Alabama business roundup: Headlines from across the state

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Here’s a roundup of some of the top business headlines from across the state this week:

AL.com: Hoover to consider raising city lodging tax from 3 to 6 percent

The Hoover City Council soon will consider a proposal to raise the city’s lodging tax rate from 3 percent to 6 percent to help fund capital projects.

The increase would boost the overall lodging tax rate in Hoover from 14 percent to 17 percent, given that the state receives 4 cents on every dollar spent on a hotel room, and Jefferson and Shelby counties each have a 7 percent lodging tax.

Hoover in recent years has gained about $1.5 million to $1.6 million in annual revenues from lodging taxes, so the proposed increase likely would generate another $1.5 million a year.

An ordinance scheduled for a first reading at Monday’s Hoover City Council meeting would authorize the increase, with the additional 3 percent being earmarked only for capital projects or debt service for capital projects. The ordinance is scheduled for a second reading and vote on July 20.

See the complete lodging tax ordinance here.

Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey said it’s a great opportunity for Hoover to gain some amenities, such as parks and sports fields, without passing the cost on to residents. It makes sense to have people from out of town help pay for amenities that they’re using, too, Ivey said.

“It’s been talked about for a long time, for years actually,” Ivey said. “Now we’re to a point where we really do need some more parks.”

Lower than Birmingham, Tuscaloosa

If Hoover’s 6 percent lodging tax were approved, it still would be lower than Birmingham’s 6.5 percent tax and equal to 6 percent lodging taxes in several other nearby cities, according to records from the Alabama Department of Revenue.

Homewood and Irondale bumped their lodging taxes up from 3 percent to 6 percent in 2005, and Irondale went even further to 7 percent in 2013. Leeds increased its lodging tax to 6 percent in 2006, and Bessemer followed suit in 2011. Fultondale has a 9 percent lodging tax.

In other parts of the state, the lodging tax rate is 6 percent in Oxford, Anniston and Selma, 7 percent in Auburn, Decatur and Huntsville, 8 percent in Mobile, 8.5 percent in Prattville, 10 percent in Montgomery and 11 percent in Tuscaloosa, state records show.

However, all of the counties that hold those cities have a much lower county lodging tax than Jefferson and Shelby counties. Some of those counties, such as Tuscaloosa, Dallas, Limestone, Morgan, Elmore and Autauga counties, have no lodging tax. Montgomery County has a flat $2.25 room fee.

Hotels in Alabama’s Mountain Lakes area, which includes Blount, Cherokee, Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan and Winston counties, have a 5 percent state lodging tax instead of the 4 percent lodging tax rate for the rest of the state.

Other cities in the Birmingham area that still have 3 percent lodging tax rates include Alabaster, Calera, Fairfield, Mountain Brook, Pelham, Trussville and Vestavia Hills, state records show. Some cities, such as Center Point and Gardendale, have no municipal lodging taxes.

Ivey said he feels confident the Hoover City Council will approve the proposed increase. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have brought it forward, he said.

Hoover Councilman Gene Smith said he has favored a lodging tax increase for a number of years, but he always wanted it tied to a particular project, such as a convention center that Hoover officials considered several years back. Birmingham leaders tied their 2010 3.5 percentage-point increase to the construction of Regions Field to draw the Birmingham Barons back to the Magic City from Hoover.

“If Hoover is going to move forward with this, it needs to be tied to a large project that’s going to bring people to hotels in Hoover,” Smith said. “My concern is if it’s too premature and people aren’t watching the money, it’s going to get lost in the capital fund.”

Fiscal 2014 was a banner year financially for the city of Hoover, with overall revenues increasing by $12 million to $117 million – an 11.4 percent jump from fiscal 2013, according to the city’s audited financial statements.

General fund revenues came in at more than $100 million for the first time ever – at $107 million. That was $12.4 million more than the original city budget projected. Expenditures ended up being $88.3 million — $4.7 million less than the $93 million budgeted.

The higher-than-anticipated revenues and lower-than-budgeted spending enabled the city to keep $31.8 million as its general fund balance and transfer $15.9 million into its capital projects fund for future projects at the end of the fiscal year.

The capital projects fund had $32.6 million at the beginning of fiscal 2015. About $13.7 million of that already is allocated for projects that have been approved but not finished, leaving $18.9 million. Some of that $18.9 million was allocated for new projects in fiscal 2015.

Hoover’s sales and use tax revenues were the biggest part of the growth for fiscal 2014, increasing 10.8 percent from $61.6 million to $68.2 million, records show. That represents 58 percent of Hoover’s total annual revenues.

Property tax revenues for the city of Hoover grew by 3.3 percent in 2014, from $10 million to almost $10.4 million. The city government gets 6.5 mills of property taxes for its general governmental use.

Ivey attributed the city’s financial success to the hard work of city staff, who strive to maintain a conservative, balanced budget. “In comparison to what you see around the country, we’ve really been blessed,” Ivey said.

However, the city needs additional revenue to meet growing capital needs, he said.

See the complete agenda for Monday’s Hoover City Council meeting and supporting documents here.

This story was updated at 7:50 a.m. to include information about lodging tax rates in other Alabama counties.

AL.com: Alabama business named one of nation’s best workplaces for millennials

An Alabama engineering and defense contractor has been named one of the country’s best companies for working millennials.

Intuitive Research and Technology of Huntsville is No. 13 on Fortune Magazine and Great Place to Work’s 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials list. About 31 percent of the firm’s workforce includes employees from the millennial generation, or those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s.

Intuitive, which has 279 employees globally, was ranked as the best place to work for millennials in a survey produced by Great Place to Work’s Great Rated last year. The company was also named the best medium-size American workplace in 2014.

“The company has been reluctant to have layoffs during dry spells, which has spawned loyalty among employees,” Fortune wrote. “The workplace culture is friendly but professional, and perhaps suited more to buttoned-up, serious millennials than hoodie-clad, techie millennials.”

The top 10 best companies for millennials were Power Home Remodeling Group, David Weekley Homes, Allied Wallet, Pinnacle Financial Partners, ACUITY, Ultimate Software, Workday, Boston Consulting Group, SAS and Edward Jones.

To determine the ranking, analysts examined companies surveyed using the Great Place to Work’s Trust Index employee survey. More than 300 surveyed businesses had at least 50 employees under the age of 35.

“Nearly 90,000 millennial-aged employees from these companies answered 58 questions about how frequently they experience the behaviors that create a great workplace,” the magazine said. “This resulted in a total score for each company based entirely upon employee feedback.”

Click here to see the full list and methodology.

Intuitive was one of the top 20 Alabama employers in May with the most online job ads, according to the state Department of Labor. The company currently has 29 openings on its website.

Tuscaloosa News: $1.2M federal grant to expand Ala re-employment program

Alabama will use a $1.2 million federal grant to expand a program aimed at getting unemployed people back to work.

The state says money from the U.S. Department of Labor will expand a program that provides one-on-one services to people receiving unemployment.

The state labor agency announced the grant in a statement Thursday.

The program provides intensive counseling to help people region the workforce. About 6,800 people have participated over the last year, and that number will increase to 10,000 with the federal assistance.

State workers will be identifying people most likely to run out of unemployment compensation and those who are receiving benefits as military veterans.

The services will be provided at unemployment offices around the state.

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