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Economy

Alabama sets new record with 2018 economic development projects

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that companies locating new facilities in Alabama or expanding existing operations invested $8.7 billion in growth projects during 2018, establishing a new annual record for the state.

These economic development projects were outlined in the comprehensive 2018 New & Expanding Industry Report. The report predicted that these investments will generate an anticipated 17,000 new jobs in communities across the state.

“By attracting this historic total for new capital investment in 2018, Alabama is showing the world that it is a prime location for business and that our skilled workers can handle every challenge,” Ivey said. “Companies from around the globe want to be part of the gold standard brand that is known as ‘Made in Alabama.’”

The New & Expanding Industry Report was compiled by the Alabama Department of Commerce and provides a detailed look at the results of 357 economic development projects successfully completed across the state during 2018.

“Economic development is sustained, collaborative partnerships between the public and private sector with an ultimate goal of enhancing the quality of life of a particular area,” economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “It is a team sport, and more and more companies are choosing to invest in Alabama for a myriad of factors. Alabama has the business-friendly climate, the quality of life and the quality and skilled workforce that companies desire.”

The report found that growth in important industry sectors including automotive and aerospace remained strong in 2018, creating momentum for future gains. Other sectors, particularly forest products, also charted a growth trajectory.

“The high level of economic development activity in 2018 sets the stage for sustained growth and expanded opportunity across Alabama,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “This success solidifies my belief that we are building a more dynamic economy in Alabama and creating a pathway to greater prosperity for its citizens.”

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Alabama attracted foreign direct investment approaching $4.2 billion last year from companies in 16 different countries, generating 7,565 new and future jobs. Japanese companies led the way, with $1.8 billion in investment and 4,245 jobs.

Companies announced 2018 projects involving more than $1.1 billion in new investment and 1,128 jobs in Alabama’s rural, or “targeted” counties, making them eligible for enhanced incentives. Bibb County will become home to 337 new jobs, tops among the rural counties.

Limestone County was the leader in new investment and job creation through projects in 2018, with $1.7 billion in announced investment and 4,172 new jobs. The auto assembly plant being built by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. in Huntsville accounts for most of those totals.

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Alabama’s auto industry was one of the strongest areas for growth. The Mazda-Toyota partnership’s decision to locate a coveted joint assembly plant in Huntsville representing a $1.6 billion investment and the creation of 4,000 direct jobs was the biggest announcement of 2018.

Mercedes-Benz launched construction on a battery assembly plant in Bibb County that will create 325 jobs and facilitate production of Alabama-built electric vehicles. Hyundai and Honda also announced expansion projects in 2018, while several suppliers selected Alabama locations for their growth plans.

Airbus announced that it will open a second assembly line at its Mobile manufacturing facility for the production of A220 aircraft. This decision reinforces Mobile’s status as an aviation production hub. The $264 million project will create 430 jobs.

Alabama was also able to recruit technology-focused jobs, with both Amazon and Facebook announcing major projects in Alabama. Birmingham-based Shipt announced plans to hire 880 workers.

Westervelt, Rex Lumber and Great Southern Wood all announced plans for new Alabama production facilities in the forest products sector, creating a combined 335 direct jobs.

The top Alabama counties for new capital investment in 2018 were Limestone, with the huge Mazda-Toyota announcement, Madison, with $1.1 billion, and Tuscaloosa, with $670 million.

Limestone led in job creation, followed by Jefferson with 3,421 anticipated jobs, and Madison was third with 1,043 jobs.

Both the investment and job-creation figures for Alabama in 2018 exceed the totals for the previous year. It was a record year for the state, breaking the previous annual record for new capital investment from economic development projects of $7.1 billion set in 2015.

“Thanks to an incredible team dedicated to the recruitment and retention of business and industry in our state, businesses invested over $8.7 billion in Alabama projects last year,” Jones said. “Add that to the excellent numbers released by the White House this week, we clearly are living in a blessed time in both our state’s and our nation’s economic history.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Economy

Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”

Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.

“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”

Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.

“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”

“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”

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“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”

“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”

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Economy

SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.

Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.

“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”

Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.

Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.

The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.

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More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.

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