Alabama

Baldwin County Economic Development Project Turbine is UTC Aerospace Systems Expansion

Airbus is helping attract more aerospace supplier jobs to Alabama. This time, it is UTC Aerospace Systems that has announced an expansion of its operations in Foley, AL.

UTC Aerospace Systems

UTC Aerospace Systems (photo – utcaerospacesystems.com)

The company has broken ground on a new facility in Foley for manufacturing and nacelle assembly that will supply integrated jet engines to the Airbus A320 Family assembly line, about an hour away in Mobile, AL.

Marc Duvall, president of UTC Aerospace Systems’ Aerostructures business, said in a statement that “We chose Foley to expand because of its proven track record of performance, our desire to be near a key customer, and the tremendous cooperation we’ve had from the state, county and the city.”

The Baldwin County economic development project, previously known only as “Project Turbine,” will bring a capital investment of $30 million and the creation of 260 new jobs for Foley and Baldwin County.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said in a statement that “The UTC Aerospace Systems facility in Foley is one of the company’s most innovative and productive operations, and I welcome this significant expansion, which will add new capabilities and expand its Alabama workforce.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, added that “UTC’s expansion project is more evidence that Alabama is primed for aerospace growth as Airbus ramps up production in Mobile.”

Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance President and CEO Lee Lawson likewise noted that “UTC’s decision to add 260 new jobs in Foley shows that we are a premier location for aerospace investment and innovation, as well as an ideal place to grow a world-class business.”

Charlotte, NC-based UTC Aerospace Systems, a unit of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX), is already one of Alabama’s largest aerospace manufacturers based on the number of employees it has in the state. UTC already operates two facilities in Foley – a 220,000-square-foot original equipment plant employing 600 people, and an adjacent 210,000-square-foot maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) center employing 200 people.

All told, UTC Aerospace Systems employs approximately 42,000 people worldwide with approximate annual sales of about $14 billion.

The company has now broken ground in Foley on the new 80,000-square-foot building to house assembly of nacelle components (the aerodynamic coverings around engines) and propulsion system integration. Initially, the focus of the facility will be on the conventional engines for the Airbus passenger jets, though it eventually will include the new engine option, or neo. UTC Aerospace Systems has provided nacelle technology for the Airbus A320 Family of aircraft for more than three decades.

Alabama Renewal Act Signed Into Law – New Tools For State Economic Development Team

Governor Robert Bentley, joined by state and local officials at the APM Terminals at the Port of Mobile, AL, signed the Alabama Renewal Act into law.

Port of Mobile, Alabama

Port of Mobile, Alabama (photo – Adrien Lamarre/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The new legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Mac McCutcheon and State Senator Greg Reed, and  supported by the Alabama Department of Commerce, builds on last year’s Made In Alabama economic incentive legislative package that provided the framework for transitioning Alabama’s main incentive programs into pay-as-you-go incentives to encourage business expansions and the construction of new operations.

The Renewal Act (House Bill 34), which gives the Alabama economic development team new tools to pursue jobs and investment projects, puts into two effect two more key changes.

First, it increases the availability of shovel-ready land sites for economic development through the use of the Growing Alabama Credit. Availability of funds for this program is limited to $5 million in 2016 and $10 million for years 2017 through 2020.

Each year, 25 percent of the funds must be set aside for projects in rural counties. Also, the Growing Alabama Credit program allows local economic development organizations to accept donations for purposes such as site preparation and infrastructure improvements.

Secondly, the legislation establishes a new Port Credit program that will help increase cargo traffic at the state’s port facilities such as the Port of Mobile and at airports that handle cargo. The Port of Mobile is the ninth largest seaport in the United States, and it supports over 127,000 direct and indirect jobs. The 4,000-acre Mobile seaport handles more than 50 million tons of cargo annually.

Governor Bentley said in a statement after the bill signing that the signing of the Alabama Renewal Act is another clear signal that Alabama is serious about economic development and remains competitive nationwide.

“We have made great strides in how we recruit and retain companies in our state, and I am pleased to sign the Alabama Renewal Act to continue our efforts of job creation and promotion of our ’Made In Alabama’ brand,” said Gov. Bentley.

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield likewise noted that the Alabama Renewal Act will enhance the competitiveness of the state’s economy. “We are thankful for the legislature giving our state another tool we can use to facilitate growth and expand Alabama’s employment base,” said Sec. Canfield.

Alabama Named as BF 2015 State of the Year

Business Facilities magazine has named Alabama as its “State of the Year” for 2015. This is the first time that Alabama has claimed the site selection publication’s highest award.

Alabama State of the Year

Photo – madeinalabama.com

The magazine looked at the top five economic development projects in terms of job creation and capital investment between Oct. 1, 2014 and Nov. 1, 2015, while also considering other factors.

Alabama topped the charts this year, thanks to their high-profile recruitment of projects such as Google’s $600 million data center in Jackson County and the $127 million Polaris ATV factory that is set to create as many as 2,000 jobs in Huntsville.

In addition to Polaris and Google, other Alabama projects highlighted by Business Facilities included:

–  Mercedes’ plans to invest $1.3 billion to expand its Tuscaloosa County assembly plant and prepare it for the production of next-generation SUVs. The project will add 300 jobs, many of them highly paid engineering positions;

– Auto supplier Kamtek’s $530 million project to expand its Birmingham facility and add a new aluminum casting line, creating 350 jobs; and

– Yorozu’s plans to open a plant in Jasper, AL to produce auto suspension parts, generating 300 new jobs.

The top five Alabama economic development projects in 2015 accounted for a combined total of $2.7 billion in capital investments.

Business Facilities also highlighted Alabama’s strong record of attracting FDI from companies such as Airbus, and the state’s growing export activity, which has seen overseas shipments of Alabama-made goods more than double in the past decade.

Business Facilities Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said in the magazine’s announcement (http://bit.ly/1kve56o) that “With Mercedes-Benz and Airbus anchoring top-tier positions in automotive and aerospace manufacturing, an expanding high-tech hub and forward-thinking leadership in 21st-century workforce training, Alabama has put together a winning combination that’s tough to beat.”

Governor Robert Bentley said in a release that the Business Facilities honor caps a strong year for Alabama’s economic development efforts. “Our chief focus remains on creating jobs and new opportunities for residents across the state. I believe we are well-positioned to do that thanks to the state’s skilled workforce, great job-training programs, and a business environment that promotes growth,” added Gov. Bentley.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, noted that the new “Made in Alabama” incentives platform and a streamlined approach to workforce development, now centered in Commerce, will enhance the state’s competitiveness in 2016 and beyond.

Alabama’s designation as the Business Facilities “State of the Year” will now be featured in a cover story in the magazine’s January/February issue.

Aston Martin Close to Site Selection Decision For DBX Vehicle Production Plant

Luxury sports car maker Aston Martin is likely to make an announcement in the coming weeks about the location for a new vehicle production plant for its DBX model.

Aston Martin

Aston Martin (photo – Stephencdickson/wikimedia)

A few months ago, the British company had announced that it has shortlisted four sites for the facility. Two of these sites are in the U.K., one is in the Middle East, and the fourth one is in Alabama.

Aston Martin Lagonda Ltd. is headquartered in Gaydon, and its sole manufacturing plant is also situated at the same Warwickshire location. The company also has a test center and regional offices in Germany, and additional regional offices in Shanghai, China and in Irvine, CA.

Not to mention a dealer network spread across more than 140 locations worldwide. The comapny opened its first showroom in Abu Dhabi last month in Etihad Towers. At that time, Dr Andy Palmer, Aston Martin CEO, said in a release that “The UAE market is extremely important for a luxury automotive brand like Aston Martin and Etihad Towers is the perfect location.”

Aston Martin sold some 3,661 models last year, and is aiming for a steep growth curve that will take it to 15,000 vehicles by 2020. The new DBX model is a big part of this expansion plan, and the location of the plant will also indicate which market they are interested in growing most.

Aston Martin had a list of 19 sites that it included in the site selection process for the DBX manufacturing plant. The finalists for the project are now down to four, including one in the MIddle East, two in the U.K. and one in Alabama.

Many U.S. states and locations sought this project, but Alabama is the only one in contention, mainly because of the presence of the Mercedes-Benz manufacturing plant (MBUSI) in Vance, Tuscaloosa County, AL.

MBUSI’s parent company Daimler AG has a five percent stake in Aston Martin, and British luxury sports car maker already works with Daimler on Mercedes models.

Under the 2013 agreement between the two companies, Daimler supplies Mercedes-AMG power plants for their next generation models, and Mercedes-AMG supplies Aston Martin with electrical systems. Daimler has agreed, as part of this partnership, to support Aston Martin’s launch of new vehicle models incorporating new technologies.

If Aston Martin therefore decides to set up a new manufacturing facility for the DBX in Tuscaloosa County close to MBUSI, it would be able to make use of MBUSI’s manufacturing setup, technologies and supply chain.

Aston Martin has outgrown its existing vehicle plant in Gaydon, but it could still select one of the two remaining U.K. sites it has shortlisted, provided that it receives the requisite amount of U.K. economic development incentives for the project. If the company selects one of these sites for the project, it could create up to 1,000 new jobs in the chosen location.

Auburn Gets Equifax Global IT Talent Center With 150 Jobs

Credit reporting agency Equifax announced the opening of a new information technology talent center with Auburn University to help address the company’s growing global information technology needs.

Equifax

Equifax (photo – equifax.com)

Equifax will invest millions of dollars into the project. The Auburn talent center located at the main terminal building of the Auburn University Regional Airport will initially be staffed with 40-45 full-time positions, with the Auburn economic development benefits from the project growing to up to 150 jobs in the next two to three years.

Employees at the center will focus on developing automation and global platform services for Equifax operations around the world. The opening of the Auburn center, along with a sister facility to be announced in Western Europe, will help provide the talent needed as well as give Auburn IT students and graduates highly attractive job opportunities.

Dave Webb, Equifax’s Chief Information Officer, said in a release that “This new high-tech facility is a creative solution that combines Auburn University’s growing reputation as an information technology hub and Equifax’s increasing demand for superior IT talent.”

Dignitaries at the opening at the Auburn University Regional Airport included Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, Auburn University President Jay Gogue, Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Jr.

Governor Robert Bentley said in the release that the Auburn Equifax Center is an important investment in the state and in Auburn University. “With Auburn University’s growing high tech programs and the dedicated workforce in Lee County, the Auburn Equifax Center will be a successful facility for years to come,” added Gov. Bentley.

Equifax said it teamed with Auburn University in part because of the school’s growing IT pedigree. Auburn University is ranked as a Carnegie Foundation University with high research activity and excellent programs in business, software development, and engineering degrees.

Auburn University President Jay Gogue added that “Our objective is to develop our students to become the top talent entering the workforce. The investment by world-class companies like Equifax is validation of our direction and efforts.”

Headquartered in Atlanta, Equifax (NYSE: EFX) operates or has investments in 19 countries and is a member of S&P 500 Index. Equifax organizes and assimilates data on more than 600 million consumers and 81 million businesses worldwide. The company generates 158 billion credit score updates per month and 60,000 updates per second for consumers to help them in their daily lives to buy houses, cars, finance educations, secure credit cards, purchase appliances and more.

Aerion Jet Assembly Site Selection Criteria Favor Mobile, Alabama

A trio of announcements released in quick succession by Aerion Corporation, which is developing supersonic business jets, provide more details about the company’s site selection process for its proposed jet manufacturing plant project.

Aerion AS2

Aerion AS2 (photo – aerionsupersonic.com)

The latest news that brings some urgency to the Aerion factory site selection process is that Flexjet has placed a firm order for 20 of Aerion’s AS2 aircraft.

The Aerion AS2 business jet will be the first commercially available supersonic business jet, and Flexjet will be the first fleet purchaser of the AS2.  It has a top speed of Mach 1.5, which is 67 percent faster than the top cruise speeds of current or anticipated long-range subsonic jets. Carrying eight to 12 passengers, the $120 million AS2 will take you from New York to London in three hours.

The second announcement was that Aerion and Airbus Group, Inc. have entered into a new agreement that will expand Airbus North American resources available to the AS2 program. This builds on the collaboration the two companies kicked off a year ago to develop the Aerion AS2 Mach 1.5 supersonic jet.

That collaboration agreement has now been expanded to cover support from Airbus Group operations in North America, including in engineering, procurement and supply chain management, logistics planning, program management, and government relations.

The third piece of news was about the details of the Aerion factory site selection process. Aerion CEO Doug Nichols announced in a release that the company has begun a formal search for a U.S. manufacturing location.

“We’re looking for a state-of-the art campus of more than 100 acres on a major airport with a minimum 9,000-foot runway, and other special geophysical requirements,” said Nichols.

One of their requirements is proximity to a deep-water port for shipped structures and equipment, which neatly ties in with their requirement for a location within 200 nautical miles of a supersonic flight test area, most likely one offshore.

Other stated criteria include airport suitability, road and rail infrastructure, local aerospace workforce, state and local regulations, quality of life, and regional educational institutions.

Airbus Group will provide major components for the jet, and Aerion will conduct final assembly. Aerion will draw on expertise from Airbus Group for establishing the new Aerion production facility.

Allan McArtor, Chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, Inc., said in a release that “Under our new agreement, our two companies are working as one to bring Aerion’s supersonic AS2 to the business jet market.”

The project looks like it has been crafted specifically for Mobile, AL. Apart from the advantage of being home to the Airbus manufacturing plant, Mobile also offers a deep-sea port, a skilled local aerospace workforce, and neatly brackets every other criterion the company has specified.

But there are plenty of cities and states as far afield as Kansas and Florida that are vying for the Aerion jet factory, and have their own advantages. Wichita, KS, for example, is where Aerion Co-chairman Brian Barents was based for a large part of his career, and Wichita also has an Airbus engineering center.

An investor group led by billionaire Robert M. Bass formed Aerion in 2002. The company, which is headquartered in Reno, NV, expects to announce the location of the assembly site in the first half of 2016 upon formal launch of the AS2 program, and will break ground in 2018. Aerion projects first flight of the AS2 in 2021, with entry into customer service in 2023.

GE Aviation to Invest $200M in Huntsville, Alabama to Build Two SiC Materials Factories

GE Aviation announced plans to establish two adjacent factories in Huntsville, AL for producing silicon carbide (SiC) materials needed to manufacture ceramic matrix composite components (CMCs) used for jet engines and land-based gas turbines.

The Huntsville economic development benefits from the two factories combined will include a $200 million investment and the creation of up to 300 direct new jobs by the time the factories are operational.

Video – GE Aviation

Governor Robert Bentley said in a release that “We are honored that GE Aviation has chosen Huntsville for an advanced technology manufacturing operation to produce silicon carbide materials for commercial and military engines.”

One of the plants will produce silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic fiber, the first such operation in the United States on an industrial scale. This project is supported by $21.9 million federal funding from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab Title III Office.

The SiC ceramic fiber produced will be lightweight and heat-resistant, capable of withstanding temperatures of 2400F. Once the Huntsville plant is operational, it will sell fiber not only to GE businesses, but also to the U.S. Department of Defense, SAFRAN, and other customers.

The adjacent plant will use this SiC ceramic fiber to produce the unidirectional CMC tape. The ceramic tape will be used by GE Aviation at its new CMC manufacturing site in Asheville, NC which fabricates CMC shrouds for the LEAP engine’s high-pressure turbine section.

The fuel-efficient LEAP engine being developed by GE Aviation and partner Snecma (SAFRAN) has 18 CMC turbine shrouds. The engine will be used on aircraft including the Boeing 737 Max and the Airbus 320neo. The latter will be produced at the $600 million Airbus Alabama manufacturing facility.

This is what makes GE’s two new factories such a gamechanger for Huntsville and Alabama economic development. It is going to be a vital piece of the future of the state’s aviation and aerospace manufacturing supply chain.

Sanjay Correa, vice president, CMC Program at GE Aviation, said in the release that “Establishing the new GE factories in Alabama is a very significant step in developing the supply chain we need in order to produce CMC components in large volume.”

Also, this $200 million investment will support GE Aviation’s recent $100 million investment in Alabama to build a 300,000-square-foot factory in Auburn, near the Auburn University campus. That facility is manufacturing jet engine components, and has the world’s highest-volume additive manufacturing center.

The Auburn facility will produce a fuel nozzle using additive manufacturing, the first time such a complex jet engine component will be manufactured using additive technology. The raw materials for the nozzles will come from the new Huntsville operations.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle added that “The products that will be manufactured here represent the future of aerospace. We are proud that Huntsville will help GE change we travel through the skies.”

Monroe County, Alabama Gets $110M Georgia-Pacific Investment

Georgia-Pacific, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of paper and pulp products, has announced a $110 million investment at its Alabama River Cellulose mill in Monroe County, AL.

Georgia-Pacific

Georgia-Pacific (photo -Billy Hathorn/wikimedia)

Apart from the $110 million investment, the project will ensure that ARC continues to be a key driver of Monroe County economic development through an estimated $200 million contribution to the local economy through payroll, direct purchases and taxes.

The facility supports more than 440 direct jobs with annual compensation and benefits exceeding $55 million.

Jim Hannan, CEO and president of Georgia-Pacific, said that “This reflects our company’s strong commitment to our cellulose business, to the global competitiveness of skilled Georgia-Pacific employees, to the states that understand the value we create and to the support of the communities where we operate.”

An economic impact study conducted by Auburn University showed that ARC operations in Monroe County support 1,001 indirect full- and part-time workers employed by ARC suppliers, and another 367 full- and part-time induced jobs in the local economy. In total, the pulp production at ARC is associated with 1,804 jobs in the county.

Statewide, Georgia-Pacific has eight facilities in Alabama that employ over 2,400 people. All told, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific and its subsidiaries employ approximately 35,000 people across over 300 locations in the Americas and Europe. These operations support the creation of nearly 92,000 indirect jobs.

Governor Robert Bentley said in a release that “The company’s investment at Alabama River Cellulose is an important future economic boost to Monroe County. I look forward to a continued partnership with Georgia-Pacific, and I appreciate the company’s significant investment in Alabama.”

The ARC facility in Monroe County has two wood yards that together process over 4.5 million tons of wood annually, making the facility one of the largest wood consumers in North America. This latest $110 million, which adds to the more than $2.2 billion invested by Georgia-Pacific in Alabama over the last 10 years, will replace one of the wood yards, upgrade the other one, and upgrade one of the mill’s machines that produce pulp.

Tim McIlwain, vice president of operations at Alabama River Cellulose, noted that “Our Alabama River Cellulose team is proud of our company’s ongoing investments in our facility and the faith in our team to complete these investments and better serve our customers.”

Work on the project is scheduled to begin early next year, and is expected to create 65 jobs daily for 18 months while the construction work is completed.

Pad-Ready Site, State-Local Teamwork Bring $100M Yorozu Project to Jasper, Alabama

Yorozu Corporation, a global tier one automotive supplier, has announced plans to build a new state of the art metal stamping facility in the Jasper Industrial Park in Walker County, AL.

Jasper, AL

Jasper, AL (photo – Bamassippi/wikipedia)

Supported by a broad partnership of Alabama, Walker County and Jasper economic development groups, the company is investing over $100,000,000 to construct and equip the new facility on a 50-acre Advantage Site in the Jasper Industrial Park.

The facility will produce suspensions and other components for multiple automotive assembly plants. Yorozu Automotive Alabama, Inc., operating as a subsidiary of Yorozu America Corporation, expects to employ 300 people.

Yorozu America President Jack Phillips said in a release that “With the goal of expanding sales and after considerable evaluation of multiple site options, Yorozu Corporation and Yorozu America are excited to announce our plans to establish a manufacturing facility in Jasper, Alabama.”

Governor Robert Bentley said that Yorozu is making a significant investment in Jasper and forming a great partnership with the state of Alabama. “I appreciate the local and state teamwork that went into recruiting Yorozu to Jasper,” added Gov. Bentley.

Toshiyuki Yago, CFO of Yorozu America, likewise noted that “Yorozu Corporation employees from Japan, along with Yorozu America and Yorozu Automotive Tennessee employees have had the honor of working closely with Alabama state and local officials in Jasper for many months.”

Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey said that city, county, and state leadership have spent hundreds of hours working with the people of Yorozu, which is resulting in the biggest local jobs announcement in recent memory.

“Project Stamp” was initiated by the company through the Walker County Economic Development Authority. David Knight, executive director of the WCDA, noted that Walker County’s close proximity to multiple automotive OEMs, direct access to Interstate 22 and a high quality labor force provided key advantages during the site selection process.

Russ Robertson, chairman of the Jasper Industrial Development Board, added that “With the upcoming completion of I-22 into Birmingham, available workforce, and a pad ready site, Yorozu has selected the perfect time to locate in the new Jasper Industrial Park.”

Alabama Power Economic Development Project Manager Blair King said that “We are proud to be part of the economic development team along with Jasper, Walker County and state of Alabama officials who have been working with Yorozu Automotive.”

Yokohama, Japan-based Yorozu Corporation was founded in 1948 and now has more than 6,411 employees. Yorozu America Corporation was established in 1997, and is headquartered in Morrison, TN. The company also has a sales, purchasing, and R&D unit in Farmington Hills, MI.

Mercedes-Benz to Invest $1.3B For Expansion in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama

Following a meeting of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority at the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) plant in Vance, AL, the company announced plans for a $1.3 billion expansion of its operations in Tuscaloosa County.

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Plant in Tuscaloosa County, AL

Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Plant in Tuscaloosa County, AL (photo – Carol M. Highsmith/Library of Congress)

The investment will prepare the plant for the production launch of its next-generation sport utility vehicles. According to the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), Mercedes will add a 1.3-million square-foot body shop where its most technologically advanced SUVs will be assembled.

MBUSI expects to create 300 new jobs as part of the expansion. The MBUSI Vance plant already has a workforce of around 3,500. The company’s investment at the campus now totals around $5.8 billion through multiple expansions, starting with the $300 million plant announcement made in 1993, and including this latest $1.3 billion.

In a release announcing the investment, Governor Robert Bentley, who attended the TCIDA meeting, said that “It’s great to be in Tuscaloosa to announce that Mercedes will invest another $1.3 billion and create 300 new jobs in Alabama.”

The TCIDA has approved tax abatements for the project that will save the company approximately $80 million over a 20-year period.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, added that “Over the past 20 years, Alabama has developed a productive partnership with Mercedes, and the company’s Alabama workforce has proven its capabilities through repeated expansions and model launches.”

In Sept 1993, after an extensive site selection process, Daimler AG chose Tuscaloosa County as the location for its first passenger vehicle manufacturing facility in the United States. Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) was established to produce the M-Class Sport Utility Vehicle in Vance.

Production began in January 1997, and the 3.7 million-square-foot plant last year produced 232,000 vehicles and hit a milestone of two million vehicles. MBUSI has raised its production target this year to 300,000 vehicles.The vehicle models produced by MBUSI in Vance include the Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV, GL SUV, the C-Class for the North American market and the brand new GLE Coupe SUV.

The impact of MBUSI on Tuscaloosa and Alabama economic development extends far beyond the Vance plant’s own operations and its payroll. MBUSI supports more than 22,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region, and has an annual economic impact of more than $1.5 billion.

Roughly two-thirds of the components used in MBUSI-built vehicles are provided by North American suppliers, and more than 30 first- and second-tier suppliers are now located in Alabama.

Last month alone, Mercedes-Benz suppliers Kamtek and SMP announced major investments in Alabama. Kamtek is investing $530 million at its Birmingham manufacturing facility and will add 350 jobs, while SMP announced plans for a $115 million plant in Tuscaloosa County with 650 new jobs.

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