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Economy

Brenda Tuck chosen as Alabama’s first rural development manager

Evan Mealins

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On Monday, Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield announced that Brenda Tuck has been hired as Alabama’s first rural development manager to assist rural communities in better competing for job-creating projects.

Tuck has experience working on economic development in Alabama. She previously served as Regional Workforce Liaison for the Department of Commerce’s Workforce Development Division working with councils, employers and educators to make sure businesses’ needs are being met at the local level. She also held economic development positions in Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties. Tuck also has experience in the private sector as a partner at Alford & Associates, a Selma consulting firm, and five years in economic development at Pioneer Electric Cooperative.

“Brenda has extensive experience working on the front lines of economic development in rural Alabama counties, so she knows the specific challenges these areas face when it comes to competing for projects,” Secretary Canfield said.

Some rural areas are struggling to keep up with the rest of the state, and Tuck’s position is designed to enhance those communities’ competitiveness.

“Rural communities in Alabama can benefit from having a go-to person who can connect them with the resources they need to improve their economic development prospects,” Tuck said. “I look forward to working with the leaders from rural counties and communities across the state in this important role.”

The creation of the new position is just one part of a broad strategy to improve rural economies in Alabama. Since July 2015, the state has offered incentives for companies locating qualified projects in targeted communities to spur job creation in rural areas. The Department of Commerce says that since then, 16 projects involving $1 billion and 1,400 jobs have received incentives.

 

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Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected]

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Economy

New unemployment claims increased last week

More people joined the unemployment rolls last week than the week before.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,581 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, up from 7,732 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

Of the claims filed between Oct. 4 and Oct. 10, there were 3,125 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s 36 percent, compared to 51 percent the previous week.

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Economy

Governor announces $1.5 million grant to expand job training at Bevill State Community College

The expanded facility will help train people in welding and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and other trades. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey and the Appalachian Regional Commission this week announced a $1.5 million grant to renovate and expand a training facility at Bevill State Community College. 

The expanded facility will help train people in welding and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and other trades. 

“Alabamians are eager to work, and we are eager for them to find jobs that will allow them to earn a good living,” Ivey said in a statement. “These funds will help more Alabamians answer the call to the state’s increasing demand for jobs in these fields. I am thankful for our partnership with the Appalachian Regional Commission and the assistance they have provided in helping us respond to in-demand issues.”

The grant comes from Appalachian Regional Commission’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, which targets areas affected by the closing of coal mining and coal-related industries, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the ARC program in Alabama.

“This grant is a shot in the arm for an Alabama economy that has maintained its poise during the cessation of coal industries and then the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” ADECA director Kenneth Boswell said in a statement. “ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey, ARC, Bevill State Community College and many other partners in this life-changing program.”

Dr. Chris Cox, Bevill State interim president, said the program will allow for scholarships for workers who lost jobs in coal-related industries.

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“This rapid training center expansion will help establish a career pipeline to support local manufacturing industries, will serve to diversify the region’s economy and will increase post-secondary students’ access to advanced training and completion of industry-recognized certifications,” Cox said in a statement.

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Economy

New Ford Bronco will use newer, lighter steel made in Alabama at ArcelorMittal

ArcelorMittal is also in preliminary negotiations with Ford on supplying the steel for other vehicles.

Brandon Moseley

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The 2021 Ford Bronco made of Gen 3 steel supplied by ArcelorMittal boasts a sporty look and can navigate difficult terrain. (VIA FORD)

ArcelorMittal in Mobile County was selected as the sole Gen 3 steel supplier for the 2021 Ford Bronco. This vehicle will be the first automobile in the world to incorporate Fortiform 980 GI, which is made at ArcelorMittal’s AM/NS facility in Calvert, Alabama.

Ford is placing a huge priority on light weighting and safety for the new Bronco and this steel grade accomplishes both, most notably helping to decrease the total vehicle weight by 10 percent making it more fuel efficient.

Steel, however, is stronger than aluminum or plastic thus making a safer vehicle whose occupants are more likely to survive an automobile crash.

ArcelorMittal’s co-engineering capabilities, helped foster the close collaboration between ArcelorMittal R&D and Ford’s design and welding experts. This synergy played a pivotal role in this project.

President Donald Trump’s administration has prioritized the encouragement of American steel manufacturing in trade negotiations. Tariffs placed on cheap foreign steel being allegedly dumped in the American market have made it advantageous to use American produced steel.

Both ArcelorMIttal and U.S. Steel have begun building new electric arc furnaces at their facilities in Alabama.

“In Alabama, we are witnessing immediate results from terms the Trump administration outlined in the USMCA, specifically the requirement for the automobile industry to utilize more steel made in North America,” said economic developer Nicole Jones. “Ford, an iconic American company, established a rigorous application process to become the Gen 3 steel supplier for the 2021 Ford Bronco, and Alabama-based ArcelorMittal met the challenge.”

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ArcelorMittal is in preliminary negotiations with Ford on supplying the steel for other vehicles. The company is negotiating with Ford and other original equipment manufacturers on how the world-class Fortiform 980 GI can meet their stringent lightweighting and safety targets for the vehicles of tomorrow.

“Metals and advanced materials are one of our state’s dominant industries,” Jones said. “Alabama Department of Commerce data from 2018 shows that primary metal manufacturing exports valued at nearly $1.6 billion, and fabricated metal manufacturing exports valued at $382 million. The direct and indirect jobs resulting from ArcelorMittal’s projects provide significant economic benefits for south Alabama and our entire state.”

Once ArcelorMittal completes its new electric arc furnace steelmaking facility at AM/NS Calvert, the company will have the capability of producing 1.5 million metric tonnes of steel slabs for the Hot Strip Mill and producing a broad spectrum of steel grades required for Calvert’s end-user markets including the automotive industry.

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“An electric arc furnace at Calvert makes strategic sense as it allows our asset to be more reactive to the local market as well as being in line with the USMCA,” said Lakshmi Mittal, the chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, referring to the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement on trade which replaced NAFTA. ”Furthermore, it aligns with our ambition of producing smarter steels for a better world.”

ArcelorMittal is investing more than $500 million at its Mobile County mill to help the company serve customers.

AM/NS Calvert is the world’s most advanced steel finishing facility and demonstrates the highly successful partnership between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Corporation.

AM/NS Calvert was originally built by Thyssenkrupp, with a total investment cost of $4 billion. The plant was acquired by ArcelorMittal and NSC as a 50-50 joint venture in 2014.

The joint venture has already invested more than $200 million into strategic projects in Calvert since its acquisition, before the ongoing planned $500 million expansion.

ArcelorMittal is the world’s leading steel and mining company. It has a presence in 60 countries and operates steelmaking facilities in 18 countries. In 2019, ArcelorMittal had revenues of $70.6 billion and crude steel production of 89.8 million metric tonnes, while iron ore production reached 57.1 million metric tonnes.

ArcelorMittal says that their goal is to help build a better world with smarter steels.

Steels made using innovative processes which use less energy, emit significantly less carbon and reduce costs. Steels that are cleaner, stronger and reusable. Steels for electric vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure that will support societies as they transform through this century.

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Economy

Port of Mobile sets another export coal shipment record

All the cargo loaded at McDuffie consisted of Alabama metallurgical grade coal bound for Asian markets. 

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A sky view of downtown Mobile and the Port of Mobile.

The Alabama State Port Authority set another export coal shipment record loading 146,479 short tons — or 132,883.5 metric tons — at its McDuffie Coal Terminal. 

The coal was loaded to the Newcastle Max class bulk carrier, NSU WELFARE, which matches the previous record bulk ship to call the port measuring 984.2 feet in length overall, known as LOA, with a width of 164.3 feet.

All the cargo loaded at McDuffie consisted of Alabama metallurgical grade coal bound for Asian markets. 

Rick Clark, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Port Authority, noted the increased Newcastle Max calls match increasing Post-Panamax vessel calls into Mobile, in part due to ongoing infrastructure investments.

“We’re not only deepening the channel to -50 ft. draft, we are also investing in shore-side infrastructure at McDuffie to improve throughput efficiencies and expand export capacity,” the authority said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Port Authority recently signed the project agreement to let channel construction contracts by year-end 2020. The USACE awarded the first of six contracts to Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company LLC on Sept. 28, 2020.

The $8.3 million contract will construct to -50 feet approximately two miles of channel including the port’s entrance.

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The harbor improvements along with the Port Authority’s planned multi-phase, $45 million capital improvement program at McDuffie are oriented toward meeting increasing vessel size and projected shipper demand.

Bernard Scott, manager of McDuffie Terminal, noted, “We’re striving to match terminal improvements with our channel expansion. Our focus shore-side will be in new equipment, equipment upgrades and yard management to accommodate the anticipated export coal needs of our customers.” 

Alabama’s metallurgical coal market is in demand and on the upswing with nearly $1.4 billion in recent or planned mining investments. Alabama’s low sulfur, high quality coking coal is ideally suited for steelmakers.

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Currently, Alabama holds about 4 billion tons of economically recoverable coal reserves, with 80 percent of those reserves comprised of metallurgical grade coal, according to a 2019 Auburn University at Montgomery economic impact study 

The Alabama State Port Authority owns and operates the state of Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile and its public facilities handle more than 26 million tons of cargo annually.

The authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterway connections.

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