8 months ago

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama investing $410 million, adding 200 jobs through new vehicle line

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday joined Hyundai executives and local leaders on the steps of the State Capitol to announce that the automaker plans to add a new vehicle to its Alabama production lineup as part of a $410 million expansion that will create 200 more jobs at the state-of-the-art Montgomery facility, along with approximately 1,000 supplier jobs in the area.

During the press conference, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama (HMMA) president and CEO Byungjin Jin said workers will assemble the brand-new Santa Cruz compact utility vehicle at the facility, with production slated to begin in 2021.

Hyundai intends to begin filling the new positions being created by the latest expansion project during the second half of 2020.

HMMA currently produces the Santa Fe SUV and the Sonata and Elantra sedans in Montgomery. The addition of the Santa Cruz will provide the company with greater flexibility to adjust its product mix based on market demands.

Jin expressed that this announcement demonstrates continued commitment to and confidence in HMMA’s Montgomery operations and Alabama workforce.

“Bringing the Santa Cruz to HMMA demonstrates that Hyundai Motor Company is confident our more than 3,000 team members are ready to build a quality crossover for the U.S. market,” Jin said.

The Santa Cruz was first introduced as a concept crossover at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Hyundai said it’s designed for younger buyers who want the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed.

Business climate, partnerships made announcement possible

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield acted as the master of ceremonies for the Wednesday press conference. Introducing Governor Kay Ivey to the podium, Canfield advised that her leadership in nurturing Alabama’s world-class pro-growth business climate makes this type of job creation announcement possible.

“[T]o have the right type of (business) climate takes the right kind of leader at the top,” Canfield said. “The type of leader that governs the state with a business saviness and a knowledge and an awareness of what needs to be done to nurture business and also provide great opportunities for the people here across the state of Alabama.”

Ivey then addressed the crowd, which included workers at HMMA’s Montgomery facility.

Calling it an “exciting occasion,” Ivey reiterated that her “top priority” since taking office in the spring of 2017 has been economic development.

The state continues to shatter economic record after record under her administration, and major job announcements and new private sector investments have become commonplace.

She advised that HMMA and the State of Alabama have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship since the company came to Montgomery in 2005.

This announcement is the latest in a series of recent major investments by HMMA.

“We are so honored that in just 18 months HMMA has invested over $1.1 billion in the Montgomery area,” Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham stated. “Partnership and teamwork are key to this kind of economic growth, and we are grateful for the impact this kind of investment will have on the entire region.”

Earlier this year, Ivey and local elected officials joined the company for a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the grand opening of HMMA’s cylinder head machining plant in Montgomery. That plant represents a $388 million total investment to manufacture engine cylinder heads and enhance existing operations to support the production of new Sonata and Elantra sedan models.

Even more recently, HMMA announced an additional $292 million investment in new machinery and equipment to facilitate the production of the redesigned Elantra and Santa Fe vehicles and a new, more fuel-efficient Theta engine at their North American plant in Montgomery.

This does not even account for HMMA’s philanthropic work, such as donating $250,000 to Montgomery Public Schools for STEM education.

Hyundai is already the River Region’s largest private manufacturer with 2,900 full-time and 500 part-time employees. Since it opened, the Alabama facility has produced 4.5 million vehicles for the North American market, along with more than 6 million engines.

Wednesday’s announcement underscored that the working relationship between HMMA, the state and local government entities continues to get better and better.

“Alabama and Hyundai have developed a great partnership over the years, and it’s a testament to our special relationship that this world-class automaker is expanding once again in Montgomery,” Ivey said.

Hyundai noted the $410 million investment will create 230,000 square feet of additional space in the stamping, welding and parts processing areas of the manufacturing complex. While direct employment at HMMA will reportedly increase by 200 jobs, Hyundai projects that its local suppliers and logistics companies will employ an additional 1,000 people in the River Region.

“Hyundai’s new investment is giving more Alabama families an opportunity to earn a good living while also strengthening the state’s growing auto industry,” the governor remarked.

Local leaders were also on hand to celebrate the announcement — and these individuals play a big part in the productive partnership with HMMA.

Canfield noted that Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed has only been on the job one day officially now but that Reed’s leadership has already been important with Hyundai, as he traveled to South Korea recently with then-Mayor Todd Strange to meet with company executives.

Reed spoke during Wednesday’s press conference and stressed his commitment to the relationship and appreciation for Hyundai.

“I recently had the honor of experiencing first-hand the long-standing partnership between Hyundai and Montgomery on a visit to Seoul as part of an economic development delegation including former Mayor Todd Strange,” Reed said.

“With the addition of the Santa Cruz, Hyundai is again choosing to launch a new vision. I look forward to continuing to strengthen this vital relationship in the coming years and working with our partners to support this tremendous investment,” he concluded.

Among U.S. states, Alabama ranks as the fifth largest producer of cars and light trucks. It is home to more than 150 major auto suppliers and over 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs.

Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean said that companies become family when they locate in Alabama and that the state’s leaders, along with local officials, take it upon themselves to go above and beyond in making sure companies are successful in the Yellowhammer State.

“Our commitment to our partnership with Hyundai continues to deepen, and we are so honored by this significant investment,” he added. “Together, we are charting the course for success and opportunity in the River Region.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

38 mins ago

Herds and the policy response to COVID-19

Governments implemented strict policies to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The widespread response suggests that governors and presidents saw COVID-19 as an unprecedented public health threat. Or did it? The economics of herding suggests possibly not.

The “Wisdom of Crowds,” also the title of James Suroweicki’s excellent book on this subject, implies this interpretation. Experts in each state reviewed knowledge on the virus, its potential lethality, and vulnerabilities of their state. Each lockdown decision provides evidence of a perceived threat.

Independent, informed evaluations represent our best way to approach the truth. The argument is not that voting establishes truth; experts can be wrong even if they all agree. The consensus of experts is more likely to be correct.

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The policy response could reflect other factors. We should remember that safety is a luxury good; as people and nations become wealthier, we spend more on safety. The potential for say 100,000 deaths from a pandemic will be far less acceptable today than 50 years ago. Yet crowds are not always wise; the “Madness of Crowds” is another possibility. The independence of expert judgments affects whether we gain wisdom or create a herd.

Training in public health affects experts’ independence. Experts in any field receive years of specialized, intensive training, in law school, graduate school, or medical school. Academic disciplines have a dominant paradigm or way of making sense of the world. Different public health experts may share the same way of thinking and make the same mistake on COVID-19.

“Information cascades” pose another problem, often seen in business. A group of managers assembles to discuss opening a new retail store. After independently assessing the merits and demerits, most of the managers see the new store as a mistake. Yet the first manager argues that the new store will be wildly successful, and the others agree. After the store fails, the managers all recall their initial misgivings.

What happened? Each manager knows her personal assessment of the venture could be wrong and revises her assessment based on others’ opinions. Managers do not want to appear incompetent – the only one unable to see the new store’s great value.

The visibility of errors also matters. There’s (allegedly) a saying among investment advisors that “no one ever got fired for recommending IBM.” Suppose an advisor recommends a stock no one else likes. If correct, the advisor’s clients make lots of money. If wrong, the advisor will need to find a new job. By making the same common recommendation, no advisor signals below average investment acumen.

An economy or business needs to encourage occasional deviations from the herd. We need contrarian investors and thinkers. In markets, profit rewards correct contrarians. And some people are naturally contrarian. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears the beat of a different drummer.”

Does the policy response to COVID-19 reveal herding? The policies involved – business and school closings, stay-at-home orders – are called nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPI). NPI have their critics; a 2019 World Health Organization review found the evidence for the effectiveness most “limited.”

A divergence of opinion suggests herding was unlikely. If proponents of NPI won out in debate, this suggests that governors and presidents found them more promising. Vigorous debate usually improves decisions.

Our elected executives, I think, face a bias to action, worsened by the 24-hour news cycle and running tallies of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Yet the nearly 50 million jobs lost since March are also highly visible. Our inability to observe deaths without a lockdown ironically makes the benefits appear larger; perhaps millions have been saved.

Eight states never issued stay-at-home orders and nations like Sweden eschewed lockdown policies, so we have not witnessed complete herding. More likely the bias to take action resulted in excessive policies, and lockdowns imposed too early in some states.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

1 hour ago

Regions Bank and Regions Foundation build on investments supporting racial equity and economic empowerment

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Regions Bank and the nonprofit Regions Foundation on Tuesday announced a $12 million commitment to advance programs and initiatives that promote racial equity and economic empowerment for communities of color while creating more inclusive opportunities for success.

“At Regions, we are committed to serving others to make life better, and we stand together with our communities in addressing the systemic racism and bias that impact so many people in our society,” said John Turner, Regions President and CEO. “As a financial organization, it is our responsibility to use our resources and expertise in ways that address disparities and create positive change. In 2018, we updated our approach to community investments by prioritizing initiatives that create more inclusive prosperity. While we have made significant progress, much more work remains to be done. The financial commitment we are announcing today represents another important step in our path toward advancing racial equity and economic empowerment.”

The $12 million commitment will be allocated by Regions Bank, the Regions Foundation and the Regions Community Development Corporation over the next two years. Initial allocations will include:

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  • $1,000,000 from the Regions Foundation for the National Urban League: The National Urban League and its local affiliates work to empower African Americans and underserved residents in urban areas by securing economic advancements, parity, power and civil rights. Regions is a longtime supporter of the Urban League and works closely with affiliates to address community needs.
  • $2,000,000 allocated through deposits in Minority-Owned Banks and investments in Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs): The Regions Community Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Regions Bank, will set aside $2,000,000 to support the services of minority-owned banks as they help clients achieve financial goals, including homeownership, and CDFIs that work with minority-owned businesses to support their growth and success.
  • Additional portions of the $12 million will be allocated based on needs identified in conjunction with community partners. Regions will focus on three key areas to address underlying factors associated with racial disparities and economic empowerment.  Specifically, these investments will seek to:
    • Advance minority business development
    • Increase minority homeownership rates
    • Reduce the digital divide by increasing web accessibility in underserved communities
  • Investments will also be based on input from Regions associates gathered through listening tours conducted by company leadership during the month of June. These tours provided an opportunity for associates to share ideas, observations and feedback on ways Regions can address social needs.

“By making significant investments through our financial resources, as well as through volunteerism and community involvement, Regions is working to advance racial equity, help create greater social justice, and deliver meaningful benefits across the communities we serve,” said Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions Bank. “Our teams have deep relationships with organizations on the front lines of moving our communities forward. We are working hand-in-hand with these organizations and will develop additional community partnerships to achieve our shared goals of racial equity, expanded opportunities, and a more just society where everyone can prosper.”

Regions maintains an extensive, year-round program encouraging associate volunteerism and community support. For additional details on programs and initiatives championed by Regions and its associates, visit the Community Engagement section of Regions.com.

(Courtesy of Regions)

2 hours ago

Salvation Army facilities in Dothan, Gadsden, Mobile have new leaders

The Salvation Army on June 29 announced that three Alabama locations have new leadership as part of the routine appointment changes made every few years throughout the international philanthropic organization.

The new appointees will lead the Salvation Army Coastal Alabama Area Command, the Salvation Army of Dothan and the Salvation Army of Gadsden, said Media Relations Specialist Karyn Lewis of the Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi Division.

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Former Lynchburg, Virginia, officers Captains Trey and Sheri Jones will head the Coastal Area with facilities in Mobile and Foley. Former commanders Majors Thomas and Jennifer Richmond have begun new roles in the Kentucky and Tennessee Division as secretary for Personnel and Social Services and as secretary for Women’s Ministries.

The Joneses grew up in the Salvation Army as fifth- and sixth-generation Salvationists. They have been commissioned as officers for nine years through appointments in Alexandria, Fredericksburg and Lynchburg, Virginia. He has served in many disaster relief efforts in the aftermath of tornadoes, wildfires and hurricanes, including Lily, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina and Harvey.

“We are excited about the new ministry opportunities and challenges that God has for us,” he said. “We are eager to join the work that the Army is doing in coastal Alabama.”

The Salvation Army of Dothan is now led by Captains Nathan and Deanne Jones, who are former officers of the Chattanooga Area Command. They have served with the Army for 12 years in Owensboro, Kentucky, and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee. He assisted in every recent major disaster recovery in the Southern Territory, and both captains served during Hurricane Katrina.

“We are excited to become a part of Dothan and make it our home,” he said. “We look forward to getting to know the community and continuing the mission of the Salvation Army.”

The Salvation Army of Gadsden is now under the leadership of Majors Jim and Amy Edmonds, who came from the Louisville Sanders Mission Corps in Kentucky. Former Gadsden Captains Dennis and Armandina Hayes have entered early retirement and remain in Gadsden.

The Edmonds have served throughout Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Both have worked in disaster relief efforts, including after hurricanes Fredrick, Harvey and Katrina and following floods in West Virginia. He was part of the disaster relief team deployed in New York after 9/11.

“It is such an honor to have the opportunity to serve in Gadsden, Alabama,” he said. “We know the Lord will lead us as we share God’s love and strive to impact the men, women and children that we are fortunate to meet here in Gadsden.”

The Salvation Army annually helps more than 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardships through a range of social services, Lewis said. It provides food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need at 7,600 centers of operation around the country.

For more information or to give to the Salvation Army, go to https://salvationarmyalm.org/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

17 hours ago

Alabama needs to limit uncertainty for healthcare providers in the pandemic

Uncertainty can be crippling. In many, it turns an energetic “can-do” spirit into a cautious “wait and see” mentality.

In 2011, more than half of small businesses surveyed by the US Chamber of Commerce said they were holding off on hiring new employees largely because of uncertainty about the economy.

That was in 2011. What about in 2020, with the coronavirus and the government’s response to it, at least for a time, laying waste to the stock market and much of the economy? How much does certainty matter now?

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Take Tuscaloosa, for example. Just last week Mayor Walt Maddox said that a lack of a football season, or even a mitigated season with less fans, would be “catastrophic” for the city. How catastrophic? A $131.5 million-in-lost-revenue kind of catastrophic.

So what do the restaurants, bars, and other businesses that rely on football-related revenue do while they wonder if this economic doom is heading their way? Do they hire and train employees? Do they stock up on inventory? How exactly do they plan for two extremely different potential realities?

Those answers are not clear. What is known, however, is that Tuscaloosa is not used to this uncertainty. And neither is our state.

Much of the unpredictability that the coronavirus has brought with it is not easily controlled or minimized. We can’t exactly make college football come back. And even the government cannot regulate the virus away.

We are not, however, entirely powerless in the COVID-19 era. Some uncertainty can be reigned in with action by the state legislature.

On April 2nd, Governor Ivey suspended the licensure and certificate of need requirements for medical practitioners and first responders, which enabled them to more readily come to Alabama’s assistance during the pandemic.

This action made it significantly easier for healthcare professionals from other states to come to Alabama and treat our sick. It’s also made quick and necessary expansions of healthcare facilities possible, since providers no longer have to jump through regulatory hoops governing whether or not the government thinks a new healthcare facility, or even an expansion of an existing facility, is needed.

The certificate of need process does just this. It forces healthcare providers to seek government approval before they can build a new facility or even increase the amount of beds in an existing facility. For many, this is a lengthy and costly process.

For this reason, the suspension of these regulations is good and necessary. It encourages healthcare providers to increase the availability of medical care in our state by offering a break from weighty government restrictions.

The problem, however, is that the April 2nd suspension is not permanent. In fact, Governor Ivey can only suspend these regulations for sixty days at a time.

Insert uncertainty.

Is it worth it for a nurse to pack up and move to Alabama to work with coronavirus patients if the order allowing her easy transfer ends in September (when the state of emergency is set to expire as of this writing)?

Is it worth it for healthcare facilities, likewise, to plan for new capacity if they don’t know for sure whether they’ll find themselves ensnared in government regulations once again in a couple months?

Again, it is a good thing that Governor Ivey suspended these regulations. In fact, the very absence of these regulations provides more certainty for our medical practitioners as they are less dependent on the decisions of bureaucrats in Montgomery. The uncertainty which comes with the temporary nature of the suspension, however, can inhibit the very healthcare providers we need most from proactively planning for the state’s health in the near future.

In short, healthcare providers need to know that if they come to Alabama or begin plans to expand medical facilities within our borders, the state won’t spring costly and time-prohibitive regulations on them. They need the certainty that only legislative action, in the form of a 12-month suspension of these requirements as suggested by API in the RESTORE Alabama Plan, can provide.

This, of course, depends on the Governor calling a special session of the state legislature to address the coronavirus and its effects. And if she does, this issue will not likely be a controversial one. In fact, over 70% of Alabamians support this idea, according to a recent Cygnal poll.

Even so, it is an important move. The state government has the ability to inject some stability into a healthcare field riddled with questions. Doing so is in the best interest, not only of our healthcare system, but of our state as a whole.

Parker Snider is the Director of Policy Analysis for the Alabama Policy Institute (API).

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

23 hours ago

National leader in water resources to head Alabama Water Institute

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Scott Rayder, an expert on building opportunities and funding for scientific organizations, was selected as the executive director of the Alabama Water Institute for The University of Alabama.

Water is a signature research and academic focus at UA, and AWI was formed to conduct integrated research and education on complex issues of water quantity, quality and security globally and locally.

“The University of Alabama strategically focused on water as a signature research thrust not only because of the profound importance of water in all facets of life, but also because we believe the University is ideally positioned to become a national and influential leader in the discipline. I believe Scott has both the vision and ability to work with faculty and students to make this happen,” said President Stuart Bell.

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The executive director position and AWI are vital to UA’s plan to increase research productivity and innovation in research, scholarship and creative activities that impact economic and societal development. Rayder will play a key role in continuing collaboration with the National Water Center, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration center located on the UA campus.

Currently senior advisor to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and to the president and vice president of the UCAR Foundation, Rayder will join UA Aug. 1.

He has extensive experience in building relationships and opportunities with both the private and public sector, including longstanding relationships with federal funding agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, NOAA, U.S. Geological Survey and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“The University of Alabama has the unique opportunity, working with federal, state and industry partners, to propel the state of Alabama to become the epicenter for water research, water resource management and the new water economy in the United States. Scott is well-known both nationally and internationally and is the ideal leader to take full advantage of this opportunity,” said Dr. Russell J. Mumper, vice president for research and economic development.

Rayder’s involvement with higher education and research extends to the beginning of his career at NOAA, and includes nearly two decades of experience in senior leadership positions in large government, not-for-profit and private sector companies.

“I am honored to be joining the dedicated AWI team. UA science, policy and engineering expertise is uniquely positioned to help improve our understanding and application of the latest science and technology in support of critical water issues that affect everyone across the globe to citizens right here in Alabama,” Rayder said. “I look forward to engaging with the faculty, public and private stakeholders, philanthropists and future Alabama graduates in growing this capability here at the University.”

His work at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in support of the National Center for Atmospheric Research as well as at the Center for Ocean Leadership included working with research universities and private sector partners in the pursuit of funding to better understand and utilize the world’s resources.

He was also part of the presidential transition team in 2016 for the U. S. Department of Commerce, which oversees NOAA.

Rayder holds a bachelor’s degree in government and geology from Hamilton College, New York, and a master’s in public administration with a concentration in science and technology policy from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

The committee for this national search was co-led by Dr. Mark Elliott, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering, and Dr. Behzad Mortazavi, professor and chair of biological sciences. Dr. Patricia Sobecky, UA’s associate provost for academic affairs, professor of biological sciences and founding executive director of AWI, was also integral to the search process.

“We are grateful to Dr. Sobecky for her dedication in standing up the Alabama Water Institute as founding executive director,” Mumper said. “Her leadership created an excellent foundation for transformative research and economic development relating to water.”

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama)