The Wire

  • Trump orders establishment of ‘space force’ as 6th branch of military

    Excerpt from Fox News:

    President Trump vowed on Monday to make space great again.

    Speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council, Trump ordered the Pentagon to immediately establish a national “space force” that would become the sixth branch of the armed forces.

    “We are going to have a space force,” Trump said in Washington D.C. “An Air Force and a Space Force. Separate, but equal.”

    This is not the first time that Trump has floated the idea of establishing a “space force.” The president mentioned the idea in May during a ceremony at the White House honoring the Army Black Knights college football team.

    Trump did not go into details about what military role the so-called “space force” would carry out or who would command it, but he framed space as a national security issue, saying he does not want “China and Russia and other countries leading us.”

  • Ivey says import tariffs could hurt Alabama industry

    Excerpt from AP:

    Alabama’s Republican governor is separating herself from President Donald Trump on the issue of trade, saying import tariffs like those supported by the administration would hurt the state.

    Gov. Kay Ivey released a statement Monday saying import tariffs could cause retaliatory tariffs that would drive up the cost of items made in Alabama and sold abroad.

    The administration already has imposed duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, plus steel and aluminum from China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

    Ivey says growth in Alabama’s auto industry could be harmed if tariffs are imposed on U.S. goods around the world. Almost 60,000 people work in automotive-related jobs in the state.

  • Police ID suspect in shooting of State Senator’s son

    Excerpt from WKRG:

    “Foley Police Department has identified 29 year old Orneal McCaskey aka “OJ” as the suspect in the shooting of Akil Michael Figures this morning at 635 East Azalea Ave in Foley. The investigation revealed that McCaskey drove to the residence to confront Figures over a female. An argument ensued at the doorway and McCaskey pulled out a handgun and shot Figures at least twice in the lower hip area. After a brief struggle in the house, McCaskey fled the area in a gold or tan colored vehicle. Figures was taken to South Baldwin by private vehicle and later flown to Sacred Heart and has since been released. Orneal McCaskey is wanted for questioning in this case. The public is asked to call Foley Police Department at 251-943-4431 if you know where McCaskey is. He is considered armed and dangerous.”

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.

3 years ago

Automakers set massive new production record in right-to-work Alabama

Mercedes-Benz's plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)
Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)

Alabama’s automakers made almost 1 million cars in 2014, setting a new state record.

Between Mercedes in Vance, Hyundai in Montgomery, and Honda in Talladega county, Alabama is currently home to one of the country’s elite auto manufacturing workforces.

Hyundai, which started production in Alabama in 2004, built the most vehicles over the past twelve months with 398,851 Elantra and Sonata sedans.

Honda built 363,419 Odyssey minivans, Pilot SUVs and Acura MDXs.

Mercedes made over 235,000 M-Class and GL sport-utility vehicles, and R-Class and C-Class sedans.

Together, Alabama’s three automakers built 997,270 vehicles, beating the previous record set in 2013 by 80,000.

Records will likely continue to be set in coming years as automobile manufactures re-up their investment in the state. In the fall of 2014, Mercedes announced it was bringing 200 additional jobs to their Alabama plant in 2015, boosting production up to 300,000.

Government officials give lots of credit for the growth in Alabama’s manufacturing sector to the state’s right-to-work status. Foreign companies, particularly Japanese-owned businesses like Honda, weigh right-to-work laws heavily when deciding where to locate operations in the United States.

“Over 70 Japanese companies have chosen to invest capital to operate in Alabama and to employ over 12,000 Alabama workers,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told Yellowhammer in September. “The Japanese business culture places great emphasis on teamwork, quality, dedication and innovation. These Alabama-Japanese companies have found our state to be ideal as a right-to-work state; a state with a supportive governance and regulatory environment; a state whose workforce provides the dedication to quality, teamwork and innovation necessary to meet and exceed customer expectations; which all translates to market growth and success in the North American markets by choosing to locate in Alabama.”

(h/t WSFA)

4 years ago

#BuiltByBama: Mercedes announces massive Alabama production expansion

Mercedes-Benz's plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)
Mercedes-Benz’s plant in Vance, Ala. (Photo: Carol M. Highsmith)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Mercedes-Benz, which launched Alabama’s auto industry nearly two decades ago, plans to sharply increase production at its Tuscaloosa County plant over the next two years, boosting annual capacity to 300,000 vehicles from the 185,000 produced there in 2013.

Daimler AG and Mercedes executives said at the Vance plant on Friday that the automaker plans to begin producing a compact sport utility vehicle called the ML Coupe in Alabama beginning next year. Earlier this year, Mercedes began mass production of the redesigned C-Class in Vance, the first time it has produced a sedan in Alabama.

Daimler Chairman Dieter Zetsche told auto journalists Friday that the SUV market is expected to outpace growth in the overall automotive market, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Production plans for the compact SUV had been previously announced.

“We’re calling 2015 the Year of the SUV for Mercedes and Tuscaloosa,” Zetsche said. “The market for these vehicles is only getting stronger.”

Mercedes has prepared for increased output in Alabama with a $2.4 billion investment that includes plans to increase its workforce in Vance by 1,400 employees. The automaker also added a $70 million logistics center on its campus.

In addition to the C-Class, the Alabama plant produces M-Class and GL-Class SUVs, along with the R-Class crossover.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, who was at the plant Friday, said Mercedes’ latest expansion in Tuscaloosa County is a tribute to both the state and its workers.

“When we see a business continuing to invest in Alabama and the people of Alabama, that’s the greatest compliment we could receive,” Bentley said. “Most jobs are created by existing businesses, and when businesses grow here, we don’t forget about them.”

RELATED: Mercedes Alabama staffs up with nation’s leading ‘Mechatronics’ program

4 years ago

‘Project Hope’ brings $100 million investment to one of Alabama’s most economically distressed areas

(Photo: Jamie Martin)
(Photo: Jamie Martin)

PINE HILL, Ala. – A $100 million, ultra-modern manufacturing facility located just outside of a small town in Wilcox County has begun turning out copper tubing for heating and cooling systems, appliances, refrigeration units and plumbing. But the GD Copper USA plant, located in one of Alabama’s most economically distressed counties, has also been able to produce an abundant supply of a completely different kind of product – hope.

How GD Copper USA – part of the China-based Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group – landed on a pine-covered 100-acre tract in Wilcox County is a story that illustrates how Alabama communities and agencies can work in unison to bring an economic development project to a successful conclusion.

The project returned to the spotlight this week as Golden Dragon Chairman Li Changjie joined Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and other officials at a grand opening event at the plant, which will employ more than 300 people once full production is reached.

At first glance, Wilcox County, an area with around 12,000 residents and no direct interstate access, appears a long shot for international investment. George Alford, manager of the Wilcox County Industrial Development Authority, concedes that before GD Copper came along, the county hadn’t had an industrial announcement in more than 35 years.

But the close working relationship between Alford and Thomasville mayor Sheldon Day in nearby Clarke County helped land the deal, even after it appeared to be lost in 2011.

Inside the new Golden Dragon plant (Photo: Made in Alabama)
Inside the new Golden Dragon plant (Photo: Made in Alabama)


Originally, the GD Copper facility was supposed to go to a 52-acre site in Thomasville, which had beaten out more than 60 other locations, including much larger cities like Dallas and Little Rock. Then GD Copper’s plans suddenly changed. The company informed Mayor Day that the scale of its project was tripling, making the Thomasville site too small.

At the moment the bad news came in August 2011, Day just so happened to be meeting with Alford. The two had been working on a plan to develop what today is known as the Thomasville/West Wilcox County Industrial Park at Sunny South, a 274-acre property that had rail access and infrastructure in place. The Golden Dragon engineers also happened to be in Alabama that day, so Day quickly produced a map that showed them the site near Pine Hill.

The new location got the OK from the Golden Dragon officials, and the project had a new Alabama home. State agencies jumped in the push the project along. ADECA, for instance, provided Pine Hill with an $866,000 grant for improvements to its water and sewer system, augmented by $1.8 million in funding from Economic Development Administration. Plus, the Alabama Department of Transportation constructed an industrial road and bridge to serve the project.

“We called it ‘Project Hope’ and it has given the people in Wilcox County hope and showed them that if you stick with something you can make it happen,” said Alford.

Though production started only recently, the state-of-the-art GD Copper facility already has helped change attitudes about the Wilcox County area and its ability to support industry. Both Alford and Day said the area is getting new looks from expansion-minded companies in the wake of GD Copper, and they believe their brand of regional cooperation can serve as a model for rural economic development across Alabama. Day said improved collaboration between towns that used to slug it out over projects can help rural areas better compete with bigger cities.

“This project shows that you can work together to overcome a lot of obstacles,” Alford said. “It should be encouraging for a lot of rural communities. The big thing is we didn’t let the county line stop this project. I’ve been in economic development for 42 years, and I have seen that stop lots of projects over the years.”

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said the Golden Dragon project has provided valuable lessons for the state’s economic development community regarding rural recruitment strategies and workforce training.

“It’s a great story for that region, and it will hopefully give us a template to follow,” he told The Montgomery Advertiser.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and state officials visit the Golden Dragon plant
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and state officials visit the Golden Dragon plant


While Golden Dragon is among only a handful of Chinese-owned businesses currently operating in Alabama, economic development officials believe others will follow as commercial ties between the state and the Asian country continue strengthening. The City of Dothan in March hosted the U.S.-China Manufacturing Symposium, attracting business leaders and officials from both countries. And trade missions to China led by the governor have become common.

China is also a top trading partner for Alabama. Exports approaching $2.5 billion in value were shipped from Alabama to China in 2013, making China the No. 2 market for Alabama-made products, behind only Canada.

Alabama’s auto industry has benefited from the state’s ties to China as well. Last year, nearly $1.5 billion in Alabama-made automobiles and parts were shipped to China, an increase of more than 21 percent from 2012, according to the Alabama Department of Commerce’s International Trade Division. Plastics and chemicals were other top categories for Alabama exports to China.

“Alabama’s stature in the global economy continues to rise, with companies like Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group establishing operations in the state,” Secretary Canfield said. “We intend to work hard to develop new partnerships with Chinese companies to secure new investment and jobs for the state. This project just represents the start.”

4 years ago

Remington Arms moving 2,000+ jobs from NY to Alabama


High level sources have informed Yellowhammer News that Remington, one of the world’s largest gun manufacturers, will on Monday join Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley in announcing that they are bringing over 2,000 jobs to Alabama.

The company is viewing the move into Alabama as an expansion, but it will likely impact their Ilion, NY plant as well. The New York facility currently employees around 1,200 people. It is expected to stay open, but with a reduced workforce.

“The company is making the move as an expansion of capacity, production and research,” a source told Yellowhammer on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “The demand for Remington products has skyrocketed recently, for obvious reasons, so they need to increase their production capacity. They will be expanding their research capabilities with the Alabama plant, too.”

The initial estimated impact on Alabama’s economy will be roughly $87 million.

According to Remington’s website, the company designs, produces and sells sporting goods products for the hunting and shooting sports markets, as well as military, government and law enforcement markets. Founded in 1816 in upstate New York, the Company is one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating manufacturers. Remington is the only U.S. manufacturer of both firearms and ammunition products and one of the largest domestic producers of shotguns and rifles. The Company distributes its products throughout the U.S. and in over 55 foreign countries.

Remington first began considering new locations after the New York legislature passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act in response to the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. In addition to banning magazines that contain more than seven rounds and requiring instant background checks on ammo purchases,  the NY SAFE Act broadened the definition of so-called “assault weapons” to include a wide range of guns, including the Bushmaster, which was being manufactured at Remington’s New York plant.

Almost half the states in the country have made pitches to Remington, included Arizona, Oklahoma, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. But in the end, the company chose Huntsville, Ala.


The optics could not be worse for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who told WCNY radio host Susan Arbetter about a month ago that “extreme conservatives” who are “right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay,” have “no place in the state of New York.”

Gov. Bentley and Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard both immediately responded to Cuomo’s comments.

“In Alabama we strongly support and uphold our great U.S. Constitution on which our nation and our states were founded,” Bentley told Yellowhammer. “The Constitution serves to protect individual Freedoms. Among them are those guaranteed in the Second Amendment, which protects the right of the people to keep and bear Arms. We will protect the Freedoms of individuals and welcome any one or any company to Alabama to discover as so many have, that we are a pro-business state filled with good, hardworking people.”

“If he doesn’t want hard working pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment people in his state, we will gladly take them here in Alabama,” Speaker Hubbard added.

It looks like that’s exactly what is happening.

Yellowhammer will have full coverage of the announcement on Monday.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

Congressional delegation sends message to Boeing: ‘Alabama is second to none’

Boeing 777X
Boeing 777X

The Alabama Congressional delegation has issued a bipartisan statement of support for Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposal to Boeing Chairman, President and CEO, James McNerney, Jr., to build the aerospace giant’s planned 777X aircraft in the state.

Huntsville is a world leader in aerospace and aviation innovation, and Alabama’s workforce is second to none. There is simply no better place for Boeing to locate its new 777X design, manufacturing, fabrication, and assembly operations. We commend the city and state for so aggressively pursuing this economic development opportunity and stand ready to support these efforts in any way possible.

1. Union demands give right-to-work Alabama a chance to land Boeing
2. Confidential documents reveal Boeing’s wish list

Signing on to the statement were Senators Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, along with Reps. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, Mike Rogers, R-Saks, Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, and Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham.

The statement comes just weeks after the delegation wrote a letter to Boeing’s CEO touting Alabama’s “high-tech aerospace expertise, low taxation and cost-of-living, rational regulatory regime, right-to-work laws, low utility rates, and excellent infrastructure.”

Alabama submitted its proposal to Boeing on Monday, a day ahead of the submission deadline. Huntsville, Ala. is one of at least 15 locations currently being considered by Boeing.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

Union demands give right-to-work Alabama a chance to land Boeing

Boeing 777X
Boeing 777X

The machinists union in Washington rejected a long-term labor deal proposed by Boeing several weeks ago, sparking a nationwide competition among states trying to become home to a new assembly plant that will build the aerospace giant’s new 777X jetliner.

The labor deal would have transitioned workers with pensions into 401(k) plans and had them contribute more to their healthcare plans, which are experiencing skyrocketing costs due to ObamaCare requirements. In return, Boeing would have placed the new 777X assembly plant in Washington and given each worker a $10,000 signing bonus, among other promises.

The Herald, a union-friendly publication covering local news in Snohomish County, Washington, detailed the drama-infused relationship between not only Boeing and the machinests union, but also between local union members and their national leadership.

Local union leaders tried to block the Boeing proposal from even being put to a vote by the membership but were overruled by national IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) leaders. The leaders from the East Coast called the shots after that, prohibiting District 751 (Washington) leaders from speaking publicly about the offer.

District 751’s roughly 32,000 members were caught off guard…

“There are some very hard feelings — some of them are mine,” said Paul Veltkamp, a quality inspector on the 747 line in Everett.

[A]fter the count revealed that union members overwhelmingly rejected the offer, the IAM’s national aerospace coordinator, Mark Johnson, stood to announce the results and was greeted by boos and jeers at District 751’s headquarters in Seattle…

Several union members said some in District 751 have even been talking about leaving IAM for another union.

Washington state legislators have tried to swoop in to save the day by offering an incentives package to Boeing, but the Chicago-based airplane manufacturer has already started eyeing other potential sites around the country.

According to Boeing documents, the 777X facility will employ 8,500 workers at peak production, including 800 engineers, 6,750 production workers and 950 support personnel.

Boeing sent requests for proposal to numerous states, with a deadline for submission of Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Here are the states that are in the running for Boeing’s plant, based on media reports from around the country:

Right to work — Yes
Annual aerospace revenue — $7.8B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 23,090

Right to work — No
Annual aerospace revenue — $52.3B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 162,162

Right to work — No
Annual aerospace revenue — $6.6B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 20,510

North Carolina
Right to work — Yes
Annual aerospace revenue — $2.9B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 12,140

Right to work — No
Annual aerospace revenue — $9.6B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 28,157

Right to work — No
Annual aerospace revenue — $10B
Current aerospace industry workforce –31,220

South Carolina
Right to work — Yes
Annual aerospace revenue — $2B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 7,894

Right to work — Yes
Annual aerospace revenue — $27B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 87,781

Right to work — Yes
Annual aerospace revenue — $3.8B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 11,489

Right to work — No
Annual aerospace revenue — $32.8B
Current aerospace industry workforce — 93,925

Although Boeing will weigh numerous factors when making their final decision — including tax incentives, workforce training, overall business climate, etc. — right-to-work states offer Boeing the opportunity to avoid vicious labor disputes that grind operations to a halt and drive up costs. That gives states like Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Utah an immediate advantage over the competition.

The importance of right-to-work laws even compelled analysts to include Arizona, Georgia, Kansas and Oklahoma in the list of possible suitors that may also submit proposals by the deadline, even though they weren’t in the initial round of states said to be under consideration.

Alabama Governor Bentley, Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and the rest of the team at the Alabama Department of Commerce worked through the weekend to craft a plan that will make Alabama as attractive as possible to Boeing.

Yellowhammer reached out to Canfield Sunday evening to check on the status of their efforts.

“Alabama has enjoyed a 53-year history with Boeing,” Canfield said. “We certainly view the fact that we are a right-to-work state as a positive selling point — both for this project and for many others.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and members of Canfield’s team recently returned from Germany where they were working to lure aerospace suppliers to locate in Alabama.

Canfield believes that landing Boeing would be a major development in the Commerce Department’s strategy to develop the state’s supply chain for the aerospace industry.

“It is our feeling at the Department of Commerce that a project like Boeing, coupled with the final assembly line for Airbus in Mobile, would do much to make our strategy to develop the supply chain to support the aerospace industry more successful,” he said. “Chief among their considerations is always how business-friendly a state is.”

While the unions fight amongst themselves in other parts of the country, Alabama’s workforce, overall business-friendly climate and right-to-work status continue to stand out, attracting manufacturers from all over the world.

We’ll know soon if Boeing is next.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

Confidential documents reveal Boeing’s wish list

Boeing factory in Everett, Washington
Boeing factory in Everett, Washington

The competition among potential sites for a massive new Boeing plant will come to a head on Tuesday when states are required to submit proposals, including site details and incentive packages.

When Yellowhammer spoke with Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield on Sunday, he was unwilling to share any specific details on Boeing’s request for proposal (RFP), noting that they were bound by a non-disclosure agreement.

Apparently other states weren’t willing to be as discreet. Documents obtained by the Charlotte Observer and re-printed by the Seattle Times lay out in great detail what was contained in Boeing’s RFP. Both North Carolina and Washington are among the states vying for Boeing’s attention.

The site specifications being sought by Boeing are as super-sized as the jets they will ultimately be building.

One of the top logistics challenges, for instance, will be transporting the 777X’s wings, which are 114 long and 23 feet across.

Boeing’s mockup of a site prototype includes a taxiway with “LCF capability.” LCF refers to Boeing’s 474-400 Large Cargo Freighter. It is frequently used by Boeing to transport sections of aircraft around the world.

Boeing 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter
Boeing 747-400 Large Cargo Freighter

Boeing’s building requirements are even more enormous.

Boeing is looking for over 4 million square feet of space. The “main building” will be roughly 12 stories tall with 90-foot ceilings. In total, Boeing estimates it will need roughly $6 billion in property improvements and as much as $4 billion in equipment.

RELATED: Union demands give right-to-work Alabama a chance to land Boeing

But here’s where things get really interesting.

Boeing documents state that their preference will be “toward a location that will share in the cost of capital expenditures including acquiring site, constructing facility, building infrastructure and procuring equipment/tooling.”

In other words, Boeing is looking for a site that is willing to take care of a lot of their up-front costs for them.

Here are some of the “desired incentives” being sought by the company, according to the Seattle Times:

• An airport with a 9,000-foot runway capable of handling both the 777X and 747-400 jumbo freighters that could deliver parts.
• Easy highway and road access to the site for delivering parts.
• Direct access to the site by rail, including a dedicated rail spur right into the site. This is described as “a critical requirement to support delivery and shipping of parts.”
• “Site at no cost, or very low cost, to project.”
• “Facilities at no cost, or significantly reduced cost.”
• “Infrastructure improvements provided by the location.”

Additional incentives it lists include:

• Assistance in recruiting, evaluating and training employees.
• A low tax structure, with “corporate income tax, franchise tax, property tax, sales/use tax, business license/gross receipts tax, and excise taxes to be significantly reduced.”
• “Accelerated permitting for site development, facility construction, and environmental permitting.”

Other factors that will be “significant” when Boeing makes its choice early next year include:

• Low overall cost of doing business, “including local wages, utility rates, logistics costs, real estate occupancy costs, construction costs, applicable tax structure obligations.”
• The quality, cost and productivity of the available workforce.
• Predictability of utilities pricing and government regulation.

Missouri’s state legislature has already approved an incentive package for Boeing valued at roughly $1.7 billion over 20-plus years. Other states, like Alabama, are keeping their proposals out of the pubic eye and away from rival states by crafting their plans through executive branch agencies.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

South Alabama watches closely as ThyssenKrupp inches closer to sale of Alabama operation

ThyssenKrupp's Calvert, Ala. plant
ThyssenKrupp’s Calvert, Ala. plant

German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp (TK), which has been trying in vain for the past year to sell its steel plants in Brazil and Alabama, is considering a new plan that would see the company exiting the United States entirely.

According to a report by the Wall St. Journal, TK is considering a plan to build a new steel processing plant in Brazil. Under the plan, the company would also retain its stake in its current plant there, but sell its Calvert, Ala. steel mill.

The Journal explained the company’s recent financial troubles in Saturday’s article:

ThyssenKrupp commissioned both plants amid last decade’s global steel boom, with raw steel slabs being made in Brazil and shipped to Alabama to be rolled into sheets for the American auto industry. But the global financial crisis and a volatile Brazilian currency upset that plan and both plants have lost money since opening in 2010.

ThyssenKrupp has spent more than $15 billion on the plants, whose book value stands at $4.5 billion after write-downs of $10.7 billion over the last three years. The Steel Americas operations have continued to burn cash in the three quarters ending Sept. 30, although less than before, a person familiar with the matter said.

A spokesperson for ThyssenKrupp told the Journal they are “in advanced talks with one leading bidder” who is looking to acquire the plant. Sources familiar with the negotiations indicate that Luxembourg-based steel giant ArcelorMittal (AM) is the bidder. AM is the largest steel manufacturer in the world.

ArcelorMittal submitted a $1.5 billion bid for the Alabama plant back in January, but ThyssenKrupp at the time believed it could get a better deal from Brazil’s state-backed Companhia Siderurgica Nacional, which was making a play to takeover the Alabama operation as well as a majority stake in TK’s plant in Brazil.

Insiders say the ArcelorMittal negotiations have heated up in recent days. Its sales team has already told some of their top customers they expect to take control of the Alabama plant in the near future.

“We will only sell our steel plants if the disposal conditions ensure a more sustainable solution than the continuation of Steel Americas as part of our company,” ThyssenKrupp CEO Heinrich Hiesinger told a German newspaper last week.

Aid from Alabama state and local governments to ThyssenKrupp’s $5 billion Alabama operation has topped $1 billion. A Mobile Press-Register report in 2011 estimated Alabama taxpayers were spending an eye-popping $400,000 per job. ThyssenKrupp employs over 2,000 people in south Alabama, making it one of the region’s largest employers.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

5 years ago

Ivey engages with local North Alabama leaders on the IP mill closure

Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey
Alabama Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey sent members of her staff to North Alabama to meet with city, county, and business leaders about the impending closure of the Courtland International Paper Mill.

Ivey said Monday that her office will use the meetings to establish a rapport between local and state offices, assess the economic impact of the plant’s closure, and to help coordinate the state’s response with the Office of the Governor, Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Department of Post-Secondary Education.

“Elected leaders can learn a great deal by listening,” Ivey said. “At this point, we need to gather the facts from those who know best how the closure will impact the area and devise a plan moving forward.”

The IP closure will impact more than a thousand mill employees directly, as well as a significant number of loggers, truckers, small businesses and land owners in the area.

“There is no doubt the closure of the mill will leave a great void in the economic landscape of the area, but I am hopeful that through our positive and effective conversations with community leadership, and coordination on a state level, we can identify new business investments for the area and job opportunities for workers in Lawrence County and the surrounding area,” Ivey said.

Among those involved with the meetings are: Courtland Mayor Clarence Logston, Lawrence County Commissioner Moss Jones, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Diane Scanland, and Industrial Development Board Executive Director Tony Stockton.

The Courtland mill, built in the early 1970s, is expected to be completely shut down by the first quarter of 2014.

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamYHN

5 years ago

Shelby applauds Delta Air Lines $5.6 billion Airbus order set to boost Mobile economy

Airbus a320 Mobile, AL Yellowhammer Politics

WASHINGTON – On Wednesday, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines announced plans to purchase 40 new Airbus aircraft consisting of 10 widebody A330-300 aircraft for international flights and 30 large narrowbody A321 jets for domestic flights, a $5.6 billion purchase set for delivery between 2015 and 2017.

According to Airbus, many of the A321s in Delta’s order are expected to be assembled at the brand new Airbus assembly line in Mobile at the Brookley Aeroplex, which is currently under construction. Airbus said it is scheduled to deliver its first aircraft in 2016 from the facility, which represents a $600-million dollar investment in the Gulf Coast region, and will provide 1,000 new jobs in that community.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, applauded the news in a statement issued to Yellowhammer News.

“This is welcome news for Airbus and its workers in Mobile,” Shelby said. “It’s also noteworthy for other companies around the world looking to create more jobs in an advantageous location with a great workforce and business climate.”

According to The Dallas Morning News, this is the first order from Airbus Delta has made in its 88-year history. Currently, the bulk of Delta’s fleet consists of a variety of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas planes, but in 2008, with its merger with Northwest Airlines, Delta inherited a fleet of Airbus planes and now operates 32 A330s, 57 A319-100s and 69 A320-200s.

“This Airbus agreement is another opportunistic fleet transaction for Delta in which we acquire economically efficient, proven-technology aircraft,” Richard Anderson, Delta’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “These A330s and A321s will provide tremendous flexibility for Delta to optimally manage our capacity over the next five years while further improving the flight experience for our customers and returns for our shareholders.”

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5 years ago

EXCLUSIVE: Shelby Discusses His Economic Development Vision for Alabama

“We’ve got the world’s attention,” Senator Richard Shelby told me as we launched into a discussion about his latest meetings with top business leaders overseas.

Shelby recently returned to the States after visiting Toulouse and London, where he and Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran went to recruit suppliers for Airbus’s new south Alabama manufacturing plant to come to their respective states. The Airbus facility represents a $600 million total investment and is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs within the production facility when it reaches full capacity. The competition to recruit their suppliers will be intense.

The model of landing a major manufacturer, then following it up by recruiting its suppliers is one that Shelby is very familiar with.

He played a key role in bringing Mercedes-Benz and their suppliers to Alabama in the 1990s after a visit to Stuttgart, Germany.

“I’m drawing on the experience we gained while dealing with Mercedes-Benz,” Shelby said. “We went to Stuttgart and met with them. Mercedes had suppliers they were familiar with and we did everything we could to make sure they followed their manufacturer to Alabama. Many of them did.”

There are now over forty German suppliers located in West Alabama.

Similarly, Shelby believes that, in order to maximize Airbus’s economic impact, Alabama must successfully recruit as many of their suppliers as possible.

“In the next two to three years, you’ll see a lot of these small businesses locate in Alabama,” he said. “But we’re not through. I’m going back to Germany because that is where a lot of Airbus’s suppliers are based. We have to take full advantage of what’s going on in Mobile.”

If the potential Airbus is bringing with it is fully realized, Shelby believes it could be transformational for south Alabama’s economy.

“When the Von Braun rocket team came to Huntsville, it transformed the city. When Mercedes came to Tuscaloosa, it transformed west Alabama’s economy. Airbus and its suppliers are in a position to bring that kind of transformation to Mobile.”

When I asked him to talk about his recruiting pitch to companies overseas, the Senator seemed to focus on three main points: “Alabama is a great place to do business. It’s a great place to live. And our workforce is the best in the world,” he would tell them.

The third point, workforce development, is something that Senator Shelby has been working on for decades.

He chose early on in his political career to constantly take his message straight to the people. He visits every county in Alabama, every single year.

He recently held his 1,800th town hall meeting — an unbelievable accomplishment considering most politicians confine themselves to D.C. after winning a couple of terms and basically assuring themselves re-election.

Shelby realized after holding town halls around the state that Alabama’s college and university facilities were not on par with some of the top notch institutions around the country.

“I noticed our facilities didn’t look like MIT’s or Stanfords,” he told Yellowhammer. “I was sitting on the Appropriations Committee watching all this money going to Harvard and Yale. I realized if Alabama was able to get some of those resources, it would pay off generation after generation.”

Shelby Hall, University of South Alabama

He has since been able to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to our state’s universities to build math, science and engineering complexes.

“We now have first-class facilities at Alabama, South Alabama, Auburn, Alabama-Huntsville, and Alabama-Birmingham,” Shelby said with satisfaction. “Alabama has some of the finest math, science and engineering institutions in the country.”

And while the complexes will no doubt pay off for decades to come, they’ve also become a huge selling point for new companies considering locating in Alabama right now.

“It’s an investment in the future that’s already paying off in the present.” Shelby intoned. “Airbus is excited about working closely with the University of South Alabama’s engineering program.”

When asked to further elaborate on his longterm economic development vision for the state, Shelby said he also sees further development opportunities for the Port of Mobile, especially now that Airbus is moving in.

Specifically, he wants to widen and deepen the port so that it can handle larger ships — and a lot more of them.

Massive projects like that are only made possible when someone with a lot of horsepower can set the process in motion.

Alabama’s congressional delegation is ranked the sixteenth most powerful in the country in Roll Call’s latest “Clout Index,” which scores the influence each state has on national affairs. This is significant considering Alabama ranks as the twenty-third most populous state.

One of the main reasons for Alabama’s strength in Washington is Senator Shelby’s position on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

He flexed his muscle on the committee recently when he secured money to do a study on the feasibility of widening Mobile’s port.

“The study is the first step toward my vision is to widen and deepen the Port of Mobile,” Shelby said. “I want the port to be able to handle some of the biggest ships in the world.”

Shelby explained that the Port of Mobile is basically a straight shot from the Panama Canal. The increased capacity could position Mobile to become a world center of trade and commerce. Another economic boom would no doubt follow.

“This is going to be a ten to twelve year process,” he said.

And that statement illustrates what may be Shelby’s greatest strength — his longevity. It has allowed him to keep from getting bogged down in whatever is the latest scandal in Washington. Instead of riding the political roller coaster in D.C., he has consciously worked to focus on economic development projects back home in Alabama that could take years, even decades to come to fruition.

“All of this is about jobs and the future, and upgrading the standard of living for all Alabamians,” Shelby concluded. “It all starts with making sure the world knows that Alabama is open for business.”