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MAY 2004
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Not All Is Automotive in Alabama

Given the pace and number of automotive industry projects throughout the state, Alabama's industrial focus may appear to be increasingly one-dimensional. But in fact, a scattergram of recent projects would reveal investments that both dovetail with the automotive growth spurt and diverge from it in an economically healthy manner.
        Aerospace is in prime condition itself. Boeing alone, primarily through rocket and missile plants in Huntsville and Decatur, pumps more than $1.2 billion into the state economy on an annual basis, and is tied to some 9,000 jobs statewide. Elsewhere in Huntsville, Northrop Grumman – which already employs 1,300 Alabamans – plans to hire 500 more over the next seven years as a result of the $4.5-billion Pentagon contract it secured, along with Raytheon, in December 2003. In Tallassee, U.K.-based GKN Aerospace Services is expected to add 100 new workers to its 425-employee plant in order to service a wing panel contract with Airbus for its massive 555-seat A380 aircraft. The $40 million in plant investment by GKN over the past few years is just part of what Airbus has identified as its $600-million economic impact on this central Alabama region.
        Near Boeing's complex in Decatur, longtime corporate resident 3M Corp. is investing $126 million in a new production line that will occupy 110,000 new sq. ft. (10,219 sq. m.) at its Tennessee River plant, which employs 640 people. The new line, under construction now, will support the Specialty Films and Media Products Division operations at the site and could mean the addition of 60 new jobs. A separate $27.4-million expansion is expected to create 15 more jobs.
        "Through the hard work and dedication of the Decatur employees along with our laboratory personnel in St. Paul, we've begun a reinvention of film operations at the site," said Dr. Rebecca Morlando, plant manager for 3M film operations in Decatur."

From the Forest to the Coast
In Ashland, next to the Talladega National Forest and only two hours' drive to Atlanta, Wellborn Cabinet is planning a $30-million expansion that could add as many as 1,000 jobs to its current payroll of 1,100.
        In Mobile, in December 2003, the first tenant in the research park at the University of South Alabama – Accelerated Technology, a computer programming subsidiary of Oregon-based Mentor Graphics – occupied most of the space in a new 85,000-sq.-ft. (7,897-sq.-m.), $10.1-million building.
        The Alabama State Port Authority in October 2003 granted three one-year land options (worth $38 million) for 200 acres (81 hectares) of former Navy land to ExxonMobil Corp. for a proposed $600-million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that would employ around 50 people.
        However, ExxonMobil spokesman Bob Davis tells Site Selection, while the company has initiated permitting on two Texas locations (Corpus Christi and Sabine Pass) for similar investment amounts, it has not done so in Mobile.
        Asked why, he says there are "a number of reasons, not the least of which is a need to solidify community support for the project. And there are other business considerations relative to the actual import of the LNG, based on the supply agreement with Qatar in the 2008-2009 time frame." In the meantime, the company is also exploring the idea of an offshore LNG terminal south of Louisiana.
        Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has cited the need for increased North American LNG terminal capacity in order to avoid price volatility. A $350-million terminal proposed by Fairwind (a joint venture between ConocoPhillips and Trans Canada) was recently voted down by residents in tiny Harpswell, Maine, even though it would have brought in some $8 million annually in new tax revenue.
        Mobile also is seeing new investment from the aerospace segment that has been so strong in the northern part of the state. European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS) is investing $1 million in the move of one of 11 North American divisions from Chantilly, Va., to the Mobile Regional Airport, in order to be close to a U.S. Coast Guard air training center. – Adam Bruns
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