Alabama’s sweet manufacturing boom

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — As manufacturing picks up across the United States, Alabama has become an unexpected beneficiary.

The state — best known for agriculture and textiles production — is enjoying the best pickup in industrial manufacturing in five years as U.S. and foreign companies flock there.

The credit goes to the state’s low taxes, top-grade trade schools, a statute that curbs union power, and other incentives spurring many manufacturers to move to or expand in the state, experts said.

“2011 is the best year we’ve had in terms of manufacturing jobs and activity since 2007,” said Greg Canfield, Alabama’s secretary of commerce.

Companies that are set to open new plants in the state include German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp and a Chinese manufacturing giant, Golden Dragon Precise Copper of China.

Meanwhile Hyundai, Honda (HMC), Boeing (BAFortune 500) and truck manufacturer Navistar (NAVFortune 500) are expanding there.

One U.S. company that recently came to the state is Wyomissing, Pa.-based Carpenter Technology Corp. (CRS), which broke ground last week in the state’s Limestone County to build a new 400,000-square-foot plant.

Carpenter Technology is one of 70 domestic manufacturers that announced plans last year to set up a factory in Alabama. They’re expected to create 4,879 jobs and $1.6 billion in capital investment over the next two to three years.

In the same year, an additional 313 manufacturers, already in the state, announced expansion plans that would create another 12,369 new jobs and pour $2.5 billion in capital investment.

“In [the previous] five years, the percentage of our workforce in manufacturing has jumped to 12% from 5%,” said Canfield.

State officials are pleased with the increased activity, but are looking to raise Alabama’s profile even more as a top-notch destination for industrial and high-tech manufacturing.

By Parija Kavilanz @CNNMoney April 11, 2012

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