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.

14 hours ago

Alabama team targets international connections at SelectUSA Investment Summit

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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

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

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

SHOWCASING ALABAMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 days ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing embraces Alabama hometown’s space roots

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Alabama delegation travels to Montréal for SEUS-CP Alliance conference

(Made in Alabama)

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECONOMIC BONDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONFERENCE GOALS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WORKING TOGETHER

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

$125 million solar project heading to rural Montgomery County

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 weeks ago

Lockheed Martin breaks ground on new Alabama production facility

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

Lockheed Martin officially launched construction on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, where the company is accelerating production of strike systems.

Lockheed Martin said the new 225,000-square-foot facility, combined with the current cruise missile production factory on the Troy site, will provide the necessary space to meet the U.S. Air Force’s objectives.

“This expansion represents Pike County Operations’ long-standing commitment to meet our customer’s current and future needs as well as to bring more well-paying jobs to the area,” said Frank St. John, executive vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

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“All our employees come to work with an unwavering commitment to help our customers succeed in their mission to create a more secure and prosperous world.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, joined Lockheed Martin executives and U.S. Air Force officials at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning at the Troy location.

“We strive to provide a foundation in Alabama that allows aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin to establish world-class facilities that are positioned for expansion opportunities,” Secretary Canfield said. “Over the quarter century, the company’s Troy missile facility has grown from 30 employees to around 500 today, and the number is still growing.

“We look forward to seeing additional job creation in coming years.”

GROWTH PLANS

Lockheed Martin said construction on the new Alabama facility is slated for completion in 2021 with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) production ramping up in the second half of 2022.

“We’re pleased to see Lockheed Martin continue to invest in our community with the addition of this new manufacturing building,” Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said.

“Their growth not only leads to more jobs — it enhances sustainable growth for our region.”

Lockheed Martin last initiated an expansion in Pike County in 2014, when it launched a project that was slated to create 224 full-time jobs over five years. The hiring milestones on that $65 million project have been met.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, has been assisting Lockheed Martin’s Pike County operation for 25 years and opened a $2 million, 7,000-square-foot Advanced Training Center on the campus in 2017.

Today, Lockheed Martin is collaborating with AIDT to embrace the future of workforce development through piloting virtual reality, or VR, training.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Airbus introduces workforce development programs for Mobile students

(Airbus/Made in Alabama)

MOBILE, Alabama – Airbus on Wednesday launched two new programs aimed at putting applicants with little or no aviation or aerospace experience in jobs where its A220 and A320 production facilities are located.

The FlightPath9 and Fast Track programs seek to expand Airbus’ production workforce from within the Mobile community.

“These are two great initiatives from Airbus that help build their workforce, but more importantly, build Alabama’s workforce and put our people onto a path to a wonderful career in a growing and thriving industry,” Governor Kay Ivey said during a ceremony today introducing the first FlightPath9 students.

The FlightPath9 program targets high school seniors with a desire to work in aerospace. It’s directed by Flights Works Alabama, a partnership between the State and Airbus, to encourage young people to explore careers in aviation and aerospace.

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“The ideal candidate for FlightPath9 is that student with an aptitude for working with his or her hands, and an interest in working in the aviation industry right out of high school,” said Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager of the Airbus A320 Manufacturing Facility in Mobile.

“They must be willing and able to participate in a nine-month program, be drug-free, can read, write, do math, be 18 years or older by June 2020, and can adhere to “soft” work skills: show up to work every day and on time, can work in a team with respect for all co-workers, be dedicated, driven and determined.

“Give us that, and we’ll give you a chance at a career,” Taylor added.

For this program, Flight Works Alabama has partnered with Airbus, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Cintas, Snap-On Tools, Southwest Alabama Partnership for Training & Employment, and the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3).

The nine-month comprehensive learning program involves NC3 Snap-on certifications, ERAU instruction, guest speakers, success coaches and more. The students will attend training after school during their senior year of high school.

FAST TRACK PROGRAM

The students who successfully complete this program have the opportunity to start their career with Airbus through the second program announced today: Fast Track.

Fast Track is a 12- to 15-week program that will bring individuals lacking aviation manufacturing experience into the company and give them the skills, knowledge and ability required for an aerospace maintenance career.

Like FlightPath9, ideal candidates for Fast Track must exhibit an aptitude for working with their hands and an interest in working in the aviation industry. They must be drug-free, able to read, write, do basic math, be at least 18 years old, and able to exhibit job experience and the needed “soft skills.”

“In turn, we’ll teach and measure these employees in a program of global competencies for working on aircraft: torqueing, riveting, gauging, reading blueprints (written and digital), how to use tools, ergonomics, and more,” said Taylor.

“When they come out of that training, the employee ‘graduates’ to on-the-job training on A220 and A320 aircraft.”

ALABAMA PRODUCTION HUB

Airbus began producing A320 Family aircraft at its $600 million manufacturing facility in Alabama in 2015 and has since delivered more than 100 passenger jets to its customers in Mobile.

Earlier this year, Airbus broke ground on a second assembly line at the Mobile campus for the production of A220 aircraft. The $264 million project will create more than 430 jobs.

A220 production is expected to start on the current assembly line in the third quarter, with first delivery of a Mobile-assembled A220 aircraft scheduled for 2020. The new A220 production facilities will be complete by next year. S

Working in partnership with AIDT, Alabama’s primary workforce development agency, Airbus has already begun hiring new workers for A220 production.

Starting positions are electrical or structural assemblers, and corrosion team. The jobs are listed on the Airbus ApplicantPro career site with a planned early-June start date for the first class.

People who have applied for these positions in the past and been turned down only due to lack of experience are encouraged to reapply. Airbus intends to offer this program on a regular basis and will schedule it as hiring needs dictate.

Courtesy of Made in Alabama

1 month ago

Matt Might’s personal quest sparks UAB precision medicine revolution

The birth of Matt and Cristina Might’s first son, Bertrand, bottom left, in 2007 brought joy and, later, concern when the child began to show uncontrolled movements and other disorders. The couple’s efforts to help Bertrand in part led Matt Might to become a leader in precision medicine. (UAB/Alabama Newscenter)

For Dr. Matt Might, director of the Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the future of medicine revolves around physicians harnessing information on a scale unimagined by patients today.

“Data is the greatest drug of the 21st century,” said Might, who discovered a rare genetic disorder affecting his young son. “In terms of impact, I don’t think any drug will outperform data in overall ability to improve and extend human life.”

Of course, doctors already rely on detailed patient information when making diagnoses and creating treatment plans. But tomorrow’s medicine, as envisioned by Might, elevates and expands the power of the information at their command.

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By combining medical knowledge with computational analysis and new techniques such as genomic sequencing, physicians will be able to create customized, data-driven treatments for individual patients rather than follow protocols for attacking a certain disease.

“One of the key things to understand in precision medicine is that it is actually easier to treat a patient than a disease,” Might said. “When you are treating a disease you have to find something that works for every patient with that disease.

“If you’re treating a patient, you just have to find out what works for them. That can be very, very different.”

Powerful new tools

Might, who advised President Barack Obama on precision medicine and turned down Harvard and other suitors before coming to UAB in July 2017, believes these new tools will forever change the way physicians provide care once they are widely adopted.

Genetic testing is already helping unravel medical mysteries, especially when it comes to diagnosing rare diseases. But it will play a greater role in the future, when oncologists can routinely sequence the genome of a tumor to see if its mutations call for a specific medicine, Might said.

Already at UAB, doctors can examine a mental health patient’s DNA for clues about how he or she will respond to particular antidepressants, allowing them to rule out medications that would be less effective or cause side effects.

In addition, physicians will be able to tap into a bottomless well of knowledge. Might has collaborated with other researchers to develop an artificial intelligence agent called MediKanren that can search more than 25 million published papers for insights that can pinpoint new treatment options for puzzling medical conditions.

“Everything in medicine is changing as a consequence of the data available and the computational power to analyze that data. This is definitely a pivotal moment, a sea change moment. Medicine is not going to look the same in 10 years,” he said.

Despite his enthusiasm for precision medicine, Might never set out to become a leader in the field. In fact, at the time his voyage started, he was pursuing a career as a computer scientist, working on projects such as cybersecurity and programming languages for supercomputers.

He was also dad to a newborn son, Bertrand, born in December 2007.

The ‘diagnostic journey’

Bertrand was just 2 months old when Might first noticed a problem. His son’s movements were uncontrolled rather than circular and fluid, as they should have been. Four months later, Bertrand’s pediatrician agreed that something was wrong – he just didn’t know what it was.

At that moment, Might and his wife, Cristina, embarked on what he calls a “four-year diagnostic journey.” Over time, Bertrand’s problems multiplied. Full-blown seizures. Movement disorder. Developmental delay. And, strangely, he couldn’t cry tears.

Might was determined to solve the mystery. Eventually, Duke University scientists performed genetic sequencing on Bertrand and his parents to see if they could detect a mutation driving the youngster’s problems.

The results pointed to a malfunctioning NGLY-1 gene, which produces an enzyme needed to break down certain abnormal proteins as part of a recycling process in the body.

“Almost no one had heard of NGLY-1. It didn’t exist as a disease. It barely existed as a known gene. That gene had never been linked to human health in any way, shape or form,” Might said.

Thus, a rare genetic disorder known as NGLY-1 deficiency was discovered. Bertrand was “patient zero.” That meant doctors told Might there was little that could be done for his son until more patients with the condition were identified.

In 2012, Might published a blog post called “Hunting Down My Son’s Killer” that described Bertrand’s symptoms. It received widespread attention. Within weeks, patients began popping up all over the world, enabling research into the condition to begin.

At home, Might struggled with how to help his son.

Using his background as a computer scientist, he set up a computational analysis to identify compounds that might be useful to treat Bertrand’s condition. He quickly found 70, including 14 already approved by the FDA.

At one point, additional testing showed that Bertrand’s condition had triggered a deficiency of N-acetylglucosamine, a readily available glucose derivative. Might purchased some and, after testing it on himself, began giving it to his son.

Days later, Might noticed tears rolling down Bertrand’s face. For the first time, he had discovered a remedy to help his child. Critically, the tears halted the corneal erosion that threatened Bertrand with eventual blindness.

Other discoveries followed. Using MediKanren, Might learned that research indicated a common supplement, sulforaphane, could counter a certain molecular function triggered by NGLY-1 deficiency.

“Sulforaphane is abundant in broccoli, but not abundant enough. You’d need about 60 pounds of broccoli a day. Most fifth-graders don’t eat their own body weight in broccoli each day, but you can get it in a pill form that is highly concentrated. So he has been on that for about two months now, and for me, I think it is definitely making a difference.”

Might is now investigating whether some of the movement disorder aspects of Bertrand’s condition are similar to Parkinson’s and looking into whether treatments for that disease might benefit his son.

“I think, at last, we are moving on all fronts for Bertrand. We’re addressing seizures, eyes, movement disorders and development with this large cocktail of drugs we’ve assembled for his condition,” he said.

Creating an ‘algorithm’

Might is using the lessons he learned in his quest to help Bertrand to scale up the precision medicine initiative at UAB, using what he’s dubbed the “algorithm of precision medicine.”

At its core, the approach centers on harvesting every bit of data about a patient. Genomic sequencing is an important component because it provides a peek into the patient’s unique molecular makeup. But even information contained on a Fitbit or Apple watch can be part of the mix.

Computational technologies and deep reasoning tools such as MediKanren add a new dimension.

“We’re beginning to bring computation into medicine in a very serious way,” Might said. “Previously, it’s been largely used in a superficial way. Now we’re looking at it from more of a big data optimization perspective.”

At the Hugh Kaul Institute, made possible by a $7 million philanthropic gift in 2015, Might and his team maintain a focus on rare diseases through precision therapeutics, acting as what he calls a “clinic of last resort” for patients interested in engaging in targeted research to advance therapies for their disorders.

The institute, which has a staff of nearly a dozen, can provide physicians searching for treatment options with a research report containing recommendations personalized for an individual patient.

Precision oncology is a specific UAB focus. In one case, a genomic scan of a patient’s prostate tumor revealed mutations more consistent with ovarian cancer. Physicians were able to successfully treat the patient with medicines used to treat that form of cancer, Might said.

“Cancer is one of those things where precision medicine is the answer. Every cancer is unique,” he added. “You always need an individually tailored treatment. If you really want to treat cancer right, you’ve got to treat every cancer like a rare disease. That’s the key.”

Might sees the components of precision medicine flowing across all medical disciplines at UAB, expanding until its tactics become the standard of care for all patients.

“At UAB, we’re in the process of making everything precision medicine so that one day it won’t be precision medicine, it will just be medicine,” he said.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama System’s website.

Courtesy of Alabama Newscenter

1 month ago

Alabama team launches bio-focused trade mission to Ireland, U.K.

(HudsonAlpha/Contributed)

Business leaders and trade specialists from across Alabama are getting an up-close look at the bioscience sector in Ireland and the United Kingdom during a trade mission that seeks to spark new opportunities for nearly a dozen Alabama firms.

The Alabama delegation began its mission in Dublin today with a briefing from the U.S. Commercial Service and a visit to the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, a leading research center.

Over the next five days, the group will connect with representatives from bioscience companies and organizations in one-on-one meetings and networking events in Dublin and London.

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“We believe that international collaboration is a major driver of growth for the bioscience sector,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce, who is leading the mission.

“Including Alabama companies in this industry sector on the mission allows them to speak directly with potential international partners that may be involved in research, medical labs, innovative startups and collaboration in their specific areas of focus,” she added.

BUILDING BRIDGES

Arnar Thors, founder and CEO of AerBetic Inc., said making contacts in the life sciences communities in Ireland and the U.K. can help him advance the goals of the Birmingham-based startup. AerBetic is developing a wearable diabetes alert device that garnered attention at this year’s CES event.

“This mission will enable us to build some bridges to the bioscience and investment communities in the U.K. and Ireland, which we’re confident will help in our mission to bring AerBetic to those markets and the world,” Thors said.

Other Alabama firms on the mission are:

ADT Pharmaceuticals LLC is working on novel cancer drugs, and PDEi Phamaceuticals LLC is targeting new treatments for erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Both companies are represented by Dr. Gary A. Piazza of the Mitchell Cancer Institute at the University of South Alabama.

BioGX of Birmingham develops and manufactures molecular biology reagents.

Auburn’s Cytoviva Inc. provides products and services to help researchers solve critical problems down to the nanoscale with enhanced darkfield optical microscopy and hyperspectral imaging technology.

GeneCapture of Huntsville is developing a rapid infection detection instrument that can screen a human sample for 200 pathogens in less than an hour.

The HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology is a world-renown genomics research center and entrepreneurial hub in Huntsville.

Swift Biotechnology is developing an early stage, proteomic-based test for ovarian cancer based on technology from USA’s Mitchell Cancer Institute.

Huntsville’s Synvivo Inc.’s 3D tissue-organ on chip models enable real-time study of cell and drug interactions and accelerate discovery by providing a biologically realistic platform.

Birmingham-based TriAltus Bioscience provides scientists with innovative tools for the expression and purification of genetically engineered proteins.

BioAlabama, a trade group for Alabama’s bioscience industry, is also represented on the mission.

“This trade mission will give promising bioscience startups and established research organizations in Alabama an opportunity to learn first-hand about developments within the sector in Ireland and the U.K., while also connecting them with researchers and business leaders who can become partners or collaborators down the road,” said Peggy Sammon, CEO of Gene Capture and chair of BioAlabama.

“Making these connections will serve to add even more vitality to Alabama’s already vibrant bioscience sector,” she added.

While in Dublin, the Alabama group will visit the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training. In London, they will travel to the Babraham Institute, a world-class research center, then on to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, and One Nucleus, an organization focusing on life sciences and health care.

In these locations, representatives of the Alabama companies on the mission will participate in one-on-one appointments with potential in-market partners as part of a coordinated business matchmaking program.

GROWTH POTENTIAL

Lockhart said Alabama’s robust life science sector is diverse and well positioned for growth. According to an analysis for BioAlabama, the state’s biosciences industry generates $7.3 billion in economic activity annually while supporting 780 companies and nearly 48,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The sector includes premier bioscience research centers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Southern Research, HudsonAlpha and USA’s Mitchell Cancer Institute. UAB alone attracted $300 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2018.

“These research organizations, along with the many multinational companies involved in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, is a story we want to share while we are in Ireland and the United Kingdom,” Lockhart said.

“We are very happy that BioAlabama is involved in this trip because they can tell the story of the success.”

This is Alabama’s fourth bioscience-focused trade and investment mission to Europe, including previous trips to life science clusters in Germany and Denmark, and Belgium and The Netherlands.

Bioscience is one of the key target recruitment sectors in Accelerate Alabama 2.0, the state’s strategic economic growth plan.

Courtesy of Made in Alabama

1 month ago

Georgia-Pacific to invest $120 million in Choctaw County mill

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Georgia-Pacific announced plans to invest more than $120 million to add a new tissue machine and roll storage building at its mill in Choctaw County, the latest substantial investment in the facility.

The new projects continue Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific’s modernization of the Naheola mill, which includes ongoing construction of a new biomass boiler and woodyard. Georgia-Pacific said the modernization projects position the mill and its overall business to be competitive in the market.

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“This is one of many investments we are making at our operations across the State of Alabama, and it highlights the long history and great relationships we have in the state and in the communities where we operate,” said Christian Fischer, CEO and president of Georgia-Pacific.

In the past five years, Georgia-Pacific’s capital investment at the Naheola mill has totaled more than $500 million, and its statewide investments have totaled approximately $1.6 billion.

Across Alabama, Georgia-Pacific operates eight facilities, employs more than 2,600 employees directly and pays more than $204 million in direct wages and benefits.

PROJECT BENEFITS

The Naheola mill currently employs more than 900 people.

The Alabama mill produces retail bath tissue and paper towels used by consumers and also makes bleached paperboard, which is sold on the market and used to make Georgia-Pacific’s Dixie plates, cups and bowls.

“This is a great day to celebrate for our employees, the Naheola mill community and most importantly for our current and future customers,” said Kathy Walters, group president of Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products Group.

“All of these stakeholders benefit from these investments to make the Naheola mill a modern and competitive operation.”

Georgia-Pacific said engineering and related work has begun on the project, and startup of the new machine is scheduled for 2020.

An average of 200 construction and contract-related workers are expected to be onsite at the mill every day during the project, with a potential peak of 400 contract workers per day at the height of construction.

Courtesy of Made in Alabama

2 months ago

Milestone: First steel column rises at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA

(MTMUS/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA has marked a milestone in its $1.6 billion project to build an auto assembly plant in Alabama as the first steel column is now in place at the construction site in Limestone County.

The development signals that construction is well under way on the plant, which will produce 300,000 vehicles annually.

“Today marks an exciting milestone for the MTMUS team and the state of Alabama,” said Masashi Aihara, president of MTMUS. “We are fully committed to this project and we can now see the beginning of our new campus taking shape.

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“Soon, we will be proud to say, ‘Built in Alabama’ with pride.”

Team members celebrated the milestone with a small gathering at the plant site.

Highlights of the massive construction project include:

  • 3 million cubic yards of dirt will be graded for site preparation — enough dirt to fill the Empire State Building twice.
  • 150,000 cubic yards of gravel poured to create the plant foundation, equal to filling 46 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • 2,500 construction workers projected to be on site by late summer 2019.

Despite a heavy rain season, construction of the advanced manufacturing facility remains on schedule, the automakers said. The construction project officially began last November with a groundbreaking ceremony

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs at the Huntsville plant and is currently in the process of hiring professional staff and skilled maintenance positions. Additional job postings will be added throughout the summer, with production hiring starting later in 2019.

Interested candidates can learn more here.

Mazda and Toyota announced their plans for the Alabama facility in January 2018.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Alabama EV infrastructure grant program could provide model for nation

(Charlestan Helton/Alabama NewsCenter)

The Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan could provide a significant spark for efforts to expand the network of charging stations available to drivers of electric vehicles across the state.

That’s because a little noticed provision in Rebuild Alabama, approved in March to provide additional funding to improve the state’s roadways, establishes a grant program aimed at stimulating the installation of new EV charging stations in Alabama.

While several states offer various incentives for EV charging station infrastructure, researchers at the Alabama Transportation Institute at The University of Alabama say it appears that only one other state – Washington – has a similar grant program.

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“By making the investment in EV charging station infrastructure through the Rebuild Alabama Act, the state is taking a proactive approach to prepare for new and emerging technologies,” said Justice Smyth, the Alabama Transportation Institute’s director of public outreach.

“This effort will likely enable more widespread adoption of electric vehicles by average consumers – many of whom currently view “range anxiety’ as a deterrent for purchase,” he added.

Smyth called Alabama’s grant program “a creative way to address coming changes in the auto industry.”

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, a Rebuild Alabama sponsor, said the EV infrastructure grant program could serve as a model for other states that want to expand their network of charging stations.

“We hope that it’s something will work here. We think it will, and I think it’s something that other states should look at as well. Once you create a nationwide grid, then the technology really has a chance at that point,” Chambliss said.

“We’re trying to look down the road and address problems and issues before they become major. We think this is a way we can do it in this regard. Hopefully, other states will look at it, and we will all move together into the future,” he added.

FUNDING GROWTH

Here’s how Alabama’s new EV infrastructure program works: Rebuild Alabama includes a new annual registration fee to be paid by owners of battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid EVs. One-quarter of the funds collected from that fee will be dedicated to support grants for EV charging stations.

The program, administered by the Alabama Department of Transportation, will provide funding for municipalities, counties, universities and other public institutions to help cover some of the costs of installing EV charging stations.

Those costs can be substantial, ranging from $10,000 for a basic unit to $125,000 for a fast-charging station.

Business group in Alabama think the program will pay dividends for the state.

“Through this innovative grant program, Alabama will accelerate the expansion of EV charging stations across the state and will sit at the forefront of EV expansion,” the Birmingham Business Alliance said.

The annual registration fees total $200 for Alabama drivers of battery electric vehicles and $100 for plug-in hybrid EVs. The portion not directed to the EV infrastructure grant program goes to pay for improvements to the state’s roads and bridges.

The Washington program, which went into effect in 2016, is designed to raise $1 million annually to install 15 new charging stations a year along interstates, according to the Alabama Transportation Institute.

EMBRACING ELECTRIC

Today, there are 115 charging stations with a total of 267 charging outlets spread across Alabama, according to the Department of Energy data. An estimated 2,300 EVs are registered in the stat.

Though EVs represent a small percentage of the 5 million registered vehicles in Alabama, many believe an expansion of the EV charging network will help speed sales of the environmentally friendly cars. That would alleviate what Smyth referred to as “range anxiety” – the fear of running out of charge with no station in sight.

Alabama’s EV infrastructure program comes at a time of rising industry sales, fueled in large part by rapidly decreasing battery prices. That’s likely to accelerate as most automakers are ramping up ambitious plans with major investments to introduce more EVs in coming years.

Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama plant, for instance, will begin producing electric-powered versions of the sport utility vehicles it builds in Vance, joining plug-in hybrid models. To prepare for the launch of those models, Mercedes is now building a sprawling battery pack assembly facility in Bibb County.

“Because Alabama’s automakers are placing a strong emphasis on EVs as part of their future lineups, expanding the charging station infrastructure across the state will position us to benefit from a technology that is on its way to widespread adoption,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Meanwhile, the number of electric charging stations across the nation is growing. As of September 2018, there were an estimated 22,000 public charging stations in the United States and Canada classified as AC Level 2 and DC fast charging, capable of delivering an 80 percent charge in 20 to 30 minutes.

More will be needed if growth projections hold for EVs. A Department of Energy study estimates that as many as 27,000 DC FC and 600,000 Level 2 outlets in public locations will be needed if 15 million EVs are on U.S. roads in 2030.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Alabama officials applaud Bell’s plans to build Navy helicopter in Ozark

(Bell/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Governor Kay Ivey welcomed plans by Bell to assemble the U.S. Navy’s next-generation training aircraft in Dale County should Bell win a competition for the helicopter.“Bell could have not selected a more ideal location to conduct final assembly of the Navy’s new advanced helicopter trainer than Ozark and Dale County,” Governor Ivey said. “The area is home to many skilled aircraft mechanics, so I know Bell’s workforce will be world class. Plus, the company can count on our full support for this project.”

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Bell announced Thursday that, should the Bell 407GXi be selected for the U.S. Navy Advanced Helicopter Trainer program, the company plans to assemble the aircraft in Ozark, where it produces the Fire Scout, an unmanned version of the helicopter.

Bell’s workforce at the Ozark site could grow by 25 percent to a total of 100 workers if the company wins the competition.

The Navy is seeking to acquire 130 aircraft. Bell submitted its proposal to the Navy on April 2.

“Our Ozark team has the proven capability to deliver advance training aircraft for the next generation of Naval aviators,” said Bell President and CEO Mitch Snyder.

“We appreciate the support through Alabama’s workforce readiness programs, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our state and local partners to win the U.S. Navy trainer program.”

ALABAMA CAPABILITIES

The U.S. Navy is looking to replace its aging fleet of TH-57 Sea Ranger training helicopters which Bell first introduced in the 1970s. Bell is the only U.S.-based manufacturer to participate in the Navy Advanced Helicopter Trainer competition.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the Ozark-Dale County area is well positioned to support Bell’s planned manufacturing activities for the Navy helicopter.

“Alabama’s Wiregrass area is dotted with aviation companies and organizations that are focused on helicopters,” Secretary Canfield said.

“In addition, there is a skilled workforce in place, along with proven training programs, to serve Bell’s needs for this important project.”

Fort Rucker, located near Ozark, has been the training center for U.S. Army aviation since 1955, and helicopter-related activities there are a magnet for suppliers providing everything from fleet support to flight simulation.

Ozark is also home to a campus of the Alabama Aviation College, which offers a two-year program that prepares students for careers as an aircraft mechanic.

LOCAL SUPPORT

Officials in Dale County pledged support for Bell’s plans to assemble the 407 GXi helicopter at the company’s existing facility in Ozark.

“Bell has been a great business for Ozark and Dale County for many years. We are really excited about the decision to increase their presence in Dale County,” said Mark Blankenship, Dale County Commission chairperson. “I would like to thank Mr. Snyder for the confidence he has in the Ozark and Dale County communities.”

Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting said the project represents an opportunity to continue the city’s partnership with Bell, which stretches back to 2005.

“With its superb airport and aviation facilities, Ozark is the ideal place to do the Bell 407 final assembly,” Bunting said. “Ozark and its aviation college will be prepared to provide the best aviation workforce for what will be a trainer built by a proven U.S. company which has provided our great U.S. pilots the best helicopters for decades.”

Veronica Crock, president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp., said Bell’s plans to build upon the legacy of excellence it has established at its Ozark facility represent a positive development for the community.

“This project will create new opportunities for our citizens and businesses in Ozark and across the region,” she said.

“We are incredibly fortunate to have state and local leadership, workforce partners, and a community that provide an environment in which our industries can prosper.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months 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)

2 months 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)

2 months 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 months 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 months 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)

3 months 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)

3 months 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)

3 months 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)

3 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)

3 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)

4 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)

4 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)