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

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)

2 weeks 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 weeks 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)

4 weeks 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)

4 weeks 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)

1 month 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)

1 month 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)

1 month 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)

1 month 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)

1 month 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)

2 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)

2 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)

2 months ago

Foreign investment sparks growth in rural Alabama communities

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Many folks may be unaware of the advantages of doing business in Alabama’s rural counties, but corporate decision-makers from around the world are fully tuned in to the possibilities.

Foreign direct investment has been a vital ingredient in Alabama’s economic growth in recent years – and that is true for rural parts of the state as well. Between 2015 and 2019, Alabama’s 40 “targeted” counties attracted almost $1.5 billion in FDI through growth projects with over 3,800 job commitments, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data.

This investment has primarily flowed from countries such as South Korea, Canada, Japan and Germany. Companies from Finland, Brazil and Ireland have also found their way to rural Alabama.

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The impact of that FDI is being felt in the Tallapoosa County cities of Alexander City and Dadeville. Together, the two communities attracted more than $155 million in foreign investment between 2015 and 2019, generating nearly 600 new jobs, according to Commerce data.

“In the quest to provide jobs for the citizens of the Lake Martin Area, we have had sustained success in attracting foreign direct investment,” said Chad Odom, executive director of Lake Martin Area Economic Development Alliance.

“We are continuing to make strides in workforce development and business attraction marketing to provide even better opportunities for our workforce in the months and years to come.”

South Korea-based auto suppliers are bullish on Alex City and Dadeville, cities that stand between the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery and the Kia plant just across the state line in West Point, Georgia. In 2019 alone, three Korean auto suppliers expanded in Tallapoosa County through projects involving more than $58 million in new investment.

“We have strong partnerships with the South Korean suppliers we have attracted and are continuously working to help them expand and add more value to our citizens through higher paying jobs,” Odom said.

Other rural counties in Alabama have had success in attracting FDI – and the new jobs that come with it. Among them:

  • Between 2015 and 2019, Chambers County landed 17 FDI projects involving nearly $260 million in capital investment and 334 jobs. Auto suppliers found their way to the county, located not far from the Kia plant, but so did companies in other industries. Germany’s Knauf, a maker of fiberglass insulation, has become a top employer in the county, with 250 workers.
  • Butler County has benefited from the presence of Hwashin America Corp. in Greenville. Since 2015, the auto supplier has expanded a half-dozen times, investing more than $98 million and creating 220 jobs, according to Commerce data.
  • Bibb County has become home to the second Alabama campus of Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, located just a few miles from the global automaker’s sprawling assembly facility in Tuscaloosa. Mercedes is building a new EV battery assembly facility near Woodstock, along with a global logistics center and a parts supply hub.

Over the years, FDI has represented a powerful growth engine for Alabama, with foreign companies announcing $16 billion in new capital investment in the state since the beginning of 2013, according to Commerce data.

“The success of the companies operating in Alabama is a story that’s being told around the world,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Here at home, that’s meant significant new investments and lucrative jobs for communities across the state.

“In many cases, the growth sparked by FDI has taken place in rural areas of Alabama, adding vitality to local economies that were seeking industries and job-creation potential,” he added.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said rural Alabama communities such as Selma, Luverne and Evergreen are among those that have seen their profiles raised by foreign investment.

“The high level of FDI activity shows that rural Alabama is a great location for doing business, and the companies locating there often expand their operations because they are getting the support they need to be successful,” Tuck said.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

AIDT teams for unique job-training initiative using virtual reality simulation

(JumpStartAL/Contributed, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — AIDT, Alabama’s primary workforce development agency, is teaming with Hyundai Power Transformers USA and a firm specializing in virtual reality technologies on a revolutionary jobs training program.

The collaboration with immersive learning startup TRANSFR stands to make cutting-edge job training accessible to thousands of unemployed workers and aspiring manufacturing professionals across the state.

“By putting this powerful solution in the hands of employers like HPT, we’re helping them to make good on their commitment to hire Alabama residents for good-paying manufacturing jobs,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and executive director of AIDT.

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“This is about not just meeting the training and safety needs of industry partners, but also creating a repeatable and cost-efficient approach that can be applied in the context of other heavy industries, such as aviation and shipbuilding,” he added.

HPT manufacturers power transformers used in electrical grids across the U.S. at a plant in Montgomery. The company announced a $33 million “smart factory” project in 2018.

“This is an application of VR technology that extends well beyond what many of us are familiar with from gaming or consumer apps. It’s about harnessing the potential of immersive learning to train and certify employees on critical, in-demand skills at unprecedented scale,” said Tony Wojciechowski, chief human resource officer at HPT.

“It’s providing employers like us with a powerful new tool to train, recruit, and hire talent right here in Alabama.”

SIMULATING A FACTORY

At the core of the unique program is a simulation of HPT’s seven-story manufacturing facility developed by TRANSFR.

Within the simulation, workers gain first-hand invaluable experiences with the safety protocols required to operate heavy machinery and equipment of up to 400 tons, lifting power transformers as heavy as 800,000 pounds.

The training initiative is helping to increase compliance with industry standards as HPT employees learn how to operate and service cranes within OSHA standards, using a highly repeatable and consistent training process.

“Alabama is leading the way in harnessing the potential of technology to unlock economic opportunity for citizens across the state,” said Bharani Rajakumar, founder and CEO of TRANSFR.

“This is about expanding access to complex and high-stakes training to fulfill the state’s workforce development goals and fulfill growing demand from major manufacturers like HPT.”

New York-based TRANSFER has previously worked with other Alabama employers, including Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Alabama Power.

The startup is also collaborating with the Alabama Community College System and is involved in Jumpstart AL, a new statewide program that aims to create the next-generation of workers.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

ALDI kicks off construction on $100 million distribution center, regional HQ

(ALDI/Contributed)

LOXLEY, Alabama — Retailer ALDI officially launched construction this week on a new regional headquarters and distribution center in Baldwin County that will support the company’s expansion throughout the Gulf Coast region.

The project is set to bring approximately $100 million in capital investment, with plans to create more than 200 jobs in Loxley. ALDI announced its growth plans last July.

The 564,000-square-foot facility, opening next year, will become the company’s sixth distribution center in the Southern U.S., and it will be equipped to service up to 100 stores in Alabama, Southern Georgia, Mississippi, the Florida Panhandle and Louisiana.

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“We’re proud to stand behind ALDI’s commitment to bringing value to the people of Alabama and the Gulf Coast region,” said Governor Kay Ivey, who attended a ceremonial groundbreaking today.

“We welcome the company’s plans for a regional headquarters and distribution hub in Loxley that will create 200 good-paying jobs for our hardworking citizens.”

GROWTH PLANS

ALDI said the Loxley distribution center will feature several sustainable building elements, such as solar panels, LED lighting and an environmentally friendly refrigeration system.

With the distribution center in place, ALDI plans to open as many as 35 new Gulf Coast-area stores by the end of 2022, with the first two stores in Tallahassee, Florida slated to open later this year.

“We’re incredibly proud to continue growing in all aspects of our business, from opening new stores to enhancing our eCommerce offerings, especially in light of the challenges businesses have faced in the last year,” said Jason Hart, CEO of ALDI U.S.

“Our commitment to our shoppers, new and existing, is the same — we will do everything in our power to offer the lowest possible prices every day — and we look forward to supporting more communities across the country with amazing ALDI products at a value that can’t be matched,” he added.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES

While the expansion is the grocery retailer’s first step into Baldwin County, ALDI currently operates 30 stores across the state of Alabama.

“We are ecstatic that ALDI has chosen Loxley for their regional headquarters and distribution center location. We are eager for the new job opportunities that are to come for citizens as well as the economic growth and development for our community,” said Mayor Richard Teal.

“ALDI’s decision to bring this facility to Baldwin County further cements our place as Alabama’s leader for incoming business investment and growth,” said Lee Lawson, president and CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.

“This first-class facility will create a diverse mix of both warehousing and white-collar jobs for our community, and we’re excited to see construction begin,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Biotech firm BioGX to invest $5 million in Alabama growth plans

(BioGX/Contributed)

Birmingham-based molecular diagnostics company BioGX plans to expand its R&D and manufacturing capabilities at a new corporate headquarters location in Shelby County, where it will beef up its workforce.

The Birmingham Business Alliance announced today that BioGX has purchased a building on Valleydale Road in Shelby County for the move from its current location at Innovation Depot, a business incubator in downtown Birmingham.

BioGX is investing $5 million in its growth plans, which will allow it to add 30 new employees to its roster of 80 today. The move to the new facility will take place in stages during 2021, the BBA said.

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“While the company has been rapidly expanding its operations and looking for a new facility for over three years, the COVID-19 pandemic demanded we scale up our operations at breakneck speed to meet the global demand for our growing portfolio of products,” said Dr. Michael Vickery, executive vice president and chief scientific officer of BioGX.

In the past year, BioGX developed technologies to accelerate accurate, large-scale testing to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Read about the company’s efforts.

BioGX’s growth is another example of the growth taking place in Alabama’s bioscience industry, which is home to an 780 companies and organizations, employing nearly 18,000 people. The industry has an annual economic impact calculated at $7.3 billion.

GROWTH STRATEGY

To make the expansion project possible, the company worked with BBA and the Pelham-based economic development agency 58 Inc., advancing Shelby County’s strategy of utilizing existing office space for biotech and laboratory practices to strengthen the industry, particularly along the U.S. 280 corridor.

“As a homegrown biotechnology business in the region, BioGX is on the cutting edge of technology, and its rapid growth is something the entire Birmingham region can be proud of,” said Paul Rogers, president of 58 Inc.

“The company’s decision to expand into Shelby County represents another milestone in our innovative economic development strategy. 58 Inc. has identified the biotech cluster as a target industry, and we look forward to working with our partners to market Shelby County as an attractive location for similar companies,” he added.

Mark Brown, vice president of business retention and expansion at the BBA, said BioGX’s progression from Innovation Depot marks a significant milestone in the company’s growth.

“BioGX has grown into a leading provider of molecular diagnostics, and its presence will continue to enhance our region’s growth in life science and medical diagnostics,” Brown said. “We look forward to working with the team at BioGX on future growth opportunities.”

Drew Honeycutt, CEO of Innovation Depot, one of the Southeast’s largest business incubators, said he welcomes future success stories emerging from the facility.

“We are absolutely thrilled for BioGX’s success, and we feel fortunate to have been able to offer them a place to grow over the years,” Honeycutt said. “That being said, we’re also excited about how this will free up wet lab space in our building, which will hopefully provide opportunities for more companies to follow in BioGX’s footsteps.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Auto supplier Valeo plans manufacturing site in Alabama with 70 jobs

(Valeo/Contributed)

BESSEMER, Alabama — Automotive supplier Valeo North America announced today that it will invest $5 million in a facility in Jefferson County, creating 70 jobs and providing another boost to the Birmingham region’s presence in the auto manufacturing industry.

The Birmingham Business Alliance announced Valeo’s plans today.

“Valeo North America is pleased to announce the opening a new facility in Bessemer,” the Valeo North America management team said in a statement. “The City of Bessemer, the Birmingham Business Alliance and the State of Alabama demonstrated an attractive business friendly, pro-jobs attitude.

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“This project, in this location, is a win-win for Valeo and for the community.”

The BBA said Valeo will occupy the existing facility located on Perimeter Way in Bessemer in early 2021 with the goal of being at full production by the second quarter.

“Valeo is world-class auto supplier and a superb addition to the auto industry supply chain network spreading across the state,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Valeo’s decision to locate a facility in Bessemer positions the company for long-term growth, and we are committed to helping them build a future there,” he added.

‘MARVEL CITY’

France-based Valeo is one of the world’s top automotive suppliers. Valeo North America has 11 production sites and three development centers, with nearly 5,000 employees, according to the company’s web site.

“Automotive manufacturing is a vital part of Jefferson County’s economy that continues to see immense growth annually,” Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons said. “I am excited to see Valeo creating 70 above average wage jobs in Bessemer.”

This announcement is another win for Bessemer, which has seen an uptick in projects announced lately.

“We are excited to welcome Valeo North America to The Marvel City of Bessemer,” Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said. “Valeo North America is expanding our city’s growing industrial roster and bringing expanded opportunity for residents of Bessemer and surrounding areas.”

The BBA worked with the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County and the City of Bessemer to negotiate an incentives package for the company, said Jeff Traywick, vice president of economic development at the BBA.

“The attraction of this investment from Valeo North America is testament of the favorable business environment in Bessemer and the partnership that exists between our local and state governments to bring quality jobs and capital investment to the region,” Traywick said.

In November, auto supplier Mobis announced plans to open a $15.8 million facility in Jefferson County, creating 120 jobs.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Veronica Crock joins Commerce team as senior project manager

(Made in Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Veronica Crock, an experienced economic developer and former educator who focused on workforce preparedness, has joined the business development team at the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Crock, who holds the title of senior project manager, will concentrate her efforts on advanced manufacturing projects statewide. She will also have an initial focus on Southeast Alabama, where she previously worked as an economic developer.

“The project managers in Commerce’s Business Development Division work strategically to create opportunities and jobs for citizens all across Alabama, and Veronica has the expertise to help us advance that mission,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“She is a great addition to our team.”

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‘OUTSTANDING JOB’

Crock previously served as the president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. in the region that houses the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence/Fort Rucker and numerous aerospace companies.

She also served as president of Grow Southeast Alabama, an 11-county organization that promotes industrial growth and job creation across the region.

“Veronica is well known to our team at Commerce for the outstanding job she did in leading the local economic development efforts in Dale County, as well as her leadership with the regional efforts of Grow Southeast Alabama,” said Ted Clem, director of Commerce’s Business Development Division.

“We are excited to have someone of her caliber on our project management team.”

EXPERIENCE

Before starting her career in economic development, Crock served as dean at Enterprise State Community College and the Alabama Aviation College, where she collaborated with economic development organizations, local governments, and educational entities to establish a solid workforce development background.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Troy University, and completed doctoral research at Alabama State University. She is a graduate of the Applied Economic Development Honors Program at the University of Alabama and the Intensive Economic Development Training Institute at Auburn University.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to work with such a dedicated team of economic development professionals,” Crock said. “I look forward to serving the state in this new role and will work hard to be a valuable and contributing member of the Alabama team.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Resource Fiber plans groundbreaking bamboo products plant in Alabama

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Governor Kay Ivey announced today that Resource Fiber, a national leader in efforts to manufacture commercial bamboo products, plans to establish its first full-scale production plant in Alabama as part of a project that will create 111 jobs in Sulligent.

Resource Fiber plans to invest $3.6 million in the Lamar County facility, where it will produce engineered bamboo products such as bamboo nail laminated timbers used in the construction of multi-storied buildings.

“Resource Fiber’s decision to locate its production facility in Sulligent is great news for the city and for Alabama,” Governor Ivey said.

“This positions our state at the forefront in the commercialization of innovative bamboo products while creating good jobs in Lamar County.”

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GROWTH PLANS

Founded in 2011, Resource Fiber has engaged in extensive research and development activities focusing on bamboo products, with six U.S. patents and five U.S. patent applications pending. It has developed bamboo railroad ties and a laminated timber system to replace steel roof and floor decks in commercial buildings.

Resource Fiber CEO David Knight said the company operates the nation’s largest commercial-scale bamboo nursery in Greene County had been looking at nearby locations for its first manufacturing facility. Last year, the company analyzed seven buildings in four Alabama communities.

“We are grateful to have found the right facility and are honored to be a part of the Sulligent community. We also want to thank the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance for the support and assistance they provided in our site selection process,” Knight said.

“Achieving this milestone is the cornerstone of the U.S. bamboo industry. We look forward to growing the U.S. bamboo products industry starting with our Sulligent manufacturing facility,” he added.

‘BAMBOO FIBER BASKET’

Resource Fiber relocated an experimental pilot facility in Oneida, Tennessee, to the Sulligent site in November 2020. The company expects to begin hiring and launch manufacturing at the Alabama facility in the second quarter of 2021.

Marsha Folsom, co-founder and chief development officer of Resource Fiber, said the company’s new production center will cast substantial ripple effects throughout Northwest Alabama.

“Other industries utilizing bamboo fiber will be attracted to locating here to be near the ‘bamboo fiber basket’ and to advance bamboo manufacturing technologies,” Folsom said.

“Resource Fiber will serve as the catalyst for attracting bamboo-related jobs and industry to the region.”

To make the project possible, Resource Fiber received support from the State of Alabama, which is providing incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act, and the City of Sulligent, which purchased a building it is leasing to the company.

The Houston-based Harry E. Bovay Jr. Foundation also provided a grant to facilitate the project. In addition, the company also received a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, administered by the City of Sulligent, to apply towards the purchase of manufacturing equipment.

“The City of Sulligent is proud to partner with Resource Fiber to advance its groundbreaking bamboo products, and we look forward to helping the company find success and to make our city ground zero for a new industry,” Mayor Scott Boman said.

‘EPICENTER’ IMPACT

David Thornell, president and CEO of the Northwest Alabama Economic Development Alliance, hailed cooperation on a project that has major significance to Sulligent, a city with around 2,000 residents.

“The result of this team effort will bring over 100 new jobs to rural Alabama and create an epicenter for bamboo product research and development, manufacturing and sales for the U.S., if not the entire world,” Thornell said.

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the Resource Fiber project advances the state’s goal of creating meaningful job opportunities in rural parts of the state.

“Alabama’s economic development team has embraced job creation in the state’s rural areas as a strategic priority, and the recruitment of Resource Fiber to Sulligent is a perfect illustration of that effort,” Secretary Canfield said.

“Not only will the company bring new jobs to Lamar County, but it will also bring a high level of innovative thinking.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to launch second wave of production hiring

(MTMUS/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the joint-venture automotive plant between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., plans to resume the hiring of production positions at its Huntsville assembly facility on Monday.

The company will make its public announcement during a Facebook event on at 3:30pm Thursday.

“When you join the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team you become a part of something bigger. Our production team member positions are career opportunities on a world-class team of highly-skilled, high-trained coworkers supported by leadership committed to the individual success of each employee on our team,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of production at MTM.

“We looked forward to launching this next phase of hiring and encourage all interested in joining our team to tune into the Facebook Live event to learn more,” she said.

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MTM’s assembly facility, now under construction, is expected to open next year. Ultimately, the plant will employ up to 4,000 workers.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is assisting MTM with the hiring process. The Thursday Facebook event will take place on AIDT’s page.

In August, when MTM announced an additional $830 million investment in the Alabama facility, the company said its employment had reached 600. Initial hiring of the production team began in January 2020.

“The partnership between the State of Alabama and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has been great not only for our state but also our citizens,” said Ed Castile, head of AIDT and deputy secretary of Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We’re proud to support their hiring and training needs as they move into the next phase of their process and give more Alabamians an opportunity to jump start their manufacturing careers,” Castile added.

The new jobs are direct hire, full-time positions on the MTM production team. Starting wage for production team members is $17 an hour, with a top wage of $23 an hour plus shift premium.

MTM production team members are provided benefits on their first day of employment including paid time off, vehicle discount program, and medical, dental and vision coverage. Employees are also eligible to participate in MTM’s 401(k) with 6% employer match after 60 days.

Interested candidates may submit their application beginning Monday at the company’s website.

(Courtesy of Made In Alabama)

5 months ago

Flight Works Alabama launches We Build It Better learning program

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MOBILE, Alabama – Flight Works Alabama has developed an innovative learning program that will provide a set of classroom kits and interactive techniques designed to help instructors expand students’ creative capacity and encourage discoveries.

The program, delivered through seven We Build It Better innovation kits, will introduce inventive technologies, expose students to techniques that help build new skill sets, provide hours of curriculum and activities, offer unique resources, and promote career awareness.

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Flight Works Alabama is an aerospace education center located near the Airbus manufacturing facility in Mobile that aims to inspire and equip future aviation workers across the region.

The 15,000-square-foot facility, which features more than 40 high-tech exhibits to provide a comprehensive look at the aviation and aerospace industry, officially opened in August.

Flight Works Alabama is partnering with Airbus, the state of Alabama, Alabama Power Foundation, Amazon Web Services, Snap-on Incorporated, Mott MacDonald, the University of West Alabama, and the University of South Alabama on the We Build it Better program.

“This exemplifies Flight Works Alabama’s commitment to innovation within science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education,” said Jeff Knittel, chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas.

“Through this program, middle school students will be introduced to a stimulating curriculum, providing them with invaluable workforce skills they otherwise might not receive,” he added.

“We are proud to partner with Flight Works Alabama on this cutting-edge and exciting initiative.”

MISSION SUPPORT

Aimed at middle school students, the overall objective of the program is to weave 21st century work skills with higher level thinking skills such as measurement, product design, tools, electrical wiring, fiber optics and coding to encourage students to design inventions on their own.

“We Build It Better offers crucial integration of hands-on training, practical skill acquisition and workforce development to Alabama’s middle schoolers in a unique way,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“The program directly aligns with Flight Works Alabama’s mission to inspire, equip and reinforce Alabama’s future workforce through innovative educational offerings, like this one, which the state is proud to support.”

The in-school pilot program will begin in January 2021. Middle school teachers will be provided the first three of the seven innovation kits. The kits will provide an array of instructional videos, hands-on activities, challenges, tools and materials, as well as assessments.

The entire seven-module program will be piloted at Flight Works Alabama during spring 2021.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 months ago

Alabama Online Global Program gives new marketing tools to exporters

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

The Alabama Department of Commerce’s Office of International Trade is working with its partners to help export-minded companies across the state maintain their global focus and create new trade relationships overseas.

Commerce’s trade team, in collaboration with The Export Alabama Alliance, is aligning with IBT Online to form the Alabama Online Global Program, which aims to give companies new internet marketing tools to elevate their profiles and win business in foreign markets.

A presentation on the online business development tools offered through the program is scheduled for 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 18. Register here.

“A strong online presence for companies has never been so important as it is now,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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“It is critical that we help them adapt as much as possible to these new conditions to avoid losing current customers and to quickly return to pre-quarantine levels of activity,” he added.

WEB SITE STRATEGIES

Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s Office of International Trade, said the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the plans of many Alabama firms to expand their business internationally.

Commerce was forced to cancel 2020 trade missions planned for Vietnam, Hong Kong, the Caribbean and Russia. It had also geared up to help Alabama companies traveling to trade shows in foreign markets, but those events were also cancelled.

“We know this has been extremely challenging during this year with COVID 19 impacting travel, supply chains, causing shutdowns/closures and causing a lot of uncertainty for everyone,” Lockhart said.

“Because of COVID-19, we began looking for innovative ways to help companies across Alabama reach out to potential buyers and partners throughout the world,” she added.

IBT Online, which has created programs for other states, can help companies with website localization strategies that make their brands easy to find in target countries and facilitate business connections. (Click here to watch a video.)

“This seemed like to the optimum time to partner with IBT and bring this expertise and opportunity to Alabama companies,” Lockhart said. “Because of Covid-19, it’s now even more crucial for businesses to make their website an effective global business tool.”

HELP FOR BUSINESSES

Davies Hood, president of Birmingham-based Induron Protective Coatings, said his company has been working with IBT Online and is already seeing benefits from its “internationalization through localization” approach to marketing.

“Sometimes we tend to look at the world through the lens of our own culture, experience and/or preconceptions, so they have helped us take a more local, customer-focused approach,” Hood said.

“Their professionalism and politeness impress me, but I genuinely value their approach that is based more on systems and processes than more touchy-feely marketing approaches.”

Secretary Canfield said the Commerce team and the international trade group received financial resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program, or STEP, to launch the Alabama Online Global Program.

Chris Wilder of SEPCO, an Alabaster-based maker of fluid sealing products, said STEP has benefited his company.

“The STEP grant program been a vital part of our global export growth strategy. We have used it for everything from market research, to trade mission prospecting,” Wilder said.

“Currently we are working with the program to further develop our international digital marketing assets. The STEP grant program is an excellent value,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 months ago

Alabama business climate rates near top in ‘Site Selection’ rankings

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama’s business climate ranked near the top of the states in a comprehensive analysis released today by “Site Selection,” a national publication that focuses on economic development.

In the magazine’s 2020 analysis, Alabama ranked No. 7, tied with Arizona, and up two spots from the previous year. Georgia and North Carolina share the top spot, followed by Ohio, Texas and South Carolina. Ranking behind Alabama in the Top 10 were Kentucky and Tennessee.

“Our readers are keenly interested in our annual state business climate ranking, because they seek locations with the greatest prospects for success,” “Site Selection” Editor in Chief Mark Arend said.

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In a survey published with the rankings, workforce skills were the most important criteria to site selectors for the fifth year in a row, with workforce development programs at No. 2.

Transportation infrastructure, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures, and state and local taxes complete the top five.

“This ranking validates the diligence and resourcefulness of Alabama’s economic development team as it strives to create meaningful opportunities for the citizens in our state through strategic job-creation efforts,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“On another level, this ranking from Site Selection underscores the fact that Alabama remains a very attractive location for corporate decision-makers because of our pro-business policies, our dedicated workforce, and our high-performance job-training programs,” he added.

The Site Selection ranking follows a No. 6 ranking in Area Development magazine’s 2020 “Top States for Doing Business” competition, announced in September.

CONSISTENT GROWTH

Atlanta-based “Site Selection” said 50% of the overall Business Climate Ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank the states based on their recent experience of locating facilities in them.

The other half is based on an index of seven criteria: performance in the “Site Selection” annual Prosperity Cup ranking; total Conway Projects Database-compliant facilities in 2019; total new facilities in 2019 per capita; total 2020 new projects year-to-date; total 2020 projects year-to-date per capita; and corporate and property tax data from Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Index.

Earlier this year, Alabama’s economic development successes during 2019 earned the state a pair of Top 10 rankings in the national magazine’s annual Governor’s Cups analysis.

Alabama ranked No. 6 among the states in projects per capita, a measurement that places smaller states on a more level playing field in the “Site Selection” analysis. The state’s per capita ranking in 2018 was 14th.

Alabama ranked No, 9 among all states for the number of 2019 economic development projects that met the criteria of the “Site Selection” analysis, with 150 qualified projects. In 2018, Alabama ranked No. 19.

It was the first year that Alabama ranked in the Top 10 in both categories.

Between 2012 and 2019, economic development activity brought $44 billion in new capital investment to Alabama, along with 135,000 new and future jobs, according to Commerce data.

Last year alone, new capital investment in Alabama totaled $7.1 billion, with nearly 13,500 job commitments. Read a story outlining the results.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 months ago

Kith Kitchens to open cabinet factory in Florence, creating 131 jobs

(Kith Kitchens/Contributed)

FLORENCE, Alabama — Kith Kitchens, an Alabama-based maker of high-quality cabinets, plans to invest $11 million to open a new manufacturing facility in Florence that will create 131 full-time jobs.

Kith Kitchens will purchase a 150,000-square-foot speculative building pad and 11.5 acres in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park. The company plans to start construction soon with a goal of beginning operations next summer.

“We are excited to work with the Shoals Economic Development Authority, the State of Alabama and the Tennessee Valley Authority to build this facility and hire a new team in Florence, which, working in conjunction with our team in Haleyville, will help us continue the growth and success of Kith Kitchens,” CEO Mark Smith said.

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GROWTH PLANS

According to the Shoals EDA, demand for Kith Kitchens’ cabinets has outgrown the capacity at the company’s current facility in Haleyville. The organization says the company chose the Shoals because of the availability of a first-class workforce and shovel ready industrial property.

“A couple of years ago the Shoals EDA developed an aggressive product development plan that included the construction of a new road and speculative building pad in the Florence-Lauderdale Industrial Park,” said Adam Himber, vice president of the Shoals EDA.

“The speculative building pad will allow Kith Kitchens to become operational quicker to meet the ever-growing demand in their industry,” he said.

The Shoals EDA said the success of the project can be attributed to a collaborative effort with the Alabama Department of Commerce, AIDT, and TVA.

The Shoals EDA  began building this 150,000-square-foot speculative building pad earlier this year in preparation for future development.

Kith is a family owned business, founded in 1998.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)