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.

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5 hours ago

Students: 1 million expected at anti-gun-violence marches

Students from the Florida high school where 17 people were fatally shot last month expect more than 1 million participants in upcoming marches in Washington and elsewhere calling for gun regulations, students said Monday.

More than 800 March for Our Lives demonstrations are planned around the world Saturday, sparked by the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“It just shows that the youth are tired of being the generation where we’re locked in closets and waiting for police to come in case of a shooter,” Alex Wind, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told The Associated Press.


“We’re sick and tired of having to live with this normalcy of turning on the news and watching a mass shooting,” he added.

Since the massacre, Stoneman Douglas students have been at the forefront of a push to tighten gun restrictions and protect schools.

They have led rallies and lobbied lawmakers in Washington and Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. Last Wednesday, tens of thousands of students around the U.S. walked out of their classrooms to demand action on gun violence and school safety. Stoneman Douglas students fanned out Monday to discuss the marches with media outlets in New York, including NBC’s “Today” show and “CBS This Morning.”

The National Rifle Association didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry Monday about the upcoming marches. The group has said any effort to prevent future school shootings needs to “keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others, while protecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.”

Amid the wave of activism, Florida passed a law curbing young peoples’ access to rifles; the NRA has sued to try to block it. Some major U.S. retailers decided to curb the sale of assault-style rifles or stop selling firearms to people younger than 21.

But Congress has shown little appetite for new gun regulations. President Donald Trump at one point proposed raising the minimum age for buying an assault rifle to 21 but then backed off, citing a lack of political support.

The Republican president has since released a school safety plan that includes strengthening the federal background check system and helping states pay for firearms training for teachers, while assigning the buying-age issue to a commission to study.

A petition associated with Saturday’s march calls for banning sales of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as tightening background checks.

The suspect in the Parkland shooting, 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15 assault-style rifle, according to authorities. His lawyer has said he will plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence, rather than possibly facing the death penalty.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that documents show some officials recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation, though the recommendation was never acted upon. Such a commitment would have made it more difficult, if not impossible, for Cruz to get a gun legally.

Beyond making a statement, Saturday’s marches aim to make political change by registering and mobilizing people to vote.

But the students insist their aim isn’t partisan: “We’re just trying to make sure that morally just people are running this country,” Stoneman Douglas senior Ryan Deitsch told the AP.

As soon-to-be voters, the students say they’re here to stay in the public debate.

“We are not just a presence on Twitter. We are not just some social media fad. We’re not like Tide Pods,” Deitsch said, referring to the laundry detergent packets that recently sparked a dangerous social-media-fueled trend of teenagers eating them.

“We’re trying to push this idea that we have a voice, that people can speak out, and that that voice should be heard,” Deitsch said.

(Image: ABC News/YouTube)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

Deborah Edwards Barnhart is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center may teach visitors about space vehicles that defy gravity, but for its CEO and Executive Director Deborah Edwards Barnhart, the center itself has proved gravitational – pulling her into its orbit several times throughout her four-decade career.

Barnhart, who will this month be honored as a Yellowhammer Woman of Impact, began working in public affairs and marketing at the Space and Rocket Center in the early 1970s when she was in her final year at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, according to a 2012 U.S. army article detailing her background.


After some time away, she returned to manage publicity when the center added the space shuttle.

“That’s when I became interested in satellites,” Barnhart told Army.mil reporter Kari Hawkins. “At that time, the Navy was in charge of all satellite programs. My father had been a Navy Seabee in World War II and my brother attended the Naval Academy. So, at the age of 27, I joined the Navy to work on satellites.”

Barnhart would serve 26 years in the military — achieving the rank of Navy captain and becoming one of the first 10 women certified to serve aboard Navy ships — before returning to the Space and Rocket Center in 1986 to serve as the director of Space Camp and Space Academy.

She went on to hold leadership roles in three major aerospace and defense companies including Honeywell International, United Technologies Aerospace and McDonnell Douglas. She also raised two children and earned graduate degrees from the University of Maryland and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate in strategy and supervision from Vanderbilt University.

Barnhart had retired from Honeywell and moved to Florida, where she did consulting and owned and managed two thoroughbred training centers, when she was recruited to take her fourth role at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center – this time as its CEO.

Since taking the position in 2010, Barnhart is credited with restoring the center’s financial health after it struggled for years with a staggering amount of debt racked up in the late 1990s.

Last year, the center saw an 11 percent increase in revenue and an 18 percent increase in camp revenue, as well as all-time record attendance, helping it maintain its spot as Alabama’s top attraction, according to a 2017 annual report.

“The Center is financially sound, engaged with our community, and focused on our mission of lighting the fires of imagination,” Barnhart wrote in the report.

Nearly 16 million people have toured the center since it opened in 1970. It is the largest spaceflight museum in the world.

Barnhart received NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, its highest non-government recognition, and last October she was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor, along with Gov. Kay Ivey and two other women (the first time a class of inductees has all been female).

Barnhart will again be honored with Gov. Ivey in an awards event March 29 in Birmingham. The Yellowhammer Women of Impact event will honor 20 women making an impact in Alabama and will benefit Big Oak Ranch. Details and registration may be found here.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News.

6 hours ago

Talladega Superspeedway lands sponsor for October’s main event

Talladega Superspeedway announced today that the company 1000Bulbs.com would sponsor its October NASCAR Monster Energy Cup, which is one of sanctioning body’s 10 “playoff” events that determine who is the champion of its premier series.

The event scheduled for October 14 will be known as the 1000Bulbs.com 500. In previous years, the event had gone with the “Alabama 500” moniker without a primary sponsor.

The sponsor, 1000Bulbs.com, in a Texas-based company that focuses on specialty lighting. According to a release from the track, the company started with two employees and had grown to more than 240 people and “has over 2500 orders daily from 30,000 new customers each month.”


“We can’t wait for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 to get here,” Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch said in a statement. “What a company 1000Bulbs.com is to partner with, one that strives for excellence with cutting-edge technology and so many incredible lighting products to take care of their customers’ needs. Our fans know that when they come to Talladega, we will do everything in our power to make sure they have an incredible time. We are the most competitive track in all of NASCAR, and we welcome Kim and his staff to the Talladega Superspeedway family.”

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

(Image: Talladega Superspeedway, View from O.V. Hill South Tower — Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

7 hours ago

Hillary Clinton’s ‘clarification’ is actually a doubling-down on yet another foolish statement

During the election, Hillary Clinton whined about “deplorables”, blaming the hate-filled monsters who would never vote for a woman for her surprising loss. In her mind, and the minds of her supporters, the only person we can’t blame for her loss is Hillary Clinton. Her most recent silly gaffe was last week, where she spoke in front of an adoring crowd in India and called out white women, whose votes were effectively split, for being tools of their bosses, husbands and (somehow) their sons.

The media will tell you she has had a change of heart, some are even calling it an “apology“:

“As much as I hate the possibility, and hate saying it, it’s not that crazy when you think about our ongoing struggle to reach gender balance — even within the same household. I did not realize how hard it would hit many who heard it,” Clinton wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.


Why this matters: That’s not an apology or a clarification, she clearly thinks she is right. She cannot accept the fact that she was the worst presidential candidate of all time. Her real problem goes much deeper, she has been surrounded by a group of sycophants in her political orbit and in the media. We shouldn’t be angry at Hillary Clinton, we should pity her.  At this point, we might as well just start rattling off the people Clinton hasn’t blamed for her loss to Donald Trump, but that list would only have one entry: “Hillary Clinton”.

The details:

— As much as Clinton tried to imply white women voted as a homogeneous block, white women were far more split in their presidential choice than any other sub-group.

— 52 percent of white women voted for Trump and 43 percent voted for Clinton, this is hardly a monolith that you can group as all in for one candidate.

— Even after the election and eight months into Donald Trump’s term, Clinton was still wildly unpopular.

— In fact, Clinton was still more unpopular than Trump, only 30 percent of respondents viewed her favorably.

(Image: File)

Dale Jackson hosts a daily radio show from 7-11 a.m. on NewsTalk 770 AM/92.5 FM WVNN and a weekly television show, “Guerrilla Politics,” on WAAY-TV, both in North Alabama. Follow him @TheDaleJackson.

7 hours ago

‘Sex in the City’ star Cynthia Nixon running for governor

Former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon said on Twitter Monday that she’ll challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York’s Democratic primary in September.

Her announcement sets up a race pitting an openly gay liberal activist against a two-term incumbent with a $30 million war chest and possible presidential ambitions.

“We want our government to work again. On health care, ending massive incarceration, fixing our broken subway,” Nixon said in a video announcing her candidacy . “We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us.”


Nixon has her work cut out for her. A Siena College poll released Monday showed Cuomo leading her by 66 percent to 19 percent among registered Democrats, and by a similar margin among self-identified liberals. Nixon did a little better among younger and upstate Democrats, but didn’t have more than a quarter of either group.

The poll of 772 registered voters was conducted March 11-16. The margin of error is plus-minus 4.0 percentage points.

Nixon has in recent months given speeches and interviews calling on Democrats nationally to run “bluer” in 2018 and carve out a strong, progressive liberal identity rather than being merely “the anti-Trump party.”

It’s a left-flank strategy that has had success against Cuomo in the past — nearly unknown liberal activist and law professor Zephyr Teachout garnered a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 2014 Democratic primary.

“It could be a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party in some sense,” said Baruch College political scientist Douglas Muzzio.

Nixon, a 51-year-old Manhattan mother of three, is a longtime advocate for fairness in public school funding and fervent supporter of Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has frequently clashed with Cuomo. Her video shows her walking her young daughter to school as she talks about being a proud public school parent.

Last month, at the annual New York gala of Human Rights Campaign, which has endorsed Cuomo on, she took a backhanded stab at the governor’s record: “For all the pride that we take here in being such a blue state, New York has the single worst income inequality of any state in the country.”

More recently, she has been delving into issues of keen interest to New York City, the main blue stronghold in a state where suburban and rural towns upstate tend to run red.

One of those issues is transportation policy, which contributed to a plunge in Cuomo’s popularity last July amid his “summer of hell” forecast for New York City commuters facing ongoing transit breakdowns and delays.

The 60-year-old Cuomo had no immediate comment on Nixon’s candidacy. But recently, he mocked the celebrity status the Grammy, Emmy and Tony winner could bring to the race.

“Normally name recognition is relevant when it has some connection to the endeavor,” Cuomo told reporters earlier this month. “If it was just about name recognition, then I’m hoping that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Billy Joel don’t get into the race.”

While Nixon has strong political connections and name recognition in the city that was the backdrop for her Emmy Award-winning role as lawyer Miranda Hobbes in the HBO comedy “Sex and the City,” her star power among upstate voters is less certain.

Jefrey Pollock, pollster and political adviser to Cuomo and other prominent Democrats, said that celebrity isn’t likely to trump governing experience in the voting booth.

“Over and over in our research, Democratic primary voters say they’re not looking for an outsider because they look to Washington, D.C., and see what the outsider has meant to this country,” Pollock said.

Nixon won’t be the only celebrity candidate on the New York ballot. Former “Law and Order: SVU” actress Diane Neal is running for Congress as an independent in a Hudson Valley district.

The first task for Nixon, Muzzio said, is to launch a listening and talking tour.

“She can’t be the celebrity glamour girl,” he said. “She’s got to get out there and get exposure upstate.”

(Image: Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York/Flickr)

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)