The Wire

  • Cagle named president of Alabama Coal Association

    Patrick Cagle has been named the new president of the Alabama Coal Association, succeeding George Barber, who has elected to retire after seven years of service to the coal group which was first formed in 1972.

    Cagle, who has worked with the association on legislative matters in the past, has more than 10 years of experience in navigating Alabama’s political landscape. As executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, a 501c(4) nonprofit whose mission is to protect and create quality jobs, he previously worked hand-in-hand with the coal industry to oppose onerous, job-killing regulations.

    Cagle and his wife, Molly, have a 15-month-old son, Bankston. They are active members at Church of the Highlands. Cagle is an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Conservation Advisory Board, which assists the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources with the formation of hunting and fishing regulations.

  • Don’t call $1K in tax cut savings ‘crumbs’ — U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer

    U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) delivered a speech on the House floor today about how tax reform has impacted Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District.

  • Fatal deer disease would impact more than hunters in Alabama — Montgomery Advertiser

    Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease affecting deer; mule and whitetail deer, elk and moose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. It is fatal to animals that contact the disease, there is no vaccine, the CDC says.

    And it’s getting closer to Alabama.

    “The economic impact, of course, is huge,” Sykes said. “Hunting is a major part of the economy in rural areas of Alabama. And hunting is a huge part of the culture in Alabama. It is a part of the fabric of so many people’s lives.”

    Land values will likely be the first indicator of bad news if CWD comes to the state, said Jeff Roberts, a real estate agent who sells hunting land in the Black Belt.

    “For farmers and landowners, leasing the hunting rights to their places is a huge secondary income for many,” he said. “If CWD comes to Alabama, the land values are going to go into the basement. I’ve had clients turn their backs on absolutely beautiful hunting tracts when they found out feral hogs were on the property. You can imagine what CWD would do to spook buyers.”

16 hours ago

Alabama governor: Significant damage in areas

The governor of Alabama says there has been significant damage in parts of Alabama.

Gov. Kay Ivey said state resources were being sent to the affected areas, especially Jacksonville and Calhoun County, in her statement Monday night.

She added, “Our first priority is ensuring our people are safe. Please stay out of affected areas and let first responders do their job.”


Alabama Power Co. is reporting about 15,000 homes and businesses without electricity in areas including Calhoun and Etowah counties.

Significant damage has been reported at Jacksonville State University in Alabama.

Athletic director Greg Seitz said in a tweet Monday evening, “I can confirm we have major roof damage at Pete Mathews Coliseum, but The Pete is not completely destroyed.” He said there was extensive damage in Jacksonville.

The National Weather Service in Birmingham, Alabama, tweeted earlier that there was possibly a large tornado near Jacksonville and Calhoun County that was moving east into northern Cleburne County.

Severe storms have damaged buildings and downed trees in a northern Alabama county.

The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on Twitter of houses without roofs and destroyed garages in Ardmore, Alabama, on Monday evening. But it had no reports of injuries from the storms.

The office also tweeted that downed trees and power lines were blocking roads in the county along the Tennessee border.

The National Weather Service in Huntsville, Alabama, issued a severe weather statement at 6:41 p.m. that a confirmed tornado was over Ardmore and moving east.

The University of Alabama planned to suspend normal operations Monday evening because of a severe weather threat.

The school said in a news release that operations would be suspended from 6:30 p.m. until midnight. That means classes and campus activities scheduled during that window are canceled.

University libraries were set to close at 6:30 p.m. and some dining halls were set to close early.

Campus shelters were open to students, faculty and staff at North Campus Storm Shelter, East Campus Storm Shelter and the Magnolia Parking Deck. The Magnolia Parking Deck accepts pets accompanied by their owners.

The university plans to provide updates on Twitter at @UA_Safety.

(Image: Governor Kay Ivey/Flickr)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

17 hours ago

Severe storms spawn tornadoes, damage homes in Southeast US

Severe storms that spawned tornadoes damaged homes and downed trees as they moved across the Southeast on Monday night.

Forecasters warned that the storms could threaten more than 29 million people, raising the risk of powerful tornadoes, damaging winds and hail the size of tennis balls.

Cities in northern Alabama reported power outages, and the National Weather Service in Huntsville reported at least three confirmed tornadoes in the area.


In Limestone County, an Alabama county on the Tennessee border, the sheriff’s office posted photos online of houses with roofs ripped off and outbuildings torn from their foundations. Several roads were closed because of power lines or trees, the office tweeted. But it had no reports of injuries from the storms.

The athletic director at Jacksonville State University said late Monday there was significant damage to the campus.

“I can confirm we have major roof damage at Pete Mathews Coliseum, but The Pete is not completely destroyed,” Greg Seitz said in a tweet.

Seitz later tweeted that they were still surveying the campus but that there was major roof damage to two halls, adding that his was thankful that JSU was on spring break this week and that most students are out of town.

Portions of northern Alabama and southern Tennessee were still under tornado warnings Monday night, and the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for much of northern Georgia as the line moved eastward.

Forecasters said the storm threat is unusually dangerous because of the possibility of several tornadoes, some of which could be intense. The weather service says hail as large as 3 inches (7.5 centimeters) in diameter could fall, and there’s a possibility of wind gusts to 70 mph (115 kph).

“The potential for strong to violent, long-track tornadoes is a real possibility,” Alabama state meteorologist Jim Stefkovic said at a news conference.

Alabama Emergency Management Executive Operations Officer Jeff Smitherman raised the threat level and increased staffing at Alabama’s emergency management agency. The storms are the first severe weather to threaten the state this year.

School systems from central Tennessee as far south as Birmingham, Alabama, let out early, hoping students and staff would have time to get home before the storms moved through.

The threatened storms come one day before the official start of spring, and are “by far the most impressive setup we’ve seen so far this year,” said Kurt Weber, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, Alabama.

“We can’t rule out a strong tornado east of Interstate 65 at this point with all the ingredients coming together,” Weber added. “Hopefully not, but definitely a possibility.”

He said golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail, which can do serious damage to buildings and cars, was possible.

“This is one of those days you want to put the car in the garage if you can,” Weber said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey urged Alabamians to implement safety plans and get in a safe location.

“We are not taking the situation lightly,” Ivey said. “Severe weather is unpredictable and that is why it is paramount we prepare ahead of time.”

The University of Alabama suspended operations Monday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, meaning classes and campus activities were cancelled, libraries closed and shelters were opened on campus.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

WATCH: Huntsville voters share strong feelings about election and Roy Moore

Voters speak with Yellowhammer News outside a polling precinct in Madison, Alabama (Yellowhammer)


It was a cold, blustery day in northern Alabama, but that didn’t stop voters from pouring into polling precincts to vote in Tuesday’s special election.

Voters in the Huntsville-area spoke with Yellowhammer News about how they voted, how they feel about the election and what they think about Roy Moore. 




Video Credit: Jacob Woods

3 months ago

Guest Opinion: Alabama internet connectivity not as bad as Huntsville mayor says


As he gears up for his gubernatorial run, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is pushing a more connected “Cyber Alabama”, noting that the state ranks 40th in the nation for internet connectivity.

But the number of state residents he cites lacking what Battle deems adequate internet speeds – 883,000 – is tied to the Federal Communications Commission’s new broadband standard of 25 megabits per second, a 250 percent boost from the previous standard, that was approved under former Democratic chairman Tom Wheeler in 2015.

That paradigm shift suddenly made adequate internet speeds inadequate in the eyes of many bureaucrats, leading to a push for more local governments to step in with taxpayer-funded services, although residents can still stream video on multiple devices with speeds well below 25 mbps.  

In Battle’s own backyard of Madison County, residents enjoy a variety of choices – although leaders like the Huntsville mayor want to tout new entrant Google Fiber as a savior for the city. Google Fiber is leasing dark fiber from Huntsville Utilities, which is in the midst of building a gigabit-capable broadband network and power grid upgrade using $57 million in ratepayer dollars. The utility hopes to recover most of those costs with leases to providers like Google Fiber, although it hasn’t yet announced any other leasees or been forthcoming with financial details on the Google Fiber deal.

Battle’s quest may be a solution in search of a problem considering the introduction of fast speeds by private providers. For example,  AT&T is expanding its Internet 1000 gigabit service to Huntsville and other north Alabama cities, while WOW! Internet, Cable & Phone began providing gig speeds in Huntsville last fall. Comcast will offer speeds up to 10 gigabits per second to Huntsville residents this year. Mediacom is undergoing a major expansion to provide gig speeds in 18 communities in north Alabama and south Tennessee, criticizing the subsidies and cherry-picking ability enjoyed by providers such as Google Fiber.

In his recent blog post, culled from his address to the annual conference of Government Managed Information Systems, Battle gives the introduction of Google Fiber to the Huntsville market the credit for the local internet revolution, but the reality is that legacy providers like AT&T and Comcast have been systemically implementing gig internet across the U.S. for years.

Battle said that 1.1 million people in Alabama have access to only one wired provider, leaving them no options to switch. It’s an argument that’s been at the heart of many government broadband projects, as bureaucrats vote to use taxpayer funds to give residents more internet options.

Putting aside the notion it’s not government’s place to supplement the private market on internet, which has much more expertise in the practice, the money being thrown at publicly owned internet projects would be better suited as subsidies for a free market searching for solutions to solve that rural broadband gap.

For example, Connect America funding is helping fuel the growth of fixed wireless, which allows providers to beam internet signals from cell towers to antennas installed on nearby homes. There are more than 1,400 such providers in the country, covering most of the population.

Better lawmaking would also help. Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) has twice introduced legislation that would provide an income tax credit equal to 10 percent of the investment in qualified broadband telecom network facilities and a 10-year property tax exemption on those facilities in rural areas. His amendment to the Alabama Renewal Act would also exempt sales and use tax for equipment and materials used to operate those facilities.

Perhaps the third time will be the charm in 2018 for Scofield and his smart broadband bills seeking to incentivize private providers to expand to areas where they otherwise struggle to turn a profit.

Alabama needs to be better prepared for a future that will require more high-speed internet, but let’s make sure it’s done the smart way – with less taxpayer money and more reliance on the private sector.

Johnny Kampis, a resident of Cullman, is investigative reporter for the Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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

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

As North Korea tensions rise, Huntsville’s Boeing crucial in meeting amped up goals

(Missile Defense Agency)


In the wake of increased aggression from North Korea and the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the hostile regime, the Missile Defense Agency installed the last of 44 interceptors for a Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system ahead of schedule at Alaska’s Fort Greeley this month.

A Boeing facility in Huntsville has taken a leading role in providing the technological advances necessary to bolster defenses as tensions– and budgets– rise.

Earlier this year, a test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system successfully intercepted a mock long-range rocket traveling at speeds comparable to an ICBM. The MDA said the Boeing-managed test was an “incredible accomplishment,” with experts comparing the precision to one bullet hitting another bullet from an enormous distance, according to Reuters.

Improving the U.S. missile defense system has become a top priority for Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), chairman of the subcommittee on strategic forces.

In an August letter to President Trump, Rogers requested that President Trump approve additional funding as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (NDAA 18).

President Trump has asked for an additional $4.4 billion above his initial request for missile defense systems. More investments could be in the works, with the Pentagon and MDA aiming to increase from 44 interceptors to a proposed 64, according to Defense News.

“I want to commend President Trump for agreeing with us that our nation needs additional missile defense resources in light of the evolving North Korean ballistic missile threats,” Rogers said. “The request from the Office of Management and Budget this week on behalf of President Trump will aid our push for increased discrimination capabilities and the addition of a new field at Fort Greely will help build our capacity.”

When asked about the additional funding and the significant improvements to the missile defense system being developed at the Boeing facility in his district, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) expressed his pride and enthusiasm for the new plan.

“These key investments will ensure we remain far ahead of any threat,” Brooks said, “I am proud of the numerous national security efforts developed by the missile defense community right here in the Tennessee Valley.”

The increase in defense spending is a boon to the Alabama economy. Boeing employs 2,700 employees and has plans to add 400 more by 2020. The aerospace manufacturer’s main Alabama operations are at two facilities in Huntsville, located in the Jetplex Industrial Park and at Redstone Gateway.

4 months ago

Huntsville writer joins Yellowhammer News


Huntsville-native Jeremy Beaman, who has been published in the Washington Examiner and other national conservative-leaning sites, has joined the growing staff of Yellowhammer News as a contributing writer.

“Jeremy has a sharp mind and a refreshing perspective on our culture,” said J. Pepper Bryars, editor of Yellowhammer News. “Our readers will enjoy his take on our politics, our culture and our faith in the coming months.”

Beaman has served as a communication assistant and researcher for the Downtown Mobile Alliance, an intern at WKRG News 5, and has also been published on, Lagniappe Mobile, the Alabama Baptist, the College Conservative and the College Fix.

He has written on matters as diverse as Alabama bourbon, charter schools and Mobile’s refugee resettlement program.

Beaman’s senior thesis at the University of Mobile explores the failures of language within the public square, particularly within journalism and politics.

5 months ago

Alabama Mayor Asks His Community To Rally Around Veterans

Photo: Tommy Battle Facebook

As reported by WHNT News, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle announced a new citywide initiative called the Show Your #RedWhiteBlueHsv. In a Twitter post on Money, Mayor Battle asked that residents honor current and former military members by wearing red, white, and blue, or by flying the American flag from November 2nd-12th.

“They bring a discipline, they bring a workforce, they bring to us a group who gives back day after day after day,” said Mayor Battle. “Our veteran community is always out there doing something better for our community, ultimately they make our community a better place.”

The patriotic push is part of Veterans Day, which is just around the corner. The city asks that you share your photos on social media by using the hashtag #RedWhiteBlueHsv.

5 months ago

Alabama Mayor Honored By National Space Club

Photo courtesy of

For his role helping to support science and technology in his community, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle has been awarded the Community Service award by the National Space Club.

The award was handed out at the 26th annual Dr. Wernher von Braun Memorial Dinner at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Davidson Center in Huntsville. “It was very easy to choose Mayor Battle,” said CEO of LSING Alicia Ryan. “for one he’s amazing leader. He has this ability to think about education, economic development and the community at large. And some of the things he’s done lately have been very significant.”

One of the most notable achievements to land Battle the award was his contribution to Huntsville’s Cyber Camp. By partnering with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Cyber Camp helps introduce students to basic cyber skills and encourage them to enter the field as adults.

Touching on the importance of education, Mayor battle said,“We all know how important the space industry has been to Huntsville, and all the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields are wrapped up in that. We know need to support them at the grassroots level, in educating our students and the future scientists and engineers of the future, as well as our existing corporate citizens here.”

5 months ago

New Advanced Rocket Manufacturing Facility In Huntsville Breaks Ground

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

As reported by Alabama News Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne has officially begun work on their new 136,000-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility.

The new facility, which will produce the AR1 rocket engine, composite cases for rocket motors, and 3-D printed rocket engine components, is expected to create 800 more jobs in the Rocket City. At the ceremony was Aerojet Rocketdyne President and CEO Eileen Drake. “Our major expansion in this region that started in 2016 underscores Aerojet Rocketdyne’s belief that Huntsville, which is known as ‘Rocket City’, will continue to grow as a key aerospace and defense hub for our nation for many decades to come, and Aerojet Rocketdyne plans to be a leader in that growth,” said Drake.

To support the new facility, the company has also leased substantial office space in Cummings Research Park. In addition to the 800 news jobs needed for the manufacturing facility, Aerojet Rocketdyne expects to hire 150 workers for their new office space.

In attendance for the ceremony, Gov. Ivey said, “This is not only an exciting day for Aerojet Rocketdyne and the city of Huntsville, it’s an exciting day for the entire state of Alabama.”

According to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce, aerospace companies announced $260 million worth of investments in 2016 alone. The new hires at the Huntsville facility are expected to offer an average annual salary of around $80,000.

5 months ago

Madison County Commissioner Passes Away

Photo courtesy of Gregory Miley Facebook page

As reported by WHNT News, Madison County Commissioner Bob Harrison, 74, has passed away.

Harrison served as commissioner since 2004. Those around him remember his passion for helping people, whether that be helping the homeless find shelter, or fighting for those without a voice.

After learning about the news, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle issued a statement which says, “We are saddened to hear about the loss of Bob Harrison, a longstanding advocate for his constituents and the underserved. Bob always brought new perspectives to the table, and his voice will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”

Harrison passed away in the hospital Tuesday night after a battle with cancer.

Announcements regarding funeral arrangements have yet to be released.

5 months ago

City of Decatur Looks To Capitalize On Proximity To NASA Facility

Not to be outdone by their Huntsville neighbors, the city of Decatur is making sure the heavy hitters of the aerospace industry know they are open for business as well. In an attempt to attract prime and subcontractors connected to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Decatur is hosting an event it hopes will lure outside businesses to the River City.

As reported by WHNT News, Decatur is located approximately 20 miles from MSFC. Given that close proximity, city leaders know it’s only a matter of time before Huntsville’s economic prosperity starts to spill into their backyard.

In an attempt to speed that process along, the city announced that they will host over 120 businesses connected to MSFC. According to officials, the event will serve two purposes; connecting small businesses to prime contractors and selling them on why they should invest in Decatur. “It’s an opportunity for contractors who are wanting to do business with Marshal-NASA to locate their business in Decatur and take advantage of our workforce,” said Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling.

Decatur is not the only ones who think attracting businesses is a good idea. Lead officials at NASA agree that the city will play an important role in the coming years. “With new industry coming to town, there’s always an opportunity for subcontractors to come in and support those companies, so it really has a multiplier effect,” said MSFC Small Business Specialist David Brock.

5 months ago

Universities In Alabama Help Prepare The Next Generation of Automotive Engineers

Photo courtesy of Alabama News Center

Everyone is aware of Alabama’s prominence on the gridiron, but few are aware of the strides Alabama universities are taking to ensure that students are prepared for automotive manufacturing in the 21 Century.

As reported by Alabama News Center, the University of Alabama is offering education and research opportunities that give automotive engineers the tools they need to continue to compete with an ever-evolving automotive market.

Dr. Bharat Balasubramanian is one of the leading engineering professors at Alabama, and he is helping drive the university’s state of the art program. A former vice president of group research and advanced engineering at Mercedes-Benz, Balasubramanian works in the Capstone’s Center for Advanced Vehicle Technologies. He teaches students about electronics, energy storage and fuel cells, materials and manufacturing, and powertrains. “These are interesting research projects, and we have interaction between the industry and the professors here, who are also getting more insight into what really drives the automotive companies,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

As the automotive industry increasingly develops electric motors, part of the university’s goal is to ensure students are equipped with the knowledge needed to fill the new market. “Since coming here, I’ve been preaching that we need more computer scientists and electrical engineers, as the industry is becoming more electrified,” said Dr. Balasubramanian.

Just last month, Mercedes announced their intent to invest $1 billion in electric vehicle production at their Tuscaloosa plant.

Other Alabama schools are also picking up on the new automotive trends. Auburn University and the University of Alabama in Huntsville are working together as part of the Southern Alliance for Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Center.

Reaching outside the state, Auburn and Huntsville are collaborating with Clemson University with the hopes of receiving an official designation as a National Science Foundation research center. If given the designation, companies will conduct research through member universities. Students will then be given the ability to work on real-world problems and increase their ability to find jobs once they leave.

Speaking to the relationship between auto manufacturers and universities, Auburn associate professor said, “There’s a need for industry to have a relationship for academic research, because they have limited resources to do their own. The industry doesn’t do that on its own anymore, to any great degree, so we are giving them access to what’s coming down the road and what they could be looking for in the future.”

5 months ago

Huntsville Set To Host Wounded Warriors Softball Tournament

Photo courtesy of Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Facebook page

A traveling softball tournament that will make everyone in attendance want to stand up and cheer is returning to the Rocket City. The tournament, hosted by the Association of The United States Army is comprised of players who are all Wounded Warriors and combat amputees.

As reported by WHNT News, the inspirational tournament has visited the Yellowhammer state before. Retired United States Force Staff Sergeant Nick Bradley is a traveling member of the team. Touching on what it’s like to play in Huntsville he said, “You know it’s an unspoken bond really, and it’s amazing to get to come to a town that loves its military so much, that does have such a big military presence.”

While the conclusion of the game will be determined by the scoreboard, the real purpose of the tournament transcends balls and strikes. “While at the end of the game somebody will have more points than the other, everybody will win just because of the experience,” said Command Sergeant Major Billy Counts.

The tournament is set to place October 28th. The first game will start at 10:30 a.m. at the Metro Kiwanis Sports Complex. The public is invited to enjoy the day and admission is free.

5 months ago

Reynolds Announces Run for Alabama State House District 21

Former Huntsville Police Chief Rex Reynolds has declared his candidacy to fill the seat for Alabama House District 21 following the tragic loss of Representative Jim Patterson. Governor Ivey has set a Special Election for January 9, 2018, to fill this vacant House seat.

Reynolds retired from the City of Huntsville in 2013 following 34 years of public service. During his tenure at the city, in addition to serving as Police Chief, Reynolds also had stints as Public Safety Director and City Administrator. In 2015, he became the President of Sharp Communication, and he owns a cattle farm in Hazel Green, Alabama. Rex holds a Master’s Degree from AUM in Justice and Public Safety Administration and the 58-year old Huntsville native grew up in District 21. He’s lived in Northeast Huntsville, where the local baseball park is named after his Father, Royce Reynolds. Royce died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) in 1980.  Rex is a member of Jackson Way Baptist Church, where the former “Ms. Helen” served the church daycare for over 20 years.

Rex is married to the former Mary Fennell and the couple has two sons, Matt and Brett.  Matt is married to the former Rachel Weaver, and they have two sons, Kipton and Kaden.  Rex enjoys being a grandfather, a farmer, and running a small business, but feels the need carry on Rep. Patterson’s legacy in the Alabama Legislature. On his decision to run, Reynolds said: 

 “Our District is unique, covering farms and neighborhoods to the north, though a thriving downtown district, and into Southeast Huntsville. I feel I have the unique skill set to serve all of District 21, given my childhood home place, my schools, my service to the city, running a small business, and farming.”

Rex also believes his years of community service have exposed him to many of the needs of the district. Since retirement, Rex has continued his role on the boards of Boys and Girls Club, Crime Stoppers, Partnership for a Drug-Free Community, and the Madison County Alternative Sentencing Board.  In 2014, he received the Legislative appointment to the Madison County Judicial Commission, and this year he was appointed as a representative to the Alabama Retired State Employees Association.

Rex looks forward to engaging in the conversation about how to best position our state for continued growth, recruiting jobs, and workforce development.  As his campaign’s press release noted, “With growth comes a continued focus on education, jobs, roads, and infrastructure, and social services to serve those most vulnerable in our communities.  Quality of life is also important to Rex; it starts with having a safe community, and creating a positive environment of work, live and play.”

5 months ago

Multi State Police Chase Ends In Huntsville

The sight no one wants to see: police lights in the rearview mirror.

As reported by WHNT News, a police chase that started in Tennessee ended in Huntsville last night.

According to officials, a vehicle carrying three occupants was hailed by police in Lincoln County, Tennessee. After refusing to pull over, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department chased the suspects into Alabama.

The fleeing SUV traveled down Highway 231/431, reaching speeds of 100 MPH. Once the suspects reached Huntsville, the SUV blew a tire, stopping on Chancellor Square.

The three suspects attempted to flee on foot, but they were quickly apprehended by police. It has been determined that the vehicle was stolen, and police found a firearm inside during the search.

As of now, the three suspects are being held in the Madison County Jail.

5 months ago

Huntsville Fire Department Fights More than Just Fires

A Huntsville fire department is fighting more than just fires these days after two firefighters were bitten by brown recluse spiders. According to ABC 33/40, Captain Frank Mackenzie of Huntsville Fire and Rescue told reporters that two firefighters working at Station 17 had been bitten by the spiders. The department has moved the crew to another station and sprayed Station 17 for pests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brown recluse spiders pack a deadly bite.  The spiders usually stay hidden under rocks or leaves. However, they are also common in attics, walls and are often found in dark areas like under folded clothing or even in shoes that haven’t been worn in a long time.

WebMD says,

Brown recluse spider bites often go unnoticed initially because they are usually painless bites. Occasionally, some minor burning that feels like a bee sting is noticed at the time of the bite. Symptoms usually develop 2-8 hours after a bite. Keep in mind that most bites cause little tissue destruction.

Initially the bite site is mildly red and upon close inspection may reveal fang marks. Within a few hours, the redness gives way to pallor with a red ring surrounding the area, or a “bull’s-eye” appearance. The lesion will often appear to flow downhill over the course of many hours. The center area will then often blister, which over 12-48 hours can sink, turning bluish then black as this area of tissue dies.

The brown recluse has a dark, violin-shaped patch just behind their heads. This mark can be difficult to see, so it’s easy to mistake them for other spiders.

Medical sites advise you to immediately call your doctor or go to the emergency room if you believe a brown recluse spider has bitten you. Prompt treatment is especially important for children or elderly people, as they have more severe symptoms than healthy adults.

6 months ago

700 New Jobs Coming To Huntsville

U.S Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL (Photo: Flikr user Bryce Edwards)

As reported by WHNT News, the Huntsville City Council has approved the Aerojet Rocketdyne expansion project.

Part of the project will involve the creation of an advanced manufacturing plant. Located in North Huntsville Industrial park, the plant will build propulsion engines for the SLS deep space rocket. Additionally, the new development will feature defense business headquarters and a rocket shop unit at Cummins Research Park.

The new project is worth an estimated $27 million and will employ over 700 people at a minimum salary of $80,000 per year.

Noting the obstacles that had to be overcome to land the deal, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, “In the final stages, we competed with about five different states but early on it was about 12 different states across the Southeast.”

While the 700 new jobs are expected shortly, the project includes plans for expansion. That could attract over 1,200 new employees to the facility.

6 months ago

Huntsville Sports Scene: It’s More Than Rocket Science

It doesn’t launch people into space. It doesn’t involve serious problems and serious solutions.

But in the high-tech world of Huntsville, it turns out fun and games are also a major industry.

Sports tourism in the City of Huntsville is a $10 million annual industry, according to Ralph Stone, executive director of the Huntsville Sports Commission. That’s the economic impact of visitor spending for sports events. The National Association of Sports Commission estimates spending of $895 per athlete per event, so imagine the revenue generated from sales and lodging taxes for 50-60 events per year.

“Sports are a big business for us,” says Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Plus, it’s just downright fun, whether it’s a 10K race or a state soccer tournament or kids playing baseball.”

Time magazine recently reported that the youth sports industry has become a $15.3 billion annual business. Huntsville has been active in that industry through three different entities: the Huntsville Sports Commission, a full-service entity that is funded by the City that attracts sporting events, often administers them and aids event organizers; the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which works on a broader spectrum of tourism but devotes generous resources toward sports; and the Huntsville Parks & Recreation Department, which primarily serves as host and provider of facilities.

All can be summed up within the mission statement offered by Stone: “To identify, recruit and host sporting events for the purpose of economic impact to our community.”

The Sports Commission has hosted the Alabama High School Athletic Association state soccer championships since 2002 and the AHSAA state wrestling tournament since 2007. It will again welcome the University of Alabama for regular-season basketball game in December.

Facilities are important, and Huntsville is keeping pace – or leading the race. Says Stone, “In order to stay in the game, we have to match up.”

The newest facility is the $22.4 million Huntsville Aquatics Center. It recently held the Southeastern Long Course championships, which provided more than a $1 million boost to the economy, and those in the local swim community are optimistic that it will host national-level events in the future.

New venues are in the works, including 11 soccer/lacrosse fields and a multi-purpose athletic mecca for cyclists, runners and walkers, including competitive venues, on the site of a former municipal golf course.

It is essential to think beyond what those in the business call “the stick-and-ball sports.” Softball tournaments are well and good. But many times, non-traditional sports are looking for homes for their events, and they can have an equal economic impact.

Think Quidditch is just a fantasy sport from Harry Potter movies? It’s now a popular “real” game, and it holds regional (Tuscaloosa is hosting one in February) and national competitions. Huntsville has had great success hosting fishing tournaments and many outdoor-related events. Other competitions from Ultimate Frisbee to shuffleboard to juggling to archery have been on the radar.

Don Dukemineer of the Convention and Visitors Bureau is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Sports Commissions. He frequently travels to conventions and meetings, spreading the gospel of Huntsville. Now and again, he’ll find someone who hasn’t heard of Huntsville, “and I’ll say come check it out. Maybe do a tournament or an event. Once they come here and see all we have to offer, they’ll say, ‘When can I sign on the dotted line?’”

6 months ago

Huntsville Police Conclude Active Shooter Scare Was The Result of Prank Call

As reported by WHNT News, yesterday afternoon Huntsville police received a call indicating there was an active shooter emergency at the Williams School in Huntsville.

Police responded to the scene, cleared the building, but found no shooter. As to be expected, parents and loved ones gathered in fear that their children would be the victims of another school tragedy. Once the situation had stabilized, police began an investigation to determine who made the call.

Now law enforcement officials believe that the call likely came from a student at the school. Lt. Stacy Bates of the Huntsville Police Department said, “It came from a landline within the school. It was a juvenile voice we heard on the line, so we know it was a juvenile. . . We will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. We will use the cameras in the school system, use whatever means they have necessary to determine who did this.”

If it was a juvenile who made the call, then their names will not be released do to state law. However, Bates said they will charge the caller with all crimes possible. “At a minimum, you’ve got rendering a false alarm, depending on what it entails it can be a misdemeanor, it can be a felony. We’re going to go with the strictest charges we can find and as many as we can find in a situation like this,” said Bates.

Aside from criminal punishments, the age of the child also plays a large role in how the school system will proceed. If the child is in elementary school then they are likely to only receive a suspension, said Huntsville City School’s Spokesman Keith Ward. However, if they are in a higher grade, the punishment could involve expulsion.

6 months ago

Former State Senator Tom Butler Announces Campaign For His Previous Senate Seat

Yesterday, former state Senator, Tom Butler, made public his intent to reclaim the state Senate seat he held from 1994-2010. “Being a public servant is my calling. I am ready to go back to work for District 2,” said Butler.

Before his tenure as Senator, Butler served in the Alabama House for 12 years. Butler’s campaign announcement says he was “Recognized as one of Alabama’s outstanding legislators” and points to the fact that he helped recruit businesses like Navistar, Boeing, Menasha, Toyota, and Steelcase.

Butler is a registered pharmacist, with degrees from Auburn University and the University of Alabama.

As part of his campaign, Butler says his previous service in the Senate establishes his record, which includes working to ensure that schools are adequately funded, supporting legislation that improves infrastructure, and being an advocate for the National Space Sciences and Technology Center in Huntsville.

The Republican primary will take place June 2, 2018. Candidates in that race will be working to fill the seat currently held by Bill Holtzclaw, who is leaving to run for Congress.

6 months ago

Huntsville Veteran to Receive Medal of Honor

Photos courtesy Gary M. Rose

President Trump is set to award the Medal of Honor to a Huntsville-native Vietnam veteran next month. The White House announced on Wednesday that Captain Gary M. Rose will be awarded with the nation’s highest military honor for his “conspicuous gallantry during the Vietnam War.”

According to the White House press release, in September 1970, while his unit was engaged deep in enemy territory, Captain Rose repeatedly put his life on the line to protect his comrades. Then-Sergeant Rose continually ran through enemy fire in order to provide medical attention to some of his fallen unit. He even used his own body to shield one wounded American from harm.

Although suffering several wounds of his own, Captain Rose again voluntarily exposed himself to enemy fire in order to escort wounded personnel to the extraction point. He stood his ground by the helicopter, helping to repel the enemy assault on the American position. However, enemy fire overcame the helicopter just as it began to take off, causing it to crash. Despite just having got on board, Captain Rose immediately took to pulling his wounded comrades from the burning wreckage. He was able to provide defense and medical aid until the second helicopter arrived to bring Rose and his unit home.

Rose retired from the Army in 1987, and subsequently earned a master’s degree in communication from the University of Oklahoma. He later worked as a technical consultant in the defense and automobile industries. Today, Captain Rose lives in Huntsville with his wife Margaret. The two have one son, Michael, and two daughters, Sarah and Claire.

The ceremony will be held on October 23.

6 months ago

Commonsense Missile Defense

Photo: US Air Force
By Michael Shindler

The looming possibility of a nuclear conflict between the United States and North Korea is more than enough to remind Americans of the worth of an able and efficient defense. Most Americans don’t devote much time to considering the technical aspects of the U.S.’s missile defense strategy, but luckily, Senator Luther Strange has. Last week, Sen. Strange submitted legislation that, if enacted, would ensure that the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Program (GMD) could continue to effectively protect Americans were North Korea, or any other country, to attack us with nuclear missiles.

GMD, an unsung guardian of America’s welfare, is America’s most vital defense against the threat of incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles carrying biological, nuclear, chemical, or conventional warheads. In the event of such a grim eventuality, as enemy missiles arc through space and begin their descent, a flock of Ground-based Interceptor missiles from Fort Greely, Alaska or Vandenberg Air Force Base, California would climb through the clouds and destroy them far above the earth, where any fallout or debris could do little harm to the innocents below. Sen. Strange’s proposed legislation would protect GMD from a ruinous policy conceived by the Obama administration: “disaggregation.”

Disaggregation entails the “in-sourcing” of missile defense development within the government. As of now, Boeing and Northrop Grumman as well as a variety of reliable smaller contractors constitute the GMD program. However, if the government were to proceed with disaggregation, instead of contracting firms to meet the goals of the program, the Air Force would purchase components from different firms and combine them into one hypothetically cohesive government-administered program.

Not only would this result in an inherently more bureaucratic system, it would mangle programs that are already remarkably efficient and streamlined. Worse yet, it would almost certainly result in the distribution of some work and contracts to firms without the extensive and impressive track records already had by GMD’s current contractors. Therefore, it’s crucial that Sen. Strange’s colleagues see the reason in his proposed legislation.

The United States can’t afford to let the misguided policy of disaggregation sow uncertainty and create national security risks by imposing so severe a change to the nature of the country’s only defense against nuclear weapons right as we find ourselves caught in the horror of a potential nuclear conflict with North Korea.

Additionally, proceeding with disaggregation would likely escalate the cost of the program by inflating the number of bureaucrats involved in the assembly of this proposed centralized approach to missile defense and—in the inescapable style of American bureaucracy—the government would create an ever-multiplying number of departments intended to supervise and guide these newly hired bureaucrats. Taxpayers should find this prospect petrifying, not only because it would cost them more, but because it would translate into less high-paying job opportunities.

Boeing’s headquarters for the GMD program is in Huntsville, Alabama and even though Boeing is tasked with providing a public service, they do it with all the energy and economic might that is inherent to a private firm shaped by market forces. Were disaggregation to ensue, not only would many Alabamans working at Boeing’s GMD headquarters find themselves jobless thanks to government meddling, but were they to get a similar job in the newer, more bureaucratic version of GMD—they would probably be paid much less. And it’s not only employees at titanic defense contractors like Boeing who would be affected, it would also be people working at smaller regional firms that support GMD, like Sexton Welding & Supply, Iroquoi Systems, Wildwood Electronics, and Apex Technology Design of Alabama.

Sen. Strange’s proposal is commonsense. The costs of embarking on the path of disaggregation are too high for America’s national security and the security of its taxpayers and labor force. The lure of centralization and distrust of market forces that were characteristic of Obama’s tenure in office should not be allowed to persist.

About the Author: Michael Shindler is a writer living in Washington, DC. His articles have appeared in outlets including Real Clear Defense, Washington Examiner, and The Hill, and his work on defense spending has been cited by the Congressional Research Service. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelShindler.