Sen. Jeff Sessions tells defense-heavy Huntsville that ‘super committee’ plan threatens Pentagon budget

jeff sessions“Everything’s got to be on the table, but no other area of the government is being looked at for something close to a 20 percent cut,” said Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions after a “Washington Update” breakfast speech presented by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce this morning. “Very valuable programs would suffer unwise cuts.” (Associated Press file photo)HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — The Congressional compromise forged this summer during debate over raising the debt ceiling poses an “illegitimate” threat to the Department of Defense, said U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions this morning.

If the dozen members of the bipartisan “super committee” in Congress are not able to agree by November 23 on a plan to cut about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, the agreement calls for big, automatic, across-the-board reductions in spending. Sessions said the cuts are disproportionately focused on military programs.

He said about 20 percent of the defense budget could be lost over 10 years under that worst-case scenario, which would lead to major layoffs in personnel, rapid reductions in troop strength, reductions in veterans’ benefits, and other ills.

“Everything’s got to be on the table, but no other area of the government is being looked at for something close to a 20 percent cut,” Sessions said after a “Washington Update” breakfast speech presented by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “Very valuable programs would suffer unwise cuts. And certainly missile defense would be at risk.”

It was no surprise there was another packed house for the annual event at the Von Braun Center, despite the early hour: Roughly half the local economy depends on defense, space and other federal spending, said Rose Allen, the chamber’s vice chair of Governmental Affairs.

Sessions said that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that if the committee doesn’t reach an agreement the cuts could cause the military to “break faith” with the force that has fought two wars, would inhibit development of equipment for the future and could “hollow us out.”

“They’re going to have to tighten their belt, but we can’t hollow it out, we can’t break it,” Sessions said to applause. “We can’t break faith with the people who served and put their lives on the line year after year, multiple deployments, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We can’t do it.”

The senator, who is now in his third term, said there were a number of myths about defense spending that make it an attractive target for those looking to make big budget reductions without working to find cuts in food stamps, the Department of Education or other programs.

While it’s true defense spending has increased because of the War on Terror, Sessions said, it remains at an average of about 4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, well below the historic norm of 7 percent.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not caused our deficit problems, he also said. They have been expensive, he said, but this year’s deficit alone is equal to the entire cost of those wars over the last decade, about $1.3 or $1.4 trillion.

Sessions said that even if the super committee achieves its announced goal, the savings will fall far short of the $4 trillion in deficit reduction most experts say is needed. What the country needs is a real, comprehensive fiscal plan, he said.

“The president needs to look the people in the eye and tell them that this debt problem we have is not just something that’s going to improve when the economy comes back,” Sessions said. “The economy being down is a big factor in it. But the numbers are clear. As the economy grows it still will not pull us out of this.”

Other things Sessions suggested are making the tax system simpler and a “growth-enhancer,” creation of a lawful system of immigration that serves our national interests, and producing more nuclear, shale gas, offshore oil and other energy at home in the United States.

“We want to create some jobs? Let’s build a nuclear plant – pollution-free energy for 60 years at a competitive cost,” he said.

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ThyssenKrupp: Inoxum to be name of divested stainless steel business

thyssenkrupp-stainless-ulrich-albrecht-fruh.JPGView full sizeUlrich Albrecht-Frueh, president and CEO of ThyssenKrupp Stainless USA, stands in front of the construction site of the stainless steel melt shop on Tuesday May 31, 2011. (Press-Register/Victor Calhoun)

MOBILE, Alabama — Inoxum will be the new name for the stainless steel business that ThyssenKrupp AG plans to divest, including its stainless operation in Calvert.

Germany’s largest steelmaker said today that it has now organized the business so it can be separated. But ThyssenKrupp still isn’t saying how it plans to get rid of a majority share of the business.

“The way in which the separation will take place – through an IPO, spin-off or sale to a best owner – is still being examined,” the company said today in a statement. “All options are still open.”

ThyssenKrupp has pledged to German unions to keep a minority share and make sure any future owner avoids mass layoffs.

Factors that led ThyssenKrupp to seek a parting include overcapacity among stainless steel makers in Europe and stainless prices that swing widely with changes in the price of nickel, used as an alloy metal.

Analysts in Europe have widely speculated that ThyssenKrupp will seek to sell shares in the stainless business. Some have wondered whether ThyssenKrupp, Europe’s largest stainless producer, might combine with Finland’s Outokumpu or with Aperam, a stainless entity recently spun off from ArcelorMittal. ThyssenKrupp, though, accounts for 40 percent of European stainless production, posing antitrust obstacles to a merger or sale.

ThyssenKrupp’s $5 billion Alabama complex in Calvert, on the Mobile-Washington county line, is shared by both stainless and carbon steel units. The stainless side is currently pushing through the remaining $700 million of its $1.4 billion capital investment, spending that is mainly going toward building a melt shop that will turn scrap into new stainless steel. The melt shop is supposed to be operational by December 2012.

ThyssenKrupp’s stainless business had operated as Nirosta in Europe and Mexinox in Mexico. What will be Inoxum has roughly 11,300 employees in Germany, Italy, Mexico, China and the United States. The Calvert unit has a target of 900 employees.

Ulrich Albrecht-Freuh, the chief executive officer of ThyssenKrupp Stainless USA, was recently named the chief of technology for Inoxum, one of the top four management positions. Albrech-Freuh continues to be based in Calvert.

The stainless sale is part of a larger reorganization announced by ThyssenKrupp in May. The company, trying to cut debt and enhance its profit margins, is also divesting a number of auto-parts operations and is trying again to sell part of its German shipyards.

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Alabama aviation industry poised to take flight, exec says

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama’s aviation industry is poised to reach new heights, a top official with the industry’s latest addition to the state said Thursday.

“Alabama has a rising reputation in the aviation industry with the work being done in Huntsville, Mobile and other places,” said Mike Sims, general manager with GE Aviation, which is building an engine coatings plant in Auburn that will eventually create around 400 jobs.

“Alabama is well positioned to see a great deal of growth in this industry.”

The industry giant’s jet-engine division hosted a business supplier symposium in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant Conference Center Thursday with the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority. It featured a keynote address from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

In an interview after his address, Shelby said there are a number of major aerospace and aviation initiatives that could boost the state’s presence in the industry. He said though Airbus parent company EADS failed to win a tanker contract with the U.S. Air Force, Airbus may end up building commercial airplanes in Mobile.

“They’re looking to see if it’s feasible,” Shelby said. “I would like to see it happen.” Jeff Thompson, executive director of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association, said the industry in Alabama and throughout the country was grounded by the economic downturn but has since returned.

“I think we hit bottom are we’re starting to climb back,” he said. “The future looks really bright.”

GE’s Sims told the 100 or so attendees at Thursday’s symposium to not limit their options to the Auburn plant, but look for ways of doing business with GE around the world and with other aerospace companies.

Aviation is about a $20 billion industry for General Electric, and the company spends more than $1 billion annually in research and development on just the aviation side of its operations, Sims said. GE Aviation has 83 facilities in 11 countries with around 37,000 employees.

It also has 13,000 suppliers and the capacity to add many more. One of those businesses is Alabama’s GKN Aerospace, which operates an aircraft components plant in Tallassee with around 1,000 employees.

Holly Spain, contracts manager for GKN, said the Tallassee plant did around $230 million in business in 2010, with $50 million of that with GE.

“That makes us the largest GE supplier in Alabama,” she said.

Among the GKN’s projects for GE is a new composite housing for turbine engines that reduces the weight by 600 pounds. That engine is used in Boeing’s new Dreamliner commercial jet.

Sims said GE Aviation left this year’s Paris Air Show with $27 billion in new orders for engines and components, some of which are not even commercially available yet.

Thompson said if one company is experiencing substantial growth it bodes well for the entire industry.

“The future looks really bright,” he said.

Businesses that took part in Thursday’s symposium learned what it takes to do business with GE — from the company’s supplier selection process to the quality and regulatory requirements that come with being an aviation industry supplier. Company officials were able to break out into face-to-face sessions with GE representatives.

Eric Hinton, the sourcing leader for GE Aviation, said the company purchases 80 percent of its components, or about $9 billion annually, from suppliers.

“We’re looking for suppliers that can grow globally and support all of our businesses,” Hinton said.

Dara Longgrear, executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, said he had the idea for the symposium when GE Aviation was searching for sites to build its new coatings plant. Although the company chose Auburn, Longgrear said he wanted to host the symposium anyway because he sees the potential for expanding the aviation industry in west Alabama and GE officials agreed.

“From the time they began looking, we had the idea of helping them grow their supplier base across the state,” he said. “We plan to continue working with them and their suppliers to make them successful and grow the industry here.”

Any Jocham, director of industrial recruitment and retention at the authority, said it has identified a 60-acre site at the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport it is marketing to companies in the industry who need access to a long runway.

Sims said he hoped to leave the symposium with up to a dozen viable new suppliers for GE Aviation.

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U.S. Steel manager Gordon Jones slows down in Fairfield after 62 years

Today, the 80-year-old Jones will mark his last full day at the sprawling U.S. Steel complex, where he began working on April 1, 1950, in one of the company’s nearby mines. He officially retired from U.S. Steel as a maintenance supervisor in 1982, but continued working at Fairfield Works over the past three decades as office manager at its tubular operations plant for Foerster Instruments, a German company that maintains the pipe mill equipment there.

Though officially retiring today, Jones says he will continue working at the plant part time three days a week for a couple of months to ease the transition to his replacement.

“My wife (Gloria) has been pushing for me to retire for a year, so I finally decided to just do it,” said Jones, who remains in good health and looks far younger than his age.

Tommie Nilsson, president of Foerster’s Pittsburgh U.S. headquarters, said Jones will be sorely missed.

“Gordon has been instrumental in our success,” Nilsson said. “He has a deep knowledge of our products, and can keep calm no matter the situation, and create a positive solution.”

Tim Hadaway of U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Tubular Operations division said he has gained a wealth of knowledge while working alongside Jones over the past 13 years.

“He’s provided tremendous support for maintaining our equipment, with less than 1 percent down time a year, which is pretty amazing,” Hadaway said. “He understands equipment and he understands people, and he’s been successful because he knows how those two work together.”

Jones deflects praise, saying it is the employees who work alongside and below him who made the difference.

“I’ve been blessed to work with some wonderful people,” Jones said.

Jones credits his longevity in the workplace to a combination of good health and having supportive employers and co-workers.

“I’ve been working since I was 14 years old and always enjoyed it,” he said.

Jones’ son, Birmingham lawyer and former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, said his father has always been a quiet, unassuming leader. He said his father instilled a strong work ethic in him and his younger sister, Terrie Jones Savage, who is a car saleswoman in Hartselle.

“Dad is a part of that great generation that had a combination of work ethic and loyalty to work and family so many people lack today,” said Doug Jones. “He has always been a quiet, unassuming guy, who did good work behind the scenes and never was out front.”

Gordon Jones grew up in Birmingham’s Wylam community as the youngest of five siblings, the son of a coal miner. At age 17 in 1948, he enlisted in the Navy, where he spent two years including a stint in Alaska in a Navy Air Patrol Squadron.

He was transferred to the special devices unit as an operational flight trainer in Texas in 1949 where he remained until his discharge in 1950. After moving back home in April 1950, Gordon Jones began working at U.S. Steel as a construction worker in a mine, then moving to the machine shop at the Fairfield plant.

Gordon Jones stayed at the tin mill as a union representative until 1967, when he was promoted to a salaried position as supervisor of electronic maintenance. He stayed in that position until retiring from U.S. Steel after three decades at age 51, then continuing to work at the plant for Foerster Instruments.

Jones’ 62 years at U.S. Steel will be celebrated with a party at the plant in his honor today. His advice to young people: Be level-headed and do the best you can every day on the job.

“If you make mistakes, fess up and do better next time. Learn from it,” Jones said. “Treat everybody like you want to be treated. Do that, and you’ll get by. That’s how I lasted so long.”

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On the move: Michael C. Skotnicki, Chadd M. Adams, Beth Clark and more

Michael Skotnicki.jpgMichael C. Skotnicki

Haskell Slaughter Young Rediker LLC said the firm has formed an Appellate Practice Group, headed by Michael C. Skotnicki.

The Appellate Practice Group will focus on prosecuting and defending appeals in all types of litigation matters in both state and federal courts.

Skotnicki specializes in complex civil litigation, with a focus on appellate matters and class actions. He has substantial expertise in environmental law, thanks to his background as a licensed professional geologist.

• The University of Montevallo has named Chadd M. Adams chief of campus police.

Adams served as assistant chief from June 2008 until being named acting chief in November 2010. Adams has nearly 15 years of experience in law enforcement.

• Birmingham-based VIVA Health has hired Beth Clark as director of medical management.

• Lillie Skelton has been named marketing director for Seniors Helping Seniors, an in-home service that matches seniors who want to provide help with seniors who need help.

Skelton served as director of sales and marketing for several local hotels for many years before joining Seniors Helping Seniors.

• Angela Dee, a soybean farmer from Aliceville, has been appointed by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to serve on the United Soybean Board. She is among six soybean farmers joining the board, which works to expand opportunities for soybean farmers and maximize their profit.

• Serra Honda is holding its “Ultimate Tailgate Event” this Saturday at its 1813 Ensley Ave. location featuring a football toss game in which two people will have a chance to win a 2012 Civic. The event takes place from 10 a.m. till 6 p.m.

• Royal GMC of Vestavia Hills said it is teaming with Birmingham Youth Football to provide the league’s players and coaches with equipment, a donation and a chance to raise up to $10,000.

Royal GMC said Birmingham Youth Football will have the opportunity to raise as much as $10,000 through a fundraising opportunity.

• The National Association of Women in Construction‘s Greater Birmingham Chapter has installed new officers for the upcoming year.

They are president, Stephanie Crane of M.J. Harris Inc.; vice president, Amber Strain of J. Adkins Mechanical; secretary, Michele Dunn of Alabama Graphics; and treasurer, Deborah Williams of M.J. Harris.

Board members are Rhonda Grounds of M.J. Harris; Carol Alford of Print Resources Inc.; Dana McDonald of Dunn Building Co.; and Tonya McLaughlin of Ram Tool Supply. Immediate past president is Donna Campbell of Highlands Publications.

• Tom Davis and Tammy Baker, partners in the Birmingham office of Jackson Lewis LLP, were selected by their peers for inclusion in the 2012 edition of “The Best Lawyers in America” in the practice area of employment law — management. 

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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Toyota engine plant in Huntsville presents vehicles, donations to nonprofits

Project UP.jpgProject UP performers take part in the “first engine ceremony” at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama. Project UP is part of the Johnny Stallings Arts Program at Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center in Huntsville. Merrimack Hall received a $50,000 gift from TMMAL today to help support the arts program. (The Huntsville Times/Dave Dieter)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — In the last two days, Huntsville’s Toyota plant has given back to community — to the tune of two vehicles and $200,000.

“We love the opportunity to give something back,” said Mark Brazeal, the general manager of administration at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

At a ceremony Thursday to celebrate the production of the first four-cylinder engines, gifts of $50,000 each were presented to Habitat for Humanity of Madison County and Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center in Huntsville for its Johnny Stallings Arts Program, which provides arts education for special needs children.

Myra Sanderson, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Madison County, and Debra Jenkins, Merrimack’s founder and executive director, accepted the over-sized checks.

Students who take part in the arts program’s Project UP performed to the song, “Rainbow Connection.”

At a dinner Wednesday night to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the plant’s ground-breaking, Hospice Family Care was presented a Toyota Sienna and Huntsville Emergency Medical Services Inc. was given a Toyota Tundra.

Gifts of $10,000 each went to The Arts Council, Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama, Education Foundation for Delta Theta Lambda chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, Junior Achievement of North Alabama, The Land Trust of North Alabama, National Children’s Advocacy Center, The Schools Foundation, Sci-Quest Hands-On Science Center, Tennessee Valley BEST Robotics and the U.S. Space Rocket Center Foundation.

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Huntsville’s Toyota plant now producing four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines ‘under one roof’

four cylinder.jpgConducting a quality control check on the first four-cylinder are, from left, Kelly Keeney, a four-cylinder team member; Shigeki Terashi, president, Toyota Motor Engineering Manufacturing North America; TMMAL President Jim Bolte; Atsushi Niimi, executive vice president, Toyota Motor Corp.; and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. (The Huntsville Times/Dave Dieter)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — With the addition of four-cylinder engines to the production lineup, Huntsville’s Toyota plant is the automaker’s first in the world to produce four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines “under one roof,” said Atsushi Niimi, the executive vice president of Toyota Motor Corp.

“Let me put that in perspective,” Niimi said today at a ceremony to mark four-cylinder production, which began earlier this month. “Engines produced here will go into eight of 12 models assembled in North America.”

A crowd of Toyota executives from the U.S. and Japan, hundreds of employees and local and state officials, including Gov. Robert Bentley, turned out for the event. Niimi joined Bentley; Kelly Keeney, a four-cylinder team member; and Shigeki Terashi, president of Toyota Motor Engineering Manufacturing North America, in a quality control inspection of the first four-cylinder.

Niimi said he’d like for Huntsville to become known as “the engine capital of the world.”

The plant, which started production in 2003, already builds V-6 and V-8 engines for trucks and SUVs and will now build the four-cylinder for Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Venza and Sienna.

The expansion at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, or TMMAL, means it will supply engines to every Toyota vehicle assembly location in North America except the new plant in Blue Springs, Miss., scheduled to start production this fall.

Bentley first visited the Huntsville plant in July to thank workers for putting in more than 26,000 hours to help out in counties affected by the April 27 tornadoes. He also accepted a $165,000 donation from assembly line workers in Japan for the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Toyota is “a quality company, and you’re quality workers,” Bentley said. The reputation of the plant and its workforce “helps me recruit other quality companies to the state.”

Jim Bolte, TMMAL’s president, said the plant has had other “firsts” in 10 years here: Toyota’s first truck-only engine plant, the automaker’s first V-8 engine produced outside Japan and the first North American Toyota plant to begin production as a zero landfill facility.

This was Bolte’s third new engine celebration and the first in his role as TMMAL president. “You are the best group of team members in the world,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, called the automaker “one of the great corporations in world” that has “taught us a lot” about teamwork and productivity.

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said he was serving on the Madison County Commission when Toyota announced it would build the plant here. “We didn’t realize how accomplished this facility would be,” he said.

The plant, which now has nearly 1,000 employees, will have the capacity to build more than 500,000 engines a year.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he was asked in a Bloomberg Financial News interview what makes Huntsville special. His response: People that give back and companies that give back.

“Toyota, for 10 years, has been giving back to the community,” Battle said.

Due to their tornado relief work and other volunteer efforts, Toyota employees are examples of neighbors helping neighbors, said Madison County Commission Chairman Mike Gillespie. “You are the best of the best, you need to keep that in mind,” he said.

Terashi said Toyota’s mission is to be “the most admired company in town” and provide high-quality, safe products. “We want to be the best.”

There have been some challenging times for the automaker and its employees, Terashi said. Most recently, the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which devastated parts of Japan caused parts shortages and led to nonproduction days at the Huntsville plant and others. Toyota resumed full production at all of its North American plants earlier this month.

“We couldn’t have reached this point without the assistance of everyone here,” he said.

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Alabama business confidence measure flashes recession warning


MOBILE, Alabama — Alabama and Mobile-area business leaders are feeling a lot worse about the economy, another in a series of mounting signals that the state may be sliding back toward recession.

However, another contraction does not appear to be at hand. BBVA Compass Bank found this week that Alabama’s economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate from June through August.

Still, the decline in the University of Alabama’s quarterly business confidence survey is troubling, considering it correctly signaled the coming of recession at the start of 2008.

“We’re hoping this time it’s not a good predictor,” said Ahmad Ijaz, an economist with UA’s Center for Business and Economic Research, which took the survey of 288 business leaders.

Trouble ahead?

Alabama and Mobile-area business leaders predicted that the state
and local economies would shrink in the fourth quarter, according to the Alabama
Business Confidence Index. Index readings below 50 anticipate

–Statewide: 45.5

–Mobile: 46

–Birmingham: 45.1

–Montgomery: 47.2

– Huntsville: 43.7

Source: University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research

The overall confidence index for 2010′s fourth quarter tumbled to 45.5 statewide, falling below the midpoint of 50 that divides predictions of expansion and contraction. That’s down from 51.4 in the third quarter and a post-recession high of 55.8 in the second quarter.

Executives surveyed in the Mobile area were only a little more optimistic, with the overall index falling to 46 from 52.6 in the third quarter.

The survey asks business people whether they expect the national and state economies to expand or contract in the coming quarter, and whether they expect sales, profits, hiring and capital investment to rise or fall in their own industry.

The outlook for the national economy was particularly bleak, falling to 37.8. But executives now also expect a shrinking state economy, shrinking profits in their industry, as well as contracting capital spending and employment in their industry. They still expect sales to expand, but just barely.

Among industries, retailers were most optimistic, while health care and manufacturing executives had the worst outlooks.

Ijaz said that a weak job picture continues to weigh on the economy. But asked if the economy was headed for recession, he said, “Probably not,” sticking to a prediction of weak growth.

“This time around, if you look at the underlying indicators, they’re a lot better than they were in 2007.”

Ijaz forecasts the state’s overall economy will grow 1.6 percent this year compared to 2 percent last year.

He did say that historically, chances of a recession become elevated when national growth slows below 2 percent. He said that there is some chance that the economy could back into a shallow recession, what he called “slowing down into a slowdown.”

Alabama Development Office Director Greg Canfield, speaking to the Press-Register’s editorial board Thursday, said the state’s economic recruiters have yet to see a sign of slowdown, saying if anything, activity among companies considering expansions is picking up.

For the national economy, there was some good news Thursday, as the U.S. Commerce Department said the economy grew at a 1.3 percent annual rate in the second quarter, an upward revision from the original 1 percent estimate.

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Five Questions: Barb Godin of Regions Bank

On the door to Barb Godin’s 19th floor office in the Regions Harbert Plaza is an oversized cardboard playing card.

On it is the queen of diamonds, labeled “Queen of Credit” — a gift from her staff this month.

Godin, the chief credit officer for Regions Financial Corp., stepped into the role of overseeing the bank’s loan portfolio about a year ago. It’s a job held mostly by men, she said, explaining: “We’re still a relatively rare breed.”

Godin just landed a spot on American Banker magazine’s “25 Women to Watch” as part of its annual look at the most influential female executives in banking and finance.

Before joining Birmingham’s AmSouth in 2003, Godin worked at Cleveland-based KeyCorp Bank, after spending the first part of her 40-year career at banks in Canada, where she grew up.

Q. What have you learned from your previous jobs in risk management that you’ve applied as chief credit officer?

You’ve got to understand not only the risk you’re taking today but the risk you could take tomorrow, and so forth. Every credit decision you’re making there is an inherent risk that you clearly need to understand, you need to price for, and the fact that the economy doesn’t stand still. You need to think about that too: Where is the economy heading?

Q. What do you think of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and how has it changed your job?

It’s developing. They’re trying to find their feet on exactly which issues they’re going to address first. We think that at the end of the day they’ll be helpful to consumers.

There are things that they’re going to do that our consumers will look back and say, “This is a great thing that we had the CFPB in place.”

For ourselves, it’s an additional level of regulation that we need to think about, address, and make sure we work closely with them. They can be our allies.

Q. How do the Canadian and American banking industries differ?

There are five major Canadian banks and they go coast to coast. People think there is not a lot of competition in Canada. There’s a significant amount of competition, it’s just different than it is in the U.S.

In Canada, there’s a bank on every corner and they’re competing on the same set of products and services, et cetera. And the big differentiator is customer service. That is a great lesson that Regions as well has seen, and we’ve done exceedingly well at that …

Q. While working as a teller while in an executive role at Scotiabank, what did you learn?

It taught me that the brains don’t all reside at head office — that what the head office group thought was very helpful to our customers wasn’t necessarily very helpful, that there were products and services that we were missing and/or not delivering on that we needed to spend more time around.

Also, it really helped me on the paperwork side. The paperwork we asked our branches to fill out on very mundane things — their time was not well spent there. It was better spent facing off with our customers versus filling out pieces of paper. Also, it taught me that our customers were just like me. They were looking for products, looking for services, looking for help and assistance. They were no different and wanted to be treated like I wanted to be treated.

Q. How do you think managing risk has changed in banking over the past five years?

With the economic head winds that we have, you can’t just think about the future as being the next 12 or 24 months. You really have to think a lot further ahead about where the economy is going, what interest rates are going to do.

The changing economic landscape is an example. Five years ago, if you were unemployed, you would have insurance that would cover you for no more than 52 weeks. Now it’s up to 99 weeks and government’s talking about pushing that out. So that’s helpful to our customers, it’s a safety net. But at the same time, it changed the risk….

The other piece is risk management has taught us all about the concentration levels. You don’t want to be too concentrated in your the products or the geographies that you lend in.

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GE Aviation holds symposium for potential suppliers to Auburn plant

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