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.

2 days ago

Ag equipment maker AGCO expands in Alabama with 50 jobs at new line

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

BREMEN, Alabama – Agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO Corp. announced plans today to invest $5.7 million to relocate production of its Farmer Automatic Aviary Systems to Cullman County as part of a project that will create 50 jobs.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined company officials and local leaders at AGCO’s facility in unincorporated Bremen for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on a 32,000-square-foot expansion that will house the new production line.

“AGCO’s addition of the Farmer Automatic production line in Bremen is a significant step for this area and for all of rural Alabama. I’m very grateful that these products will now, not only be Made in America, but also Made in Alabama,” Governor Ivey said.

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“Today, we’re celebrating 50 more Alabamians earning a wage, and as a native of rural Alabama, I’m proud that we’re also celebrating the fact that companies can, indeed, thrive in rural Alabama,” she added.

Duluth, Georgia-based AGCO’s Farmer Automatic line offers innovative products for ultramodern poultry farming. Farmer’s Automatic’s pullet rearing technology allows farmers to take advantage of automation to boost efficiency.

The Farmer Automatic production line is moving from Laer, Germany, to the facility in Bremen where AGCO began operations 10 years ago. The company is also marking a decade without a work stop accident at the Alabama facility.

“AGCO is excited to expand our investment in Cullman County at our Bremen facility,” said Hans Lehmann, vice president and general manager, AGCO Grain & Protein North & South America. “We like to say our products are ‘Proven and Dependable.’ The same can certainly be said about Cullman County.

“The fact we’ve not had one lost time safety incident speaks volumes to the quality of the workforce in the county,” he added. “And with the community’s commitment to assist with industrial training and critical infrastructure improvements, we’re confident in the future.”

At the event, Lehmann said AGCO, a global company, quickly “determined that Farmer Automatic should be made in Alabama.” The company’s employees at the Cullman County plant sported “Made in Alabama” T-shirts at the ceremony and presented Governor Ivey with one after the ribbon cutting.

RURAL GROWTH

Dale Greer, director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency, said AGCO’s expansion project was made possible through the cooperation of state, county and city leaders.

“We are very fortunate to be able to work with our state and county leadership to keep a great company growing in Cullman County,” Greer said. “It’s a big advantage to have the ability to ensure companies succeed in the rural parts of the county the same way they succeed in more urban areas.”

State Senator Garlan Gudger of Cullman said Alabama’s leadership is focusing on driving economic growth in the state’s rural areas through infrastructure improvements and job creation.

“To have a globally renowned industry in AGCO locate, grow, and expand here is a testament to the generations of hardworking families in this area and the flourishing Alabama economy,” he said.

“Every day, it seems as if there is a new headline about some region in Alabama that is growing, expanding, and adding more jobs, but to see it happen here in Bremen, in rural Alabama, truly is special.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Alabama’s lead economic development agency is taking steps to elevate the competitiveness of the state’s rural areas when it comes to attracting new investment and jobs.

Under the Alabama Jobs Act, projects locating in certain “targeted,” or rural counties qualify for enhanced incentives. Earlier this month, Secretary Canfield announced that Commerce is creating a rural development management position to help rural areas better prepare for the economic development process.

“While we have had success in facilitating rural economic development, we want to continue to improve and do more to help the state’s rural counties and small towns and cities,” he said. “We’re committed to providing additional resources to stimulate rural development, and the creation of the rural development manager position will move that effort forward.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 days ago

Blue Origin will test Alabama-made rocket engines at historic NASA site

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Private space company Blue Origin will refurbish the historic test stands at Marshall Space Flight Center to support testing of the BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines built at a new Blue Origin facility in Huntsville.

Test Stand 4670 served as a the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which delivered man to the moon 50 years ago.

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” Marshall Center Director Jody Singer said. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built.”

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Following the Apollo program, Test Stand 4670 was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility, constructed in 1965, has been inactive since 1998.

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team began exploring the proposed partnership.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard said. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.”

ALABAMA-BUILT ENGINES

Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, earlier this year began construction on a $200 million manufacturing facility in Huntsville that will manufacture the BE-3U and BE-4 engines.

The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which will be assembled at ULA facility in Decatur, and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle. Both are being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin.

“Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 week ago

GD Copper USA to add up to 40 jobs at Wilcox County manufacturing facility

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

GD Copper USA announced plans to invest $3.5 million in its Alabama precision copper products manufacturing facility and create between 30 and 40 new jobs in Wilcox County.

The company, which operates a $100 million plant in the Thomasville/West Wilcox Industrial Park, said the new jobs will push total employment at the Alabama facility to nearly 400.

GD Copper USA said the growth is in line with its original plans to expand as the facility’s business continues to grow.

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“As governor, I remain committed to fostering a business-friendly environment, so I’m always thrilled to see an existing company add new jobs to its operations in Alabama,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.

“Being a native of Wilcox County, I’m especially proud to see GD Copper growing its workforce and preparing for the future in Wilcox County. This is a step forward for this company, for Wilcox County and the entire state.”

Career path

GD Copper USA opened the 500,000-square-foot facility on a 135-acre parcel off Alabama Highway 5 in Wilcox County in May 2014. The Thomasville/West Wilcox plant’s output serves the company’s U.S. customers.

“We appreciate the support provided to us by the federal, state and local leaders.” GD Copper Group Chairman Huang Ming said.

KC Pang, GD Copper USA’s vice president of HR, Administration & Corporate Affairs, said the company has developed and implemented a “Career Path” program to train and promote local employees to be part of the management team. He added that 80 percent of the Alabama facility’s employees are from Wilcox and Clarke counties.

AIDT, the state’s primary jobs training agency and part of the Alabama Department of Commerce, will continue to provide GD Copper with workforce development assistance.

“We’re committed to helping companies prosper and grow jobs in Alabama’s rural communities,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The project agreement between the state and GD Copper anticipates the opportunity for long-term growth at this facility and this new investment, and the new jobs it creates will be of significant benefit to Wilcox and Clarke counties.

“We applaud the continued job growth and the opportunities it provides to families and communities in this region of the state,” he said.

Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day, who was instrumental in GD Copper selecting Wilcox County for its U.S. manufacturing plant, said the company has had a major impact on the area’s economy.

“Anything is possible when good folks work hand in hand to bring development to their community. GD Copper USA has become a vital part of our economy,” Day said. “Although unemployment in Wilcox and Clarke counties remains higher than average in Alabama, we have seen tremendous improvement as a result of the hundreds of new jobs GD Copper USA has provided here.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Commerce creating specialist post to assist rural Alabama on projects

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

The Alabama Department of Commerce is adding a rural development manager to work with rural communities and counties across the state to enhance their competitiveness in the economic development process and better prepare them for projects.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said he hopes to have the newly created position filled with an experienced professional in coming weeks. See the Rural Development Manager job description.

“While we have had success in facilitating rural economic development, we want to continue to improve and do more to help the state’s rural counties and small towns and cities,” Secretary Canfield said.

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“This specialist is going to help communities become better equipped to work on job-creating projects while also providing connectivity to Commerce’s project managers and to any other state resource or agency that is needed as part of a team.”

Rep. David Standridge, chairman of the House Rural Caucus, said the creation of a statewide rural development manager position has been a priority of the caucus. He believes Commerce, the state’s lead economic development agency, is the proper home for this specialist.

“Rural Alabama obviously has its challenges as well as its unique opportunities in economic development,” Standridge said. “One problem is that a lot of rural counties and small towns don’t have the resources for an economic development specialist or a professional.

“They need a go-to person who can get them answers and help them navigate the economic development process.”

‘CATALYST’ FOR SUCCESS

The creation of the rural development manager position stems from talks involving Sec. Canfield; Rep. Standridge; Rep. Randall Shedd, chairman of the House Urban and Rural Development Committee; and the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA), whose membership numbers 500 professionals. Discussion were also held with State Sen. Bobby Singleton on issues in Alabama’s Black Belt.

“Our goal is to bring rural Alabama up without bringing urban Alabama down,” Rep. Shedd said.

According to a job description, the rural development manager will provide technical assistance to rural communities under consideration for economic development projects, as well as provide ongoing assistance and training for rural communities seeking to become more competitive for economic development projects.

“Economic development in rural communities faces specific challenges that are not present in urban or suburban settings, and an advocate for those communities could provide a catalyst for more economic success in those areas,” said Jim Searcy, the EDAA’s executive director.

“Alabama is primarily a rural state, and an effort to grow all parts of Alabama should be applauded. This action by Governor Ivey’s administration is an indication of Alabama’s leadership commitment to the entire state. EDAA is committed to moving Alabama forward, and this is another step in achieving that goal.”

RURAL RESOURCES

The creation of the first-ever rural development manager position in Commerce’s Business Development Division is another major step in an broader effort to attract new investment and spur job creation in rural areas across the state.

In mid-2015, Alabama began offering enhanced incentives for companies locating qualified projects in rural or “Targeted Counties.” Since then, 16 projects in these counties have received incentives through the provision.

In 2018, four projects in these counties qualified for enhanced support under the Alabama Jobs Act, resulting in $620 million in new capital investment and 600 new jobs, according to Commerce data. Those figures make it the program’s strongest year.

“We’ve been focused on rural development, and that’s why we developed the ‘Targeted County’ approach in the Alabama Jobs Act, which gave us an opportunity to provide our most rural counties with enhanced incentives for attracting projects,” Sec. Canfield said.

“But our longer-term commitment has always been to focus more attention and provide additional resources to stimulate rural development. The creation of the rural development manager position will move that effort forward,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 weeks ago

Four Alabama firms tapped for work on new Airbus A220 assembly line

(Mott MacDonald/Contributed)

Birmingham-based HPM, which is overseeing the construction of a second assembly line at Airbus’ manufacturing facility in Mobile, announced that four other Alabama firms will play major roles in the project.

The new assembly line will allow Airbus to accelerate production of a second aircraft in Alabama, the A220 passenger jet. Airbus said the expansion will increase its workforce in Mobile by more than 430 employees.

HPM, which acted as project manager for Airbus’ $600 million first assembly line, will join with its partner Mott MacDonald to perform in the same role for the expansion. Airbus kicked off construction on the A220 assembly line in January.

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The new assembly line will be located at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, adjacent to the A320 Family production line and will facilitate assembly of A220-100 and A220-300 aircraft for U.S. customers.

“Our intent is to implement and execute a fast-track delivery process to ensure the goals of this project are met,” said HPM Vice President of Program Development Greg Ellis.

“We’re confident these teams have the industry expertise and resources necessary to meet the goals of Airbus and the A220 project as a whole.”

ALABAMA PARTNERS

HPM said today that Birmingham-based Brasfield & Gorrie, teamed with Huntsville-based design firm BRPH, has been selected for Package 1 of the project, which consists of design-build services for the building of the new A220 final assembly line and existing logistics center expansion.

“Brasfield & Gorrie is honored and excited to continue its relationship with Airbus, HPM/Mott MacDonald, Mobile Airport Authority, and the City of Mobile by building the new A220 Final Assembly Line,” said Brasfield & Gorrie regional vice president and division manager John Strid.

“Having built multiple projects at the Brookley Aeroplex, including the first Airbus Final Assembly Line, we are able to bring considerable experience to the construction of this important facility,” he added.

The project is targeted for completion in mid-2020.

HPM also said that H.O. Weaver and Sons of Mobile will carry out preparations to make the building site ready for construction. This covers activities from site preparation, creation of access routes, and the installation of facilities like security fencing, ramps, and signage placement.

In addition, BL Harbert International of Birmingham has been selected for Package 3 of the project, which consists of design-build services for four additional hangar bays. BL Harbert is teaming with the design firm FSB.

“BL Harbert International is honored to continue our relationship with Airbus on this expansion,” said Jeremy Pipkin, vice president of BL Harbert International.

“It is a privilege to play a part in the immense impact that Airbus is having on the local and state economy.”

A320 PRODUCTION RAMP-UP

Airbus began manufacturing A320 Family aircraft in Mobile in late 2015 and plans to expand production of the passenger jet in Alabama. To date, it has delivered more than 100 Alabama-built aircraft to customers.

HPM, which has offices in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Florida, is responsible for managing all aspects of the design and construction of the new A220 facility, as well as expansion of Airbus’ current facilities to accommodate increased A320 family production on the site.

HPM was involved in the construction of the Airbus Engineering Center in Mobile over a decade ago.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Google brings Wi-Fi-equipped school buses to Alabama town

(Google/Contributed)

Google is not only building a $600 million data center in Alabama, but the internet giant is helping some school kids in a small Talladega County town get their homework done.

Google announced the launch of its Rolling Study Halls program in Munford, a community with around 1,200 residents. The initiative brings Wi-Fi to students with long commutes in 16 communities across the country.

Google provides each school district with Wi-Fi through fully functional school buses, computers and onboard educators for the buses. The company says the program helps students reclaim more than 1.5 million hours of learning time that would otherwise be lost during long bus commutes.

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“It’s important for students everywhere to have access to the tools they need to learn every day,” said Alex Sanchez, a spokesperson for Google.

In Munford, six buses will become Rolling Study Halls, allowing 240 students to access Wi-Fi on commutes between 45 minutes and one hour.

Equipping students

“Innovative programs like the Google Wi-Fi school buses are allowing us to provide our public school students with the 21st-century educations that they will need to compete in the global economy,” Ainsworth said.

“Google’s Rolling Study Halls is something we know will benefit the students of Munford, and help them create the next big thing right here in Alabama,” McClendon said.

Rolling Study Halls is part of Grow with Google, a new initiative to help create economic opportunities for Americans. The program aims to give people across the United States resources to grow their skills, careers and businesses by offering free tools, training and events.

In April 2018, Google began construction of its Alabama data center in the Jackson County community of Bridgeport, in the northeastern corner of the state. Google said the data center will be a hub for internet traffic, fitting into a network that keeps the company’s search engine and its other internet-based products functioning around the clock.

The center is expected to create between 75 and 100 jobs.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and state Sen. Jim McClendon joined Google officials to announce the program’s arrival at Munford Middle School alongside students and administrators who use the outfitted buses daily during the 2018–2019 school year.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Toyota to add 450 workers with $288M Alabama engine plant expansion

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Toyota announced plans Thursday to install two new engine lines at its Alabama manufacturing facility through a $288 million expansion project that will create 450 jobs in Huntsville.

Toyota said the investment will boost annual engine capacity at the Huntsville facility from 670,000 to 900,000 by the end of 2021. It will also increase product flexibility and better accommodate market demands.

The largest in a series of growth projects at the Alabama facility will add new 4-cylinder and V6 engine lines, along with a building expansion, the automaker announced today.

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“Toyota’s major new investment in its Alabama engine factory is a testament to the solid partnership we have formed with the automaker and to the high-caliber workforce it has found in the Huntsville area,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“We’re very excited about what the future holds for Toyota in Sweet Home Alabama and about the new jobs it is creating.”

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield joined Toyota officials and community leaders at an announcement event at the Huntsville engine factory, where the company employs more than 1,400 workers.

“It is because of our workforce and statewide partnerships that Toyota has continued to grow and prosper in Alabama,” said David Fernandes, president of Toyota Alabama. “The new engine lines will allow us to respond quicker to customer needs and strengthen our competitive edge in the industry.”

PRODUCTION BOOM

The Alabama plant launched engine production in 2003 and has undergone four expansions since then. In September 2018, Toyota completed a $106 million expansion project to open a new 4-cylinder engine line, creating 50 jobs.

“Toyota has long been a pillar in our booming automotive industry, with its Huntsville engine plant operating in near-constant expansion mode since it launched production,” Secretary Canfield said.

“Over the years, we have developed a special relationship with this world-class automaker and, working together, we will build a brilliant future right here in Alabama.”

The Huntsville plant is among Toyota’s largest engine facilities globally, producing more than more than 630,000 engines in 2018 for a range for vehicles. This breaks down to about 2,600 each day.

It’s the only Toyota plant in the world to build 4-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines under one roof. Last year, it produced its 6 millionth Alabama-built engine.

“Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama has been the backbone of Huntsville’s advanced manufacturing economy for 18 years,” Mayor Tommy Battle. “This latest investment, the company’s seventh in Huntsville, signals Toyota’s confidence in our workforce and its commitment to continued investment in this facility – more than $1.2 billion to date.”

MORE INVESTMENTS

Along with the Huntsville expansion, Toyota announced new investments totaling nearly $750 million at other facilities across the U.S.

“These latest investments represent even more examples of our long-term commitment to build where we sell,” said Jim Lentz, CEO for Toyota Motor North America. “By boosting our U.S. manufacturing footprint, we can better serve our customers and dealers and position our manufacturing plants for future success with more domestic capacity.”

MAZDA TOYOTA MANUFACTURING

Meanwhile, Toyota is teaming with Mazda to build a $1.6 billion joint venture assembly plantjust miles away in another location in Huntsville. Production, split evenly between the partners, is expected to begin in 2021.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, as the venture is known, will employ 4,000 workers at full production.

The Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, have joined area governments and organizations to support the project, which was announced in January 2018.

Read a narrative about the “Project New World” recruitment.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Amid trade friction, Alabama exports approach record total in 2018

(Made in Alabama)

Despite global trade tensions, the value of Alabama exports topped $21 billion in 2018 on increased shipments of chemicals, paper products and aerospace parts to overseas markets, figures from the U.S. Commerce Department indicate.

Still, U.S. trade disputes with China and other countries that are Alabama’s top export destinations took a toll on shipments from the state. Exports to China fell nearly 15 percent, and foreign-bound shipments of motor vehicles, primary metals and agricultural products declined, government trade figures show.

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Overall, Alabama exports totaled $21.3 billion last year, falling just 2 percent shy of the annual record total of $21.8 billion set in 2017, figures indicate. Exports of Alabama goods and services reached 191 countries in 2018.

“While Alabama exports lagged a little last year, the $21.3 billion total is still impressive and signifies the importance of exporting as a key factor in Alabama’s economy,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re continuing to see growth within segments of the transportation industry, our No. 1 export sector, with increased exports in the aerospace sector moving from Alabama to world markets.”

With the value of Alabama exports increasing 34 percent over the past decade, the long-term outlook for export activity appears strong, Secretary Canfield said. Ongoing projects and proposed improvements at the Port of Mobile, one of the nation’s busiest seaports, will serve to enhance Alabama’s export potential.

“Priming Alabama’s infrastructure for future export growth will put us in a position to help grow the state’s global presence and create jobs right here at home,” he added.

“Looking forward, the potential for greater export growth is there, and we are already exploring new and expanding markets for Alabama companies.”

FINDING NEW MARKETS

Among Alabama’s top five international trade partners, only exports to Japan showed an increase in 2018.

  • Canada: $4.1 billion – a 3 percent drop
  • China: $3 billion – a 14.8 percent decrease
  • Mexico: $2.6 billion – a 12 percent decline
  • Germany: $2.5 billion – a 14 percent decrease
  • Japan: $821 million – a 17 percent increase

Meanwhile, figures show Alabama exporters found new markets for their goods. This includes Argentina (a 111 percent increase in 2018 from the previous year), Austria (a 64 percent gain), The Netherlands (up 67 percent) and India and Brazil (both up more than 50 percent).

Transportation equipment remained Alabama’s No. 1 export category in 2018, totaling $10 billion, a 9 percent decrease from the prior year. Exports of Alabama-made motor vehicles dropped 18 percent to $6.4 billion as shipments to key destinations including Canada, China and Germany declined.

Despite that drop, Alabama remained the No. 3 auto-exporting state last year, trailing only Michigan and South Carolina, government trade figures indicate.

Exports of Alabama-made aerospace products and parts continued to surge last year, rising 28 percent to $2.4 billion. The total is nearly $1 billion higher than the figure for 2016, data show.

In addition, Alabama exporters recorded healthy gains in many important categories during 2018. These included:

  • Chemicals: $2.6 billion, up 13 percent
  • Minerals (chiefly coal): $1.7 billion, up 18 percent
  • Paper: $1.2 billion, up 12 percent
  • Non-electrical machinery: $777 million, up 12 percent

Tariffs and trade countermeasures around the world, however, hit Alabama’s overseas shipments of primary metals, down 19 percent, and agricultural products, down 29 percent, figures show.

Oilseeds and grains, a category that includes soybeans, tumbled 26 percent last year.

INTERNATIONAL CONNECTIONS

Alabama ranked No. 24 among the states in export volume in 2018, dropping two spots from the previous year. Alabama’s decline of 2 percent last year trailed the overall U.S. gain of 7.6 percent.

Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the state’s economy continues to grow more globalized because of the international nature of key industries such as automotive and aerospace.

“The relationship between the state’s foreign direct investment and exports are closely linked because our largest industries in terms of FDI are also the largest exporters of manufactured goods,” Lockhart said.

“In addition, our export strength also comes from the small and medium-sized companies that the Department of Commerce works with every day to help expand their global footprint.”

Commerce’s International Trade Office offers resources to help Alabama companies enter profitable new overseas markets through frequent trade and business development missions, training, foreign-market information, and international contacts.

Commerce is a partner in the Export Alabama Alliance, a seamless network of international trade agencies that share the fundamental objective of helping Alabama companies expand their business internationally.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Auto supplier Yongsan locating first U.S. facility in Alabama, creating 150 jobs

(Yongsan/Made In Alabama)

OPELIKA, Alabama — Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller announced that Yongsan Automotive USA will invest more than $5.5 million to open a manufacturing facility in the city’s Fox Run Business Park that will employ 150 workers after three years.

Fuller’s announcement came during an Opelika City County meeting on Tuesday night when Yongsan’s plans for its first U.S. facility were outlined.

“I’m excited to welcome Yongsan to the Opelika community,” Fuller said. “We want businesses to grow and be successful here, and we are glad to support them. We look forward to building a long-term relationship with Yongsan’s leaders and its employees.

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Yongsan, a South Korean-based manufacturer of specialty interior parts, will lease an existing building on Jeter Avenue in the Fox Run Business Park. Its investment will pay for manufacturing equipment and building improvements at the site.

Yongsan, a supplier to Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama, produces interior parts such as sun visors, seat parts and luggage trim. It is a leading manufacturer of sophisticated leather covering for interior trims for seats, arm and head rests, crash pads and sun visors.

‘CRITICAL MASS’

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Yongsan’s arrival in Opelika coincides with a period of strong activity in the state’s auto supply chain. The sector comprises more than 200 companies that employ more than 25,000 workers.

“Alabama is ideally situated at the center of the growing Southeastern automotive cluster,” Secretary Canfield said. “As Alabama’s auto industry continues to build toward critical mass, Yongsan and other suppliers coming to the state will find skilled workers and the support they need to be successful.”

In recent days, auto suppliers Guyoung Tech and Arkal Automotive have announced expansions at their Alabama locations. Together, these expansions will create as many as 125 jobs.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Sec. Canfield: ‘Rebuild Alabama’ will solidify economic development gains

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said today that infrastructure improvements financed by Governor Kay Ivey’s “Rebuild Alabama” plan would help the state’s economic development team sustain momentum as it seeks to recruit high-caliber jobs and companies.

“I believe we need to focus on infrastructure as a key issue in Alabama at this critical time,” Secretary Canfield said. “We have had tremendous success in bringing great companies from around the globe to the state. For these companies to thrive and expand, Alabama needs to have the best roads and bridges it can.”

Alabama’s economic development team registered impressive successes in 2018. The year’s biggest prize was a $1.6 billion Mazda-Toyota joint venture assembly plant that will create 4,000 jobs in Huntsville and accelerate growth in the state’s auto industry.

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“If we want to continue to attract world-class companies and high-paying jobs to Alabama, we need to make an investment in the state’s infrastructure system,” Secretary Canfield said.

Governor Ivey’s “Rebuild Alabama” plan calls for a 10-cent increase on the state’s fuel tax, rolled in over three years, to generate funding for improvements to the road network and at the Port of Mobile, the state’s only seaport.

The fuel tax has not been raised since 1992, even though it is the chief revenue stream for state funding of road repairs and improvements.

Experts from the Alabama Transportation Institute at the University of Alabama noted in a January 2019 report that inflation, greater fuel efficiency and rising road construction costs have eroded the purchasing power of the fuel tax over time.

COMPETITIVE DISADVANTAGE

Other economic development leaders and business groups from around the state have joined Secretary Canfield in supporting the “Rebuild Alabama” plan as an investment in the future.

Jim Searcy, executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama, said deficiencies in Alabama’s infrastructure system could soon begin to put the state at a disadvantage in the economic development process.

“We are falling behind our neighboring states, the ones we most frequently compete with, in addressing our deteriorating infrastructure, and that’s crippling our ability to compete for investment and the jobs that investment creates,” Searcy said.

Justice Smyth, the ATI’s outreach director and a former director of corporate development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, said Alabama’s business-friendly environment and effective workforce development programs position the state to succeed in economic development.

Alabama is not as strong in a third key area: the transportation network.

“That’s where Alabama is struggling to stay as competitive as we are with the other aspects,” Smyth said. “Transportation is becoming more and more of a driver.”

Revenue generated by Rebuild Alabama would permit the Alabama State Port Authority to make improvements to the ship channel providing access to the facilities at the Alabama State Docks.

“Alabama’s port channel needs critical improvements to ensure Alabama industries remain competitive and enjoy transportation cost efficiencies to reach global markets,” said James K. Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, “Our port will fall behind competing ports, who are already modernizing their infrastructure, if our port is not deepened and widened.”

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said the Rebuild Alabama plan would help the state’s agricultural industry and position rural areas for growth.

“Poor and inadequate infrastructure is one of the greatest barriers to rural Alabama enjoying the same economic growth as larger cities,” Parnell said.

The Business Council of Alabama, the state’s largest business group, also backs the infrastructure improvement plan.

“The road to our future must be paved,” BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt said. “Alabama’s transportation system is the backbone of the state’s economy and is crucial to our economic growth, and I commend Governor Ivey for making this a priority of her Administration.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Record level of film activity puts Alabama in industry spotlight

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Building on a record-setting year for film projects in Alabama, the stage appears set for a sequel, with a string of movie productions already filming in the state or getting the cameras and crews ready for action.

Since Oct. 1, more than a dozen movie and TV productions have qualified for state incentives available to entertainment projects that hire Alabamians and spend money in the state, said Kathy Faulk with the Alabama Film Office, part of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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“From the beginning of the fiscal year, the Alabama Film Office has experienced the highest volume of filming since 2009, when the legislation was passed to offer tax incentives for film projects,” Faulk said.

She believes the high level of activity will allow the state to eclipse records set in the 2018 fiscal year, when the Film Office assisted 147 production projects that generated $63.5 million in expenditures across the state.

In Fiscal 2018, 19 production projects qualified for state incentives, up from 12 in the previous year, according to the Alabama Film Office. Slightly more than $19 million in incentives were approved for these projects, the highest annual total in state history.

“We’ve had several production companies who have returned multiple times due to the ease of moving about the state, the welcoming friendliness of locals and the experience true Southern hospitality,” Faulk said. “An executive with a large cable channel recently told us that Alabama is doing all the right things, and the industry is definitely taking notice.”

According to the Alabama Film Office, Birmingham and Mobile are the most popular destinations for filmmakers producing projects in the state, though filming has been on the rise in Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Dothan and Fairhope.

‘THE FRIEND’

In Fairhope, filming is under way on a movie titled “The Friend,” starring Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segal. The script is based on a prize-winning Esquire magazine story by Matthew Teague, whose family resides in the Baldwin County city.

“The Friend” recounts the story of Teague (Affleck) and his wife Nicole (Johnson), who is stricken with a terminal disease, and the heartwarming support they receive from their best friend (Segal).

Other productions ready to get under way in Alabama include:

Filmmaker Spike Lee, fresh off an Oscar win this week for “BlacKkKlansman,” will act as executive producer of “Son of the South,” with principal photography set to begin in Montgomery in March. Barry Alexander Brown, a Montgomery native and longtime Lee collaborator, will direct the movie, which is based on activist Bob Zellner’s autobiography.

“Son of the South” tells the story of a man whose grandfather was a Klan member but who goes on to join the Civil Rights movement after meeting the movement’s iconic leaders and witnessing the bravery of young protestors.

The Devil All the Time,” which is expected to be released on Netflix in 2020, is being shot this spring in Birmingham, with a week of filming in Anniston, according to the Alabama Film Office. The movie is described as a gothic drama that follows a cast of colorful characters from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Stars include Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan, Robert Pattinson, Bill Skarsgard and Mia Wasikowska.

The thriller “Inheritance” is also shooting in Birmingham this spring. It features a dark plot involving a “secret and malignant inheritance” that threatens to destroy a family, according to an IMDb summary.

The film stars Lily Collins, Connie Nielsen and Simon Pegg.

Two other films which recently completed production – “Hell on the Border” and “Hour of Lead” — were filmed in Alabama locations that included Jasper, Tannehill Ironworks Historic State Park, Bessemer and Tuscaloosa.

ON THE RADAR

Alabama’s profile in the entertainment production business has been on the upswing as the region becomes more of a go-to destination for the industry. Alabama’s incentives legislation has also played a major role in attracting productions.

“It was a natural migration and just a matter of time before Alabama was on the film industry’s radar,” Faulk said.

In recent years, popular films including “Get Out,” which was nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and won one for its original screenplay, have been filmed in Alabama, as have “42” and “Selma.”

Other notable productions shot in Alabama include “October Baby” and “Woodlawn,” both produced by Birmingham’s Erwin brothers, and “USS Indianapolis,” starring Nic Cage.

“Alabama has so much to offer film and TV productions,” Faulk said. “Popular film locations have been beaches, state parks, the Space and Rocket Center, and the large number of lakes and rivers available. HGTV and National Geographic have also done a good bit of single-episode filming here.

“I think we will definitely see activity continue to grow.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

$215M U.S. Steel project provides spark for Alabama steel industry

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

United States Steel Corp.’s plans to invest $215 million to install a technologically advanced electric arc furnace at Fairfield Works is expected to provide a boost to Alabama’s steelmaking industry in its historic home.

U.S. Steel had initiated construction of the EAF at its Tubular Operations in Fairfield in March 2015 but suspended construction in December 2015 because of unfavorable market conditions.

The project’s revival means the addition of 150 jobs at the Jefferson County facility. The company said the EAF will have an annual capacity of 1.6 million tons.

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“This puts Birmingham back on the map in the steel industry, which is a backbone of our region,” said Mark Brown, vice president of Business Retention and Expansion at the Birmingham Business Alliance. “The sustainable technology that will be used in the EAF will solidify Birmingham’s future in the industry for years to come.

“U.S. Steel’s investment will have a monumental impact and will drive future growth for our region,” he added.

U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt cited improved market conditions, President Donald Trump’s strong trade actions, support from the United Steelworkers and incentives from the State of Alabama and the Jefferson County Commission as reasons for the project’s revival.

“This investment is an important step to improve our cost structure and positions our tubular business to win over the long term,” Burritt said. “We are committed to investing in the sustainable steel technology required to be a value-added tubular solutions provider for our customers.”

AIDT support

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, agreed to provide recruitment, pre-employment training and certain post-employment training support for the expected 150 new employees at U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works. The AIDT commitment is estimated at nearly $1.4 million, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The BBA said U.S. Steel employs 750 in Fairfield and expects to add the 150 new jobs by 2020, bringing the total employee count to 900.

The project will provide a lift to employment in Alabama’s steelmaking industry. Primary metals manufacturing jobs in Alabama stood at around 23,000 in October 1997. Today, the figure is just over 17,000, after adding 3,000 jobs since mid-2009.

In Birmingham, primary manufacturing employment is around 5,500, up slightly since late 2016 but down over the long term, according to data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve.

U.S. Steel has been making steel in Birmingham for more than 100 years. Construction on the EAF is expected to begin immediately, the company said, and the furnace is expected to produce steel rounds by late 2020, according to the BBA.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Southern Research expanding additive manufacturing capabilities with key hire

(Southern Research)

Southern Research announced that Robert Amaro, a mechanical engineer with expertise in metallurgy and solid modeling, will spearhead an expansion of the organization’s activities in additive manufacturing, a technology revolutionizing how complex aerospace parts and other industrial components are made.

Amaro, Ph.D., joins Birmingham-based Southern Research from the University of Alabama, where he conducted federally funded research on how metals behave in environments that contribute to structural problems such as fatigue, fracture and large-scale deformation.

In his new role as manager of Advanced Materials Technologies, Amaro will help companies in aerospace, energy and other industries better understand the physical properties and performance capabilities of parts produced using additive technologies.

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Jim Tucker, director of Materials Research for Southern Research’s Engineering division, said expanding the advanced materials group’s expertise in additive manufacturing will complement its longstanding focus on composites.

For decades, Southern Research has been considered a world leader in the high-temperature evaluation of composite materials used in heat shields and other components in NASA spacecraft and ballistic missiles.

“Just as composites did, additive manufacturing is changing the whole concept of how high-performance parts are designed and manufactured,” Tucker said. “Southern Research intends to stay at the center of materials testing for a range for industries, and Robert will help position us for the next generation of advanced materials.”

Ensuring precision

Additive manufacturing – sometimes called 3-D printing – involves techniques that create three-dimensional objects by depositing one superfine layer of material over another. The process is controlled by computer-aided design (CAD) software and can involve laser or electron beams.

Manufacturers are embracing additive technologies because they can rapidly produce intricate parts that are lighter and stronger than ones fabricated using conventional means such as machining.

Because the techniques are so new, however, there can be questions about the structural integrity of components built with additive technologies that require extensive post-build testing.

Amaro’s work at Southern Research will aid companies and organizations using additive technologies to ensure consistent component builds and high-precision industrial production while simultaneously minimizing and quantifying defects.

“Basically, we will offer a component build-to-solid model infrastructure that closes the gap between what it is that is being built through additive manufacturing and what is being put into service,” Amaro said. “If we can decrease the amount of time from part inception to the insertion of that part into service, then we have been successful.”

As with composites, the Southern Research team will be able to consult with both manufacturers using additive techniques and end-users of AM-produced parts on the structural integrity and performance characteristics of materials.

Research focus

Amaro has served as principal investigator for research projects supporting NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST.

His research for NASA focused on modeling friction stir welding processes to achieve optimal welds, while he examined hydrogen-assisted fatigue and failure in pipeline steels and pressure vessels for NIST.

Before arriving at the University of Alabama, Amaro worked in the Colorado School of Mines’Mechanical Engineering Department and in the Materials Reliability of NIST’s Structural Materials Group. He is the former co-owner of a design-build engineering firm and managed projects to construct themed attractions in Tokyo and Berlin.

Amaro holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Kemira investing $70 million to expand Alabama operation, creating 20 jobs

(Made in Alabama)

Finland-based Kemira announced this morning that it is investing $70.8 million to expand production at its Mobile facility. The company is a polymer producer serving the pulp and paper, oil and gas, and water treatment industries.

The project will create an additional 20 jobs, growing Kemira’s Mobile workforce by 32 percent, to handle new process operations, increased logistics and the support functions at the site.

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“For Kemira this investment is an important step towards the growth objectives outlined in our strategy. It also secures our position as a leading global polymer producer and demonstrates our continued commitment to the oil and gas industry,” said Pedro Materan, senior vice president, Oil & Gas, at Kemira.

Richard Ryder, Kemira’s Mobile plant manager, said construction will begin this year and be operational in 2021.

“We are expanding on our current footprint and will significantly increase production to meet our customers demand in the oil and gas industry,” Ryder said.

‘RENEWING A RELATIONSHIP’

The existing site first opened in 1938, initially focused on the area’s lumber and pulp and paper businesses. Over time, Kemira said, the site began serving the wider industrial water treatment industry and more recently the oil and gas industry.

Kemira utilizes chemistry to add optimal quality, functionality and strength to paper and board products, ensure the safety and hygiene of water and food packaging, and maximize yield from energy resources.

Mobile is one of three Kemira facilities in the U.S., with others in Columbus, Georgia, and Aberdeen, Mississippi. Kemira’s parent company, Kemira Oyj, is based in Helsinki, Finland with its Americas headquarters in Atlanta.

“There has been significant growth in the area’s manufacturing and chemical sectors, whose companies historically, and continue to provide high-paying jobs for our community,” said Shelby Glover, the Mobile Area Chamber’s senior project manager of economic development.  “I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Kemira as they continue to excel in Mobile,”

Local officials welcomed Kemira’s decision to expand its Mobile operation.

“This expansion by Kemira is about more than just jobs – it’s about a global company reinvesting in our city and renewing a relationship that dates back more than 80 years. When existing businesses are thriving in combination with new jobs and investment, that’s a winning formula,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.

“We are very excited about Kemira’s decision to expand operations in Mobile County to meet customer demand. Their additional $70 million capital investment and 20 jobs further demonstrates Mobile’s growing attraction for foreign direct investment,” added Mobile County Commission President Connie Hudson.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

International Paper to boost investment in Alabama mill to $522.7 million

(International Paper/Facebook)

Memphis, Tennessee-based International Paper (IP) plans to increase a planned investment in its Riverdale Mill in Dallas County to $552.7 million as it optimizes the facility’s product mix and boosts productivity.

In September 2017, IP announced plans to invest around $300 million at the plant as part of a strategic plan to grow its industrial packaging business.

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The additional investment expands on those plans to convert a line making uncoated freesheet, or copy paper, to the production of high-quality whitetop and kraft linerboard, as well as containerboard. These products are important to the packaging industry, which is experiencing a boom due to surging levels of e-commerce.

“Our system runs most effectively when there is flexibility, and this conversion will also help us define a more streamlined and balanced system overall,” Tim Nicholls, IP’s senior vice president, Industrial Packaging the Americas, said last September.

Selma and Dallas County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Wayne Vardaman recently briefed county leaders on the IP project, which will be supported by abatements of non-educational property and sales and use taxes.

“This is a tremendous investment in our community, and solidifies the presence of IP in Selma and Dallas County,” Vardaman said. “IP is Dallas County’s largest employer with over 750 employees and numerous indirect jobs. These employees now know that the Riverdale Mill is here to stay.”

Dallas County officials said IP is making the largest industrial investment in the county in many years.

“This latest number floored us all,” Dallas County Probate Judge and Commission Chairman Kim Ballard said. “It’s the biggest investment in Dallas County that I remember.”

ALABAMA REINVESTMENT ACT

Vince Perez, a project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the IP project is taking advantage of the Alabama Reinvestment Act, a new version of the traditional abatement act used on projects. The new abatements are designed to assist companies reinvesting in a facility prevent it from becoming a “legacy plant,” which ceases to get new investment and sheds jobs.

“This project is another indication of International Paper’s strong commitment to its Riverdale Mill and its workforce there,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“It’s a great example of a company preserving its investment in a facility, and the jobs there, by pivoting output from one product to another that is in greater demand,” he added.

Vardaman said IP’s increased investment stems from discussions between local officials and company representatives.

“Since IP’s announcement in late September 2017, we have worked with local and corporate officials on the project, and we are extremely pleased with the increase in capital investment and the generosity of the company,” he said.

He said IP will donate $250,000 per year to the county for six years as an existing Industrial Development bond winds down and no taxes would be due. When the bond matures, the county will receive over $5 million in education taxes annually. Once the abatement period ends, the county will receive even more money in non-educational property taxes, he added.

“Our work with IP proves our slogan, ‘When We Work Together, Together We Work,’”  Vardaman said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Southern Research moving ‘green chemistry’ team to new Birmingham lab

(Southern Research)

Southern Research has moved a team of scientists working to develop promising clean-energy technologies from North Carolina to a new state-of-the-art laboratory it is opening on the organization’s downtown Birmingham campus.

The research team, led by Amit Goyal, Ph.D., has devised cost-efficient, environmentally friendly methods to produce valuable industrial chemicals from sources such as waste materials and harmful carbon dioxide.

“These leading-edge technologies hold significant potential for commercialization, and relocating our talented scientists to an ultra-modern laboratory in Birmingham will help them advance their important work,” said Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research.

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“We are committed to supporting the research being conducted by Amit’s team because it fully aligns with Southern Research’s core mission – finding innovative solutions to make the world a better place,” Tipton said.

Southern Research is investing $1 million to outfit an existing 7,200-square-foot building on its Southside campus as the Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis Laboratory. Work is under way to install pilot-scale chemical reactors and other equipment at the facility. Funds raised through the recent Change Campaign effort are also helping to drive this important project forward.

The lab is expected to be operational by mid-February, and Goyal’s team, comprising eight researchers, is already working full time in Birmingham, according to Corey Tyree, Ph.D., senior director in Energy & Environment (E&E) at Southern Research.

“This will be a world-class lab where brilliant inventors are creating new technologies that offer a better way of manufacturing everyday products,” Tyree said. “This group is doing award-winning work, and now that work will be carried out right here in Birmingham, where Southern Research has made many groundbreaking discoveries in its history.”

Green technologies

Goyal and his team have developed a method to convert biomass sugars into acrylonitrile, the chemical building block of carbon fiber, which is increasingly used in airplanes, automobiles and other manufactured products because of its strength and light weight.

The Southern Research process to produce acrylonitrile for high-performance carbon fiber is around 20 percent cheaper than conventional production methods and sustainable, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40 percent.

Goyal’s team has also developed a process to transform CO2 into high-value chemicals known as olefins, which are used to make a sweeping range of products such as packaging, plastics, textiles, paints and electronics.

Energy-intensive methods are currently used to produce ethylene and other widely used chemicals in the olefin family, so the Southern Research technology could yield significant environmental benefits while also converting a greenhouse gas.

“This relocation represents an exciting and important opportunity to capitalize on significant Southern Research infrastructure and the scientific community in Birmingham,” said Goyal, director of Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis for Southern Research. “This puts science at the heart of everything we do because our long-term success depends on improving R&D productivity and achieving scientific leadership.”

Expanding capabilities

Mayor Randall Woodfin welcomed Goyal’s team to the city where Southern Research works to discover and develop new medicines, tackles engineering challenges for major government agencies, and researches energy and environmental technologies.

“Birmingham is increasingly becoming a key location for world-class research and a place where important discoveries are being made on almost a daily basis,” Woodfin said. “Southern Research’s decision to move its ‘green chemistry’ scientists to a new lab in the city will add to this momentum. I look forward to seeing their work advance in Birmingham.”

As a result of the team’s relocation, Southern Research has closed its office in Durham, North Carolina. The organization’s Environmental Technology Verification team, led by Tim Hansen, P.E., will continue to operate from the city, evaluating new clean technologies around the world.

Tyree said the decision to close the Durham office will yield cost savings and increase efficiency for the nonprofit organization. The move also unites the Sustainable Chemistry team with other E&E researchers in Birmingham, who focus on issues such as energy storage systems and solar panel durability.

Southern Research opened the Durham office in 1992 to support work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which at the time operated a major research and development facility in Research Triangle Park.

In recent years, the work in Durham has focused primarily on various green energy technologies from the U.S. Department of Energy and other customers, making the location in North Carolina less necessary than when it was tied to the EPA work.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

AIDT to assist Airbus in hiring 600 new workers for Alabama growth

(Contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

Airbus said it is working with AIDT to seek candidates to fill the first manufacturing positions at a new assembly line for A220 aircraft at the company’s production facility in Mobile. In addition, Airbus said it is hiring for production positions at its existing A320 Family aircraft manufacturing line on its Alabama campus.

Altogether, Airbus plans to add 600 new employees in Mobile over the next 18 months.

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Open positions on both lines include aircraft structure/installation mechanics, aircraft cabin furnishings installers and aircraft electricians.

Successful candidates for all positions will participate in several weeks of preparation at AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, in a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training.

“Airbus’ growth plans in Alabama underscore the strengths of the talented workforce that has already assembled more than 100 A320 family aircraft at the Mobile manufacturing facility,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Alabamians take pride in their work, and building A220 aircraft in Mobile will be another major accomplishment for the state’s workforce.”

For a full job description of all the positions and to apply, go to this link.

AIDT’s contribution

AIDT has already played a major role in helping Airbus assemble and train a workforce at the company’s only U.S. manufacturing facility. In 2014, AIDT, part of the Alabama Department of Commerce, opened a $7 million training facility near the Airbus campus in Mobile.

“The addition of the new Airbus A220 family of aircraft in Mobile is proof that Alabama is well positioned with its workforce training to meet the needs of manufacturers all over the world,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“AIDT has worked with Airbus since the beginning, and we’re honored to continue our support,” he said. “Congratulations to Airbus and Bombardier. We’re proud that they chose to build this next-generation aircraft here.”

Airbus and Canada’s Bombardier finalized plans last year to form a joint venture to produce Bombardier’s C Series passenger jet, now called the Airbus A220.

The new A220 production facility will be at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley industrial complex, adjacent to Airbus’ A320 Family production line. It will build aircraft for U.S.-based customers.

The assembly line, which will create more jobs and further strengthen the aerospace industry, is part of Airbus’ strategy to enhance its global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of its customers in the United States and elsewhere.

A220 aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2019, using a combination of the existing and expanded Airbus facilities at Brookley to enable the first A220 delivery from Mobile to take place in 2020.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility is planned for next week.

A permanent production process will be established upon completion of an A220 final assembly line building in 2020. Birmingham’s HPM was selected as program manager for the construction project, according to a November announcement.

HPM served as program manager for Airbus’ $600 million project to build its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Mobile, with work beginning in 2013. Airbus delivered its first Alabama-made A321 aircraft in 2016.

Airbus said some candidates for the new Alabama jobs will have the opportunity for on-the-job training with the company’s manufacturing team in Mirabel, Canada, before returning to Mobile.

Production on the first A220 aircraft begins in the third quarter.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Southern Research tests parts 3-D printed in space for NASA

(NASA)

Could 3-D printers transform the International Space Station into a manufacturing hub and one day function as the heart of an on-demand machine shop in space that enables NASA to mount crewed missions deep into the solar system?

Engineers at Southern Research are helping NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center explore the capabilities of additive manufacturing technologies that have major logistics implications for the nation’s ambitious future space missions.

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“When NASA sends a crew to Mars, there can’t be a resupply mission. There is just no way to send them replacement parts if equipment breaks or a part fails in deep space,” said Madison Parks, an advanced mechanical engineer in Southern Research’s Engineering division.

“On a mission to Mars, a 3-D printer will have to go with the crew. A part failing in orbit can be replaced after a resupply mission, but a resupply mission to a craft on the way to Mars would be too costly and may result in a loss of the mission. The crew will need to be entirely self-sufficient,” he said.

Parks is working with Marshall’s engineers to come up with an answer to a critical question facing NASA’s plans for space-borne three-dimensional printing: Are parts manufactured in zero gravity going to behave just like those produced on Earth-bound 3-D printers?

The ISS is already equipped with a 3-D printer. In 2014, California-based Made in Space sent a polymer printer to the space station, followed two years later by a more advanced device. It’s been used to print plastic tools used around the station, along with other non mission-critical items.

To help NASA understand the properties of materials printed in an in-space 3-D polymer printer, Parks and his team are testing specimens of materials printed in space and comparing them to similar specimens produced on Earth.

Along with tension and compression tests on these materials, Southern Research will be performing digital image correlation (DIC). DIC is a non-contact optical method that employs tracking and image registration techniques for accurate 3-D measurements of changes on the surface during a mechanical or thermal loading.

Measuring full-field displacements and strains during the mechanical tests will help engineers understand the material behavior and overall effect of print passes and how they relate to zero-gravity 3-D printing versus Earth 3-D printing.

“For safety reasons, NASA has to understand the materials before they use them,” Parks said. “You have to understand where and how these parts, which are manufactured in space, can be used. Doing otherwise could lead to parts and systems failing prematurely.”

Southern Research’s Engineering division, which specializes in analyzing how materials perform in extreme environments, has collaborated with NASA for decades.

Its engineers analyzed the thermal and mechanical properties of potential heat shield materials for the Apollo program and provided crucial support for the Space Shuttle, particularly in the “Return to Flight” missions after the Columbia accident.

Today, Southern Research is involved in the Space Launch System, the massive rocket NASA is developing for planned Mars missions.

For NASA, three-dimensional printing offers a fast and inexpensive way to manufacture parts on a spacecraft, exactly when they’re needed. That’s a huge benefit to long-term missions and has the potential to fundamentally change how NASA plans logistics operations for human spaceflight.

“Right now, there are thousands of parts for the International Space Station sitting in NASA storage, and most of them will never be used,” Parks said. “But they have to have all these parts on hand to launch to the ISS in case something breaks or fails.”

“What Southern Research and NASA are working together on is a foundational effort with the goal of the ISS crew being able to print the parts they need as they need them, which will help the astronauts accomplish their missions,” he said.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Alabama based Southern Research receives funding to turn captured CO2 into key chemicals

(Southern Research)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected Southern Research for an award of up to $1.5 million to advance technology for carbon dioxide (CO2) utilization.

The DOE award, now being negotiated, will fund scale-up and field testing of a catalytic process for conversion of CO2 and shale-derived ethane to ethylene, a valuable olefin.

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Olefins serve as building blocks for a sweeping variety of products such as packaging, plastics, textiles, paints and electronics. Industrial demand for olefins such as ethylene and propylene is rising at 4 to 5 percent annually as living standards improve across the world.

Over the last two years on a previously funded DOE study, Southern Research has developed a novel nano-engineered catalyst-driven process for the production of light olefins, such as ethylene, using CO2 from coal-fired flue gas and lower alkanes derived from shale gas feedstock.

This lab scale study demonstrated the conversion, selectivity and stability of this new generation catalyst in presence of flue gas impurities and low concentrations of CO2.

The results of the lab scale study led to this new award, which consists of constructing and operating a field scale unit. This project will produce and test a larger amount of catalyst and validate both the process reliability and the ability to produce ethylene at the next engineering scale.

“Ethylene and propylene are the highest-volume petrochemicals in use today. Current production methods are capital- and energy-intensive as well as large greenhouse gas emitters,” said Corey Tyree, Ph.D., senior director of Energy and Environment at Southern Research.

“By combining CO2 with shale gas, which is readily available in the U.S., our new process promises to have meaningful economic and environmental impact,” he said.

The project’s long-term goal is a commercially viable and environmentally friendly technology for producing light olefins via CO2 utilization.

Environmental benefits

Production techniques for ethylene, which is manufactured in amounts greater than any other chemical, typically use naphtha or ethane as raw materials, and require a large amount of energy to crack apart molecules.

Principal investigator Amit Goyal, Ph.D., director, Sustainable Chemistry and Catalysis, said Southern Research’s innovative process concept can use CO2 directly (or captured) from coal-fired power plants, or derived from any source, to produce light olefins. The new technique can yield significant environmental benefits by becoming a net consumer of CO2, he added.

“Ethylene alone accounts for 1 percent of the world’s energy consumption and 180 to 200 million tons of CO2 emission,” Goyal said. “Due to the large magnitude of ethylene production, any reduction on the energy requirement will be highly impactful.”

The approach would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants, the top emitters of the colorless, odorless gas in the U.S power sector. In 2015, coal-based power plants in the United States emitted nearly 1.4 billion metric tons of CO2.

“Coal is abundant and cheap, making it a vital energy source,” said Jadid Samad, Ph.D., advanced chemical engineer and co-principal investigator for Southern Research. “A smart solution to the issue of emissions from coal-fired power plants lies in the prospect of using CO2 as feedstock to produce valuable chemicals.”

Converting CO2

Samad said Southern Research’s approach on the project directly supports the Carbon Use and Reuse research and development portfolio being assembled by DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy. The portfolio is developing and testing novel approaches that convert captured COfrom coal-fired power plants into usable products.

The funding from the Office of Fossil Energy for Southern Research’s project totals $1,499,442. The office announced Oct. 31 that it has committed a total of $18.7 million to funding projects to support its Carbon Use and Reuse R&D portfolio.

Southern Research’s partners include 8 Rivers Capital LLC, a company developing and commercializing sustainable infrastructure technologies, which will provide support on the project’s techno-economic analysis.

The National Carbon Capture Center, a DOE site for testing innovative technologies, will provide the field site and flue gas feed generated at a utility plant for the project. The center is operated by Southern Company and based in Wilsonville.

In addition, a petrochemical consultant will provide guidance on catalyst development, as well as scale-up and commercialization aspects of the project.

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Auto supplier Hwashin to add 50 jobs with $26M Alabama expansion

(Photo: Alabama NewsCenter)

Auto supplier Hwashin America Corp. announced plans to expand its Butler County manufacturing operation with a $26 million investment in new equipment and 50 new jobs.

Hwashin, which produces body components for Hyundai’s Alabama auto assembly plant, has been in expansion mode since arriving in Greenville in 2003. The operation began with a 150,000-square-foot facility and 200 workers. Today, the company’s 650,000-square-foot plant is staffed with more than 750 workers.

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“Companies have a choice regarding where they locate and expand. We appreciate the confidence Hwashin has shown in Greenville and Butler County since 2003,” said David Crenshaw, chairman of the Butler County Commission for Economic Development (BCCED).

To facilitate the company’s latest expansion, the Greenville City Council granted statutory tax abatements at a Nov. 5 meeting. The expansion is projected to boost payroll by $1 million and increase property tax revenue to the Butler County School System by more than $500,000 over 10 years.

“We are excited about the new jobs and investment Hwashin has committed to Greenville,” said Mayor Dexter McLendon. “Great things happen when city and county governments work together toward a common goal.”

GROWTH STORY

After repeated investments in its Greenville manufacturing operation, Hwashin has become Butler County’s largest industrial projects. Data from the Alabama Department of Commerce show that the company has invested more than $200 million in the facility.

BCCED Executive Director David Hutchison said his agency and Butler County officials work hard to support the area’s existing industry.

“Announcements like this are the return on investment of our efforts,” Hutchison said.

Hwashin’s latest expansion comes amid a sharp growth spurt for Alabama’s auto industry, which includes a wide-ranging network of suppliers located across the state. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama is also growing, after announcing a $388 million expansion project at its Montgomery assembly plant.

Butler County Commission Chairman Darrell Sanders welcomed Hwashin’s expansion.

“We are delighted that Hwashin, by announcing their expansion plans, will continue to create jobs and wages that will in turn add new income to the Butler County Schools,” Sanders said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

6 months ago

Eissmann expands Pell City facility with $14.5 million investment

(Contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield joined St. Clair County and Pell City officials to help Eissmann Group Automotive LLC celebrate the completion of a $14.5 million expansion project at the auto supplier’s Pell City campus.

Eissmann announced plans in June 2016 to expand its Pell City facility with a new 130,000-square-foot building featuring advanced manufacturing equipment for a new production line. The project is adding 200 workers to the company’s St. Clair County workforce.

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“From the first investment Eissmann Automotive made in Pell City, the community and elected officials have made us feel welcomed and supported,” Claudia Eissmann, chair of the Advisory Council of Eissmann Automotive Deutschland GmbH.

“Our facility has grown within the community and we look forward to continuing to work with the City of Pell City, the St. Clair County Commission and the Economic Development Council for many years to come.”

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.

“Eissmann has found the right environment for growth in St. Clair County, where it has carried out multiple expansions that have greatly expanded its workforce,” Canfield said.

“Over the years, we’ve developed a productive partnership with this top-flight company, and we will strive to help it continue to grow in Alabama.”

‘Tremendous’ partner

During the last decade, Eissmann has grown to become the largest industrial employer in St. Clair County. Starting out with 85 employees in its initial phase, the company’s Alabama operation had 650 workers at the time of the 2016 expansion announcement, according to the St. Clair County Economic Development Council.

“We are always excited to see our existing industries continue to expand in St. Clair County. The addition of jobs to St. Clair County allows our citizens to work closer to home and improves their quality of life,” said Paul Manning, chairman of the St. Clair County Commission.

“Eissmann is a tremendous community partner and we look forward to growing with them in the future.”

“With this expansion, Eissmann has become the largest employer in Pell City, and we are excited to see them continue to grow in our community. We are very fortunate that they chose our community as their North American headquarters, and we hope they will continue to expand here,” added Pell City Mayor Bill Pruitt.

Growth story

Eissmann Group Automotive was founded in 1964, when Helmut Eissmann and his sons Volkhard and Jürgen launched a business developing, manufacturing and selling automotive accessories in Bad Urach-Seeburg.

Manufacturing leather gear knobs provided the fledgling company with an entry into the world of leather craftsmanship. A mother-in-law’s sewing machine was fitted with an edge trimmer, and the first leather covers were produced. Audi became the company’s first automotive customer to introduce a leather gear knob. It was so satisfied with the results that it went on to order leather-covered armrests and internal door handles for the Audi 100.

Eissmann Group Automotive now concentrates its activities on the production of leather interior fittings for the automotive industry. In 1997, the company founded its first foreign subsidiary in Hungary, followed in quick succession by the Czech Republic in 1998, Slovakia in 2001, Great Britain in 2002, Mexico in 2004, the U.S. in 2005 and China in 2007.

“Eissmann is a solid, family-owned company that has outperformed even our greatest expectations in Pell City. They pride themselves on the highest quality craftsmanship in the industry, which is a perfect fit for the high-end automotive customers that they serve,” said Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council.

“They have incredible leadership in management at their Pell City facility, and we look forward to working with them on future expansions.”

At Monday’s ceremony, Canfield said Eissmann’s growth story in Alabama reflects the state’s emergence as an auto production center, where around 1 million vehicles and 1.7 million engines are assembled annually. In just a generation, Alabama has become a Top 5 auto-producing state, with more gains expected.

“Great companies like Eissmann have come into the picture as a result of this footprint that we have established as an automotive powerhouse in Alabama,” he said. “Eissmann brings with it a rich history, high-quality products and a commitment to doing the job right and to meeting their customers’ stringent standards.

“This has all come together in Alabama, where Alabama workers have put their pride and their hard efforts into the products that are made here.”

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Alabama team travels to Tokyo, seeks stronger bonds with Japanese companies

(Made in Alabama)

Business leaders from across Alabama are participating in an international conference in Tokyo this week that aims to broaden economic and cultural ties between seven Southeastern states and Japan.

The 41st annual joint meeting of the Southeast U.S.-Japan and the Japan-Southeast associations, known as SEUS Japan 41, is taking place in the Japanese capital beginning Friday.

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Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, is heading the Alabama delegation, which includes company leaders, economic development specialists, mayors, workforce training officials and others.

“This conference brings together a great group of top business and government officials from both sides. We always find it an excellent venue to share what is going on in Alabama as a place to invest and do business,” Secretary Canfield said.

“Japanese investment has a large footprint in our state, and it continues to grow as shown by the plans of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA,” he added. “We want to see that Japanese investment stays in Alabama and continues to grow.”

Earlier this week, Secretary Canfield and Huntsville area officials met with executives from Mazda and Toyota to discuss their plans for a $1.6 billion assembly plant with 4,000 workers in the North Alabama city.

RENEWING TIES

“Japanese companies have a long history of succeeding in Alabama, and we would like to see this continue in our community. ”

The Alabama delegation at SEUS Japan 41 includes representatives from areas around the state where Japanese companies have operations. This includes the Huntsville area, Decatur, Auburn, Jasper, St. Clair County, and Birmingham.

Alabama-based officials from Japanese companies such as Toyota, Daikin and Yorozu are also included in the delegation. AIDT, the Alabama Department of Labor and the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development are represented as well.

Mark Jackson, Honorary Consul of Japan to Alabama, also is a part of the delegation.

Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, said a primary reason he’s attending SEUS Japan 41 is to personally thank Masanobu Yoshizawa, president of Unipres, for the auto supplier’s $40 million expansion at its facility in Steele.

“This investment will bring new jobs and opportunity to our region for decades,” Smith said.

While in Japan, he’ll also work to make new contacts and reinforce relationships in the Japanese automotive supply chain as the Toyota-Mazda partnership begins establishing its Alabama assembly plant.

“Japanese companies have a long history of succeeding in Alabama, and we would like to see this continue in our community,” Smith said.

MEETING AGENDA

The theme of this year’s joint meeting is “Success through Tradition, Innovation and Partnerships.” Tokyo-based Marubeni Corp. a major integrated trading and investment business conglomerate, is the Japanese conference host.

At SEUS Japan 41, the Alabama team can take advantage of numerous networking events. Plus, Alabama is holding a private reception prior to the conference tonight, with invitations sent to all Japanese companies based in Tokyo that have operations in the state.

The joint meeting begins Friday with a delegates’ breakfast and an opening ceremony. That’s followed by remarks from state delegation leaders, including Secretary Canfield, and panel discussions on economic trends and investment opportunities.

Afternoon speakers include William Hagerty, U.S. ambassador to Japan, and Hiroyuki Ishige, chairman and CEO of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).

The event will close with an exchange of gifts.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Japanese companies function as a powerful engine of growth in Alabama, as well as the Southeastern region.

Since 1999, when Honda announced its plans for an auto assembly plant in Alabama, Japanese companies have invested $5.5 billion in projects across the state, creating 17,000 jobs, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The special relationship between the Southeastern states and Japan continues to flourish on many levels that benefit all of us,” Secretary Canfield said. “These ties spark economic growth, create dynamic new opportunities, and foster long-lasting friendships.”

He welcomed a pledge made in September by the leaders of the U.S. and Japan to begin negotiations on a trade agreement to expand trade and investment between the two countries.

Today, Alabama is home to around 70 Japanese manufacturing operations, including a heavy automotive presence with Honda’s assembly plant in Lincoln, Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville, as well as their extensive network of suppliers and support businesses. The arrival of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA is expected to expand that presence.

Japan’s non-automotive companies also have a significant presence in Alabama.

Among them are dietary supplement manufacturer Pharmavite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., as well as Nippon Steel, Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., and Daikin and Toray, which make carbon fibers and fluorofibers.

Besides Alabama, the states represented at the conference are Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

6 months ago

Alabama team talks future with Mazda, Toyota officials in Japan

(Made in Alabama)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and Huntsville area officials engaged in meetings this week with executives of Mazda and Toyota to expand relationships as the automakers prepare to officially launch construction on a $1.6 billion Alabama assembly plant.

The mission began Monday, when the Alabama group traveled to Toyota’s Motomachi assembly plant and held talks with members of the Toyota USA executive team. Today, the group was in Mazda’s hometown of Hiroshima to learn more about Alabama’s newest automotive manufacturer.

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“During these visits with the executive headquarters teams of Toyota in Toyota City and Mazda in the Hiroshima, we have learned more about each company and their vision for this joint venture that is already taking shape in Huntsville, Alabama,” Secretary Canfield said.

“We have had rare opportunities to learn more about the new technologies that will be employed and how each company’s respective philosophies will be reflected at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA Inc. production facility,” he added.

ALABAMA ASSEMBLY PLANT

Mazda and Toyota announced their plans for the joint Huntsville production center in January. The plant will employ 4,000 people and produce 300,000 vehicles per year, split evenly between a new Mazda crossover and the Toyota Corolla sedan.

The first vehicles are expected to roll off the assembly lines at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, as the venture is called, in 2021, indicating a rapid time line for construction at the Huntsville site.

Those joining Secretary Canfield on the trip to Japan include Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber CEO Chip Cherry, and Lucia Cape, the chamber’s senior vice president for economic development.

Others are Paul Finley, mayor of Madison; Jason Black, Limestone County commissioner; Rick Tucker, executive director of the Port of Huntsville; and Kim Lewis, chair elect of the Huntsville/Madison Chamber.

Hollie Pegg, assistant director of business development for Asian strategy at the Alabama Department of Commerce, is also on the mission. Representatives of Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama attended as well.

“These meetings in Japan with the Mazda and Toyota corporations have created an even greater sense of understanding of the partnership and commitment that has been created with two of the world’s most renowned automakers, while engineering, road design and site prep continues on more than 2,000 acres locally,” Strong said.

He added that the Mazda-Toyota assembly plant project “will be a redefining moment for North Alabama.”

MAZDA CONNECTION

While Alabama officials have long had deep ties to Toyota, which has operated an engine plant in Huntsville for more than a decade, Secretary Canfield said today’s discussions in Hiroshima provided an opportunity to forge a deeper relationship with Mazda and its executive team.

In addition, the discussions centered on how AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, will help the automakers reach an aggressive employment ramp up at the new plant. Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, will be in Hiroshima on Friday to tour Mazda’s production and training facilities.

Secretary Canfield said the meetings with the Mazda executives will help the Alabama team develop a strategy for securing the supply chain for the automaker’s first U.S. assembly plant.

“Our meetings with the Mazda executive team, and the production facility visits that accompanied them, afforded Team Alabama the best opportunity to deepen our understanding of what is at the core of Mazda,” he said. “We have learned how Mazda embraces the principle of ‘Monotsukuri Innovation’ in pursuit of the achieving quality in production that reflects the belief that though they make many vehicles, each customer sees only the one vehicle.

“This is a very driver-driven company,” he added. “They want drivers of Mazdas to have fun with the driving experience. They want their customers to feel the ‘Zoom Zoom’ that is built into every Mazda.”

Besides touring Toyota’s Motomachi plant, the Alabama group also visited the automaker’s Kaikan Museum, witnessing some of the company’s newest automotive technologies and smart cars in person.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of relationships in doing business with our overseas partners,” Battle said. “If we had not already established a long-standing collaborative relationship with Toyota, we would not have landed the new Mazda-Toyota plant. These commitments don’t just happen in 15-minute meetings or phone calls. There is a long process of communication, listening, and work toward mutual respect before we develop a trusted business relationship.”

The Chamber’s Cherry said the longstanding relationship with Toyota played a key role in securing the new assembly plant for Huntsville.

Later this week, an Alabama delegation will attend the 41st annual meeting of SEUS Japan, an international conference in Tokyo that aims to broaden economic and cultural ties between seven Southeastern states and Japan.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

7 months ago

Alabama Robotics Technology Park gets new leader to direct strategic upgrades

(Alabama NewsCenter)

The Alabama Department of Commerce and AIDT announced that Chuck Ernst, a former Honda manufacturing executive, has been appointed to lead Alabama Robotics Technology Park (RTP) as it embarks on a strategic plan to prepare the training facility for new technologies and additional capabilities.

The goal of the “RTP 2.0” initiative is to ensure that the $73 million center in Tanner is positioned to meet the evolving workforce development needs of Alabama companies as technology brings radical changes to manufacturing techniques.

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As part of the initiative, RTP will add needed next-generation technologies, manufacturing simulation areas and training solutions that support key Alabama industry sectors including automotive, aerospace, aviation and logistics.

“Alabama Robotics Technology Park is a unique asset for the state and the manufacturers that utilize this facility to provide cutting-edge training for their workforces,” Gov. Kay Ivey said.

“The RTP 2.0 initiative will increase our leadership position in advanced job training, even as technology continues to change how factories operate. And, with his experience at Honda Alabama, Chuck Ernst is the perfect choice to direct this effort.”

‘Technological resource’

Ernst, who retired from Honda in 2014 after nearly three decades, will play a key role as plans are developed to advance the park and design its next level of services. He will work alongside RTP’s robotics and automation professions and AIDT leadership as the 2.0 initiative is implemented.

“The opportunity to work with the Alabama Robotics Technology Park as it has developed and matured over the last several years is a career high for me, personally and professionally. We are extremely proud of the RTP as it has served as a great technological resource for Alabama manufacturers as well as the brilliant staff who are the very heart of the work there,” said Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce for Workforce Development.

“We are looking forward to RTP 2.0 as we take the park to the next level with the assistance of Dr. Jay Baron’s strategic planning and the leadership of Chuck Ernst. With Chuck leading the RTP along with our incredible staff, we are confident in the RTP’s ability to assist our Alabama companies in becoming more successful in the ever-changing manufacturing world,” Castile said.

Baron, the former CEO of the Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology Group at the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, has provided his expertise for the RTP 2.0 initiative.

Ernst’s assignments at Honda included serving as project manager and operations executive at Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, a $2.6 billion assembly plant in Lincoln. He finished his 29-year career with the automaker as the Powertrain Division’s chief engineer at the North American Shared Services Group in Marysville, Ohio.

“The opportunity to join the AIDT team at the Robotics Technology Park and assist the business community in Alabama to study and utilize technology that improves their future competitiveness is a chance of a lifetime for me,” Ernst said. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Commitment to manufacturers

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he is committed to supporting efforts to secure the funding needed to implement any new technologies at RTP, which opened in 2010 and now comprises three buildings for highly specialized, company-specific training.

“By retooling our leadership at the RTP, we are setting the standard of having a nationally recognized reputation for a well-trained and highly skilled Alabama workforce in the usage and repair of robotic technology and advanced manufacturing machinery,” Orr said.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the RTP 2.0 initiative reflects Alabama’s commitment to ensure that manufacturers operating in the state are prepared for disruptive technologies.

“At Alabama Robotics Technology Park, we intend to prepare companies for a new world in manufacturing by providing them with technology and facilities dedicated to research and development, simulation, modeling, product design and training,” Canfield said. “Supporting companies in this way creates and preserves jobs, while making Alabama a more attractive location for business.”

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)