Alabama business roundup: Headlines from across state – 6/1/16 edition

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Which Alabama retailers will be feted by the National Retail Federation? What sized companies are on the rise in Alabama?

Answers to all of these questions and more in today’s business roundup:

Birmingham Business Journal:

Alabama News Center: Ready for red snapper? Alabama looks to bigger catch from longer season, expanded waters

A longer state red snapper season and expanded state waters where anglers can fish are expected to provide a boost to the coastal tourist economy this summer.

“It should be good for our bottom line,” said Mike Giannini, one of the owners of J&M Tackle on Canal Road in Orange Beach. “It’ll increase fuel sales, ice sales, bait sales, tackle sales, just about everything.”

Red snapper season will be open in Alabama waters from Friday, May 27, through July 31, giving anglers two full months to fish. Last year, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama attached an amendment to the General Fund budget that extends state waters for Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana to nine miles from the coast for the purposes of managing reef fish, including snapper.

The move aligned the state waters of those three states with the state waters for Florida and Texas. Before this year, the federal government recognized Alabama’s authority only over waters extending three miles from the coast.

The expanded territory is important to anglers.

“It makes a big difference when it comes to the amount of structure available to fishermen to fish,” said Chris Blankenship, director of Alabama’s Division of Marine Resources.

Snapper are good to eat and relatively easy for anglers to locate. That has made them what Herb Malone, president and CEO of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism, calls Alabama’s “flagship fish.”

“Anybody with a boat who knows how to use a GPS can find snapper,” Malone said.

Alabama’s artificial reef system

Snapper are reef fish. They live around structure whether natural, like rocks or coral, or manmade, like sunken ships or concrete rubble. Alabama has few natural reefs off its tiny coast and had few if any snapper before about 35 years ago.

Beginning in the late 1970s, the state and private individuals sank ships, tanks and armored vehicles, concrete pyramids and rubble off the coast. It now has the largest artificial reef system in the country, and upward of 35 percent of the total snapper catch in the Gulf of Mexico comes off the Alabama coast.

The longer season and expanded state waters “is going to be huge for us,” said Mark Russo, manager of Sam’s, a store on Canal Road in Orange Beach that caters to fishermen. “Now that we’ve got the longer season, we need to put more structure in the nine miles controlled by the state.”

Read the rest of the article here.

AL.com: Alabama business optimism improves as 2016 progresses

Business confidence rose to 55.1 on the second quarter 2016 Alabama Business Confidence Index™ (ABCI) survey, conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research in UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. The index increased 2.1 points and closed at its highest level in three quarters. That said, panelists are now less optimistic than a year ago when the ABCI registered 57.6. Note that an index value above 50 indicates a positive outlook.

Panelists continue to see expansion in the Alabama economy, but are less optimistic about the national economy. The outlook for the state economy rose to a quite confident 56.4, while the national economy index remained near the neutral mark at a slightly positive 50.9.

Overall, business executives expect the state’s economy to continue expansion in the second quarter of 2016. At 56.4, the index is up 4.4 points from last quarter, but down two points compared to a year ago. Almost 38 percent of panelists expect stronger economic growth this quarter and approximately 51 percent expect the state’s economy to perform about the same as last quarter.

Every industry indicator moved higher on the survey and all remain positive. The sales index again tops the list at 59.8, while expectations for capital expenditures, hiring, and profits all rose to easily positive readings.

Firms in financial services, construction, miscellaneous services, and professional services are the most optimistic this quarter, all posting index levels of 56.0 or more. Retailers, however, continue to see the economic environment as a negative.

The four largest metro areas all posted positive readings, even as confidence declined by 2.1 points in Mobile. Confidence increased in Birmingham-Hoover, Huntsville and Montgomery. Montgomery enjoys the highest confidence among the large metros with an index of 57.3.

The mixed, but mostly positive sentiment of ABCI panelists in a broad range of industries supports the recent 2016 forecast from the Center for Business and Economic Research. CBER expects the state’s economic growth to slow down slightly from 2.4 percent in 2015 to 2.3 percent this year. Employment growth is forecasted to decelerate from around 1.2 percent in 2015 to 1.0 percent in 2016, while tax revenues are forecasted to rise 2.7 percent in FY2016 compared to last year’s 3.3 percent increase.

Report: Results of the second quarter 2016 ABCI survey are available at http://cber.cba.ua.edu/ABCI. The survey, which is in its 15th year, was completed online March 1-15 by 258 Alabama business executives.

Alabama News Center: Alabama retailers Bromberg and Shea to be feted by National Retail Federation

The National Retail Federation is recognizing Alabama Retail Association Chairman Ricky Bromberg, president of Bromberg and Co. in Birmingham, and board member Terry Shea, co-owner of Wrapsody in Hoover and Auburn, for their contributions to advocacy.

They are among “America’s Retail Champions.” Bromberg and Shea flew to Washington, D.C., this week to take part in NRF’s Retail Advocate’s Summit.

The America’s Retail Champions program, now in its third year, honors retailers who make their mark on public policy debates affecting the industry. Bromberg and Shea are among 41 small business retailers throughout the country to be named as a 2016 champion, and are in the running to be named as a finalist and honored as the America’s Retail Champion of the Year.

“Through the America’s Retail Champions program, the National Retail Federation is proud to host hardworking small business owners in Washington, D.C., to recognize our industry’s most engaged retail advocates,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “These men and women truly personify the American dream, and it is important that Washington lawmakers hear firsthand from retail job and opportunity creators in towns large and small across the country.”

In 2015, George Wilder, Alabama Retail immediate past-chairman, was named a Top 5 finalist for America’s Retail Champion of the Year. Wilder, owner of the Locker Room in Montgomery and Auburn, and another member of the Alabama Retail Association executive committee will travel with Bromberg and Shea to Washington from May 23 to May 25.

Members and staff of the Alabama Retail Association will meet with the Alabama congressional delegation over two days.

Birmingham Business Journal: Mid-market companies on the rise in Alabama

A study by American Express and Dun & Bradstreet shows middle-market businesses in the state of Alabama grew 80 percent from 2011-2016, good enough for 31st nationwide.

Alabama has an estimated 2,500 middle market companies, defined as a firm with $10 million-$1 billion in annual revenues. The 2,500 companies make up 1.13 percent of all firms in the state according to the Middle Market Power Index.

The report finds the middle market is an increasingly important sector, as it has accounted for 53 percent of total job growth nationally since 2011. In addition, the study reveals middle market firms make up less than 1 percent of all U.S. businesses, but contribute one in four dollars to the private sector and employ about 25 percent of the total workforce.

The report is based on an analysis of all of the firms in Dun & Bradstreet’s commercial databases of more than 19 million businesses between March 2011 and March 2016.

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