Guaranty fund assumes pensions for Alabama Aircraft Industries

alabama aircraft industries.JPGAlabama Aircraft Industries Inc. (The Birmingham News file/Linda Stelter)BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. said Friday it will pay the retirement benefits for more than 3,000 workers and retirees of bankrupt Alabama Aircraft Industries Inc.

The assumption of the pensions by the guaranty fund came after the company formerly known as Pemco Aeroplex said it can’t afford to pay them. The bankruptcy court agreed. The guaranty fund is a government agency supervised by the secretaries of the Labor, Commerce and Treasury departments.

“At PBGC we work to keep pensions going,” said Deputy Director Laricke Blanchard. “But when they fail, we’re ready to make sure people have retirement benefits they can count on.”

Alabama Aircraft, which maintains military planes, filed for Chapter 11 protection in February in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. It hadn’t been paying into the pension plan, and cited $68.5 million in pension debt. Terminating it, the company said in court filings, would help ensure the company’s survival, with 78 percent of costs tied to wages, medical benefits and the pension plan.

The company had a $1 million profit in 2009, the last year for which financial statements are available, after a $5.8 million loss in 2008. About 325 people work at the plant at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The company is operating during bankruptcy and has said it hopes to emerge sometime this year with a court-approved plan to repay creditors.

Full employment, such as when the company was the chief contractor on refurbishing KC-135 aerial tankers, has been as high as 1,600 workers. Alabama Aircraft lost the $1.1 billion KC-135 contract in 2007.

The guaranty fund said it will pay all pension benefits earned by Alabama Aircraft retirees up to the legal maximum of $54,000 a year for a 65-year-old.

Attempts to reach officials with  Alabama Aircraft were unsuccessful.

“Americans who work hard every day for their employers should know that the benefits they are owed will be there for them when they retire,” U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, said in a statement. “I am thankful that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. will step in to prevent catastrophic hardship for the thousands of Alabama Aircraft employees who would have lost their retirement benefits.”

The guaranty fund said it has taken over the pension plan’s assets and will use insurance premiums it collects from other plans to pay the benefits. The Alabama Aircraft pension plan has $82.4 million to cover $142.8 million in benefit promises, according to guaranty board estimates. The agency expects to pay about $58.9 million of the $60.4 million shortfall.

The guaranty fund receives no taxpayer dollars, with operations financed by insurance premiums levied on healthy plans, investment income and by assets recovered from failed plans.

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On the Move with Jordan Van Horn and Alex Leslie


Birmingham’s Founders Investment Banking LLC said Jordan Van Horn has been named the firm’s director of business development.

His primary responsibilities will include managing the Founders Forum, developing relationships with business owners and strategic business advisers and driving ongoing marketing initiatives.

Van Horn was most recently a partner at Seattle’s System Six Bookkeeping LLC, which provides outsourced financial management for small businesses.

Krebs Architecture Engineering Inc. said C. Alex Leslie has joined the firm’s civil engineering team as an engineer. Leslie’s responsibilities include completion of field surveying, design, preparation of drawings and specifications, and construction review activities for various projects.

Dick Scott has joined BancorpSouth as branch manager at the bank’s new Hoover mortgage lending office.

Scott, a Hoover native, brings more than 35 years of mortgage lending experience to the bank.


All Seasons Travel, a Birmingham-based travel agency, said it has been named in the top 20 of 164 agencies for the 2010 American Express Representative Excellence Award. The award honors member agencies that have reached superior sales results driving cruise and tour supplier goals or have secured the highest year-over-year sales growth.

Borden Burr is chairman of All Seasons Travel.


Birmingham’s Gallet Associates Inc. has officially changed its name to Terracon Consultants Inc. after joining the firm in 2009. As Terracon, it will continue to provide geotechnical, environmental, construction materials and facilities services.

Alain Gallet, the founder of the namesake firm, remains at Terracon as the national director of Terracon’s Energy Sector. Terrell Rippstein is the office manager of the Birmingham office.


Rodl Warren Averett LLC said Yong Seok Kwon has obtained the designation of Chartered Merger and Acquisition Professional. Kwon works in the firm’s Korean Business Services division, providing consulting, auditing and income tax services for Korean-owned clients. He works primarily with automotive manufacturing suppliers and other manufacturers.

Rodl Warren Averett is a joint venture between Birmingham’s Warren, Averett, Kimbrough Marino LLC, Rodl Langford de Kock LLP of Atlanta and German accounting firm Rodl Partner.

Cullman lawyer Champ Crocker delivered a speech at the American Association for Justice’s annual convention in New York. His speech was titled, “Cell Phones, Text Messages and the Constitution.”

The American Association for Justice is the leading organization for lawyers representing plaintiffs in the United States.

Mail announcements to On the Move, The Birmingham News, P.O. Box 2553, Birmingham, AL 35202, e-mail text and JPEG photographs (150 KB minimum, with the file name including the person’s name ) to, or fax to 325-3282.

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Jefferson County’s debt woes backdrop to SEC reform hearing in Homewood, Alabama

SEC 07/29/11SEC Commissioner Elisse Walter moderates a hearing on municipal securities reform. The hearing was held in Jefferson County at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, because of the county’s sewer debt crisis. (The Birmingham News/Beverly Taylor)

HOMEWOOD, Alabama –Jefferson County, home to one of the most notorious municipal finance debacles in history, is an argument in favor of greater regulation of the municipal securities market, a member of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday.

Elisse Walter, one of five members of the SEC, said at a hearing in Homewood on municipal securities reform that Jefferson County’s possible bankruptcy demonstrates that more can be done to protect cities and counties from bad investments and fraud.

As a result of SEC action, Walter said, investment bank JPMorgan Chase Co. paid a $25 million penalty that the SEC directed to Jefferson County, paid $50 million in compensation and canceled more than $647 million in fees related to transactions the SEC alleged were improper. JPMorgan didn’t admit wrongdoing in the settlement.

But for residents of Jefferson County now faced with $3.14 billion in remaining sewer debt, climbing sewer bills and the possibility of slashed county services, that may not be enough, she said.

“I strongly suspect that enforcement alone is cold comfort to many of those who have been affected by what has happened in Jefferson County,” Walter said.

The county defaulted on bonds that were backed by residents’ sewer bills after the 2008 market collapse. Former county commissioner and Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford was convicted of accepting bribes related to the deals, and two former JPMorgan bankers have been accused of paying millions to land the agreements. The county commission on Thursday postponed for a week a decision on bankruptcy as talks continue with creditors.

Walter was the lone SEC commissioner present in Homewood at the third of the agency’s traveling hearings on reform. About two dozen investment bankers, municipal finance authorities and academics testified before Walter and a panel of SEC staff that will write recommendations regarding new regulation.

The hearing was held in Jefferson County at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, who was unable to attend because of the ongoing debt ceiling debate in Washington.

The SEC has limited authority over municipal securities, in part because of the Tower Amendment, a 1975 law that bars the agency from requiring issuers of municipal securities to file documents before securities are issued. That burden falls instead on underwriters. A potential legislative effort to revoke that law was among the ideas briefly discussed.

Some suggestions

Many of those testifying before the panel argued in favor of greater disclosure, and many also suggested voluntary disclosure would offer a better solution than greater regulation.

Ned Mudd Jr., a Birmingham lawyer whose testimony was meant to represent investors, told the panel that many people don’t have time to study securities in depth, so greater disclosure would be an important tool for investors and municipalities.

“I can’t do the research that somebody who moves $7 billion can,” he said. “I don’t have a staff.” The key, he said, would be to keep the disclosure simple and include useful information.

And Scott Beardsley, executive managing director for the Little Rock investment banking firm Crews Associates, said municipal clients also aren’t always fully informed. He once called a school district official who was responsible for finance to discuss a bond issue, and found him driving a school bus. Keeping track of the details “is not always their top priority,” he said.

Ben Watkins III, director of the Division of Bond Finance for the state of Florida, argued against more mandatory disclosure.

“Jefferson County’s problems had nothing to do with disclosure,” Watkins said. “Don’t try to fix one problem with the wrong solution.”

Several investment bankers and banking attorneys who appeared before the panel offered advice on how the SEC could better identify municipalities that are in trouble.

J. Foster Clark, a partner in the Birmingham law firm Balch Bingham, which is representing Jefferson County in the sewer crisis, said the SEC should look for warning signs such as budget cuts, layoffs, unfunded pension obligations, cuts in services “and local officials frequently being seen in handcuffs.”

The SEC’s Walter, who did not endorse any proposed action, said her agency’s primary concern is protecting investors. But, as the Jefferson County crisis demonstrates, sometimes investors’ and taxpayers’ interests are intertwined.

“Investors who place their funds in municipal securities often are also residents and taxpayers of those municipalities,” she said. “It reinforces the fact that investors need to get good information from municipalities, and municipalities need to get fair and honest advice from finance professionals.”

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Financial stress paves way for worry, anxiety plus drag on workplace

House for sale.jpgCounseling services report an increase in business as joblessness rises and the housing market remains stagnant. This is occurring in the shadows of a national debate about the US debt limit and local discussion regarding the possibility that Jefferson County government could file for bankruptcy.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Rising unemployment. Markets in turmoil because of uncertainty surrounding the federal debt limit. The housing market remains mired in a funk. And in Jefferson County, a decision to file what would be the nation’s largest ever municipal bankruptcy lies less than a week away.

All of this is combining to create stress that can lead people to bad financial decisions and hurt productivity in the workplace, says Maureen Gleason, vice president of operations for Birmingham-based American Behavioral, which provides counseling and other employee services for clients across the country.

American Behavioral first started seeing a rising demand for its services just after the recession began in December 2007. Gleason said though requests for help fell over the past year or so when the economy improved, employees have turned to the company for help in increasing numbers in recent months as the recovery began to sputter.

Fear that a Tuesday deadline to resolve a stalemate between Congress and President Barack Obama over raising the federal debt ceiling has taken some folks worries to even greater heights, Gleason said. A U.S. government default would trigger cascading financial problems throughout the nation.

“Employers are really beginning to see how their employees’ financial stress is affecting their company’s bottom line due to increased (stress-related) sick leave and absenteeism to take care of financial-related issues.

Even companies whose employees haven’t missed work are dealing with what Gleason calls “presenteeism,” workers showing up but being preoccupied with financial issues while on the clock. Among the challenges Gleason has heard employees fret about — foreclosures, overdrawn bank accounts, rising utility, child care, and education expenses, issues they are having to deal with while receiving little to no raises over the past two to three years.

“Employees living in fear that a double dip recession will wipe them out, ongoing fear of losing the job they have and knowing that finding a new job will be extremely difficult, and a pervasive sense of anxiety and financial unease,” Gleason said. “Employers are beginning to implement and request financial education and other tools to help their employees budget and to know what resources are available to them if they are having financial difficulties.”

Bob Straka, a planner who heads Grandview Financial in Birmingham, said he has seen a surge in calls from clients “who are nervous” as Congress and Obama remain far apart in efforts to address the federal debt ceiling.

“Nobody knows what Congress and the president are going to do,” Straka said. “I had a guy ask if he should sell everything and hide the cash under the mattress. I told him no, I have his holdings pretty diverse and he’ll be OK.”

Joel Conn, a money manager who heads Lakeshore Capital in Liberty Park, said he hasn’t heard from any leery clients, in part because he has honed in the importance of not letting temporary news deter them from their long-term investment goals.

The challenge today, he said, is that in today’s 24-hour news cycle, investors are constantly being flooded with doomsday talk about how markets will react to inability to reach a deal, and locally, ramifications of a Jefferson County bankruptcy filing.

“Investors don’t like uncertainty,” he said. “Unlike Jefferson County, which doesn’t have enough money, the federal government has plenty of money. They will not allow their bills to go in default. Social Security and other federal programs won’t be at risk.”

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BankTrust parent posts another small profit


BancTrust Financial Group’s earned another tiny profit — $35,000 — in the second quarter, as troubled loans and other banking challenges continued to hold it at basically a break-even level. Profit was down from the same three months of 2010, when the parent of BankTrust earned $206,000. Per-share earnings fell from a penny in 2010′s second quarter to zero in the 2011 period.

“We’re methodically working through our problems and feel good that our expenses are going the right way,” said Chief Executive Officer W. Bibb Lamar, Jr., noting that non-interest expenses had fallen.

Mobile’s largest locally based bank has been trying clean up its soured loans, many made on property in the Florida Panhandle. It has made progress, now having posted two straight years of profits. But the black ink comes in drops, especially after BancTrust pays dividends on preferred stock that the federal government holds in exchange for the $50 million that it injected into the bank as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

This quarter, BankTrust paid $771,000 in preferred stock dividends, which ate most of what would have been an $806,000 profit.

Several key measures of loan conditions worsened again in the second quarter.

The share of the bank’s loans and other assets that aren’t performing rose to 9.04 percent, the third straight quarter of deterioration.

BancTrust set aside $5 million to cover future loan losses, compared to $3.1 million in the 2010 period. But the pot of money it has in loan loss reserves fell in the second quarter. That’s because BancTrust wrote off $10.4 million in loans in the period, up from $1.9 million in the 2010 period.

Lamar acknowledged the challenges, but did point to other positives. The spread between what BancTrust paid to depositors and what it earned from loans — the net interest margin — rose in the quarter. That key number is the bread and butter of most commercial banks.

Lamar said he also believed more business would shift to BancTrust because of continued merger activity. Hancock Bank just took over Whitney Bank, and PNC Financial Services Group recently announced it would buy RBC Bank, the American retail operation of the Royal Bank of Canada.

BancTrust’s Tier I capital ratio, a key measure of how much cushion it has to absorb loan losses, rose to 14.7 percent in the quarter. That’s more than twice the 6 percent that federal regulators describe as “well capitalized.”

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UAB professors, students push Wilcox County, Alabama economic development (with gallery)

UAB School of Business

Students and professors from UAB’s business school are helping to develop a marketing plan that aims to bring a little prosperity to one of Alabama’s poorest counties.

Six students and two faculty members from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have spent the past two weeks in Wilcox County, from July 18 through today.

David Klock, dean of the UAB School of Business, said the idea to help Wilcox County came after he met some of its residents at a conference last year. Klock said they asked if the business school could help them develop ways to create economic growth.

“They said, ‘We don’t need someone to come down and study us,’” Klock said. “They needed someone to come and actually do something.”

Wilcox faces challenges. About 36.5 percent of the county’s 12,552 residents live below the poverty line, compared to 15.2 percent of individuals in Jefferson County, according to U.S. Census data from 2005 to 2009. The estimated median family income in Wilcox County was less than half of that in Jefferson County: $26,960 compared to $56,971. In Alabama, 16.8 percent of families live below the poverty line and the estimated median family income was $51,989.

Sulynn Creswell, secretary for the Wilcox County Area Chamber of Commerce, said the work UAB students did with the chamber, students in high schools and businesses has been beneficial. The business school students were able to get high schools in the community more engaged.

“I think there will be a long-term impact, as those students who are local students have the opportunity to live and work here and bring about change in the years to come,” she said.

Klock said service learning is an important emphasis at the UAB School of Business, as is applying classroom knowledge to real-world situations. So the school sent the students and faculty members to work on several projects in Camden, a city of about 2,500 that serves as the Wilcox County seat. The Dean’s office is funding the project by providing compensation to the students and faculty.

One of those projects was working with high school students to teach them about website development and social networking, which was paired with developing business ideas for spurring economic growth.

Jacob Gelber, an instructor at UAB’s school of business who is helping lead the trip, said they chose several high school students for a series of brainstorming sessions with the UAB representatives. The students and instructors then identified the best ideas, and they are now putting them together in a marketing plan to be published sometime in the next few weeks, he said.

The groups realized that the mixture of arts and wildlife in the county could fuel economic growth, so the plan will focus on how to harness the work of artists in the region, along with the fishing and bird watching opportunities in the area.

For another part of the project, the UAB students worked with Black Belt Treasures, a nonprofit organization in Camden that aims to promote economic development through selling art and fine crafts. When it was founded in 2005, Black Belt Treasures worked with about 75 area artists. Now there are more than 350. Students met with Black Belt Treasures managers to help with inventory and operations, as well as help the organization develop a new website and set up a social networking marketing plan.

“We do a lot with arts education to try to enhance the quality of life within the region,” Creswell, who also serves as director of Black Belt Treasures, said.

One of the students who participated is Daniel Owens, who lived part of his life in Bangkok. Owens, who hopes to make a difference in impoverished areas of Southeast Asia, said the work in Wilcox County has been a tremendous learning experience. As part of the project, Owens and the others are working with the chamber of commerce to create a detailed marketing strategy to promote the arts and outdoors activities and stores in the region.

Also participating were UAB students Olu Dosunmu-Ogunbi, Lewinale Debbie Harris, Gabrielle Hood and Derrick Strong.

“Hopefully, we’re going to be really making a difference here,” Owens said.

Klock said one of the possible long-term goals is to create a mini-business incubator in Wilcox County to help spur entrepreneurial activity and stimulate economic development. He said the two-week initiative is just the beginning and said the school will continue fostering projects.


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B&A Warehouse will survive if it moves for ballpark, owner says

ba warehouse 2010.JPGIf BA Warehouse has to vacate its current building to make way for a baseball park, it won’t be the end for the business, managers said. (Birmingham News file/Michelle Campbell)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — BA Warehouse is more of a business than a building, though the two do seem to be intertwined.

But Susan Mason, managing partner with BA, said if the building at 1531 First Ave. South goes away to make room for a baseball park, that doesn’t mean the catering and event company will disappear with it.

“I have a really good staff and a really good kitchen,” Mason said Thursday. “We’re going to be OK.”

BA has become a popular location for parties, wedding receptions and other events since business partners Art Durkee and Bill Mudd purchased and renovated the 100-year-old building in 1999. That was before the Birmingham Railroad Park made the old warehouse district the hip new place to congregate.

Now, its location makes the BA building one of the key pieces of property for a new $50 million baseball stadium the city wants to build to entice the Birmingham Barons minor league team.

Officials with the city has identified the warehouse as one of the last two pieces of property where the owners have not agreed to sell.

Mason said she focuses on the business inside the building and didn’t even know it was slated to be ballpark property until she read about it in The Birmingham News Wednesday. She still isn’t certain what it means for the business.

“It’s a little bit too early to tell,” Mason said. “BA has a multi-year lease. That’s pretty much where we are.”

Mason said she realizes people associate the business with the building but doesn’t agree with those who believe the company can’t exist in another location.

“You never know,” she said. “It’s a crapshoot.”

The relocation of other businesses in the neighboring, more modern Commerce Row, including a Domino’s Pizza, would presumably be easier than moving BA, where the atmosphere created by the exposed brick walls, heavy metal warehouse doors and old wooden floors is part of the charm.

The city has keyed in on the four blocks between 14th and 16th Streets and First and Second Avenues South for the baseball park property after another site to the west of the Railroad Park became too difficult to assemble.

City officials have said they plan to offer assistance to businesses that have to relocate, though they have not provided specifics.

The Barons and the city want the baseball stadium to be next to the Railroad Park.

In the end, the BA Warehouse building’s owners will decide if they want to sell to the city. There is also the possibility the city could use eminent domain if it comes to that. Mason said in the meantime, she is open for business and can’t worry about the rest.

“I’m just kind of catching my breath,” she said. “I’m not panicked. BA is a thriving business in this city. We’re cooking as we speak.”

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On The Move: Marc Engel, Whit Bird, and more

Cummings Creative Group, an advertising and marketing agency, has named Marc Engel as creative director.

Engel will oversee the Birmingham firm’s creative department as well as handle public relations for new business.

Engel began his career in Atlanta, working on brands including Coca-Cola, before moving to Chicago. There, he was an associate creative director and senior copywriter for brands such as the Chicago Tribune and several hotels and resorts.

Whit Bird has joined First Commercial Bank‘s Commercial Real Estate Group as vice president.

Bird will primarily handle commercial real estate and residential construction loan production and portfolio management. He has 12 years of banking experience.

Birmingham’s Intermark Group Inc. has made two hires.

Ali Patton joins the firm as an account executive working on Chevrolet local marketing area accounts. Patton previously worked at Ogilvy Mather in Atlanta as an assistant account manager.

Shelby Greason joins the firm’s Digital Media Department as an interactive consumer intelligence analyst. Greason previously worked at Alabama Credit Union as a branch supervisor.


The Alabama Retail Association has designated Alvin Lewis Jr., vice president of tax and payroll for Birmingham-based Books-A-Million Inc., as the organization’s representative on the Alabama Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission.

Lewis has 25 years of experience in directing and managing tax audit and compliance as well as developing and implementing tax software systems. He has worked at Books-A-Million since October 2006. He previous directed sales and use tax compliance for Saks Inc. and served as a tax auditor for the Mississippi State Tax Commission.

BioHorizons Inc., a maker of dental implants and other medical devices, said Robert H. Blankemeyer has joined the Birmingham company’s board of directors.

Blankemeyer has served as president of the Surgical Technologies sector at Medtronic Inc. and on the company’s executive committee. Before that, he held senior positions at Storz Ophthalmics, including chief operating officer and president.


Alabama CASA Network Inc. said Nancy Lard of Regions Bank, Steven Leaf of Surgical Care Affiliates and Sandy Anderson of Source Medical have joined the organization’s board.

The mission of Alabama CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is to ensure that every abused, neglected or abandoned child in the state has a competent, caring volunteer appointed to advocate for the child’s best interest in court.

Michael Ryan Snuggs
of Bromberg Co. has earned the designation of certified gemologist from the American Gem Society, a title held by only 600 retail jewelers in the U.S. He also holds the registered jeweler title.

Donald Colee earned the Roderick Beddow Sr. Award from the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association, recognizing lifetime achievement and distinguished service. Colee last year received the Larry Sheffield Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award from Greater Birmingham Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Association.

Mail announcements to On the Move, The Birmingham News, P.O. Box 2553, Birmingham, AL 35202, e-mail text and JPEG photographs (150 KB minimum, with the file name including the person’s name ) to, or fax to 325-3282.

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Bon Secour commercial lots up for sale in Gulf Shores


The owners of Bon Secour Village have put about 250 acres on the north side of Baldwin County 4 in Gulf Shores on the market, including a 64-acre site adjoining Faulkner State Community College.

Charter Landing Inc., whose principals include Ken and Deena Montgomery of Point Clear, paid $4.5 million last April for 842 bank-owned acres on the north side of County 4 and 66 acres on the south side, including 4,000 front feet on the Intracoastal Waterway, according to court records.

Charter also has a contract to purchase the 60-slip marina, according to Ken Montgomery.

The planned community went bust more than two years ago, and Wachovia Bank won a $20.4 million judgement against the developers, taking ownership of about 900 acres. The traditional design included condominiums, upscale homes, retail shops and a marina.

Last month, Charter sold 589 acres of damaged wetlands in Bon Secour Village along the Intracoastal to Baldwin County. Commissioners said that $1.8 million investment would pay dividends because the Corps of Engineers estimated it could generate up to $5.5 million in value through mitigation credits.

The acreage released for sale last week has been divided into seven lots, starting at 15 acres priced at $339,000, according to Montgomery. The largest parcel, 64 acres, is listed at $1.59 million.

The property is zoned commercial or high density for condominium or multi-family, and averages $15,000 to $24,000 per acre.

Montgomery said that he plans to pitch the 64 acres to Faulkner for future expansion, and to the city of Gulf Shores.

Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said that the city would be interested in the land, “if we had the money.” He emphasized that there have been no discussions with the city council on the topic.

If Faulkner was interested in land for expanding its Gulf Shores campus, the city would try to help them in any way it could, Craft said. Faulkner’s culinary institute has been a great fit for the city’s tourism industry, and provides skilled workers for the area, he said.

Faulkner President Gary Branch said he was unaware that the land was available for sale.

“Under the ideal conditions, we would certainly be interested in that,” Branch said. “We are eventually going to have to expand that campus, but like with most things in life, it has to do with money.”

The college does have enough land in its existing tract to accommodate a couple of more buildings, he said.

A group of investors who bought 38 bank-owned residential lots in Bon Scour Village on the south side of County Road 4 plan to hang onto it, said Nathan Cox of Bellator Real Estate Development.

“Anything they do on the north side will help us,” he said.

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Fairhope’s Fokker AIRINC to close by October, as many as 55 jobs at risk


The Fokker AIRINC parts repair facility in Fairhope will close by October, shifting operations to a sister aircraft parts repair facility in LaGrange, Ga.

Fokker Technologies said that some of the 55 Fairhope employees could be offered transfers. Employees were told of the closing Thursday.

Frans van de Pol, vice president of component repair, said the parent company continues to wait for its business to recover from the recession. Some other aerospace firms, such as Goodrich Corp. and ST Aerospace, have said their businesses have turned up in the last 18 months.

“We don’t seen those signs of recovery yet,” van de Pol said.

He said that the LaGrange facility is larger than the one in Fairhope, and is closer to the Atlanta airport. Fokker Services mainly repairs parts for U.S. airlines and other parts suppliers.

Fokker will offer some employees jobs in LaGrange.

“I’m not saying we have positions for everyone, but we have some open positions,” van de Pol said.

Van de Pol said Fokker would provide job search help for remaining employees, and has contacted other aerospace firms to try to find them jobs. Many Fokker employees are certified aircraft mechanics, traditionally a high-demand credential.

“We have some really good people,” Van de Pol said.

Robert Ingram, president of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, said Fokker had been a good citizen and he was sorry that the company didn’t give Baldwin County a chance to lure the LaGrange operation to Fairhope. He said he believed workers would find other jobs relatively quickly because of their skills. ¶

The closure ends Fokker’s five-year ownership of the Greeno Road firm, which was sold to the Dutch company in 2006 by former owner Mark Lee. Lee bought the company from the original owner in 2000.

When Lee sold the company, he said he believed linking up with Fokker would extend AIRINC’s reach, especially outside the United States. But though Fokker promised growth in Fairhope, employment at AIRINC remained roughly level.

Lee still owns the 26,000 square-foot building and a small piece of adjoining property. The Fairhope Industrial Development Board owns the land under the building.

Lee, who now lives in California, said he has an option to buy the land for a “nominal” amount. He said he only learned of the closure Thursday and doesn’t know what he plans to do with the property.

“I’m certainly sorry they’re closing it,” Lee said. “I always thought Fairhope was a good place to do business.

Charlie Bassett, the chairman of the industrial board, said his group would work to attract a new tenant regardless of whether it had an ownership interest in the property.

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