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.
“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]
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.
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.