The Wire

  • Fairhope firefighter facing new child sex crime allegations

    Excerpt from WKRG:

    A volunteer Fairhope firefighter, already facing child sex crime charges in Northwest Florida, is now also facing charges in Baldwin County

    Aaron Timony Green — seen smiling in his latest booking photo — was booked into the Baldwin County Corrections Center Tuesday morning on charges of child sex abuse and sodomy.

    According to Daphne Police, Green was arrested Monday, and the alleged abuse happened in November 2017.

    Police say the alleged victim was under 12.

  • Birmingham council passes $436 million budget

    Excerpt from

    The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $436 million fiscal year 2019 operating budget.

    The budget is $8 million larger than last year’s budget, due to increased revenue from use and occupational taxes. According to the mayor’s office, 133 vacant jobs were cut from the budget, saving the city $4.7 million.

    Despite the larger budget, Mayor Randall Woodfin said there still wasn’t enough money for street paving or additional funding for Birmingham City Schools.

  • Martha Roby Honors Montgomery Native in 10th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game Tomorrow

    Excerpt from a Rep. Martha Roby news release:

    U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) will play in the 10th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game tomorrow, June 20, at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

    This beloved tradition began in 2009 after Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida was diagnosed with breast cancer. Each year, female members of Congress face members of the Washington, D.C., press corps to raise funds and awareness for the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), an organization that addresses a variety of issues unique to young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

    Each year, the players honor real women who are battling cancer. This year, Representative Roby will be playing for Courtney Pruitt, a Montgomery native and recent Alabama Christian Academy graduate who is currently undergoing intense treatment to fight leukemia. Courtney is the daughter of Representative Roby’s dear friend and Montgomery City Councilman Glen Pruitt.

    “This year marks the tenth consecutive year female members from both sides of the aisle have come together for the Congressional Women’s Softball Game to support young women battling cancer,” Representative Roby said. “I’m proud to be involved in this great event again this year, and I truly believe it demonstrates what we can accomplish when we put our differences aside to rally for a worthy cause. I am honored to play for my dear friend’s daughter Courtney as she continues to courageously battle this disease.”

Alabama Business Spotlight: Birmingham manufacturing company operating in more than 100 countries worldwide


Since President Trump took office in 2017, his agenda to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States has created a mini-renaissance in the industry, creating approximately 222,000 new jobs for Americans. Manufacturing companies are moving operations back to the United States as the economic environment becomes more favorable for businesses. As many organizations are bringing jobs back to the United States, one Alabama manufacturing company has been a steady source of employment for Americans for the last 89 years.

Altec, an equipment company based in Birmingham, was founded in 1929 by Lee Styslinger.

What began as a small truck equipment business has grown to become a leading provider of services and equipment in the electric utility, telecommunications, contractor, lights & signs and tree care markets. Altec now serves clients throughout the United States and in more than 100 countries.


Altec played a key role in the development of mechanized equipment that helped to construct the electrical grid system in the United States. Before mechanized equipment, maintenance of the grid system required employees to climb electrical poles to repair power lines, a slow and dangerous task. Altec was instrumental in the effort to engineer and manufacture truck-mounted aerial equipment for the utility industry, which has allowed for power companies to rapidly
expand electrical power across the United States.

Altec’s reputation for creating innovative, high-quality products is recognized on a national level. Last year, Altec was chosen to represent Alabama at the Made in America event at the White House, which highlighted an American-made product from each of the 50 states. The event was a kick-off of President Trump’s initiative to highlight and celebrate the importance of manufacturing for economic growth in the United States and job creation opportunities for American workers.

“We were honored to be asked to help represent the outstanding manufacturers throughout the country at the ‘Made in America’ product showcase at the White House,” said Lee Styslinger III, current Altec Chairman and CEO. “I was particularly pleased with the event’s message to celebrate the American worker and the important contribution each of them makes to the success of this nation.”

Altec’s founder, Lee Styslinger Sr., moved from Pittsburgh, Pa. to Birmingham in 1929 to establish the company. He considered Birmingham the “Pittsburgh of the South,” as the steel and manufacturing markets were strong in both cities. Through technological advancements and forward-thinking leaders, Altec has been able to adapt to the changing industry, and continues to offer products tailored to meet their customers’ needs.

When describing the company’s accomplishments, Mark Wegel, Director of Public Affairs for Altec, said, “We have always maintained a commitment to total customer satisfaction and strive to be the industry leader in innovative product design and integrated safety features. We believe our people are our greatest strength and our customer is the main focus.”

Although Altec provides products and services on a global scale, the company is still committed to Alabama, and to seeing the business community thrive throughout the state. Altec is a member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), and decided to join because of the BCA’s commitment to understanding and addressing the needs of businesses throughout the state.

“The BCA’s focus on job creation, economic development, ethics reform and positive change to the public education system make it an effective advocate for Alabama, and we’re proud be a partner,” said Wegel.

Altec’s undisputed success over the last century exemplifies an Alabama success story. The company has provided jobs, income, and stability to Alabamians throughout decades of political and economic transitions. Their innovative products meet the needs of customers around the world, and their continued presence in Alabama bolsters the state’s reputation for helping businesses prosper.

About the Business Council of Alabama: For more than three decades, the Business Council of Alabama has been Alabama’s foremost voice for business, standing up for Alabama businesses that are the job creators and innovators driving our state’s economy. Through this Business Spotlight Series, the BCA tells the stories of these businesses that proudly call Alabama home and in the process, we hope to show why we work hard every day making a sweet home for
business. For more information about the BCA, please visit their website.

7 months ago

Alabama Business Spotlight: Birmingham Firm Empowers Clients to Achieve the American Dream

Greg Powell, President/CEO, CIMA, Wealth Consultant, Fi Plan Partners
Greg Powell, President/CEO, CIMA, Wealth Consultant, Fi Plan Partners

By Lauren Naumcheff

In 2008, an economic recession devastated the financial investments and savings of millions of Americans. Since then, many approach planning for their financial futures with much apprehension. One Birmingham businessman recognized this fear and built a firm around helping Alabamians plan for the future through relationship-based financial advising tailored to clients’ individual needs.

In 2005, Greg Powell formed Fi Plan Partners to provide a different model of financial planning focused on the best interests of his clients. He founded the company with the philosophy of putting clients first through establishing a relationship based on trust. A strong commitment to integrity and meeting clients’ needs has set Fi Plan Partners apart from other firms.

Fi Plan Partners offers a wide range of financial services including strategies for managing money in markets, financial planning advice, business consulting and generational planning. Advisors are free from the pressure of pushing a product that may not be the best fit for the client.

“It is a privilege for clients to put their confidence and trust in our firm. It is humbling to see what we have built. Working with multiple generations of clients reminds us of the importance of staying true to our values,” said Powell.

Fi Plan Partners offers a unique model from traditional financial planning firms. Their team strives to educate clients through weekly vlogs, podcasts and an active social media presence.

Powell and his team believe in empowering clients with the knowledge needed to plan for their futures. Providing financial advice through digital platforms gives clients the ability to learn more about their financial options, enabling them to make decisions consistent with their personal needs.

In March of this year, Powell released his first book, “Better, Richer, Fuller,” on Amazon. Powell shares his philosophy on financial planning developed over his 36 years of experience in the industry.

When asked about the decision to establish Fi Plan Partners in Birmingham, Powell said the scenic views, sporting and cultural amenities of Birmingham offer significant attractions for its out-of-town clients. “We are proud to bring individuals here and show them what we have to offer,” said Powell.

Fi Plan Partners expanded its presence throughout the state by joining the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). Membership in the BCA gives Fi Plan Partners and business owners across the state a platform to express their interests in the state legislature and in Washington.

“The Business Council of Alabama continues to lead this state in addressing the needs of all Alabamians with its listening ear,” Powell said. “Their team invites our feedback on issues that need to be addressed in legislation and the economic future in Alabama.”

About the Business Council of Alabama: For more than three decades, the Business Council of Alabama has been Alabama’s foremost voice for business, standing up for Alabama businesses that are the job creators and innovators driving our state’s economy. Through this Business Spotlight Series, the BCA tells the stories of these businesses that proudly call Alabama home and in the process, we hope to show why we work hard every day making a sweet home for business. For more information about the BCA, please visit their website.

8 months ago

138,000 manufacturing jobs added this year

Photo from Pixabay
Photo from Pixabay

The United States has gained 138,000 manufacturing jobs in 2017, according to data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In December, the last month of 2016, there were 12,343,000 employed in manufacturing in the United States, according to BLS. By October, that had risen to 12,481,000.

The 12,481,000 people employed in the manufacturing in October was the most since January 2009, the month that Barack Obama was inaugurated president. That month, there were 12,561,000 employed in manufacturing. But in February 2009, manufacturing employment fell to 12,380,000.

Between September and October of this year, manufacturing employment increased by 24,000—rising from 12,457,000 in September to October’s 12,481,000.

While employment was rising in manufacturing during October, it was also rising in government.

From September to October, employment in state, local and federal government rose from 22,352,000 to 22,361,000—an increase of 9,000 for the month.

So far in 2017, government has added 62,000 jobs—increasing from 22,299,000 in December 2016 to October’s 22,361,000.

Government jobs increases at each level of government—rising from 2,809,000 to 2,814,000 on the federal level, 5,089,000 to 5,091,000 on the state level; and 14,454,000 to 14,456,000 on the local level.

Government jobs now outnumber manufacturing jobs in the United States by 9,880,000.

Manufacturing jobs peaked at 19,533,000 in June 1979. Government jobs exceeded manufacturing jobs in the United States for the first time in August 1989.

(Courtesy of

8 months ago

Alabama Business Spotlight: Montgomery Law Firm Continues to Thrive at 70 Years

By Lauren Naumcheff

Starting a new business can be a risky and daunting task for new and seasoned entrepreneurs alike. Studies show that about half of all businesses fail within the first five years. To survive the early years is undoubtedly an accomplishment, but to continue to grow throughout several decades is exceptional. One Alabama company has stood the test of time and grown from a small, two-person law firm to a regionally recognized legal team.

Capell & Howard, P.C. was founded in 1947 in Montgomery, Ala. Over the last 70 years, the firm has experienced continuous growth and recognition for its legal services that encompass a wide range of practice areas. Today, the Capell & Howard firm employs 40 attorneys and provides legal services throughout the Southeast.

This year, 18 of Capell & Howard’s attorneys were named among The Best Lawyers in America—a significant honor as nominees are chosen based on peer reviews for their performance in a specific practice area and geographic location.

In December of 2016, the Business Council of Alabama and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama named the Capell & Howard P.C. law firm as a Small Business of the Year for 2016. The award in the category of 51-100 employees was announced at the BCA-CCAA annual meeting on Dec. 2.

“It was an honor for us to be able to recognize our member, Capell & Howard, with this significant award,” said BCA President and CEO William J. Canary. “Longevity in any business speaks to a dedication to sound business practices and continued service to clients. In the case of a law firm, offering premier legal service to clients for seven decades shows a commitment to excellence and a great respect for clients.”

Capell & Howard was formed on Aug. 1, 1947, by founders Jack L. Capell and Fontaine M. Howard. Capell and Howard were joined by Edward E. Cobbs and Walter J. Knabe, and the firm became known as Capell, Howard, Knabe & Cobbs in 1963. The firm kept that name until 1999, when it reverted to its original name.

Capell & Howard’s commitment to excellence has driven its continual success. Henry Hutchinson, managing director of the firm, said, “We are recognized as one of the preeminent and most respected law firms in central Alabama, which we consider to be one of our greatest accomplishments.”

The firm has established its rapport with its clients by providing personal, tailored service and fostering a culture of collegiality among its attorneys and collaboration with other supporting professionals.

Capell & Howard has expanded to multiple locations around the state, but is still headquartered in the same building where it was founded in 1947. The firm is dedicated to seeing Alabama thrive, and has proven this through its involvement in state and local governments. Attorneys from the firm have served in government positions including General Counsel to the Governor of Alabama, Chief Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, among many others.

“As has been the tradition during our 70-year history, we expect the firm to be a leader in all of the communities that it serves until its 100th anniversary and beyond. If we continue that tradition, we will be known not only as a well-respected law firm that provides first class services to its clients, but also as an enjoyable place for all of our employees to work and contribute to their community,” said Hutchinson.

Capell & Howard handles commercial litigation, as well as business, corporate, construction, labor and employment, administrative, real estate, trusts and estates, family, tax, and employee benefit legal services for both domestic and international clients.

About the Business Council of Alabama: For more than three decades, the Business Council of Alabama has been Alabama’s foremost voice for business, standing up for Alabama businesses that are the job creators and innovators driving our state’s economy. Through this Business Spotlight Series, the BCA tells the stories of these businesses that proudly call Alabama home and in the process, we hope to show why we work hard every day making a sweet home for business. For more information about the BCA, please visit their website.

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8 months ago

Universities In Alabama Help Prepare The Next Generation of Automotive Engineers

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center
Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

Everyone is aware of Alabama’s prominence on the gridiron, but few are aware of the strides Alabama universities are taking to ensure that students are prepared for automotive manufacturing in the 21 Century.

As reported by Alabama News Center, the University of Alabama is offering education and research opportunities that give automotive engineers the tools they need to continue to compete with an ever-evolving automotive market.

Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian is one of the leading engineering professors at Alabama, and he is helping drive the university’s state of the art program. A former vice president of group research and advanced engineering at Mercedes-Benz, Balasubramanian works in the Capstone’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies. He teaches students about electronics, energy storage and fuel cells, materials and manufacturing, and powertrains. “These are interesting research projects, and we have interaction between the industry and the professors here, who are also getting more insight into what really drives the automotive companies,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

As the automotive industry increasingly develops electric motors, part of the university’s goal is to ensure students are equipped with the knowledge needed to fill the new market. “Since coming here, I’ve been preaching that we need more computer scientists and electrical engineers, as the industry is becoming more electrified,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

Just last month, Mercedes announced their intent to invest $1 billion in electric vehicle production at their Tuscaloosa plant.

Other Alabama schools are also picking up on the new automotive trends. Auburn University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville are working together as part of the Southern Alliance for Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Center.

Reaching outside the state, Auburn and Huntsville are collaborating with Clemson University with the hopes of receiving an official designation as a National Science Foundation research center. If given the designation, companies will conduct research through member universities. Students will then be given the ability to work on real-world problems and increase their ability to find jobs once they leave.

Speaking to the relationship between auto manufacturers and universities, Auburn associate professor said, “There’s a need for industry to have a relationship for academic research, because they have limited resources to do their own. The industry doesn’t do that on its own anymore, to any great degree, so we are giving them access to what’s coming down the road and what they could be looking for in the future.”

9 months ago

Mercedes To Invest $1 Billion in Alabama Electric Vehicle Project

(Made in Alabama)
Courtesy of Made in Alabama

According to Made in Alabama, Mercedes-Benz announced on Thursday that it plans to invest one billion dollars in its Tuscaloosa operation, where it will begin production of electric vehicles and build a battery plant. The German automaker is also set to expand its logistics operations across the country, with a new North American after-sales parts hub and Global Logistics Center set to be built in Bibb County.

Mercedes’s new investment is on track to create over 600 new Alabama jobs, and upgrade one of the world’s “smartest” manufacturing facilities. The automaker began production at its Vance manufacturing facility 20 years ago, sparking an automotive boom for the Yellowhammer state. Mercedes said its Alabama plant is already undergoing a $1.3 billion expansion that will position it to shape the future of electric mobility worldwide.

“With this $1 billion investment, we are significantly growing our manufacturing footprint here in Alabama, while sending a clear message to our customers across the U.S. and around the world: Mercedes-Benz will continue to be on the cutting-edge of electric vehicle development and production,” said a member of the divisional board of Mercedes Cars, production and supply chain, Markus Schafer.

Mercedes will begin producing its EQ brand SUV models in Alabama by 2020. The automaker hopes to offer more than 50 various electric vehicle models by 2022. Currently, the Tuscaloosa plant produces the GLS, GLE, and GLE Coupé sport utilities, as well as the C-Class sedan. The plant is also being prepared to produce plug-in hybrids.

Construction on the one million square foot battery facility is set to begin next year. The Bibb County Global Logistics Center will support the company’s worldwide logistics for its Alabama-made products. Moreover, the North American after-sales parts hub located on the same site will provide spare parts to markets around the world. It is set to open in late 2020.

Mercedes has a continuing history of investment in the state of Alabama. The automaker originally invested $325 million in the state. However, with the expansion announced on Thursday, the company will have invested a total of $6.8 billion in the Yellowhammer state in just over 20 years. Mercedes has been and will continue to be the leading contributor to economic development in the state.

“The fact that Mercedes-Benz continues to expand its operations in Alabama makes a powerful statement about the quality of the automaker’s workforce in the state, and underscores that we are achieving our goal of ensuring businesses in Alabama don’t just survive, but thrive,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

9 months ago

Sen. Shelby Applauds University of Alabama in Huntsville’s $20 Million Science Grant.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Earlier today, Senator Richard Shelby reported that the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the University of Alabama in Huntsville $20 million over five years.

As part of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) program, UAH seeks to develop technologies for applications ranging from aerospace and manufacturing to food safety, based on low-temperature plasmas. Through the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the grand will support fundamental research and education efforts.

Furthermore, the grant will allow UAH to better share resources with other Alabama institutions of higher learning. In turn, this will lead to greater technology development.

Touching on what the grant means for Alabama, Sen. Shelby said,

“This award serves as merited recognition of the great work that is ongoing at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. UAH is a nationally recognized institution for its research efforts that benefit students, industry, and the community and will continue to do so in the years to come. Once again, Alabama has set itself apart as a leader in science research and higher education.”

Senator Shelby is known for his continued support of equipping students with the tools they need to succeed. He has helped raise money for numerous university projects across the state, and state of the art engineering buildings at the University of Alabama and the University of South Alabama bear his name because of those efforts.

9 months ago

$120 Million Truck Assembly Plant Coming to Birmingham

Courtesy of Made in Alabama
Courtesy of Made in Alabama

Governor Kay Ivey announced on Wednesday that an Indiana-based manufacturing company, Autocar, will invest $120 million to build a plant in Alabama to manufacture heavy duty cab-over-engine trucks. According to Made in Alabama, the manufacturing operation will be located in an existing one million square-foot complex in Center Point and Birmingham. It is expected to employ 746 workers.

Autocar is the newest addition to the state’s vastly growing automotive sector. Alabama is already home to manufacturing plants from Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai. Governor Ivey said that the announcement is a huge step for the Yellowhammer State. “Alabama is a powerhouse in automotive manufacturing, and Autocar’s new heavy-duty truck assembly operation in Birmingham will add a new dimension to the state’s activities in this vital sector,” she said.

Autocar chairman Andrew Taitz said that the company chose Birmingham after an extensive selection process. He gave several reasons that Birmingham was the optimal choice for the site, including “access to a great business environment, strong state and local governmental partners, a skilled workforce, and proximity to our customers and suppliers.” He emphasized that Birmingham had the “whole package.”

According to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the Autocar plant will have a significant economic impact on the city of Birmingham and the sate in general. Once fully operational, the plant is expected to generate $645.1 million in annual economic impact. It will contribute $229 million annually to Alabama’s GDP and $130.1 million in earnings to Alabama households through 2,655 direct and indirect jobs.

Center Point Mayor Tom Henderson expressed excitement for the project, saying Autocar’s arrival is a huge boost for their respective cities. Autocar has already begun hiring employees to begin production. The average annual base compensation for all employees will be over $58,000.

Wednesday was a big day for Alabama’s manufacturing industry. The announcement came just hours after Georgia-Pacific unveiled plans for a new lumber manufacturing facility in Talladega. With these two new facilities, the Yellowhammer State continues to solidify itself as a haven for manufacturing jobs and companies.

10 months ago

Alabama Business Spotlight: North Alabama Nonprofit Supports New Business Owners

By Lauren Naumcheff

Women around the country are starting their own businesses more than ever before. Opening a business is a risky and challenging feat, and according to Bloomberg, eight out of ten businesses fail in the first 18 months. However, women and men alike in Alabama have a resource for training and mentorship when starting and managing a business through The Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Catalyst is a Hunstville-based organization that serves as driver for economic growth and job creation by providing support for entrepreneurs and business owners in every stage of growth.

“We started 17 years ago with a single focus on women,” said Joanne Randolph, CEO of The Catalyst. “We believed Huntsville needed a place for women to go who wanted to start a business and needed guidance and support. After three years of due diligence, we were incorporated as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA), a non-profit organization.”

Since its inception, The Catalyst has served over 21,000 individuals in Hunstville and surrounding areas. The organization began with basically no funds at all, but is now operating with an annual budget of almost one million dollars.

Randolph and her colleagues at The Catalyst have dedicated themselves to supporting and developing women in business, but after nearly two decades of experience, Randolph decided it was time for The Catalyst to expand its services. In March of this year, the organization was renamed to its current title as a part of their rebranding process. In addition to focusing on women, The Catalyst now provides services to startups, male and female entrepreneurs alike, established businesses, veterans, government contractors and innovative and technology companies. For more information on The Catalyst’s growth and rebranding, click here.

The Catalyst has experienced significant growth since its humble beginnings nearly two decades ago, however, the goal of Randolph and her team remains the same.

“Our success is based upon our client’s success.  Seeing individuals start and grow their businesses is what we are all about,” said Randolph.

The Catalyst manages three ongoing projects furthering this goal of serving business owners and entrepreneurs. The first is the Women’s Business Center, which serves as an educational and resource center for women interested in starting a new business or managing an existing one. Second, TechRich is The Catalyst’s project focusing on fueling collaboration between businesses. TechRich provides businessmen and women with networking opportunities as well as training services. Nascent, the third major project created by The Catalyst, offers support and mentorship to small businesses in rural areas.

In addition to ongoing projects, The Catalyst hosts training courses year-round for businessmen and women on topics such as goal setting, time management and managing teams. It also offers a wide array of online topics for busy professionals who cannot attend live events.

The Catalyst is an active member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), a statewide business association dedicated to advocating for Alabama businesses and entrepreneurs of all types.
“I joined the BCA and serve on its Board of Directors because it is Alabama’s most well-respected business association. BCA is our business advocate and works tirelessly to ensure that business is effectively represented whenever and wherever public policy is made. They truly are the ‘voice of Alabama businesses,’” Randolph said when asked about The Catalyst’s involvement with the BCA.
The Catalyst has served as a driver for economic growth and job creation in the state, and North Alabamians have benefitted greatly from the efforts of Randolph and her team.

For more information on The Catalyst’s upcoming events, or to get involved in supporting the organization, please visit their website.

About the Business Council of Alabama: For more than three decades, the Business Council of Alabama has been Alabama’s foremost voice for business, standing up for Alabama businesses that are the job creators and innovators driving our state’s economy. Through this Business Spotlight Series, the BCA tells the stories of these businesses that proudly call Alabama home and in the process, we hope to show why we work hard every day making a sweet home for business. For more information about the BCA, please visit their website.

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11 months ago

Racing to the Top: Alabama’s Auto Industry Continues to Grow After 20 Years

The Alabama Department of Commerce revealed that the state’s automotive industry is continuing its rapid growth in 2017. In a statement released on July 24, the department announced that 2016 added 3,848 jobs and $907.1 million in new capital investment. This year, the industry is on track to add thousands of new jobs and push capital past $1 billion.

The expanding industry will include new projects and operations that will manufacture everything from entire automobiles to their component parts. In the news release, the Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce Greg Canfield noted:

“Our deep roots in the auto industry keep growing deeper. Last year alone, there were new or expanding auto companies in 26 Alabama counties, showing the vast reach of auto production in Alabama.”

2016 saw Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota all contribute to the growing industry. Hyundai invested $52 million to upgrade its plant in Montgomery. Through this investment, they were able to bring production of the Santa Fe SUV back to their assembly lines. The Lear Operation Corp., which supplies the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, expanded their operation to create 535 new jobs. Moller Tech USA and Eissmann Automotive North America also contributed millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs to the industry.

RELATED: Bernie Sanders and Labor Unions Descend on Mississippi – Will Alabama Be Next?

Capitalizing on last year’s momentum, 2017 has brought many new auto sector projects to Alabama and has set the stage for more tremendous growth. Hanwha Advanced Materials America LLC plans to invest $20 million and create 100 new jobs at its manufacturing facility in Opelika. In an effort to improve efficiency and prepare for future projects, Honda plans to invest $85 million in its Lincoln plant. Grupo Antolin, a Spain-based supplier, also plans to build a $10.4 million facility in Jefferson County that will employ 150 people in 3 years.

After 20 years, Alabama’s auto industry continues to prove that it is one of the best in the country. The manufacturing jobs created have contributed to the steady decline in the state’s unemployment rate over the past year. Jason Hoff, CEO of Alabama Operations for Mercedes-Benz, put it best when he said, “Our suppliers have found – just as we have – that Alabama is a great place to do business.”

11 months ago

AL Unemployment Rate Continues To Fall

In a press release today, Governor Kay Ivey and Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced that Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted June unemployment rate is 4.6%. That puts Alabama very close to the national unemployment rate, which currently sits at 4.4%

The June number is down from the 4.9% reported in May and is significantly lower than June 2016’s 5.8%. There were a reported 100,376 unemployed persons in June compared to 107,223 in May. The June numbers boast 2,077,275 employed people, which is well above the 2,040,370 reported a year ago. Secretary Washington rejoiced at these numbers saying,

“For the third month in a row, we can report that our wage and salary employment is topping two million jobs. This has been a milestone we’ve strived to reach for years, and is an excellent indicator of economic health.”

Alabama’s yearly job growth rate is currently at 1.8%, the highest it has been in 11 years. Gains have been seen in the leisure and hospitality sector, the professional and business services sector, and the educational and health services sector.

Vestavia Hills and Hoover have some of the lowest unemployment rates at 3.2% and 3.4% respectively. While cities such as Prichard and Selma have the highest unemployment at around 10.1%.

In her press release, Governor Ivey was pleased with the recent economic report and promised to continue to find ways to put Alabamians back to work.

“Alabama’s unemployment continues to drop, and our economy continues to add jobs. As of now, we are only two-tenths of a percentage point away from catching up to the national unemployment rate. Even though our numbers our improving, I continue to pledge to work even harder to make sure that any Alabamian who wants a job can find one.”

Many attribute Alabama’s recent economic improvement to its ever-growing manufacturing sector. In 2016, the state ranked third in the nation in manufacturing employment growth. As a right-to-work state, Alabama has continued to see increased competition for these well paying jobs.

The state’s online job’s database has been very successful in helping thousands of Alabamians find employment. To register, you can visit

11 months ago

Made In America – Trump Inspects Alabama Made Truck

On Monday, President Trump signed a proclamation declaring this week “Made in America” week. Products from each of the 50 states were showcased as part of the ceremonies of “Made in America” day that took place at the White House. One of these products was a bucket truck assembled by Altec Industries, a manufacturing company based out of Birmingham. After the ceremony, Trump was able to get a close-up look at the Alabama-made truck.

Since 1929, Altec has been a leading provider of utility and telecommunications equipment. The truck showcased at the White House ceremony was one of many it manufactures for companies such as Alabama Power. Altec CEO Lee Styslinger III also serves as an advisor to President Trump on a commission on American manufacturing.

President Trump has vowed to “Make America Great Again” by bringing jobs back to the American people and economy. In his speech, Trump said:

“My administration is committed to putting the hardworking men and women of this country- like the ones represented in the showcase- first again so that we can unleash the true potential of the American economy.”

Despite the ever-growing popularity of outsourcing jobs to foreign countries, manufacturing still remains the number one employment sector in Alabama, employing more than 260,000 workers. The state’s 2015 manufacturing output equaled about $35.1 billion, or around 17 percent of Alabama’s Gross Domestic Product. As more state leaders advocate for more manufacturing jobs to come to the state, Alabama will continue to solidify itself as one of the top manufacturing states in the country.

11 months ago

The World Needs Alabama: Aerospace Products Made Here Are in High Demand

Alabama’s aerospace sector is continuing its meteoric rise thanks to a 65 percent increase in exports last year. In 2016, Alabama aerospace companies exported $1.4 billion in products, which represents a 156 percent increase since 2011.

“The aerospace industry – as does the automotive industry – values U.S.-made products because Federal Aviation Authority regulations ensure that they are ‘airworthy.’ Not all countries have the quality that the U.S. and Alabama products do,” Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade at the Alabama Department of Commerce, told Made in Alabama.

Alabama has followed the general trend seen in the sector across the country in terms of its recent growth. According to the Aerospace Industries Association, the domestic sector broke records in 2016 with $146 billion in exports.

RELATED: Alabama’s aerospace industry soars, becomes economic powerhouse for state

Lockhart told Made in Alabama that the state has benefited from the type of products that are rising in demand. “There is a large demand for civil aircraft around the world. With the continued demand for parts, we should see the upward trend of our exports continue as well,” she said.

Alabama has numerous aerospace-related manufacturing facilities across the state. The largest of these plants, The AirBus Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, has drawn in several other aerospace sector investments since its opening in 2015.

The top market for Alabama aerospace exports last year was the United Arab Emirates. In 2016, UAE imports of Alabama aerospace products shot up 244 percent from the previous year. The other top foreign markets last year were France, Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. These countries primarily imported civilian aircraft, engines, and parts.

RELATED: BOOM: Alabama exports set new record in 2016

2016 was a record-breaking year for Alabama exports overall, with $20.6 billion worth of products shipped overseas.
Last year’s total breaks the previous high of $19.6 billion set back in 2012. More than half of Alabama’s monetary export total stems from the state’s transportation manufacturing sector. At nearly $10.7 billion, these automobiles, aircraft components, and boats climbed 15 percent in 2016.

11 months ago

YUGE: Alabama Company Headed to White House for Made In America Event

Lee Styslinger, Altec CEO
Lee Styslinger, Altec CEO

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Birmingham-based company Altec will be at the White House today to participate in President Trump’s “Made in America Week” kickoff event. Founded 88 years ago, Altec specializes in the manufacturing of bucket trucks used by electric utility and telecommunications companies.

Altec has numerous manufacturing plants in the United States and exports its trucks to more than 100 countries. It has been headquartered in Alabama since it opened its doors in 1929.

According to the White House, the Made in America Product Showcase will highlight and celebrate each state’s effort and commitment to American made products by bringing in and showing off products from all 50 states that are made and produced in the United States. The event continues the president’s longstanding pledge to protect domestic manufacturing interests from burdensome regulations and overseas competition.

“America is a nation that honors the work of gifted and skilled tradespeople, but for too long our government has forgotten the American workers,” the White House said in a statement. “Their interests were pushed aside for global projects and their wealth was taken from their communities and shipped overseas. Under the leadership of President Trump, not only will the American worker never be forgotten, but they will be championed. President Trump has offered a new vision: the well-being of the American citizen and worker will be placed second to none.”

The CEO of Altec, Inc., Lee Styslinger, III, has been serving on President Trump’s commission on American manufacturing. During his presidency, Trump has signed numerous executive orders that Styslinger believes have helped roll back regulations that harm American businesses. Some such moves from the White House include the pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords and signing an executive order that requires two regulations be repealed for every new one issued.

To help promote the White House’s event, Styslinger appeared on Fox and Friends this morning.

“This is really celebrating the American worker,” he said. “This is a continuation of the focus by the president and the administration to celebrate, recognize, and grow jobs in America.”

11 months ago

Win-Win: U.S. House Passes Bill that Will Keep Alabama Lives and Jobs Safe

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2018 version of the National Defense Authorization Act on Friday, which will fund and set the policy goals for the country’s armed forces. Although it passed by a margin of 344 to 81, it still must be reconciled with the Senate version of the bill.

For Alabama, the bill funds the construction of three additional Littoral Combat Ships, which are manufactured by Austal in Mobile. The Littoral Combat Ship is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to Corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Most of the ships are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL1), represents the district where the ships are built. He is pleased that the bill continued to fund the program that he believes is instrumental to America’s national defense, but he wants to make sure the Senate’s bill does the same.

“As the Littoral Combat Ships spend more time deployed across the globe, more and more Members of Congress are realizing the important role the ships plan in the Navy’s overall mission,” Byrne said in a release. “I will always continue to be a strong advocate for the men and women at the Austal shipyard as we work to build toward a 355 ship Navy.”

In addition to paying for more LCS, the bill would fund a 10 percent increase in military spending, a 2.4 percent pay raise for the troops, new investments in missile defense systems, an increase in the the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Army Guard and Reserve, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, and improvements to military facilities with a focus on restoration.

“This bill is about ensuring the safety and security of the American people,” Byrne said. “The bipartisan defense authorization bill reforms, repairs, and rebuilds the United States military. The bill addresses the realities of the dangerous threat environment facing our nation and ensures our troops and their families have the necessary resources and benefits.”

Provisions of the bill will also help employees of the Anniston Army Depot in Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-AL3) district. Rogers helped shape language in the NDAA that will extend the authority of the Department of Defense to pay depot employees deployed to combat zones an additional allowance and benefits due to the dangerous nature of their locations. Another provision would allow the Depot’s leadership to consider temporary and term employees for permanent positions when they become available, which allows for more flexibility to hire the best possible workers.

“The NDAA still has to go to conference committee with the Senate, but I am pleased with the legislation that passed the House and will continue to fight to make sure America’s military is robust and fully equipped,” Rogers said in a press release.

12 months ago

More Combat Ships to Be Built in Alabama

Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)
Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS8) (Photo: Austal USA)

MOBILE, Ala. — The U.S. Navy ordered more Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) from Austal USA’s Mobile manufacturing facility last week, a move that shows the military’s confidence in the top-notch vessels. Austal will deliver to LCS to the Navy this year after delivering two last year on time and under budget.

“We’re very proud to be awarded this contract in such a highly competitive environment,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in a press release. “This demonstrates the Navy’s confidence in Austal being a key component in building their 355-ship fleet, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our incredible employees.”

The Littoral Combat Ship is a class of vessels used in operations close to shore (the littoral zone). They have been compared to Corvettes, built to swiftly move in fights with other vessels, as well as to hunt and destroy enemy submarines and mines. Most of the ships are constructed at a specialized production facility located in Mobile.

RELATED: First ever Alabama-built Littoral Combat Ship has officially deployed to the Pacific

Overall, Austal’s LCS manufacturing supports more than 17,000 jobs across 42 states, including 4,000 Alabamians. Under the Obama Administration, the program was continually under siege, but the new administration appears to be reversing that trend.

RELATED: Despite Obama’s cutbacks, Navy says it still needs Alabama-built combat ships

The Navy has consistently maintained that a large fleet is paramount to maintaining the country’s national defense. When threatened with budget cuts last year, Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee that the Navy still requires 52 LCS.

“Whether we’re supporting our delivered ships in San Diego or Singapore, Thailand or Vietnam, we continue hearing positive feedback from the fleet commanders on the value and effectiveness of our LCS and EPF,” Perciavalle said. “We remain dedicated to building these ships safely, timely and with the quality and craftsmanship our customers have come to know and expect from Austal.”

1 year ago

Another One: High-Tech German Manufacturer to Open Alabama Operation

AUBURN, Ala. — The Winkelmann Group, a German-based high-tech manufacturer that primarily services the aerospace industry, is coming to Alabama and bringing 50 jobs with it. In a Monday announcement at the Paris Air Show, the company and Gov. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) stated that a $12 million metal forming operation will be set up in Auburn, and it will create 50 jobs over the next five years.

“As we declare to the world that Alabama is open for business, we welcome Winkelmann to our family of aerospace and defense-related companies in Alabama,” Gov. Ivey said. “The Winkelmann Group, with over a hundred years of industrial history, operates numerous manufacturing facilities globally, and we are extremely proud that they chose Auburn as the home of Winkelmann Flowform Technology.”

Winklemann has more than 45 years experience working in space flight and aviation. The company generally focuses on high-precision, high-strength, thin wall roto-symmetrical parts from all kinds of metals, including titanium and high-strength steel.

The official name of the Auburn operation will be Winkelmann Flowform Technology LP. It is merely the latest addition to Alabama’s already booming aerospace manufacturing sector. Jobs in manufacturing grew again last month, and the sector’s growth helped lead Alabama to its lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade.

“Winkelmann’s impressive capabilities add another dimension to Alabama’s robust aerospace sector, and we’re happy that the company picked Auburn as the home of its first U.S. production facility,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

In addition to the economic growth, the facility’s location will likely have an educational impact as well. Auburn University, already renowned for its engineering programs, has reached out to Winklemann leadership about potential collaboration. “There are numerous areas where some of our departments — including mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, and materials engineering — will be able to assist the company with its operation in Auburn,” Dr. Chris Roberts, dean of Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, told the Commerce Department’s website. “And the company will offer excellent employment opportunities for our students in the future.”

1 year ago

Every American should watch Mike Rowe’s powerful tribute to an Alabama factory

Mike Rowe, host of “Dirty Jobs”

TV personality Mike Rowe is no stranger to getting his hands dirty while promoting skilled trade jobs across the nation. While he’s known for his pride in the American worker, a trip to a local manufacturing plant led him to honor the Alabamians who work there.

Rowe recently spent some time with employees of the company Moog Parts, a Boaz company that produces automobile ball joints, while he was filming a video series called “Go the Extra Mile.”

Rowe said he was touched by the dedication of the workers he met while visiting the Northeast Alabama Town.

“The people I met at Moog are deeply proud of what they do,” Rowe said on a Facebook post. “They’re proud of their company, they’re proud of their work, and they’re proud to make the best ball joints on planet earth.”

Inspired by the workers at Moog, Rowe produced a tribute video that has been so far reached over 1.3 million views.

“Always happy to have you and have you experience how we go the #MOOGExtraMile each day! Thank you for sharing this video with us,” Moog Parts said in response. “We know our employees will be excited to see it!”

Check out his post, and take a moment to watch the video. You’ll be glad you did.

Not long ago, I met some people in Boaz, Alabama that I think you should know. They work for a company called Moog. Moog makes ball joints for your car. A ball joint is not something you see, nor is it something most people think about. But without them, you can’t steer. Ergo, without ball joints, you’d be in the ditch. Fast.

Anyway, the people I met at Moog are deeply proud of what they do. They’re proud of their company, they’re proud of their work, and they’re proud to make the best ball joints on planet earth. The purpose of my trip was to interview some of those people, and if you’d like, you can see those interviews here.

However, while I was there, I asked Taylor, my cameraman, to wander around and film the factory workers doing what they do. I liked the footage. It struck me as real and genuine. So I put some music behind it, wrote some copy, and made a quick thank-you video to the people who allow me to steer my car. Because it occurred to me – whether it’s beach balls or ball joints – it’s our ability to make things in this country, that will truly keep us all out of the ditch.

1 year ago

HISTORY: Alabama auto production races past 10 million mark

There’s no question 2016 was a banner year for Alabama’s auto industry, in more ways than one.

For one thing, workers at the Alabama facilities of Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai combined to build more than 1 million vehicles for the second consecutive year and reached a new record high output.

But another major milestone was achieved last year without notice.

Alabama’s cumulative auto production — which started when Mercedes began producing the M-Class SUV in Tuscaloosa County 20 years ago this week – surpassed the 10 million mark.

Today, more than 10.3 million SUVs, minivans, pickups, sedans and compacts have been made in Alabama, and that’s a testament to the industry’s staying power, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We went from zero to 10 million in less than 20 years, and the automakers show no signs of slowing down,” he said. “Mercedes is in the middle of a major body and assembly shop expansion, Honda just redesigned its popular Alabama-made Odyssey minivan, and Hyundai recently added the Santa Fe SUV back to its assembly lines to meet customer demand.”

Alabama Automotive Vehicle Production by Year

With all the activity, there is much optimism about the future of auto manufacturing in Alabama, Secretary Canfield added.

“We’re ready for the next 10 million,” he said.

1 year ago

BOOM: Alabama exports set new record in 2016

Exports of Alabama-made products totaled $20.6 billion in 2016, setting an annual record for the state. The new sum breaks the previous high of $19.6 billion set back in 2012.

In an announcement on Thursday, Gov. Robert Bentley (R-Ala.) noted the growing power of the state’s manufacturing sector. “The increases in these numbers show Alabama companies are prospering in the global economy. These exports continue to be powerful growth engines for out state by supporting their communities through job creation,” Bentley said. “We will continue to support Alabama businesses as they grow to reach new markets and new customers because when businesses succeed, Alabama succeeds.”

Alabama products were shipped to 189 countries last year. According to the state commerce department, the top markets were Canada, China, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. Additionally, the value of Alabama’s exports increased 6.4 percent from 2015.

More than half of Alabama’s monetary export total stems from the state’s transportation manufacturing sector. At nearly $10.7 billion, these automobiles, aircraft components, and boats climbed 15 percent in 2016.

“Alabama’s dynamic manufacturing base turns out a wide range of great products that consumers in markets around the world want to own, which creates jobs and opportunity here at home,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Setting a new record for exports last year shows that ‘Made in Alabama’ is not a slogan but a fundamental economic pillar supporting economic growth in our state.”

The 2016 annual numbers are not an isolated phenomenon. According to the state commerce department, exports from Alabama companies have risen 48 percent since 2006.

1 year ago

Honda’s redesigned Alabama-made Odyssey takes center stage at Detroit auto show

DETROIT, Michigan — Honda today introduced the world to the latest version of its Odyssey minivan, a top-selling model that is produced at the company’s Alabama factory.

The redesigned 2018 Odyssey, unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, raises the stakes for family-friendly packaging, performance and technology in the minivan segment, said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co.

“In all aspects of its design, the new Odyssey is made to keep every member of the family happy, no matter the seating position, no matter the destination,” he said.

Honda showed off its redesigned Odyssey minivan, to be produced in Alabama, at the Detroit Auto Show.

The Odyssey is a key part of the lineup at Honda’s $2.2 billion auto assembly plant in Talladega County, where more than 4,500 workers help build it, along with the Pilot SUV, Ridgeline pickup, Acura MDX SUV and the engines that power all four models.

The Odyssey also was the first vehicle the automaker produced in Alabama, with the first one rolling off the assembly line in November 2001. Since then, an estimated 2.3 million have followed.

“Honda is a huge pillar of Alabama’s auto industry, responsible for thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment as it continually expands, takes on new models and spins off additional support businesses in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“It all started with the Odyssey, and we can’t wait to see how this latest version of Alabama workers’ innovation and craftsmanship attracts even more customers to the brand.”

Honda executive John Mendel shows off the all-new 2018 Odyssey at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.


On the outside, Mendel said, the fifth generation of America’s best-selling minivan takes Odyssey styling to a new level of sophistication and premium design: Low, wide, improved aerodynamics, a more sharply sculpted body side and a fresh new take on the signature lightning bolt beltline.

Under the hood, a brand new 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 engine is mated up to one of two new transmissions, including the first-ever Honda-developed 10-speed. Honda’s transmission plant in Georgia will lead global production of the new 10-speed, which will make its way into other Honda vehicles in the future.

Inside the new Odyssey, there is a host of new and improved family-friendly features focused on functionality and connectivity, including:

    • Magic Slide seats, which move front-to-back and side-to-side, improving access to seating

    • The CabinWatch system that allow parents to get a bird’s eye view of the second and third row seats through a ceiling-mounted camera, day or night

    • CabinTalk technology, which acts as an in-car PA system so Mom and Dad can directly connect with the kids

    • The CabinControl app that allows passengers to control the rear entertainment system, audio, heating and AC from their smartphones

    • In-car 4G LTE Wi-Fi

    • A “How Much Farther?” app that lets kids track their journey’s progress

Honda showed off its redesigned Odyssey minivan, to be produced in Alabama, at the Detroit Auto Show.

Mendel said Honda’s research showed third row users, typically older kids in the family, felt left out, so some of the new features are aimed at fixing that.

In addition, there are new and improved premium safety features throughout the updated minivan.

“We know our customers are really going to love this new Odyssey and all it has to offer,” Mendel said.


It’s already been a big day for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama at the Detroit auto show.

This morning, the Alabama-made Ridgeline pickup was named the 2017 North American Truck of the Year, besting two other finalists: the Ford F-series Super Duty and the Nissan Titan.

“This award is a prized validation of the innovations and advantages the Ridgeline offers midsize pickup truck customers and a great recognition of the American development team’s work,” Mendel said. “This is a terrific way to kick off 2017, and we’re looking forward to sharing more innovative Honda products in the year ahead.”

The 2018 Honda Odyssey will be produced at the automaker’s plant in Alabama.

The Talladega County plant last spring launched mass production of the redesigned Ridgeline, which adopts a more traditional pickup profile than its predecessor.

Promoted as the “ultimate tailgater,” the 2017 Ridgeline has an audio system built into the truck bed, along with a 400-watt power inverter that can energize a blender, flat-screen TV or other gameday gear.

It’s also the first and only pickup to earn a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, when equipped with available front crash prevention system and LED headlights.

This marks the Ridgeline’s second Truck of the Year of the award; the first was in 2006 when it debuted in the market.

Honda’s Alabama operations just capped a record year in 2016, producing an all-time high of 369,576 vehicles and engines.

1 year ago

Alabama auto industry drives into new era with brainpower jobs, deeper skills


As Alabama’s auto industry has grown over the past two decades, so have the jobs and the sophisticated skill sets required to keep production humming.

The majority of the positions at the state’s three auto assembly plants are in production, but the automakers have also built up their ranks of other highly-skilled professionals.

At Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Talladega County, for instance, there are about 700 engineering professionals in a wide variety of disciplines including electrical, mechanical and civil. The number of positions has increased proportionately to the number of products Honda Alabama is now building.

“When we first started production, we were a new plant, building one product, the Odyssey minivan, and one variation of the 3.5 liter V-6 engine. And because we were a new plant, much of our engineering expertise came from our experienced plants in Ohio, Canada and Japan,” Honda Alabama Vice President Mike Oatridge said.

Honda invested more than $71 million to open a new, highly automated engine assembly line at its Alabama facility.
Honda invested more than $71 million to open a new, highly automated engine assembly line at its Alabama facility.

But since Honda Alabama began producing vehicles 15 years ago, it has become the primary source of light truck production for the automaker and is now the exclusive supplier of the Odyssey, the Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline pickup and the Acura MDX luxury SUV.

Along with the volume increase, the technology has grown more advanced as well.

“The V-6 engine that we first started building has become more complex with the introduction of direct fuel injection, a technology that was in its infancy when we first started,” Oatridge said.

“In fact, almost all of our vehicles now have advanced technology as standard equipment – features such as side curtain airbags, back-up cameras and Bluetooth connectivity.”

Meanwhile, in the past three years, the plant’s workforce has executed four new model changes, an unprecedented schedule among Honda plants.

“So, with all those new models, along with new technology and advanced safety features, we have seen the skills to develop, build and test our vehicles become just as advanced. And that’s why our engineering requirements have continued to expand,” Oatridge said.


Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said there’s been a huge shift across Alabama’s auto industry when it comes to technology, and it’s affected everyone from line workers to those in other positions at the plants.

When Mercedes-Benz kicked off the state’s auto sector in the 1990’s, there was very little automation. But that changed quickly as it took over the global auto industry and other advanced manufacturing operations.

 The Alabama Robotics Technology Park near Decatur is a training resource for Alabama's automakers. Robotics Technology Park

The Alabama Robotics Technology Park near Decatur is a training resource for Alabama’s automakers.
Robotics Technology Park

These days, automakers are recruiting for highly technical, skilled positions.

“Automation in technology really changed the definition of an automotive worker in this state and what’s needed for that,” Sewell said. “There’s a high demand for robotics technology, for example, and it’s extremely important for us to be able to deliver that workforce training.”

Among Alabama’s assets in this area are the Robotics Technology Park, a complex that is a collaboration among worker training agency AIDT, Calhoun Community College and the world’s leading robotics companies.

Others include Mercedes’ partnerships with Shelton State Community College in mechatronics and automotive technician training programs. Auburn University’s College of Engineering also supports local manufacturing operations through various programs.

“The partnerships with the universities is something we began to talk about 20 years ago, and now that’s something that’s in place and extremely important to these companies,” Sewell said.


At Honda Alabama, as the technology of the plant’s products has increased, so has the complexity of the production process, Oatridge said. The tools, equipment and machinery are much more advanced than they were in the beginning.

Currently, the plant has about 250 maintenance technicians and expects to hire about 20 per year for the next several years.

“We still have a great need for associates who are mechanically inclined. But along with mechanical training, there is also a demand for electronics expertise,” Oatridge said.

Mike Oatridge is vice president at Honda Alabama.
Mike Oatridge is vice president at Honda Alabama.

“For example, about two years ago, we invested in an advanced servo-motor stamping press, to complement our two existing hydraulic stamping presses. The operation of the servo-motor press required additional training for those in the stamping process and a whole new skill set for our associates who must maintain and service it.”

Honda Alabama is working with several two-year colleges and school-to-work programs to fill the jobs and also has a workforce development program that reaches out to high schools, colleges and the general public, with public demonstrations that show off typical tasks at the plant.

Last spring, Honda Alabama hosted a workforce event during the Honda Indy races at Birmingham’s Barber Motorsports Park.

Since its startup 15 years ago, Honda Alabama has been in a near-constant state of growth, Oatridge said.

“The automotive industry offers a wide variety of both skilled and professional work disciplines,” he said. “Our facility in Lincoln is almost a microcosm of a small city. Along with our engineers, we have professionals in information technology, accounting, logistics, purchasing, process design, human resources, business management … the list just goes on and on.”

Honda workers celebrate the production of the 4 millionth Alabama-made vehicle. (Image: Honda)
Honda workers celebrate the production of the 4 millionth Alabama-made vehicle. (Image: Honda)
2 years ago

Lenzing Alabama expansion: $293M investment, 163 jobs


MOBILE, Alabama – Austria-based Lenzing AG announced plans today to invest $293 million to expand production at its Alabama fibers plant, creating 163 new and permanent positions over three years.

The Mobile County factory was the first commercial operation in the world to produce and market Lyocell, an eco-friendly, botanic fiber used in clothing and nonwoven products. The expansion project will add a second manufacturing facility for Lyocell, which Lenzing markets under the brand name Tencel.

“The expansion will more than double current Tencel production in Axis, making it the largest production site in the world, with a total capacity of 140,000 tons annually,” said Kevin Allen, site manager of the Lenzing Alabama plant.

“We are very proud to have in Axis the first-generation production site and now the most advanced, state-of-the-art facility in the same location,” he added.

The company’s plans were formally announced this morning at a ceremony at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Alabama expansion is the largest single investment in the history of Lenzing, which dates back almost 80 years. The company said the decision to build the new facility was supported by good infrastructure at the Axis site and by attractive energy costs.

Robert van de Kerkhof, the company’s chief commercial officer, said the project represents a “unique milestone” for the Axis facility and for the Lenzing, Austria-based industrial group, which has operations worldwide.

The Alabama fibers plant became operational in 1992, while the new facility at the site will begin production in 2019. It will be capable of producing 90,000 tons a year, becoming the largest single Tencel fiber plant in the world, according to Lenzing.

Lenzing's Alabama factory was the world's first commercial operation to produce eco-friendly Lyocell fibers.
Lenzing’s Alabama factory was the world’s first commercial operation to produce eco-friendly Lyocell fibers.


The Lenzing Alabama expansion – codenamed “Project Tasean” during recruitment – will provide a boost to the Mobile area’s manufacturing sector, where the average salary is $68,000 a year, more than 50 percent higher than the typical job.

The area’s chemical manufacturing sector, which includes 30 companies along a 60-mile corridor, is projected to continue growing. Employment in the corridor is expected to rise by 8.5 percent through 2020, compared to a 2.2 percent decline for the nation as a whole.

“Austria’s Lenzing is an innovative manufacturer with a longtime presence in Mobile County, Alabama, the home of its only U.S. production facility,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“This significant new investment in its Mobile County operation will not only create jobs but also strengthen the partnership we have forged together over the years,” he added.

Lyosell fibers come off the production line at Lenzing's Alabama facility. (Image: Lenzing)
Lyosell fibers come off the production line at Lenzing’s Alabama facility. (Image: Lenzing)


Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, said the Lenzing expansion demonstrates the area’s success at landing large-scale economic development projects.

“This type of foreign direct investment and the addition of these high-wage jobs is yet another example of our manufacturing growth that continues to outpace the national rate,” Wayman said.

Efforts to expand manufacturing jobs in Mobile County have resulted in a 31 percent increase in factory positions between 2010 and 2015, according to data from the Chamber. That’s higher than the 9 percent growth recorded by Alabama and 7 percent for the U.S.

More than 4,600 factory jobs were added in that period by employers that include Airbus.

Wages for those employed in manufacturing in Mobile County have also risen. During the same time frame, manufacturing workers in the county have seen their wages jump 16 percent.

Merceria Ludgood, president of the Mobile County Commission, said the Lenzing expansion project is significant because it represents the fruits of the county’s labors to expand the local manufacturing sector.

“This announcement means jobs will be available right here in our county, keeping our best and brightest right here at home,” Ludgood said.

Mobile Chamber President Bill Sisson speaks at the Lenzing announcement.
Mobile Chamber President Bill Sisson speaks at the Lenzing announcement.
2 years ago

Huntsville mayor leads effort to pass Alabama’s 21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act


Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is leading a statewide effort to garner voter support for Amendment 11 on the upcoming Nov. 8 ballot.

“Simply put, Amendment 11 means jobs and economic growth for Alabama,” said Battle.

The constitutional amendment, unanimously approved by the Alabama Senate and House of Representatives, is designed to help Alabama’s cities secure major industrial projects. Battle is championing the amendment because of Huntsville’s recent success in recruiting 16,000 new jobs with companies like Polaris, Remington, and GE Aviation.

“Competition for top industries is fierce and we are vying against well-oiled recruitment teams from other states and countries,” said Battle. “We need every tool in the economic toolkit if Alabama is going to capture the good-paying jobs and quality industries we want. Amendment 11 gives us that tool.”

Officially called the 21st Century Manufacturing Zone Act, Amendment 11 essentially allows industry to repay local governments for the incentives required to secure the project. Battle calls it “a win-win for taxpayers, citizens, and industry.”

The legislation is only applicable to big industrial projects and requires a minimum investment of $100 million on a site larger than 250 contiguous acres. Local governments can create a Tax Increment Financing Zone (TIF) where revenues generated from increased property values within the zone repay incentives for the project. This allows the industry to pay for its own incentives, without sacrificing current tax revenues generated for roads, schools, and public safety.

“We don’t want voters to be confused when they see the word ‘tax’ in the TIF definition on the ballot,” said Battle. “There are no new taxes and no loss of current tax revenues. Only new revenues produced within the tax district as a result of the $100 plus million dollar investment will be used to refund cities for the cost of incentives.”

The Amendment is drawing support from the Alabama League of Municipalities, Alabama Department of Commerce, Business Council of Alabama, Economic Development Association of Alabama, and from elected and business leaders across the state. Mayors from the River Region, Shoals, Wiregrass, and Sand Mountain have stepped up to say “yes” to Amendment 11 as well as Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

“It puts the financial responsibility back on the industries and protects taxpayer dollars,” said Strange.

Jim Page, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, believes the Amendment gives less wealthy communities a chance to land big industries. “If they meet the requirements, these communities can compete now,” Page said. “They wouldn’t be able to afford to without it.”

Battle determined there are at least 84 industrial sites in Alabama that could potentially benefit from voter approval of Amendment 11.

“The goal is to streamline the process so that we don’t lose major industrial prospects that could bring thousands of good-paying jobs to Alabama,” he said.

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