EconSouth (Second Quarter 2000)

Recent events and trends from the six states of the Sixth Federal Reserve District
Engine Producing Alabama
Fiat of Turin, Italy, announced that it will open a new automotive parts plant to be located in Sylacauga, Ala. The new facility will produce engine parts for Ford, General Motors and Daimler Chrysler and employ about 400 workers when operations begin in 2002.
Honda Motor Co. recently announced a decision to build sport utility vehicles at its new $400 million plant in Lincoln. Production is slated to begin in 2001.
Strong demand for prescription drugs is benefiting some regional drug manufacturers. Vintage Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that the company will expand its Huntsville plant and hire more than 300 additional employees. Capital investment for the project is $56 million. The plant will manufacture tablet and capsule medicines.

Exports to Brazil, Florida’s top export market, are up 7 percent this year as the country emerges from a business slump. Florida officials have recently signed 30 firms for a trade show in São Paulo this summer. Officials estimate that exports to Brazil this year could top $6 billion, matching the peak level of the early 1990s. Among the products expected to sell well in Brazil are high-tech goods, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and sports equipment.
Bookings for south Florida hotel and motel rooms may result in a record summer season, according to some reports. Miami posted the highest occupancy rates and the third-highest room rates in the nation for the first quarter. About 7,900 new hotel rooms valued at $1.4 billion are being planned for Miami, most of which are in the luxury category, according to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
television Georgia
Strong orders continue to boost the bottom line for Norcross, Ga.-based Scientific Atlanta, the second-largest manufacturer of television set-top boxes for cable. The company is ramping up production because of strong demand.
Savannah has been selected as a new import distribution center for Dollar Tree Stores Inc. The company’s $35 million investment will join other distribution giants in Savannah, such as Pier 1 Imports and Home Depot.
Travel and tourism officials are confident that a newly opened convention center in Savannah will attract more visitors to the city. The $100 million funding for the center, located on Hutchinson Island, came from federal, state and local governments and covers development of the island’s infrastructure and ferries to take visitors to the city’s historic district across the Savannah River.
Jazzland theme park opened this spring. The $100 million project, located near New Orleans, features Louisiana themes. The 140-acre park features 31 rides and specific theme areas including a music hall, gardens and Mardi Gras simulation. Jazzland officials expect about 1.5 million visitors for the park’s first season. Opened by Ogden Entertainment, Jazzland was sold to Alfa Alfa Holdings, S.A., of Greece at the end of May.
The oil industry in the state continues its recent improvement. As a result, Louisiana’s rig count rose for the eighth consecutive month to 180 in April from 176 in March. The rig count a year ago was 135. Some reports have indicated that smaller drilling companies are having problems keeping their rigs running because of a labor crew shortage.
Roller Coaster
Apple Mississippi
Mississippi’s legislature approved a multiyear teacher pay raise package that commits the state to a six-year program to raise the average teacher salaries to the regional average by the year 2006.
More hotel rooms, increased marketing and additional flights to the Gulfport-Biloxi Airport helped produce record-setting casino revenue figures for the first quarter in Mississippi. Revenues were up 14 percent for the first three months of the year over the record set for the first quarter of 1999. New hotels are slated to continue to come on line on the coast in the near future.
Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula announced the largest expansion of the shipyard since it was built in 1968. The company has an agreement to design and likely build at least two 1,000-passenger cruise ships. A new ship systems service center will employ 700.
High fuel prices appear to be affecting some manufacturers. Orders are reportedly soft for new truck tractors for Nashville’s Peterbilt Corp. The company is reducing production of new tractors and is laying off an undisclosed number of workers.
Stanley Tools, a manufacturer of items such as hammers and saws, will close its Shelbyville, Tenn., facility, idling 185 workers. The production lines are being moved to Mexico so that the company can compete with low-cost producers.
Nissan North America’s facility in Smyrna has increased its factory workweek, including Saturday work, to keep up with demand for the Xterra sport utility vehicle and the Frontier, a four-door pickup truck. General Motors will invest $1.5 billion in Saturn’s Spring Hill plant to launch a Saturn sport utility vehicle. Production is expected to begin next year.
Compiled by the regional section of the Atlanta Fed’s research department

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