Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was in Limestone County Thursday, inside the city limits of Huntsville, for the groundbreaking of the new DaikyoNishikawa U.S. auto parts plant.
“I’m proud to welcome another great Japanese company, DaikyoNishikawa, to Sweet Home Alabama, and I know that together we will build a lasting partnership,” Ivey said. “Today marks another pivotal moment for Huntsville as it becomes the next vital production hub for the global auto industry.”
The new plant is being built on the campus of the new 3.1 million square foot Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing U.S. plant (MTMUS). While we were on site, workers were busy constructing the massive new auto assembly plant that DNUS will supply with parts; while road crews were hard at work widening Old County Road 20 in Limestone County to accommodate the expected traffic from the new factories deep in cotton country. The Governor’s office said that as many as 2,500 construction workers will be on site at MTMUS this summer once construction is fully ramped up. Construction crews were poised to begin work on the new DNUS factory.
“I am thrilled that DNUS has made an investment here in Alabama today,” Ivey told the gathered DNUS executives and corporate and Huntsville Chamber of Commerce leaders.
The governor said that today was made possible because of Alabama’s strong business climate and high quality work force. DNUS’s decision to build its first North American plant here in Alabama means that more people will be “able to enjoy a high quality of life.”
“DNUS will add to the high caliber companies doing business in Alabama” Ivey said. “DNUS will highlight our high-quality workforce and show that we are thriving and competitive. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.”
The groundbreaking event officially launched construction on the auto supplier’s $110 million manufacturing plant in North Alabama.
“As our first manufacturing facility in North America, DNUS is proud to serve Mazda Toyota and call Huntsville our new home,” said DaikyoNishikama Corporation President Nariaki Uchida. “Together with our business and community partners, our aim is to be a good corporate neighbor and a premiere Tier I automotive supplier.”
President Uchida said that DaikyoNishikama was founded in Hiroshima, where the company is headquartered today. The company has factories in China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Mexico; but highly desired to establish a hub in North America.
Ushida said that the company had a goal of being very “environmentally conscious” and estimated that the facility would be completed in July 2020, but the important thing is that it be built safely.
“I pray for safety of all the workers involved in the construction,” Pres. Uchida said.
The DNUS facility will produce plastic automotive parts for the MTMUS assembly plant and will employ approximately 380 people at full production.
“By selecting Alabama as the site for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, DaikyoNishikawa joins a long list of world-class Japanese companies with growing operations in the state,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with this high-caliber company to assemble a workforce in Huntsville that can fuel its growth plans.”
Ivey told the Japanese executives that Canfield and the Alabama Department of Commerce were there to help them in anything that they need.
“DaikyoNishikawa is a key manufacturer in the growing cluster of Tier 1 automotive suppliers for MTMUS, and we’re excited to provide the skilled workers for this high-performing auto industry leader,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.
“We are honored to be your partner,” Battle told DNUS executives. “We will make sure that you have the best workforce possible.”
Battle said that DNUS is one of three Mazda Toyota suppliers that have already announced that they are locating facilities in Huntsville, with DNUS being both the first to announce and now the first to break ground.
“This is a city that brings engineering and manufacturing together to build amazing things,” Battle concluded. “This is a great victory, not just for Huntsville, and the Tennessee Valley, but all of North Alabama.
“Through collaborative efforts between the public and private sector, our state has positioned itself as a national and global leader the automotive industry,” Economic developer Nicole Jones explained to the Alabama Political Reporter. “The state of Alabama continues to unveil major automotive industry-related announcements, which translates into more jobs in our area. DaikyoNishikawa’s decision to establish its first US presence at the Mazda Toyota plant in north Alabama is an important component of the automotive supply chain and is a testament to the creation of an environment conducive for business.”
Demonstrating the company’s commitment to be good corporate citizen, DNUS President Seiji Okada presented a check to United Way of Madison for $10,000 at Thursday’s event.
In May, DNUS became the first auto supplier to announce plans to locate a facility on the site of the Mazda Toyota joint venture assembly plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually. The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to open the Huntsville assembly plant, which will employ up to 4,000 people.
The DNUS facility will begins operations coinciding with the start of MTMUS vehicle production in 2021. DNUS’s Alabama workforce will manufacture large resin parts such as bumpers and instrument panels for Mazda and Toyota.
DaikyoNishikawa operates about a dozen research and development centers and manufacturing plants in Japan in addition to its production sites in Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and China.
The company employs more than 5,000 people worldwide.
Five MTMUS suppliers, including DNUS, have already announced plans to build factories in North Alabama, employing 1,700 workers, most of them in Huntsville.
DNUS has already started hiring qualified candidates.
The Alabama Political Reporter asked Gov. Ivey that with all of the announcements of new jobs at Mazda-Toyota, auto suppliers like DNUS, as well as drones, and rocket engines at Blue Origins, if there was a danger that that state would not be able to keep all of these facilities supplied with competent labor.
Ivey said that is why she has been stressing workforce development and one of the reasons why she is working to improve K-12 education in the state.
New unemployment claims continued dropping last week
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.
Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians
ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3.
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:
- 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.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
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.”
“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.”
SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally
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.
More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.