January 2020 Group Watch: Wood Pellet Factory Announced

It was recently announced that a $100 million wood pellet factory will be built in Demopolis. The plant will be located on the Tombigbee River so that pellets can be readily loaded on barges for shipment. The plant is scheduled to start production during the first half of 2021. Wood pellets are mainly used as a fuel for heating sources in Europe. Alabama has the second largest timberland base in the nation, and Demopolis is a growing hub for the timber industry in Alabama. A wood pellet factory is also under construction in Sumter County.

January 2020 Group Watch: Gov Appoints Dr. Tommie Stewart to State BOE

Governor Kay Ivey appointed Dr. Tommie Stewart to the State Board of Education. The appointment fills the District 5 seat that became vacant after the death of Board member Ella Bell in November 2019. Dr. Stewart is the former dean of Alabama State University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. She hit the ground running, attending her first board meeting days after the appointment. Dr. Stewart has degrees from Jackson State University, the University of California Santa Barbara and Florida State University.

January 2020 Group Watch: Ascend Performance Materials Announces Expansion

Ascend Performance Materials announced that it has finalized plans for a $175 million project to expand production capacity at its Decatur manufacturing facility and construct energy co-generation units at the site. The project will add 10 high-end manufacturing jobs to Houston-based Ascend’s Alabama workforce, which exceeds 400 people. The co-generation units will reduce emissions at the facility by 60 percent. In addition, the construction project at the Ascend facility, one of only four in the world that produces adiponitrile (ADN) on a large scale, will generate 150 skilled jobs by its completion. The construction is scheduled begin in the second quarter of 2020, with completion set for late 2021.

December 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Economic development wins keep making positive news across the state, making for some happy holidays.

  • Montgomery Factory Plans $25M Expansion: A 40-year-old door hinge factory along the outskirts of Montgomery is pouring $25 million into upgrades and expects to hire 51 more people. Family-owned, St. Louis-based Hager Companies uses the facility to build and ship commercial hinges as well as several other products, including door closures, locks and even security systems. The current operation employs more than 240 people. As part of the expansion, a new warehouse will be built with an automated storage and retrieval system. The new warehouse should be completed in about a year; the entire upgrade is expected to take about three years.
  • Carpenter Technology Opens AL Additive Manufacturing Center: Carpenter Technology announced the opening of its newest advanced additive manufacturing facility and Emerging Technology Center at its production campus in Athens. The company has invested approximately $40 million to date and is expected create approximately 60 jobs over the next five years, as well as help further the region’s position as an advanced manufacturing technology center. The Emerging Technology Center investment complements Carpenter Technology’s 500,000-square-foot A facility, which began operations in 2014. The facility produces high-end specialty alloy products, primarily for the aerospace and energy markets.
  • Samuel Associated Tube Group Plans $29 Million Alabama Expansion: Samuel Associated Tube Group will invest $29 million to build a new manufacturing facility in Jefferson County, an expansion project that will create new jobs and prepare for future growth. The company, which manufactures small diameter, electric resistance-welded and fabricated carbon steel tubing, is teaming with a developer to build a new 284,000-square-foot facility. The company has had a presence in Jefferson County since 1993 and currently employs 190. The expansion will add 50 new employees and is expected to be fully operational before the end of 2020.

December 2019 Group Watch: Tweets of the Month

Dec 13
Happy Birthday Alabama!!! #AL200
Dec 13

I want to personally invite you to join me here, in beautiful downtown Montgomery, on Saturday, December 14 to celebrate Alabama’s 200 birthday! Make plans to attend the parade, concert & a host of other free events by visiting https://alabama200.org/alabama-200-birthday-celebration/…. #AL200 #AL200Countdown

December 2019 Group Watch: Gov. Awards Census Grants

Governor Ivey recently announced grant awards to entities throughout Alabama to support efforts to promote, educate and encourage participation among Alabamians in the 2020 Census. The funds provided by the legislature will go to 34 government agencies and organizations for programs to increase Alabama’s self-response rate during the 2020 Census next spring. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) is administering the grants from funding allocated by the legislature in the 2019-20 Education Trust Fund Budget. ADECA acts as the liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau and the lead state agency for the 2020 Census outreach and preparation.

December 2019 Group Watch: AL Board Of Ed Replacing Math Standards With New AL-Created Math Standards

The Alabama State Board of Education recently voted to adopt a new set of mathematics standards that are poised to pave the way towards academic success for Alabama students. The new standards were developed over almost two years by the Alabama Mathematics Course of Study (COS) Committee comprised of veteran Alabama teachers, professors, administrators, business and industry leaders, and other stakeholders who thoroughly understand the minute details involved with the establishment of educational standards. This committee bought to the table more than 300 years of collective teaching experience in Alabama classrooms, working directly with Alabama students from kindergarten to college-level.

“Over the past 22 months, a committee of esteemed education and business leaders have developed a revised Mathematics Course of Study that replaces, once and for all, Common Core with Alabama-designed standards,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “These are Alabama standards created by Alabama teachers and will be a great starting point to ensuring our students will be proficient in each grade level.”

December 2019 Group Watch: Employers Recruiting With Affordable Childcare

An avalanche of 25,000 new jobs over the next five years threatens to bury North Alabama on its own success, sending business leaders scrambling for new ways to entice millennials to fill those jobs. In the hunt for solutions, employers rediscovered an old problem: Childcare is expensive. Mazda Toyota Manufacturing surveyed its employees and found half of them were concerned about affordable childcare. Employers are looking at covering part of the cost of childcare as an employee benefit. Companies that address this issue are said to have a greater chance of employee retention.

November 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

More big economic development news broke this month, as well as some election updates.

  • Koch Foods Expanding to Alabama: Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined representatives of Koch Foods and local leaders in Etowah County to announce that the company plans to invest more than $50 million to establish a state-of-of-the-art grain storage and distribution facility in Attalla. The new poultry feed-mill will create 29 new jobs with an annual payroll of $1 million. The new facility, designed with technologically advanced features for maximum efficiency, will support the company’s recently expanded processing plant in nearby Gadsden.
  • Carvana Opening Alabama Distribution Hub: Governor Ivey announced that Carvana, a leading e-commerce platform for buying and selling used cars, plans to invest more that $40 million to construct an Alabama distribution and fulfillment center, creating more than 450 jobs in Bessemer. The new facility in Jefferson County will strengthen the company’s logistics network in the Southeast.
  • Jeff Sessions Announces Senate Bid: Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he is running for his old U.S. Senate seat for Alabama. During his announcement, Sessions reminded people that when President Trump took on Washington, he was the only Senator with the courage to stand with him and that he was and is Trump’s strongest advocate. He said he is running to help make America great again.
  • Special Election Results: Charlotte Meadows, the GOP runoff winner for Alabama House District 74 that covers a large part of East Montgomery, defeated Democrat Rayford Mack in the special election on November 12. She replaces Dimitri Polizos who died earlier this year.
    Van Smith, the GOP winner for Alabama House District 42 that covers parts of Autauga and Chilton Counties, defeated Democrat Kenneth Allison in the special election on November 5. He replaces longtime House member Jimmy Martin who passed earlier this year.

November 2019 Group Watch: New AL Democratic Party Chair

State Representative Chris England of Tuscaloosa was elected Alabama Democratic Party chair after months of struggle inside and outside the state party. England received 104 of 171 ballots cast at the meeting of the State Democratic Executive Committee. The vote came after 172 members of the State Democratic Executive Committee, the governing body of the Alabama Democratic Party, voted to remove Chair Nancy Worley and Vice-Chair Randy Kelley.

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