August, 2009 Archives

Toyota Trucks Move to San Antonio

Toyota Trucks Move to San Antonio

Toyota Motor Corp. has confirmed it will relocate production of the Tacoma pickup from a plant in Northern California to its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in San Antonio by next summer, according to company officials and wire service reports. The announcement came hours after the Japanese automaker ended its relationship with a joint venture plant in the San Francisco Bay area as part of an effort to reduce excess production capacity at plants around the globe and return to profitability. As part of the plan to shift Tacoma production to San Antonio, Toyota will stop making vehicles at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUUMI) plant—its first manufacturing facility in the United States, which started in 1984 as a 50-50 business deal with General Motors — in March 2010. San Antonio and Bexar County officials estimate 100,000 Tacomas, about 50,000 less than NUMMI is capable of producing at peak capacity, will be pumped out annually following a $100-million retooling at Toyota’s San Antonio campus. The Tacoma line not only will diversify the plant with a second vehicle but also is expected to add as many as 1,100 new jobs to the facility over time and will rev its 21 on-site suppliers back up to capacity and employ hundreds of new workers. The relocation will return work at the San Antonio plant—which has the capacity to build about 200,000 Tundras annually—back to two shifts for the first time since it shuttered for three months last summer to sell off excess inventory. “This is what we wanted, a dual line to alternate with the Tundras,” said Ramiro Cavazos, the chief executive of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who played a key role in luring Toyota to the Alamo City in 2002 as the city’s economic development director. “We had thought several years ago it might be the Highlander hybrid, but this plant and its workers have the flexibility to keep jobs strong there.” Temporary plant workers who had been laid off in San Antonio or those who applied for Tundra work and didn’t get the job could be first in line for the new positions, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. It wasn’t immediately clear if Toyota would offer jobs to any of the 4,700 NUMMI workers who will be unemployed next year as a result of the plant’s closure. Toyota’s decision to end its 25-year relationship with the NUMMI plant, which also produces the Corolla, came nearly two months after GM said it was pulling out of the joint venture. […]


Dollars for dishwashers

Dollars for dishwashers

Are you ready for Round Two of cash-for-clunkers? Fresh from the success of its rebate program for car trade-ins, the U.S. government is gearing up for a similar effort covering old appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioners. The automotive version of cash-for-clunkers proved to be extremely popular, reportedly generating sales of about 700,000 new cars as consumers scooped up the $4,500 rebate the government was offering them to trade in their gas guzzlers for fuel-efficient vehicles. The application of the clunkers concept to appliances initially will be a much smaller program than the automotive initiative, which was financed by more than $2 billion in federal funds. Thus far, about $300 million in federal stimulus funds have been earmarked to provide rebates to consumers who junk their energy-hogging appliances for new energy-efficient models, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Rebates are not expected to exceed more than $200 per appliance. However, if the appliance effort proves as popular as the auto clunker bonanza, it is likely that funding will be increased and the program extended. The Department of Energy, which oversees the program, wants states to focus on 10 categories of appliances carrying the federal Energy Star seal of approval for efficiency, including washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, tankless gas water heaters, refrigerators, freezers and room air conditioners. According to the Journal, the program allows each state to pick qualifying models and tailor rebate amounts. Manufacturers and retailers have indicated a reluctance to ramp up appliance production and inventories until it is clear which models qualify. If the “dollars for dishwashers” program takes off, we can envision the clunkers concept being applied to other sectors in need of a trade-in rebate. To wit: Pennies for Presents: Don’t know what to do with that tie-rack you got for Father’s Day last year, or the hideous yellow sweater you found under the Christmas tree? Uncle Sam wants to help you out! Cash for Congressmen: Tired of seeing the same old hack schmoozing with lobbyists while he pretends to represent you? Trade him in! Benjamins for Bonus Babies: Is your investment advisor telling you he doesn’t know how that crater developed in what used to be your 401k? Did your bank go belly up? Turn these turkeys in and get a brand new mattress! Miracles for Mistakes: Don’t have any use for those Mets season tickets you bought? Your government will help you convert them into a lifetime supply of bowling shoes! Get busy, folks. Let’s put those tax dollars to […]


Lion of the Senate

Lion of the Senate

Be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. William Shakespeare — Twelfth Night Shakespeare would have had a field day with the Kennedy brothers. There were four of them, driven into a life of public service by their Lear-like father, Joseph, who pushed them to grab for power that was beyond his grasp. Joe Kennedy instilled in his sons a relentless drive that left an indelible imprint on the course of American history for more than half a century. The Kennedy brothers also inherited first-class political genes from their mother, Rose, whose father John F. Fitzgerald had been the beloved mayor of Boston known to all as ”Honey Fitz.” In the first four acts of this Shakespearean epic, all-too-brief moments of exhilarating triumph were enveloped by overwhelming tragedy. This poignant history is familiar to all Americans of a certain age, seen here in snapshots: Joseph Jr., the oldest, volunteered for a dangerous World War II mission involving an aircraft loaded with explosives and died when the plane blew up over Europe. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a skinny and sickly boy who wanted to become a writer, joined the Navy and was commanding a small patrol boat in the Pacific when PT-109 was cut in half by a Japanese ship and sunk. Jack swam with an injured sailor on his back and shepherded his crew to a deserted island. Then he swam to a nearby island and left a message carved in a coconut with the natives that resulted in the crew’s rescue. Papa Joe’s buddies in the news biz magnified his son’s wartime exploits into the stuff of legend, fertile fodder for the launching of a post-war political career. With dashing good looks and a scintillating staccato speaking style—and his father’s connections—Jack rocketed to the top of the political charts. In 1960, the 43-year-old Kennedy, an untested junior senator whose resume consisted primarily of his family name and fortune, became the youngest man elected president of the United States and the first Catholic to hold the post. The 35th president soon was tested, and when the chips were down President Kennedy passed the test. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear Armaggedon, Kennedy refused to be bullied by his generals into a potentially catastrophic invasion; for thirteen days, he coolly presided over a high-stakes diplomatic and military minuet that ultimately produced a face-saving way for the Soviet Union to back […]


Bait and switch

Bait and switch

The ”credibility gap” at the new General Motors seems to be growing a lot faster than the pile of old cars GM has absorbed in the cash-for-clunkers program. Last week, we reported in this space that GM’s much-ballyhooed announcement that its Chevy Volt has received an incredible 230 mpg fuel economy ranking shriveled under close inspection. The new electric car can only achieve this standard if you don’t drive it more than 40 miles. Drive a couple of hundred miles in the Volt and you get about 60 mpg. This week comes news that GM appears to be executing a sloppy U-turn on its recent promise to the United Auto Workers union that it would re-open a shuttered U.S. plant to produce a new sub-compact vehicle, called Spark, which GM originally had planned to build in China. When GM was bailed out earlier this year in a bankruptcy restructuring that made the U.S. government and the UAW majority shareholders in the ailing auto giant, it generally was assumed that preserving U.S. automotive manufacturing jobs would be a top priority at the ”new” GM. But the ink was barely dry on the restructuring plan when GM created an uproar in May by announcing it planned to produce up to 51,000 of its new Chevrolet Spark sub-compacts in China under the auspices of its Chinese joint venture, Shanghai GM, starting in 2011. Predictably, the UAW was not amused. The autoworkers union demanded that its new ”subsidiary” change course, and quickly. In June, GM told the Beijing Times it had decided not to import small vehicles from China but instead would make the new sub-compacts in the U.S. The new mini Spark would replace the Chevy Aveo subcompact, currently produced in South Korea. So jobs that might have been shipped to China and jobs currently sited in South Korea will move to the U.S., and a boarded-up Rust Belt factory will re-emerge as a 21st century manufacturing jewel. UAW members will keep getting paychecks and everybody lives happily ever after, right? Unfortunately for GM, one of its top execs apparently did not get the memo. According to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal, Nick Reilly, GM’s newly installed executive vice president of international operations, told a media briefing in San Paulo, Brazil, that GM is planning to build a sub-compact that it will sell for $4,000, going head-to-head with the $2,500 mini that Tata Motors is producing in India. Then he dropped this little bombshell on the UAW: ”We are […]



Business Facilities 2009 State Rankings

Business Facilities 2009 State Rankings

This year’s annual Rankings Report arrives as every state in the nation is struggling with the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. The downturn adds an increased urgency to the competition between the states to maintain the economic base they have, and to move as quickly as possible to establish the emerging industries of the 21st century. As in past years, we have continued to refine and upgrade our rankings, adding new data sources and fine-tuning the criteria we apply to produce the results. We have tried to give special weight this year to new incentive programs and other state initiatives that are specifically targeted toward improving that state’s standing within a ranking category. We took special care to make sure that our evaluations of state rankings in two critical categories, Greenest States and Overall Biotechnology Strength, reflect the diversity and scope of each state’s efforts in these two growth sectors. Along with our traditional “flagship” ranking, Best Business Climate, a place at the top of our biotech and green rankings has emerged as perhaps the most coveted designation we can bestow. As we reported in the March issue of Business Facilities, many states are protecting their emerging biotech sectors from budget cuts. Our June cover story, “Building a Greener Economy,” revealed that the movement for sustainable development, smart growth and green building is now a key driver of overall economic development. INFRASTRUCTURE, HEALTH AND SAFETY ARE ASSESSED Among the new categories you will find in our 2009 Rankings Report are rankings for leaders in Transportation Infrastructure and Workforce Health and Safety. These concerns have moved to the top of the national agenda as economic stimulus funds are targeted to shovel-ready infrastructure projects, and containing the spiraling cost of healthcare has become a top priority for the new Administration in Washington. There is no question that transportation infrastructure and the availability of adequate and cost-effective healthcare are becoming important components of the site selection decision-making process. We again give a tip of our hat to CQ Press, which publishes a multitude of statistics on states and cities annually, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which in tandem with Battelle produces the most comprehensive data set for state biotech initiatives. We believe the current economic environment gives special bragging rights to the winners in our 2009 Rankings Report. We congratulate all of this year’s top-ranked locations, and, as always, we invite your suggestions for new categories for next year’s rankings.



Saft America to Build Lithium-Ion Battery Plant in Florida

Saft America to Build Lithium-Ion Battery Plant in Florida

Saft America, Inc., a world leader in the design and manufacture of high-technology batteries, was awarded a $95.5-million federal grant to construct a LEED-certified factory that will produce lithium ion batteries. President Obama announced this grant as part of $2.4 billion in allocations to accelerate the manufacturing and deployment of U.S. batteries and electric vehicles. Jacksonville, FL is moving forward with an incentive agreement for Saft America Inc. to build a lithium-ion battery facility at Cecil Commerce Center. Saft previously indicated their intent to build a factory in Jacksonville contingent upon the successful negotiations relating to available state and local incentive programs for capital investment and job creation. The public investment programs proposed are critical to the company’s site location decision-making process to ensure economic viability of the program, make Jacksonville competitive with packages being offered by the other locations and help off-set the costs of establishing a manufacturing plant in Jacksonville. Other locations being evaluated for this project include sites in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and Ohio. The project would add 279 new, full-time jobs to the local market at an average wage of $44,807, more than 115 percent of the state average wage. In addition, Saft would invest approximately $122 million in new, private capital for facility construction, manufacturing equipment, furniture, fixtures and information technology infrastructure. ”The City of Jacksonville looks forward to having Saft America, Inc. as a strong community partner at Cecil and is eager to see their development of lithium-ion cells and batteries that will help address the nation’s energy needs,” said Mayor Peyton. ”This truly was a collaborative effort with local, state and federal officials working together to attract this international company to Jacksonville and I greatly appreciate all of the hard work. Council President Richard Clark and I, along with leadership from the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, were fortunate to have meetings with Saft officials on a recent trip to France that help further strengthen Jacksonville’s position as the ideal location for their battery plant.” The rechargeable batteries produced by this plant will be used by the U.S. military, aviation industries, civilian industries reliant on continuous power streams such as telecommunications, and within the developing U.S. Smart Grid. Saft, the parent company of Saft America, Inc., is the world’s leading designer, developer and manufacturer of advanced technology batteries for industrial and defense applications.


Juiced

Juiced

While we were watching the Yankees sweep the Red Sox over the weekend, the former slugger, David Ortiz, came up to bat. Suddenly, one of those electronic advertising signs behind home plate flashed a strange message: the number 23 next to what looked like a happy face, on a green background. For a few minutes, we thought perhaps the Yankees were preparing to re-retire Don Mattingly’s uniform number. Then we looked closer and noticed the happy face was actually a plug. This minor mystery was resolved today when the company that used to be the world’s largest carmaker proclaimed that the official fuel economy rating for its new electric car, the Chevy Volt, is an astounding 230 mpg. Unfortunately, like everything else that has come out of Detroit in the past 50 years, you have to read the fine print to discover there are some major caveats attached to this proclamation. The Volt, scheduled to go on sale in 2010, is powered by lithium-ion batteries. Unlike the gas-electric hybrids currently on the market, this new Chevy will be able to operate solely on battery power (assuming the battery is charged) without consuming gasoline — sort of. Here’s the catch: the Volt does not need gasoline as long as you don’t drive more than 40 miles. Once you exceed the 40-mile limit, the new Chevy begins to consume gas and the loudly proclaimed fuel economy rating starts dropping like Niagara Falls. It works like this: If you drive 50 miles, no gas is consumed for the first 40 miles and during the last 10 miles 0.2 gallons are consumed. So, for a 50-mile trip, the Volt would in fact achieve its 230 mpg standard. But if the driver continues on to 80 miles, this drops to 100 mpg. If the driver goes 300 miles, the fuel economy would be 62.5 mpg, still impressive by current averages but certainly not as impressive as GM’s earth-shattering press release would lead you to believe. And if you live in New York and want to drive to Boston to see the Yankees sweep the Red Sox again later this year, well, you get the picture. Sort of like the difference between David Ortiz hitting a baseball before he takes his ”vitamins” and after. A few other minor details: –You will need to find a place to plug your Volt in every night and give it the 10-kilowatt-hours of recharge it needs to travel its gas-free 40 miles. — General Motors currently is producing only 10 […]


2009 Metro Rankings

2009 Metro Rankings

The economic squeeze has intensified the competition between localities at all levels. Here we give our annual assessment of the best of the best–the cities, towns and MSAs which have executed the most successful strategies and deserve to take a bow as our rankings leaders.