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Economy

Auto supplier Vuteq to create 200 Jobs in Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that global automotive supplier Vuteq USA plans to invest more than $60 million to open a manufacturing facility to serve the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. auto assembly plant in Huntsville.

“The automotive cluster growing around Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. is gaining another significant addition with Vuteq’s decision to open a manufacturing facility in Huntsville,” Ivey said. “Vuteq has established a large industrial footprint in the United States, and it’s great to see the company expand that presence to our state. We look forward to working with Vuteq and seeing it grow in Sweet Home Alabama.”

“Vuteq is a respected automotive supplier with an extensive overseas network that includes locations in Asia, North America, and South America,” said economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter. “The company plans to create interior and exterior plastic-injected parts as well as a myriad of subassemblies for vehicles manufactured at the Mazda Toyota plant in the Huntsville-City annexed area of Limestone County.”

“Vuteq USA Inc. is very pleased and excited to be opening our next plant in Alabama,” said Vuteq USA President Kazumasa Watanabe. “Our company is thankful for the support provided by the City of Huntsville and State of Alabama as we begin a new chapter.”

Vuteq USA will produce interior and exterior plastic-injected parts and various sub-assemblies for Mazda and Toyota. The shared Alabama assembly plant is being built on a 2,500-acre tract in Limestone County.

“Vuteq is a superb addition to Alabama’s rapidly growing network of high-caliber international auto suppliers,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “I’m confident that Vuteq will benefit from the capabilities of Alabama’s skilled workforce and the state’s business-friendly environment. I know we can build a solid future together.”

Vuteq’s site is at 7306 Greenbriar Parkway Northwest, just outside the MTMUS campus. Construction is scheduled to begin in October and be completed in September 2020. Followed by initial production trials of equipment, molds and secondary systems, production is targeted to launch in 2021.

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“We’re pleased that Huntsville will be home to Vuteq’s first venture in Alabama and we welcome them to our growing network of automotive suppliers,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Vuteq USA has already begun hiring the first of its Alabama workforce. The company is projected to be ramping up to its full employment at the Huntsville facility in 2021.

Persons interested in working at the plant can email the company at [email protected]

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The company is also working with AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, for hiring and training support.

Vuteq USA will host several other manufacturing companies within its Huntsville plant. One of these will be Diversity Vuteq LLC, a minority joint venture. The others are yet to be named.

Mazda and Toyota are investing $1.6 billion to build and equip their joint Huntsville assembly plant. MTMUS will employ up to 4,000 workers and produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually. Construction is already underway with vehicle production expected to begin in 2021.

By that time, a network of parts suppliers will be in place in North Alabama to support the Huntsville assembly operation. Counting Vuteq, five suppliers have already announced plans for facilities that will create nearly 1,700 jobs. Their combined investment in Alabama totals $440 million.

“Suppliers are a vital component of the supply chain,” Jones said. “The project will yield an estimated 200 jobs and is a testament to Alabama’s leadership in the automotive industry.”

Japan-based Vuteq has operated in North America for over three decades. The company joins a growing list of Tier 1 auto suppliers that have announced plans to set up operations in the region. Hiroshima based DNUS broke ground on its new Huntsville automotive plant on Thursday.

Vuteq has supplied Toyota with logistics and parts since 1965. The company has more than 13,000 employees globally. Vuteq has a long-established relationship with Toyota and plans to build a strong partnership with Mazda. Vuteq has supplies parts such as interior trim, door trim and cockpit assemblies, among other things. Vuteq launched its North American operations in 1987 at Georgetown, Kentucky, where Toyota operates an assembly plant. Over the years, Vuteq has added U.S. manufacturing plants in Indiana, Texas and Mississippi, as well as a location in Ontario, Canada.

 

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

JumpStartAL launches innovative workforce development initiative

Public-private partnership uses VR-technology, job strategy to train and place participants

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Representatives today announced JumpStartAL, a private-public partnership to help carry out Alabama’s strategy for the future of workforce development. Using leading edge virtual reality (VR) training solutions from job simulator TRANSFRVR, JumpStartAL will offer new education and training programs to develop the state’s next generation of highly skilled workers.

“Alabama is focused on the future,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “JumpStartAL will help ensure that we are positioned to attract the jobs of tomorrow by educating and training Alabamians to take advantage of the opportunities those jobs will provide.”

The initiative will highlight career paths needed for Alabama to meet its goal to increase its workforce by 500,000 highly skilled workers by 2025.

JumpStartAL training modules are created with input from industry partners and will help participants develop specific skills needed for jobs, beginning with manufacturing and expanding into other industries in the future. Training is available free of charge for anyone interested in a career in the skilled trades, including high school students, veterans, workers in existing industries, the unemployed and underemployed.

JumpStartAL will initially roll out at five Alabama community colleges, with more campuses and training facilities added in the future:

  • Coastal Alabama Community College
  • Enterprise State Community College
  • Jefferson State Community College
  • Lawson State Community College
  • Shelton State Community College

“Now, more than ever, we must be engaged in new and inventive ways to train the next generation of skilled workers,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker. “Our colleges are committed to meeting students where they are and helping them achieve a better future. Hands-on virtual reality training is a means of achieving that goal.”

The statewide network of partners in the JumpStartAL initiative includes the Alabama Community College System; Ready to Work, which is operated by Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT); the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education; the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development; the Business Education Alliance; TRANSFRVR; Shelby County economic development organization 58 INC; Central Six Alabama Works; and the Alabama Department of Commerce.

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Alabama Power, Altec and Kamtek are among the private sector leaders of JumpStartAL. The statewide business community is supporting the initiative both through job placement strategies and financial efforts.

“It is a great privilege for Altec to be partnering with so many outstanding companies and organizations throughout Alabama on such an innovative workforce development initiative”, said Jay Eichelberger, General Manager for Altec Industries. “JumpStartAL demonstrates Alabama’s leadership role in developing skill-aligned training programs that help broaden employment and economic opportunities. It will ensure that those entering the workforce are much better prepared to succeed, while allowing employers within the state to utilize state-of- the-art training technology that is focused on specific job skills and requirements.”

JumpStartAL also will focus on addressing new challenges and opportunities that arise as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“The organizations and companies that make up JumpStartAL have a shared vision of ensuring Alabama and its citizens are well positioned for a prosperous and inclusive future in the 21st century economy,” said Leigh Davis, vice president of economic and community development for Alabama Power. “We are honored to join with them to help make this vision a reality.”

Companies interested in joining the partnership can visit jumpstartal.com. Individuals wanting more information on training locations and how to sign up can learn more at jumpstartal.com/training.

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Alabama highlighted in Governors Association guide for building a resilient workforce

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(STOCK PHOTO)

As COVID-19 accelerates disruptions impacting the American workforce, the National Governors Association (NGA) issued the findings of a comprehensive two-year project examining ways that governors and other state policymakers can nurture a technologically resilient workforce ready to thrive in an evolving economy.

The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now presents findings and recommendations from the Future Workforce Now: Reimagining Workforce Policy in the Age of Disruption initiative (Future Workforce Now). The guide is available online and via a first-of-its-kind interactive website where users can explore 150 policy and program examples from more than 40 states; in-depth case studies from Alabama, Arkansas and Washington; and global initiatives that promote lifelong learning and that train and credential an evolving workforce.

Alabama is one of three state case studies spotlighted in the report (see page 40). It notes Governor Kay Ivey’s Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, which envisioned creating an education-to-workforce talent pipeline that leads to employment in an occupation that pays a family-sustaining wage regardless of demography or geography.

“I’m honored the National Governors Association selected Alabama as one of the state case studies in their comprehensive workforce guide,” Gov. Ivey said. “As our labor market evolves, it is imperative that our workforce strategy keeps up with the growing demands of business and industry, especially amid the ongoing pandemic. Since launching my Strong Start, Strong Finish initiative, we have worked to align our education to workforce pipeline and have created several pathways to reach our goal of adding 500,000 skilled employees to the workforce by 2025. We are proud to showcase our workforce efforts as a model to the rest of the nation.”

Gov. Ivey observed the silos between governmental and nongovernmental entities with a stake in education and workforce development as a significant barrier to accomplishing progress toward this vision.

In response, she established the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation (GOEWT) in 2019 and an accompanying advisory council. The GOEWT Advisory Council is made up of representatives from 22 state agencies who provide the GOEWT with policy recommendations that align with the governor’s education and workforce development strategic plans.

Launched in 2018, Future Workforce Now was led by the NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) in partnership with FHI 360 and the Fab Foundation, with support from the Siegel Family Endowment, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Schmidt Futures. Through topical roundtables with private-sector experts, researchers, and state leaders, Future Workforce Now explored the technological disruptions and global forces shaping the future of work, workers and workplaces; what these changes mean for education, training and state policy; and the most promising policy and practice responses to prepare the workforce of the future.

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The guide found that COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate disruptions already affecting the workforce, including the adoption of automation, shortages of skilled workers in high-demand fields and growing wealth inequality driven by inequitable access to education and training. Because key aspects of education and workforce development programs are determined at the state level, governors are best positioned to commit to systems transformations that enable their citizens to succeed in the workforce of the future. Without these commitments to systems change, the disruptions impacting the workforce will exacerbate inequities that disproportionately affect traditionally disadvantaged and marginalized populations including people of color, those with disabilities, and New Americans.

The guide is a timely resource to help states recover from the impacts of COVID-19, which has inflicted widespread damage on the world and U.S. economy, depressing consumer activity and prompting the highest U.S. unemployment rates in decades.

“While the pandemic poses unprecedented challenges to state economies, governors of both parties around the country are developing strategies for long-term recovery that both anticipate and respond to the transformational changes under way in the American economy and workforce,” said Rachael Stephens, program director for workforce development and economic policy in the NGA Center. “The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now is a timely resource that governors can use to leverage proven innovations and promising ideas and ensure that a rapidly changing economy provides opportunities for all. It will be an especially powerful tool as states navigate an ongoing pandemic, recession, and long-standing issues of racial inequity and economic injustice that are now at the forefront of our national consciousness.”

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The State Guide for Preparing the Future Workforce Now recommends that states:

  • Build statewide ecosystems that promote lifelong learning for all workers by orienting leaders toward a shared vision, investing in data and a transparent credential infrastructure, and aligning funding with state workforce goals.
  • Innovate teaching and learning models to close the digital skills gap by engaging employers to develop demand-driven training programs offering flexible learning pathways for all workers.
  • Increase investments in the comprehensive supports that enable all workers to succeed in the workforce, including access to financial aid, career advice and information, portable credentials, and flexibility to succeed in the gig economy.

Founded in 1908, the National Governors Association (NGA) is the bipartisan organization of the nation’s 55 governors. Through NGA, governors share best practices, address issues of national and state interest and share innovative solutions that improve state government and support the principles of federalism.

 

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Economy

Alabama’s immigrants pay more than $1 billion in annual taxes, study says

Immigrants in Alabama are responsible for more than $900 million in federal taxes and more than $350 million in state and local taxes, according to a study.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Immigrants in Alabama are responsible for more than $900 million in federal taxes and more than $350 million in state and local taxes, according to a study published Monday that assessed the economic impacts of immigrants in each state.

Of Alabama’s 4.9 million residents, 162,567 of them, or 3 percent, were foreign-born as of 2018, according to statistics compiled by the American Immigration Council, which advocates for immigration reform.

Alabama residents in immigrant-led households had $3.7 billion in spendable income, the study states.

Of the state’s immigrant population, 34 percent was undocumented in 2016. That is equal to 1 percent of the state’s total population. Undocumented immigrants represented 2 percent of the state’s workforce that year. They paid an estimated $54.1 million in federal taxes and $37.6 million in state and local taxes in 2018.

Roughly 67,000 of the state’s immigrants, or 41 percent, were naturalized citizens as of 2018. Three-quarters reported speaking English “well” or “very well,” according to the study.

A third had a college degree or higher. By comparison, 25 percent of native-born residents of Alabama have that level of education. Twenty-seven percent of immigrants had less than a high school diploma compared to 13 percent of native-born Alabamians.

Mexico is the most common country of origin at 27 percent of immigrants. China and India each account for 6 percent, followed by Guatemala and Germany with 5 percent each.

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The industries employing the largest shares of the immigrant population are construction, services other than public administration, accommodation and food services, agriculture and manufacturing. 

There were 4,000 active recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, as of 2019. Of those eligible for DACA, 58 percent had applied. These groups combined were responsible for $11.4 million in state and local taxes, or 3.2 percent of the total amount paid by foreign-born residents.

Immigrants represented 6 percent of the state’s business owners and generated $319.8 million in business income in 2018, the study said.

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Extra $600 in COVID-19 unemployment benefits ends July 26

The extra weekly unemployment payment of $600 ends later this month. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Despite surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Alabama and in many other states, an extra $600-per-week in unemployment compensation through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program is expected to expire July 26. 

That extra money, meant to help those whose jobs were displaced by coronavirus and through no fault of their own, was made possible through the CARES Act, the federal aid program that is to continue through Dec. 31, 2020, but the extra weekly payment of $600 ends later this month. 

“At this time, the federal government has not changed or extended the FPUC program. States do not have the ability to extend FPUC,” the Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release on Monday. 

The end of the extra assistance will impact more than 25 million Americans, during a time when COVID-19 continues to spread actively through communities. 

More than $1 billion has been pumped into Alabama’s economy through the extra $600-a-week payments to Alabamians, according to the New York City-based think tank The Century Foundation.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments make up 60 percent of total unemployment benefits paid during the pandemic. 

In Alabama, 35,760 people are receiving the extra $600 a week, which totals approximately $91.7 million weekly into the state, according to The Century Foundation, which estimates that benefits to Alabamians receiving unemployment assistance will decrease by 70 percent once the extra $600 a week dries up. 

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The average current combined unemployment benefits in Alabama is $854.95 and after the end of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments, the remaining unemployment benefit will be roughly $254.95.

There are also racial justice implications in the end to the extra $600 a week in aid, according to the think tank.

“Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina all have average unemployment benefits below $300 per week, as a result of both low wages and unemployment insurance rules that simply offered less protection to predominantly black workforces,” The Century Foundation’s report notes.

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In Alabama, 57 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic from March to April were women and 50 percent were white, while 43 percent were Black, while Black people make up only 27 percent of the state’s population.

The report states that the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefit was intended to be a public health measure, helping workers while they stay home until it is safe to go back to work.

“Just as rushed reopenings put families at risk, eliminating FPUC now will force people to rush back to work before it is safe,” the report reads.

Job seekers can visit their local Career Center or search jobs online without cost at alabamaworks.alabama.gov

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