unusual about this project is that the robots will be trained in a virtual environment, using machine learning to execute a range of routine maintenance tasks. The operator would provide high-level guidance to the smart robots but would not have to direct each specific task they perform in the MSR, Amaro said.

The success of this project promises to significantly advance future nuclear power generation.

On the project, Southern Research has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the creator of the original MSR technology; PaR Systems, a leading manufacturer of automation and robotic technology used in nuclear facilities; Intuitive Research and Technology Corp., which specializes in 3-D virtual training environments; DEFT Dynamics, an innovative small business developing real-time feedback for robots and manipulators; and Southern Company, a leading energy company based in Atlanta and the parent of Alabama Power.

The project supports a proposed concept being explored by Southern Company Research and Development (R&D) to develop a molten salt large component test facility in conjunction with its efforts to advance Generation IV nuclear energy systems. Southern Company and TerraPower, a nuclear startup founded by Bill Gates, received funding in 2016 as part of an ongoing effort to develop a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor that uses liquid salts as both a coolant and fuel.

Southern Company will assist the Southern Research team by providing 3-D modeling of the future test facility to help the robot training efforts. It will also provide oversight to ensure the technology developed by Southern Research is applicable to MSR technology.

“Southern Research has put together a strong technical team for this project, and this is a great opportunity for the organization to become part of a large, collaborative, industry-leading effort to develop next-generation nuclear power for the clean, safe, reliable and affordable generation of electricity,” said Nick Irvin, Southern Company director of research strategy, next-generation nuclear and crosscutting R&D.

Though MSR technology has never been commercialized, it was first developed as an experiment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s. Now, almost 60 years later, the technology is seen by many as an energy system for the future.

Interest has been rekindled in MSR technology because it offers a zero-carbon energy resource that operates at high temperatures and low pressure using a nonreactive coolant. And these reactors are capable of being designed and scaled for both small- and large-scale deployments.

Collaborations

For Birmingham-based Southern Research, the project is groundbreaking in a number of ways, said Corey Tyree, Ph.D., senior director of Southern Research’s Energy and Environment division. It’s the organization’s first large-scale nuclear project and the first time it’s been funded by ARPA-E, a government agency that typically funds higher-risk projects that have a greater impact and a higher reward in the energy sector.

For Southern Research, it also represents the first major collaboration between its Engineering and Energy & Environment divisions on a project of this magnitude, he added.

“This is an exciting project because it moves us into some new directions,” Tyree said. “The work leverages our knowledge base in materials, energy and environment, while also moving us into new technical areas like automation, robotics and virtual environment training by partnering with other world leaders in these areas.”

Both Amaro and Tyree agree that the development of this autonomous robot technology can better position Southern Research for new industrial partnerships looking for applications in advanced manufacturing as well as applications supporting the nation’s space program, where a similar skill set may be required to perform complex tasks in hostile environments.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

ULA’s Alabama-based RocketShip makes first delivery with new name

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Many folks may know that the United Launch Alliance produces powerful rockets at a sprawling factory in Decatur. But few people probably realize that the ULA has its own rocket delivery ship based in the Alabama city.

The R/S RocketShip, as it’s now called, is a 312-foot vessel designed specially to transport boosters and other large rocket components from Decatur to launch sites 8,000 miles away in California and nearly 1,700 miles distant in Florida.

Earlier this week, the ship sailed into Port Canaveral to complete its first voyage from the 1.6 million-square-foot Decatur production plant to the Florida spaceport after a traditional renaming ceremony last month.

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Its cargo: An Atlas V rocket for an upcoming national security mission.

“She is a highly maneuverable, unique custom-built rocket transport ship able to navigate both rivers and open ocean. The only U.S. flagged ship with that versatility,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno tweeted recently.

VOYAGE NO. 132

ULA said the cargo vessel has actually been in use for nearly two decades, bringing Delta IV rocket stages to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

It also started carrying Atlas V stages in 2011 and soon will begin supporting the Vulcan Centaur program.

Voyage No. 132 departed Decatur on Sept. 27 for the 2,000-mile journey through shallow rivers, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. It reached the Cape on Sunday.

In a blog post today, ULA said the Atlas V first stage and Centaur upper stage together will launch the upcoming AFSPC-7 mission for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

The stages were offloaded and taken to the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center to await further processing for their mission.

The ship’s new name was selected after a contest that asked ULA employees to submit recommendations. ULA said RocketShip was chosen since it best reflects the vessel’s main mission.

The vessel was formerly known as the Delta Mariner.

The roll-on, roll-off cargo ship weighs nearly 19 million pounds, has complete living quarters and dining area for its crew of 16, a helipad on the top deck, a below-deck machine shop and sophisticated computers and navigational aids on the bridge.

It is operated by Foss Maritime on behalf of ULA.

You can watch a replay of the renaming ceremony, which observed all the maritime traditions.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 week ago

Southern Research licenses technology to Agra for ‘waste-to-energy’ project

(Southern Research/Contributed)

Waste from cities, restaurants and farms across the nation presents a problem because of resulting greenhouse gas emissions, but innovative technology developed by Southern Research could soon help address environmental concerns and spark investment that supports dynamic change.

Under a licensing deal that is the first of its kind, Southern Research’s Energy & Environment (E&E) division is providing an Irvine, California-based company with patented technology and specialized equipment for a “waste-to-energy” project.

Agriculture is a key marketspace for Agra Energy Corp. By partnering with dairy farmers across the nation, Agra Energy intends to use an advanced chemical-conversion process developed by Southern Research scientists to turn cow manure into clean, renewable fuels conventionally produced from crude oil.

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Southern Research’s collaboration with Agra Energy comes at a time when concerns are rising about the negative impacts of solid waste produced at large-scale agricultural operations such as dairy, poultry and hog farms.

“We have to produce our food more sustainably,” said Corey Tyree, Ph.D., senior director of E&E at Southern Research. “There are opportunities to manage agricultural waste to do less harm to our land and water resources. One opportunity is to convert waste like manure into liquid fuels. This benefits the farmer and the environment. The technology being licensed to Agra enables all of this to happen.”

Tony Long, president of Agra Energy, said the Southern Research technology aligns with his company’s broad mission.

“Our directive, as an innovative renewable energy company, has a laser-focused agenda: implement engineering solutions that shift consumption away from fossil fuels, convert pollution sources into clean energy sources, and offer real economic returns that provoke real action within the industry and greater society,” Long said.

“We are excited to join our experienced team together with Southern Research to bring their base technology processes into commercialization.”

‘GTL’ process

Southern Research scientists developed the proprietary process being licensed to Agra Energy through work on a series of U.S. Department of Energy projects that explored how to convert low-rank coal and coal-biomass mixtures to high-quality liquid fuels, among other things.

Southern Research’s unique “gas-to-liquids” (GTL) process, patented in 2016, will feature in small-scale GTL units that Agra Energy will deploy to farms to produce renewable diesel and other valuable liquid fuels after the manure is converted into a synthesis gas, or syngas.

“Our GTL technology is a unique combination of novel stable catalysts with better yields to fuel and a reactor system with better heat management, improving efficiency,” said Amit Goyal, Ph.D., director of Southern Research’s Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis laboratory.

“These advances allow technology to be deployed at smaller modular scales, enabling biogas obtained from farm manure to be converted to syngas and subsequently to fuels.”

While conventional GTL technology has been around for decades, it has required massive scale with major investment commitment. By utilizing Southern Research’s GTL process, Agra Energy aims to deploy the technology on a cost-efficient “micro” level across the nation.

As part of this collaboration, Southern Research is fabricating equipment in Birmingham that Agra Energy will install as a pilot program at a dairy farm in Wisconsin to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.

‘Global potential’

Tyree said this agreement commercializing technology developed by scientists in Southern Research’s E&E division gives Agra Energy exclusive rights to the GTL process across the United States.

“While we think there is global potential long term, we are thrilled to partner with Agra and benefit U.S. farmers and the environment,” Tyree said.

He also expects other commercialization deals involving intellectual property created by Southern Research’s E&E scientists to be signed in the future.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Alabama trade mission team travels to United Arab Emirates

Courtesy of Made in Alabama

A team of Alabama business leaders is visiting the United Arab Emirates to explore new markets and forge key partnerships in this important gateway for commerce across the Middle East and North Africa.

Last year, the UAE was Alabama’s 19th largest export market, with $186 million in products shipped there. With $11 million in state imports from the country, total two-way trade reached $197 million.

Top Alabama exports to the UAE include defense equipment, vehicles and industrial machinery, along with aircraft and parts.

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Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield is leading the state trade mission delegation this coming week in meetings with business organizations and government officials in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Canfield also has meetings with industry leaders in the aviation and defense sectors.

“We are excited that we are taking the Made in Alabama brand to the UAE,” he said. “We expect to bring home a better understanding of this market, and more importantly, we expect our companies to expand their global footprints into the UAE.”

‘Regional hub’

The UAE is a small market of 9 million people, with expatriates comprising about 85 percent of that total. But the country does play a major role in gathering imports from the U.S. and re-exporting to the region, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We are interested in looking at the logistics that are in place and learning more about this,” she said.

Members of the delegation will meet with organizations including the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai Expo 2020, Dubai Future Foundation and the Accelerator Lab in Dubai.

United Arab Emirates is already a major trade partner with Alabama. (contributed)

Meetings in Abu Dhabi include one with the UAE Ministry of Economy and a couple with private organizations in the aerospace sector. Also on the agenda is a tour of McWane Gulf, a division of Birmingham-based pipe manufacturer McWane Inc.

Other members of the Alabama delegation include representatives from:

Other organizations supporting the trip are the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Department of Commerce – U.S. Commercial Service, Alabama International Trade CenterAlabama District Export Council and Export Alabama Alliance.

Lockhart said the meetings are aimed at educating everyone about the UAE’s position as a regional hub for doing business in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

“The UAE represents a market that is stable, particularly in these days of regional conflicts,” she said. “The country is diversifying its dependence on oil by developing new industrial and commercial sectors, and their aggressiveness is visible as they are already an international manufacturer of aluminum.

“In addition, they are stepping up with new ventures in aviation and defense.”

Targeting opportunities

For Fluid Solutions, a global supplier of mechanical fluid pumping systems and related accessories, this trade mission is an opportunity to build on the company’s growing international business, said David Gonzalez, new business development manager and a member of the Alabama delegation.

The Birmingham-based company offers complete systems with full integration by bridging the gap from design to implementation. Its global supply and service capabilities allow it to competitively represent several U.S. manufacturers and offer multinational customers a consistent buying and commissioning experience in markets around the world.

“To date, we’ve been in over 125 countries and counting. Much of our work in the region has been with U.S. governmental entities such as the Department of State or Department of Defense,” Gonzalez said.

“However, our goal for this trade mission will be to leverage that experience and our new office in Ankara, Turkey, to open broader possibilities to the UAE and Eurasian market at large,” he said.

The UAE occupies a strategic position for companies across the U.S. that are looking to do business in the region. Made up of seven emirates – including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, Fujairah and Ras Al-Khaimah – it has developed into the second-largest economy in the Arab world.

Home to substantial petroleum reserves, the UAE has pursued free market, trade liberalizing policies to diversify its economy away from a dependence on fossil fuel.

Two-way trade between the U.S. and the UAE reached $24.6 billion last year.

4 weeks ago

Lockheed Martin to base hypersonics programs in Alabama, add 272 jobs

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

COURTLAND, Alabama – Lockheed Martin Monday announced plans to make North Alabama its flagship location for work on hypersonics programs, with plans to open a new production facility and hire nearly 275 people, including engineers.

At a groundbreaking ceremony today, Lockheed Martin said it will add two new buildings at its Courtland facility for the assembly, integration and testing of hypersonics programs. The company said it will locate the management and engineering workforce for these programs in Huntsville.

The move means 72 new jobs in Courland and 200 new positions in Huntsville over the next three years. Additional job growth is expected.

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“The decision to bring hypersonic manufacturing to this region would not have been possible without the support of the State of Alabama, our local partners including Lawrence and Madison counties, the cities of Courtland and Huntsville and Tennessee Valley Authority as well as those elected representatives in Congress,” said Scott Keller, vice president and general manager for Strategic and Missile Defense for Lockheed Martin.

“On behalf of Lockheed Martin, we are honored to expand our presence in Northern Alabama and watch as the next cohort of innovators take advanced defense technology to levels we once thought were impossible,” Keller added.

During an official ceremony today in Courtland, Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO for Lockheed Martin, was joined by Senator Richard Shelby, Governor Kay Ivey, and Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Space for Lockheed Martin, among others.

Officials representing the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy were on hand in Courtland to mark the occasion at the site of the next hypersonic production facility.

Lockheed Martin’s Ambrose will host an event later today in Huntsville to celebrate the increased workforce expansion as part of this effort.

LONGLASTING TIES

Lockheed Martin’s strong partnership with the state of Alabama dates back several decades and includes research and development on rockets and space launch vehicles, tactical missiles, space exploration, and air and missile defense targets.

The company employs more than 2,000 people in Alabama. Earlier this year, it announced an expansion at its missile production facility in Pike County.

“Lockheed Martin has a longstanding relationship with the state of Alabama, and I am proud to see that strengthen even more as they make our state the flagship location for their hypersonic programs,” Governor Ivey said.

“Both Courtland and Huntsville will gain new jobs, which is always welcome news. I am proud and confident that Alabamians will help advance Lockheed Martin’s goals as we begin working towards the advancements of the future,” she said.

Lockheed Martin is an industry leader in the development, testing and fielding of hypersonic systems. Hypersonic Strike capabilities have been identified by the U.S. government as a critical capability that must be addressed in support of the U.S. National Security Strategy.

Lockheed Martin has established partnerships with the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and DARPA on key programs to meet the needs of this critical mission.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 weeks ago

Daikin plans $195 million expansion at Decatur plant with 50 new jobs

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

DECATUR, Alabama – Daikin America Inc., marking its 25th year of operation in Alabama, plans to invest up to $195 million to add new capabilities at its Decatur production facility. The expansion will result in the addition of 50 new full-time positions over the next few years.

Daikin said the expansion project will add polymer production capability, associated monomer production, utility systems, infrastructure enhancements and R&D capabilities in Decatur. Construction will begin in January 2020.

David Hendrixson, a Daikin America executive vice president and plant manager, said the Decatur facility was chosen over Daikin production locations in Japan and China for the polymer expansion project.

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“This investment shows Daikin’s confidence in the Decatur community and its people. We appreciate the support of the State of Alabama, local officials, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Daikin is proud to be a part of the Decatur and Morgan County community.”

The official announcement was made Thursday night at a community celebration to commemorate Daikin’s 25th anniversary in the Morgan County city.

“As one of the first Japanese companies to establish a presence in Alabama, Daikin blazed a trail for many other companies from Japan that have followed its path to find success our state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Through repeated reinvestment in its Decatur operation, Daikin has shown corporate decision makers In Japan and around the world the attractiveness of doing business in Alabama,” he added. “That kind of endorsement helps us open doors in business recruitment.”

‘POSITIVE IMPACT’

Among other things, the expansion project will increase Daikin’s PTFE (a synthetic polymer with useful properties) and melt resin polymer production capacity. With this expansion, Daikin will introduce differentiated polymers used in high-value applications.

The capacity addition will permit the company to more effectively service customers worldwide.

Local officials welcomed the news of Daikin’s latest expansion project.

“I want to formally thank Daikin officials for their decision to move forward with this major expansion, as it ensures Daikin’s presence in our community for many years to come,” Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said.

Daikin is one of Decatur’s largest industrial employers, with around 400 workers, according to data from the Morgan County Economic Development Association.

“Daikin continues to make a positive impact on our community by not only expanding their facility and creating new well-paying jobs, but truly being a great community partner throughout their 25-year history,” Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said.

Daikin America is a subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Daikin Industries Ltd., one of the largest fluorochemical suppliers in the world. Daikin has been a world leader in the development, manufacture and sales of fluoropolymers, fluoroelastomers, surface modification technology, and refrigerant gases since 1924.

Daikin products are used in countless applications and products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Alabama ranks No. 4 in publication’s 2019 ‘Top States for Business’ survey

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama ranked near the top of Area Development magazine’s 2019 “Top States for Business” survey, continuing a streak of high rankings in the national publication’s annual analysis.

Overall, Alabama earned a No. 4 ranking and Top 10 marks in 11 different individual categories in Area Development’s 2019 survey, underscoring the state’s business-friendly environment, leading job-training programs and other advantages for economic development.

“Alabama is a perennial favorite in the upper echelons,” the magazine noted.

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The ranking follows a record year for Alabama’s economic development team. In 2018, companies announced projects involving $8.7 billion in new capital investment in the state, the highest total for a year, according to an analysis by the Alabama Department of Commerce. Those projects will bring more than 17,000 direct jobs to the state.

It was also a record year for foreign direct investment, with $4.2 billion in FDI announced for the state.

HIGH MARKS

In the 2019 Area Development survey, Alabama scored in the Top 10 in 11 different individual categories. They are:

  • Favorable general regulatory environment: No. 1
  • Speed of permitting: No. 1 (tied)
  • Most improved economic development policies: No. 2 (tied)
  • Overall cost of doing business: No. 3 (tied)
  • Business incentive programs: No. 4
  • Leading workforce development programs: No. 4
  • Cooperative and responsive state government: No. 4
  • Shovel-ready sites program: No. 5
  • Competitive labor environment: No. 5 (tied)
  • Corporate tax environment: No. 6
  • Favorable utility rates: No. 8 (tied)

“In Alabama, we have made it our mission to adopt high-performance economic development policies and to continuously improve our job-training programs to position all areas for the state for growth,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Our consistently high rankings in this business analysis, as well as others like it, confirm that we are on the right course as we recruit new jobs and investment for Alabama.”

Alabama trailed only Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina in Area Development’s 2019 rankings. North Carolina rounded out the Top 5.

Area Development earlier this year selected Alabama for its Gold Shovel Award, its top honor for economic development success in 2018.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

BIO Alabama names director as bioscience sector growth is targeted

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

BIO Alabama said Thursday that experienced healthcare executive Sonia Robinson has joined the statewide bioscience trade association as its first full-time executive director, leading efforts within the sector to grow employment, increase research development and expand international trade.

“The entire life sciences ecosystem is active in Alabama from research to institutional tech transfer; from startups and corporate innovation to global manufacturing,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“With this milestone, BIO Alabama is positioned to foster continued growth and development within the bioscience industry.”

The biosciences industry contributes $7.3 billion in economic impact to Alabama annually, according to an analysis conducted for BIO Alabama in 2018.

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Industry segments represented in Alabama include medical devices and materials, drug discovery and development, R&D, information technology, genetics, genomics and personalized medicine.

BIO Alabama’s mission is to cultivate a thriving bioscience ecosystem in Alabama through collaboration and investment, both in industry and research.

“Alabama is home to cutting edge research and innovation; we want to be recognized as such and to help our bioscience industry grow,” said BIO Alabama Board Chair Peggy Sammon, CEO and co-founder of Huntsville’s GeneCapture.

“It’s time to devote full-time resources to this goal, and we’re confident that Sonia Robinson will bring the leadership and strategic thinking to this effort.”

PERSONAL CONNECTION

Robinson’s career in healthcare marketing and public relations and her experience with startups are very relevant to the issues BIO Alabama is addressing. Robinson has held positions in marketing, business development, customer service, human resources and back-office operations.

In 2017, Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her personal investigation into treatment options gave her deep respect for the efforts of researchers and especially the role of personalized medicine. She is now active as a survivor and advocate.

“As an Alabama native, I am so proud of our rich history in agriculture, automobiles, tech, rockets, and aviation. Bioscience joined the state narrative years ago, but it is time to share that news of those successes and impact more broadly,” Robinson said.

“Communities and companies in Alabama are already experiencing how bioscience is an economic force for our future,” she added.

Birmingham-based BIO Alabama is the state partner of the international life sciences trade organization Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

“We have an active board ready to support our new executive director with strategic initiatives designed to cultivate relationships and expand networks for the many bioscience companies in our state,” said Alabama Power Co.’s Blair King, chair-elect of the BIO Alabama board.

“BIO Alabama enhances state-wide economic development initiatives by supporting new, emerging, and existing bioscience organizations through collaboration, advocacy, and support,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Auto supplier DaikyoNishikawa kicks off construction on $110 million Alabama plant

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Governor Kay Ivey joined executives of DaikyoNishikawa US (DNUS) and local leaders at a groundbreaking event this week to officially launch construction on the auto supplier’s $110 million manufacturing plant in North Alabama.

The DNUS facility, which will produce plastic automotive parts for the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. (MTMUS) assembly plant, will employ approximately 380 people at full production.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site on the MTMUS campus where construction crews are poised to begin work on DNUS’ first U.S. manufacturing plant.

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“I’m proud to welcome another great Japanese company, DaikyoNishikawa, to Sweet Home Alabama, and I know that together we will build a lasting partnership,” Governor Ivey said.

“Today marks another pivotal moment for Huntsville as it becomes the next vital production hub for the global auto industry.”

In May, DNUS became the first supplier to announce plans to locate a facility on the site of the Mazda Toyota joint venture assembly plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

“As our first manufacturing facility in North America, DNUS is proud to serve Mazda Toyota and call Huntsville our new home,” said Nariaki Uchida, president of DaikyoNishikawa Corporation.

“Together with our business and community partners, our aim is to be a good corporate neighbor and a premiere Tier I automotive supplier.”

By establishing its first North American facility in Huntsville, DaikyoNishikawa aims to maximize its business opportunities by further strengthening relationships with major customers.

MANUFACTURING ORBIT

Construction on the 3.1 million-square-foot MTMUS facility is well underway, with as many as 2,500 construction workers expected on the Limestone County site this summer.

The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to open the Huntsville assembly plant, which will employ up to 4,000 people.

Once the DNUS facility begins operations to coincide with the start of MTMUS vehicle production in 2021, DNUS’s Alabama workforce will manufacture large resin parts such as bumpers and instrument panels for the automakers.

“By selecting Alabama as the site for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, DaikyoNishikawa joins a long list of world-class Japanese companies with growing operations in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We look forward to working with this high-caliber company to assemble a workforce in Huntsville that can fuel its growth plans.”

HIRING PLANS

DNUS has started hiring qualified candidates. Individuals who are interested in applying for open positions at DNUS can visit the following links for more information:

The DNUS project represents one of the largest in a string of supplier announcements tied to the MTMUS assembly plant in 2019.

So far, a total of five MTMUS suppliers have pinpointed sites in North Alabama for production locations that will create almost 1,700 new auto-sector jobs, most of them in Huntsville.

“DaikyoNishikawa is a key manufacturer in the growing cluster of Tier 1 automotive suppliers for MTMUS, and we’re excited to provide the skilled workers for this high-performing auto industry leader,” ​Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

Hiroshima, Japan-based DaikyoNishikawa operates about a dozen R&D centers and manufacturing plants in its home country, as well as production sites in Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and China. The company employs more than 5,000 people across these sites.

With roots stretching back to the early 1950s, DaikyoNishikawa supplies plastic parts to many major automakers based in Japan, including Mazda and Toyota.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Josh Laney to head Alabama Office of Apprenticeship as skills program expands

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT, announced that Josh Laney has been named director of the newly established Alabama Office of Apprenticeship (AOA) as the state moves to expand a program that elevates the skill levels of workers.In his new role, Laney will partner with industries and education providers across the state to develop and expand traditional and industry-recognized apprenticeships for youth and adults.  He will also lead the AOA’s support of larger workforce development infrastructure for Alabama to identify and promote the recognition and use of valuable credentials.

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Laney previously served as senior director for Workforce Development at the Alabama State Department of Education, where he supported local school system efforts to align the career technical training initiatives with workforce needs.

With over 20 years of experience in education, Laney’s career path has taken him from the classroom to administrative leadership in junior high and high school settings before assuming the role of career technical director for Phenix City Schools in 2011.

Under Laney’s leadership, the AOA will expand Alabama’s registered apprenticeship opportunities, resulting in additional skilled employees in the workforce and increased economic activity for Alabama.

“The Alabama Office of Apprenticeship is a game changer. Having someone like Josh who is passionate about education and dedicated to the growth and preparedness of our workforce is a home run for Alabama,” said Castile, who heads Commerce’s Workforce Development Division.

MEETING DEMANDS

The establishment of the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship represents another step in Alabama’s strategic efforts to develop a comprehensive workforce system. Apprenticeship programs allow the state to meet the current and future demands of business and industry, while also creating greater opportunities for Alabamians.

Registered apprenticeship programs are innovative work-based learning opportunities that rely on business involvement and provide on-the-job training while also providing wages from employers during training.

Apprenticeship sponsors develop highly skilled employees, while reducing turnover rates and increasing productivity.

Alabama has five industry focused sectors for apprenticeships:  Healthcare, Construction/Carpentry, Information Technology, Distribution/Transportation & Logistics and Advance Manufacturing.

“The success of Apprenticeship Alabama over the last few years made us realize that we needed to go bigger,” Castile said. “With Josh’s extensive background in workforce development and education it was natural fit for agency.”

Laney’s appointment follows the passage of Senate Bill 295, sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, which not only established the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship but also expanded the Apprenticeship Alabama Tax Credit from $1,000 to $1,250.

The legislation also increased the number of apprentices one employer may claim from five to 10, as well as the tax credit cap from $3 million to $7.5 million, and established the Alabama Apprenticeship Council.

The AOA will serve as the registration agency for all registered apprenticeships in the state of Alabama.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Record year for foreign investment sparks growth in Alabama

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

With major new growth projects moving forward across Alabama, foreign direct investment continues to play a vital role in the state’s economy, building on a record total of foreign investment approaching $4.2 billion last year.These FDI projects represent major job-creation engines for many Alabama communities.

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Last year, companies from 16 different countries launched projects with more than 7,500 new jobs. So far in 2019, FDI projects approaching $1 billion in value will bring another 3,300 jobs to the state, according to an Alabama Department of Commerce estimate.

In Enterprise, Tier 1 auto supplier Hwaseung Automotive Alabama (HSAA) in March announced plans to add 168 jobs to its Alabama operation through a $6 million expansion that represents Coffee County’s largest FDI project in four years.

HSAA, which launched its Alabama operation in 2003 with 20 employees, will have nearly 600 when the new hires are added, said Jonathan Tullos, executive director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. Its last major expansion in Enterprise came in 2015.

HSAA, which produces weather-stripping and air conditioner hoses, serves Hyundai’s Montgomery assembly plant, along with Kia, Chrysler and General Motors. Its Alabama-made products are found in more than a dozen automobiles.

“Having a company like HSAA make an investment in Enterprise is a ringing endorsement of the quality of workforce and opportunities that exist in our area,” Tullos said.

“We have seen in the past that these investments can yield additional job-creation opportunities from other companies looking for a home.”

One example: Advanced Carrier Products, whose parent company is based in Germany, opened a manufacturing operation in Enterprise to supply metal inserts to HSAA.

FDI IMPACT

Similar stories have played out in a number of Alabama communities in recent years, particularly as growth in the state’s auto industry has intensified.

Select USA, a federal government program that facilitates foreign investment in the U.S., says the Alabama operations of foreign-owned companies employ 109,000 people in the state. Read a report.

Since 2013, FDI projects in Alabama have involved nearly $13 billion in new capital investment, generating almost 25,000 jobs, according to estimates from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

FDI typically accounts for 30 to 50 percent of new and expanding industry activity in the state each year, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Clearly, this is a huge priority for us as a state, and we’re fortunate to have a diverse base of industries, along with a highly-skilled workforce, to attract and retain these commitments from global manufacturers year after year,” Secretary Canfield said.

Not all FDI flowing into Alabama is tied to the auto industry.

In fact, foreign investment recorded in 2018 originated from a diverse slate of sources in a variety of industries.

Major FDI projects now under way include French planemaker Airbus’ $264 million, 432-job expansion of its Mobile manufacturing plant, and the $101 million, 150-job expansion of the Calhoun County plant operated by Austria-based Kronospan, a leading manufacturer of wood-based panel products.

Other big projects were Haier U.S. Appliance Solutions Inc., part of a China-based conglomerate and parent company of GE Appliance, which announced a $115 million, 255-job expansion of its Decatur refrigerator plant.

In Mobile, Swedish steelmaker SSAB is investing $100 million, adding 60 jobs and relocating its North American headquarters from suburban Chicago.

FDI HORSEPOWER

Alabama has seen significant increases in FDI in the automotive sector over the past 25 years, thanks to the growing operations of foreign automakers Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai, and their sprawling supplier networks.

Toyota has also played a major role. Earlier this year, Toyota announced a $288 million expansion at its Huntsville engine plant, where it will add two new production lines and 450 workers. The project will push the investment in the plant to $1.2 billion and its workforce for more than 1,800.

Meanwhile, just miles away, construction on the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA joint venture auto assembly plant is well under way. After production begins in 2021, the facility will have up to 4,000 workers.

Already, suppliers have begun circling the plant, bringing $380 million in new investment and nearly 1,500 jobs. More announcements are expected in 2019.

For Alabama, 2018 was a banner year for automotive FDI.

In addition to the new Mazda Toyota factory, other major projects included Mercedes-Benz’s new $268 million, 325-job EV battery plant in Bibb County, along with a $495.5 million expansion at the automaker’s Tuscaloosa County campus.

Elsewhere in the auto industry, Hyundai constructed a $388 million facility for engine manufacturing operations in Montgomery, and Honda announced plans to spend $55 million to improve weld operations and add more than 50,000 square feet at its Talladega County factory.

According to Select USA data, Alabama has attracted 114 auto-related FDI projects.

TARGETING INVESTMENT

Like other areas of the state, Tullos said Enterprise and Coffee County are making moves to position their region for future investment opportunities by focusing on education and workforce development.

“Our workforce is anchored by one of the best K-12 school systems in the state of Alabama as well as the efforts of Enterprise State Community College President Matt Rodgers, who recently launched a mechatronics program to support companies like HSAA,” he said.

The mechatronics program, offered at the Alabama Aviation College in Ozark beginning this fall, will train workers for high-demand industrial automation careers that focus on electrical, mechanical and computer engineering.

There are similar programs in place to assist Mercedes and Toyota. In addition, Alabama has rolled out initiatives including Success Plus and Apprenticeship Alabama that are designed to fill the pipeline of skilled workers needed in the future.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Marshall Space Flight Center to lead NASA lander program in return to moon

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today announced that the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville will lead the agency’s Human Landing System Program for its return to the Moon by 2024.

Bridenstine made the announcement in front of the 149-foot-tall Space Launch System (SLS) rocket liquid hydrogen tank structural test article currently being tested at NASA’s Alabama installation.

He was joined at the event by U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks and Robert Aderholt of Alabama and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today by our representatives in Congress for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the Moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said.

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Illustration of a lunar lander on the Moon (Photo: NASA)

“We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”

‘UNIQUE CAPABILITIES’

Informed by years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with U.S. companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the Moon.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said.

“Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers. I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the Moon and usher in the Artemis era.”

Aderholt said Marshall is the perfect pick to lead the Human Landing System Program.

“Marshall Space Flight Center, and North Alabama, have played a key role in every American human mission to space since the days of Mercury 7. I am proud that Marshall has been selected to be the lead for the landers program,” Aderholt said.

“I am also very proud that Marshall has designed and built the rocket system, the Space Launch System, which will make missions to the Moon and Mars possible. We look forward to working with our industry partners and our NASA partners from around the country.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

RELATED: Alabamian selected to oversee key part of Artemis Moon mission

2 months ago

Commerce taps Brenda Tuck as first rural development manager

(Made in Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, yesterday announced that Brenda Tuck has been hired as the department’s first rural development manager to assist rural counties and communities better compete for job-creating projects.

Tuck previously served in Commerce’s Workforce Development Division as Regional Workforce Council Liaison, working closely with the councils, employers and educators to ensure that the workforce needs of businesses are being met at a local level. Before joining Commerce in 2016, she served in economic development positions in Southwest Alabama, including Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties.

“Brenda has extensive experience working on the front lines of economic development in rural Alabama counties, so she knows the specific challenges these areas face when it comes to competing for projects,” Secretary Canfield said.

“Her background in both economic and workforce development makes her the ideal choice to help rural communities navigate the economic development process.”

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In her new role, Tuck will provide technical assistance to rural communities under consideration for economic development projects, as well as ongoing assistance and training for rural communities seeking to enhance their competitiveness for new investment and jobs.

“Rural communities in Alabama can benefit from having a go-to person who can connect them with the resources they need to improve their economic development prospects,” Tuck said. “I look forward to working with the leaders from rural counties and communities across the state in this important role.”

Tuck served as director of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority between 2012 and 2016, focusing on industrial recruitment and existing industry retention and expansion. While in Linden, she also served as an ambassador for rural issues affecting Southwest Alabama and directed a small business incubator.

Before that, Tuck spent seven years as a partner with Alford & Associates LLC, an economic and community development consulting firm in Selma, and five years in economic development at Pioneer Electric Cooperative Inc., also in Selma.

“Brenda will work with our business development team and liaise with our project managers to help us be more successful in rural areas,” said Ted Clem, director of the Business Development Division at Commerce.

“I think having someone on our staff who wakes up every day thinking about the needs of rural Alabama is a great first step that will help us devise future strategies for our team.”

SPARKING RURAL DEVELOPMENT

The creation of the first-ever rural development manager position in Commerce’s Business Development Division is another step in a broader strategic effort to spur job creation in rural areas across the state.

In July 2015, Alabama began offering enhanced incentives for companies locating qualified projects in rural or “Targeted Counties.” Since then, 16 projects involving $1 billion in capital investment and nearly 1,400 new jobs in these counties have received incentives through the Alabama Jobs Act.

Earlier this year, the Legislature approved the “Alabama Incentives Modernization Act,” which increases the number of counties eligible for enhanced incentives.

Commerce is also collaborating the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Rural Development Committee to formulate new strategies to promote economic development in the state’s rural areas.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)

2 months ago

Milestone: Airbus launches A220 production at Alabama facility

(Airbus U.S./Twitter)

MOBILE, Alabama — Airbus announced today that it has begun manufacturing A220 aircraft at its Alabama production facility, a key milestone in growth plans that will see the company add a second assembly line at its Mobile facility and hire more than 400 new workers at the site.

The first team of A220 production workers began work at Airbus’ Mobile production facility following their recent return from on-the-job training in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, where the A220 program and primary final assembly line are located.

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“The expansion of our commercial aircraft production in Mobile to a second product line—with 400 additional jobs to support it—further solidifies Airbus’ standing as a truly global aircraft manufacturer, and confirms without a doubt that Airbus is an important part of America’s manufacturing landscape,” said Airbus Americas chairman and CEO C. Jeffrey Knittel.

“With Mobile, and our production network in Asia, Canada and Europe, we have strategically created a worldwide industrial base to better serve our customers.”

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

Airbus announced plans for the addition of A220 manufacturing in Mobile in October 2017.

Construction on the main A220 flowline hangar and other support buildings for the new A220 began at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley industrial complex at the beginning of this year. Work on the project is proceeding rapidly, according to Birmingham-based HPM, the program manager.

Airbus is producing the first few aircraft within some current A320 family buildings and newly-built support hangars. The first U.S.-made A220 – an A220-300 destined for Delta Air Lines – is scheduled for delivery in the third quarter of 2020.

By the middle of next decade, the facility will produce between 40 and 50 A220 aircraft per year.

Airbus began producing A320 aircraft at its $600 million Alabama manufacturing plant in late 2015. To date, the company has delivered more than 130 aircraft to eight different airlines, with Delta claiming the most, with 52 deliveries.

More than 800 people are now working at the Airbus assembly line. The company employs an additional 220 at an engineering center in Mobile and has another 70 or so Space and Defense employees in the city, pushing its total employment in Alabama to around 1,100. More hiring is under way, with assistance from AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)

3 months ago

Auto supplier Motus Integrated Technologies chooses Alabama for new plant

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Governor Kay Ivey announced that Motus Integrated Technologies, a Tier 1 supplier of automotive interior products to the world’s automakers, has selected the City of Gadsden, in Etowah County, as the location for its new manufacturing facility.

Motus will invest over $15 million and create 90 new jobs at the facility, which will manufacture interior automotive parts and headliners.

Working closely with the State of Alabama and local leaders, Motus conducted an exhaustive search for its new plant location before deciding to build in Gadsden. The site is close to a heavy concentration of automotive manufacturing facilities within the region, and several current and potential customers.

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“Motus is a premier global automotive supplier and we are thrilled that they have selected the State of Alabama and Gadsden as the site for their new facility,” Governor Ivey said.

“We’re excited to partner with the company as they invest millions into a new manufacturing plant in Gadsden and create 90 new jobs. This is yet another example of how Alabama continues to lead the way in growing manufacturing here at home,” she added.

GROWTH TRENDS

The project announced today involves the creation of 90 new jobs, with an anticipated average wage of over $20 per hour, and a commitment by Motus to invest $15 million in construction of the Gadsden facility and related technology.

Motus will bring its “Safety First” culture to the plant, along with state-of-the art headliner forming, injection molding and assembly operations. Construction of the facility is slated to start in the coming weeks and is anticipated to be concluded in mid-2020.

“The primary mission of Alabama’s economic development team is to help high-caliber companies like Motus grow and create jobs in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Motus’ decision to locate a manufacturing plant in Gadsden is great news for the community and for the state’s expanding auto sector.”

Motus’ plans for the new Alabama facility build upon powerful growth trends in the state’s auto industry. It will also allow Motus to capitalize on the rapidly growing automotive industry across the broader Southeastern United States. In 2018 alone, auto manufacturing companies announced new Alabama projects involving nearly $3.3 billion in capital investment and almost 5,500 anticipated jobs.

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP

Motus is a leading provider of headliners, automotive interior door and console armrests to the world’s leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (“OEMs”) and Tier 1’s. It holds a leading market position in this sector and has one of the industry’s broadest and most technologically advanced product portfolios.

The company operates a global manufacturing platform with over 2,000 employees operating its five current facilities. Motus is a trusted employer and valued community partner, and its customer relationships average more than two decades in length.

“It was clear from the beginning of our process to find a location for this new facility that Governor Ivey, Secretary Canfield, the State of Alabama and the leaders in Gadsden wanted Motus to call their community home, and we are excited to make that happen,” said Shannon White, chief executive officer of Motus.

“Motus prides itself on ensuring the safety of our team each day, the superior quality of our products, the partnership with our community and the outstanding service we provide to our customers. This new plant will allow for each of those principles to be achieved. We cannot wait to welcome new colleagues and get to work in Gadsden.”

‘IMPORTANT PROJECT’

Gadsden and area officials welcomed Motus’ plans for the facility.

“This is a great day for Gadsden, and we are proud to be able to recruit high-paying jobs and welcome an innovative company like Motus to our community and our state,” Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton said. “This is confirmation that our ongoing investment in infrastructure, education, and the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority, has enabled us to compete with other areas to land this important worldwide automotive supplier.

“We are thankful for the support and trust of Governor Ivey and Secretary Canfield, and for Motus in locating this important project in our city,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

HPM: Airbus A220 assembly line project gaining momentum in Alabama

(HPM/Contributed)

MOBILE, Alabama – On the campus of Airbus’ Alabama manufacturing facility, construction crews are completing the early phases of a project that represents the next chapter of the aerospace company’s U.S. growth plans.

Work on the A220 aircraft assembly line in Mobile is moving forward rapidly, just months after high-ranking Airbus executives joined state and local leaders at an official groundbreaking ceremony at the site.

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“We are well into construction,” said Greg Ellis, vice president for program development at HPM, the Birmingham-based firm overseeing the project. “The site is full of tower cranes and tons of yellow equipment. It looks like ants on a hill right at the moment.”

For HPM, the new project is a déjà vu moment. The firm oversaw the construction of Airbus’ A320 Family manufacturing facility at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley industrial park, a $600 million investment that gave the aircraft maker its first U.S.-based commercial aircraft assembly site.

The facility now being built on the Mobile campus is also strategically significant as it will allow Airbus to produce a second aircraft type in Alabama — the single-aisle A220 passenger jet to meet the demands of U.S. airlines.

It’s also an extension of the partnership the Alabama firm has forged with Airbus.

“The relationship with Airbus has played an integral role in the growth of HPM, and we’re honored to expand our partnership on the new A220 assembly line,” said Ryan Austin, chief operations officer at HPM. “Through past projects, we have cultivated a mutual respect and keen understanding of the strategic processes and objectives for each organization.

“Those symmetries will enable us to deliver a top-caliber facility that will help Airbus to achieve its production goals and will ultimately contribute to increased growth and prosperity for the city of Mobile and state of Alabama,” he said.

RENEWED PARTNERSHIPS

Though the groundbreaking ceremony was staged just five months ago, HPM’s work on the project actually started in Spring 2018, when it began working on programming efforts with Airbus and its A220 partner, Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier, according to Ellis.

HPM then teamed with the engineering and development firm Mott MacDonald, a partner on the A320 project, to draw up a master plan and assemble the design build and construction teams for the new project.

HPM tapped Brasfield & Gorrie, which built the A320 assembly line, for the same role in the A220 project. Another Birmingham-based firm, BL Harbert International, is adding four additional hangar bays to support A220 and A320 production.

Both are moving forward for a fast-track delivery for Airbus, which aims to begin assembling A220 aircraft at the site this summer.

Ellis said BL Harbert has topped out the steel structures for the new bays and begun pouring slabs and enclosing the buildings. Brasfield & Gorrie is already into steel construction and prepping areas for an underground tunnel that will run within the assembly line.

“They’ve got all the foundation systems installed and all of the temporary shoring. They are closing in on about 50 percent completion with the building of the final assembly line,” Ellis said. “Over the next 60 days, we’ll start to install roof and exterior wall systems once they get the steel far enough along.”

A future phase of the project calls for an expansion of the delivery center on the Airbus campus, where more than 120 Alabama-made A320 Family aircraft have already been delivered to eight U.S.-based airline customers.

“This will be a nice enhancement to the facility there and will bring a little more prominence and ceremony to the delivery of aircraft in Mobile,” Ellis said.

Once the new facility is at full production, Airbus plans to build four A220 aircraft each month.

The company is hiring more than 400 new workers to staff the new assembly line and is also adding jobs to increase production of A320 Family aircraft in Alabama. Read a story on Airbus’ hiring plans.

MEETING GOALS

The A220 project’s accelerated timeline has prompted HPM to take a different approach than the one it used with the original assembly line.

“This is a bit more streamlined. We are designing while building, while we are prepping for equipment to be installed, so that as soon as things are tested and approved, we can begin working with the operations team to bring aircraft through the facility,” Ellis said.

Another challenge for HPM is that the heavy-duty construction work must be performed on the site of a major manufacturing facility.

“We cannot in any way, shape, form or fashion impact their ongoing operations. That is a unique challenge in and of itself,” he said.

‘LAUNCHING PAD’

Since completing the A320 assembly line project for Airbus, HPM has been involved in several large-scale aerospace and aviation projects, including Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new advanced manufacturing facility in Huntsville, and expansion projects for MRO companies VT MAE and HAECO America.

Earlier this year, HPM was selected to help Boom Aviation locate, design and build a manufacturing facility for its planned supersonic airliner. Two years ago, HPM began its work alongside the properties and facilities teams of FedEx Express throughout the U.S. managing airport and runway projects, enhancing sorting facilities and renovating offices.

“The A320 project was really our launching pad into aerospace and aviation,” Ellis said.

Since then, HPM has also worked with global manufacturers such as Continental Tire and Mercedes-Benz, which is adding a second campus to its industrial footprint in Alabama.

“When you work for an international client the size and magnitude of Airbus, and you satisfy and please them, the rest of the world stands up and takes notice,” Ellis said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama team uncovers potential projects at 2019 Paris Air Show

(B. Smith/Contributed)

PARIS – Alabama’s business recruitment team wrapped up its efforts at the 2019 Paris Air Show Thursday, after engaging in around 20 appointments with high-ranking aerospace executives, along with many informal encounters with industry officials.
Over three days in Paris’ Le Bourget airfield, the Alabama aerospace recruitment effort uncovered seven potential projects and advanced the recruitment of five active projects that could be on their way to their state.

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On Monday, when Governor Kay Ivey and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield were present, the team engaged in nine scheduled appointments with aerospace companies, as well as several impromptu discussions with industry executives.

Governor Ivey said she asked the economic development specialists in Paris to focus on one goal — persuade aerospace companies from around the globe that the ideal location for new investments and jobs is Alabama.

“Our trip was productive and focused on advancing active projects currently in the pipeline. Our appointments this week were positive, and there is a strong chance they will lead to job-creating projects,” she said.

“The fact that our Alabama team had access to executives from top global aerospace firms demonstrates that Alabama is positioned for growth in the short term, and very importantly, in the future.”

The effort continued on Tuesday and Wednesday with additional appointments at Le Bourget conducted by Bob Smith, the Alabama Department of Commerce’s point man on aerospace.

Secretary Canfield said expanding the aerospace supply chain in the state is key as major players in the industry solidify their manufacturing footprint across Alabama. The state’s aerospace manufacturing employment base has grown by more than 1,000 jobs in the past year, providing a glimpse of more potential gains.

“The supply chain was an important strategic focus for us at the Paris Air Show this year,” Secretary Canfield said. “With aerospace investment coming into the state, it’s key for us to facilitate the development of the supply chain for companies like Airbus, ULA and Aerojet Rocketdyne.”

PRODUCTIVE MISSION

Smith said the European air shows at Paris and at Farnborough near London represent important business events for the state because foreign direct investment is extensive in Alabama’s aerospace cluster. He believes the recruiting and marketing strategy at this year’s air show was the most productive in the past several years.

“The state team was prepared with a well-balanced agenda of scheduled appointments with projects we are pursuing, companies with existing operations in Alabama, and targeted supply-chain companies we want to bring to the state,” said Smith, whose title at Commerce is assistant director of business development-European strategy.

The Alabama team’s formal appointment list at the 2019 Paris Air Show included companies such as the United Launch AllianceBlue OriginCarpenter TechnologyRaytheonGKN Aerospace and GE Aviation.

The team also connected with high-ranking military officials and top government officials such Wilbur Ross, secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Jim Birdenstine, administrator of NASA.

“Being able to leverage Alabama’s top officials at the show to discuss and negotiate both existing projects and new opportunities directly with a company’s highest officials and decision-makers is extremely helpful to our effort,” Smith said.

“Recruitment of aerospace companies is highly competitive, and we met our goals this year in all three areas.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

At Paris Air Show, Deloitte gives major gift to advance Alabama Cyber School

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

PARIS — Deloitte presented a $100,000 gift to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering Foundation Tuesday in a ceremony at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

The donation is a combination of a financial contribution as well as in-kind support. This donation is intended to promote and advance the state magnet school, which opens in Huntsville in August 2020.

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Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle accepted the check on behalf of Deloitte from Ray Winn, a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP and a cyber leader.

“One of the primary conversations we are having here at the Paris Air Show is the need to secure aviation and missile platforms,” Mayor Battle said. “To do so requires a workforce that understands how cyber systems interact with hardware.

“This school sets the foundation blocks for creating those platforms.”

Carey Miller, a managing director at Deloitte & Touche LLP, said the firm has been committed to the success of the Huntsville community since opening its office there six years ago.

“The Huntsville community recognizes that cyber is everywhere and that by investing in education, it can be the nation’s cyber leader,” Miller said.

The independent residential magnet school will provide academically motivated 7th through 12th grade students from across the state with educational opportunities and experiences in the rapidly growing fields of cyber technology and engineering.

The school will also assist a broad range of teachers, administrators, and superintendents across the State of Alabama in replicating cyber technology and engineering studies in their own schools.

Deloitte is one of the largest professional service organizations in the world.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

New scholarship program will send tomorrow’s astronauts to Space Camp

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

PARIS — A new international education program to reward aspiring young space explorers and their teachers with a hands-on astronaut training experience at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s renowned Space Camp in Huntsville was launched Tuesday at the 2019 Paris Air Show.

The “Astronaut Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship” invites students and educators in host communities of major international airshows to compete for an all-expenses paid week at Space Camp.

The program is named for the Apollo 15 Command Module Pilot and global advocate for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

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The new initiative was unveiled by Tom Kallman, president and CEO of international trade show organizer Kallman Worldwide, at the “Tribute to Apollo 50” VIP reception in the company’s Paris Air Show Partnership Chalet.

“The 50th Anniversary of Apollo’s success provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the positive impact that space programs have had on society, and re-emphasize the need for continued support of public and private initiatives dedicated to aerospace exploration and commerce,” Kallman said.

“In partnership with our event partners around the world, industry partners in the United States and the leaders of Space Camp, the world’s premiere astronaut training experience, we’re proud to launch the Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship to honor the past and inspire the future of space exploration.”

HEIGHTENING CONNECTIONS

Sixteen student awards and four teacher awards will be made each year beginning this fall. Participating airshows include Avalon (the Australian International Airshow), Bahrain Airshow, Dubai Airshow, FIDAE (Santiago, Chile), Japan Aerospace, Paris Air Show, the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Singapore Airshow.

Since 1982, Space Camp has provided the next generation of astronauts, engineers and scientists with an immersive program that includes astronaut training and simulated space missions.

Space Camp alumni include NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts, as well as engineers, scientists and technologists around the world.

“The Space Camp experience bonds like-minded space explorers through their training, missions and team experience,” said Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

“Creating lasting relationships among nations is key to living and working in space and to accomplishing mankind’s next giant leap forward. In that same spirit, the Astronaut Al Worden Endeavour Scholarship heightens connections around the globe to achieve success in space for years to come.”

STEM PIPELINE

Endeavour scholarships will be awarded based on merit by select stakeholders in participating air show communities, and reviewed by a Space Camp team that includes Worden.

He will announce the first Endeavour Scholarships this November at the 2019 Dubai Airshow, and plans to visit with scholarship winners during their Space Camp tours.

“When you consider the decades of rigor and discipline it’s going to take to successfully put people from Earth on Mars, and that getting to Mars is just one of the countless engineering challenges we face on our own planet today, we need to pick up the pace,” Worden said.

“The pipeline for STEM talent can handle a lot more volume, and Space Camp is a proven connection.”

Worden was on hand for the announcement, joining Apollo program alumni Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7) and Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), along with representatives of 12 international space agencies and government and military officials.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Day 1 for Alabama’s Paris Air Show team features 9 meetings

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

PARIS – The Alabama business development team entered Day 1 of the 2019 Paris Air Show with a full slate of appointments with major aerospace companies that could have the state in their future growth plans.

“We begin Day 1 of the air show with the goal of working with the governor to connect with a number of companies,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “It’s an important day for us. It’s going to be a busy day. We believe it will be a very productive day.”

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Secretary Canfield said he and Governor Kay Ivey have nine scheduled appointments at Le Bourget, the historic Paris airfield that provides the setting for the aerospace industry’s largest business event in 2019.

The day will also include impromptu encounters with company executives, military officers, and top elected officials.

Companies on the Alabama team’s meeting schedule include the United Launch AllianceRaytheon, GKN AerospaceCarpenter Technology and GE Aviation.

“Several of them have near-term growth opportunities, meaning one to three years, so it’s important for us in this venue to get a better understanding how they envision their future,” Secretary Canfield said.

“We need to understand what these businesses are going to like, not today, but five to 10 years from now.”

KEY MESSAGES

The team’s first appointment today focused on ULA, which produces Atlas V and Delta IV rockets at a sprawling factory in Decatur. That factory is now being prepared to build ULA’s next-generation launch system, the Vulcan Centaur.

The Alabama team met with ULA Tory Bruno and other company officials. Joining Governor Ivey and Secretary Canfield were Jo Bonner, the governor’s chief of staff, and Bob Smith, the Commerce Department’s point man on aerospace.

Governor Ivey, who spoke at a kick-off breakfast for the mission on Sunday, said she has a simple message she is delivering in Paris.

“The future of the aerospace industry is being Made in Alabama,” she said. “That’s the message I’m taking to decision-makers at the 2019 Paris Air Show.”

Secretary Canfield said aerospace companies in Alabama are most keenly interested in how the state can help meet their workforce development needs and how their supply chains can be supported.

He said the Paris Air Show mission is a critical priority for Alabama’s business development team.

“Aerospace is important to Alabama because it is technology-driven. It is an industry that is highly dependent on technical skills, and that translates into high-wage career opportunities for Alabamians across the state.”

Business development teams from Huntsville, Mobile, Auburn, the Wiregrass area, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham/Jefferson County are also present at the air show.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama team targets international connections at SelectUSA Investment Summit

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama is home to a diverse lineup of international companies, and the state’s business recruiters are looking to expand those ranks.

The economic development team is in Washington D.C. at the 2019 SelectUSA Investment Summit, which starts today and is the premier foreign direct investment (FDI) event in the U.S.

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FDI is a significant part of Alabama’s economy. Last year alone, it came from 16 different countries, for a total of $4.2 billion in investment and 7,520 new and future jobs.

Since 2013, the state has attracted $12.8 billion in FDI, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce. It’s spread across a variety of sectors, including automotive, aerospace and bioscience.

“Team Alabama is looking to capitalize on a record-breaking year for FDI in the state, by continuing to build partnerships with world-class international companies looking to grow in the U.S.,” said Vince Perez, a project manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

SHOWCASING ALABAMA

SelectUSA is led by the U.S. Department of Commerce, and its annual summit regularly attracts top industry leaders and investors from around the globe. This year’s event is expected to draw more than 2,800 attendees from more than 70 international markets and 49 U.S. states and territories.

Participants of the past five summits have announced $103.6 billion in greenfield FDI in the U.S. within five years of attending, supporting more than 167,000 U.S. jobs.

“We are excited to have another opportunity to showcase Alabama’s vibrant business climate that’s been cultivated over the years through business-friendly policies,” Perez said.

“This year’s Investment Summit is very timely as we will be armed with the recently passed Incentives Modernization Act, which upgraded our already-strong incentive tool kit, making us more marketable than ever.”

The measure targets counties that have had slower economic growth. In particular, it expands the number of rural counties that qualify for investment and tax credit incentives. It also enhances incentives for technology companies.

Joining the Commerce Department at the SelectUSA Summit are PowerSouth, the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Alabama Power Co., and Spire.

Speakers at the summit will include key government and industry leaders who will discuss opportunities in a broad range of areas and industries, such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture and technology.

FDI supports nearly 14 million American jobs, and it is responsible for $370 billion in U.S. goods exports. The U.S. has more FDI than any other country, topping $4 trillion.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing embraces Alabama hometown’s space roots

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA is taking a cue from its Alabama hometown’s leadership role in the nation’s space program by naming its two assembly lines “Apollo” and “Discovery.”

“Thanks to our team members’ creativity and innovative thinking, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to name our two future assembly lines Apollo and Discovery in a nod to our city’s heritage as the birthplace of our nation’s space program,” said Mark Brazeal, vice president for administration at the joint venture.

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“The scores of brilliant men and women who worked tirelessly to further mankind’s progress and exploration into the unknown gives our team motivation to add to the Rocket City’s history as a producer of world-class vehicles,” he added.

Apollo, of course, was NASA’s program that put American astronauts on the Moon. The Space Shuttle Discovery completed 39 missions, more than any of NASA’s orbiters. Discovery launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit and became the first U.S. spacecraft piloted by a female astronaut, Eileen Collins.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville played a major role in both the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing said today that construction of its $1.6 billion auto assembly plant in Huntsville remains on schedule. Up to 4,000 jobs will created, and hiring is already under way. Production at the facility is scheduled to begin in 2021.

The partnership announced plans for the factory, which will produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually, in early 2018.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama delegation travels to Montréal for SEUS-CP Alliance conference

(Made in Alabama)

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield will lead an Alabama delegation to Montréal for the 12th edition of the Southeastern United States-Canadian Provinces Alliance Conference, an annual gathering that showcases common economic ties and a strong trade relationship.

SEUS-CP, as the conference is known, runs Sunday through Tuesday in the Québec’s largest city. The event, whose theme this year is “Prosperity Through Smart Mobility,” includes networking opportunities, business-to-business meetings and high-level panel discussions.

Secretary Canfield said the SEUS-CP conference provides a platform to identify new areas of common ground to form new partnerships, fuel investments and create jobs in Southeastern and Canadian communities.

“Through this annual event we continue to successfully strengthen our state’s trade and investment relationship with Canada by developing and renewing relationships with our counterparts in the six provinces,” he said.

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The New Flyer bus manufacturing facility in Anniston employs around 750 people. New Flyer is among the dozens of Canadian companies with operations in Alabama and across the Southeast. (Image: New Flyer)

“One of the successes comes from the opportunity for business and industry leaders from each member state and province to participate in the exchange of ideas and development of new business partnerships.”

ECONOMIC BONDS

Canada is a Top 5 foreign investor in Alabama, as well as a major trade partner, figures from the Alabama Department of Commerce show.

Since 2014, Canadian companies have poured more than $1 billion in new capital investment into Alabama, creating more than 1,800 jobs. Last year alone, Canadian companies invested $67 million in Alabama projects that sparked the creation of 222 jobs, figures show.

Meanwhile, two-way trade between Alabama and Canada is brisk. Alabama companies exported just over $4 billion in goods such as motor vehicles, industrial machinery, stell and aircraft parts to Canada in 2018. In return, Canadian companies sent $3.1 billion in goods to Alabama.

“The state of Alabama values its ties with Canada and views the U.S.-Canada relationship as truly special. We are linked together in so many ways and are more than buyers and sellers of one another’s products,” Secretary Canfield said.

“In this day and time, it is critical that the SEUS-CP alliance continues to fulfill its mission to develop common strategic goals and open the door for trade between the member provinces and states,” he added.

Economic ties with Canada figure prominently in the overall SEUS region, which along with Alabama includes Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

CONFERENCE GOALS

Alabama companies and organizations included in the delegation for SEUS-CP are Auburn’s Archangel Systems, a maker of aircraft avionics; Mobile’s Page & Jones Inc., a shipping logistics firm; and Birmingham’s Regions Bank.

Bill Dillard, director of sales and marketing at Archangel, said SEUS-CP represents an important event for his company, thanks to the high-caliber delegates present from both Canada and the Southeastern states.

Dillard said Archangel is seeking to expand its brand in the Canadian aerospace sector, develop relationships with representatives of U.S. companies at the conference, and conduct a scheduled off-site meeting with a major avionics manufacturer.

“The flexibility of the SEUS-CP itinerary makes that possible,” he said. “It’s hard to believe we get all of that done in just two days.”

Corey Jones, director of operations at Innovation PortAL, a Mobile entrepreneurial hub, said SEUS-CP will provide him with the opportunity to gain new insights on best practices and to make valuable connections.

“I’m thrilled for this opportunity, and I’m also greatly looking forward to remaining in Montréal for the global summit on smart mobility, Movin’On,” Jones said.

“My hope is to walk away from this visit with a better understanding of opportunities for smart mobility in south Alabama and to form relationships that are fruitful for Innovation PortAL clients and mentors.”

WORKING TOGETHER

Joining Secretary Canfield in the delegation are Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, and trade officials from across the state, including Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s Office of International Trade.

Lockhart said companies involved in this year conference have the opportunity to meet with Canadian and Southeastern counterparts in the smart mobility sector, which involves novel information technologies and advances in transportation modes and systems.

“The SEUS-CP conference is unique in that it includes a robust business-to-business matchmaking program that encourages trade and business development between the member regions,” Lockhart said.

“Aside from the B2B meetings, the conference provides a platform to discuss how the Canadian and U.S. business communities can work together to protect our vital bilateral relationship and to advocate even greater cooperation,” she added.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

$125 million solar project heading to rural Montgomery County

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

A utility-scale solar project, developed with a $125 million investment, is planned for rural Montgomery County.

The project from Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA) and Lightsource BP will be one of the largest solar arrays in Alabama when it reaches completion in 2021, deploying over 350,000 solar panels across 800 acres.

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“AMEA and Montgomery County have been excellent partners for Lightsource BP, and we look forward to our continued collaboration as we bring this exciting project online in the coming years,” said Kevin Smith, CEO (Americas) of Lightsource BP.

“Alabama offers tremendous potential for large-scale solar, and our efforts here underscore the exciting opportunity to develop clean, low-cost, and low-impact renewable energy in the region,” he added.

The Montgomery array is the latest in a string of solar projects across Alabama.

Lightsource BP will finance, develop, build, own, and operate the 130 MWDC / 100 MWAC solar energy project located 15 miles from AMEA’s headquarters in Montgomery. AMEA will purchase the energy under a 20-year power purchase agreement and supply clean energy to its 11 member utilities located across the state.

The facility will generate enough electricity to power more than 20,000 homes.

“AMEA is excited to bring cost-effective, locally-sourced solar energy to our Member communities,” said Fred Clark, president and CEO of AMEA. “We evaluated solar projects across the Southeast and were fortunate to partner on a great project with Lightsource BP right here in our own backyard.”

Lightsource BP and its project investors will invest approximately $125 million into the solar facility. The firm has deployed $3.4 billion in solar assets over the past six years and manages solar projects with a capacity of 2 GW.

In addition to other benefits, the project will contribute more than $5 million in property tax revenue to county schools over the 35-year project life, according to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This project will provide considerable support to Montgomery County schools, dollars the school systems otherwise would not receive,” said Montgomery County Commission Chair Elton Dean.

“This is a major economic development project for the rural part of our county and will bring in a strong corporate partner in Lightsource BP.”

While the facility will be AMEA’s largest solar project to date, it is not the organization’s first. The electric authority is currently in the process of installing 50 kW solar research projects in each of its member communities and has completed eight so far.

AMEA has been studying solar energy since 2016 when it completed its initial 50 kW solar research facility immediately adjacent to its headquarters.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)