Montgomery Business Journal

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April 2015

SUCCESS STORY

The Capitol Commerce Center, which was formerly the headquarters of Colonial Bank, sat vacant for about two years – all 210,000 square feet of Class A office space. About four years ago the empty building in East Montgomery was purchased by the Crain family in Arkansas.

The building is now about 80 percent occupied and that means 800-plus people work there, including a large contingent of Hancock Bank employees. Two recent tenants are the Alabama Department of Transportation and Liquidity Services. Hewlett-Packard was the first tenant.

STIFEL BUYS STERNE AGEE

Stifel Financial Corp. is buying Birmingham-based Sterne Agee in a $150 million deal. Sterne has $20 billion-plus under management and more than 700 financial advisers. Stifel has $133 billion in client assets

Stifel had a record revenue of $2.2 billion last year, which was a 12 percent increase from 2013. The company’s profit was $176.1 million in 2014, an increase of 9 percent from the previous year.

LOFTY GOALS

The state’s agriculture and forestry groups could create 58,000 jobs and add $7 billion to the Alabama economy by 2020, according to a strategic plan that calls for more involved partnerships between business and government.

The “Keys to Future Growth” include expanding markets and trade; maintaining transportation infrastructure; fostering capital investment; developing a quality workforce; and promoting economic development with state agency collaboration.

“Alabama’s agriculture, agribusiness, forestry and forest products industries are projected to enjoy a golden age of sustained growth, thanks to a number of factors, not the least of which are our great state’s natural resources and human resources,” Agriculture & Industries Commissioner John McMillan said in a statement.

The agriculture, forestry and related businesses are a $70.4 billion a year sector.

TUCSON GETS A MAKEOVER

Hyundai Motor Co. unveiled its first major makeover of the Tucson, the automaker’s top-selling sports utility vehicle

The Tucson is Hyundai’s No. 1 vehicle in Western Europe and among its top-sellers in China, Korea and the U.S. Hyundai hopes to ride the strong SUV segment.

“The new model should help lift Hyundai sales, but market conditions are tough now,” IM Investment & Securities analyst Ryu Yen-wha told Reuters. “Differentiating the Tucson from the rest of the pack will be challenging.”

NEW AUTO SUPPLIER

Although production began nearly 10 years ago (May 2005) at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s plant, the region recently gained a new supplier Chowel in Fort Deposit. The company will hire 200 people.

“Any job announcement is significant and when you talk about 200 jobs for Fort Deposit, that’s monumental,” Butler County Commission of Economic Development Chairman Rod Cater told WSFA 12 News. “That’s the equivalent of Montgomery getting 2,000 jobs when Hyundai arrived more than 10 years ago.”

Chowel will supply parts to the Hyundai plant in Montgomery and the Kia facility in West Point, Ga.

SONATA TOPS CATEGORY

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata was named the No. 1 mid-sized vehicle for the money in the latest rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The Korean automaker’s Santa Fe was named the “Best 3-Row SUV for the Money.”

The Sonata is produced at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant in Montgomery while the Santa Fe is manufactured at the Kia plant in nearby West Point, Ga.

“Sonata and Santa Fe being recognized by trusted site U.S. News & World Report means Hyundai has successfully been able to offer shoppers class-leading safety features, the latest technology, fuel economy and bold design all at an outstanding value,” Mike O’Brien, vice president of corporate and product planning for Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement.

ALABAMA NO. 4 ON LIST

Alabama was ranked No. 4 on Area Development magazine’s fifth annual list of the Top States for Doing Business.

The state was cited for its Accelerate Alabama program, which was launched in 2012 and focuses on 11 industries.

The South had eight of the top 10 states in the survey of site consultants. Here are the top 10 states (in order): Georgia, Texas, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and Mississippi.

Site consultants ranked the states in the following categories: business climate, labor climate and infrastructure and global access.

MONTGOMERY NO. 2 FOR BLACK-OWNED BUSINESSES

Montgomery is the nation’s  second-best metro for black-owned businesses, according to rankings from Nerdwallet.com.

The Capital City was about two points behind Columbus, Ga. Metros with populations of at least 100,000 were ranked in two major categories of economic environment and black-owned business success. Some of the subcategories included number of businesses per 100 people; black median income; percentage of black-owned businesses; average revenue of black-owned businesses and percentage of black-owned businesses with paid employees.

Rounding out the Top 10 were (in order): Atlanta; Memphis; Washington, D.C.; Fayetteville, N.C.; Durham, N.C.; Jackson, Miss.; Savannah and Baltimore.

TOP TEN

1. Columbus

2. Montgomery

3. Atlanta

4. Memphis

5. Washington, D.C.

6. Fayetteville, N.C.

7. Durham, N.C.

8. Jackson, Miss.

9. Savannah

10. Baltimore

MONTGOMERY'S 2014 HOME SALES LEAD STATE METROS

Montgomery topped the state’s metros for the percentage increase of homes sold from 2013 to 2014. It marked the third straight year that Montgomery led all metros in the highest percentage increase. Montgomery was No. 1 with an 8.3 percent increase while Birmingham was second with a 5.6 percent increase, according to the Alabama Center for Real Estate, which is part of the Culverhouse College of Commerce at The University of Alabama.

The No. 3 metro was Tuscaloosa at 0.2 percent while Mobile had a decline of 1.3 percent from 2013 and Huntsville fell 5.7 percent from the same period.

Montgomery started 2015 with residential sales up 11.2 percent in January vs. the same period a year ago.

BIG ECONOMIC IMPACT

The inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl last December at Cramton Bowl was expected to have an economic impact range of $5 million to $10 million, according to city officials and ESPN, which broadcast the game.

“We’re here to say with some certainty that we were in the $12 million range of economic impact,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said at a news conference.

SKILLED WORKERS NEEDED

A shortage of skilled workers has impacted members of the Construction Personnel Executives Group, according to a recent survey conducted by FMI.

About one-fourth of the survey participants will not be able to bid on work and one-third will have slow growth if the companies cannot hire skilled workers. The most difficult positions to fill are: heavy equipment operator, welder, carpenter, pipefitter and ironworker.

“Overall, there’s an increase needed in skilled trade workers of more than 10 percent throughout the next three to 10 years,” FMI director Ken Wilson said in a statement.

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