Alabama business round up: Headlines from across state – 3/29/16 edition

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Who’s helping connect early startups with angel investors? What company is joining the Mobile Aeroplex to support Airbus? Who’s pledging $500k to a UAB football building?

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

Birmingham Business Journal: ZipCar coming to Alabama

The City of Huntsville is set to welcome the popular car sharing service ZipCar this week.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is scheduled to join ZipCar executives and other local officials Tuesday to welcome the company. In February, the city approved ordinances allowing services like Uber, Lyft and Zipcar to start offering rides within Huntsville city limits. Uber began operating in Huntsville on March 4.

Zipcar, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, offers monthly membership plans allowing consumers to drive cars billable by the day or hour. The company has more than 500 urban locations worldwide. Gulf Shores to extend Spring Break booze ban beyond this year

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft “has no second thoughts” about a beach alcohol ban hastily imposed 11 days ago amid soaring arrests during Spring Break 2016, which was fast getting out of control.

Craft and Police Chief Ed Delmore, following Monday’s City Council meeting, both said they support a similar spring-break-only ban of booze on the beaches next year. This year’s ban ends on April 17.

“I know this was the right thing for this community,” Craft told “Next year, we’ll do the same thing and we’ll continue to do this. We had too many issues with it not to do it on the front end.”

Added Delmore: “Everyone needs to know this was a group decision and it’s nothing that none of us are looking back on.”

Delmore said the situation on the beach is much more “manageable,” although police have made further arrests.

According to Delmore, there had been 461 arrests since March 5, a majority attributed to underage possession of alcohol. This month, the Gulf Shores Police Department has received 3,100 calls for service.

The key trouble spot was March 12-18, when police logged 288 criminal charges. Nearly 60 percent were for underage drinking.

Last week, when days were damper and cool, and fewer spring breakers came out to the beaches, police filed 129 charges. Of those, 44 were related to underage drinking.

Delmore and Craft credited the City Council’s March 18 decision to immediately ban alcohol on the beaches for the decline. The ban came as angry locals were taking to social media to document unruly beach crowds and trashy parties.

Craft, himself, witnessed one of the gatherings outside the San Carlos condominium.

“You couldn’t see the water and neither could our paramedics or beach attendants. It was a mass of people,” he said. “There was a climate in there for conditions that we were not willing to have happen on our beach.”

‘Manageable’ situation

Very little was said about the alcohol ban during Monday’s council meeting. Only Delmore spoke about it as he thanked the council for moving ahead with the ban.

“We are still making numerous arrests every day but not nearly at the level we were being forced to prior to that ordinance,” Delmore said.

Last year, Panama City Beach, Fla., implemented a spring break booze ban after wild parties sullied that city’s image. This year, reports indicate that the ban drove spring breakers away, to Gulf Shores and elsewhere. This week, national media have described a throbbing spring break scene at Daytona Beach, Fla., where arrests have soared by 327 percent.

Very few colleges or universities are on spring break after the end of this week. The Gulf Shores ban ends on April 17.

Baldwin County Public Schools are on break this week, with Mobile County Public Schools taking its break April 11-15.

The University of Missouri is out this week, but classes have resumed at the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Texas A&M University, University of Texas, the University of Tennessee, Louisiana State University and the University of Arkansas.

Read more here.

Alabama News Center: Logistics giant Miller Transfer joins Mobile Aeroplex to support Airbus 

On the day the latest batch of major component assemblies made the trek from the Port of Mobile to Airbus’ U.S. Manufacturing Facility, the Mobile Airport Authority inked its latest tenant agreement with a service provider integral to the operation.

The office, which currently employs one person, is responsible for the logistics of physically moving the major component assemblies required by Airbus to assemble A320-family aircraft at its $600 million campus, also located at Brookley. The facility is slated to deliver its first Mobile-assembled A321 to JetBlue soon and reach production of four aircraft per month before the close of 2017, and as many as eight per month in the years following.Pennsylvania-based Miller Transfer will operate out of the second floor of the authority’s Ninth Street headquarters, known as Building 11, at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley.

“We believe that (Miller Transfer’s) decision to join us at the Aeroplex is another byproduct of our commitment to a well-thought-out and deliberate aerospace incubator strategy and adds just one more world-class capability set to the Aeroplex and Mobile,” said Roger Wehner, the airport authority’s executive director.

Thursday’s announcement comes less than one week after Germany-based aircraft seat manufacturer Recaro confirmed plans to occupy renovated space on the second floor of the former fire station in the heart of the former U.S. Air Force base, now home to a thriving aviation and aerospace cluster.The airbus incubator strategy offers low-cost, flexible solutions to attract suppliers to Mobile during Airbus’ initial low rate of production.

Wehner called the logistics announcement a “big piece” of the broader Airbus and Brookley strategies.

Praising Miller Transfer as a “great company,” he said the firm expects to employ as many as five in its large 9th Street office, while also operating a small truck yard and potentially taking advantage of exterior storage options.

“Miller Transfer provides world-class, specialized logistics solutions that could serve many large, high-value applications well,” Wehner said.

Founded in 1968, Miller Transfer was ranked 31st globally by International Cranes and Specialized Transport for 2015, and boasts one of the largest fleets in terms of capacity in the nation. The Mobile location will be the company’s first in Alabama. Angels of North Alabama forms to connect early startups with local investors

Two of Huntsville’s most promising startups will participate in the inaugural Angels of North Alabama (ANA) investment forum this week in Cummings Research Park.

The invitation-only event will kick off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday with wine and hors d’oeuvres at The Entrepreneurial Center on 515 Sparkman Drive in Huntsville. Mayor Tommy Battle will speak at 6 p.m. about entrepreneurship, followed by presentations from Alabama Launchpad winners Vital Metrix and MechOptix.

As the community’s entrepreneurial ecosystem grows, the biggest hurdle startups face is lack of investment capital. ANA formed earlier this month to connect north Alabama entrepreneurs with investors in the area.

“ANA forums will allow local investors to review and invest in early stage, innovative companies here in north Alabama, further adding to the positive economic growth in the area,” said Bob Thurber, chair of BizTech’s Investment Funding Committee.

BizTech staff and board members will vet each early-stage startup and provide necessary administrative resources. For example, sample legal documents will be provided to allow entrepreneurs and investors to “quickly and inexpensively get through the investment paperwork mill,” the organization said.

ANA and BizTech will not charge any fees for the service.

Vital Metrix, which has developed a heart monitor that provides data to cardiologists while patients are home, won $100,000 in December from Alabama Launchpad. MechOptix also won $50,000 to further advance its automatic brake lamp that protects cyclists from rear-end collisions.

“Now they need your support to continue their respective missions to be successful commercial entities,” BizTech said.

For more information about ANA and/or its inaugural forum, contact Marie Vanderliest at 256-704-6000 or

Birmingham Business Journal: Birmingham company pledges $500K for UAB football building

Protective Life Corp. will be donating $500,000 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for the construction of the school’s football practice facility.

This is the first and largest corporate gift to the UAB Athletics Foundation, which was formed last November and consists of many UAB and business leaders who head up fundraising for the athletics department.

UAB is in the final planning stages before breaking ground on the $15 million practice facility. The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees is expected to approve the final stage of the project in June.

Johnny Johns, CEO of Protective Life and UA trustee, said he hopes this pledge will encourage others to continue the community support for UAB.

“When the future of UAB Football was in question, the Birmingham business community, recognizing the importance of UAB athletics to the renewal of Birmingham, stepped up and provided the funding needed to keep the program alive,” Johns said. “But the job isn’t finished. UAB Football cannot reach its potential without quality facilities for coaches and players. That is why community support for the Football Operations Building project is so important. We hope our gift will encourage others to do what is necessary to ensure that UAB football can be successful and sustainable in the future.”

UAB Athletics Director Mark Ingram said the gift gives the program a lot of momentum as it prepares to return to the field in 2017.

“UAB Athletics has more momentum and financial support than ever,” Ingram said. “Our donors — old and new, including UAB undergraduates who voted in favor of a new self-imposed athletic student fee last fall — continue to support us at unprecedented levels.”

Earlier this month, a comprehensive plan for the future of UAB football was unveiled by Hatton Smith, chair of the UAB Fundraising Task Force, that included a new stadium and significant redevelopment around the BJCC. Those efforts are part of the Finish the Drive Campaign, which is aiming to raise $17.2 million to support football, rifle and bowling.


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