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Ivey attends Koch Foods grain storage, distribution facility groundbreaking in Attalla

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was on hand for the groundbreaking of a new Koch Foods grain storage and distribution facility at the City of Attalla in Etowah County.

“What an exciting day to be here for the groundbreaking for Koch Foods’ state of the art grain storage facility,” Gov. Ivey said. “This will be a great addition to our economy.”

“Koch Foods already has significant operations in Alabama, and this new investment will magnify the company’s economic impact on the state,” Governor Ivey said. “This project adds a robust new dimension to the industrial sector in the state and permits us to strengthen our longstanding relationship with a major employer.”

Gov. Ivey said that Kochs was making a $55 million investment in the area “Creating thirty new high paying jobs.”

Ivey said that one of the proudest accomplishments of her administration is the record low unemployment, which just hit a new record low of 3.0 percent in September, but that, “Would never have been possible without first rate companies like Koch Foods choosing to expand in the state of Alabama. Thank you for investing in the great state of Alabama.”

“We are very excited about building one of the most technologically innovative grain storage facilities in the world,” said Matthew Herman, Koch Senior Vice President of Fresh Operations. “We continue to expand our business in Alabama and are thankful for the cooperative environment between business and government in the state to get things accomplished.”

Herman thanked the Mayor of Attalla and his team, “They have worked diligently every day since I made that phone call.”

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Herman said that Kochs Foods has four fully integrated poultry complexes in Alabama processing 6.8 million birds a week.

Herman said that their Gadsden processing plant has just been expanded, adding 200 new jobs bringing the total employment there to 915. The new fourth processing line will allow the Gadsden plant to process 2.7 million birds a week.

Herman said that the new grain storage and distribution center in Attalla will serve chicken farms in ten counties particularly in Etowah and Marshall Counties.

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“We are proud to operate in the great state of Alabama,” Herman said.

Mark Kaminsky is the Chief Operating Officer at Koch Foods and is the Chairman of the National Chicken Council.

“It is a privilege to be here today,” Kaminsky said. This facility is scheduled to be complete in July of 2021. “At $55 million this is one of the bigger projects that we will undertake.”

“I am a city boy from Chicago, but I have been coming South for a long time,” Kaminsky said. “I have spent thirty years in the poultry industry.”

“We are excited about not only this project, but our expansion in Gadsden,” Kaminsky said. This expansion is primarily for the food service industry, particularly Popeyes.

“Our customer base is large and demanding,” Kaminsky said. Koch processes 364 million chickens a year in Alabama and has over 3,800 employees here with. Our operations in Alabama has a cost of over one billion dollars a year and that trickles down to the local economy. “We have invested over $300 million in Alabama since 2016. We look forward to the completion of this mill and many more years of working in the State of Alabama.”

David Hooks is the Executive Director of the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority.

Hooks thanked the team at Koch Foods, the Attalla Industrial Development Board, Mayor Larry Means and the Attalla City Council, the Etowah County Legislative Delegation, the Etowah County Mayors Association, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Norfolk Southern, the team at Alabama Power, and Aspire Gas.

“This project qualifies for two of the industrial sectors the Gadsden-Etowah Industrial Development Authority has targeted — Logistics and Food & Farming,” Hooks said. “Locating this state-of-the-art facility will go a long way in solidifying Etowah County’s position as a national leader in both sectors.”

The Mayor of Attalla is former State Senator Larry Means (D).

“This is the largest thing that has ever happened in Attalla, and with $55 million in capital invested one of the largest things in Etowah County,” Mayor Means said. “I want to thank Koch and everybody for coming today. We’re excited that Koch Foods has chosen Attalla for this large, high-tech facility.

“We are thankful to have 28 new, high-paying jobs in our community, and this facility will build on the strong focus on industry and innovation that are woven into the history of Attalla,” Means explained. “In addition to the long-term operational jobs, there will be over 200 people working to build the facility here in Attalla over the next 18 months. The economic impact of construction alone will be huge for the City of Attalla and all of Etowah County.”

“You hear politicians say they care about the people the people the people – this lady really means it,” Means said of Ivey. “If you want to go to work in Alabama there are plenty of jobs. She has done a great job in a very short period of time. This governor knows economic development and she is my friend.”

Koch is pronounced “Cook.” The new 130-acre facility in Attalla will have the ability to hold more than 1 billion bushels of corn and will be served directly by Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The expansion makes Koch’s Etowah County operation one of the largest poultry-processing plants in the nation.

Koch Foods is based in Park Ridge, Illinois and operates four processing complexes in the state.
The company was founded in 1985 as a one-room operation. Since then Koch Foods has grown to become one of the nation’s largest vertically integrated poultry producers, with locations across Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee. The privately held company has more than 13,000 employees.

Construction is already under way at the site. The company will start assembling a management team in the first quarter of 2020 and will begin interviewing prospective production workers in early 2021.

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

Alabama Power is returning $100 million to customers

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Public Service Commission approved a plan Tuesday to credit Alabama Power Company customers on their October bills. The move returns approximately $100 million to Alabama Power Company customers.

“Putting money back into the pockets of hard-working Alabamians is one of the ways we can help on the road to recovery,” Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said on social media. “Alabama Power to refund $100 million to customers.”

The typical Alabama Power customer will receive a $25 credit on their October bill. The newly approved credit is on top of a 3 percent rate reduction that customers are already enjoying in 2020. This previous rate cuts and the October credit amount to about $300 million in savings for Alabama Power customers this year.

“We appreciate the commission voting today to expedite this credit for our customers,” said Richard Hutto, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

The global economic collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt people across Alabama. It has also dramatically lowered fuel costs for Alabama Power Company’s plants.

A typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month is expected to receive a credit of $25. Customers who use more energy will receive a larger credit. Customers who use less power receive a smaller credit but had a smaller bill to begin with. Adjustments to fuel costs are typically calculated at the end of the year, with savings passed to customers beginning in January, but due to the economic downturn and pandemic-related job losses, Alabama Power and the PSC are rushing that money to Alabama families and businesses.

“Many of our customers have been hurt by COVID-19. We hope this credit will provide some additional relief at this difficult time,” Hutto explained.

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The 3 percent rate reduction, that took effect in January, was based on earlier estimates of lower costs for fuel and other expenses for 2020. The rate reduction alone equates to about a $4.50-per-month reduction for the typical residential customer.

“Our employees are working every day to keep costs low while providing industry-leading reliability for our customers,” Hutto added.

Alabama Power said in a statement that their total retail price is below the national average and has been for decades. When adjusted for inflation, the price customers pay for electricity is lower today than it was 30 years ago.

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Alabama Power has been assisting customers in other ways during the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the start of the pandemic, the company has suspended disconnects and late payment fees for customers hurt by the coronavirus.

Cavanaugh is seeking another term as president of the Commission.

“It is crucial that we have strong pro-jobs conservatives supporting President Trump’s agenda at all levels of government,” Cavanaugh said on social media.

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Economy

Payroll Protection Program deadline has been extended to Saturday

Brandon Moseley

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Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, this week reminded business owners that the deadline to apply for the Payroll Protection Program, knowns as the PPP, has been extended to Saturday.

“The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline was recently extended to Saturday, August 8,” Roby wrote in an email to constituents. “Do not forget to fill out your application if you are a small business that has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.“

The PPP was a loan program administered by the Small Business Administration. It was part of the bipartisan CARES Act to address the economic collapse caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the forced economic shutdowns, which were implemented in the early months of the public health emergency in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel strain of the coronavirus and allow public health agencies and health care systems time to build up testing, contact-tracing and hospital bed capacity.

The PPP loans are 1 percent interest loans available through the SBA. If the business uses the money to make payroll and pay standard operating expenses then the loans will be forgiven. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. The loan forgiveness form and instructions include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers.

The PPP has been very popular, so much so that that program ran out of money just weeks after Congress passed it. Congress had to go back and provide more funding for the PPP.

Businesses can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program.

Senate Democrats are meeting with the Trump Administration, Senate Republicans and House leadership on a compromise plan for a fifth coronavirus relief package. A big point of contention has been the size of the total package. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, supports a $3.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill while Republicans prefer a more modest $1 trillion relief bill. The two sides are expected to continue to negotiate through Friday in an attempt to reach a compromise before the August recess.

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Roby is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s 2nd congressional district. She is not seeking re-election.

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Economy

State’s unemployment claims slowed last week

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

Micah Danney

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The number of unemployment claims in Alabama slipped last week after increasing through the first half of July.

There were 17,439 claims filed from July 19 to 25, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. Of those, 15,461, or 89 percent, were COVID-19 related.

Claims soared at the start of the pandemic in late March, hitting a weekly high of 106,739 in the first week of April. The rate of new claims declined sharply in May, with each week counting under 30,000 claims.

Since then, the number has decreased somewhat steadily. Claims rose several thousand over the course of this month, from 19,058 in the week ending July 4 to 23,678 in the week ending July 18.

Last week saw the lowest number of new claims since the week-to-week number first spiked from 1,824 to 10,982 when the lockdown started in mid-March.

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Economy

GDP fell by an unprecedented 9.5 percent in second quarter

Brandon Moseley

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis released its advance estimate of U.S. GDP for the second quarter of 2020 reflecting the months of April, May and June dropped 9.5 percent in the second quarter, According to the BEA report, real GDP contracted at an unprecedented annualized rate of 32.9 percent. This is the largest quarterly decline since the series began in 1947, though market expectations were so low the actual number was slightly better than what the market and official estimates had expected.

President Donald Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors said that despite this massive contraction, the resiliency of the U.S. economy and the swift fiscal response of the Federal Government can aid in a strong recovery.

The Council of Economic Advisors said that the U.S. economy entered this contraction on a healthier and more resilient footing than it did both prior to the Financial Crisis of 2008 to 09 and relative to other advanced economies. This was due in part, to the longest expansion in U.S. history. American households also had a smaller overall debt burden prior to this pandemic than prior to the Financial Crisis. Household liabilities as a percent of personal disposable income were 136 percent leading into the Financial Crisis but were below 100 percent prior to this pandemic.

The United States had the highest growth rate among the G7 countries prior to the pandemic, with growth roughly double the non-U.S. G7 average.

The second-quarter decline in GDP was widespread, touching nearly every facet of the economy. Consumer spending, which accounts for roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy, contributed to most of the decline, accounting for 25.05 percentage points of the 32.9 percent decline. The report also showed sharp contractions in business fixed investment, residential investment, inventory investment, and state & local government spending which contributed to the decline.

A massive but uneven decline in consumer spending (-34.6 percent at an annualized rate) revealed how quarantines have driven spending patterns. Individuals increased consumption of recreational goods & vehicles and housing & utilities, but lessened consumption of gasoline & other energy goods, health care, transportation services, recreational services, and food services & accommodation. The decline in business fixed investment was also widely spread, though it was particularly sharp in transportation equipment investment and mining structures investment, the latter reflecting subdued oil and gas production activity responding to extraordinarily low prices.

The pandemic and the forced economic shutdowns caused a sharp drop in real personal income as many workers faced lower wages, fewer hours or loss of their jobs completely. The University of Pennsylvania estimates that the CARES Act reduced the GDP contraction in the second quarter by 7 percentage points.

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The Council of Economic Advisors are predicting strong real GDP growth in the third quarter. The current Blue Chip consensus forecast of 17.7 percent annualized growth in the third quarter would be the largest recorded quarterly growth rate and a 36 percent recovery of the second quarter contraction.

The Council of Economic Advisors claim that the pace of the recovery so far has exceeded expectations, providing a source of optimism as we look ahead. In fact, the majority of major economic data releases over the past month—reflecting May and June data—have surpassed market outlooks. Most notably, the record-breaking number of jobs added in both May and June beat market expectations by a combined 11.7 million. Furthermore, high-frequency data indicate that 80 percent of America’s small businesses are now open, up from a low in April of just 52 percent. Consumer credit & debit card spending has recovered roughly 80 percent from the pandemic low, with spending in low-income zip codes rebounding the furthest, now just 2 percent below pre-pandemic spending levels.

Another 1.43 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims last week, the nineteenth week the total has surpassed one million new claims.

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The recovery could be threatened by surging coronavirus cases, which could force a second shutdown in some states. Governors in Texas, Florida, and California have had to implement some social distancing restrictions and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has had to impose a mask requirement on all citizens and even on school children.

The uncertainty with the virus and the economy has put pressure on Congress to approve another coronavirus relief package.

“Our nation is going through a time of testing,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “And let me say from my heart that our prayers and our sympathies are with all of the more than 150,000 families that have lost loved ones in the midst of this pandemic. As we continue to contend with the coronavirus in various places across our country, President Trump and our team, and the task force will continue to marshal the full resources of the federal government and the full power of the American economy to meet this moment and put the health of America first.”

“It’s amazing to think, at the lowest point in this pandemic, our economy lost 22 million jobs,” VP Pence said. “But thanks to that solid foundation that President Trump laid in our first three years, we’ve already gained back 8 million jobs just in May and June alone.”

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