10 months ago

Record year for foreign investment sparks growth in Alabama

With major new growth projects moving forward across Alabama, foreign direct investment continues to play a vital role in the state’s economy, building on a record total of foreign investment approaching $4.2 billion last year.These FDI projects represent major job-creation engines for many Alabama communities.

Last year, companies from 16 different countries launched projects with more than 7,500 new jobs. So far in 2019, FDI projects approaching $1 billion in value will bring another 3,300 jobs to the state, according to an Alabama Department of Commerce estimate.

In Enterprise, Tier 1 auto supplier Hwaseung Automotive Alabama (HSAA) in March announced plans to add 168 jobs to its Alabama operation through a $6 million expansion that represents Coffee County’s largest FDI project in four years.

HSAA, which launched its Alabama operation in 2003 with 20 employees, will have nearly 600 when the new hires are added, said Jonathan Tullos, executive director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. Its last major expansion in Enterprise came in 2015.

HSAA, which produces weather-stripping and air conditioner hoses, serves Hyundai’s Montgomery assembly plant, along with Kia, Chrysler and General Motors. Its Alabama-made products are found in more than a dozen automobiles.

“Having a company like HSAA make an investment in Enterprise is a ringing endorsement of the quality of workforce and opportunities that exist in our area,” Tullos said.

“We have seen in the past that these investments can yield additional job-creation opportunities from other companies looking for a home.”

One example: Advanced Carrier Products, whose parent company is based in Germany, opened a manufacturing operation in Enterprise to supply metal inserts to HSAA.

FDI IMPACT

Similar stories have played out in a number of Alabama communities in recent years, particularly as growth in the state’s auto industry has intensified.

Select USA, a federal government program that facilitates foreign investment in the U.S., says the Alabama operations of foreign-owned companies employ 109,000 people in the state. Read a report.

Since 2013, FDI projects in Alabama have involved nearly $13 billion in new capital investment, generating almost 25,000 jobs, according to estimates from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

FDI typically accounts for 30 to 50 percent of new and expanding industry activity in the state each year, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Clearly, this is a huge priority for us as a state, and we’re fortunate to have a diverse base of industries, along with a highly-skilled workforce, to attract and retain these commitments from global manufacturers year after year,” Secretary Canfield said.

Not all FDI flowing into Alabama is tied to the auto industry.

In fact, foreign investment recorded in 2018 originated from a diverse slate of sources in a variety of industries.

Major FDI projects now under way include French planemaker Airbus’ $264 million, 432-job expansion of its Mobile manufacturing plant, and the $101 million, 150-job expansion of the Calhoun County plant operated by Austria-based Kronospan, a leading manufacturer of wood-based panel products.

Other big projects were Haier U.S. Appliance Solutions Inc., part of a China-based conglomerate and parent company of GE Appliance, which announced a $115 million, 255-job expansion of its Decatur refrigerator plant.

In Mobile, Swedish steelmaker SSAB is investing $100 million, adding 60 jobs and relocating its North American headquarters from suburban Chicago.

FDI HORSEPOWER

Alabama has seen significant increases in FDI in the automotive sector over the past 25 years, thanks to the growing operations of foreign automakers Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai, and their sprawling supplier networks.

Toyota has also played a major role. Earlier this year, Toyota announced a $288 million expansion at its Huntsville engine plant, where it will add two new production lines and 450 workers. The project will push the investment in the plant to $1.2 billion and its workforce for more than 1,800.

Meanwhile, just miles away, construction on the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA joint venture auto assembly plant is well under way. After production begins in 2021, the facility will have up to 4,000 workers.

Already, suppliers have begun circling the plant, bringing $380 million in new investment and nearly 1,500 jobs. More announcements are expected in 2019.

For Alabama, 2018 was a banner year for automotive FDI.

In addition to the new Mazda Toyota factory, other major projects included Mercedes-Benz’s new $268 million, 325-job EV battery plant in Bibb County, along with a $495.5 million expansion at the automaker’s Tuscaloosa County campus.

Elsewhere in the auto industry, Hyundai constructed a $388 million facility for engine manufacturing operations in Montgomery, and Honda announced plans to spend $55 million to improve weld operations and add more than 50,000 square feet at its Talladega County factory.

According to Select USA data, Alabama has attracted 114 auto-related FDI projects.

TARGETING INVESTMENT

Like other areas of the state, Tullos said Enterprise and Coffee County are making moves to position their region for future investment opportunities by focusing on education and workforce development.

“Our workforce is anchored by one of the best K-12 school systems in the state of Alabama as well as the efforts of Enterprise State Community College President Matt Rodgers, who recently launched a mechatronics program to support companies like HSAA,” he said.

The mechatronics program, offered at the Alabama Aviation College in Ozark beginning this fall, will train workers for high-demand industrial automation careers that focus on electrical, mechanical and computer engineering.

There are similar programs in place to assist Mercedes and Toyota. In addition, Alabama has rolled out initiatives including Success Plus and Apprenticeship Alabama that are designed to fill the pipeline of skilled workers needed in the future.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

48 mins ago

Tensions simmer at peaceful protest in front of Alabama State Capitol

MONTGOMERY — Around 300 protesters peacefully assembled one block down from the State Capitol building on Monday night to hold a protest against police misconduct in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis Police custody last week.

Demonstrators began assembling shortly after 8:00 p.m., and though tensions sometimes flared verbally, no physical altercations or property damage occurred.

At the end of the night, one young woman who refused to leave the scene of the protest after the city’s COVID-19 imposed 10:00 p.m. curfew was arrested by the Montgomery Police Department.

She was the only demonstrator arrested in downtown Montgomery on Monday, though the police department also took suspects into custody for the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue at Lee High School a few miles away.

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Demonstrations had been held in Alabama’s capital city on Saturday and Sunday during the daylight hours, but Monday was the first gathering since an outbreak of violence in Birmingham ratcheted up tensions in the Yellowhammer State.

Mayor Steven Reed held a press conference at 6:00 p.m. and urged all those willing who could to stay home for the next few nights.

Various protesters tacitly acknowledged the violence in Birmingham and other cities across the country as they urged those assembled throughout the night to “stay calm” and “stay peaceful.”

“If you’re an agitator, you don’t belong here,” said one woman when the crowd had swelled.

There was evidence during the night that indicated the City of Montgomery was prepared for a more unruly evening than what occurred. A few dozen police officers were at the scene of the protest, but on the adjoining streets several more officers were close by that could have served as backup if needed.

Businesses nearby had prepared for bad behavior.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer News)

The Montgomery Police Department erected barriers one block away from the capitol in each direction, and the lines drawn by the officers were never broken by the demonstrators.

Protesters began marching and chanting familiar nationwide slogans such as “black lives matter” and “Say his name — George Floyd” to begin their demonstration Monday night.

Yellowhammer News walked amidst the protesters and was able to observe myriad levels of anger, disagreement about tactics and positive reassurance of the mission at hand for those assembled.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer)

Dozens of those assembled were documenting the event for social media, while others held signs and led the crowd in chants.

There were even moments of levity, such as when one young woman demanded to know who of the protesting men were single, because she liked what she was seeing.

Tensions were highest just after 9:00 p.m., when the crowd was at its largest and moved suddenly into close contact with the police standing behind a barricade.

Shortly after that, two police officers who had entered the crowd to have discussions with protesters withdrew after being surrounded on all sides by demonstrators who were jumping up and down jeering loudly.

One protester near Yellowhammer News shouted loudly that a nearby historical marker was a “slave trophy.”

Another man, who appeared to sense anger coming to a boil, urged him to calm down and maintain the peaceful proceedings of the evening.

(Henry Thornton/Yellowhammer News)

Another demonstrator asked the rhetorical question, “Do you know how wars are won?” He then answered his own question, “By f—–g sacrifice.”

That demonstrator was then engaged in a respectful conversation by Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley, Jr., who was standing at the front lines of the protest.

Just after 9:30 p.m., one of the loudest demonstrators was pulled from the crowd by the police. After what appeared to be a long discussion with multiple officers, he appeared to leave the protest without being taken into custody. An officer confirmed to Yellowhammer News later in the night that the man had not been arrested.

The removal of that man ended the most contentious portion of the evening. The crowd size began to diminish afterward, and there were only around 100 protesters remaining when the mandatory 10:00 p.m. curfew went into effect.

Just after the curfew, there appeared to be some energy among those remaining to stay until the voice of an Alabama State University student named Talisa Boswell rose above the din of the crowd.

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” Boswell promised as she urged her fellow demonstrators to obey the orders to disperse.

The crowd appeared to take Boswell’s message to heart as the vast majority of protesters left the scene.

One lone resisting woman was handcuffed and taken away by police at 10:15 p.m., and the department later confirmed to Yellowhammer that she had been arrested.

At 10:23 p.m., a SWAT unit that had been waiting around the corner pulled through the now-empty protest site, having gone unused during an event when the worst fears of many across the city never came to pass.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 hours ago

7 Things: Protests get nasty in Alabama and across the country, Donald Trump says he will restore law and order, Alabama AG says he will sue Birmingham for taking down Confederate monument and more …

7. Pat Dye has passed away

  • Former Auburn Football coach Pat Dye has passed away at 80 years old. He coached from 1981-1992 and was the Auburn athletics director from 1981-1991. 
  • Dye was hospitalized after he experienced kidney issues and was diagnosed with the coronavirus in May, but his official cause of death hasn’t been released yet.

6. If you’re going to protest, at least be safe

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  • With large groups of people protesting the death of George Floyd, the Alabama Department of Public Health is reminding people that the coronavirus pandemic is still happening. 
  • Dr. Karen Landers of ADPH said that people need to remember that “social distancing, good hand hygiene, and use of cloth face coverings in public as critically important measures to protect individuals and the community during this outbreak,” so if you’re going to protest at least wear a mask. 

5. Violence is always Trump’s fault, apparently

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden has shared his thoughts on the state of things across the country amid riots and protests over George Floyd’s death. He said that President Donald Trump “breathes oxygen into the hate.”
  • Biden went on to say that things that are being said now “encouraged people to bring out the vitriol.” He’s also promising that if he’s elected he’ll “significantly increase economic opportunity that’s across the board in a way that hasn’t existed” as a way to deal “with institutional structure, institutional racism, that need to be fixed.”

4. Birmingham has a curfew and took down monuments

  • Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s announced curfew seemed to quell the violence the city saw Sunday with no major disruptions on Monday. 
  • Woodfin also followed through in his promise to remove the Confederate memorial at Linn Park, a promise meant to soothe tensions the day before, but that was not the only Confederate statue to fall Monday as rioters took down a statue of Robert E. Lee in Montgomery.

3. AG Marshall will sue Birmingham

  • After Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said that he would have a Confederate monument removed from a park in the city, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said that the state will bring a civil suit against Birmingham that could bring a $25,000 fine. 
  • Under the Alabama Monuments Preservation Act this is the only action that could be taken if the Confederate monument is removed. Marshall said that if the monument is removed, he “will perform the duties assigned to me by the Act to pursue a new civil complaint against the City.”

2. The White House wants to put an end to violent protests

  • President Donald Trump responded to governors of states where riots are taking place, saying, “Most of you are weak. … They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.” Trump also said that people will have to be arrested and “you have to put them in jail for 10 years and you’ll never see this stuff again.” He added there will be a “central command center” established at the White House.
  • Trump also had a defiant crowd dispersed in Lafeyette Park to clear out the area so he could visit the historic St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C. to show that this will not be allowed to continue, and now he has to follow through on those words.

1. Alabama protests turn violent

  • Violence marred protests in Huntsville with rocks being thrown and teargas being used to disperse a crowd that moved across town to a shopping center, but it was less chaotic in other parts of the state.
  • Governor Kay Ivey has authorized the activation of at least 1,000 members of the Alabama National Guard due to the riots that took place in Birmingham, but this is mainly a precautionary decision. She said, “We will not allow our cities to become a target for those, especially from other states, who choose to use violence and destruction to make their point.”

3 hours ago

Confederate monument removed from Linn Park by City of Birmingham

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Monday night kept his promise, with the City removing the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Linn Park.

The City methodically removed the obelisk-like monument, starting with the top.

The middle piece followed next, with the bottom portion being removed shortly after midnight.

A crane placed each piece, together towering over 50-feet, on a flatbed truck to be hauled away. Only the base remains in Linn Park as of Tuesday morning.

Woodfin earlier on Monday stressed that the City intended on preserving the monument for display in a museum or for an organization like the Daughters of the Confederacy to take possession of it.

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The removal of the monument was broadcast live on Facebook by every major local TV network in the area.

You can watch respective livestreams by WBRC here, ABC 33/40 here, CBS 42 here and WVTM 13 here.

The monument was damaged and defaced by vandals on Sunday evening.

The City of Birmingham is expected to face a onetime fine of $25,000 for removing the monument in apparent violation of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.

“In order to prevent more civil unrest in our city, I think it is very imperative we remove this statue,” Woodfin on Monday said.

“That has a cost to it. I understand that the AG’s office can bring a civil suit against the city. If there is a judgment rendered from a judge, then we should be held accountable,” continued the mayor.

“I believe I am willing to accept that, because that is a lower cost than civil unrest in our city,” added Woodfin.

Monday’s removal of the statue culminates efforts by two City administrations since 2017 to do so.

RELATED: Statue of Robert E. Lee toppled at Montgomery high school

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

12 hours ago

Statue of Robert E. Lee toppled at Montgomery high school

A statue of Robert E. Lee was knocked down from its pedestal at Montgomery’s Lee High School sometime Monday evening, as evidenced by pictures from the scene.

When WSFA arrived on the scene, the TV outlet reported that no one was present besides police officers, who proceeded to stand the statue back up next to the pedestal, which looms large in front of the school’s main entrance.

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Per WSFA, it was not immediately clear what happened to the statue.

The outlet reported that the statue was subsequently loaded onto a truck to be removed from the scene.

The incident was discovered as a peaceful protest occurred in downtown Montgomery, just outside the historic Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was once the pastor.

This also came as the City of Birmingham continued to work to remove the 115-year-old Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument in Linn Park.

Monday was an annual state holiday in Alabama, recognizing the birthday of Jefferson Davis, who served as president of the Confederacy from 1861-1865.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m.

WSFA reported that the Montgomery Police Department has “suspects” in custody.

This is breaking news and may be updated.

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

17 hours ago

End the mayhem and madness: The rule of law, not mobs, must prevail

Have we gone mad? In liberal cities and states, American citizens are more likely to be arrested for attending church than for fire-bombing one – as a crowd of rioters tried to do in Washington, D.C.

Enough. Americans cannot and will not abide this violence and destruction any longer. If any government official does wrong, every American has the constitutional right to protest and demand justice, but no American is entitled to commit violence or destruction or join a lawless mob. The rule of law, not the rule of mobs, must prevail.

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First, we must fully understand that peaceful protestors demonstrate, they do not destroy. These are, in fact, riots – led by radicals, anarchists and criminals bent on mayhem and chaos. But far too many public officials don’t seem to understand this fact. Instead, they beg and plead with the public to be calm, peaceful, and responsible. But the many good people who heed those calls were never burning, looting, or vandalizing stores, monuments, and homes or attacking their fellow citizens or police. The radicals hear those pleas as signals of weakness and fear in face of their street-level terror. It only emboldens these predators to commit more violence, sow more fear, and wreak further havoc. These outlaws believe they have the law on the run.

It is critical that the thin blue line that defends order from chaos have the support of their own elected leaders. Without that, innocent and upstanding law officers are left to doubt if doing their duty is appreciated. Law officers should be held accountable for wrongdoing, but that does not allow for the slandering, denigration, and disrespect of hundreds of thousands of self-sacrificing, courageous and honorable men and women of law enforcement. These fine officers spend a career serving others in countless ways, often at risk of their own lives, showing patience and understanding in the face of provocation. Nothing could be more harmful to achieving a safe society than having great officers depart the profession and others never apply. The crimes of the few should not outweigh the virtues of the many. That’s why we need more good cops, not fewer.

We should immediately deploy all necessary resources and force to restore order and uphold justice for all. As Attorney General, I helped rebuild state, local, and federal law enforcement partnerships. Those should be activated to identify, pursue, and apprehend dangerous rioters before they strike again. The National Guard and other federal forces should be called on when needed. Together, we should “flood the zone” and target, remove and vigorously prosecute these rioters and criminals as soon as unrest begins. This strategy, conducted with overwhelming and combined numbers and force, would quell these riots before they engulf whole communities and spread further. We cannot allow our police forces to be outnumbered or overrun when facing these kinds of violent hordes.

President Trump is right: these rioters are acting as terrorists and should be treated as such.

The burning of the Minneapolis police station and the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, the murder of an African American federal security officer in California, the injuries to more than 60 Secret Service agents defending the White House, and the countless other assaults on law officers, National Guardsmen, first responders, business owners, and innocent bystanders are not just attacks on people and property, they are direct attacks our system of justice and our commitment to be a nation of laws.

The last few nights have made clear that rioters and looters have twisted the memory of George Floyd and have distorted the message of justice from the peaceful protestors and have turned it into an excuse for anarchy, crime, and destruction. George Floyd deserved better.

Fortunately, security cameras and the widespread use of smartphones provide us with substantial evidence that can be used to bring the rioters to justice. State, local, and federal enforcement agencies across the country should commit to using all of their investigative resources to identify and prosecute the criminals depicted in those videos and images of assaults, destruction and looting over the past few nights. Every one of them must be brought to justice. And elected officials must commit to supporting that good work, not continuing to encourage the riots through leniency.

Violent, destructive mobs cannot be allowed to rule our streets one minute longer. It must end now!

Jeff Sessions has served as a U.S. Senator and Attorney General and is a 2020 candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama