Birmingham airport gets $4.6 million for improvements

Birmingham Airport.jpg(The Birmingham News / Tamika Moore)

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport has been awarded $4.6 million in federal funds for improvements, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, announced today.

The U.S. Department of Transportation funds were awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration and will allow the continued rehabilitation of the airport’s taxiway A and the construction of an apron for aircraft using the future concourses A and B.

The airport currently is undergoing a $201 million terminal renovation, which is funded separately.

Al Denson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Airport Authority, credited Sewell with taking a strong interest in airport improvement projects.

Sewell, in a prepared statement, said the project will enhance safety at the airport and help create jobs.

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Renasant Bank buying RBC’s Birmingham-based trust department

batch of dollars 082009.jpgTupelo’s Renasant Bank, which has four locations in the Birmingham area, is adding to its local presence with the acquisition of RBC’s trust department, which is based in the city. (The Birmingham News files)Tupelo, Miss.-based Renasant Bank said today it has struck a deal to acquire the Birmingham-based trust department of RBC Bank, giving it $680 million in assets under management and clients in Alabama and Georgia.

 Financial terms were not disclosed. RBC’s trust department has personal and institutional clients with more than 200 trust, custodial and escrow accounts. The transition from RBC Bank for client accounts and trust personnel is expected to be completed before Aug. 31, Renasant said.

“Renasant and RBC Bank are committed to a seamless transfer of all client accounts on closing and we will work closely during the transition to ensure that we are providing the highest level of client service,” Ginny DeBardeleben, head of trust for RBC, said in a statement.

Once the deal is done, Renasant will have $1.5 billion in wealth management and trust assets under management.

Last month, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group announced a deal to buy Raleigh, N.C.-based RBC, the American arm of the Royal Bank of Canada for $3.45 billion. RBC has 17 offices in the Birmingham area, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data

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HealthSouth: Feds want information on Medicare, Medicaid claims

Birmingham-based HealthSouth Corp. said today it has received subpoenas from the Department of Health and Human Services related to an investigation of false claims submitted to Medicare and Medicaid.
The nation’s largest operator of rehabilitation hospitals said the request for documents from its Houston hospital came after two former employees of the that operation last year complained to the company they were terminated for refusal to commit wrongful acts. HealthSouth said in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission it doesn’t know if the two matters are related.

Shares of HelthSouth fell 6 percent to $24.50 in after market trading, according to Reuters. They closed at $26.03 on Wednesday.  

HealthSouth also said in the SEC filing that it hired outside consultants to review operations at the Houston hospital, and concluded the allegations by the former employees were without merit.

The Houston hospital has annual revenue of about $17 million, or less than 1 percent of the company’s yearly sales, HealthSouth said. The company operates 97 rehab hospitals in 26 states.

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Hall-Ford home in historic Fort Conde Village restored as 10-room inn


MOBILE, Alabama – The restoration of the Hall-Ford home is complete, and the circa 1836 structure makes its debut Wednesday as the new Fort Conde Inn, a 10-room boutique hotel in Fort Conde Village off Royal Street.

It is the 11th historic building in Fort Conde restored by developer Larry Posner within the past 13 years.

“I didn’t do it with expectations of making a lot of money,” he said. “I saw it as an adventure, and it has been.”

The fun will continue, he said. Two more buildings are to be restored in Fort Conde, and Posner plans to start work on those as soon as financing is in place.

Posner is committed to historic preservation and has the ability to get financing, and that sets him apart from run-of-the-mill developers, according to John Sledge, the historian at the Mobile Historic Development Commission.

“One by one he has been restoring the buildings and working on getting historic preservation tax credits,” Sledge said. “It’s a dream outcome.”

Posner will get a 20 percent tax credit for rehab expenditures on the Hall-Ford house, according to the National Park Service, which administers the Preservation Tax Incentive program with the IRS.

The 3-story Hall-Ford building on St. Emanuel Street is the most important restoration in the village, and the largest project, according to Posner.

He invested about $2 million in the project and financed another $700,000, he said.

The house melds a Creole-cottage style with a more formal Greek Revival style of architecture, according to Sledge.

Room rates will average $200 per night and include breakfast, Posner said. He has booked several weddings and receptions, which will make use of the large parlors on the first floor and the two courtyards.

Longtime Mobile restaurateur John Weichman will serve as the innkeeper and chef.

All the guest rooms feature 12-foot ceilings and elaborate chandeliers. But each room is unique in size and layout, and the details vary from clawfoot tubs, kitchens and fireplaces to views of Mobile River. All are furnished in period or antique replicas, but have flat-screen televisions and Wi-Fi.

Posner has spent the last 13 years dividing his time between his family home in Woodstock, N.Y., and his house in Fort Conde, but the travel has been worth it, he said.

“Everybody who sees the Hall-Ford gets inspired, and that’s greatly appreciated,” he said. “I made it as nice as I could.” 

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Metal magazine gives awards for TK project

Cranes unload steel slabs, which will be used by the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Calvert,  at the Alabama State Dock's new Pinto Island Terminal.The cranes at the Alabama State Dock’s new Pinto Island Terminal unload steel slabs from a cargo ship Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. These steel slabs will be used by the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Calvert. The new cranes use state of the art magnetic technology to unload the slabs (Press-Register, Bill Starling)

MOBILE, Ala. — American Metal Market, a leading trade magazine, has cited both the Alabama State Port Authority and ThyssenKrupp AG for excellence in the steel industry.

The port authority’s new Pinto Island steel transfer terminal won the magazine’s 2011 logistics and transportation provider of the year award.

ThyssenKrupp Steel USA’s new $5 billion steel mill in north Mobile County won the magazine’s best greenfield technology award.

Both projects were born in 2007, when ThyssenKrupp, aided by hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local government incentives, decided to put its first U.S. plant near Calvert. It was then that the port authority agreed to invest about $100 million in the Pinto Island terminal, which transfers steel slabs from ocean-going vessels to river-ready barges.

ThyssenKrupp’s Calvert facility processes slabs that come from Brazil, and ocean-going cargo ships are too large to navigate 40 miles up river to reach the plant.

The Pinto Island terminal began operating last year. It has a 45-foot draft, three cranes, can store up to 150,000 tons of steel at a time, and has the capacity to handle 5 million tons of steel per year.

“Optimizing technology and reducing operating expenses were the primary objectives for this terminal and a driving factor in recruiting a major industry to our region,” said Jimmy Lyons, chief executive for the Port Authority. “It is an honor to be recognized by the industry for our achievements in deploying the latest technological standard for marine terminal operations seen nowhere else in the world.”

ThyssenKrupp currently employs just under 2,000 people with plans to create about 2,700 total jobs at the 3,600-acre facility, which won the magazine’s award for greenfield technology.

Greenfield projects are those built in areas that have never had industrial facilities before.

The facility processes the steel slabs from Brazil into more refined material for customers, such as U.S. car manufacturers. 

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Sempra Energy names Debra Reed as new CEO


Sempra Energy has named Debra Reed to succeed Donald Felsinger as chief executive officer of the San Diego energy firm. Among its other holdings, Sempra owns Mobile Gas Service Corp., a natural gas utility that serves Mobile and part of Baldwin counties, as well as Bay Gas Storage in McIntosh and Mississippi Hub gas storage, southeast of Jackson, Miss.

Reed, 55, previously served as the head of the company’s two main California utilities, San Diego Gas Electric Co. and Southern California Gas Co.

Reed, who made $3.85 million in total compensation in 2010, was promoted to executive vice president of Sempra in April of that year as part of a plan for her to take over.

Felsinger will continue as executive chairman until his planned retirement when he turns 65 in late 2012. Neal Schmale, Sempra’s president and chief operating officer, will retain those roles until his planned retirement later this year.

“In her 33-year career with the Sempra Energy companies, Debbie has demonstrated outstanding leadership at every level of responsibility, a keen ability to drive superior performance and a broad understanding of the energy industry,” Felsinger said in a statement. “Our board and I believe strongly that Debbie is the best person to take this company forward.”

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On the move: Jeanne L. Jackson, Leslie A. Allen, Premier Bank of the South and more

Jeanne Jackson.jpegJeanne L. Jackson

The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham has named Jeanne L. Jackson president and chief development officer as the organization begins operating as an independent nonprofit.

Jackson most recently served as director of the Hess Center for Leadership and Service at Birmingham-Southern College, where she founded the program in 1991 and expanded it to include eight major programs. She has created and administered programs for government, nonprofit agencies and institutions of higher education for more than 30 years.

The Women’s Fund was formerly a component of The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham. As a stand-alone organization, it will continue to address issues that disproportionately affect women and girls.

• The Christian Small law firm said Leslie A. Allen has been designated state chair of the Council on Litigation Management, a leadership role in the organization.

The council is a nonpartisan alliance composed of thousands of insurance companies, corporations, corporate counsel, litigation and risk managers, claims professionals and attorneys. Allen practices in the areas of civil litigation, health care and labor and employment law.

• Premier Bank of the South in Cullman said it earned a five-star safety rating from Bauer Financial, a bank rating firm.

Premier Bank said it has been profitable for 32 consecutive quarters. It was founded in 1987 and has seven offices in Addison, Cullman, Eva, Madison and Vinemont.

• Alabama Telco Credit Union has been recognized for its community service efforts by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, which gave the Birmingham-based institution its Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Community Service Award.

The award recognizes a credit union for charitable projects that support its community. Alabama Telco received the honor in the $500 million-$1 billion category due to its partnership with the March of Dimes as well as community events it backs each year.

• The Birmingham Chapter of the American Marketing Association has elected new officers and board members.

They are: president, Ginger Gardner Aarons, the Birmingham Business Journal; president-elect, Brian Lawrence of BLR/Further; and treasurer and historian, Tom Nelson.

Board members include Keith Smith of Lift 361, past president; Mickey Gee of UAB School of Business, collegiate relations chair; Zach Meadows of McQuiddy Classic Printing, volunteers chair; Michelle King of Latitudes Marketing PR, membership chair; Anne Senft of the Birmingham Business Journal, program chair; Bill Stoeffhaas of Style Advertising, communications chair; Zackery Moore of Zeekee Interactive, social media chair; and Andrea Walker of W Social Marketing and James Spier of Apartment Locators, sponsorship co-chairs.

• Ford Harrison LLP, a labor and employment law firm, said Birmingham attorney Marion F. Walker has been named to Law Politics’ 2011 list of “Alabama Super Lawyers.”

During 33 years of practice, Walker has handled cases on employment issues and litigation, as well as class actions, fraud and business torts.

• Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP said 27 of its attorneys in Alabama received high rankings in the 2011 edition of “Chambers USA — America’s Leading Lawyers for Business.” In addition, Bradley Arant was ranked as a top firm in the state for banking and finance, bankruptcy/restructuring, corporate and commercial litigation and real estate. The firm said it also received high recognition for its labor and employment practice.

Mail announcements to On the Move, The Birmingham News, P.O. Box 2553, Birmingham, AL 35202, email text and JPEG photographs (150 KB minimum, with the file name including the person’s name) to, or fax to 325-3282. You can also follow the instructions under “On the Move” at

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Birmingham-based Regions Bank to offer Western Union services

Regions Bank-0131.jpg

Regions Bank later this year will begin offering Western Union money transfers and bill payment services, the Birmingham-based bank announced today.

Customers with Regions accounts and walk-in customers will be able to use the services.

“Our agreement with Western Union will allow us to offer a broader suite of products and services to meet the needs of our customers and communities while continuing to deliver the exceptional customer experience that Regions is known for,” John Owen, head of consumer services for the bank, said in a prepared statement.

Stewart A. Stockdale, president of global consumer financial services at Western Union, said the deal will help his company expand its business.

“Our expanding global money movement network provides consumers more ways to move money quickly to more destinations worldwide,” he said in the statement.

Plans also include offering Western Union’s online services to Regions’ online customers.

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Sunoco gas station opens at old I-459 BP site in McCalla

A former BP gas station just off Interstate 459 in McCalla was officially converted over to the Sunoco brand on Tuesday, the first of 13 retail outlets the Philadelphia-based fuel provider is opening this year in the Birmingham metro area.

It’s the first Alabama outlet for Sunoco, a Fortune 500 company that had a net income of $234 million last year and operates 4,900 fuel stores in 23 states.

The Sunoco at 4809 McAdory School Road is operated by Pelham-based fuel distributor Quality Petroleum of Alabama, and is the first of nine former BP gas stations the company is rebranding as Sunoco over the next six to eight weeks. Quality Petroleum is investing more than $1 million in the conversions.

“We started out as Amocos, then BP, and I can tell you the oil spill (by BP last year) did affect our sales some,” David Melton, a Quality Petroleum vice president, said after Tuesday’s McCalla retail store ribbon-cutting. “We think this rebranding as Sunoco will give us a new start.”

Melton said Quality Petroleum is currently converting a gas station on Ninth Avenue in Bessemer to a Sunoco, and the others will take place later this year. The company hopes to reach partnerships with other gasoline stores interested in having the Sunoco banner this fall.

Counting separate agreements reached with Chattahoochee Oil, another petroleum distributor, 13 new Sunoco-branded retail locations will be opening in metro Birmingham this year. Since last year, Sunoco has added 250 new retail locations to its network across the country.

Bessemer Mayor Kenneth Gulley said the investment by Quality Petroleum in rebranding two gas stations in the city (the McCalla location is in Bessemer city limits), is another example of economic growth in Bessemer.

“Obviously it’s exciting to have Sunoco’s flagship gas station in Bessemer,” Gulley said. “For them to choose to open the first Alabama location in Bessemer shows a lot about the economic progress taking place in our city.”

Sunoco spokesman Bob Owens said the company, which is the official fuel provider for NASCAR and Indy Racing, is glad that its brand can now be purchased near the historic Talladega Superspeedway.

“Our recent success in winning over new distributors has helped Sunoco enter new markets such as Alabama and expand our presence along the I-95 corridor, and in the Midwest and other Southeastern states. We remain focused on building the brand’s reputation in all of our markets,” Owens said in a news release.

Sunoco has made significant progress in growing its presence in the Southeast in recent years with large expansions in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the company said. The company recently acquired 32 retail sites in upstate New York, and signed long-term contracts to sell fuel along the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey and Ohio Turnpike.

Sunoco is a leading transportation fuel provider along the East Coast and Midwest. Its gas stations are principally supplied by Sunoco-owned refineries with a combined crude oil processing capacity of 505,000 barrels per day, according to the company.

Sunoco is also the general partner and has a 31-percent interest in Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, a publicly traded partnership which owns and operates 7,600 miles of refined product and crude oil pipelines, according to the news release.

Through SunCoke Energy, Sunoco makes metallurgical-grade coke for major steel manufacturers, with its facilities having the capacity to make 3.7 million tons of coke annually. Sunoco also is the operator of a 1.7 million tons-per-year coke-making facility in Vitoria, Brazil, the company said in the news release.

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Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley: Tornado response ‘has been managed well’


Tommy Battle with Robert Bentley.jpgGov. Robert Bentley, right, pictured with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, was Monday’s featured speaker at the Alabama League of Municipalities annual convention. The event continues today at the Von Braun Center. (The Huntsville Times/Michael Mercier)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Mayors and city council members from tornado-ravaged cities across Alabama got kudos from the governor on Monday for their leadership in the aftermath of the storms.

“Let me tell you, the crisis has been managed well,” Gov. Robert Bentley told hundreds of delegates to the Alabama League of Municipalities’ annual convention at the Von Braun Center.

“They never know what kind of mayor you’re going to be, and they never know what kind of governor I’m going to be, until you’re tested.”

The April 27 twisters that roared across the state on Bentley’s 100th day in office killed 243 people, wrecked more than 15,000 homes and caused at least $4 billion in property damage.

Bentley told a luncheon gathering at the VBC South Hall that his own response to the disaster began as soon as the first wave of tornadoes rolled in from Mississippi.

Before the day ended, he had declared a state of emergency, activated the Alabama National Guard and asked President Barack Obama for an expedited federal disaster declaration.

The governor applauded FEMA officials for agreeing to push back Monday’s deadline for tornado victims to apply for federal aid. Alabamians now have until July 18 to sign up for FEMA grants or U.S. Small Business Administration disaster recovery loans.

Also, FEMA is revising what Bentley called an “insensitive” form letter mailed to storm victims deemed ineligible for federal help.

“I’ve said, ‘Do not send out another letter to the people in my state that sounds like that last letter,’” Bentley said. “They said, ‘Yes, sir.’”

Cleaning up the mess left behind by the tornadoes is hardly Bentley’s only worry. The former Republican state lawmaker and physician from Tuscaloosa said he spends at least part of every day on job creation.

Despite good news such as Monday’s groundbreaking for a Raytheon missile plant on Redstone Arsenal that will employ about 300 people, Bentley said nearly 200,000 Alabamians remain out of work.

Lowering the unemployment rate “is the thing that we need to work on the most,” he said.

Last week, Bentley traveled to France for the annual Paris Air Show. He said he met with the chief executives of 14 major defense and aerospace firms about building or expanding in Alabama.

Elected in November to replace former Gov. Bob Riley, Bentley said he inherited the worst economy that any Alabama governor has ever faced.

Despite painful cuts in both education and state General Fund spending, Bentley said he is proud that the budget preserves the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative as well as distance learning programs and provides slightly more money for colleges and universities.

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