The Wire

  • ‘Opioid abuse is an epidemic that ignores cultural and political boundaries’ — AG Steve Marshall

    Attorney General Steve Marshall issued the following statement today praising President Donald Trump for introducing his Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand:

    “I want to thank President Trump for his dedication to fight the terrible blight of opioid abuse in America. Opioid abuse is an epidemic that ignores cultural and political boundaries; it affects all of us—and thus demands a response that includes all of us.”

    “While I am still reviewing the specifics of President Trump’s initiative, I am heartened to see that his outline includes many of the recommendations of Alabama’s Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council; recommendations such as improved prescription monitoring, increased access to treatment and recovery support for persons suffering from opioid addiction, and legislation targeting low-dosage, super-lethal drugs like fentanyl.”

    “My hope is that, in the coming months, President Trump and Attorney General Sessions will work side-by-side with state and local officials to turn these ideas into reality. Together, we can conquer what the President has rightly called the ‘Crisis Next Door.’”

  • Trump’s border wall prototype visit ‘a ridiculous waste of time’ — Ann Coulter

    Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter appeared on a Los Angeles radio program and ridiculed the president’s recent inspection of border wall prototypes, calling the photo-op “a ridiculous waste of time.”

  • VIDEO: FBI search for $55 million in lost Civil War gold buried in Pennsylvania — NBC Nightly News

    A story that $55 million in Union gold was lost during the Civil War has long been dismissed as a myth — but this week, a team of FBI agents joined the search in rural Pennsylvania.

2 months ago

Alabama Department of Labor: Record Number Working in December; Unemployment Rate Remains at 3.5%


Friday morning, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced data that revealed a record number of people employed for December.

According to the Alabama Department of Labor, 2,093,063 people were counted as employed last month, the most ever recorded, up from 2,087,509 in November 2017 and up from 2,047,753 in December 2016.

The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the state remains at 3.5 percent with 75,698 unemployed.

“We are ending 2017 with great news on the employment front,” Ivey said in a statement that accompanied the data. “Not only have we reached a record low unemployment rate, but now we can add another record to our list – more people are working in Alabama than ever before! We’ve been busy recruiting new business to our state, like our recent announcement of Toyota-Mazda’s decision to locate in North Alabama, bringing 4,000 jobs and more than 300 jobs in Troy due to Kimber’s recent announcement.”

Alabama Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington said the data had exceeded predictions made in the early part of last year.

“In early 2017, economists predicted that Alabama’s economy would gain 18,700 jobs over the year,” he said in the statement. “I’m happy to say that we surpassed that prediction by more than 13,000 jobs, gaining a total of 32,500 jobs. Employers are hiring in Alabama, and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance is needed to make sure that they are able to fill their open positions.”

The data showed normal trends when broken down locally. Shelby County leads the state with a 2.5 percent unemployment rate. Cullman County at 2.8 percent and Marshall, Madison and Lee Counties at 2.9 percent follow.

On the other end of the spectrum, Wilcox County has the highest rate at 9.5 percent, with Clarke County at 6.7 percent and Lowndes County at 6.5 percent.

(Alabama Department of Labor, Labor Market Information Division)

When broken down by “major city, Birmingham’s southern suburbs lead the way. Vestavia Hills has the state’s lowest rate at 2.1 percent. Homewood comes in at 2.3 percent, and Alabaster and Hoover at 2.4 percent. Cities with high unemployment rates are Selma at 6.3 percent, Prichard at 6.2 percent and Anniston at 5.0 percent.

(Alabama Department of Labor, Labor Market Information Division)


Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

2 months ago

Law of unintended consequences: McConnell’s meddling in Alabama Senate election may have cost Kentucky Toyota-Mazda

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)


Last week’s big announcement that Toyota Motor and Mazda Motor Companies would make north Alabama their choice for a $1.6 billion manufacturing facility that would create 4,000 jobs for the region was indeed a shot in the arm for the region’s economy.

Reportedly, Alabama’s primary competitor was North Carolina, which was at a disadvantage due to geography according to experts that watch economic development projects for that region.

However, another competitor vying for the plant was Kentucky, the site of another Toyota facility.

Almost immediately, members of the political commentariat in Alabama speculated one of the reasons for Alabama’s victory came because voters chose not to elect Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate last month.

“I don’t know whether anyone will answer the question, but I’d like to know whether Alabama would have won the Toyota-Mazda plant had Roy Moore won the #ALSen race last month,” tweeted AL(dot)com’s Kyle Whitmire, who is waging a “war on dumb.” “Word in the grapevine a month ago was no.”

That wasn’t just a theory brandished by left-wingers wanting an “I told you so” moment. Wednesday on his Birmingham Talk 99.5 radio show, the reliably conservative Leland Whaley said outright Moore’s defeat was a factor.

“The mistake we made was isolating that race and the whole country being fixated on us with that kind of candidacy,” Whaley explained. “And so, in no uncertain terms, and they didn’t say that out loud because they didn’t want to spook the field, they couldn’t tell anybody — I mean, they just all looked at their shoes when confronted with the possibility of him representing our state. But anybody that’s involved in that project will privately tell you that would have killed it. It was so marginal that anything takes this off the table and killed it.”

“And not only that – there were two other deals that suddenly were announced once we got past that election,” he added. “There was the Delta order for the Airbus planes – a hundred Airbus planes. A bunch of stuff started happening right about that time. I don’t think that’s coincidental. I think they were holding back because these corporations are very sensitive to image. They’re very politically correct. They don’t want to be associated with any of that nonsense. In that delicate world, which I don’t live in, but I’m connected to – I can see the rationale.”

There were all types of Monday morning quarterbacking that occurred on December 13, 2017, the day after Doug Jones’ election win. Many believe Moore was already at a disadvantage because of the war waged upon him by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund in his runoff race against Luther Strange.

Moore limped into last month’s election without much money and would later, as we all know, be plagued by sexual harassment allegations. Yet, he still only lost by 1.7 percent, roughly 21,000 votes.

Let’s suppose Moore had not had to face millions of dollars in attacks from the McConnell camp with everything being the same. Let’s also assume it was still Moore versus Strange in the GOP primary runoff. And let’s also say The Washington Post report about Leigh Corfman’s allegations was still published a month out of the December special election as it was.

Moore would have likely gone into Election Day without a fractured Alabama Republican Party. His contest against Doug Jones might not have been quite as prominent of a story, which might have meant lower turnout.

And without McConnell’s meddling, Roy Moore might have been elected U.S. Senator.

If indeed Alabama’s prospects were diminished with a Moore victory, the chances that Lexington, Ky. would have been the site of this week’s Toyota-Mazda announcement and not Montgomery, Ala. significantly increase.

Thanks for your help, Mitch McConnell. Every little bit counts.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

2 months ago

Preparations underway for Alabama’s $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)


MONTGOMERY — Wednesday at the RSA Activity Center in the shadow of the Alabama State Capitol, Gov. Kay Ivey made it official by announcing Limestone County would be the new home for a $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda manufacturing facility.

“Today is indeed a great day in the state of Alabama,” Ivey said to the audience assembled for the announcement.

“As governor, it is my honor and privilege to announce that Mazda and Toyota have chosen Alabama as the home of their new production plant,” she added.

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

The plant will add 4,000 new jobs with average salaries said to be $50,000 annually. It will have the capacity to produce 300,000 cars annually.

The site of the plant is a 1,200-acre tract of farmland in Limestone County’s Greenbrier, which is part of the city of Huntsville.

Alongside Ivey for the announcement were Toyota Motors president Akio Toyoda, Mazda President and CEO Masamichi Kogai, Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Limestone County Commission chairman Mark Yarbrough.

Yarborough, who Battle described as his “lucky rabbit’s foot,” told Yellowhammer News a lot of the preparations were either underway or already in place. That included highway access from Interstate 565 on Greenbrier Parkway. Yarborough also said the project would require what would amount to a “small railyard” for the amount of volume coming in by rail and that was currently being designed.

“There’s no place in the world ready for this infrastructure-wise,” he explained. “This is such a massive undertaking. We were the best site. We have the best infrastructure in place. Do we have all of it in place? No. We will start rapidly doing that to accommodate this as plans are finalized.”

Later that day, President Donald Trump offered celebratory tweets about the announcement.

For Toyoda and Kogai’s arrival to the State Capitol, the Japanese flag flew under the U.S. and Alabama flags.


(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

2 months ago

Target deal for Shipt showcases Birmingham’s dynamic tech sector

(Shipt shopper/Made in Alabama)
The vibrant entrepreneurial tech scene in Birmingham is once again in the national spotlight, as Target plans to buy local grocery delivery service Shipt for $550 million in a blockbuster deal.

The retail giant, which announced the acquisition in December, said it will have a major impact on efforts to increase convenience for Target shoppers through affordable, same-day delivery across a variety of product categories.

For Birmingham, the move is the latest win for the city’s burgeoning innovation sector, which has attracted millions of dollars in new investment for tech-based startups.“Birmingham is a center for innovation and this agreement highlights the type of cutting-edge industry that is emerging here,” said Jon Nugent, vice president for innovation and technology for the Birmingham Business Alliance.
“Through the success of companies like Shipt, Birmingham continues to reinforce its presence as a destination for entrepreneurs looking for a smart, modern city where they can build and launch the next generation of technology companies.”


Target CEO Brian Cornell, left, and Shipt CEO and founder Bill Smith pose at Target headquarters.


Shipt has grown rapidly since its founding in Birmingham in 2014. Members of the service use an app to connect to a network of more than 20,000 personal shoppers, who fulfill orders from various retailers and deliver within hours in more than 72 markets.Nugent credited Shipt’s leadership for recognizing what Birmingham has to offer startups.

“Bill Smith and Jeff Smith are truly visionary business people who recognized the incredible value in Birmingham’s people, community and commitment to its entrepreneurs,” Nugent said. “Their investment in Shipt’s employees, their neighborhood and their corporate headquarters represents a standard of excellence that continues to be recognized across the United States and internationally.

“They continue to be an integral part of this vibrant community that, through the twin discovery engines of UAB and Southern Research, are launching new and innovative companies at an incredible pace.”


Shipt was founded in Birmingham in 2014 and has helped solidify the city’s reputation as an emerging tech hub.


Innovation Depot is a hub of much of the activity. The downtown Birmingham business incubator is home to more than 100 companies, which recorded $126 million in gross sales last year.

The five-year economic impact of the facility is estimated at more than $1.4 billion.

Meanwhile, other technology-based startups have turned heads among major investors, and shepherding more firms like them is a priority in Birmingham and across Alabama.

Innovation Depot’s Velocity Accelerator is designed to accelerate development of idea stage companies, while Alabama Launchpad, a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, has invested $4 million in companies that have created more than 500 jobs and go on to raise $50 million in follow-on funding.

“It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in Birmingham and Alabama, especially a technology-based entrepreneur,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“With a skilled and creative workforce, growing funding and mentorship opportunities, and a history of advanced research and developments, the city and the surrounding region have all of the ingredients to help startups thrive.”

Members of the Shipt service use an app to connect to a network of more than 20,000 personal shoppers, who fulfill orders from various retailers and deliver within hours in more than 72 markets.


As for Shipt, it will be a wholly owned Target subsidiary and will continue to run its business independently.

Target will look to Shipt to help achieve ambitious goals set last year that focus on giving customers a number of convenient ways to shop, said John Mulligan, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the retailer.

“With Shipt’s network of local shoppers and their current market penetration, we will move from days to hours, dramatically accelerating our ability to bring affordable same-day delivery to guests across the country,” he said.

“By the 2018 holiday season, we will be servicing every major market across the country with same-day delivery, and Shipt’s service-oriented approach aligns well with Target’s commitment to delivering an exceptional shopping experience for our guests.”

Shipt Founder and CEO Bill Smith said the company is excited to partner with Target and is eyeing additional expansion.

“Partnering with Target and the national scale they provide allows Shipt to further accelerate our growth, bringing our service to more people, in more markets across the country,” he said.

“We’ll continue growing our marketplace and membership base, working with a variety of retailers to drive scale and efficiencies. We look forward to introducing Target guests to the convenience of our same-day delivery services, with the level of personal attention only Shipt can provide.”

(By Dawn Azok, courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Report: GOP tax law could bring 100 jobs to the Wiregrass



According to a report from Jeremy Wise of the Dothan Eagle, the tax bill passed by the Republican-led Congress and signed into law earlier this month by President Donald Trump could bring 100 “quality” manufacturing jobs to the Wiregrass region.

The tax law was one of what Wise described as “two major steps needed” for Miami-based Blumberg Grain to build a cold-chain food storage facility and a peanut processer in Dothan. The other would be the finalization of two “major” contracts in Egypt and Algeria.

“If they hear from Trump, they will move forward,” Blumberg Partners CEO Philip Blumberg said to the Eagle. “We are hopeful he will take action after the first of the year.”

Blumberg says the tax reform allows his company to invest back into it and that would allow for the creation of more jobs.

“The proposed Dothan facility could create 100 ‘quality’ manufacturing jobs, and Blumberg credited the pro-business tax reform package for making expansion feasible,” Wise wrote. “One of the aspects that helps is the tax credits corporations receive for any investments in new facilities or equipment.”

Blumberg, a self-proclaimed Democrat, credited Trump’s business advocacy. He also praised the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and other local government officials for getting the ball rolling on this economic development effort.

If the Egyptian and Algerian contracts are finalized, Blumberg told the Eagle he expected construction on the proposed facility in six months.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.


3 months ago

Report: Auburn alum Tim Cook tops $100 million in income for 2017


According to a report from Bloomberg Technology’s Anders Melin and Alex Webb, Apple CEO Tim Cook, a graduate of Auburn University and Baldwin County’s Robertsdale High School, will have a total payout for the year “to about $102 million.”

That total included a $9.33 million bonus, a 74 percent increase from the year before, in addition to his $3.06 million in salary and equity award of $89.2 million.

Apple’s stock (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been on the climb since the beginning of 2017, which is in line with the NASDAQ composite, the index of the market for which Apple is traded, for the year.

Earlier this year, Cook was guest of Auburn University at the Iron Bowl. He gave the pregame speech to the Auburn Tigers football team that ultimately won the match-up against its in-state rival the University of Alabama 26-14.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

(Share this story on social media and start a conversation with your family and friends.)

3 months ago

Hexcel to expand Alabama plant, creating 90 jobs with $200M project


Alabama officials announced that the existing Hexcel Corp. production site in Decatur has been selected by the company for its first integrated U.S. carbon fiber and PAN production facility. When completed and fully operational, the expansion will add about 90 jobs to Hexcel’s existing workforce in Decatur.

The expansion was announced at a ceremony in Decatur attended by Hexcel executives, state officials and local leaders. The project is part of the company’s strategic plan to ramp up production of advanced composites to meet increasing demand in the aerospace and industrial markets. Production is expected to begin in 2021.

Hexcel Chairman, CEO and President Nick Stanage said the company conducted a comprehensive study for the project before choosing to expand in Decatur.

“We are pleased to reaffirm our commitment to Decatur, to the State of Alabama and to our existing team at the plant. We looked around the world at possible locations for this expansion, and the people of Alabama made it clear that Decatur would be the right choice,” he said.

“Hexcel’s expansion plan underscores the company’s confidence in its loyal Alabama workforce and reflects the strong partnership that has been built in Decatur,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I look forward to seeing Hexcel’s Alabama operation continue to grow and thrive.”

Stamford, Connecticut-based Hexcel, which was founded in 1948, operates 22 manufacturing sites with more than 6,100 workers. Sales last year totaled $2 billion. The Decatur facility produces polyacrylonitrile, or PAN, a precursor of carbon fiber.

“Alabama stands in the center of the emerging Southeastern aerospace cluster, and we want to penetrate all levels of the industry supply chain,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The growth of companies such as Hexcel shows that we are positioned for an expanding role in that supply chain.”

$200 million investment

According to the Morgan County Economic Development Association (MCEDA), Hexcel’s investment in the expansion project is approximately $200 million, adding to previous investment totaling $691 million in the facility.

“This exciting announcement for Morgan County reinforces our qualified workforce and competitive location. We appreciate Hexcel’s investment and look forward to their continued growth in Morgan County,” said Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long.

“The size of this capital investment makes it one of the largest in the history of Morgan County and will pay long-term dividends to local schools and governments,” state Sen. Arthur Orr said. “We are grateful for Hexcel Corp.’s renewed commitment to the people of this area and look forward to an enhanced, mutually beneficial relationship.”

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said, “I have been associated with Hexcel since 1988, when they were known as Hispan. Since those early years, Hexcel leaders have continued to invest in Decatur, and they have remained a leader in the growing carbon fiber industry. This investment is a reflection of a wonderful economic development community led by our EDA staff, a strong workforce, and our logistical advantages.”

Joining MCEDA and the Alabama Department of Commerce on the project recruitment team were the Morgan County Commission, Decatur’s mayor and City Council, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Alabama fiber manufacturing facility gets a $184 million investment


Shaw Industries Group announced last week that it will invest $184 million in its manufacturing facility in Andalusia, where fiber used to manufacture carpet is created.

Dalton, Georgia-based Shaw said the project includes construction of new and expanded building assets, and installation of substantial amounts of new manufacturing equipment.

“These investments will ensure the long-term viability of this critical operation within Shaw’s portfolio of manufacturing facilities. They are designed to improve the plant’s ability to compete successfully in the marketplace for the short and long term,” Shaw Chairman and CEO Vance Bell said.

“This facility upgrade will utilize state-of-the-art technology and innovative processes that will be industry-leading in cost and quality,” he added.

The changes will improve efficiency and production as well as ergonomics and safety for the more than 1,000 associates who work at the Alabama plant, Shaw said. Additionally, improvements to chillers and the use of new equipment stand to improve energy efficiency.Demolition work is under way at the facility, and new equipment is set to be in place and operational by mid-2018. The facility will remain operational throughout the transition.“Shaw’s significant new investment in its Andalusia manufacturing facility is a welcome development that positions the plant for the future and demonstrates the company’s confidence in its large Alabama workforce,” Governor Kay Ivey said.“We look forward to working with Shaw to help its Covington County operation not only succeed but also thrive.”


Shaw, a company in the portfolio of famed investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, joins a list of other established firms making major investments to upgrade or expand their Alabama facilities in 2017.“We’ve made it a priority in Alabama to assist companies like Shaw that are reinvesting in their facilities and upgrading their operations to enhance competitiveness and efficiency,’ said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“This project shows Shaw’s commitment to its Andalusia facility, and it will benefit employees there for the long haul.”

Ron Fantroy, the manager of Shaw’s Plant 65/Andalusia, said the major investment in the facility illustrates the company’s continual effort to improve operations and employ advanced manufacturing techniques to meet the needs of associates and customers.

Shaw said its operations are more complex than ever. As a result, almost every job at Shaw — from designers and data scientists to machinists and managers — requires a higher skill level than in the past. Shaw said it benefits from a talented, well-trained associate base in Covington County, where it is the county’s largest employer.

“Shaw is involved in an array of education programs – from kindergarten to college, from reading to robotics – to help support the development of a highly skilled workforce necessary for 21st Century jobs,” Bell said.


Greg White, chairman of the Covington County Commission, said Shaw’s project provides “a long-term stability that most communities could only hope for.”

Added Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson: “Shaw had other options, and in making this decision, we are pleased that they will be part of our community for years to come.”

Rick Clifton, president and CEO of the Covington County Economic Development Commission, said the Alabama team working on the project included the Alabama Department of Commerce, Southeast Gas, the PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, and the City of Andalusia.

“This is an example of a public/private partnership that has made Shaw a part of our community for over 35 years,” he said.

3 months ago

Alabama artisans choose favorite products by other makers for awesome local gift guide

Shadow Catchers works with about 15 artists and 40 art publishing companies. (Image: Mark Sandlin / Alabama NewsCenter)


Alabama is an internationally known hub of manufacturing for cars, planes and ships, but the state also turns out an impressive variety of items that fit perfectly underneath the Christmas tree.

For the 2017 edition of the Made In Alabama holiday gift guide, we turned to the people who know the state’s creativity and craftsmanship best. (Here’s the 2016 installment.)

We asked Alabama makers and artists to name their favorite local products – aside from their own – that they like to give as Christmas gifts.

Anna Brakefield, owner of Red Land Cotton in Moulton, is a big fan of her peers’ work and had a few suggestions.

Montgomery-based Alabama Sweet Tea Co. topped her list.

Founded in 2015, the company was inspired by the founders’ memories of enjoying homemade sweet tea at family gatherings. Their own recipe is a custom blend of high quality loose leaf tea leaves, pure cane sugar and hand-squeezed fruit juice.

“The sweetest and most humble people you may ever meet brew the sweetest tea known to the South and specifically Alabama,” Brakefield said. “Their boxed tea is a great gift to include as a stocking stuffer or in a care package to remind a loved one of their sweet southern roots or to give them a little taste of the South.”

Alabama Sweet Tea Co. also sells glasses, tumblers, shirts and hats emblazoned with the company logo.

Another favorite of Brakefield’s is Idyllwilde, a design company and workshop studio based in Florence. Its clothing, accessories and items for the home are made from natural fiber textiles and plant-based dyes.

“A lot of amazing talent comes out of Florence, Alabama, and this shop is no exception. Their simple pieces are custom made so there is a delay in shipping but it’s worth the wait!”

Brakefield said many items are hand dyed in small batches and truly are works of art.

“The South has a rich textile history and so giving a piece of Idyllwilde’s clothing or home accents is like sharing a little piece of that history with a friend,” she said.

As for Brakefield’s own business, Red Land Cotton sells bedding, bath towels and other linens made from cotton grown in North Alabama.

She and her father, Mark Yeager, own the business, with a farm that has been in the family for three generations. Their heirloom-inspired bed linens are recreations of those passed down from ancestors a century ago.


Other Alabama makers also shop local at gift-giving time.

Robert Armstrong, founder of G Momma Cookies in Selma, picked a hometown favorite.

“My top gift would have to be Revival Coffee – great coffee and great mission as well,” he said.

The small batch roaster, which opened in 2014 in Selma’s historic district, says its purpose is to see lives redeemed, and 10 percent of its profits are dedicated to Christian ministries.

Revival offers several varieties of blends, including Integrity, Redemption, Restoration and Salvation.

As for G Momma Cookies, Armstrong said business is growing. He’s working on introducing a new flavor and upgrading equipment. The company has also expanded to three full-time and seven to nine part-time employees.

Armstrong was inspired by his grandmother’s cookie recipe when he founded Selma Good Co., maker of G Momma Cookies, in 2009, and they have been sold in stores across the Southeast. Earlier this year, he took home the top prize of $107,000 in the Alabama Launchpad Competition, which funds entrepreneurs statewide.


In northeastern Alabama, there’s mutual admiration between two well-known makers in Fort Payne.

Zkano socks would be an excellent gift idea,” said Cal Breed, owner of Orbix Hot Glass.

The organic cotton socks are made in Fort Payne in an operation run by Gina Locklear, who is carrying on her family’s business and a community legacy. Fort Payne was once known at “The Sock Capital of the World” before offshoring dismantled the domestic industry.

But Locklear’s socks have found a niche, with their bright colors, bold patterns, high-end quality and appeal to customers interesting in green living. A year ago, Locklear was named a winner in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, and just recently, she opened a store inside the Fort Payne sock mill.

Meanwhile, Locklear said her favorite Alabama-made gift is Orbix ornaments.

Breed and his crew fashion the ornaments, as well as bowls, vases, pitchers and other glass sculptures that have garnered international acclaim, in a studio atop Lookout Mountain near Little River Canyon National Preserve.

The glass-blowing process is a delicate dance of fire, human breath and constant movement, and the studio hosts tours and sessions for visitors to blow their own ornaments.

“I love them because they are collectible, uniquely beautiful and also, I love they are made in Fort Payne by kind folks I know,” Locklear said.


And if you’re still in need of gift-giving inspiration, here are a few more Alabama-made gifts to help check off your shopping list:

Shadow Catchers Art: This longtime Greeneville company produces professionally framed and mounted artwork and wall décor for retail stores and design projects.

The team works with designers, decorators and buyers to select images, moldings, mediums and mounting techniques

Their work spans a wide variety of interests, from botanical and nature scenes to coastal and cityscape images. Product types include acrylic, canvas, lithograph, mirrors and more. (Read a story about the company.)

 Earthborn Pottery: Top chefs across the U.S. and beyond have come to depend on owner/designer Tena Z. Payne and her Leeds business for unique pottery to frame their culinary creations.

Each plate, bowl, mug and other pieces are functional works of art, and they can be found in restaurants and retailers nationwide. Three generations work together in the family-run, woman-owned business.

Made By AK crafts jewelry that is minimal, modern and unique, making it another favorite of Brakefield’s.

“When you attend craft shows there are a lot of jewelry makers. To me, Made By AK stands out. It’s truly unique. It’s bold but intricate and the pieces are made from high-quality materials. Handmade in Birmingham, AK’s jewelry is crafted by hand and inspired by life’s little imperfections and that’s something I feel we can all relate to,” she said.

(courtesy Made in Alabama)


3 months ago

Yellowhammer News to carry Executive Lion podcast videos featuring Alabama entrepreneurs



Yellowhammer News will begin carrying a podcast called “Living Life on Purpose” that features interviews with successful Alabama entrepreneurs and businesspeople whose values and inspiring life stories are encouraging and entertaining.

The podcast is produced by Andrew Wells of Executive Lion, a company dedicated to coaching business owners and providing helpful content for professionals, in partnership with his friend Matt Wilson, owner of Perpetual Lifestyle Planning, a financial planning firm in Birmingham.

Wilson said he was having his teeth cleaned, listening to the voice of a local newscaster on the TV in the exam room, hearing story after story about financial crises and political tension, when he realized how much negative news people are faced with each day.

Reflecting on his own unique relationships with people from all walks of life, Wilson decided to start interviewing successful people around Birmingham. He wanted to deliver a positive message to listeners living in a world with so much negativity.

At the same time, Andrew Wells, owner of Re-Bath, was in the process of creating Executive Lion.

Wells and Wilson, two successful business owners who have known each other for some time, were talking one day about their new ideas. They realized their individual ventures were complementary. Wells and Wilson decided to join forces to create Executive Lion’s Living Life on Purpose, a vlog designed to provide encouragement, advice and support to Alabama professionals. 

Since beginning this project a few months ago, they have interviewed a dozen Alabama business owners who have achieved success in their respective fields and plan to interview more. The first episode will be released for viewing next week on the Yellowhammer website.

“This is the kind of inspirational and uplifting content that I enjoy,” said Rachel Blackmon Bryars, managing editor of Yellowhammer News. “I love hearing personal stories about how successful people overcame challenges and relied on faith and persistence to accomplish their goals. I think Yellowhammer’s audience will get a lot out of these interviews with Matt and Andrew.”

In each episode, Wilson and Wells profile a successful entrepreneur. They want to give people a close-up of the life of a business owner, and offer practical advice for surviving the “lion’s den.”   

“People don’t understand how hard it can be during the first few years of starting a company. Through our interviews, we want to help people considering entrepreneurship to set realistic expectations while relying on their faith to see them through,” said Wells. “Everyone doesn’t get it right all the time, and we want people to know they’re not alone.”

In addition to education and advice, Wilson and Wells want this show to provide hope to listeners who may be discouraged or facing adversity. As Christians, their goal is to bring glory to God through the show. The interviewees are asked to discuss their faith and God’s provision in their lives and businesses.  

“We all have challenges and we all have things we’re trying to overcome. Our faith helps us determine how we face them,” said Wilson. 

“Our interviews tell the stories of people who have overcome hardships and setbacks. We want to show a side of people that you might not see in the formal business setting,” said Wilson. 

One of the interviews for the show was with BJ Ellis, CEO of Yellowhammer.

“Life is hard. Owning a business is hard. Raising a family is hard. Doing it all together is very hard,” said Ellis. “It sounds like this show will be a cheat sheet for anyone trying to be successful in any of those playing fields.”

Yellowhammer will release the first video interview on Monday, December 18.

3 months ago

Wayne Farms launches $105 million Alabama expansion, creating 400 jobs

(Image: Governor’s Office, Hal Yeager)


Wayne Farms LLC today marked the official start of a major expansion project at its Enterprise Fresh Processing Facility that will significantly increase production and add 400 new jobs.

The company’s $105 million expansion project is expected to be complete in January 2019. With the new hires, Wayne Farms’ total workforce at the Enterprise facility will number more than 1,700.

“This investment in our Enterprise operation is a strategic decision,” Wayne Farms President and CEO Clint Rivers said. “The expansion is part of our ongoing growth in south Alabama.

“We’ve invested more than $200 million in the Wiregrass area, and it’s a success story for us and the communities where we live and work—the relationship has been outstanding, the workforce is solid, and the support from business, government and community leaders has been exemplary,” he added.


Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined company leaders and local business and community officials at a groundbreaking ceremony in Coffee County this morning that signified the start of Wayne Farms’ project.“When businesses are expanding their efforts in Alabama, it is a sign that what we are doing is working,” Governor Ivey said. “With this expansion, Wayne Farms will not only be able to better serve their customers and to grow their business, they will also provide a good wage for 400 more Alabamians.“When we provide a favorable business climate, employers and employees succeed, thus, our state succeeds,” she added.


The expansion project will add a new processing line with state-of-the-industry technologies and processing equipment. It will focus on Wayne Farms’ new Naked Truth premium chicken brand.

“Wayne Farms is making the largest single economic development investment in the history of Coffee County,” said Jonathan Tullos, executive director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. “This investment of $105 million will help create 400 direct job opportunities for people throughout the Wiregrass.

“Our communities and farmers will benefit from additional sales in retail and consumer goods,” he said. “We are fortunate to have good corporate partners, like Wayne Farms, who continue to invest in our region.”

Brad Williams, south Alabama area complex manager, said the project will increase production at the facility by 30 percent.

Wayne Farms is one of the largest poultry producers in the U.S. with annual sales exceeding $2 billion. It operates three production complexes in Alabama’s Wiregrass region, where it employs more than 3,000 people.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

This Alabama metro area ranks No. 1 for manufacturing jobs, analysis says

(Made in Alabama)


The Talladega-Sylacauga Micropolitan Statistical Area was rated the best place in the U.S. for manufacturing jobs in a detailed analysis by SmartAsset, a financial technology company that studied data on nearly 500 cities.

SmartAsset singled out the high concentration of well-paying manufacturing jobs in Talladega-Sylacauga area in its analysis. Here’s what the firm says about the micropolitan:

“A large chunk of the workforce in this Alabama metro area work in manufacturing – just over 39 percent. Only three other metro areas in this study can beat this stat.

“Manufacturing jobs here also pay pretty well, especially when you consider the area’s average housing costs. We estimate the average manufacturing worker earns $58,461 after accounting for housing costs.”

The Talladega-Sylacauga micropolitan area consists of Talladega and Coosa counties, with a total population of around 93,000. The area’s top employer is Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, which operates an auto assembly plant in Lincoln with more than 4,500 workers.

“Alabama has a strong heritage in manufacturing, and it remains an important pillar in the state’s economy,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Alabamians have the expertise to produce top-class products that are in high demand around the world, and the workers in the Talladega-Sylacauga area are especially good at it.”

Manufacturing workers in Alabama total more than 260,000, representing more than 13 percent of the state’s workforce. That’s the fifth highest concentration among the states, according to data from the National Association of Manufacturers.


Best Manufacturing Places

To identify the best places to work in manufacturing, New York-based SmartAsset looked at data for 483 metro areas in the United States. Specifically, the firm looked at data on employment growth in manufacturing, income growth in manufacturing, density of manufacturing jobs and housing costs.

The number of manufacturing jobs in the Talladega-Sylacauga micropolitan area expanded by 3.4 percent in the past year, reaching 39.4 percent of total jobs, according to SmartAsset’s data. Incomes, meanwhile, climbed 6.2 percent over the year.

The area’s annual income after housing figure of $58,461 was second highest among cities making the list’s Top 25, and it was more than $10,000 higher than the city ranking just behind it on the overall list.

“Manufacturers rely on the skills of their workers for success, and the talents of manufacturing workers in the Talladega-Sylacauga region are highlighted by this impressive ranking,” said Ed Castile, deputy Commerce secretary and director of AIDT, the state’s primary job training agency.

After the Talladega-Sylacauga micropolitan, other areas rounding out the Top 5 on SmartAsset’s list of the top places for manufacturing were:

  • Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, South Carolina
  • Ogden-Clearfield, Utah
  • Rockford, Illinois
  • Elizabethtown-Fort Knox, Kentucky

The Talladega-Sylacauga area ranked No. 11 in the 2016 installment of the SmartAsset analysis.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

BOCAR targets construction start for $115 million Alabama parts plant

(Hal Yeager, Governor’s Office/Made in Alabama)


Executives from global auto supplier BOCAR Group said Tuesday that construction on a new $115 million manufacturing facility in Alabama will begin in spring 2018, with production launching at the site two years later.

The 350,000-square-foot plant, located on Bibb Garrett Road just off Interstate 65 in the Limestone County portion of Huntsville, will bring more than 300 jobs to the area.

Wilhelm Baum, CEO of BOCAR Group and president of BOCAR US Inc., said the state-of-the-art facility will be capable of producing high-end structural aluminum parts for automakers operating in the United States.

“Highest technology, excellent quality and efficiency are a must. However, people are the most relevant factor for success,” Baum said. “Huntsville, Alabama offers everything necessary, and the plant will become a new member of the BOCAR family.”

BOCAR executives joined state and local leaders for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber on Tuesday afternoon. The company officially announced plans for the facility on Nov. 16, following an extensive site search.“Alabama is a premier destination for the automotive and automotive supplier industries, and we are proud to welcome BOCAR to our state,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“BOCAR choosing Alabama is another sign our state is moving in the right direction and doing all we can to attract good-paying jobs for all Alabamians,” she added.


BOCAR is a German company with a presence in the United States, Germany, Mexico and Japan. It is a high-end technology company with extensive experience producing high-pressure aluminum die casting, plastics and machining.“With this manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Alabama, BOCAR is localizing in the USA the production of lightweight body structure parts,” said Marcus Baur, president of BOCAR Group. “Providing latest technology and innovation expertise, following industry trends, we will fulfill the demands for weight reduction and lowering of CO2 emissions.”

BOCAR selected Alabama at a time of strong growth for an automotive manufacturing sector that has attracted new facility and expansion projects creating well over 2,200 jobs in 2017 and beyond.

“Alabama’s dynamic auto sector continues to attract world-class suppliers like BOCAR because we offer all the ingredients that this global industry needs for success, including a highly skilled workforce and a business-friendly environment,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“BOCAR’s decision to make a significant investment in Huntsville reflects the company’s confidence in our state, and we’re committed to helping its new operation thrive.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said BOCAR’s investment further confirms the state’s emerging role as a national leader in the automotive sector.

“We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership that will contribute to the economic and social vitality of our community,” Battle said.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

3 months ago

Birmingham Business Alliance pursuing ‘all-time high’ economic development projects

The BBA Chairman’s Meeting automotive panel included, from left, Andrew Taitz of Autocar, Mike Oatridge of Honda, John Hudson of Alabama Power, Jason Hoff of Mercedes-Benz and John Hackett of Kamtek. (BBA/Alabama News Center)



The head of the Birmingham Business Alliance said the metro area is coming off a very successful year for economic development, but the prospects for even more growth in 2018 are “at an all-time high.”

BBA CEO Brian Hilson said at the organization’s annual Chairman’s Meeting Tuesday that economic development in the seven-county metro area was very strong in 2017.

“So far in 2017, we’ve seen 2,957 jobs and over $560 million in investment announced by 25 different new and expanding companies within our core business sectors,” Hilson said.

This year continues a string of successful years for attracting new and expanding industry to the state, Hilson said.

“Between 2011 and 2017, we have seen 19,394 jobs and over $3.9 billion in capital investment committed within our seven-county metro area,” he said.

That has caused the BBA to be ambitious with its current five-year plan.

“At the BBA, we have a goal of 19,000 jobs and $3.5 billion of investment being announced between 2016 and 2020,” Hilson said. “So we’re at the halfway point as we approach the year 2018 and as we continue to execute our five-year strategic plan, which we call Blueprint 2020.”

With the current pipeline of potential projects, those numbers could be well within reach.

“Our level of project activity is at an all-time high, at least for the six and a half years that I’ve been in Birmingham,” Hilson said in an interview with Alabama NewsCenter. “But probably more important, the quality of those projects and the diversity of skills that they would require of the workforce – it’s not all automotive and it’s not all something else – that’s very encouraging.”

Automotive projects dominated the headlines in the metro area in 2017.

Commercial truck producer Autocar opened a $120 million plant in Pinson Valley, not far from where auto supplier Kamtek opened a $60 million expansion.

Mercedes-Benz announced a $1 billion expansion of its Alabama operations that includes a new $248.2 million campus in Bibb County.

Representatives of those three companies as well as Honda’s plant in Lincoln made up a panel discussion of the auto industry and the metro area’s business climate. John Hudson, senior vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Alabama Power, moderated the panel.

A shared concern among the panel is that the metro area may become a victim of its own success – namely in a dwindling available workforce.

Hilson said the BBA’s Blueprint 2020 calls for at least a 5 percent growth in overall workforce between 2016 and 2020.

“What we really want to see, though, is much faster growth than that and for that to happen we will need a higher and better rate of workforce participation, more connectivity between employers and workforces as well as educators and trainers, and, of course, we will need to see our community image continue to get better,” he said.

(By Michael Tomberlin, courtesy of the Alabama News Center)

4 months ago

Watch how Alabama’s workforce would manufacture T-100 trainer jets if Leonardo is picked in Air Force competition

(Leonardo DRS/YouTube)



Curious about how global aerospace company Leonardo’s Alabama workforce would manufacture the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation trainer aircraft if it’s picked for the role?

Leonardo announced plans in March for an advanced manufacturing center in Tuskegee for its T-100 trainer jet, one of the contenders in an Air Force competition to replace its aging fleet of T-38 aircraft. Earlier this month, an Alabama delegation got a first-hand look at how Leonardo manufactures advanced training aircraft during a tour of a company factory in Italy.

A fast-paced video from Leonardo DRS shows how T-100s would be manufactured at the Alabama facility.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, led the delegation comprised of state and Macon County officials who traveled to Leonardo’s aircraft manufacturing facility in Venegono Superiore in mid-November.

While there, the Alabama group also received a briefing from Leonardo executives who said preparations for the Tuskegee manufacturing center are on track.

Secretary Canfield said the aircraft factory would have a massive economic impact on Macon County and the surrounding area.

“The T-100 factory would create an anchor for a new aviation manufacturing industry in Tuskegee with high-paying jobs and tremendous long-term growth prospects,” he said.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say the Leonardo facility would create new opportunities for citizens and businesses in Macon County that would change the trajectory of the entire region.”


Leonardo’s manufacturing center would be located at Moton Field, where the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilots trained during World War II.

Leonardo’s twin-engine M-346 aircraft is already being used to train pilots to fly next-generation fighter aircraft. The T-100 is based on the proven M-346, which has been selected for a training role by Italy, Israel, Singapore, and Poland.

Leonardo said its project in Tuskegee calls for the creation of 750 full-time jobs.

An Air Force decision on the trainer jet competition is expected next spring.

Read an interview with Tuskegee Mayor Tony Haygood on what the T-100 factory would mean for the area.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama ranks high in economic development magazine’s 2017 Business Climate rankings

(Made in Alabama)




Site Selection, an economic development-focused publication, ranked Alabama No. 6 in its annual State Business Climate survey, a healthy improvement over rankings in the previous two years.

The magazine’s closely watched rankings are based largely on feedback from site selection consultants and corporate real estate executives, as well as the level of high-quality project activity in the states. Alabama ranked No. 9 in 2016 and No. 11 in 2015.

Location consultants surveyed by Site Selection gave Alabama especially high marks in the 2017 Business Climate rankings. Alabama ranked No. 4 among the states in the magazine’s Executive Survey, the most important component in the rankings, accounting for 50 percent of the overall score.

That’s also an improvement, as site-selection consultants ranked Alabama No. 8 in 2016 and No. 9 in 2015.

“This high ranking from site-selection professionals underscores the hard work put in by the Alabama economic development team, which competes every day to bring high-caliber jobs to communities across the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We are going to continue our strategy of pursuing game-changing projects because we are committed to creating opportunities that position the state for future growth,” he added.

Between 2011 and 2016, economic development activity brought $28.5 billion in new capital investment to Alabama, along with 107,000 new and future jobs, according to Commerce data. In 2016 alone, new capital investment in Alabama totaled $4.2 billion, with 14,700 anticipated jobs.

This year, the Alabama economic development team, led by Governor Kay Ivey, has secured a series of major projects in strategically important industry sectors. Companies announcing projects include Mercedes-BenzToyotaBlue OriginAerojet RocketdyneLeonardoAutocar, and many others.


The high ranking in Site Selection’s 2017 Business Climate survey is the latest recognition earned by Alabama’s economic development team. Other recent examples include:

  • Area Development, another economic development publication, ranked Alabama No. 6 overall its 2017 “Top States for Doing Business” analysis. Alabama scored in the Top 10 in nine of the survey’s individual categories, spanning a wide range of critical economic development issues.
  • Alabama ranked No. 8 in Site Selection’s per-capita rankings for economic development project activity, a measurement that levels the playing field for small and mid-size states. Alabama’s ranking improved from No. 10 in the previous year.
  • Area Development awarded Alabama a Silver Shovel for solid business recruitment and support in 2016.

“It’s almost like a stuck record in Alabama, but it’s playing beautiful music that economic development officials will never tire of hearing,” the publication noted. “Automotive and aerospace manufacturing continues to drive healthy economic activity, enough for yet another Silver Shovel honor covering the news from 2016.”

Read the Site Selection story on its Business Climate rankings.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

SAS Automotive Systems to support Mercedes production in Alabama

(Made in Alabama)

Global auto supplier SAS Automotive Systems is launching an operation in Tuscaloosa County to support the production of Mercedes-Benz’s next-generation sport utility vehicles in Alabama, adding 170 jobs to the state’s expanding auto sector.

Germany-based SAS is the world’s leading module assembler, producing nearly 5 million cockpit modules each year on 33 assembly lines at 21 plants across the globe, according to the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority (TCIDA).

“SAS is more than happy to contribute to the great success story of Alabama’s auto production that started right in the very plant where we will be supplying components for Mercedes-Benz’s next generation of SUVs,” SAS Chief Operating Officer Francois Barthel said in an announcement today.

Mercedes, which launched vehicle production in Alabama 20 years ago, is completing a $1.3 billion expansion project announced two years ago to prepare its Tuscaloosa County plant for new SUVs. The automaker is currently setting up assembly line and storage facilities as part of that project.

SAS engineers are already on-site at the Mercedes facility to streamline processes prior to first assembly trials scheduled for beginning of 2018, with production to begin later next year, according to TCIDA. The supplier plans to employ around 170 employees, including 160 shop-floor workers. Hiring will begin soon.

“Alabama’s thriving auto manufacturing industry continues to attract world-class supplier businesses like SAS Automotive Systems, whose new Tuscaloosa County presence will join the company’s global operating network,” Governor Kay Ivey said.

“We’re committed to making our state the No. 1 destination for investment in the world, and we are grateful for the 170 jobs that SAS is creating with this venture,” she added.


The company based in Karlsruhe, Germany, employs a workforce of more than 4,000 people. It has a long-term working relationship with Mercedes and Smart in Europe, both divisions of German car manufacturer Daimler AG.

“SAS Automotive Systems is a premier global automotive supplier and its locating here in Tuscaloosa County speaks well of a strong and capable workforce in a pro-business environment,” TCIDA Chairman Claude Edwards said.

SAS is launching operations in Alabama at a time of rapid growth for the auto sector. Last year, there were at least 68 auto projects in Alabama, for an estimated total of 3,850 jobs and $907 million in new capital investment, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

This year’s total has eclipsed that, led by a $1 billion expansion project announced in September by Mercedes that will see the automaker launch production of electric vehicles at its Alabama plant and open a global logistics center in nearby Bibb County.

“The success that major global automotive companies have found in Alabama has made the state a top destination for the industry,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“The repeated expansions of Mercedes-Benz and others have transmitted a strong signal across the industry that Alabama is a place where it can prosper and grow,” he added.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Alabama universities provide new business incubators to launch young entrepreneurs

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator celebrated its official ribbon cutting in October. (Image: Auburn University)



Alabama universities are providing new launch pads for entrepreneurs and their innovative business ideas across the state.

Several new incubators have opened or are in the works, and all of the projects have the potential to help spin out new jobs and investment for local communities.

At the University of Alabama, the Technology Villages program has kicked off with two partner cities – Cullman and Fairhope – and the goal of creating entrepreneurial hubs that will fuel tech business growth.

The program is a “unique bend on economic development” that will be especially useful in small and rural communities that don’t have a lot of money to spend on business recruiting efforts, said Dr. Rick Swatloski, director of UA’s Office for Technology Transfer.

“Successful communities are required to continue to aggressively recruit new companies, but also diversify to support vital new small company growth that represents over half of new jobs created in the United States today,” he said. “We look forward to communities, private companies, federal agencies, individuals and Alabama corporations joining the University in this critical job creation mission.”

The Technology Villages program assists communities in building and operating storefront technology-focused incubators. In Cullman, the city has renovated a 2,200-square-foot space for its Village in the downtown business district, and in Fairhope, BBVA Compass has pledged space for the Village, also downtown.

The goal of the centers is not to be traditional incubators; rather, they will function as start-up resource hubs for distance learning and consultant support. The university also will provide business development services, including help with research, patents and contract manufacturing strategy.

“Both communities have secured initial funding for the program, and identified the location,” Swatloski said. “The next critical step for both will be the hiring of a director to oversee the day-to-day operations. Additionally, the communities are continuing to identify additional key partnerships to help ensure the sustained success of the program.”

Technology Villages is based on a five-year pilot program conducted by Clemson University in five South Carolina cities. In the first 18 months of that initiative, programs in Bluffton and Rock Hill created more than a dozen companies and nearly 70 new jobs.


Meanwhile, Auburn University recently opened the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator, a 2,700-square-foot space at the Auburn Research Park that provides student-led startups with office and meeting space, along with access to mentors.The facility is a collaborative effort between the Harbert College of Business’ Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship and the Auburn University Research and Technology Foundation.

Harrison Evola is a recent Auburn graduate and founder of FetchMe, a concierge delivery service that has experienced significant growth over the past year.

Evola has been using the incubator space for his business operations, and he has also participated in Auburn’s Tiger Cage student business pitch competition.

“The Tiger Cage center is so helpful,” he said. “I have a place to meet with employees, keep my work stuff, work 24/7 and I’m surrounded by other kids who have ambition like me as well.”

The idea for FetchMe was born when Evola was a teenager working for Papa John’s Pizza, where he did everything from making and delivering pizzas to washing dishes and helping customers.

“I liked interacting with people, and I thought it would be cool to own my own business. I took that thought and applied it to FetchMe,” he said.

The startup, which delivers restaurant food, groceries, snacks, coffee and more, made its first delivery a year ago. Today, the firm does 1,500 orders per month and has partnered with more than 25 restaurants in the Auburn area, with plans to expand further. A complete list of partners and services can be found at


At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, construction is underway on the D.S. Davidson Invention to Innovation Center (I²C), which will serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs and new business development in the region.

The three-story, 46,650-square-foot building is expected to be complete by early 2019, and it features easy access to UAH’s College of Business, as well as the university’s library, engineering, and science and technology facilities.The facility’s mission is three-fold: stimulating growth of new and existing science and engineering high-tech companies; catalyzing formation of a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem in the northern Alabama and south central Tennessee regions; and building partnerships with various entrepreneurial ecosystems and hubs to create pathways that empower, ignite, and motivate the community to make ideas happen.

“I²C facility and programs will support entrepreneurs on building scalable, investable, high-growth, technology-focused businesses that will serve as catalysts for economic development and regional innovation,” said Rigved Joshi, who oversees strategy, programming, partnerships and daily operations at the center.

The incubator is named for Huntsville businesswoman and philanthropist Dorothy S. Davidson, who made a $5 million gift to UAH in support of the project. Other funding came from the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Innovation Fund, Madison County Commission, City of Huntsville, UAH Foundation and U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Davidson, who is chief executive and board chairman of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies Inc., said she knows how hard it is to start a business when you don’t have the support you need. Most people fail, she added, not because they don’t have the technological expertise but because they lack business skills.

In the new incubator, small business owners will benefit from the university’s expertise and the close proximity of peers at Cummings Research Park.

“They won’t necessarily compete with the businesses in Huntsville, but they will be coming out with innovative ideas to improve what’s already here with help from the university,” Davidson said. “That will make the incubator an open door to creating small businesses, giving those with innovative ideas a place to go, get set up, and develop more technology.”

(By Dawn Azok, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

John Stossel: As Republicans seek tax reform, Dems and media tell same “evil rich” story



As Republicans struggle to agree on a tax plan, Democrats and much of the media label each attempt at reform a “gift” to rich people.

In one sense, they are right. Any tax cut disproportionately favors rich people since the rich pay much more tax.

But the media and Democrats (is there a difference?) are wrong because they routinely portray rich people as parasites who take from other people.

Flying Dog Brewery owner Jim Caruso objects to that kind of thinking. He took over a bankrupt brewery and made it successful by inventing new craft beers. I won’t buy his beers — with varieties like blood orange ale — but enough people like them that Caruso has become relatively rich.

He’s the kind of person Sen. Bernie Sanders rails about. “The top 1 percent,” complains Sanders, “earned 85 percent of all new income.”

That sounds unfair. But Caruso doesn’t see it that way.

“My goal in life is to be the best part of your day,” he told me. “You will have unequal outcomes (but) we all benefit from that.”

He’s right. Caruso provided consumers new choices and created more than 100 jobs.

But for my YouTube video this week, I pushed back: “The top fraction of earners has half the assets in this country. This ticks people off. They view it as evil.”

“Think about it this way,” responded Caruso. “Apple was the first company to be worth $800 billion dollars. I was curious, how much was (Apple founder) Steve Jobs worth in 2011 when he passed away? … Ten billion dollars! I did some quick calculations…”

His calculations revealed that because about 2 billion Apple devices were sold, Jobs collected about $5 for each device.

Isn’t your cellphone worth much more to you than $5? Mine is. It must be, since I just paid $800 for a new one. I got a machine worth hundreds of dollars to me, but the inventor got only $5.

“Steve might have been underpaid,” said Caruso. “The feeling tends to be that somebody like Steve Jobs took something away from everybody else … (but) what did Jobs take? … (H)e had this idea: Wouldn’t it be great to have a thousand songs in your pocket? (He created) one of the most massively important tools for productivity and communication in life!”

Generally, Jobs got a pass when the media attacked rich people, maybe because reporters liked Apple’s products. But other rich Americans are routinely labeled “parasites.” Sanders suggests that if some people have billions, the rest of us must have billions less.

But that’s not true, Caruso points out. “It’s that zero-sum game mentality: that somehow people who create stuff are taking it from other people. That’s simply inaccurate. It’s not a zero-sum game. They’re creating stuff that didn’t exist before.”

He’s right. It’s not as if there’s one pie and when rich people take a big piece, less is left for the rest of us. Billionaires like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, the Koch brothers, etc. got rich only by baking thousands of new pies.
Entrepreneurs create things; they don’t take from others.

Well, they do take if they conspire with government to get special deals — subsidies, bailouts, regulations that protect them from competition. But without government force, businesspeople get rich only by selling us things we willingly purchase.

We get to decide if we’d be better off with the products that creators offer to sell. Producers get to decide whether they can make enough money from those sales to make their efforts worth their while.

This mutually beneficial exchange is the heart of a market economy.

Government, on the other hand, only knows how to do two things: make you engage in exchanges you don’t want, and prevent you from engaging in exchanges you do want. With every order it issues, government makes the pie a little smaller.

As long as rich people don’t collude with government, they make our lives better.

John Stossel is author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”


4 months ago

Guest Opinion: Why the Toyota/Mazda plant belongs in Alabama not North Carolina

I recently read an article in the Triangle Business Journal about why North Carolina might have the upper hand on Alabama when it comes to the Toyota and Mazda joint plant Economic Development competition. While they certainly make some well-thought-out points, I figured I would respond to this article with why I think the business case for Alabama is a stronger one.

Logistics and Transportation Costs

While I’m basing my argument on the Baldwin Mega site in Bay Minette Alabama, most of these arguments also apply to Alabama’s other Mega site in the Huntsville area.

Transportation costs for parts from their suppliers, as well as raw materials, and the logistical Network already in place favors Alabama. First of all, the main supplier of steel and stainless steel bought the old Thyssen Krupp steel plant in North Mobile County. Also, the network of railroad tracks that come directly into Mobile and the fact that the Baldwin Mega site is directly connected to the Port of Mobile, their steel supplier and engine plant by rail would allow for huge savings in transportation costs for not only Toyota, but also their parts suppliers.

Job Skills Training

Alabama has literally, not figuratively, written the book on job skills training when it comes to automotive manufacturing skills.  We’ve done it for Mercedes Benz, Honda, Hyundai and the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to reproduce it.  Top that off with the fact that the main campus of the Alabama Coastal Community College is less than ten miles from the Baldwin Megasite, and that is a formidable combination.

Shovel Ready

Both Megasites in Alabama are shovel ready, certified and have the site prep work already done.  The Megasite in North Carolina that everyone keeps talking about, the Greensboro site, is still trying to zone all of its site as industrial use. This means that this site is not shovel-ready, the site prep work has not already been done and may have to go through the certification process again. Not being shovel-ready is the reason given why the Memphis Megasite was eliminated from the competition.


According to the Triangle Business Journal article, one of the advantages North Carolina supposedly has over Alabama is the fact that 10 percent of the labor force in Alabama is unionized, versus 3 percent of North Carolina. While this may technically be accurate, this does not take into account the many and most recent high-profile rejections of unionization amongst auto manufacturing employees at plants at Mercedes and Hyundai and Honda. While Alabama may have more union members by percentage than North Carolina, that has not translated into the auto manufacturing industry.

Also, the Triangle Business Journal article mentions many of the high-profile successes and economic development that Alabama has experienced over the years including Airbus, Boeing, Mercedes-Benz and the other auto manufacturing plants in Alabama. They use this as another reason why North Carolina might have an advantage over Alabama in this competition. They claim that the fierce competition for labor with similar skill sets increases wages for employees with those skill sets.

While this is certainly true, I also make the argument that if the Baldwin Mega site is the site that Alabama submitted for this competition, three or four major employers (Airbus, C-Series, Austal and potentially Toyota/Mazda) in a metro area all looking for people with similar skill sets not only increases the wages for people with those skill sets, but also attracts people with them from other areas of the state and other areas of the country, because they know they have a higher likelihood of getting employed if there are multiple employers in an area looking for their skills.

Political Clout

The Triangle Business Journal also argues that because Toyota does not have a presence in North Carolina, that gives them an advantage over Alabama because Toyota usually looks to expand in areas they are not already in to expand their political clout and political representation in Washington.

I respectfully and firmly disagree with the argument that the Business Journal is making here. If the Baldwin Mega site is the location Alabama submitted for this competition, I think political clout works very strongly in favor of Alabama in this competition. Not only does Alabama’s Congressional delegation at both the House and Senate levels work well together in representing the interest of our state and the interest of our major employers, Alabama House District 1 Representative Bradley Byrne has an extremely strong reputation for fighting for the interest of the major employers in his district. Every budget year Representative Byrne has to work within the budget process to defend the interest of Austal shipbuilding and the LCS program. To do this he has had to build a strong bond with the house delegation from Wisconsin, the other state that builds LCS ships for the Navy, including House Speaker Paul Ryan. That strong working relationship with House Leadership is certainly a factor in favor of Alabama’s bid for the Toyota Mazda manufacturing facility.


When Alabama has a fair shot at the competition (giving you the death stare Boeing), and we really want the project, more times than not we get it. It doesn’t matter who our governor is, Bob Riley, Robert Bentley, and now Governor Kay Ivey each have long successful track records at winning economic development projects.

The economic development team that the state of Alabama has assembled, along with local economic development teams all throughout the state of Alabama, work well together hand-in-hand to put incentive packages together that are very attractive and very competitive. The fact that Alabama is one of two states left standing in this competition tells me that Alabama has put a very strong proposal together. Just like in football, when it comes to economic development, Alabama wins way more than they lose, and we have the championship trophies to prove it.

While I have no inside information as to which site Alabama submitted for competition, or what criteria the firm that is heading up the site selection process for Toyota and Mazda is looking for, or what is a priority for Toyota and Mazda, these are all factors that if I were a businessman looking to open this type of project that I would be looking for. Not to mention the fact that the cost of living in the state of Alabama is lower than it is in North Carolina, which means that Toyota and their employees’ spending power is better.

I have followed this competition closely since it was first announced earlier this year. I certainly wish everybody that is still in this competition well; however, if the executives at Toyota and Mazda and their site selection firm want to come down and take a look at the Baldwin Mega site, let me know I’ll be more than happy to treat them to an oyster dinner at The Original Oyster House and show them Mobile Southern Hospitality at it’s best.

David Preston is the owner of a transportation logistics company in Mobile, Alabama. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

4 months ago

Alabama coal counties gain industry revitalization with $2.4 million initiative

The Prosperity Fund’s Steven Puckett (far left) with the owners of A&A Machine & Welding: Scott Aaron (L), James Aaron (R), Patty Sanders (not-pictured). Puckett has been working with A&A to increase efficiency in its operations.
(Southern Research)



With backing from the Appalachian Regional Commission, (ARC), Southern Research is seeing positive results from The Prosperity Fund, a $2.4 million initiative to accelerate entrepreneurial activity and spark job creation in four Alabama counties rocked by the coal industry’s steep downturn.

The Prosperity Fund’s goal is to foster new start-up businesses and assist selected small firms in Fayette, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, according to Corey Tyree, Ph.D., director of Energy & Environment-Alabama for Southern Research and project leader.

Since 2012, the counties have seen 12,000 jobs tied to coal mining disappear, resulting in $800 million in lost wages.

“These four Alabama counties have accounted for 10 percent of the coal job losses in the nation,” Tyree said. “We have to look for new approaches to job growth and seek out new opportunities for these counties.”

The ARC is supporting The Prosperity Fund with a $1.2 million grant. Southern Research and its partners are matching the rest of the 30-month project’s total cost.

Tyree believes momentum generated by The Prosperity Fund in the four coal counties will encourage private support that will extend its existence beyond the 30 months of the ARC funding.


The Prosperity Fund, established as a public-private partnership, links Southern Research with community officials, business leaders and potential investors in a network to provide broad-based support for entrepreneurship in the four counties.

“Alabama knows how to turn its assets into jobs. Small businesses…are one of those assets. Let’s invest in them. Let’s deploy resources to serve urban and rural Alabama. That’s what The Prosperity Fund is about,” Tyree said.

In addition to setting a goal of facilitating the creation of 10 new businesses, The Prosperity Fund’s other objectives are:

–Creating 80 jobs through business improvement and creation efforts
–Increasing business revenue by $11 million
–Leveraging $6 million in private investment
–Assisting 10 existing businesses


The negative effects in Alabama’s coal country have cost the four counties nearly 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, wiping out more than $800 million in wages.

A&A Machine & Welding has been operating for nearly four decades, but the last few years have brought challenging times for the family-owned business.

“This effort is about getting in the trenches with businesses like A&A, getting out on the shop floor, understanding how their processes work, and finding solutions for them so they can boost productivity,” said Steven Puckett, The Prosperity Fund’s managing director.

At A&A Machine, the owners are encouraged by the assistance they’ve already received from The Prosperity Fund.

“I think Steven and The Prosperity Fund can really help us over the long term,” Aaron said. “He is helping us manage what we have going on in the business now and setting us up for when we can grow. Right now, I think we have the potential for a lot of good growth.”

4 months ago

German auto supplier to invest $115 million in Alabama plant, create 300-plus jobs

(Made In Alabama)


 Bocar, a Tier 1 automotive supplier, announced plans Thursday to invest $115 million in a new plant in Alabama, creating more than 300 jobs in a project that adds to the state’s booming automotive manufacturing sector.

Bocar company leaders made the announcement at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, along with representatives of the City of Huntsville and Limestone County.

“We are glad to invest in Huntsville, Alabama, where good infrastructure, talented people and a host of excellent universities will develop our business while contributing positively to the social and economic development of this community,” said Gerd Dressler, the chief financial officer of Bocar Group.

The plant will be built on a site strategically located on the northern side of Bibb Garrett Road, adjacent to Interstate 65, in the Huntsville portion of Limestone County. This will allow the company quick access to be able to ship parts to automotive companies in the region.Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2018 and production should begin two years later.“Alabama is a premier destination for the automotive and automotive supplier industries, and we are proud to welcome Bocar to our state,” Governor Kay Ivey said.“Bocar choosing Alabama is another sign our state is moving in the right direction and doing all we can to attract good-paying jobs for all Alabamians.”

Bocar is a German company with a presence in the United States, Germany, Mexico and Japan. It is a high-end technology and quality-driven automotive company with extensive experience producing high-pressure aluminum die casting, plastics and machining.

“Bocar is one of the most highly regarded of the Tier 1 automotive suppliers to leading companies like Toyota, Ford, GM and many others,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“The company’s decision to locate this major facility in Huntsville is yet another building block in the foundation of our advanced manufacturing automotive sector.”

Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough said Bocar’s decision reflects the company’s confidences in the area’s workforce.

“We know that they will be a successful part of our future moving forward,” he said.

(By Jerry Underwood, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 months ago

Birmingham-based cleaning business exemplifies the best of free market economics

(Two Maids and a Mop Franchising/Facebook)


A Birmingham-based cleaning business is on track to make $11 million dollars this year by doing your household chores.

Since it started cleaning floors and toilets 14 years ago, Two Maids & A Mop has seen extraordinary growth because its founder and CEO, Ron Holt, saw a critical market need and met it with innovations such as the now famous “Pay for Performance” compensation plan.

Holt’s success exemplifies the best of a free market economy: If you don’t like your job and have the willpower, you can strike it out on your own.

Before Holt started Two Maids & A Mop, he had a good job directing a laboratory, but it wasn’t what he wanted.

“I had career opportunities in front of me and in the industry,” Holt told CNBC. “There was a bright future, but it wasn’t bright enough.”

Holt wanted to be his own boss, so he began saving money for an initial investment in a new business.  For $150,000, Holt bought a one-man cleaning service in Pensacola, Florida, where he launched the first Two Maids & A Mop. The 250 square foot office was located right next to the railroad tracks, with trains roaring by every 30 minutes, according to the company’s website. That was April of 2003.

Fast forward to 2013, when Inc. Magazine named it the fastest growing cleaning company in the nation.

Today, Two Maids & A Mop operates in 55 locations throughout the eastern United States. Its growth includes 500 employees, franchise opportunities, and an ambitious executive who wants to open 20 to 30 more locations during the next five years. Read more about the company’s story here.

Jeremy Beaman is a Huntsville-native in his final year at the University of Mobile. He spent the summer of 2017 with the Washington Examiner and writes for The College Fix. Follow him on Twitter @jeremywbeaman.

5 months ago

From Drop-Out to Board Rooms: Sanjay Singh’s Journey of Diligence and Excellence

Dr. Sanjay Singh arrived in the United States in 1985 as a college drop-out from India—a country that doesn’t give many second chances.

After some effort, Sanjay was admitted to the University of Texas at Austin, which at the time had the cheapest tuition of any major U.S. university, and his hope of success was revived. That cheap tuition soon disappeared, however, and Singh found himself out of school again, running low on hope and terribly homesick.

Thankfully, he didn’t give up. In 1986, Sanjay made his way Milledgeville, GA to reunite with his childhood friends, and in hopes of attending Georgia College. In the meantime, he was working at McDonald’s to keep himself afloat, but as he scraped pennies together, he was thrust into a robust community of international students that kept the flame of hope alive—and set him on a course he could’ve never imagined.

At a social gathering in Milledgeville, he met a professor named Tom Pritchett who kept asking Sanjay questions about his background, interests, and aptitudes. “One day, after two hours of conversation, he asked me if I could stop by his office the following day,” Singh said. “Needless to say, I showed up at his office at the appointed time, and he uttered something I never could’ve imagined.  ‘Sanjay,’ he said, ‘I want you to join our MBA program.’

“I said, ‘Professor, thank you for your offer, but I don’t think you understand; I’m a college drop out.’”

Completely undeterred, Pritchett said, “Sanjay, I only ask two things of you: that you never make a B in our program and that you take the GMATs before graduation so that you can apply for your Ph.D. program.”

“I was speechless,” Sanjay recalls. “But that conversation changed my life.”

“As grateful as I was, I was immediately struck by how different this was from anything I would’ve ever experienced in India, and it taught me an unforgettable lesson. Everything I’d heard about America was true,” Singh says. “Here, most everybody is willing to give you a chance, regardless of your religion, the color of your skin, or your socioeconomic success. Remember, I was a college dropout working at McDonald’s, from a foreign country and barely a penny to my name. But Professor Pritchett saw something in me, and he gave me a second chance—and that changed the course of my life. At a foundational level, that’s what makes America different—the gracious willingness of so many people to help others, expecting nothing in return.”

At Georgia College, President Dr. Speir had started an International Relations program. “He understood the power of bringing people from different ethnic backgrounds to exchange ideas. He saw how meaningful this could be so he went to the Board of Regents and asked for 20 partial scholarships to pay for out of state tuitions fees for International Student,” Singh explained.

“I became a candidate for this program and was interviewed extensively by local civic leaders. In another incredible turn of kindness and good fortune, they paid all of my out of state tuition, and on-campus part-time work allowed me to purchase books and pay my food and rent.”

Sanjay explained that he worked several jobs at the time, but kept his word to Dr. Pritchett to never make a B.

“In those days—from 1986 until 1990, I worked 40-60 hours a week, was a fulltime student, and never slept more than a few hours a night, but somehow, I made it through, all because of my second chance and a promise to a man who believed in me,” Singh said.

As he was pursuing his masters, Singh worked in the Georgia College computer lab in the mornings and taught himself a great deal about programming and information systems.

“As I thought back about that program almost 30 years ago, we are all international students who got a second chance in America. Every single one of us got good jobs because we were so deeply grateful for our scholarships. That created a work ethic in us that that is second to none. None of us wanted to short change the learning process, and that hard work paid off,” Singh told Yellowhammer.

“So that was my second big lesson, in addition to America is a place of second chances it taught me the value of developing a work ethic where I was never willing to quit until I’d done what I had to on a given day to pursue excellence.I soaked everything in, and that yearning to learn has never left. I’m forever a student, reading, writing, thinking, mastering my skill,” Singh added.

Sanjay also met his wife during those fortuitous days in Milledgeville, so a down-on-his-luck kid from India who’d arrived in small-town Georgia with no money and little hope, left with an MBA, a beautiful wife, and a bright future. And his story was only beginning.

­­­At age of 25, Sanjay decided it was time to get his Ph.D. “I’d really come to love information systems, so that’s what I studied in my doctorate program. The funny thing is, because I went into the MBA program without completing my undergrad, I had to double back and take a good many math and computer classes, which I did at the Georgia College,” he explained.

In the course of earning his MBA and doctorate, Singh made up his mind that if he were ever in a room, sitting across from anyone, he would be an expert in information systems. “I wanted to be a consummate professional in the business of technology and the technology of business,” Singh says, and that’s exactly what he did.

But the road wasn’t always easy.  “At UGA I was fish out of water,” Singh recalled, but the forever student said he learned two big things there from his professors.

“First, they spent time on the application of research, so they taught me that if I didn’t learn how to apply what I was learning, all of that research was just a waste. Second, they were both world class researchers, so they would use me to assist them with these research projects, and that paid my way through school. At Georgia, I learned the inextricable connection between business and research, and I also learned that if you’re creating value, people will come to you.”

When the Singh’s decided to move to Birmingham, people in Athens thought he’d lost his mind, but he came here because the MBA program at UAB’s Collat School of Business was an evening program that would allow him to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities by the day and teach by evening, and that’s what he wanted to do.

“I was a professor, teaching classes to business professionals twice my age and that opened up so many doors for me. It was the best decision of my life. People in the deep south have a reverent respect for knowledge and learning.”

This led Singh to consulting engagements with local companies, and his trajectory of success continued from there.

The co-founders of CTS Inc.— a Birmingham-based software engineering firm—asked if he’d like to become a partner. During Singh’s tenure, the employee-focused company grew to 350+ employees, and its impressive list of clients included Many Fortune 500 companies, including local firms like Regions Financial, Alabama Power, BlueCross and BlueShield, Protective, BBVA Compass, and UAB.

By 2018, CTS (short for Computer Technology Services), had become Alabama’s largest privately-held commercial software engineering services company.

Sanjay credits its success to a combination of hard work by his business partners, colleagues, and relationships that they built through involvement in organizations such as the Rotary Club of Birmingham, Birmingham Business Alliance, Society of Information Managers and the UAB Business School.

Reflecting on his success, Singh says, “Talk is cheap. We had to create a culture that was family-first and that directly contributed to our success. That meant we put the families of our employees first by showing them that we truly cared, and that separated us in the market. Our employees were highly motivated, striving for excellence because they knew we really cared about them beyond the workplace,” he said.

This year, CTS merged with CGI (NYSE: GIB), the 5th largest IT services company in the world with 75,000+ employees and $10-billion+ in revenues.

And Birmingham, Alabama is thankful this penniless kid from India came a bit further south. He’s created hundreds of jobs, enriched hundreds of lives, and it’s quite certain his next endeavor will be just as meaningful as the last.