Alabama business roundup: Headlines from across state – 3/11/16 edition

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How to Alabama property taxes rank compared to the rest of the county? How will the Walmart pay increases affect Alabama metros? Which Alabama city is nearing a record-high in their exports?

Answers to all of these questions and more in today’s business roundup: A look at how Walmart’s pay increases will affect major Alabama metros

The world’s largest retailer by revenue is providing pay increases to more than 33,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club employees in Alabama.

Earlier this week, Walmart said it would raise wages today as part of its largest single-day, private-sector pay increase, which affects more than 1.2 million associates in the U.S.

Here’s how the pay bump will impact some of Alabama’s largest metros:

  • Birmingham area: more than 7,900 employees
  • Huntsville/Athens/Decatur area: More than 4,700
  • Montgomery area: More than 2,300
  • Mobile area: More than 4,400
  • Tuscaloosa County: 1,060
  • Anniston/Oxford/Gadsden/Jacksonville/Talladega area: More than 2,300

This month’s pay changes include:

  • All associates hired before Jan. 1, 2016, will earn at least $10/hour.
  • New entry-level associates hired after Jan. 1 will continue to start at $9/hour and will move to at least $10/hour after successfully completing the company’s new retail skills and training program known as Pathways.
  • Associates already earning more than $10/hour will see their annual pay increase in March rather than waiting until their anniversary date.
  • Walmart is raising the starting rate of its non-entry level hourly pay bands. Anyone earning below the new minimum will automatically move up to the new minimum.
  • Associates at or above their pay band maximum will receive a one-time lump sum payment equal to 2 percent of their annual pay.

Click here to learn more about the pay raises.

In January, Walmart shut down nine Alabama stores, cutting 500 to 600 jobs in the process. About half of the positions were from the Supercenter in Fairfield.

Neighborhood Markets in Auburn, Phenix City, Montgomery, Theodore and Huntsville launched the same month, followed by a second Montgomery store March 2. A location in Dothan is expected to open March 16.

The company is hiring 300 workers for its new Supercenter on Winchester Road in Huntsville. The store should open around June.

Alabama Newscenter: First Alabama-made Airbus aircraft shows off JetBlue colors

The first Alabama-made Airbus A321 is sporting JetBlue colors.

Airbus said Friday that painting of its maiden U.S.-built passenger jet has been completed in its paintshop at the company’s new, $600 million facility at Mobile Aeroplex. The aircraft emerged wearing JetBlue livery.

“This latest milestone shows that the first aircraft to be produced at the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility is progressing well on its route to first flight and delivery in spring 2016,” Airbus said in a release.

The aircraft left the production floor at the Airbus Alabama campus last month for the paintshop, which is operated by Ireland-based MAAS Aviation.

Airbus’ Alabama workforce started assembling the first aircraft shortly after the plane’s major components arrived at the Port of Mobile last June via cargo ship from Europe. Airbus plans to assemble four to five aircraft per month at the Alabama facility once production ramps up. The manufacturing operation will eventually support 1,000 jobs in Mobile.

Also on Friday, another shipment of major aircraft components arrived at the Airbus campus.

Dothan Eagle: Alabama’s near record exports include products made in Dothan

Wiregrass companies competing in new and expanding markets were among companies that helped fuel exports from Alabama to a near-record level in 2015.

The U.S. Department of Commerce reported Alabama exports totaled $19.37 billion last year, which was just below the all-time record of $19.58 billion set in 2012. According to information compiled by the Alabama Department of Commerce, exports have grown 25 percent since 2010 and 78 percent since 2005.

Total exports from the U.S. were $2.23 trillion in 2015, according to the national commerce department.

The top five markets for Alabama exports in 2015, according to the department, were Canada, China, Mexico, Germany and the United Kingdom. The major export categories with gains included vehicles, primary metals, machinery, paper, plastics and rubber products.

The 2015 totals did mark a .36 decline from the $19.44 billion in Alabama exports in 2014. In Dothan, the value of exports in 2014 amounted to $334 million.

A breakdown of exports in metropolitan areas of the state was not immediately available for 2015.

Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Parker said factors including workforce availability, transportation/logistics, available natural raw resources, business infrastructure and leadership lead to the area’s strength in exports.

“Our companies have the ability to compete internationally because we have several key factors in place,” he said.

“Our chamber remains committed to assisting Wiregrass businesses sell their products worldwide.”

Dunbarton, which manufactures and distributes metal bifold doors, mirror bifold doors and metal door frames, is among local companies that export across all 50 states and globally. The company also sells ready-to-install hollow metal doors and frames, wood doors and complete prehung door units.

Jill Riley, The Dunbarton Group’s vice president of sales, said Dunbarton has exported to Puerto Rico for more than 30 years and to both Canada and Mexico for about 15 years.

The company employs about 150 people in the Dothan location and 15 in its location in Camden, Tennessee.

Riley said the company had around 250 employees before the recession in 2009 and has had as few as 114, but the company’s workforce is growing. She said several employees have been with Dunbarton for more than 40 years, with the large majority working there for more than 20 years.

“This year we will celebrate our 70th anniversary and are very proud of the fact that we are ‘made in America,’” Riley stated.

“…The building industry is back in high speed and our business is growing respectively. …We have currently added a second shift and are looking to potentially add a third shift in the very near future.”

Glasstream Powerboats, one of Dothan’s newer manufacturing companies, also exports globally. Company marketing director Ashley Strong said the company, which manufactures more than a dozen models of fishing and pleasure boats and new coastal interceptor vessels, exports to Canada, the Mediterranean, Europe, the Middle East and South America.

The company has employed about 50 workers in its first year in Dothan, she said.

Jonathan Gilmore, business development manager for Fabrics and Fibers at Twitchell Technical Products, said the company’s Fibers and Fabrics Division and Coated Products Division together export to nearly 50 countries per year, which represents 10 percent of the company’s revenue.

Gilmore said some companies to which Twitchell exports its technical fibers and fabrics, and other products that use Twitchell’s specialization technologies, are located in Belgium, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Colombia, China and Canada.

“Some of our more recognizable domestic customers that are exporting goods that incorporate our products are 3M, Mechosystems, Disney, OilDri, Mohawk, Gates, Tropitone, Kimberly-Clark, & Chilewich,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore said Twitchell has seen a growth of nearly 15 percent over the past four years. The company currently employs about 350 people.

“Additional job creation is anticipated in the near future due to both organic growth and acquisition,” he said.


Anniston Star: Anniston firm wins award for building National Guard “shoot house”

Anniston’s Whorton Engineering, Inc., recently earned a national award for exemplary engineering. The American Council of Engineering Companies presented the local firm with one of the 49th annual Engineering Excellence Awards for its role in the Live Fire Shoot House Project at the Alabama National Guard’s Pelham Range in Alexandria.

“We were really excited. It was a very unique project that was both challenging and interesting to work on,” said Heather Page, a mechanical engineer with Whorton.

The Live Fire Shoot House is a semi-enclosed, bullet-resistant structure designed for specialized live-fire training exercises for armed forces special operation units. The challenges included installing bullet resistant media and exhaust systems for the structure, Page said. Because there were only two other facilities of this type, the design team had to conduct extensive research to create a facility that met the owner’s needs. The team also designed a sniper tower, after-action review building, a 100-meter range, ammunitions breakdown building, and an enclosure for observer bleachers.

ACEC recognized 151 projects throughout the world, and all were eligible for top national honors.

The American Council of Engineering Companies represents more than 5,000 independent engineering firms and more than 325,000 professionals throughout the United States engaged in the development of America’s transportation, water and energy infrastructure, along with environmental, industrial and other public and private facilities.

Founded in 1909 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., ACEC is a national federation of 51 state and regional organizations.

Birmingham Business Journal: Alabama has nation’s second lowest property taxes

Alabama’s property taxes are the second lowest in the nation, according to a new study.

Only Hawaii has a lower effective tax rate on real estate than Alabama’s 0.43 percent, according to the study by WalletHub.

Alabamians would pay just about $764 in real estate taxes on a home worth $176,000, which is the median home price in the U.S.

When taking into account Alabama’s relatively low home prices, the state comes out even better. Alabamians would pay just $538 on a home worth the state’s median value of $123,000. That’s the lowest tax for a state’s median value home in the nation.

Alabama’s low property taxes have long been cited as a big advantage in the economic development world, although some have said the state’s heavy dependence on other taxes has contributed heavily to Alabama’s budget challenges.

Among neighboring states, Tennessee ranked 12th, Mississippi ranked 15th, Georgia ranked 25th and Florida ranked 30th. New Jersey, Illinois and New Hampshire had the highest real estate taxes.



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