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.

4 days ago

Ashland’s Williams Fire launches $1 million expansion as growth sparks

(Williams Fire/Contributed)

ASHLAND, Alabama – When the emergency call comes in, the fire trucks must be well-equipped and always ready to roll. For many communities in Alabama and Georgia, Matt Williams is the guy who helps make sure the fire rigs are prepared for the job.

His family-owned company in Ashland, Williams Fire Apparatus, has long specialized in selling, outfitting, repairing and maintaining fire trucks for large departments such as Birmingham and DeKalb County, Georgia, as well as volunteer fire departments in communities across the region.

“We make all repairs, fix all wrecks, replace all parts, and do all the planned maintenance work in the middle,” Williams said. “Today, we’re probably working on 12 different fire trucks. Some of them are here in our facility and some are on the road. We do the full gamut of service.

“If it’s got wheels on it, we service it,” he said.

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Being a one-stop shop has paid dividends for Williams Fire, which has been in almost constant growth mode since Williams’ father, Jeff, started the company in 1987. Over the years, Williams Fire has carried out five expansions at its Ashland site.

Williams, who bought the company from his father in 2019, is in the midst of a $1 million project that will add a new 18,000-square-foot service facility and repurpose the firm’s original 13,000-square-foot building in Clay County.

Williams Fire began construction on the new, 18,000-square-foot service facility late last year, with completion set for August 2021. Williams said the project will allow him to hire between six and 10 new employees, adding to the 32 staffers now on the company’s payroll.

“Williams Fire Apparatus is the definition of a Made in Rural Alabama enterprise,” said Lamar Dewberry, executive director of the Clay County Economic Development Council. “This business helps ensure first responders in many communities have the ability to protect their citizens, and this is accomplished right here in rural Clay County, Alabama.

“Matt’s company is a great asset to our local community as it continues to grow,” he added.

Williams said the ongoing project will streamline the company’s operations and position it for future growth.

“The new building will be a full-time repair and service facility. Then our current building will transition into fabrication only. We build lots of parts for fire trucks – everything from shelving, bracketry, things to hold chainsaws and other equipment. We do a lot of fabrication,” he said.

FAMILY JOURNEY

Williams knows the family business backwards and forwards, having been involved in the operation since he was a youngster. The family journey began when his father left Quality Manufacturing in Talladega, where he had been building fire trucks, to start his own business in Ashland.

After its start in 1987, Williams Fire built its own brand of fire trucks until around 2003, when the Gulf War made it difficult to obtain parts such as chassis and transmissions. The company’s focus shifted to servicing and selling other brands of fire trucks.

Jeff Williams retired from the fire truck business in 2019, when son Matt took over.

Today, Williams Fire sells and services five brands of fire trucks and emergency vehicles: Sutphen, SVI Trucks, Southeast Apparatus, Ferrara Fire Apparatus and PL Custom Ambulance. Its territory covers Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Besides Birmingham Fire & Rescue Service and DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department, other large customers include Gwinnett County Fire Rescue Services and Savannah Fire Rescue in Georgia, and Hoover Fire Department in Alabama. The company also counts many smaller fire departments as customers, as well as full-time volunteer departments that buy a new fire truck every 25 or 30 years.

A growing part of Williams Fire’s business is mounting equipment on fire trucks, and the new service facility will allow the company to expand that activity. Since 2016, the company has averaged 35 to 40 new apparatus installations per year, and it services hundreds more annually.

“Customers come up with their own version of what they want on an apparatus at times, and their ideas have to be cultivated into an actual vehicle,” Williams said. “There are some really smart people in this industry so working through a project with these people makes the experience very interesting and tough all at the same time.”

An interesting job Williams Fire is now working on is a tractor drawn aerial, or tiller, for DeKalb County in the Atlanta metro area.

“This rig is set to finish in the fall, and we are really excited to see this project completed. A tractor drawn aerial is one where there is a driver for the truck (tractor) and a driver for the trailer as well. Very fun project,” Williams said.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Williams Fire’s growth plans are good news for Ashland, a city of around 2,000 residents in east central Alabama.

“We are so proud of Williams Fire Apparatus and Clay County,” Tuck said. “Being able to identify Williams Fire as one of our numerous high-impact expansion projects in rural Alabama really shines a light on the advantages present in our rural communities.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 week ago

Alabama wins Gold Shovel Award for 2020 economic development

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office)

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey announced today that Area Development, a prominent national business publication, has selected Alabama for its Gold Shovel Award, recognizing the state’s economic development success in the manufacturing sector during a challenging 2020.

The honor follows a year of strong results for Alabama, with companies announcing new facilities and expansion projects involving nearly $5 billion in new capital investment despite uncertain global business conditions.

The projects, many in key strategic industry clusters, will create almost 10,000 jobs across the state and inject economic vitality into many communities recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“This Gold Shovel award is a testament to Alabama’s skillful workforce and to the pro-business environment that makes out state such an attractive location for investment,” Governor Ivey said.

“High-performing companies from all over the world have discovered that they can find all the competitive advantages they need to succeed with their growth projects right here in Sweet Home Alabama.”

MANUFACTURING GROWTH

Area Development singled out several 2020 economic development projects in its decision to award a Gold Shovel-Manufacturing to Alabama, including:

  • Steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal announced a $775 million project to add an electric arc furnace facility at the mill it operates with Nippon Steel in Calvert, near Mobile. The AM/NS Calvert project will create 200 jobs and expand production at the site.
  • Mazda Toyota Manufacturing revealed plans for an additional $830 million investment at its assembly plant in Huntsville that will begin production later this year. Total investment at the plant now tops $2.3 billion, and it will employ up to 4,000 workers.
  • Cullman-based HomTex, a maker of household linens, shifted gears during the pandemic to launch a project that will create 300 jobs in Selma, where it will manufacture 3-ply and N-95 face masks.

Area Development’s annual Gold and Silver Shovel Awards recognize the overall effectiveness of economic development efforts in states across the nation. Read the report.

Alabama has been a frequent winner since the magazine launched the awards in 2006, when it won a Gold Shovel. The state also claimed a Gold Shovel Award in 2013 and in 2019.

STRATEGIC EXECUTION

The state’s 2020 economic development results are outlined in the Alabama Department of Commerce’s comprehensive “New & Expanding Industry Report,” released earlier this year. The report provides a detailed look at 220 projects recorded in the state during a record-setting year of business recruitment and support.

“The chief goal of Alabama’s economic development team is to help spark the creation of jobs and opportunity throughout the state by strategically focusing on industries with solid long-term growth prospects,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Winning another Gold Shovel Award demonstrates that our team is executing on this plan and delivering results that make a difference for the state and its hard-working citizens,” he added.

This is the second Golden Shovel Award that Alabama has won during Governor Ivey’s tenure and the third since Secretary Canfield took the helm at Commerce.

Alabama joined Michigan and Indiana in receiving a Gold Shovel-Manufacturing Award from Area Development. Other states winning a Gold Shovel Award were Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah and Kansas.

Alabama’s ability to overcome the complex economic development challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic also recently earned the state a Top 10 ranking in Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cups analysis.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Mohawk Industries plans to add 130 jobs, yarn production at Alabama plant

(Mohawk Industries/Contributed)

ROANOKE, Alabama — Mohawk Industries plans to introduce yarn production at its Roanoke manufacturing facility, creating 130 jobs in the Randolph County community and expanding the company’s investment in the region.

“Our yarn facilities are very important, as they start our carpet manufacturing process,” Todd Shail, Mohawk’s senior vice president of manufacturing, said in an announcement. “When we decided to expand our yarn production to help meet customer demand, our Roanoke location was the perfect choice because of the talented workforce here and in the surrounding counties.

“We’re thrilled to be expanding and creating new jobs and opportunities in this community,” Shail added.

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Originally a carpet backing operation, the Roanoke facility will now house yarn conversion operations, as well. In total, the location will employ approximately 300 people once the new positions are filled.

“I’m proud of our relationship with this community and proud that Mohawk has recognized that this is a great place to continue to invest our resources,” Plant Manager Donald Hendrix said.

“We have a great team here already, and I look forward to welcoming new team members to our organization as we grow.”

EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES

Bryant Whaley, executive director of the Randolph County Economic Development Authority, said Mohawk’s expansion is welcome news in the East Alabama community of around 6,000 residents.

“Mohawk has been invested in the City of Roanoke for many years. An expansion of this size shows the company’s confidence in our economy and workforce,” Whaley said. “I am very thankful for the opportunities this will bring to our area.”

Mohawk Human Resources Manager Deverick Williams said the Calhoun, Georgia-based Fortune 500 company, a global leader with some of the best-known brands in the flooring industry, plans several hiring events to meet with applicants.

Information on upcoming job fairs, as well as current openings, can be found on Facebook at Mohawk Industries Careers, he added.

“Mohawk’s growth plans are another example of the advantages offered in rural Alabama,” said Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The larger regions in our state have been well known for a long time, and now the extensive activity that is abundant in our rural communities is being recognized.”

Whaley said Mohawk’s expansion represents the third growth project announced in Randolph County in less than a year, following expansions at SteelFab Inc. in Roanoke and JELD-WEN in Wedowee.

“Over 200 jobs are being created in Randolph County through these projects since August 2020,” he said. “Randolph County is not only a great place to live and raise a family, but it is also a great place to work.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Trachte plans expansion at Alabama facility, creating 70 jobs in Vernon

(Trachte/Contributed)

VERNON, Alabama — Trachte Building Systems, an industry-leading manufacturer of steel self-storage systems, announced plans to expand its Roof Mart facility in Northwest Alabama with a project that will create 70 jobs in Vernon over the next three years.

Sun Prairie, Wisconsin-based Trachte (pronounced Trock-tee) plans to invest over $11.5 million in building improvements and new machinery and equipment at the Roof Mart facility, located at 1199 County Road 9 in Vernon.

“Trachte’s expansion project in Lamar County will have a major impact on the local economy and its job creation will bring new opportunities to the hard-working citizens in Vernon,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

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“By selecting Sweet Home Alabama, I know the company has picked the right place to pursue its growth plans.”

GROWTH PLANS

In December 2020, Trachte acquired Roof Mart LLC, a designer and manufacturer of metal roofing systems and wall panels. Trachte designs, manufactures and erects a full line of durable, pre-engineered, and customizable steel structures for markets across the United States and internationally.

The acquisition allowed Trachte to add a new manufacturing facility in the Southeastern U.S., giving it access to new customers and end markets, while strengthening Trachte’s existing operations in prefabricated metal buildings.

“As an employee-owned company, we are very excited to welcome the teammates in Vernon to our company as fellow owners,” said Brianne Arnold, director of human relations for Trachte.

“We look forward to continuing to work with them as our Vernon operation will be an important part of our future.”

Trachte and its Roof Mart division began combined operations earlier this year. The Trachte/Roof Mart team recently produced its first roll up door at the Vernon facility, which currently employs 56 people.

Trachte/Roof Mart is expected to employ over 110 people in Vernon by 2025.

“We’re committed to helping businesses grow and thrive in Alabama, and the impact of new investment and job creation is always magnified when in happens in rural communities,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“With this project, Trachte is positioning its Vernon facility for a productive future, which will clearly benefit the city and the region for years to come.”

COMMUNITY IMPACT

Vernon Mayor Glenn Crawford welcomed Trachte’s expansion plans in the Lamar County city.

“We as community leaders are always looking for new opportunities and jobs for our people,” Crawford said. “Trachte/Roof Mart has already made an impact on our community, and we are looking forward to the additional business lines they are adding and will be adding in the future.”

Tom Wisemiller, president and CEO of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, said Trachte’s growth plans reflect the potential that exists for manufacturers in Lamar County.

“We’re thrilled that Trachte has decided to expand and enhance its Vernon facility.” Wisemiller said. “Just as exciting has been seeing the collaboration between Trachte, the local Roof Mart team, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the City of Vernon, and Lamar County.

“Rural Lamar County is a dynamo when it comes to manufacturing,” he added. “Companies in Lamar County are ready to hire more people and grow.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing unveils first Alabama production model

(Mazda Toyota Manufacturing/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) today announced the first vehicle in the production lineup at its Alabama manufacturing plant – the all-new Corolla Cross – following on the heels of a Toyota announcement this morning.

The joint venture partnership between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. is in a hiring boom to prepare for production on the Corolla Cross at the Huntsville facility later this year, along with an as-yet-to-be-announced Mazda vehicle.

“We are excited to manufacture the all-new Corolla Cross and I’m proud of our team members’ tremendous work in preparation for the start of production,” said Mark Brazeal, MTM’s vice president of administration.

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“We are continuing to hire new team members and I look forward to completing our MTM family so we can build high-quality vehicles for our customers, just like we built this plant from the ground up,” he added.

HIRING PUSH

MTM said it will hire more than 2,000 additional employees to join its existing workforce in Huntsville, eventually reaching up to 4,000 once production is in full operation next year.

The Alabama plant has the capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles a year, evenly split between the two nameplates. Construction on the facility began in early 2019.

“North Alabama welcomed us with open arms, and I hope the community is just as excited as we are about our first vehicle, the Corolla Cross,” said Janette Hostettler, MTM’s vice president of production.

“This will truly be a product of Alabama, assembled right here and sold all over the country,” she added.

MTM’s investment increased to more than $2.3 billion when the parent companies announced an additional $830 million commitment last summer. The additional investment, announced in August 2020, will allow MTM to incorporate more cutting-edge technologies into its manufacturing processes.

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said MTM’s investment in its Huntsville assembly plant is poised to transform the North Alabama region.

“We’re confident that the groundbreaking collaboration between Mazda and Toyota will drive growth not only for the companies but also for North Alabama for generations,” Secretary Canfield said.

The all-new Corolla Cross will expand the production lineup of Alabama’s auto industry, which by the end of 2021 will assemble 15 different models.

Toyota announced plans for the Corolla Cross earlier today.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 weeks ago

Andalusia airport gives lift to Southeast Alabama aerospace hub

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

ANDALUSIA, Alabama – Covington County’s South Alabama Regional Airport has become a busy hub for aviators traveling throughout the Southeastern U.S.

The airport has a heliport that provides hot and cold refueling services to civilian and military helicopters, as well as an airfield café that brings in hundreds of pilots daily.

In addition, the airport’s industrial park is home to several maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities, and there’s also a satellite campus of the Alabama Aviation College.

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“Our vision for South Alabama Regional Airport is to be the gateway for Covington County, along with being the best on the ground for the best in the air,” said Jed Blackwell, the airport’s executive director.

Blackwell said the main draw for the airport is its quality facilities and competitive fuel prices. The biggest thing that sets it apart from other airports is a contract to provide refueling services for all government aircraft.

Three-quarters of the military aircraft served by the airport hail from Fort Rucker, the longtime training center for U.S. Army aviation that is located just 50 minutes east in Ozark.

“We’ve developed and maintained a strong relationship with them, and we take a lot of pride in providing our men and women in uniform with quality services,” Blackwell said.

Other amenities include a modern 4,000-square-foot terminal facility with private restrooms and pilots’ lounges. The café, which is located at the heliport and open to locals as well as aviators, offers a daily buffet of items such as grilled ribs, BBQ pork chops, chicken and dumplings, fried shrimp and catfish, a salad bar, desserts and more.

AEROSPACE HUB

Improvements to the airport in recent years include a runway extension and new hangars for MRO operations and private aircraft storage, said Rick Clifton, president and CEO of the Covington County Economic Development Commission.

As a result of continued enhancements over the years, the airport has become a favored stop for pilots and passengers of private and corporate aircraft, he said.

“An airport like this really sets your small, rural community apart from others,” Clifton added, and it’s an important asset for Alabama’s Wiregrass region, which has become a strong state hub for the aerospace industry.

Clifton works with other area recruiters to promote the region to aerospace prospects and others through the 11-county consortium, Grow Southeast Alabama, as well as The Aerospace Alliance, which includes representatives from Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

GROWING OPTIMISM

While much of the aerospace industry suffered amid the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting drop in air travel, Clifton said he’s seeing positive signs among manufacturers and suppliers.

“Everybody is very optimistic that we have weathered the storm, and things are ready to take off again,” he said.

Veronica Crock, senior project manager with the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker provide approximately $2 billion in economic impact in the Wiregrass region.

In addition, there are a number of Department of Defense contractors and businesses that are located in and around the area to support the Army aviation mission.

“As a result, long-standing and successful training programs have been established that you won’t find in many areas, such as the FAA-certified Airframe and Powerplant programs at the Alabama Aviation College,” she said.

“This also makes the area attractive for aviation companies that may not be tied to Fort Rucker but benefit from the available skilled workforce.”

Crock, who previously served as president of the Ozark-Dale Economic Development Corp. and president of Grow Southeast Alabama, said those companies have brought high-paying jobs, which in turn provide a better quality of life for residents, increased spending in sectors such as retail and hospitality and improved tax revenue for communities in the largely rural region.

“The rotary-wing activity in the Wiregrass area makes it a magnet for suppliers providing services from simulation to maintenance, and it is well-positioned for continued growth given successful training programs providing a skilled and ready workforce,” Crock said.

Some of those suppliers are located at the South Alabama Regional Airport.

Two of the airport’s 30,000-square-foot hangars are leased to Covington Maintenance Center, which employs 15 people. Another MRO operation, DynCorp International, leases 77,000 square feet from the airport and has an 80-member workforce.

As for the future, Blackwell said there are plans to build additional T-hangars over the next one to two years.

“We’ve seen a heavy increase in private aircraft owners needing hangar space, and we want to position ourselves to support not only those needing space now but those in the future.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Bronze Valley Accelerator selects five startups for mentoring program

(Pixabay, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Startup accelerator gener8tor announced that five companies have been selected for its Summer 2021 Bronze Valley Accelerator program, giving them access to individualized coaching and a national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners and investors.

The startups, recruited from Alabama and throughout the Southeast, represent a wide variety of industries and verticals, ranging from waste technology to fan fiction content generation.

The group represents the third class for the Bronze Valley Accelerator, which focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color using the gBETA model from gener8tor.

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The program is designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea, and establish metrics that can make them competitive applicants for full-time, equity-based accelerators or for seed investment.

More than 150 startups from Alabama and beyond applied to participate in the program.

“In keeping with our commitment to help pave the way to success for people of color and women entrepreneurs, we look forward to working with this group of talented founders to assist in preparing them to attract seed funding and begin to grow and scale their businesses,” Bronze Valley President and CEO Neill Wright said.

NOURISHING THE ECOSYSTEM

Wisconsin-based Gener8tor’s gBETA is a free, seven-week accelerator that works with five startups at a time for no fees and no equity. Each cohort is kept small to ensure meaningful engagement with the gener8tor team, network and other resources.

“Because it provides valuable guidance and mentorship at a pivotal moment in the life cycle of a startup, the Bronze Valley Accelerator represents a key component in our strategic efforts to grow and nourish the innovation ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs across the state,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The program kicked off on Thursday, May 6, and the startups will work with the gener8tor team over the course of seven weeks to meet mentors, gain customer traction and pitch to investors. Due to COVID-19, the Summer 2021 program will be held virtually.

“In our second year, we continue to see a growing number of entrepreneurs and innovators across Alabama and beyond,” said Haley Medved Kendrick, director of the Bronze Valley Accelerator. “The five teams represent some of the extraordinary talent our community has to offer, and I am thrilled to welcome them to the Bronze Valley and gener8tor communities.”

The program will culminate on June 30 at the Bronze Valley Accelerator Pitch Night, which will highlight each of the five companies. This virtual event will be an opportunity for the public to listen and learn more about the startups and network with the founders and other community members.

The Bronze Valley Accelerator is supported by Bronze Valley, Alabama Power and the Alabama Department of Commerce. The Bronze Valley Accelerator is held three times per year, with five companies accepted per cohort to ensure a high level of individualized attention.

In April, Gener8tor announced a partnership with the MidCity Accelerator Foundation in Huntsville to launch a gBETA program in North Alabama.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

HudsonAlpha launches expansion project at its biotech campus

(HudsonAlpha/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Officials at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology on Monday marked the start of a significant expansion project at its biotech campus, positioning the Huntsville facility for new scientific advances.

The expansion will consist of two facilities: a global headquarters for Discovery Life Sciences, and new state-of-the-art laboratory and greenhouse space for HudsonAlpha’s Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture.

“Alabama has a new accolade: global headquarters to a renowned and respected biosciences company,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This will undoubtedly strengthen Alabama’s biosciences recruitment efforts and increase the economic impact to the city, state and region.”

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In November 2020, Governor Ivey announced that HudsonAlpha had been awarded $15 million though the Public School and College Authority for the expansion project.

Discovery Life Sciences new global headquarters will consist of 90,000 square feet and house DLS’s research and development, laboratory and business operations.

DLS is an international market leader in biospecimen analysis, procurement, and distribution for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostics industries.

“Discovery Life Sciences, formerly Conversant Bio, began with two entrepreneurs and is now a force in the biospecimen market, employing over 400 people around the world. We look forward to DLS growing its presence on HudsonAlpha’s campus,” said Jim Hudson, co-founder and chairman of the HudsonAlpha board.

AGRISCIENCE

With this expansion, the HudsonAlpha Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture will add 13,000 square feet of lab and greenhouse space and will be able to propagate and grow research plants to improve existing crops and develop new uses for plants.

HudsonAlpha’s partnerships with Auburn University and Alabama A&M University will be strengthened while productivity will be enhanced.

Specifically, the teams will advance genomics enabled breeding pipelines for new varieties of crops, will continue to maximize fuel production from plant biomass, reduce fertilizer use, and reduce or eliminate fungicides to increase grower yields.

“HudsonAlpha is one of the world’s largest genomics institutes in plant science and we collaborate with research groups everywhere to discover and then apply the discoveries to crop improvement,” said Jeremy Schmutz, a co-director of HudsonAlpha’s Genome Sequencing Center.

“We also will work closely with HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach team to attract the next generation of plant science students. These students need to be trained and inspired to go further to make an even greater impact in improving agriculture.”

The biotech campus is home to more than 1,000 employees, including those from HudsonAlpha’s research labs and the more than 45 life science associate companies that call the Institute home.

“This is a significant milestone not only for HudsonAlpha, but the entire state as well,” said Carter Wells, vice president for economic development. “Through this expansion, HudsonAlpha further solidifies its leadership position and expertise in plant genomics.

“Additionally, Discovery Life Sciences’ choice of Huntsville, Alabama for their global headquarters highlights the quality of our bioscience workforce and business environment,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

CGI marks 10 years of growth in Troy

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

TROY, Alabama – Canada-based CGI is marking the 10th anniversary of the opening the company’s IT Delivery Center in Pike County, which through collaboration with state and local agencies and academic institutions has grown to employ 285 local professionals.

In an announcement this week, CGI said it selected the Troy location because of the area’s quality of life, geographic proximity to an information technology services market, strong business incentives from the state of Alabama and existing local partnerships with academic institutions, where the company recruits and trains talent.

The company’s partnerships include the State of Alabama, Pike County, the City of Troy, the Pike County Economic Development Corp., Troy University and local academic institutions.

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“Over the past decade, we have built a strong relationship with CGI, and the technology company has become a solid community partner in Troy, where it has become a major employer and collaborator,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“After achieving this milestone, I am looking forward to seeing CGI grow in Pike County and our state over the next 10 years,” he added.

COMMUNITY TIES

CGI said a key component of its Troy IT Delivery Center is active engagement in the community through several corporate social responsibility programs.

These initiatives have provided financial and volunteer contributions to numerous local organizations, including raising over $100,000 for the local Relay for Life of Pike County, donating laptops to the State of Alabama and participating in Troy Pride.

The center also integrates CGI’s signature STEM@CGI program, which introduces at-risk or underrepresented students to critical skills that help foster an interest in STEM-related careers. Locally, CGI member volunteers have introduced students from Troy Elementary School to coding, computer hardware and other key STEM skills.

“As we look toward the next 10 years of continued growth and partnership with the business and local community, CGI’s commitment to Troy delivery center and the Troy community has never been greater,” said Loren Gunst, CGI’s Delivery Center director in Troy.

“CGI leads the charge in providing a diverse and inclusive workplace that enriches the local workforce and community alike,” Gunst said.

Founded in 1976, CGI is among the largest independent IT and business consulting services firms in the world. The Troy IT Delivery Center is one of eight CGI delivery centers in the United States, including a location in Mobile.

LOCAL IMPACT

Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins said CGI’s operation has had a massive impact on the community.

“CGI’s decision to establish a delivery center in Troy changed the local workforce and provided career opportunities in the technology industry that did not previously exist locally,” Hawkins said.

“A decade later, CGI remains a valuable partner of Troy University, as we share a campus just one block from the main campus of the University.”

Alabama State Sen. Jimmy Holley said career opportunities at CGI in Troy have benefited local residents.

“Together, we’ve been able to create high-paying jobs for those who want to stay in Troy, offering them an opportunity to pursue careers in the IT industry, and have attracted new residents to the region — further contributing to the economy. I am proud of these accomplishments and look forward to continued success,” he said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

New logistics projects coming to Coastal Alabama

(Mobile Chamber/Contributed)

LOXLEY, Alabama – To fuel its growth plans in Gulf Coast region, Imperial Dade, a distributor of food service packaging and janitorial supplies, is planning a move into a new 220,000-square-foot logistics hub in Baldwin County.

The $20 million project, announced this week, will support the company’s expanding customer base and its continued growth along the Gulf Coast.

The logistics hub, developed and owned by I-10/Gulf Coast Logistics Center LLC, will be the first Class-A industrial facility constructed in Baldwin County, with Imperial Dade making the move from an existing Loxley location.

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“We are thrilled to be building our new facility here in Baldwin County. This is our home, and we are committed to this community,” said Craig Huey, Loxley branch manager.

Imperial Dade, which serves 65,000 customers across the United States and Puerto Rico, is a national leader in specialty distribution, with over 3,000 employees.

“Imperial Dade’s new facility will support demand across their Gulf Coast footprint and drive the growth in distribution operations in Loxley and throughout Baldwin County,” said Baldwin County Commissioner Joe Davis.

SOUTH ALABAMA LOGISTICS PARK

Earlier in April, officials in Mobile announced plans for a master-planned industrial park, South Alabama Logistics Park (SALP), a new development to attract warehouse, distribution and manufacturing operations.

“With over 6 million square feet planned in Phase 1, this development would not only be the largest in the state but one of the largest in the Southeast,” said Philip Burton, president of Burton Property Group, a Mobile-based real estate development firm.

A three-year collaborative effort between the Alabama State Port Authority, Burton Property Group, City of Mobile, Mobile County and the Mobile Area of Chamber of Commerce, the 1,300-acre park will be located off I-10 near the Theodore Dawes exit, just south of the Amazon sortation center in South Mobile County.

At full build-out of the initial phase, Burton estimates the development will exceed $350 million in value.

“The new park offers up new land options for light manufacturing and distribution investments that rely on modern, deep-water seaport terminals for their import/export activities,” Alabama State Port Authority Director and CEO John Driscoll said.

“We’re excited by this public/private initiative that will only strengthen the region’s growth opportunities.”

Features include Class A industrial warehouse and distribution space for the growing number of shippers and light manufacturers that need to locate in close proximity to either the Port of Mobile or Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.

“This is a huge step in continuing our success in economic development,” Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Economic Development David Rodgers said. “Product development is a core focus of what we do, and we must have quality sites ready for the final site selection process.”

GROWTH PROJECTS

The projects follow other logistics and distribution hub projects announced for the Mobile-Baldwin region in recent months. Grocery retailer ALDI recently kicked off construction on a $100 million distribution center and regional headquarters in Loxley as part of a project that will create 200 jobs at the 564,000-square-foot facility.

“Loxley is very pleased with the amount of growth we have seen recently. Along with new development, we are also seeing existing companies like Imperial Dade continue to grow and thrive,” Mayor Richard Teal said.

“It is exciting to see Imperial Dade expand their business as well as bring new job opportunities for our citizens,” he added.

The Alabama Department of Commerce reports that there has been robust activity in the distribution and logistics sector across the state, with large-scale projects from companies including Amazon, Dollar General, Lowe’s Home Improvement and FedEx.

Altogether, these projects, all announced during 2020, involve over $500 million in new capital investment and the creation of at least 2,000 jobs in Alabama.

“When it comes to logistics and distribution, Alabama is proving to be a prime location for many major businesses,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Thanks to our central location in the Southeast, an extensive infrastructure network and a motivated workforce, it looks like all roads are leading to Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Bonnie Plants plans greenhouse projects, e-commerce upgrades in Alabama

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

UNION SPRINGS, Alabama — Bonnie Plants, the nation’s largest grower of vegetable and herb plants for home gardens, announced plans today to upgrade and expand its greenhouse facilities in Bullock County with a multimillion-dollar project that will improve production and strengthen its e-commerce operations.

“This new operation will be one of the most state-of-the-art facilities within Bonnie’s network of over 300 acres of greenhouses nationwide,” said Mike Sutterer, president and CEO of Bonnie Plants.

“When completed, this project will expand our growing and distribution space in Union Springs by more than 30 percent while improving how we grow and distribute vegetables and herbs as well as our new growth segments of flowers, succulents and houseplants.”

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The expansion in Union Springs includes seven acres of open-roof, natural-ventilation greenhouses, which provide a variety of benefits compared to traditional fan and shutter greenhouses, including better temperature and humidity control, energy savings and reduced need for irrigation — plus an additional four acres of outdoor growing area.

There will also be a 7,800-square-foot production line and 45,900-square-foot e-commerce distribution warehouse at each end of the greenhouses. Including potting, finish growth and distribution in one central facility will create better, sturdier plants by reducing handling time and variations in temperature and climate as the plants are moved through the facility, improving plant quality for consumers.

The expansion project will create an estimated 60 jobs at the Bullock County site.
The upgrade will also allow Bonnie to strengthen direct fulfillment for its ever-expanding e-commerce division.

This expansion project began as a way to support the surging demand following a 450 percent increase in e-commerce sales in 2020 and another increase of at least 400 percent planned for 2021.

“E-commerce has been one of the fastest-growing channels for Bonnie Plants for the past several years,” said Sidney Phelps, director of E-commerce for Bonnie Plants. “As consumers are buying more things online, they’re even choosing to have plants for their gardens delivered directly to their homes.

“This new expansion allows us to offer a best-in-class experience for distribution while keeping the overall plant health at the highest quality.”

GROWTH PLANS

In conjunction with the increased investment in Union Springs, last year Bonnie announced it was relocating certain headquarters positions to a new state-of-the-art building in Opelika with the goal of leveraging the location, building and amenities to help Bonnie’s employee recruiting and retention efforts.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was last August, and construction is scheduled to be completed late Fall 2021.

“We’re proud that the new greenhouse facilities will not only create expansion for our products and operations, but for employment in Bullock County as well,” Sutterer said “Union Springs has been an integral part of Bonnie’s history for more than 100 years and that isn’t changing.

“We’re excited that we’ll be able to continue our commitment to this community by adding more associates to the Bonnie family through this expansion.”

Construction on the expansion in Union Springs began in December 2020 and is expected to be completed this Fall.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Bonnie Plant’s growth project will have a major economic impact on Bullock County, where the company was founded in 1918.

“It is so exciting to see Bonnie Plants, with more than a century of history in Bullock County, continuing to grow and expand with the changing culture. Their foresight and ability to adapt to the conditions and restraints we all found ourselves in through the pandemic is exceptional as they worked to meet the needs of people throughout their service area,” she said. “They are a testament to the strength and long-standing economic successes of Bullock County.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with David Padgett at the Bullock County Development Authority as he assists companies through growth and expansion opportunities,” Tuck added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

New accelerator programs launching for North Alabama tech startups

(gener8tor/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Technology startups in North Alabama have a new resource to speed their growth trajectory, thanks to a partnership announced today between national startup accelerator gener8tor and the MidCity Accelerator Foundation Inc.

Starting in mid-2021, four annual programs for entrepreneurs will be offered through this collaboration. The programs include three annual gBETA “pre-accelerator” programs and an annual “gener8tor Accelerator Studio” program.

Through this not-for-profit venture, the MidCity Accelerator Foundation and gener8tor aim to provide a focused experience with durable venture and partnering relationships available to applicants across North Alabama.

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“This new partnership between MidCity Accelerator Foundation and gener8tor will provide entrepreneurs the proven, successful gener8tor accelerator and its toolbox to build a successful growing concern around their product,” said Remy Gross III, co-founder of RCP Companies, which created the MidCity Accelerator Foundation.

“Gener8tor will foster and empower entrepreneurs by providing its groundbreaking ‘boot camp’ that catapults startups to the next level,” he added.

ACCELERATING GROWTH

The gBETA program a free accelerator that is designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea and establish metrics that can make them competitive applicants for full-time, equity-based accelerators or seed investment.

Participants will receive intensive and individualized coaching and access to gener8tor’s national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners and investors. gBETA will operate in both Huntsville and Florence-Muscle Shoals.

In addition, the Accelerator Studio will solicit applications and select five teams to each build a technology startup from scratch. Selected participants receive $100,000 in investment capital per team and work closely with gener8tor staff to build, design and launch new products or services.

“The collaboration between gener8tor and Huntsville’s MidCity Accelerator Foundation will enhance the vitality of North Alabama’s innovation ecosystem by providing the guidance and mentorship that entrepreneurs need at a critical time,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“These accelerator programs will help startups reach the next level of their development,” he added.

Secretary Canfield is an advisory council member of the Alabama Innovation Commission, whose objective is to develop and execute strategies that will drive innovation, entrepreneurship, and support talent attractions and retention in the state.

APPLY NOW

Gener8tor has hired two full-time employees to operate these programs, and applications are now being accepted for a full-time program manager. In addition, startups and individuals interested in participating in gBETA and the gener8tor Huntsville Accelerator Studio can apply now.

More information on all of these applications and more ways to get involved are available at gener8tor/Huntsville.

The first program to kick off will be the gBETA Huntsville program this Summer.

In Birmingham, gener8tor is collaborating with the Bronze Valley Accelerator to offer assistance to startups, with a particular focus on enterprises launched by female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color. The first cohort of startups selected for the collaboration’s gBETA program was announced last October.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Economic development report card shows $4.8 billion in 2020 investment

(Hal Yeager/Governors Office)

MONTGOMERY — Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, economic development activity across Alabama in 2020 generated close to $5 billion in new capital investment and almost 10,000 job commitments, Governor Kay Ivey announced today.

With significant growth projects recorded in key strategic industrial sectors, Governor Ivey said the activity will strengthen the foundations of Alabama’s economy and help accelerate the recovery that is taking place across the state.

“While 2020 was far from being a normal year, Alabama’s economic development efforts made a steady and important contribution to the state’s growth prospects,” Governor Ivey said.

“Companies from around the world continue to find all the ingredients they need for success right here in Alabama.”

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The 2020 New and Expanding Industry Report, being released today, indicates that 230 economic development projects were completed last year, resulting in $4.8 billion in new capital investment and 9,466 new jobs. The annual report is compiled each year by the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Working diligently to overcome obstacles, Alabama’s economic development team managed to bring home solid results last year that will help advance the state’s economic revival,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Looking ahead, the economic development pipeline for 2021 continues to flow with high-caliber projects that are poised to bring new opportunities to Alabama,” he added.

GROWTH AREAS

The 2020 report shows that significant projects were launched in traditional Alabama industries, including steelmaking and mining.

AM/NS Calvert, for example, announced plans for a $775 million electric arc steelmaking facility at its mill near Mobile, creating 200 jobs. Warrior Met Coal, meanwhile, is developing a new $529 million underground mine in Tuscaloosa County with 359 new jobs.

During 2020, there was robust activity in the distribution and logistics sector, with large-scale projects from companies including ALDI, Amazon, Dollar General, Lowe’s Home Improvement and FedEx. Altogether, these projects involve over $500 million in new capital investment and the creation of at least 2,000 jobs in the state.

Alabama’s auto sector continues to attract new investment, including more than $1.6 billion in 2020 projects generating 2,600 new job commitments.

Significant projects included Mazda Toyota Manufacturing’s additional $830 million investment in its Huntsville assembly plant, set to open this year, and Mercedes-Benz’s $54 million logistics center in Tuscaloosa County to support electric vehicle production, beginning next year.

‘TARGETED’ COUNTIES

Despite the pandemic, Alabama’s rural counties also recorded a high level of project activity, with nearly $615 million in new capital investment and 1,940 jobs commitments announced for the state’s 40 “targeted” counties.

Major projects locating in rural counties during 2020 included:

  • Resource Fiber is opening a facility in Sulligent to manufacture bamboo nail laminated timbers and bamboo rail ties, creating 111 jobs in Lamar County.
  • Coastal Growers LLC is constructing an $87 million peanut shelling plant in Atmore, creating over 100 jobs and positioning the Escambia County city as a central hub for farmers needing that resource.
  • Canada’s Pinnacle Renewable Energy is teaming with two Alabama companies to construct a $95 million industrial wood pellet plant in Demopolis that will create at least 45 jobs in Marengo County.

Foreign direct investment continues to flow into Alabama, the report indicates. Companies from 13 different countries announced plans to invest a combined $2.7 billion in Alabama during 2020, resulting in the creation of 2,700 jobs.

The report shows that Jefferson County was tops for job creation through economic development projects in 2020, with 1,211 jobs. Rounding out the Top 5 counties were Lee, Tuscaloosa, Cullman and Madison.

Limestone County led the way in new capital investment, with 2020 projects worth more than $1.1 billion. Other leaders were Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Lee.

“Right now, there are many exciting developments unfolding across Alabama that showcase next-level innovation, highlight the extraordinary capabilities of our workers and inject additional horsepower into the state’s evolving economy,” Secretary Canfield said.

“While there is still healing to be done, sparks of vitality are flashing in many sectors of Alabama’s economy.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Chart Industries plans Alabama growth project, creating 94 jobs

(Chart Industries/Contributed)

MOBILE, Alabama — Georgia-based Chart Industries, a leading maker of equipment used in the clean energy and industrial gas markets, plans a $2.5 million investment in an expansion project that will create 94 jobs at its Alabama facility, according to the Mobile Area Chamber.

The project is expected to more than double the manufacturing capacity of hydrogen transport trailers at the Theodore facility and introduce the capability of producing hydrogen bulk storage tanks at the Mobile County site.

“The Mobile community is a great place for us to expand our business in part due to the accessibility of the Port of Mobile but more importantly, the highly-skilled talent that we are eager to add to the Chart family,” Chart CEO and President Jill Evanko said.

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In October 2020, Chart purchased the hydrogen trailer and cryogenic trailer business of Worthington Industries, which operated the Theodore site. Chart’s new investment will improve the existing facility, construct a new building and purchase needed equipment.

“Chart is another example of a company that sees value in our area workforce and the community’s logistical assets that include the Port of Mobile,” said David Rodgers, the Mobile Area Chamber’s vice president of economic development.

“Our manufacturing sector continues to grow and prosper in our community.”

GROWTH PLANS

The Chamber said Chart will add 94 jobs over two years at the Theodore facility while also retaining 41 jobs.

“The City of Mobile is proud to support the expansion of Chart Industries to bring 94 new jobs to the area and double their capacity in Mobile,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.

“This investment by the company will have a significant impact on the local economy by diversifying our manufacturing industry and supporting local vendors. Congratulations to Chart Industries on this important step towards many years of success here in Mobile.”

Hydrogen is widely used today in petroleum refining, technology and fertilizer production while it is taking on a greater role with fuel cells for distribution centers, for companies like Walmart and Amazon.

“When a business downsizes or vacates an area, there is a negative the community has to adjust to. So, I am relieved and thrilled that Chart Industries purchased the industrial products portion of Worthington Industries in Theodore,” Mobile County Commissioner Randall Dueitt said.

Chart is a publicly traded company based in Ball Ground, Ga., just outside of Atlanta. It was named one of Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Companies in 2020, and it has customers on six continents. The Theodore location is its only site in Alabama.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Alabama team staging virtual trade mission to Israel in May

(Taylor Brandon/Unsplash)

The Alabama Department of Commerce and the Export Alabama Alliance will host a virtual trade mission to Israel on May 10-12 in preparation for an in-person trade mission to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to take place later this year.

Alabama companies already exporting to Israel in addition to those looking to get started in this market are welcome to apply. The virtual trade mission is not meant to replace the in-person trade mission to Israel, but rather to better prepare companies for it.

Participating companies will have the opportunity to meet with potential business partners on one-on-one business matchmaking meetings in a virtual setting. The trade mission will be multi-industry.

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“At a time when businesses face continued challenges globally and domestically, we are looking to deepen and strengthen ties with our long-term ally, Israel, which is a logical choice for a virtual trade mission,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

GROWING TRADE

The United States is Israel’s single largest trading partner, and Israel is the second-largest trading partner for the U.S. in the Middle East. Since signing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1985, U.S.-Israel trade has grown six-fold. Nearly all non-agricultural trade tariffs between the U.S. and Israel have been eliminated.

Despite regional geopolitical challenges, Israel has a stable, strong economy. Indeed, business between Alabama and Israel continues to be strong. Alabama’s exports to Israel in 2020 totaled $49 million, an increase of nearly 27% from 2019.

“We have found that virtual events leading up to an in-person trade mission can be very beneficial in that they allow companies to make initial contacts, learn more about the market to be visited and pave the way for a more productive trip,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Key target sectors for U.S. exports to Israel include safety & security, healthcare, information and communication technologies, and defense.

For more information on the virtual trade mission, contact Beau Lore at the Alabama Department of Commerce, Beau.Lore@commerce.alabama.gov or 334-324-7525.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Alabama receives grant to help reskill workers displaced by pandemic

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The National Governors Association (NGA) has awarded Alabama a $100,000 Workforce Innovation Network and Workforce Innovation Fund grant to develop innovative policies for reskilling Alabamians who have been displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NGA grant will be used to support Alabama’s Skills-Based Recovery Initiative, which will provide integrated education, workforce, and human services for displaced Alabama workers, allowing them to retrain and reenter the workforce in an occupation leading to a family-sustaining wage.

“I am grateful to the National Governors Association for awarding us this $100,000 grant because it will assist our broad-based efforts to help those Alabama workers who have been economically impacted by COVID-19,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

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“It’s our goal to provide displaced workers with all the resources they need to get back on track and build a better future.”

CREATING PATHWAYS

Alabama’s Skills-Based Recovery Initiative is a key element of the state’s COVID-19 workforce recovery efforts. Between March 21, 2020 and January 30, 2021, just over 950,000 Alabamians filed an initial unemployment claim, signaling a critical need for assistance.

The Alabama Skills-Based Recovery Initiative will also offer technical assistance to employers for developing and deploying skills-based job descriptions using the Alabama Skills-Based Job Description Generator, a tool under development that will allow companies to create customized job descriptions for their firms.

It will also include a statewide gap analysis for each education and training provider in Alabama’s public workforce system to determine whether the providers are offering adequate programs for the in-demand jobs in the region.

“While some industries have proven resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals employed in retail or hospitality jobs before the crisis have not been able to engage in the training or upskilling they need to get into a new position,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“This NGA grant will make a difference as we attempt to create pathways for these people.”

Secretary Canfield serves on an inter-agency Workforce Recovery Task Force that stemmed from Alabama’s participation in other NGA programs. He is joined by Jimmy Baker, Chancellor of the Alabama Community College System; Fitzgerald Washington, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Labor; Nancy Buckner, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Human Resources; and Nick Moore, Director of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation.

This group will serve as Alabama’s state team for the NGA grant, with Moore serving as team lead.

“This initiative will help Alabama’s workforce emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever,” Governor Ivey said.

Governor Ivey’s administration is committed to elevating workforce development in Alabama. Before the pandemic, she launched Success Plus, a strategic plan that aims to add 500,000 credentialed Alabamians to the workforce by 2025.

WORKFORCE INNOVATION

The NGA, founded in 1908, serves as the voice of the leaders of 55 states, territories, and commonwealths, helping governors identify priority issues and deal with matters of public policy and governance at the state, national and global levels.

The NGA announced today that Alabama is one of nine states selected for the inaugural cohort of the Workforce Innovation Network, which is designed to help states build capacity for near-term innovation and longer-term strategies to prepare their workforces for a post-COVID-19 economy.

“Even as Governors work to defeat COVID-19 in their states and territories by making vaccines available to millions, they recognize that the effects of the pandemic on their workforces are far-reaching and, in some cases, may be permanent,” said Timothy Blute, director of the NGA Center.

“The effects of the pandemic have been disparate across sectors of society and the workforce, necessitating partnerships among governmental leaders, business and civic communities.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Construction kicks off on Coastal Growers’ $87 million peanut shelling facility

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

ATMORE, Alabama – Governor Kay Ivey joined Escambia County officials in Atmore this week to mark the start of construction on the Coastal Growers LLC peanut shelling facility, which will provide a major boost to peanut farmers in the region.

The company — owned by a cooperative of farmers, most of them residing in Alabama – will build an $87 million shelling and storage facility on more than 60 acres in the Atmore Industrial Park.

Governor Ivey said the project is set to create 150 new, well-paying employment opportunities in the Southwestern Alabama community while providing a co-op opportunity to 100 peanut products across the state.

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“I’m thrilled for the people of Atmore, and the surrounding area, to see this facility is ready to begin taking shape,” Governor Ivey said. “Our state has a storied tradition of peanut production, which provides an estimated $200 million to our economy.

This will be a great addition to our state’s economy,” she added.

‘CRITICAL RESOURCE’

The Coastal Growers project was announced in September 2020.

The new facility, encompassing more than 400,000 square feet, will take about a year to build, according to Dothan’s Hollis & Spann Inc., which is leading the construction project.

Officials have said the new facility in Atmore will allow farmers to capture more profit from their own crops, giving them more control over their own operations. It’s expected to become a hub for peanut shelling in the region while also serving as a magnet for other businesses.

“The Coastal Growers facility will become a critical resource for peanut farmers in Alabama and beyond by helping them make their operations more sustainable and profitable,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“I look forward to seeing the significant impact that this project is going to deliver for farmers and for the region,” he added.

TEAMWORK

The Coastal Growers project stemmed from a broad-based partnership that included contributions from the Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Peanut Producers Association. UB Community Development LLC led efforts to secure financing, which included New Market Tax Credits and incentives.

“We are very proud and thankful here in Escambia County for this project, and what it will mean for our farmers across Alabama. Coastal Growers is not just about the jobs it will create at its shelling plant, but also about the better profit margins that will be realized by the farmers who send their product there,” said Jess Nicholas of Centerfire Economic, who serves as executive director of the Escambia County Industrial Development Authority.

“We are also especially thankful to Governor Ivey and her staff for giving us the tools we needed to land this project. Today was a big win for our state and will lead to further investment in this area soon,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Developer: How rural Chambers County’s comeback offers lessons

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Few people understand the mechanics of rural economic development better than Valerie Gray, the executive director of the Chambers County Development Authority. After all, she and her team helped engineer a reversal of the county’s fortunes after its traditional industry imploded.

Gray has led the CCDA for over 22 years. During her tenure, she has overseen a transformation in the east Alabama county’s economy, which has evolved from its textile industry roots into a diversified mix of auto suppliers and other industrial operations.

Between 2011 and 2019, Chambers County attracted projects bringing $773 million in new capital investment and over 2,300 job commitments, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data. Before that, in 2008 alone, her team landed projects involving $137 million in investment and 883 jobs.

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Gray is the only rural developer to receive the David R. Echols Distinguished Service Award for exemplary service in economic development. She’s also the incoming chairman of the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s Rural Initiative, working in partnership with Commerce.

She shares valuable lessons about real-world rural economic development in a question-and-answer session.

At one point, Chambers County was really hurting as jobs associated with textile and apparel manufacturing began an exodus. How bad did it get?

I began my career in Chambers County in 1998. The first year we saw more loss than success, with a large portion of our workforce impacted by closing textile mills. In 1984, there were as many as 25,400 jobs in Chambers County associated with West Point Pepperell, not including support jobs, service jobs and other textile facilities.

We had two big blows to our economy when we lost thousands of jobs. From 2001 to 2003, we lost 3,303 jobs in textiles. In 2007-2008, we lost 4,737 jobs. It was devastating, and in early 2009, we hit 19% unemployment — the highest in the state. Typically, I like to finish first but not in this category.

But Chambers County managed to turn things around. What was the turning point?

There was not one particular turning point. It was a process. The first step came in 2001, when we managed to convince our leadership that we needed to purchase land to build up our product inventory. We borrowed over $1 million to purchase 300 acres on Exit 70 on I-85 to develop into a park.

The next step was planning on how to dig ourselves out of this hole. We invested in infrastructure and marketing, and that paid off. In 2006, a small metal stamping company from Bridgman, Michigan saw potential and became the first company to locate in our park. Before long, others followed suit, and in 2008 we had four automotive companies choose to locate in Chambers County Industrial Park. Things were looking up.

Does Chambers County offer any lessons for other rural developers?

Plenty of lessons can be learned. The first lesson I would offer to any community is don’t saturate your economy with one industry sector. Diversification is so incredibly important. If you have a diverse economy, you don’t feel the brunt of shut-downs or downturns in a sector quite as much.

The second lesson is base your incentives and practices on performance. Don’t be so hungry for an announcement that you’re overextending yourself. There’s a balance in a good deal. A good deal has to be good for the company, the city, the county, the state and, most importantly, your citizens.

What are the most difficult challenges associated with rural economic development?

A major challenge is letting companies and people know that you can compete with larger communities. There are great advantages to living and operating a business in a rural community. If you are a smaller company, you become a big fish in a little pond.

Service after the sale is critical, too. It’s much easier to track down your commitments and hold them accountable in a rural county. There’s not nearly as much red tape to go through. Often, people in rural communities hold multiple roles, so relationship-building is simpler.

How can rural developers overcome the challenges?

You have to love your community. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk. My children attend public school here. I live here. I can look company executives in the eye and tell them that 100% of my staff lives in Chambers County and loves it. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be. If you love where you live, it’s your home and no one can sell your home better than you. You have to tell the story. You have to tell companies why they should be here, too.

And you always have to work to make things better. It could be healthcare, schools, broadband, or serving on boards of local small charitable organizations. If people know what you are doing to make things better, you’d be amazed at the amount of respect you get. It’s exhausting to change thinking patterns and roll up your sleeves to do heavy lifting in your small town, but who better to do it than you? It’s your hometown.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Packaging Corp. of America plans $440 million project at Alabama mill

(Made in Alabama/Twitter)

JACKSON, Alabama – Packaging Corp. of America (PCA) plans to launch a three-year, $440 million project to permanently convert a paper machine at its mill in Clarke County to produce linerboard used for corrugated packaging.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based PCA announced that it discontinued the production of uncoated freesheet, used for copy paper and other applications, on its No. 3 paper machine at the Jackson mill in late 2020.

After a temporary switch to produce linerboard, PCA is now making preparations to convert the mill’s paper machine into a 700,000-ton-per-year high-performance, virgin kraft linerboard machine in a phased approach over the next 36 months.

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PCA said key elements in the conversion project include the installation of an OCC plant for recycling old corrugated containers and various pulp mill modifications. In addition, modifications and upgrades will be made to critical sections of the paper machine.

PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said the project will enable the company to meet strong packaging demand and to optimize the Alabama mill’s profitability and viability. The capital cost of the conversion is expected to be approximately $440 million.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the City of Jackson and Clarke County to help us continue providing quality jobs and a positive economic impact in the Jackson community,” Kowlzan said.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Governor Kay Ivey said the project represents a positive development for the Jackson mill, a major industrial employer with more than 500 workers.

“Packaging Corp. of America’s reinvestment in its Jackson manufacturing facility will solidify the plant’s future by enhancing its competitiveness,” Governor Ivey said.

“This decision underlines the company’s confidence in its Alabama operation while also preserving jobs and safeguarding local education tax dollars. It’s a win for the company, the community and the state.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said PCA’s project will increase the efficiency of the Clarke County plant while providing a long-term economic boost to Jackson, a city with a population of around 5,300.

“We’re committed to helping existing businesses grow and thrive in Alabama, and the impact of a major investment is always magnified when in happens in rural communities,” Secretary Canfield said.

“With this project, PCA is positioning its Jackson mill for the future, which will significantly benefit the city and the region for years to come.”

‘LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIP’

Jackson Mayor Paul R. South said the project will allow PCA to continue providing quality jobs while securing a positive economic future for Clarke County.

“The City of Jackson looks forward to working with the corporation as the project moves forward,” South said. “In my opinion, they couldn’t have selected a better community.  Jackson is a safe and peaceful city full of great people, with good schools and recreation and a strong work force, along with extensive natural resources.”

“This is wonderful news for Clarke County and the City of Jackson,” said Stan Hutto, chairman of the Clarke County Commission. “We have a long-standing relationship with this outstanding company, and we are committed to helping them achieve their goals to ensure a bright, successful future.”

PCA is the third largest producer of containerboard products and the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. PCA operates eight mills and 90 corrugated products plants and related facilities.

The Jackson mill’s No. 1 paper machine will continue to produce uncoated freesheet products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama scores in Top 10 in publication’s 2020 economic development rankings

(YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama’s ability to overcome the complex challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to economic development earned the state a Top 10 ranking in “Site Selection” magazine’s annual Governor’s Cups analysis.

Alabama ranked No. 9 among the states in job-creating economic development projects per capita, a measurement that places smaller states on a more level playing field in the analysis. The state’s per capita ranking in 2019 was No. 6.

In addition, Huntsville, Decatur, Auburn-Opelika and Cullman all earned high rankings in the 2020 “Site Selection” analysis.

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the positive results in the closely watched Governor’s Cups analysis underscore how economic developers across the state were able to spur job growth and attract new investment amid the pandemic’s uncertainties.

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“These rankings really speak to the commitment of Alabama’s economic development team to identify meaningful opportunities for citizens in our state through job creation and to pursue that mission despite disruptive challenges,” Secretary Canfield said.

“The rankings also serve as a strong reminder that Alabama remains a very attractive location for corporate decision-makers because of a pro-business environment, a motivated workforce and top-ranked job-training programs,” he added.

TOP PERFORMERS

The Governor’s Cups rankings show:

  • With 121 qualified projects in 2020, Alabama finished just outside the Top 10 in the “Site Selection” ranking of the states by number of projects. Pennsylvania was No. 10, with 123 projects.
  • With 9 qualified projects, Decatur ranked No. 2 among metros with a population of less than 200,000 in the total project rankings and No. 4 in the per-capita rankings.
  • Auburn-Opelika placed at No. 6 in this same population category for total projects and No. 9 in the per-capita rankings. The metro had 7 projects counted by “Site Selection.”
  • Huntsville, with 22 projects, ranked No. 3 among metros with populations between 200,000 and 1 million in the per-capita projects ranking. The metro was No. 7 in the total projects ranking.

With 12 projects, Cullman ranked No. 3 among the 2020 Top Micropolitans for number of projects, reinforcing its perennial ranking in this category of the “Site Selection” analysis. The city ranked No. 6 in the previous year.

In an article, the magazine noted how two Cullman companies – HomTex and JELCO – pivoted their traditional manufacturing activities in 2020 to produce much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE.

ATTRACTING INVESTMENT

Atlanta-based “Site Selection” has awarded the Governor’s Cup award each year since 1988 to the state with the greatest number of new and expanded corporate facilities as tracked by a proprietary database. In 2014, the magazine launched a per capita category to even the playing field for states with smaller populations. Alabama ranked No. 7 that year.

Qualifying projects are those meeting one or more of Site Selection’s criteria for inclusion in the Conway Projects Database: a minimum investment of $1 million, creation of 20 or more new jobs, or 20,000 square feet or more of new space. It does not track retail and government projects, or schools and hospitals.

“The Governor’s Cups recognize not only the winning governors, but their entire economic development teams, and by extension, the many professionals throughout their states who work every day to attract new investment and retain and grow existing businesses,” said Mark Arend, editor in chief of “Site Selection.”

Ohio ranked No. 1 for projects per capita in 2020, while Texas was tops for the overall number of projects.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Polyplex USA plans $90 million expansion project at Alabama facility

(Polyplex/Contributed, YHN)

DECATUR, Alabama – Polyplex USA announced plans this past week to invest over $90.6 million to expand production of specialized polyester film at its Decatur facility in a project that will create 100 jobs when complete.

Polyplex plans to add a second Biaxially Oriented Polyethylene Terephthalate (BOPET) film line at the Alabama facility, with an additional investment to create matching capacity for captive resin. BOPET is used in packaging, electrical and other industrial applications.

Amit Kalra, president of Polyplex USA, said the growth project will solidify the company’s leadership position in the U.S. market.

“We are eager to leverage our existing operations, our strong ties to our customers, to our communities and of course to the expertise of our operations team as evidenced by our successful expansions in other locations,” Kalra said.

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“We have a well-established sales and distribution system and hope to continue to provide additional value to our customers with a cost effective, faster turnaround and increased reliability of supplies.”

Once the expansion project is complete, Polyplex’s Decatur facility will have the largest capacity BOPET film line in the world.

“Alabama is a welcoming home to companies from around the world, and it’s great to see that Polyplex is including Decatur in its growth plans,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“Polyplex is making a significant investment in its Morgan County facility and solidifying its presence there with 100 new jobs. We look forward to seeing this company grow in Sweet Home Alabama,” she added.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Polyplex said construction at the facility is scheduled to begin during the first half of 2021, with production expected to begin by the end of next year.

“Polyplex’s reinvestment in its Decatur facility shows that the company has a high level of confidence in its Alabama workforce and in the future prospects of its Morgan County operation,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Kalra said the expansion will tap into the growing shift towards local supply in regional markets. It will also make Polyplex USA’s cost structure more efficient with a two-line configuration, metallizing and captive resin manufacturing.

“This investment will significantly reduce the overall unit cost and provide a more robust value proposition to the industry,” Kalra said.

State Sen. Arthur Orr, who also serves as chairman of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, said Polyplex’s decision to expand in Decatur will provide a major boost to the area’s economy.“This is a huge investment, and the addition of new jobs is certainly good news for the people of our community,” Orr said.

Local officials also welcomed Polyplex’s growth plans.

“This expansion solidifies Polyplex’s presence in Decatur, and we are grateful that their leaders recognize our community as a prime location for their continued growth,” Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said.

“This large investment and additional job creation will benefit Morgan County for years to come. This announcement lets others know that our community is a favorable place to start and grow a business,” added Ray Long, chairman of the Morgan County Commission.

The project was supported by the State of Alabama, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the City of Decatur, the Morgan County Commission and other local officials.

Founded in India in 1984, Polyplex operates manufacturing and distribution facilities in India, South-East Asia, Europe and the Americas.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Ren Seafoods plans processing facility, distribution hub in Mobile

(Port of Mobile/Contributed)

MOBILE, Alabama — Ren Seafoods plans to open a seafood processing facility and distribution hub in Mobile as part of a $12.4 million growth project that will create 54 jobs, according to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This project further cements Mobile as a prime location for logistics and warehousing,” said David Rodgers, the chamber’s vice president of economic development.

While most national seafood companies are concentrated in areas such as New England, Miami and Seattle, Ren Seafoods CEO Javier Infante said has company is pursuing a different strategy.

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“We are creating a hub for seafood distribution covering the Southeast region,” he said.

Infante added that a partnership with MTC Logistics led Ren Seafoods to Mobile, said Infante. MTC Logistics broke ground on a 300,000-square-foot cold storage facility across from APM Terminals, and will open later this year

“We are following their path and its vicinity allows us to combine product deliveries to have a unique logistics operation,” Infante said.

“In addition, there is high-quality, local seafood in this region that we will be able to access for our customer base.”

LOGISTICS HUB

Brooks Royster, vice president of international supply chain solutions for MTC Logistics, said Ren Seafoods is the first customer to come to Mobile to be near this facility.

“It is further testament to Mobile being successful as a logistics hub and able to attract new international players,” he said.

Royster added he expects others will follow suit.

Ren Seafoods is affiliated with Pennsylvania-based The Fishin’ Co., a privately held company selling 150 million pounds of seafood annually to retailers and food service distributors.

Ren Seafoods will invest $12.4 million in its new location in the old Smith’s Bakery building on the West Interstate 65 service road. Construction is expected to begin in April and be completed later this year.

“This exciting announcement is just another example of how well positioned Mobile is to attract businesses from around the country who are looking to invest in a city that is business friendly,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.

“We are excited to add Ren Seafoods to our local corporate fabric and look forward to seeing their continued success and growth here in Mobile.”

The Chamber also announced today that it has finalized a project that will see Ray-Mont Logistics and its partners locate a high-tech logistics park in Mobile.

“The project aligns with the Chamber’s economic development strategy to continue to grow Mobile’s logistics and distribution network, especially as it relates to containerized cargo through the Port of Mobile and APM Terminals,” Rodgers said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama exports primed for rebound in 2021 after pandemic challenges

(APM Terminals/Contributed)

In an unparalleled and unpredictable year of turbulence in global trade, Alabama’s exports of goods and services in 2020 totaled $17.13 billion.

Reflecting the declines in export volumes recorded by nearly all states as well as the nation, Alabama’s total exports registered an overall decline of 17.6% in 2020 compared to the prior year, according to new government trade figures.

At the same time, a number of Alabama’s export categories experienced growth in 2020. Additionally, in spite of the global downturn, Alabama export total last year is more than 10 percent higher than the figure for 2010.

“There is reason for optimism as we survey the worldwide demand for quality goods and services, and Alabama’s unique ability to meet that demand,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

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“Our companies had to perform last year under circumstances that changed regularly and sometimes daily. Despite the challenges, Alabama has maintained and in fact strengthened its reputation as a reliable exporter of products and services,” she added.

Alabama businesses exported goods and services to 190 countries in 2020.

‘PIVOT AND ADAPT’

The Top 5 destinations for Alabama exports in 2020 were:

  • China – $3.1 billion (up 33.9%)
  • Canada – $2.9 billion (down 25.7%)
  • Germany – $2.23 billion (down 28.9%)
  • Mexico – $1.84 billion (down 17.4%)
  • Japan – $701.86 million (down 9.2%)

Alabama exports to China saw a surge in a number of sectors, including motor vehicles, which grew by over 39% to reach nearly $1.7 billion, and aerospace products and parts, which grew by 50.9% to reach $83 million.

Gains were also experienced in exports of paper, agricultural products, minerals and ores, food, machinery, plastics and primary metals.

“Alabama’s business community, long known for its resilience and ability to think outside the box, has been able to pivot and adapt at this unprecedented time and continues to make strides that promise to result in long-term growth,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Moreover, we look forward to seeing exports come back strong in 2021,” he added.

AREAS OF GROWTH

Transportation equipment, which continues to be Alabama’s largest export category, had recorded sustained export growth in recent years, yet declined about 20% in 2020, totaling $8.17 billion.

Besides transportation equipment, Alabama’s top export categories were chemicals $2 billion), paper ($1 billion), minerals and ores ($965 million), and primary metals ($882 million). All experienced declines except for paper, which rose 1 percent from the prior year.

Other categories, however, showed impressive growth during 2020.

Exports of Alabama agricultural products (such as oilseeds/grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts) witnessed an impressive growth rate of 196.7% to total $392.35 million. Livestock (mainly poultry) exports grew by over 10% to reach $108.8 million, and exports of fish rose 44.7% to $4.3 million.

Medical equipment and supplies exports grew by 53.8% to reach $151.5 million.

Alabama’s forest product exports totaled $10.7 million in 2020, an increase of 22.8% over the previous year, while printing and publishing-related exports jumped to $3.3 million, up nearly 29%.

Textile mill products exports rose by over 50% to $22.6 million for the year, while apparel exports experienced a gain of 28.1% to $9 million, according to the new trade figures.

FORGING AHEAD

“While the business environment is very different now as compared to a year ago, we know that our vibrant export community in Alabama is up to the challenge,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade for Commerce.

“Those who are ready to forge ahead on a new path, or on the same path as before but in a new environment, have all the ingredients necessary for success. The members of the Export Alabama Alliance remain available as a resource for collaboration in this process,” Lockhart added.

Alabama ranked No. 25 among the states in export volume in 2020, having moved one spot from No. 24 in 2019.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

AM/NS Calvert kicks off construction on $775 million steelmaking facility

(AM/NS Calvert/Contributed)

CALVERT, Alabama – With a groundbreaking ceremony this week, ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Corp. marked the official launch of a $775 million project to construct a massive new steelmaking facility at their AM/NS Calvert production site near Mobile.

“Alabama and the steel industry go hand in hand, and I am proud to see continued growth through AM/NS Calvert’s $775 million expansion,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “Shovels have officially hit the dirt, and I look forward to the advancements this project will bring.

“Alabama continues to prove to be the place for business and industry,” she added.

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Once completed, the planned facility will be capable of producing 1.5 million metric tons of steel slabs for AM/NS Calvert’s Hot Strip Mill and producing a broad spectrum of steel grades required for the company’s end user markets.

Construction is expected to take 24 months, and the new facility is anticipated to create 200 direct and 100 indirect jobs in the community.

“When two of the leading steel companies – ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel – make a significant investment such as this, the world takes notice,” said Bill Sisson, president and CEO of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

“This announcement shows a great confidence in the Mobile area, and for that we are grateful. The capital investment and construction, along with the hundreds of permanent and in-direct jobs will benefit area suppliers and local families for years to come,” Sisson added.

‘ECONOMIC IMPACT’

ArcelorMittal calls AM/NS Calvert the world’s most advanced steel finishing facility.

It was originally built by ThyssenKrupp, with a total investment of around $4 billion. ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel acquired the facility in 2014, and the partners have invested more than $200 million in strategic projects in Calvert since its acquisition. It has over 1,600 employees.

ArcelorMittal announced the expansion project in Alabama in August 2020.

“This investment will enhance AM/NS Calvert’s competitive position and expand its capabilities while also delivering a massive economic impact on Alabama,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The company has broken ground at the site, which was commemorated on Tuesday with a small gathering of internal leadership.

“While the team at AM/NS Calvert would prefer thanking each of our supporters who were critical to the approval of this project in-person, we look forward to celebrating this achievement when the new facility comes online in H1 2023,” said AM/NS CEO Jorge Oliveira.

“We certainly could not have gained approvals for this investment without the support of our government and community stakeholders.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)