Eaton manufacturing plant to close this spring in Decatur

Huntsville file photo: 3D news logo

DECATUR, Alabama – Employees at the Eaton manufacturing plant were told Tuesday that they would be without a job due to the plant closing this spring, The Times’ news partner, WHNT News 19 reports.

Eaton plant manager Jason Pickering told WHNT that the plant would be closing as early as April 2.

Employees will have a chance to apply for jobs within the company at other locations, WHNT reports.

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Ron Klein, Belzon founder, added to Madison Industrial Development Board (updated)

MADISON, Alabama — Ron Klein is the newest member of the
Madison Industrial Development Board after the Madison City Council approved
his appointment Monday.

Ron Klein.jpg

Ron Klein joins the Madison Industrial Development Board. (File photo)


Klein, founder of Belzon, a high-tech company that provides
logistics, information technology and consulting services to Department of
Defense agencies, will be an outstanding addition to the IDB, said District 4
Councilman Mike Potter.

Klein not only has experience running a successful business,
but has a proven track record of community service, said Potter, recalling that Klein served on the Madison Planning Commission before he served on the same board.

Klein, a former Army aviation officer, has worked in the
aerospace and defense industry and currently serves as headmaster at
Westminster Christian Academy. He also has served Westminster as a board member
and debate and rhetoric instructor.

He is a graduate of the Huntsville and Alabama
leadership programs and a member of the executive board of Huntsville’s
Committee of 100.

Klein has volunteered his management expertise
to several leadership organizations, including as a business coach for the
Veteran Business Assistance Center.

Klein fills the vacant Place 6 seat on the eight-member board. Potter is a non-voting member of the board as council liaison.

This article was updated Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2012, at 10 a.m. to correct a statement that said Klein and Potter served on the Planning commission at the same time. Their time on the board was not concurrent with each other.

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Guntersville businessman seeks approval for charter plane business at Albertville Airport

Albertville Regional Airport.jpg

Guntersville businessman Brett Kelley is seeking approval to open a charter plane business at Albertville Regional Airport. (Contributed by Albertville Aviation and Economic Development)

ALBERTVILLE, Alabama – A pilot and owner of a local aviation company has asked the Albertville City Council to approve a charter plane business at Albertville Regional Airport.

The council will vote on the proposal at its Monday night meeting.

The business proposed by Brett Kelley would fill a need at the airport, which serves a largely corporate clientele for Marshall County and surrounding counties, said Jerry Cofield, director of Aviation and Economic Development.

“We have requests for air taxi services and it will probably be a growing need as the airport continues to grow,” he said. “Right now, we have to bring in charter businesses from other areas. This would be another addition to the airport we think will help it meet the needs of the flying community. We applaud Brett Kelley’s efforts.”

Kelley, who owns Guntersville-based Advanced Flight Solutions LLC, said the charter business will begin as a one-plane, one-pilot venture. He plans to use a five-passenger Beechcraft Baron.

In addition to council approval, Kelley is awaiting final approval on the plan from the Federal Aviation Administration. He said he is not sure when he will receive the certificate from the agency but expects it soon.

Then, he will be ready to offer charter flights to any of the contiguous 48 states, he said.

“Flying has been a passion of mine for the more than 25 years I’ve been a pilot,” he said. “I think there’s a need for this service and there’s not one on the field.”

Follow Kelly Kazek on Twitter. 

Email Kelly Kazek at or call 256-701-0576 or find
her on Facebook.

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Report: ArcelorMittal plans joint bid with Japanese company for ThyssenKrupp Steel Americas unit


Toyota cars move along an assembly line at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky., in this April 14, 2006 file photo. Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Corp. and ArcelorMittal are reportedly planning a joint bid to buy ThyssenKrupp AG’s steel business in North America in order to ramp up automotive steel sheet production. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)


ArcelorMittal and Japanese steelmaker Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal Corp. are planning a joint bid to buy ThyssenKrupp AG’s Steel Americas unit to ramp up automotive steel sheet production, the Nikkei reported today, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

The world’s biggest and second biggest steel makers, ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal jointly produce steel sheets for automobiles in the United States, according to Dow Jones.

Earlier this month, Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal reportedly submitted a $1.5 billion bid for ThyssenKrupp’s carbon steel plant in Calvert, while Brazil’s Companhia Siderurgica Nacional SA reportedly made a $3.8 billion bid for both the plant and a majority stake in ThyssenKrupp’s Brazilian mill.

Nucor Corp. also is reportedly in the running for the Calvert facility, bidding $1.5 billion for it.

Germany’s biggest steelmaker, ThyssenKrupp produces steel slabs in Brazil that it ships to Alabama for finishing in Calvert. The company has recorded losses of more than $15.7 billion for the plants.

Though ThyssenKrupp has invested about $15 billion in the mills, ThyssenKrupp CEO Heinrich Hiesinger said in August he wants to sell the two separately for at least the book value of about 7 billion euros ($9 billion).

Final bids are due in mid-February and ThyssenKrupp said it plans to pick a buyer this fiscal year, which ends in September.

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Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance reveals new logo and website


The new logo for the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.


The Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance today unveiled a new logo and website in an effort to attract new business to the county.

The new website, seen here, was designed with the help of Big Communications of Birmingham. BCEDA said the website is meant to complement the new visual identity of the brand and to serve as a resource for companies considering Baldwin County to start or relocate business.

“Baldwin County is a successful location for aerospace, software development, IT and advanced manufacturing companies,” Executive Director of BCEDA Lee Lawson said in a statement. “As the lead economic development organization for Baldwin County, our organization felt it was imperative that our brand identity and web presence match the corporate expectations of decision makers seeking to invest in our community.”

The new BCEDA website features simplified and updated content and is meant to make navigating information easier, according to the alliance.

Features on the website include searchable database of available buildings and sites, an interactive map showing demographics by location, overview of key industries in Baldwin County, resources for financial and tax incentives and facts about training and workforce development.

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Original Oyster House to harness Causeway breeze, sun with green energy additions (photo gallery)

Original Oyster House Wind Turbine

SPANISH FORT, Alabama — The Original Oyster House this morning became the latest Baldwin County business to cash in on green energy with the installation of a wind turbine and solar water heater at the restaurant’s Causeway location.

Restaurant staff and Mobile and Baldwin county officials and chamber members gathered as the turbine propeller was attached and the 45-foot tower it was affixed to was raised. Students from the Green Club at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School were on hand to pass out pin wheels to observers and help attach the propeller.

Joe Roszkowski, president of the Original Oyster House, said he got the idea to use a wind turbine and solar water heater after Original Oyster House began producing biodiesel out of used cooking oil from its two restaurants in Gulf Shores and the Causeway two years ago. The fuel runs the company’s delivery trucks and four other company vehicles.

“We saw that there was savings in that and green is the right thing to do,” he said of his decision to install the turbine. “We’re celebrating our 30th year in business here on the Causeway and we figured we’d take advantage of the Causeway breezes and generate some power with this.”

The wind turbine generates power whenever winds reach eight miles per hour or greater. Power generated by the turbine will light the restaurant’s playground and holiday lights and any surplus energy will be put back on the grid.

The two panel, 80 gallon solar water heater, installed at the restaurant’s Causeway and Gulf Shores locations, uses energy from the sun’s rays to generate hot water to be used for cleaning or cooking.

Roszkowski said the turbine cost about $42,000 once installed and the solar water heaters cost about $3,000 each. Though he’s not sure how much money he will save with the new additions, he hopes it’s a lot.

“We plan to put a computer up in the restaurant that will monitor the output of the wind turbine,” he said. “We’ll know more about the cost savings then.”

The Original Oyster House bought the turbine and solar water heaters from Robert Harris at Gulf Coast Green Power in Fairhope, the same company that installed a 45-foot windmill at LuLu’s at Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores and Windmill Market in Fairhope. The turbines are manufactured in Flagstaff, Ariz., while the water heaters are made in Turkey.

Harris has sold six wind turbines in Baldwin County and 15 across Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. He said the Deep Water Horizon oil spill really put a dent on the sale of green energy equipment, but business has begun to pick back up in recent months.

Roszkowski said the Original Oyster House is partnering with the Gulf Coast Exploreum to help educate children on the positive effects of green energy. The restaurant will begin hosting field trips for area schools in early 2013 to allow students to see the wind turbine and solar water panels in effect. 

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Energen, Alabama Gas put on review for downgrade by Moody’s

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Regions Financial shares hit new 52-week high

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Birmingham’s new Westin hotel to see first guest on Valentine’s Day (gallery and video)


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Downtown’s new $50 million Westin hotel will check in its first guest on Feb. 14, and accept reservations beginning Feb. 21, hotel general manager Mark Noyes said today.

The hotel, which will anchor a $20 million entertainment district adjacent to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, greeted its new employees this morning with a red carpet reception. Managers applauded the 194 new hires as they arrived, many meeting one another for the first time.

Including managers, the 294-room hotel employs 260 people and had 3,000 applicants for those positions, Noyes said. Preparation for the opening has gone particularly well, he said.

“This will probably be one of the easiest hotel openings I’ve been a part of,” he said. “But I’m very anxious to get the hotel opened up.”

Noyes will run both the Westin and the nearby Sheraton Birmingham. Both hotels are owned by the BJCC and managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.

          [See a big picture photo essay inside the Westin Hotel here]                                              

The new hotel includes an Octane coffee bar in the lobby and, also on the ground floor, a Todd English P.U.B. restaurant. The restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Todd English, will be the second Todd English P.U.B. The first is in Las Vegas.


Westin Hotel in Birmingham to open on Valentines Day

Westin Hotel in Birmingham to open on Valentines Day
The Westin Birmingham’s 194 associates officially begin their new jobs Thursday in anticipation of a February 14 opening of the hotel. The hotel leadership team will welcome associates with a red carpet kick-off event. The Westin Birmingham will feature 294 luxurious rooms, state-of-the-art meeting facilities and the full suite of Westin signature amenities and services. The newly constructed hotel is an ideal venue for weddings, social galas and business functions, providing 7,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities Additional facilities include a full-service restaurant, a WestinWORKOUT® Gym and an outdoor pool. (Joe Songer/
Watch video

The hotel and entertainment district have been about a decade in the making, and represent a much smaller development than called for in initial plans. The hotel was first pitched as being a necessary complement to a $530 million domed stadium and a $55 million to $60 million entertainment district. The district was first given the working name “Marketplace,” and later was named “The Forge.”

The scaled-down district now under construction has been dubbed “Uptown.”

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With thousands of Huntsville jobs at stake, public debate over killing Space Launch System continues (updated)

NASA logo


HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A national newspaper op-ed article urging President Obama to kill the big new rocket NASA is developing in Huntsville has set off a new round of debate in space policy and political circles. The president is either planning — perhaps as early as this year — to kill the rocket known as the Space Launch System, too busy with bigger issues to bother with NASA now, or committed to the compromise he reached with the Senate to build the SLS, depending on which commenter you agree with.

The fuss started with a Jan. 27 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging the president to finish what he started when he proposed killing the Constellation program shortly after taking office in his first term. Constellation was an evolvable NASA rocket program that would have led to a heavy-lift rocket capable of carrying astronauts, their fuel and their supplies on missions to deep space destinations such as Mars. Worry about its costs and the president’s preference for commercial rockets doomed Constellation, but not before the Senate forced the White House to compromise and fund both a big new NASA rocket and commercial space taxis to and from the International Space Station. Read more about that new commentary and how to access it here.

It wasn’t long before well-known space writer Mark Whittington fired back with a rebuttal. It’s title — “Cancelling NASA’s Space Launch System for commercial space a disastrous idea” – left little doubt where Whittington stood. The headline is a reference to the thrust of the Journal piece, which is that Obama was right to start with and building America’s next generation of rockets is best left to companies such as SpaceX.

The debate accelerated after the website posted about the Journal piece on Monday. That article has attracted nearly 100 comments so far, many of them by names familiar to those who follow the space program or space in general.

Whittington himself weighs in, as does Rick Boozer, who blogs on astronomy as Astro Maven; blogger Ferris Valyn; and George Washington University academic and blogger Stephen C. Smith among others.

Does this new flurry of commentary signify any real threat to the Space Launch System? It seems unlikely at this point, given the other difficult issues on Washington’s plate and the powerful support for the rocket in the Senate — support so powerful that some actually refer to it as the “Senate Launch System.” But a new debate over an issue SLS backers hoped was settled in 2010 isn’t good news as the new year starts, either. What do you think? 

(This post was corrected Jan. 29 at 4:30 p.m. CST to correct the identification of Stephen C. Smith. The Smith mentioned in the story is not affiliated with George Washington University.)

(Follow me on Twitter @leeroop)


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