The Wire

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


    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


    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


    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.

3 days ago

Medical Industries of the Americas to revive Alabama latex plant with growth project

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

EUFAULA, Alabama – Medical Industries of the Americas plans to re-launch latex production at a shuttered factory in Barbour County as part of a plan to expand the site into a comprehensive manufacturing complex for medical commodities, Alabama officials announced today.

MI Americas plans to begin production at the former Ameritex Corp. facility in Eufaula during the second quarter of 2020, boosting the local economy by creating up to 400 jobs. The facility has been idled for four years.


“We’ve re‐tooled the plant, brought in experienced management, and signed up some of the largest distributors of latex and medical products in the U.S. to deliver our products domestically and worldwide,” said Abe Summers, president of MI Americas.

“With the support of Governor Kay Ivey, the state Legislature, and local government officials, all of whom want to see this once‐great industry back on its feet, we’ve been able to bring those hopes to fruition.”

MI Americas said the investment in the Alabama production complex may eventually reach $50 million as it expands product lines.

“It’s welcome news that Medical Industries of the Americas has selected Alabama for its strategic growth plans,” Governor Ivey said. “The company’s project will not only create a significant number of jobs in Eufaula but also provide an economic boost for the entire region.

“We’ve worked hard to create an environment where businesses can thrive, and this is another indicator that we are succeeding.”


MI Americas plans to return the plant to full operation in stages, eventually operating three shifts a day, five days a week.

Products it will manufacture at the 105,000‐square‐foot, 15‐acre site in the Eufaula Industrial Park include latex gloves for use in a variety of fields, including the medical and agricultural industries, as well as other healthcare items like hot/cold packs and non‐allergenic natural latex condoms.

“We are excited about the positive impact this will have on the local and regional economies,” MI Americas CEO David Silver said.

“Not only is this a great leap forward for the community, but by re‐starting production we see this as a symbolic gesture throughout the state and nation that there’s still a strong market for American‐made goods.”

MI Americas said the facility will have the capacity to produce some 500,000 latex gloves daily. As it prepares for the production launch, the company is simultaneously pursuing efforts to expand its manufacturing capacity and product offerings.

It plans to also seek opportunities for financing such growth through new sources of revenue and potential outside investment.

“We’re committed to helping create career opportunities for residents of Alabama’s rural counties through economic development,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“By spurring job growth, this rural venture will lift families in Eufaula and set the community on course for more positive developments.”

Mayor Jack R. Tibbs Jr. said MI Americas’ substantial financial commitment to resuscitate and reopen the latex plant represents a game-changing economic development for the Southeast Alabama city.

“We are excited about Medical Industries of the Americas coming to our great city. We look forward to a wonderful partnership and to the much-needed jobs they will provide our residents in Eufaula, Barbour County and the surrounding area,” he said.

“We appreciate Governor Kay Ivey and Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield for their help in bringing this project to fruition.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 days ago

AIDT promotes Allen to high-level communications position


MONTGOMERY, Alabama – AIDT announced today that Jacqueline Allen has been promoted to assistant director of communications and external affairs at Alabama’s premier workforce development agency.Allen has over 30 years of experience in communications and marketing, with nearly 20 years of that experience at AIDT. Her new responsibilities include overseeing the Communications, Marketing & Research, and Training Development departments, as well as the agency’s newest department dedicated to recruiting candidates for AIDT training opportunities.


Since joining AIDT in 2001, Allen has initiated changes in digital advertising, successfully executed AIDT branding campaigns and K-12 outreach efforts, managed AIDT’s involvement in developing the AlabamaWorks program and worked with officials in launching the Made in Alabama branding campaign for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

More recently, she has led the transformation into digital, e-learning and virtual reality training for AIDT through the Communications Department.

“Since joining AIDT, Jacquie has proven over and over again how valuable she is to AIDT,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of commerce and director of AIDT. “Her insight and her dedication to Alabama’s citizens is one of the reasons AIDT has remained at the top of its game.”

AIDT is part of the Workforce Development Division at the Alabama Department of Commerce. AIDT was founded in 1971 and is considered one of the nation’s top workforce development agencies.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 week ago

Sec. Canfield to attend signing of historic trade deal with China

(Contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield will attend the ceremonial signing of the Phase 1 trade deal between the United States and China at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump will sign an 86-page agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He that includes a commitment by China that it will make substantial additional purchases of U.S. goods and services in coming years.


Secretary Canfield is among a limited number of U.S. business and government leaders invited to the historic ceremony, which marks a cooling in trade tensions between the world’s two largest economic powers.

“I believe this is a positive step by the Trump Administration. It begins a process to establish a framework from which to create a pathway to more normalized trade on a fair basis between these two nations,” Secretary Canfield said.

“China has historically been a Top 3 destination for Alabama exports, so this represents an important step for many companies in our state that do business on a global scale.”

In December, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that the U.S. and China had reached an agreement that requires structural reforms and other changes to China’s economic and trade policies in the areas of intellectual property, technology transfer, agriculture, financial services, and currency and foreign exchange.

According to the USTR, China has agreed to increase its total purchases of U.S. goods and services by at least $200 billion over the next two years.

Also included is a commitment by China to increase its buying of U.S. agricultural products to $40 billion to $50 billion in each of the next two years.


Secretary Canfield said the Phase 1 trade deal contains positives for Alabama.

For one thing, an easing of trade tensions is good news for the Port of Mobile, Alabama’s only deep-water seaport and the international gateway for the state’s economy.

In addition, Alabama farmers stand to benefit from the trade deal. In 2016, Alabama exports of soybeans and peanuts to China approached $285 million, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce. In 2018, those shipments dropped to $20 million.

In November 2019, Alabama exports of soybeans and peanuts equaled zero, figures show.

Overall, Alabama exports to China have taken a tumble since the trade war began. Through the first 11 months of 2019, these shipments dropped more than 30 percent compared to same period in the previous year, data indicate.

Shipments of Alabama-made vehicles to China fell sharply, down nearly 32 percent in the 11-month period. Alabama is the nation’s No. 3 auto-exporting state.

The United States first imposed tariffs on imports from China based on the findings of the Section 301 investigation on China’s acts, policies, and practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation, according to the USTR.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s AerBetic collects Innovation Award at CES 2020 tech show

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

LAS VEGAS — For a second consecutive year, Birmingham-based AerBetic’s diabetic alert device is making a splash at the world’s premier consumer tech show by collecting an CES Innovation Award at this week’s event.

CES’ annual Innovation Awards program celebrates outstanding design across 28 product categories. A panel of judges evaluates products based on design, engineering, functionality and consumer appeal, as well as how they stack up against the competition.

AerBetic’s device was honored in the Health and Wellness category at CES, which began Tuesday in Las Vegas and runs through Friday.


“Being selected as a CES 2020 Innovation Award Honoree, particularly in the Health and Wellness category, is something we’re proud of,” said Arnar Thors, the company’s CEO and co-founder. “Our mission with this technology is to truly change the lives of people worldwide.”

The AerBetic wearable devices use MEMS-based nano gas sensors from San Diego-based AerNos to analyze the exhaled breath of its wearer in order to detect potentially dangerous blood glucose levels. In addition to cues on the device, AerBetic’s partner app can alert a network of caregivers.

The app also enables the wearer or caregiver to input actual blood glucose levels, which over time will help the AerBetic more finely tune to an individual’s unique breath signatures.

Thors said the inspiration for the concept came from Diabetic Service Dogs.


AerBetic’s device grabbed attention at CES 2019, winning several awards, including “Best of the Best at CES” honors from The Chicago Tribune and Best Reviews magazine.

In addition, AerBetic’s device was recognized as one of the “10 CES 2019 gadgets for forward-thinking first responders” by FireRescue1 and Smithsonian Magazine also recognized AerBetic as one of the “Seven Unforgettable Inventions Unveiled at This Year’s CES.”

Vince Perez, a senior project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said AerBetic’s success at CES underscores the inventive work taking place across the state.

“AerBetic receiving back-to-back recognition at the most important trade show for consumer electronic innovation, CES, is a testament to the ingenuity and life changing work going on in Alabama,” Perez said. “We are proud of all of AerBetic’s accomplishments and look forward to supporting them and helping other groundbreaking companies find success in the future.”

Perez is at CES to engage in a half dozen scheduled appointments with companies with strategic tech-focused priorities that could one day include Alabama in their growth plans. He is joined by Blair King, manager of economic development and existing industry with Alabama Power Co.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

6 trends fueling Alabama’s economic growth in 2020 and beyond

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

Alabama’s economy is humming on all cylinders as a new decade begins, with job rolls swelling to record numbers and an ultra-low unemployment rate as major industries expand their operations in the state.While the foundations are firmly in place for more growth, there are some trends unfolding across Alabama that are poised to add an extra economic spark in 2020 and years to come.

“There are dynamic developments taking shape that will elevate Alabama’s growth potential and create exciting new opportunities for citizens throughout the state,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.


Here is a look at six important trends that will accelerate growth in key strategic industries.


Lockheed Martin is making North Alabama its flagship location for work on futuristic hypersonics technologies, which allow weapons to fly at five times the speed of sound or even faster. The company’s plans call for almost 275 new Alabama jobs, including engineers.

Lockheed Martin is adding two new buildings at its Courtland facility for the assembly, integration and testing of hypersonics programs. The company will locate its management and engineering workforce for these programs in Huntsville.

Huntsville-based Dynetics is also working on hypersonics. The U.S. Army has awarded Dynetics Technical Solutions a $352 million contract to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body prototypes.

“The decision by the Army to select Dynetics, located right here in Alabama, and Lockheed Martin’s Courtland facility to advance this important national security initiative is a testament to the complex defense work taking place in our state,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said.

Efforts to develop hypersonics are expected to intensify in coming years, positioning Alabama for more gains.


The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant, now under construction in Huntsville, is already acting as a mothership for suppliers.

So far, a total of five Mazda Toyota suppliers have pinpointed sites in North Alabama for production locations that will create almost 1,700 new auto-sector jobs. Combined, their investment totals $440 million.

The largest of these projects, YKTA, will create 650 jobs at its Limestone County facility. More suppliers are expected to announce Alabama plans.

Toyota’s engine plant in Huntsville is also growing with a $288 million investment.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing itself represents an economic bonanza for Alabama.

This $1.6 billion project will not only bring up to 4,000 direct jobs but also a fifth global automaker, Mazda, to Alabama.

“The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility will power a new phase of growth for Alabama’s auto industry by acting as a magnet for substantial new investment and job-creation,” Secretary Canfield said.


Hypersonics is hardly the only exciting development shaping the future of Alabama’s aerospace industry.

At the United Launch Alliance’s sprawling factory in Decatur, Alabama workers have begun assembling the nation’s next-generation launch system — the Vulcan Centaur rocket. In Huntsville, Blue Origin is building a $200 million factory to supply engines for the Alabama-made rocket.

On the ULA campus, Dynetics has opened an advanced rocket-testing complex that will support the Vulcan Centaur program and NASA’s SLS, the space agency’s most powerful rocket.

Boeing, meanwhile, continues to grow in Alabama with a sweeping range of activities in support of NASA and the nation’s missile defense programs. Boeing’s Alabama workforce tops 3,000.

In Auburn, GE Aviation is investing $50 million to expand its additive manufacturing hub, where it now produces two 3-D printed jet engine components. GE has been producing a fuel nozzle tip using additive technologies at the facility since 2015.

At the Airbus manufacturing site in Mobile, production of the A220 passenger jet has begun, joining the A320 aircraft already made there. Construction on a second assembly line for the A220 is well under way. Airbus is also increasing A320 production.


Alabama’s economic development team is taking concrete steps to help spark growth in the state’s rural areas.

For starters, the Alabama Department of Commerce hired Brenda Tuck as its first rural development manager to help rural counties and communities better compete for job-creating projects.

“Rural communities in Alabama can benefit from having a go-to person who can connect them with the resources they need to improve their economic development prospects,” Tuck said.

Commerce is closely aligned with the Economic Development Association of Alabama to develop and advance rural growth initiatives.

In addition, the Legislature approved the “Alabama Incentives Modernization Act,” which increases the number of “Targeted Counties” eligible for enhanced incentives.


Alabama automakers are making big investments to add new models to their in-state production lineups.

Today, Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai assemble 11 vehicles at their Alabama plants. By 2021, that figure will jump to 14.

Hyundai plans to add a new vehicle – the Santa Cruz crossover — to its Alabama lineup as part of a $410 million expansion project that will create 200 jobs at its facility in Montgomery. Hyundai now produces the Santa Fe SUV and the Sonata and Elantra sedans there.

Mazda and Toyota will each produce a SUV at their joint venture Alabama plant, beginning in 2021.

Growing production lineups are viewed as a positive because new models often result in additional supplier activity.


Efforts to expand Alabama’s Innovation Economy are receiving a boost from several positive developments.

For starters, the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act includes specific provisions designed to energize Alabama’s efforts to attract technology companies. It expands incentives available to tech firms while also providing potential tax benefits for tech entrepreneurs who set up operations in the state.

Technology accelerators also benefit under a new incentive incorporated in the Growing Alabama Credit.

In Birmingham, Techstars, a worldwide network that supports entrepreneurs, is launching the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, a startup accelerator focused on innovations in energy technology.

“With a world-class accelerator program, the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator will be an important catalyst for Alabama to continue strengthening its reputation as a growth center for technology and energy innovation,” said Mark Crosswhite, CEO of Alabama Power Co., a partner in the project.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

2 industrial operations to open in Lawrence County, creating nearly 80 jobs

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

MOULTON, Alabama – An automotive supplier and a pipe fabricator will open new industrial facilities in Lawrence County, creating a combined 78 new jobs, according to the Lawrence County Industrial Development Board.

CCI Manufacturing USA Corp., a Tier 1 auto supplier, will invest $21.5 million to construct an advanced production facility that will include a rail served facility in the Mallard Fox West Industrial Complex.

“CCI Manufacturing’s decision to invest in a new facility in Lawrence County will provide an economic spark for the area and new jobs for Alabama citizens,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “I’m certain that CCI will discover that Alabama offers the kind of business environment that allows companies to grow and thrive.”


CCI will produce automotive fluids, such as brake fluid and engine coolant.  There will be approximately 28 new employees at this location.

“We are excited to welcome CCI to Lawrence County as the county’s first automotive supplier,” said Tabitha Pace, president and CEO of the Lawrence County IDB. “Our team has worked extremely hard in the past year to make this project a reality, and we look forward to working with CCI in the future to ensure their success in our county.”

In addition, Progressive Pipe Fabricators has broken ground on a new 82,000-square-foot facility in Lawrence County. The plant is expected to be fully operational by July 1, creating 50 jobs.

From the new facility, Progressive Pipe Fabricators, a division of Shambaugh & Sons L.P., will offer custom fire protection services in the Southeastern U.S.

“Our state-of-the-art fabrication facility will be a tightly controlled environment, which will help us produce an even higher quality product and more efficient processes,” said Rob Vincent, chief operating officer of Shambaugh.

Shambaugh & Son, which has been in the construction/engineering services business since in 1926, is the largest fire protection, mechanical and electrical contractor in Indiana and the third largest specialty contractor in the U.S. It is a subsidiary of EMCOR Group.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 weeks ago

Alabama presence at top high-tech show includes inventions, recruiting push

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

LAS VEGAS – CES 2020, the world’s largest consumer technology event, is getting under way today, and Alabama companies are on hand to show off their forward-thinking products and technologies.

Vince Perez, a senior project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the state’s presence at CES 2020 aligns with a strategic economic development goal of fostering growth in Alabama’s innovation economy and creating new knowledge-based jobs.

“CES is an excellent opportunity for the State of Alabama to support homegrown, innovative companies, while building relationships with leaders across industry sectors,” said Perez, who is representing Commerce at the trade show.


“From the electrification and automation of the automotive industry to continuing our partnership with Techstars, this event allows us to stay on the leading edge of the new economy,” he added.

Techstars, a worldwide network supporting entrepreneurs, is teaming with Alabama Power Co., the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and Commerce to open a startup accelerator in Birmingham focusing on innovations in energy technology.

“Alabama offers an increasingly competitive environment for startups in an array of advanced fields, and we want to see the state become home to more companies like those highlighting their technological capabilities at CES,” said Blair King, manager of economic development and existing industry with Alabama Power Co.

Perez and King will engage in a half-dozen scheduled appointments with companies attending the event to advance Alabama in their future growth plans.


Alabama-based companies at CES 2020 represent a diverse mix of tech-focused enterprises.

Birmingham-based AerBetic is developing a non-invasive, wearable diabetic alert device, using state-of-the-art nanotechnology to develop very small wearable air sensors that can detect atmospheric gases with sensitivities at the parts per billion level.

These sensors will be programmed to detect the exhaled gases indicative of hypo- and hyperglycemic episodes, and AerBetic’s device, through Bluetooth and wireless technologies, will notify the patient and caregivers to a suspected event.

Aerbetic says it’s the high-tech equivalent of a diabetic alert dog.

“Since launching our concept and prototype at CES 2019, we’ve received worldwide attention and interest from potential partners and customers. In October, we were recognized with a CES Innovation Award in the Health and Wellness Category,” said Eric Housh, AerBetic’s chief operating officer and co-founder.

“At CES 2020, we will share further progress in our development of the device and our quest to deliver the world’s first truly non-invasive diabetes monitor,” he added.

DEFT Dynamics Startup Studio will have a booth at CES that showcases several startups in the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and robotics fields that have sprung up in the company’s 5,000-square-foot Birmingham facility.

Key startups are DEFT DynamicsMoxieApex Pro and Tocaro Blue.

Ross Wesson, co-founder of DEFT Dynamics, said CES offers the studio’s startups an unrivaled platform to get their technologies in front of industry decision-makers and to get instant feedback.

After last year’s event, DEFT’s robotics startup,, shifted its focus from consumer applications to industrial operations in physically hazardous environments. It’s now teaming with Birmingham’s Southern Research to develop smart robots for next-generation nuclear reactors under a Department of Energy grant.

At CES 2020, Wesson expects DEFT startup Moxie, which focuses on end-to-end IoT systems, to make waves. He says the venture benefits from the co-location of hardware and software teams, and access to unlimited industrial shop space for manufacturing and rapid prototyping, giving Moxie competitive advantages.

“Alabama’s workforce dynamics and the state’s dedication to economic development makes cities like Birmingham suddenly highly attractive locations for today’s new wave of technology companies — where hardware and software must be developed, prototyped, and even manufactured by teams working side by side under the same roof — something that could never be feasible in the ultra-expensive tech hubs like Silicon Valley and New York City,” Wesson said.

“At the end of the day, it’s just smart business. It’s why DEFT Dynamics and its member startups like Moxie are proud to state: ‘Built in Alabama. Trusted Globally,’” he added.

Representatives from Madison-based Audiowell International will also be attending CES 2020.

Audiowell is a specialized piezoelectric ceramic products manufacturer and has developed more than 20 kinds of ceramic materials to meet diverse production needs. Its products include microporous atomizers, level sensors and ultrasonic flow sensors.

A piezoelectric ceramic is a smart material that converts movement or vibration into an electrical signal detectable by a sensor.


CES calls itself the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. Last year, more than 175,000 people attended the trade show, where over 4,500 companies staged exhibits.

This year’s show in Las Vegas begins today and runs through Friday.

The automotive industry – a key sector for Alabama’s business recruiters – will have a high profile at CES 2020. That includes companies that have a major Alabama presence, including automakers Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, as well as large suppliers.

One of the event’s keynote speakers is Ola Källenius, the chairman of the board of management at Daimler AG who once headed Mercedes-Benz’s Alabama plant. Källenius presented a groundbreaking concept car on Monday night.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the Alabama presence at CES 2020 underscores the robust pipeline of innovative products and technologies that are being developed in the state.

“There’s a vibrant network of tech entrepreneurs and support programs in communities across Alabama, and we’re excited to see what they come up with in the future,” he said.

Secretary Canfield is serving as chairman of the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies, a panel that will explore how the state should prepare for the impact of future technologies.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Ascend finalizes plans for $175 million project at Alabama plant


Ascend Performance Materials announced today that it has finalized plans for a $175 million project to expand production capacity at its Decatur manufacturing facility and construct energy cogeneration units at the site.

The project will add 10 high-end manufacturing jobs to Houston-based Ascend’s Alabama workforce, which exceeds 400 people. The cogeneration units will reduce emissions at the facility by 60 percent.

In addition, the construction project at the Ascend facility — one of only four in the world that produces adiponitrile, or ADN, on a large scale — will generate 150 skilled jobs by its completion.

“The Decatur community is at the heart of our business,” said Phil McDivitt, Ascend’s president and CEO. “The ADN produced there is a critical building block for nylon 6,6, a high-performance plastic used in a variety of products from life-saving vehicle airbags to high-voltage electrical connectors.”


The Ascend plant has been an integral part of the Decatur and Morgan County communities for over 50 years.

“Ascend Performance Materials’ facility has been an important part of Decatur’s business community for decades, and I’m pleased to see the company build on the partnership it has formed in Morgan County with this major investment,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“It’s always great to see a world-class manufacturer like Ascend decide to include Alabama in its growth plans.”

Ascend’s board of directors gave final approval for the project, subject to finalized agreements with the State of Alabama, the Morgan County Economic Development Association and the City of Decatur.

“Ascend’s investment will increase the sustainability of its Decatur’s manufacturing facility, allowing it to expand production and substantially reduce emissions,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“That’s welcome news for Ascend’s Decatur workforce, and this project will provide an economic boost for the entire community.”


Officials in Morgan County said Ascend’s growth plans underscore the Decatur area’s emergence as a manufacturing center of excellence in the Southeast.

“It is an exciting time for North Alabama, and Ascend’s project shows our area is well poised to support many diverse industries,” said State Sen. Arthur Orr, who serves as chairman of the Morgan County Economic Development Association.

“Additionally, because of the large capital investment, this project will mean significant additional revenues for our local schools and governments.”

Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Ascend’s expansion will have a positive impact in the Decatur region. “This project proves the strength of our economy and the community commitment of our local companies,” Long said.

“On behalf of the City of Decatur, we are honored by Ascend’s announcement here in our community and excited for the years of prosperity ahead,” Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling added.

MasTec Power Corp., which was selected to serve as the prime contractor for the project, plans to begin construction in the second quarter of 2020, with completion set for late 2021.

“MasTec Power Corp. is pleased and proud to be a part of this state-of-the-art power project that maximizes power and heat recovery, reduces Ascend’s carbon footprint and boosts the economies of Decatur, Alabama, and Morgan County,” said Michael Donmoyer, executive vice president, MasTec Power.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

National Cement to build new kiln at Ragland facility with $250M+ investment

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

RAGLAND, Alabama – The National Cement Co. of Alabama announced plans to invest more than $250 million to construct a new kiln at its Ragland production plant, ensuring the St. Clair County facility’s competitiveness for decades to come.

National Cement, which has been producing cement in Ragland since 1910, said construction on the project should begin in the first quarter of 2020, with start-up scheduled for 2022. Current operations at the facility will continue during the construction process.

“We are excited about our kiln project in Ragland. It will ensure that our employees and our Ragland facility can continue to be competitive for years to come by upgrading our plant with the latest technology and equipment,” said Spencer Weitman, National Cement of Alabama’s president.


“We have enjoyed a long, successful partnership with the Ragland community, and look forward to that continuing for many years to come.”

The Town of Ragland and the St. Clair County Commission both approved National Cement’s application and incentives for the expansion project at meetings on Thursday.

National Cement is the largest employer in Ragland, a town of 1,700 residents that is nestled in a scenic, resource-rich area near the Coosa River and Lake Neely Henry, about 50 miles east of Birmingham.

“My administration is committed to helping rural communities across Alabama thrive by helping great companies such as National Cement invest and grow in our state,” Governor Ivey said.

“I welcome the company’s decision to make a significant new investment in its St. Clair County operations because it will serve to deepen its roots in Ragland for many years to come.”

The Ragland plant ships manufactured cement products to a diverse customer base across Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi and Florida.

National Cement, whose parent company is France-based Vicat SA, also operates Kirkland Concrete, which has nearly two dozen ready-mix concrete plants across Alabama, and Walker Concrete, a major supplier in metro Atlanta.

“Production at National Cement’s site in Ragland began more than a century ago, and this massive re-investment in the facility will increase its vitality well into the future,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“It will also allow us to strengthen our longstanding partnership with a high-caliber company that has a major presence in our state.”


The St. Clair County Economic Development Council (EDC) said National Cement’s project represents the largest single investment in St. Clair County since the organization was formed in 1998.

EDC officials said the announcement adds luster to a benchmark year for economic development for St. Clair County, which has recorded a total of $330 million in announced capital investment in 2019.

“We feel blessed and fortunate to have incredible partners like the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Governor’s Office, the Alabama Department of Commerce, our County Commission, and the leaders of the Town of Ragland,” said Joe Kelly, chairman of the St. Clair County EDC.

Officials in St. Clair County cheered the company’s announcement.

“We are thrilled to have National Cement continue to invest in our community. They have always been a fantastic corporate citizen that is a great community partner,” Ragland Mayor Richard Bunt said. “I want to give special thanks to the St. Clair County Commission and the Governor’s Office for working so closely with the Town of Ragland and National Cement.”

“The investment in National Cement’s facility is a great example of our ability as a State, County, and City to work together and increase opportunities for the residents of St. Clair County,” added Paul Manning, chairman of the St. Clair County Commission. “We are excited about their continued commitment to the Town of Ragland, and we have always appreciated their support of the St. Clair County community.

“We would also like to thank Governor Ivey and the Alabama Department of Commerce for their efforts to ensure that this project is moving forward.”

Fred McCallum, interim president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, said National Cement’s investment at the St. Clair County facility represents a positive development for the community and the entire region.

“This was a competitive project and is a great example of retaining and supporting an existing company’s growth plans for the Birmingham region. This win will ensure National Cement’s and the community of Ragland’s sustained growth for years to come,” McCallum said.

“We appreciate the company’s continued investment in our region, and we are proud to be a part of the team that supported this expansion project.”

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Samuel Associated Tube Group plans $29 million Alabama expansion

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Samuel Associated Tube Group today announced plans to invest $29 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Jefferson County, an expansion project that will create new jobs and prepare for future growth.

The company, which manufactures small diameter, electric-resistance-welded and fabricated carbon steel tubing, is teaming with a developer to build a new 284,000-square-foot-facility at 300 Fleming Road in Birmingham.


“We are very excited about expanding into our new facility,” Vice President and General Manager Kristen Hudak said. “We’ve been growing steadily over the past several years, and due to our growth have been looking for the right location to expand our business operations.

“This new location and facility will give us the opportunity to serve and meet the needs of our growing customer base,” she added.

The new facility is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2020.

The company has been in Jefferson County since 1973. Samuel Associated Tube Group-Birmingham currently employs 190 and converts carbon steel coil into high quality mechanical or structural tubing.

“Samuel Associated Tube Group’s expansion will have a significant impact on our local economy by creating approximately 50 new jobs, investing $29 million and repurposing a brownfield property – but I am particularly thankful that 190 skilled, hardworking employees will remain active in Jefferson County’s workforce,” Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons said.


The company worked with the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, Jefferson County, the City of Fultondale, Alabama Power, and the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA) on the project.

“Supporting Birmingham’s existing industries comes down to teamwork between companies like Samuel Associated Tube Group and our economic development allies, like the Jefferson County Commission and the Alabama Department of Commerce,” BBA Vice President of Business Retention and Expansion Mark Brown said.

“This Canadian-based company found continued value in our community and our workforce to improve its overall productivity in this consolidation and, as a team, we thank them for their growth,” he added.

Samuel Associated Tube Group offers precision cutting and fabrication of components and welded subassemblies. In addition, it offers both robotic MIG and manual welding as desired to meet each customer’s product specifications and volume requirements.

Its growing customer base spans the power sports, lawn and garden, furniture, power transmission, automotive, and agriculture markets as well as servicing many other industries across the U.S.

The company’s parent is Samuel, Son & Co., a family-owned and operated integrated network of metal manufacturing, processing and distribution divisions that was founded in 1855.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

2 months ago

Aerojet Rocketdyne: New Alabama manufacturing site ready for production

(Made in Alabama/Contributed, YHN)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Aerojet Rocketdyne said today that it is ready to begin producing large solid rocket motor carbon fiber cases in Alabama’s Rocket City following installation and calibration of a key machine at its new Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF).The state-of-the-art machine will be used to wind the carbon fibers that form the structural case of large solid rocket motors. It is capable of producing motor cases up to 72 inches in diameter and 22 feet long, which is large enough to support strategic missile programs.

“The successful transfer of this important capability from Sacramento, California, to Huntsville, Alabama, is part of our ongoing efforts to increase efficiencies and decrease product costs to our customers,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president.


“Expanding support of missile programs at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility is a major component of our ongoing growth in the Rocket City.”

The carbon fiber-winding machine will begin producing large solid rocket motor cases for missile defense target vehicles built by Aerojet Rocketdyne Coleman Aerospace starting in early 2020.

“This capability also positions our Advanced Manufacturing Facility and Huntsville Defense Headquarters to support new U.S. national security priorities, such as the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program,” Drake said.


The 136,000-square-foot AMF was designed to manufacture motor cases for a variety of missile, missile defense and hypersonic systems. The company officially opened the Huntsville facility in June.

“Huntsville’s legacy as the cradle of the nation’s missile program and a hotbed for the development of rocket propulsion systems makes it the perfect home for Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new advanced manufacturing facility,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The cutting-edge activities that will be conducted at the company’s new facility will solidify the Rocket City’s reputation for innovation and technical capability.”

Among the existing production programs the facility supports are the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense and Standard Missile-3 interceptors. Both the THAAD and SM-3 systems are assembled at facilities in Alabama.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, which has provided propulsion on every U.S. ICBM to date, was recently selected by Northrop Grumman to be an integral part of its nationwide GBSD team working to develop the nation’s next-generation ICBM.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has made significant investments in new, agile manufacturing capabilities, infrastructure, processes, tooling and people in its Huntsville; Camden, Arkansas; and Orange County, Virginia sites.

Earlier this year, it opened a new, 122,000-square-foot Defense Unit Headquarters building in Huntsville. The company’s workforce tops 400 in the Rocket City and is expected to grow as the AMF ramps up production.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Mobile to host annual Alabama Global Supply Chain & Logistics Summit

Alabama’s Port City will play host to this year’s installment of the Alabama Global Supply Chain & Logistic Summit, which explores key supply chain topics such as the changing international trade environment, workforce training and cybersecurity.

The 8th annual summit will take place Tuesday, Nov. 12, and Wednesday, Nov. 13, at The Battle House Hotel in Mobile. The event is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Commerce and hosted by the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.


“Supply chain efficiency and innovation continue to be relevant topics for our companies as they grow and adapt to meet the ever-changing demands of the global supply chain,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said.

“Businesses have the opportunity here to learn how their peers have put in place supply chain strategies that have led to success both locally and internationally.”

The summit presents attendees with an opportunity to network with industry leaders from small and medium-sized companies as well as large corporations as they share information on supply chain trends.

On Wednesday morning, Secretary Canfield will speak on Alabama’s advantage in distribution and logistics. Companies as diverse as AmazonMercedes-Benz and Carvana have recently selected Alabama for major distribution hub projects.

The event’s agenda includes updates on the state’s infrastructure and gas tax, a conversation on the impact of trade policy and tariffs on global supply chain, the changing landscape of the supply chain workforce, and many other topics.

To register and pay for the summit online, click here.

The summit’s keynote speaker is Bryan Riley, director of the National Taxpayers Union’s Free Trade Initiative. He will discuss the importance of free trade and implications of disruptive trade policy to Alabama businesses and their global supply chains.

Other speakers at the event include Ed Castile, deputy Commerce secretary and director of AIDT; Jimmy Lyons, CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority; and Rolf Wrona, vice president of human resources at Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, its Alabama operation.

In addition, Denson White of APM Terminals will discuss the impact of Walmart’s $135 million import distribution center, which opened in Mobile in 2018. The 2.5 million-square-foot facility provides a major boost to the Port of Mobile and enhances Alabama’s global connections.

For more information on the summit, contact Kayley Shepard at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce ( or 251-431-8629) or Jeremy Wolfe at Commerce ( or 334-353-1762).

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama

3 months ago

NASA Marshall expands ties with UA to advance in-space manufacturing

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is expanding its partnership with the University of Alabama to collaborate on advanced and in-space manufacturing, a priority in the space agency’s efforts to take American astronauts back to the Moon and beyond.

The agreement aims to enhance inventive research assisting space exploration and strengthen the education of tomorrow’s aerospace workforce.

Marshall Director Jody Singer and UA President Stuart Bell signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday in the university’s Rose Administration Building shortly before the Space Days at UA official kickoff.

In-space manufacturing includes making the materials needed for the mission using components brought from Earth or gathered from the moon or Mars. It could include additive manufacturing processes like 3-D printing with plastics, electronics or metals along with the capabilities to design and characterize the materials.


“Additive manufacturing is a rapidly evolving, disruptive technology,” Singer said. “As NASA continues to invest in in-space additive technology innovations, we welcome collaborations with industry and academia to develop these technologies.

“I applaud the University of Alabama for pursuing the development of advanced technologies that will help NASA achieve our mission.”


UA will enhance its core curriculum in areas of advanced and in-space manufacturing and foster new collaborations to further this emerging technology.

Areas of emphasis include modeling, analysis and simulation, data analytics, robotics, rendezvous and capture, navigation, advanced materials, on-site resource utilization, additive manufacturing, digital design, and manufacturing and construction.

“Our partnership with NASA is an important priority in our efforts to provide opportunities for our students and researchers to offer solutions to leading-edge challenges,” Bell said.

“Working to further in-space manufacturing will establish the University’s expertise in the area while training a skilled workforce our state can rely on to remain competitive in the global economy.”

Marshall has worked with UA through multiple Space Act Agreements since 2015. Through these agreements and other partnership mechanisms, NASA shares resources, personnel and expertise, facilities and equipment, and technology with UA to advance aerospace research or achieve mission goals.

Marshall has entered Space Act Agreements with numerous colleges, including in-state institutions Auburn University, Alabama A&M University in Huntsville and the University of North Alabama in Florence.

“NASA is actively partnering with universities and industry from across the country to leverage and accelerate technology development in key areas, especially areas that will make it possible to sustainably live and work on the lunar surface, achieving the Artemis vision,” Singer said.

Artemis is NASA’s path to the Moon and the next step in human exploration of our solar system. Through Artemis, NASA will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, assisted by innovative partners, technologies and systems.

NASA is investing in innovative in-space manufacturing technologies that will aid in developing the technological solutions needed to enable human missions to the Moon, Mars and other deep space destinations.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Raytheon’s next-generation Army radar will have Huntsville roots


Turns out, Alabama’s “Rocket City” knows a lot about radars, too.

Huntsville picked up its nickname after serving as the cradle of the nation’s rocket program and hosting NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, a key player in the space program for decades. The North Alabama city is also a mecca for the defense industry and home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal.


Today, Huntsville is where Raytheon is working with local suppliers to produce the U.S. Army’s next-generation, 360-degree capable radar, the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor, or LTAMDS.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Army announced that Raytheon will receive more than $384 million to deliver six production representative units of the advanced LTAMDS radar under an agreement.

LTAMDS is a new radar that will ultimately replace the current U.S. Army’s Patriot radars. It will operate on the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense network.

Meet the new radar.


Raytheon already produces radars with Huntsville roots, including the AN/TPY-2 air and missile defense radar, the KuRFS air surveillance radar and radars for the Patriot air and missile defense system.

Raytheon’s LTAMDS supplier development team totals six firms – four of them based in Huntsville.

“It’s a surprise to people just how much defense work goes on here in Huntsville, and now we’re providing support to the Army’s next radar,” said Allen Young, the CEO of Kord Technologies.

Young established Kord in Huntsville with her husband Tom Young, Kord’s president, in 2008. Now Kord is one of several Huntsville companies that has become part of the Raytheon LTAMDS team, helping to advance the defense giant’s LTAMDS proposal.

“This is our whole world,” she said.


Cummings Aerospace, another female-led defense company in Huntsville, performs advanced modeling, simulation and visualization. That’s where Clyde Cochrane works for CEO Sheila Cummings as program director for Raytheon programs.

In 2013, while serving as an Air Defender in the U.S. Army, Cochrane led a deployment of the THAAD air and missile defense system, which uses Raytheon’s AN/TPY-2 radar as its eyes. He calls the experience his “claim-to-fame story.”

“After being deployed in conflict areas using defense equipment, it’s meaningful to work for a company supporting Raytheon on mission-critical programs,” Cochrane said. “I know it can be life or death to the warfighter, and we take that seriously. I’ve been there.”

Another supplier, the nLogic team led by CEO Tim Thornton, has long supported U.S. Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense. The company is conducting sustainment and logistics for Raytheon’s LTAMDS proposal.

At IERUS Technologies, yet another Huntsville company working on LTAMDS, engineers use Agile development methods to help provide Raytheon with advanced algorithms and machine learning, according to Executive Vice President Michael Roesch. In fact, the engineers at IERUS use Agile for everything they do, he said.

“Our tech firm has engineers, mathematicians and scientists supporting Raytheon’s innovative LTAMDS work,” Roesch said.


Raytheon also manufactures its SM-3 and SM-6 rockets at a highly automated factory in Huntsville.

“Raytheon is a world-class company that it is working in Alabama and with its partners in the Huntsville defense community to advance technology to keep our country and our allies safe,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“This innovative new radar system is vitally important, and we are proud that it will have roots in our state.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Alabama’s ‘Rocket City’ shows off advantages at international space conference

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A Huntsville team including business leaders, economic development specialists and elected officials is representing Alabama’s “Rocket City” at this week’s International Astronautical Congress (IAC), a major conference focusing on space.

Huntsville is the only community to participate among 170-plus corporate, state and national exhibitors at the 70th annual IAC, which has attracted agency heads and senior executives of the world’s space agencies.

“It makes sense that we’re the only community exhibiting at IAC because we have so much to offer across the civil, commercial and defense space industries,” said Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.


“With Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and 400 aerospace and defense companies in the Huntsville metro, we are connected to nearly every U.S. space initiative in some way.”


At the IAC, the Chamber is coordinating the Rocket City’s presence, which consists of Draper, RadioBro, RUAG Space USA, the North Alabama International Trade Association (NAITA), the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Huntsville’s booth is strategically located across from NASA and adjacent to Aerojet Rocketdyne, BoeingDynetics and ULA, all prominent commercial players in our country’s aerospace ecosystem, and all with a presence in Huntsville.

This week, visitors to the Huntsville booth have included:

  • Jody Singer, Paul McConnaughey and Bobby Watkins, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
  • Tory Bruno, United Launch Alliance
  • Deborah Barnhart, U.S. Space & Rocket Center
  • Steve Cook and Kim Doering, Dynetics
  • Randy Lycans, Jacobs Space Exploration Group
  • John Schumacher, Aerojet Rocketdyne
  • Neeraj Gupta, Sierra Nevada Corp.
  • Sam Gunderson and Jacki Cortese, Blue Origin

The City of Huntsville also has a presence at IAC to share the advantages the city offers to companies interested in locating here.

“Space is one of the main drivers of our economy. We’ve proven ourselves as a community time and time again whether it’s developing the rocket that put humans on the moon 50 years ago to the development of the rocket that will take us back and eventually to Mars,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.  “We’ve also carved out an important leadership role in space for national security with the Army Space and Missile Defense Command headquarters here as well as the bulk of the Missile Defense Agency.

“Huntsville attending the IAC is a great place for us to continue building on our community’s expertise and recruiting more jobs and workers.”

This year, the IAC celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, and the Chamber’s booth highlights the Apollo milestone, a fitting tribute to the Huntsville-based rocket programs that put man on the Moon and will return American astronauts there in 2024

Last year’s IAC in Bremen, Germany, saw a record 6,500 participants from 83 countries convene to collaborate on space research, development and utilization.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Alabama team kicks off SEUS Japan 42 amid rising Japanese investment

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield is leading a delegation of state business leaders at an international conference in Savannah, Georgia, that seeks to amplify the longstanding economic and cultural ties between seven Southeastern states and Japan.

The 42nd annual joint meeting of the Southeast U.S.-Japan and the Japan-Southeast associations, known as SEUS Japan 42, officially begins today and concludes Tuesday with speeches and high-level panel discussions.

This year’s conference takes place at a fertile time for Alabama’s robust economic relationship with the Asian nation. Japanese companies are currently in the process of hiring nearly 6,200 workers at new or expanding Alabama manufacturing operations. Total investment in these projects tops $2.5 billion.


Secretary Canfield said the annual SEUS Japan conference provides the Alabama team with an opportunity to reinforce bonds that have been established over decades and to explore pathways to future collaborations.

“The benefits of this special relationship are easy to identify – working together, we have driven economic growth, spurred job creation and shaped new opportunities. At the same time, we have bridged cultural gaps to develop genuine friendships that transcend great physical distances,” he said.

The Alabama delegation at SEUS Japan 42 includes company leaders, economic development specialists, mayors, workforce training officials and others. Many of them come from areas where Japanese companies have operations, including Birmingham, Huntsville, Decatur, Jasper, and Marshall County.


Matt Arnold, president and CEO of the Marshall County Economic Development Council, has seen first-hand how Japanese investment can benefit Alabama communities.

Arnold said Marshall County’s first Japanese company – TS Tech, which makes automotive seats for Honda’s Alabama assembly plant — arrived in Boaz in 2000.

“When they first announced, they said they would employ about 250 people max. They quickly ramped up to about 600 and are currently at around 750. That seems to be a trend with the Japanese — they don’t want to overpromise and under-deliver,” he said.

The second Japanese auto supplier, Newman Technology of Alabama, came to Albertville in 2012 with plans to employ 65 people, a figure that has grown to 400 today. Both TS Tech and Newman have invested $60 million to $70 million in the county, Arnold said.

Another Japanese firm, JST Corp., started operations with four employees and has grown to about 30 employees as it expanded its Marshall County activities. Arnold has met with the company’s top managers in Japan and hopes to see future growth.

“Our experience with Japanese companies in Marshall County has been fantastic,” he said.


The theme of this year’s joint meeting in Savannah is “Bridging Cultures. Celebrating Success.” Members of the Alabama delegation, numbering around 50, will participate in networking events and hear insights from experts on topics such as logistics and workforce development.

Ceremonies Tuesday begin with a delegates’ breakfast and an opening ceremony. That’s followed by remarks from state delegation leaders, including Secretary Canfield, and panel discussions on economic trends and investment opportunities.

Speakers at the event include Kazuyuki Takeuchi, Consul General of Japan in Atlanta, and His Excellency Shinsuke Sugiyama, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the United States of America.

“Our secure business connections with Japanese companies have helped Alabama, and the Southeastern United States prosper. However, it has not been without its challenges,” Secretary Canfield said.

“That is what is unique about this conference. We can come together and share best practices that have led to successes in our states. We all want to retain and encourage new Japanese and SEUS investment,” he added.

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


A key player in assisting the expansion plans of Japanese companies in Alabama is Ed Castile, director of AIDT and deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, is engaged with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA as the automakers begin to hire as many as 4,000 workers for a new $1.6 billion joint venture assembly plant in Huntsville.

AIDT is also assisting a half-dozen Mazda Toyota suppliers that plan to hire another 1,700 people in North Alabama.

“Japanese investment in Alabama has given our citizens incredible career opportunities over many years that are life-changing,” said Castile, who is attending SEUS Japan 42. “We have had the privilege to work with very professional staff with each company, and they place a high priority on the welfare of each employee.

“They not only provide good jobs — they are also creating lifelong relationships. It is a pleasure to work with the Japanese and develop lifelong friendships,” he said.

Economic ties between Alabama and Japan are strong.

Japan was Alabama’s fifth-leading export destination in 2018 with more than $821 million worth of shipments, including coal, chemicals, motor vehicle parts and accessories, machinery, and aircraft engines and parts, according to Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s Office of International Trade.

Japanese companies have made investment commitments in Alabama totaling nearly $7.3 billion since 1999, when Honda announced plans for a Talladega County auto plant. Around 16,000 anticipated jobs have stemmed from Japanese investment during this period, according to Commerce data.

Alabama today is home to 77 Japanese companies, involved in industries including chemicals, steel, advanced materials and nutritional supplements in addition to automotive.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

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

(Southern Research/Twitter)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

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

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The vessel was formerly known as the Delta Mariner.

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

It is operated by Foss Maritime on behalf of ULA.

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

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

(Southern Research/Contributed)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

‘GTL’ process

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Global potential’

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

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

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

This story originally appeared on Southern Research’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama trade mission team travels to United Arab Emirates

Courtesy of Made in Alabama

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

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

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


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

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

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

‘Regional hub’

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

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

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

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

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

Other members of the Alabama delegation include representatives from:

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

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

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

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

Targeting opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 months ago

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

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

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

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daikin products are used in countless applications and products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 months ago

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

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

5 months ago

BIO Alabama names director as bioscience sector growth is targeted

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)