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Governor honors eight winners with 2019 Trade Excellence Awards

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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Gov. Kay Ivey has announced the winners of the 2019 Governor’s Trade Excellence Awards.

The awards, announced Wednesday, recognize companies that fuel Alabama’s export business, which sends innovative designs and products worldwide.

“Our winners this year range in size from the small business to the large corporation and also hail from different parts of Alabama,” Ivey said. “They each represent the type of company that makes us strong as a state. We also see a concentration of firms in the aerospace and automotive industries, which underscores the importance of these industries to our economy.”

The 2019 winners of the Governor’s Trade Excellence Awards are:

  • Aerostar: The Mobile-based company provides component maintenance on civilian aircraft, with a customer base that covers Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. Established in 2011 with two employees and a 6,000-square-foot facility, Aerostar has grown to 35 employees and more than 25,000 square feet, with space to grow its workforce to 60. The company is targeting Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim to capitalize on projected air traffic growth in those regions.
  • GKN Aerospace–Alabama: The Tallassee facility is part of GKN Aerospace, a global first-tier supplier of airframe and engine structures, components, assemblies and engineering services to aircraft prime contractors. More than 800 employees produce composite aerostructures for major aerospace industry partners, including Bell Helicopter Textron, Sikorsky, HondaJet, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and GE Aviation.
  • Help Lightning: The Birmingham company delivers patented, mobile-augmented reality and virtual interactive presence technologies. Through Help Lightning’s services, experts in the technical, health care, manufacturing and service fields can show a resolution, not just describe it. The company is reimagining how businesses, customers and employees give and receive help.
  • Polyvance: Rainsville’s Polyvance repairs damaged plastic automotive bumpers and also provides a range of related products. In 2006, the company was the first in the industry to commercialize nitrogen plastic welding for the repair of thermoplastic parts, and the technology is now a recognized standard for the sector. Export sales have long been a priority for Polyvance, accounting for about 10 percent of total sales, with expansions under way in both Latin America and Asia.
  • Port of Huntsville: Known officially as the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority, the Port of Huntsville incorporates Huntsville International Airport, International Intermodal Center and Jetplex Industrial Park. It is an inland port facility and has the only scheduled international cargo flights in the state, with roundtrip cargo flights to Europe and Mexico, inbound flights from China and outbound flights to Brazil. HSV ranks 18th among continental U.S. airports in international air cargo volume. The International Intermodal Center ships and receives ocean containers, by rail, to and from both East and West Coast seaports.
  • RMCI Inc.: RMCI of Huntsville designed and created a system that is installed on aircraft to detect emerging faults and prevent mechanical failure. This health and usage monitoring system has the ability to track the mechanical health of the aircraft, and the company has experience analyzing data from more than 3,000 helicopters. RMCI aggressively pursues global markets with travel to Colombia, New Zealand, Morocco, Spain, France, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, the Netherlands and Malaysia.
  • Trinity Highway Products: This company has been leading the way for innovation in crash cushion impact protection for highway and work zone safety since 1969. It first began operations in California in 1969, but the manufacturing plant was relocated to Pell City in 1985. The Alabama plant manufactures and ships proprietary products to all 50 states and 70 countries. Trinity’s international business is directed by sales offices in the U.S., Colombia, Singapore, Sweden and the United Kingdom. With a network of distributors spanning over 70 countries, Trinity’s footprint reaches markets in every corner of the world.
  • Zorn Molds Inc.: This Trafford company designs and manufactures several types of high-quality CNC machined molds and parts, including fishing lure molds, soft plastic molds, blister pack molds, investment casting molds, Styrofoam molds and general CNC machined parts. The business, which started more than 25 years ago serving the fishing lure industry, has diversified to grow into other sectors.

Export values topped $21 billion last year. Shipments reached 191 countries, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce earlier this month. 

The total came during a year marked by global trade tensions, but it is still just 2 percent shy of the record $21.8 billion in exports set in 2017.

“We are proud to recognize this year’s Governor’s Trade Excellence Award winners,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “Their success comes as a result of the hard work and ingenuity of our businesspeople, as well as the commitment and cooperation that exist among our federal, state and local entities that work together to help Alabama companies increase their exports.

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Canfield said the companies are on the cutting edge in their industries, both in the U.S. and globally.

Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the Trade Excellence Award honorees have shown a commitment to be the best in their field.

“The eight companies range from large to small, but the common theme is the growth they have shown by selling abroad, the tenacity to stay innovative and the agility to incorporate whatever changes are necessary to deliver a first-class product to the buyer,” Lockhart said.

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Lockhart said the department is especially pleased to recognize the Port of Huntsville this year.

“Without this first-class, multi-modal transportation operation, many of Alabama’s products would not be shipped from our state,” Lockhart said. “This facility is certainly a critical part of our state’s international infrastructure.”

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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New unemployment claims continue to drop

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 11,692 unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 17,439 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Seventy-six percent of the claims from July 26 to Aug. 1 were related to COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. That compares to 89 percent the week before.

New claims increased over the first half of July but declined in the second half.

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Economy

Alabama Power is returning $100 million to customers

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Public Service Commission approved a plan Tuesday to credit Alabama Power Company customers on their October bills. The move returns approximately $100 million to Alabama Power Company customers.

“Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery,” Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said on social media. “Alabama Power to refund $100 million to customers.”

The typical Alabama Power customer will receive a $25 credit on their October bill. The newly approved credit is on top of a 3 percent rate reduction that customers are already enjoying in 2020. This previous rate cuts and the October credit amount to about $300 million in savings for Alabama Power customers this year.

“We appreciate the commission voting today to expedite this credit for our customers,” said Richard Hutto, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

The global economic collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt people across Alabama. It has also dramatically lowered fuel costs for Alabama Power Company’s plants.

A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month is expected to receive a credit of $25. Customers who use more energy will receive a larger credit. Customers who use less power receive a smaller credit but had a smaller bill to begin with. Adjustments to fuel costs are typically calculated at the end of the year, with savings passed to customers beginning in January, but due to the economic downturn and pandemic-related job losses, Alabama Power and the PSC are rushing that money to Alabama families and businesses.

“Many of our customers have been hurt by COVID-19. We hope this credit will provide some additional relief at this difficult time,” Hutto explained.

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The 3 percent rate reduction, that took effect in January, was based on earlier estimates of lower costs for fuel and other expenses for 2020. The rate reduction alone equates to about a $4.50-per-month reduction for the typical residential customer.

“Our employees are working every day to keep costs low while providing industry-leading reliability for our customers,” Hutto added.

Alabama Power said in a statement that their total retail price is below the national average and has been for decades. When adjusted for inflation, the price customers pay for electricity is lower today than it was 30 years ago.

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Alabama Power has been assisting customers in other ways during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has suspended disconnects and late payment fees for customers hurt by the coronavirus.

Cavanaugh is seeking another term as president of the Commission.

“It is crucial that we have strong pro-jobs conservatives supporting President Trump’s agenda at all levels of government,” Cavanaugh said on social media.

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Economy

Payroll Protection Program deadline has been extended to Saturday

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, this week reminded business owners that the deadline to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, knowns as the PPP, has been extended to Saturday.

“The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline was recently extended to Saturday, August 8,” Roby wrote in an email to constituents. “Do not forget to fill out your application if you are a small business that has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.“

The PPP was a loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. It was part of the bipartisan CARES Act to address the economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the forced economic shutdowns, which were implemented in the early months of the public health emergency in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel strain of the coronavirus and allow public health agencies and health care systems time to build up testing, contact-tracing and hospital bed capacity.

The PPP loans are 1 percent interest loans available through the SBA. If the business uses the money to make payroll and pay standard operating expenses then the loans will be forgiven. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. The loan forgiveness form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers.

The PPP has been very popular, so much so that that program ran out of money just weeks after Congress passed it. Congress had to go back and provide more funding for the PPP.

Businesses can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Senate Democrats are meeting with the Trump Administration, Senate Republicans and House leadership on a compromise plan for a fifth coronavirus relief package. A big point of contention has been the size of the total package. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, supports a $3.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill while Republicans prefer a more modest $1 trillion relief bill. The two sides are expected to continue to negotiate through Friday in an attempt to reach a compromise before the August recess.

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Roby is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s 2nd congressional district. She is not seeking re-election.

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Economy

State’s unemployment claims slowed last week

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

Micah Danney

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The number of unemployment claims in Alabama slipped last week after increasing through the first half of July.

There were 17,439 claims filed from July 19 to 25, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. Of those, 15,461, or 89 percent, were COVID-19 related.

Claims soared at the start of the pandemic in late March, hitting a weekly high of 106,739 in the first week of April. The rate of new claims declined sharply in May, with each week counting under 30,000 claims.

Since then, the number has decreased somewhat steadily. Claims rose several thousand over the course of this month, from 19,058 in the week ending July 4 to 23,678 in the week ending July 18.

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

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