2 years ago

Guest Opinion: Why the Toyota/Mazda plant belongs in Alabama not North Carolina

I recently read an article in the Triangle Business Journal about why North Carolina might have the upper hand on Alabama when it comes to the Toyota and Mazda joint plant Economic Development competition. While they certainly make some well-thought-out points, I figured I would respond to this article with why I think the business case for Alabama is a stronger one.

Logistics and Transportation Costs

While I’m basing my argument on the Baldwin Mega site in Bay Minette Alabama, most of these arguments also apply to Alabama’s other Mega site in the Huntsville area.

Transportation costs for parts from their suppliers, as well as raw materials, and the logistical Network already in place favors Alabama. First of all, the main supplier of steel and stainless steel bought the old Thyssen Krupp steel plant in North Mobile County. Also, the network of railroad tracks that come directly into Mobile and the fact that the Baldwin Mega site is directly connected to the Port of Mobile, their steel supplier and engine plant by rail would allow for huge savings in transportation costs for not only Toyota, but also their parts suppliers.

Job Skills Training

Alabama has literally, not figuratively, written the book on job skills training when it comes to automotive manufacturing skills.  We’ve done it for Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai and the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to reproduce it.  Top that off with the fact that the main campus of the Alabama Coastal Community College is less than ten miles from the Baldwin Megasite, and that is a formidable combination.

Shovel Ready

Both Megasites in Alabama are shovel ready, certified and have the site prep work already done.  The Megasite in North Carolina that everyone keeps talking about, the Greensboro site, is still trying to zone all of its site as industrial use. This means that this site is not shovel-ready, the site prep work has not already been done and may have to go through the certification process again. Not being shovel-ready is the reason given why the Memphis Megasite was eliminated from the competition.

Labor

According to the Triangle Business Journal article, one of the advantages North Carolina supposedly has over Alabama is the fact that 10 percent of the labor force in Alabama is unionized, versus 3 percent of North Carolina. While this may technically be accurate, this does not take into account the many and most recent high-profile rejections of unionization amongst auto manufacturing employees at plants at Mercedes and Hyundai and Honda. While Alabama may have more union members by percentage than North Carolina, that has not translated into the auto manufacturing industry.

Also, the Triangle Business Journal article mentions many of the high-profile successes and economic development that Alabama has experienced over the years including Airbus, Boeing, Mercedes-Benz and the other auto manufacturing plants in Alabama. They use this as another reason why North Carolina might have an advantage over Alabama in this competition. They claim that the fierce competition for labor with similar skill sets increases wages for employees with those skill sets.

While this is certainly true, I also make the argument that if the Baldwin Mega site is the site that Alabama submitted for this competition, three or four major employers (Airbus, C-Series, Austal and potentially Toyota/Mazda) in a metro area all looking for people with similar skill sets not only increases the wages for people with those skill sets, but also attracts people with them from other areas of the state and other areas of the country, because they know they have a higher likelihood of getting employed if there are multiple employers in an area looking for their skills.

Political Clout

The Triangle Business Journal also argues that because Toyota does not have a presence in North Carolina, that gives them an advantage over Alabama because Toyota usually looks to expand in areas they are not already in to expand their political clout and political representation in Washington.

I respectfully and firmly disagree with the argument that the Business Journal is making here. If the Baldwin Mega site is the location Alabama submitted for this competition, I think political clout works very strongly in favor of Alabama in this competition. Not only does Alabama’s Congressional delegation at both the House and Senate levels work well together in representing the interest of our state and the interest of our major employers, Alabama House District 1 Representative Bradley Byrne has an extremely strong reputation for fighting for the interest of the major employers in his district. Every budget year Representative Byrne has to work within the budget process to defend the interest of Austal shipbuilding and the LCS program. To do this he has had to build a strong bond with the house delegation from Wisconsin, the other state that builds LCS ships for the Navy, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. That strong working relationship with House Leadership is certainly a factor in favor of Alabama’s bid for the Toyota Mazda manufacturing facility.

Incentives

When Alabama has a fair shot at the competition (giving you the death stare Boeing), and we really want the project, more times than not we get it. It doesn’t matter who our governor is, Bob Riley, Robert Bentley, and now Governor Kay Ivey each have long successful track records at winning economic development projects.

The economic development team that the state of Alabama has assembled, along with local economic development teams all throughout the state of Alabama, work well together hand-in-hand to put incentive packages together that are very attractive and very competitive. The fact that Alabama is one of two states left standing in this competition tells me that Alabama has put a very strong proposal together. Just like in football, when it comes to economic development, Alabama wins way more than they lose, and we have the championship trophies to prove it.

While I have no inside information as to which site Alabama submitted for competition, or what criteria the firm that is heading up the site selection process for Toyota and Mazda is looking for, or what is a priority for Toyota and Mazda, these are all factors that if I were a businessman looking to open this type of project that I would be looking for. Not to mention the fact that the cost of living in the state of Alabama is lower than it is in North Carolina, which means that Toyota and their employees’ spending power is better.

I have followed this competition closely since it was first announced earlier this year. I certainly wish everybody that is still in this competition well; however, if the executives at Toyota and Mazda and their site selection firm want to come down and take a look at the Baldwin Mega site, let me know I’ll be more than happy to treat them to an oyster dinner at The Original Oyster House and show them Mobile Southern Hospitality at it’s best.

David Preston is the owner of a transportation logistics company in Mobile, Alabama. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

12 hours ago

Nick Saban: I still consider Jalen Hurts ‘one of our players’

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Jalen Hurts is still beloved by many in Bama nation, including head coach Nick Saban.

Saban has spoken this past year about his respect and admiration for Hurts. However, speaking to members of the media on Wednesday at the second day of Senior Bowl Week practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saban made it clear he really feels that Hurts is still part of the Tide family.

To open his remarks, Saban said, “My only comment is we’re glad to be here. It’s always great to come back to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s such a tradition, and I think this community really embraces this game.”

“It’s really good for the players to have the opportunity to showcase their talent, any player from any place but especially good to see our players be able to do it — and Jalen, who I still consider one of our players … always good to be here to support our players,” Saban continued.

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The legendary coach then answered questions for approximately four minutes.

He discussed what NFL teams will like about both Hurts and outgoing Tide junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Watch:

This came after Hurts this week has spoken highly of the University of Alabama football program, its fanbase and the state of Alabama.

Hurts will wear a two-sided helmet during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it.

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts recently said about Saban, “We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die.”

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

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

12 hours ago

Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Wednesday was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an appointee to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appointed Samaniego and 17 other law enforcement officials from across the nation to the commission, which was created through executive order by President Donald Trump in late October.

The commission will explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime, according to the DoJ.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement,” Barr said in a statement. “A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty.”

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“But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities,” he continued. “This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement. Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

Read more about the commission here.

This comes after Samaniego was recently named as the winner of the 2019 Crime Stopper of the Year Award by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.

On Monday, he was one of eight Alabama sheriffs to publicly endorse former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 bid to return to the Senate.

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

13 hours ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”

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“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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

13 hours ago

Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a blistering 14-page “friend of the Senate” letter urging the upper chamber to reject the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald J. Trump.

The Senate on Tuesday began the impeachment trial of Trumps, and Marshall joined 20 of his Republican attorneys general from across the nation in signing the letter.

However, Marshall was only one of six of the attorneys general invited to the U.S. Capitol to attend a press conference Wednesday commenting on their letter and the impeachment trial.

Of the letter, Marshall remarked, “It is thorough. It is a full examination of both the facts and the law that the Senate has to apply. But despite that significant analysis, fundamentally what that letter is about is the idea of fairness — or maybe better said, the lack of fairness.”

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“As a prosecutor for 20 years, what I’ve seen is an unfair process brings about an unjust result,” Marshall advised. “And that is what the Senate now has an opportunity to stop.”

“I also find it remarkable, as somebody who has stood before juries and judges, whose brought charging instruments against defendants, to now hear the House say that they are not prepared. And that they are not ready. What that simply shows is not that they are not prepared but that they have no case,” he continued. “Our letter demonstrates the various reasons why the Senate should reject this effort, and we need to return the president back to the work of this country…”

Watch:

In a tweet referencing the letter, Marshall called the articles of impeachment passed by House Democrats against Trump “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

The letter states, “If not expressly repudiated by the Senate, the theories animating both Articles will set a precedent that is entirely contrary to the Framers’ design and ruinous to the most important governmental structure protections contained in our Constitution: the separation of powers.”

Read the letter below:

State AG letter to Senate o… by Fox News on Scribd

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

13 hours ago

Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele inks three-year extension

Auburn University head football coach Gus Malzahn on Wednesday announced that defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has officially agreed to a new three-year contract that will take him through the 2022 season.

In a statement, Malzahn said, “Kevin has done a fantastic job with our defense the last four years making it one of the best in the country.”

“This will provide great stability and leadership for our defense in the future. I’m appreciative of Kevin’s hard work,” he added.

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Steele has been Auburn’s defensive coordinator for the last four years. During that tenure, the Tigers’ defense has ranked in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense. Additionally, Auburn is one of only five FBS programs to hold opponents under 20 points per game in each of those seasons.

Malzahn and Steele were both spotted at Senior Bowl Week practice in Mobile on Tuesday.

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