Alabama business roundup: Headlines from across state – 4/7/16 edition

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Who’s laying off more a quarter of their salaried workforce? What company’s launching a $19 Alabama expansion? Who’s bringing more than 100 jobs to Dothan?

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

Birmingham Business Journal: U.S. Steel to lay off a quarter of salaried workforce

U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE:X) announced this week it plans to lay off around 25 percent of its salaried workforce in North America.

The cuts come less than a month after the embattled steel producer announced it would lay off 800 workers, including 200 union-represented employees in Alabama. The Pittsburgh-based company has roughly 21,000 employees in North America and about 18,000 are represented by the United Steelworkers union. A 25 percent cut to non-union workers should impact approximately 750 workers.

Sarah Cassella, a spokeswoman for U.S. Steel, said the company is not providing an exact count as to how many jobs it plans to cut, or a locational breakdown.

The waves of U.S. Steel’s losses have been hitting the local manufacturing sector hard. Roughly $91 million of the company’s losses came locally. The blast furnace at the Fairfield Works facility was shuttered in August last year and work on a new electric arc furnace at Fairfield Works facility was postponed soon after, a halt which cost the company millions. More than 1,300 local workers have been laid off since the start of 2015.

The company also announced cuts at its mill in Kosice, Slovakia.

U.S. Steel’s annual shareholders meeting is scheduled for April 26.

AL.com: Population grew in most Alabama metro areas in 2015

Alabama’s metro area population continued to grow, increasing by 14,754 people or 0.4 percent from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015, according to the population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Population in non-metro areas of the state continued declining by 0.2 percent or by 2,186 people.

Most metropolitan statistical areas saw an increase in their population, but some areas saw a decline. The largest increase of 4,028 people (0.9 percent) occurred in Huntsville while Daphne-Fairhope-Foley saw the largest percentage increase of 2.0 percent or 3,996 people in 2015. Birmingham-Hoover, Auburn-Opelika, and Tuscaloosa metro areas saw population increase of 2,824, 2,567, and 1,919 people, respectively. During the last year, population also increased in Dothan by 178 people, in Mobile by 469, and in Montgomery by 536 people. Meanwhile, the Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Decatur, Florence-Muscle Shoals and Gadsden population declined.

Looking closer at the components of population change gives a better understanding of underlying trends in metro area population. Six out of the 12 metro areas experienced both positive natural increase (births minus deaths) and positive net migration (in-migrants minus out-migrants) in 2015. Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville, Florence-Muscle Shoals and Gadsden had both negative natural increase and net migration that year. For Florence-Muscle Shoals metro, 2015 represented a reverse trend in net migration—the number of in-migrants exceeded the number of out-migrants before, causing positive population growth during previous years. Dothan, Mobile, and Montgomery had births exceeding deaths, but the number of people moving out of the area was higher than the number of people moving into the area.

A recent positive trend in employment may have some effect on future metro population. Only Anniston-Oxford-Jacksonville and Mobile saw a decline in annual employment during the period ending in February 2016, according to the preliminary data release by the Alabama Department of Labor. The declines represent 0.2 and 0.3 percent decrease in total employment or loss of 92 jobs and 493 jobs for these two areas, respectively. Other metro areas with population decline in 2015 saw an increase in the number of jobs: Decatur total employment increased by 74 people, Florence-Muscle Shoals by 576, and Gadsden by 1,012 people from February 2015 to February 2016.

DATA: Population estimates are available at CBER website: http://cber.cba.ua.edu/edata/est_prj.html.

Alabama NewsCenter: Auto supplier Mando launching $19 million Alabama expansion

Mando America Corp. plans to invest $19 million in its Alabama manufacturing operation and hire 32 new workers to support the expansion, officials said Tuesday.

South Korea-based Mando, one of the world’s largest auto parts suppliers, has based its North American headquarters in Opelika, where it makes brake components, suspension modules and steering systems for U.S. industry customers.

As part of the expansion, Mando will add equipment and make improvements over the next three years to its facility in the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park. Once the project is complete, Mando’s Alabama investment will surpass $220 million and its workforce will number more than 700.

Mando also expanded in Alabama in 2013 and in 2012.

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller, who announced the project at the City Council meeting, said Mando’s additional investment underscores the manufacturer’s confidence in its Opelika operation. .

“Mando is very important to Opelika,” Fuller said. “They are one of our largest manufacturing employers, and we understand this continued investment is a testament to the success they have had in Opelika.”

Accelerating growth

Mando’s expansion comes amid a growth spurt in Alabama’s auto industry, which last year saw vehicle output eclipse the 1 million mark for the first time. Auto industry employment has surged, and rising production volumes have stimulated rapid growth in the state’s supply chain.

“Alabama’s auto sector recorded a banner year in 2015, and it continues to gain momentum through expansion projects like Mando’s in Opelika,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “When world-class automotive companies repeatedly expand their operations in the state, the industry gets another reminder that ‘Made in Alabama’ translates into success.”

Mando is recognized globally for its innovative automotive chassis components and systems. The company operates 17 production plants and eight research and development centers in 10 countries.

“Mando’s new expansion project in Opelika is a sign of the strong partnership bond that Alabama has developed with this international manufacturer,” Gov. Robert Bentley said. “Creating good jobs for Alabamians is the top priority of my administration, and Mando’s continued growth in Opelika is a welcome development.

“We’re committed to helping this world-class company expand its Alabama base,” he added.

Birmingham Business Journal: California company bringing 100 jobs to Dothan

A California-based clothing company announced plans to open a new East Coast distribution facility in Dothan, a move expected to bring more than 100 jobs to the area by this summer.

Next Level Apparel purchased the former Knothe Corporation building on Bruner Mill Road in Ashford. According to the Dothan Eagle, the company took advantage of tax credits made available by the Alabama legislature and plans to expand the existing property which has long been unused. Ashford Mayor Jonathan Grecu said the company will add two 60,000 square foot installments to meet operational needs.

Eyal Ron, Next Level Apparel’s chief operating officer, said the collaborative efforts between area and state agencies made a significant difference after considering several location across the Southeast.

The company also has distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts and Michigan.

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