The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 hours ago

The Saddle Guy carries on a family tradition of saddle making in Alabama

(Kevin Parrish/Contributed)

Kevin Parrish is a craftsman by birthright. At the age of 13, his father took him into the family garage workshop and started relaying the ins and outs of leather working and saddle making.

“I remember I was watching Saturday morning cartoons and he came and said, ‘Come on, it’s time to go to work,’ and from that point on, some nights during the week and every Saturday I would work with him, kicking and screaming the whole way.”

Luckily, Parrish, who owns The Saddle Guy—a saddle making and repair shop in Baldwin County, Alabama—eventually developed a passion for the talent. After attending college for a couple of years at Auburn, he returned home to Montgomery to once again work in his father’s saddle shop. This time, though, something was different. “It just kind of clicked for me,” he remembers.

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Finally seeing a future in saddle making, Parrish spearheaded an expansion of his father’s homegrown business, renting a space in the Montgomery stockyards and slowly growing the business for the next three years. When his father passed away in 1999, he held on for a few years before closing down the shop and moving to Memphis to work at Tucker Saddlery. A short time later, Tucker Saddlery was bought by Circle Y out of Texas, and Parrish moved west.

“It was kind of like saddle college,” Parrish says. “I got to learn a lot about making techniques and work with a bunch of talented saddle makers and designers.”

When Parrish decided it was time to move home, the natural thing to do was reopen shop. He repeated history by first operating out of his garage. Once business picked up, her rented a space. In 2017, Parrish moved his business to Robertsdale, where he resides today.

There, Parrish and his team of five focus on three main areas of business: saddle making, saddle repair, and creating horse tack like bridles and breast straps. Over the years, business has steadily grown. Last year, the team produced 147 saddles, the year before it was 89, then 69, 33, and 13. This year, The Saddle Guy already has orders for 114 saddles from all over the country and expects to build around 224 total before December ends.

One of the Parrish’s main goals with The Saddle Guy is to uphold the integrity of craftsmanship his father created in their family name. He often gets saddles into the shop for repairs that he can tell his father worked on just by the quality of stitching. With every saddle or accessory his shop works on, Parrish says it’s not about perfection but rather about making something beautiful and durable out of the materials he has to work with.

“There’s just something about starting out with a table covered in material—hardware, a hide of leather, a piece of tree—and then taking all those components and fitting them together. It’s kind of like creating something out of nothing—or not nothing, but something complicated out of something simple.”

Thinking back on how he got to be “The Saddle Guy,” Parrish says, “It’s funny how things work out. I ended up following his footsteps and carrying on what he began, but it was never really intentional. So now we’re building a nice company that’s trying to keep that tradition, not only of my family but the tradition of saddle building and leather crafting, alive.”

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

2 hours ago

Alabama softball wins 2021 SEC Tournament

(Alabama Softball/Twitter)

The University of Alabama shut out top-seeded Florida on Saturday night to win the 2021 SEC Softball Tournament Championship at Rhoads Stadium.

The 4-0 victory secured the sixth tournament title in program history and its first since 2012. The Crimson Tide remain the only program to win an SEC Tournament on its home field, now having done so this year and its previous title.

The latest win was the Bama softball’s 44th victory in an SEC Tournament, tying LSU for the most of any team all-time. Alabama achieved its shut-out behind another masterful performance from pitcher Montana Fouts (22-3), who went the distance with 11 strikeouts. The complete-game shutout is the first since Tennessee’s Monica Abbott in 2006. Fouts was named the SEC Tournament MVP, striking out a tournament-record 39 batters over her three appearances.

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“Winning the tournament at home means everything after all the adversity we’ve faced and the injuries we’ve overcome this year,” she commented. “To us, this win signifies that anything is possible and that we can accomplish anything. It feels great to be a part of this university and for our team to contribute our own SEC championship, but we aren’t done yet and we have bigger dreams.”

In addition to Fouts, Bailey Hemphill, Alexis Mack and Taylor Clark earned SEC All-Tournament accolades.

Alabama, ranked No. 3 nationally, is now 45-7 on the season and awaits is postseason draw with the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

“The SEC was tough this year,” stated head coach Patrick Murphy. “I think everyone will realize just how great the SEC and the level of talent is when the All-American list gets released in a few weeks. There are so many great athletes throughout the SEC and in softball, specifically. I think softball, if not number one, is the second-best sport in the SEC. The championship tradition and coaches here at Alabama are a great fraternity to be in. I heard from so many other coaches last night wishing us good luck. It is a difficult job and we wanted to do the same thing and add to the success of our other sports. That’s why I love being a spring sport, it gives me an opportunity to learn from the fall and winter coaches. This team had grit and resiliency and it’s been a fun group to coach.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

ADOL Secretary Washington applauds Gov. Ivey for opting out of pandemic compensation programs; Credits her for brisk recovery

(Screenshot/YouTube)

Earlier this week, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the state would end its participation in federal pandemic employment compensation programs effective June 19, 2021.

The announcement was welcomed by Alabama business owners who have been grappling with labor shortages, which some blame on the generous federal benefits doled out in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an appearance on Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on FM Talk 106.5, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington applauded Ivey for her decision not to continue those benefits.

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“On Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Alabama would opt out of its participation in the federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation program,” Washington said. “There are four programs that make up those federal benefits. One program is called the federal pandemic unemployment compensation program, which provides an additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation. The second program is the pandemic unemployment assistance program, which provides benefits for those who would not usually qualify — as such as self-employed, gig-economy workers and part-time workers. The third program pandemic emergency unemployment compensation program, which provides an additional extension of benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted. And then the final program is called the mixed-earner unemployment compensation program, which provides an additional $100 benefit for certain people with mixed incomes.”

“So, it was announced by Gov. Kay Ivey that we would be opting out of those programs,” he continued. “I certainly applaud the Governor for being the fourth governor out of 16 states to make this decision. Again, this decision was made in an effort to speed up economic recovery and get more Alabamians back to work.”

Washington also credited the Governor for the expeditious recovery, which has exceeded expectations and the pace of neighboring states.

“We’re really encouraged how our economy is turning in the right direction,” he said. “As mentioned, our state unemployment rate for March is at 3.8% compared to the national rate, which is 6.1%. And, in fact, Alabama has the lowest unemployment rate for two consecutive months — more than the neighboring southeastern states.”

“I attributed that to Governor Ivey and our administration,” Washington said. “I think she has a really good strong plan in terms of rallying everybody together and having everybody sing off of one accord in terms of what the opportunities are for people to wrap up our economy.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

3 hours ago

UAH alumna Dr. Kimberly Robinson named U.S. Space & Rocket Center CEO

Courtesy NASA/UAH)

Dr. Kimberly Robinson, an alumna of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of The University of Alabama System, has been named Executive Director and CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC). The hiring was announced by the Alabama Space Science Exhibition Commission, which oversees the operation of the center.

Dr. Robinson earned her M.S. and Ph.D. from UAH in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering and is a 31-year veteran of NASA. She is also the recipient of numerous NASA performance awards, including an Exceptional Achievement Medal and the Silver Snoopy.

She began her career at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) in 1989 as a Project Engineer in the Propulsion Laboratory, became an astronaut trainer, served as an Executive Intern to the Center Director, was the Project Integration Manager for the Ares 1-X test flight, served as the Payload Mission Manager for Artemis 1 (the first integrated flight test of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft) and most recently led Utilization for all Artemis missions for NASA HQs/Advanced Exploration Systems.

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Needless to say, the decision to make such a pivotal move at this time in her career is an intriguing one, fraught with change and challenges. “This was a major change to my life plan,” she says, smiling. “I had never planned to leave NASA prior to retirement and wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do while I was still building my NASA career. But now that it’s happened, it totally makes sense to me.”

One only needs to spend a few minutes with Dr. Robinson to feel the energy, enthusiasm and drive she is ready to throw at any obstacle in her way. “I know that I have a lot to learn, and I’m very upfront about that,” she says. “It goes beyond STEM education and space exploration. There are other roles that come along with this position: we run a museum, gift shop, restaurants and a large number of camp programs under Space Camp. Those areas are all new for me, and it’s fun for me to learn.”

Dr. Robinson’s background makes her particularly well-suited for her new role in ways beyond her technical qualifications. The alumna is fully versed in sharing the future of human space exploration with the public through her work in various NASA posts, such as SLS Strategic Communications Manager at MSFC.

“You have to be able to communicate, talk to the public and your team, explain where we are going, and how we will get there,” she says.

It doesn’t take complicated analysis to determine the source of many of the challenges she is facing. “The Center came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic,” notes Pat Ammons, the Senior Director of Communications at USSRC. But Dr. Robinson is walking into this job with her eyes wide open and a finely honed sense of how to help an organization surmount the difficulties it is facing to get back on track.

The most pressing need to be addressed would almost certainly be the financial impact brought about by the COVID-19 crisis.

“It would have been easier to step into this role had the Rocket Center been in a better financial situation rather than in a recovery mode after the pandemic,” the new CEO says. “But it wouldn’t have appealed to the part of me that enjoys the challenge. I had a mentor at NASA who said if you want to be valuable to an organization, you go to where they need you. You don’t go where you want to go or go for the best pay or the best title; you go where someone needs you, and do the best job that you can – that’s how you prove your value.”

Officially on the job since February 15, Dr. Robinson has hit the ground running, anxious to put her personal philosophy to work reshaping USSRC operations.

“At NASA I learned important lessons, like how to manage risk and how to make decisions with people’s lives depending on it. Here we are having to adjust and adapt and assess as the situations unfold. For example, we made a decision that we would only operate Space Camp at 50% capacity this summer to safely maintain distance and follow the health guidelines. We had to make that decision early on in order to stabilize our planning. To try to switch on a dime would not provide the quality experience that we want to give our visitors here.”

Dr. Robinson is quick to point out that one of the most important factors in supporting her vision for the Center is the people behind it all. “It’s mostly about team building. That’s what I enjoy, and what I did at NASA – developing a plan, executing the plan, keeping the team safe and secure, motivated and challenged. I believe I can do almost anything with the right motivated team, solve any problem, move any mountain. That’s how we landed on the Moon!”

One important part of leading is helping the team define and share a vision. To this end, Dr. Robinson is working with the Executive Team to develop a Strategic Plan for the Space & Rocket Center to outline the strategic goals of the Center for the next three to five years.

Originally from Birmingham, Dr. Robinson has always been fascinated by the space program. “I loved the space program, airplanes and space ships – but I never knew that was anything I could be a part of. That was for test pilots and German rocket scientists. It wasn’t until I received an award from the Society of Women Engineers presented to me by a female NASA astronaut that I learned it was something I could do too. It felt like the world opened up to me.”

In what has become a kind of lifelong modus operandi for the UAH alumna, it soon became evident, however, that she would have to knock down quite a few barriers to accomplish her goals.

“From that time on, I wanted to work at NASA, wanted to be an engineer and preferably an astronaut. I was a senior in high school, and I started interviewing everywhere for scholarships. I sometimes had people say, ‘You’re a woman, you won’t last as an engineer!’ One interviewer questioned why I deserved a scholarship, when I would probably just get married and leave school after the first year! Well, I stayed with it and now I have a real passion for encouraging women to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I want them to know that if it interests you, don’t let anyone tell you you don’t belong.”

The choice to come to UAH to further her education was an easy one. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University, Dr. Robinson moved to Huntsville to work at NASA while pursuing an advanced degree at night. “I took one class at UAH, loved it, and said this is the place for me! It’s a wonderful university,” she says.

Now that she has had time to settle in, how does she feel about her first six weeks as head of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center?

The alumna grins. “I must look like a drowned rat, because it’s like drinking from a firehose! But just coming in the door, it was love at first sight. The team is wonderful, the mission is solid and appealing, and everything about it has felt right. It’s rewarding, fulfilling, challenging and exhausting, all at the same time.”

Lastly, Dr. Robinson fully understands the importance of helping this cherished Huntsville landmark thrive once more.

“It is a solemn responsibility that I take seriously. It is human nature to explore the unknown and push the boundaries, and space exploration is one way we have done that to a magnificent degree. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center showcases those human achievements that have expanded technologies, opened new frontiers and discovered new worlds. The story itself is the compelling narrative, and we’re here to make sure it shines in a way that connects to each visitor who walks in the door.”

(Courtesy of The University of Alabama in Huntsville)

4 hours ago

Anglers are hooked on Smith Lake’s new weigh-in pavilion

(Nik Layman / Alabama NewsCenter)

Anglers, tournament staff and community leaders are thrilled with their new shaded place on Lewis Smith Lake in Walker County to host fishing tournament weigh-ins.

Many of them gathered May 8 to share their appreciation for the weigh-in pavilion during a dedication ceremony prior to weigh-in at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Open. The pavilion provides shade for fish-holding tanks during tournament weigh-ins, which reduces stress and increases survival rates of the fish.

“It’s particularly important for community events and smaller tournaments to provide better fish care,” said B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin. “They’ll come in the pavilion, bring their fish, keep them in the shade, keep in the water until they weigh them. It provides a great way to take better care of the fish to get them back in the water so they can grow up and we can catch them a little bit bigger each time.”

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New weigh-in pavilion dedicated on Smith Lake from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The pavilion, constructed in 2020, was funded through a partnership between B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power, built with the help of volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance.

“It took some funds available, used some donated organized labor, and just came up with a great pavilion,” said Casey Shelton, business manager, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) System Council U-19. “This has been a great partnership to see come together and will benefit the local community for years to come.”

The new pavilion is the latest in a growing list of amenities offered at Alabama Power’s 65 public recreation sites. It is the second pavilion Alabama Power and B.A.S.S. have worked together to build. In 2014, B.A.S.S., Alabama Power, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Shelby County and volunteers from Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation teamed to open a similar weigh-in pavilion at Beeswax Landing on Lay Lake.

“We are happy to be a part of this project and to continue to partner with B.A.S.S. and others to bring these tournaments to the communities we serve,” said Alabama Power Western Division Vice President Mark Crews. “These partnerships help enhance access points to the beautiful natural resources that our state has to offer.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Bronze Valley Accelerator selects five startups for mentoring program

(Pixabay, YHN)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Startup accelerator gener8tor announced that five companies have been selected for its Summer 2021 Bronze Valley Accelerator program, giving them access to individualized coaching and a national network of mentors, customers, corporate partners and investors.

The startups, recruited from Alabama and throughout the Southeast, represent a wide variety of industries and verticals, ranging from waste technology to fan fiction content generation.

The group represents the third class for the Bronze Valley Accelerator, which focuses on supporting female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color using the gBETA model from gener8tor.

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The program is designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea, and establish metrics that can make them competitive applicants for full-time, equity-based accelerators or for seed investment.

More than 150 startups from Alabama and beyond applied to participate in the program.

“In keeping with our commitment to help pave the way to success for people of color and women entrepreneurs, we look forward to working with this group of talented founders to assist in preparing them to attract seed funding and begin to grow and scale their businesses,” Bronze Valley President and CEO Neill Wright said.

NOURISHING THE ECOSYSTEM

Wisconsin-based Gener8tor’s gBETA is a free, seven-week accelerator that works with five startups at a time for no fees and no equity. Each cohort is kept small to ensure meaningful engagement with the gener8tor team, network and other resources.

“Because it provides valuable guidance and mentorship at a pivotal moment in the life cycle of a startup, the Bronze Valley Accelerator represents a key component in our strategic efforts to grow and nourish the innovation ecosystem supporting entrepreneurs across the state,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The program kicked off on Thursday, May 6, and the startups will work with the gener8tor team over the course of seven weeks to meet mentors, gain customer traction and pitch to investors. Due to COVID-19, the Summer 2021 program will be held virtually.

“In our second year, we continue to see a growing number of entrepreneurs and innovators across Alabama and beyond,” said Haley Medved Kendrick, director of the Bronze Valley Accelerator. “The five teams represent some of the extraordinary talent our community has to offer, and I am thrilled to welcome them to the Bronze Valley and gener8tor communities.”

The program will culminate on June 30 at the Bronze Valley Accelerator Pitch Night, which will highlight each of the five companies. This virtual event will be an opportunity for the public to listen and learn more about the startups and network with the founders and other community members.

The Bronze Valley Accelerator is supported by Bronze Valley, Alabama Power and the Alabama Department of Commerce. The Bronze Valley Accelerator is held three times per year, with five companies accepted per cohort to ensure a high level of individualized attention.

In April, Gener8tor announced a partnership with the MidCity Accelerator Foundation in Huntsville to launch a gBETA program in North Alabama.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

20 hours ago

State Rep. Clouse says special session will be needed for prisons — ‘We’ve had a gun to our head for at least five years’

(Screenshot/APTV)

When the Alabama Legislature adjourns sine die next week, another year will have come and gone without the body taking time to address the state’s prison problem, which is the focus of legal action taken by the federal government late last year.

Governor Kay Ivey had signed agreements on two lease-build proposals earlier this year. However, as the political environment had changed in recent months, lenders have been reluctant to provide financing for private prison contracts, which has imperiled the Ivey administration proposals.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), the chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, indicated he saw no way around a special session to deal with the long-standing prison issue given the challenges presented to the Ivey proposal.

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“I think we’ll be in a special session to deal with this issue,” he said. “We don’t have a choice anymore. We’ve been talking about this for five years — since Governor Bentley put forth the bond issue proposal in the ’16 session that came close to passing. It passed the Senate pretty overwhelmingly and narrowly passed the House with a little bit different version, then the senate added a different amendment to what we did, and it came down to one of those last night deals again where we couldn’t get it across the goal line by midnight. And I thought we would pass it in ’17 after a lot of the issues had been worked out, and the newness of it had worn off. But then, Governor Bentley had his problems and resigned from office in the middle of the ’17 session. That basically wrapped that up. Then, ’18 was an election year. We didn’t take it up then.”

“I really thought we should have taken it up in a special session in 2019 during the regular session right after we passed the gas tax,” Clouse continued. “But, you know, there was disagreement on doing that at the time to see what this lease-build issue looked like. We thought it was going to get some type of proposal by the end of ’19, and it didn’t happen. And it finally came around, September 2020, and then the legislature wasn’t able to see any of those details, which I wish we had have been because I think the plug should have been pulled as soon as they came out with those proposals 7-8 months ago. I think we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and money and could have gone ahead and addressed this bond issue at that time.”

Throughout 2019, lawmakers pointed to 2020 for a possible resolution to prisons, but the COVID pandemic interfered with those plans, according to Clouse.

“Of course, the 2020 [session] — obviously, that session and the whole year was dominated by COVID, and it was difficult for us as a legislative body, and still is — but not as bad as it was — to operate, particularly in the House with everybody spread out all over the place. So, we’ve had a lot of unusual things this whole time over the last five years that have happened and just some bad luck, and maybe not taking the bull by the horn and moving forward with it. But I don’t think we’ve got a choice now — we’ve got to have some new prisons. We’ve got prisons that are dilapidated and falling apart. This is not an answer to all the problems, but you’ve got to have that foundation there. It’s just time we move forward on it.”

According to the Dale County lawmaker, should the legislature pursue prisons in a special session, it would likely mean different plans from the ones proposed by Ivey.

“[W]e’ve already got the land,” Clouse explained. “There’s no need to go out and buy new property. All the proposed sites where we’re buying new property — I mean, the folks who live in those areas, they don’t want it. And so, you know, that’s an issue there for those folks. And I think the main issue, though, is once this bond issue is paid for in 30 years versus a lease program over 30 years is we own the buildings. If they’re built properly, and hopefully they would be in this day and age, they can last 70 to 100 years, you know?”

Clouse acknowledged prisons have long been neglected in Alabama but said that was not out of the norm for any state in the country.

“There’s no question — we’ve had a gun to our head for at least the last five years,” he added. “So, we’ve gone, I would say, the last 40 years, and obviously, I haven’t been in the legislature that long — but I’ve kept up with it that long, underfunding the Department of Corrections, probably $50 million a year. I mean, they’ve got now a $650 million budget. Over 40 years, that’s $2 billion. We’ve always had issues with the general fund budget, always having to borrow from Peter to pay Paul and make sure, particularly with Medicaid, do the minimum amount, so we get that federal match there, which is just billions of dollars, and prisons have always been put at the bottom of the barrel because nobody cares about prisons. They don’t have a constituency. A lot of its the legislature’s fault over the last at least 40 years, probably longer than that. It’s not just Alabama. It’s all over the country. All governments, even local governments — prisons and jails always come up last on funding needs.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

23 hours ago

Alabama expanding innovation opportunities for entrepreneurs, businesses

(Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Entrepreneurs and business leaders looking to start and grow their businesses now have more opportunities and support in Alabama.

That message was the central theme Wednesday during the Alabama Innovation Commission‘s meeting at the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator in downtown Birmingham. The commission met to review its successes and map out goals for the remainder of 2021.

“To be at the midway point and to have the progress that the commission has made is absolutely incredible,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. “There’s been meaningful legislation that has been passed, and then to outline what we’re going to do going forward, the way we’re going to try to help Alabama innovate is really been stellar to observe.”

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Alabama Innovation Commission plans for future from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The commission, also known as Innovate Alabama, was created in July 2020 by Gov. Kay Ivey to give innovators a platform to engage policymakers, exchange ideas and identify policies that promote innovation. A focus of the commission during the first nine months was developing policies to increase entrepreneurship, spur innovation and enhance technology accelerators, in addition to addressing the challenges and red tape that startup companies often face. The result of those discussions was plans to establish the Alabama Innovation Corp., an innovation to support statewide entrepreneurship, rural businesses, research and development at existing companies, and provide access to advanced technical skills that will drive the future workforce. The Alabama Legislature approved the plans May 6.

“What I’m excited about with the corporation is that these ideas that are generated in the commission have a place to go,” said Peggy Sammon, CEO at GeneCapture. “I’m hoping that it is a real engine – not a top-down engine but an engine that brings the ideas in the state up and really supports what’s happening in the state because we’re not trying to create something brand new. We’re trying to take advantage of what is working and help support it.”

The legislature also approved allowing the new corporation to make matching grants of up to $250,000 for businesses and organizations that received federal Small Business Innovation Research grants or Technology Transfer Research grants.

“It’s putting additional resources in the hands of the people that are really trying to be innovative,” said Charisse Stokes, executive director of TechMGM. “We look at the small business community and realize that they do need mentors, but they also need those resources that can help to guide them through the process. By having some of the statewide matching funds, it incentivizes those businesses where they can now start to scale and do even more to make some of those dreams come true.”

State Rep. Bill Poole is chairman and State Sen. Greg Reed is vice-chairman of the commission, which now turns its attention to creating a success plan for the corporation and delivering a comprehensive innovation policy report to the governor by Oct. 31.

“I think the key thing is to finish what we started,” Barker said. “When you think about the things that the commission has outlined that we’re going to do, I really do think we’ll be a lot better at securing the right kind of sponsored research for Alabama. I think we’ll do a lot better at commercializing that research and those technologies. I think we’ll do a lot better at supporting existing businesses as they’re looking for ways to innovate, and I think we’ll be a lot better at attracting innovative companies to Alabama.”

“A two-year plan for the corporation would be a very good accomplishment for the commission,” added Sammons.

Stokes said strengthening public-private partnerships is key to the success of the commission’s work.

“It’s very critical,” Stokes said. “It makes a significant impact on our economy but it also has the ability to bridge the gap between some of your urban areas, your rural areas, but then also through different industries. It also gives us the ability to leverage – not just the technology, but also leveraging the business aspects of that.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

24 hours ago

United Way of East Central Alabama helps Calhoun County youngsters grow love of reading

(Contributed/Jacki Lowry)

Books are gifts that expand your world. As Dr. Seuss said: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

United Way of East Central Alabama (UWECA) recently donated 2,000 books to kindergarteners and first-graders at all public and some private schools throughout Calhoun County. The gift of reading continues to pay off big dividends – with youngsters showing lots of enthusiasm – as they enjoy the free book, “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by British writer and illustrator Giles Andreae. The bestselling book helps dispel negative stereotypes.

But these books include a “little something extra on the cover – a QR code students can use to watch a volunteer read the story,” said Jessica Smith, coordinator of UWECA’s Imagination Library program.

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Because of social distancing measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have been unable to read to classes at Calhoun County schools. UWECA’s one-time gift of books helped “fill in the gap,” Smith said.

“We certainly plan on having volunteers back in the classroom in 2022,” said Smith, UWECA Marketing and Programs director. “If we have a sponsorship for 2022, we’d possibly be able to give books again.”

Kim Pentecost’s class at Piedmont Elementary School was among many that received the popular book.

“Early literacy for children is so important,” said Pentecost, lead pre-K teacher at Piedmont Elementary. “Everything we can do to enthuse kids to read, we need to do it.”

Pentecost showed the children how to use the QR code on the book, teaching them to use a smart phone to scan the square on the book’s cover to watch a video of a volunteer reading the story.

“My students love the book,” said Pentecost, who has taught for 14 years at Piedmont Elementary and 3 years at Oxford Elementary School. “Some students have said they scan the code at home and read the book with their parents. They understood, ‘Take this home and show Mama and Daddy.’ They know to re-watch the video.

“So Read Across America was a little different for us this year,” added Pentecost, who earned her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in early childhood education from Jacksonville State University. “We watched the video together. We really appreciate the United Way’s gift – it gives books to children who may not ordinarily have books at home,” she said.

Pentecost said the children enjoyed reading the story in class: “They remember back to when volunteers read to us on the screen – they make that connection.”

In earlier years, Smith visited Piedmont Elementary to read to classes and met with teachers to inform them about UWECA’s Imagination Library program. Parents in Calhoun County are invited to enroll their child in Imagination Library to get a free book in the mail each month.

Cassie Royster, a first-grade teacher at Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville, thanked UWECA for the books. “My students loved reading them and filling in the blanks,” Royster said.

Jacki Lowry, whose daughter, Harrigan, attends Oxford Elementary, said her 5-year old loves “Giraffes Can’t Dance.” The Lowrys made sure to take the book with them on a recent beach vacation.

“Harrigan loves her books,” said Lowry, Community Development specialist in Alabama Power’s Eastern Division. Lowry also serves as state president of the Alabama Power Service Organization.

“As part of the Alabama Power Service Organization, we support Read Across America and suggest taking part in projects every year. This year was exciting to me because, as a parent, I was able to be a part of that experience and the excitement of reading with my child.”

In Pentecost’s view, the books helped make the 2021 school year a little brighter for students and teachers.

“I think it was a great thing the United Way did for us,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Alabama angler Wes Logan wins 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake

(contributed/Alabama NewsCenter)

Before the tournament began, Wes Logan predicted it would take 55 pounds to win.

He was wrong. It took 57 pounds.

The Springville native landed 57 lbs. 9 oz. to land the blue trophy Monday at the 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake. He beat Paul Mueller, who was 1 lb. 6 oz. back in second place.

“I give it all I had,” Logan said at Monday’s weigh-in. “I’ve led some tournaments going to the last day but never been able to close it out. To do it here on this body of water as many hours I’ve spent here, it just makes this that more special, and to do it in front of all of these people it’s even more special. The good Lord blessed me.”

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The tournament wrapped up Monday afternoon with weigh-in at the Gadsden City Boat Docks. The four-day tournament was originally scheduled to end Sunday but heavy rains last week forced tournament officials to delay the start of the tournament by one day.

“I had a great week,” Mueller said after his weigh-in. “Just to be able to do that under tough conditions I was happy with it.”

Mueller did catch the biggest fish of the tournament, hooking a 6 lb. 6 oz. bass Monday morning.

“That fish was a game changer,” Mueller said. “We had a mud puddle with moving water and look at the weights.”

Fan favorite and Guntersville native Gerald Swindle ended the tournament in third place, more than three pounds back from Logan. Swindle said despite coming up short he had fun.

“It’s been a great week,” Swindle said. “I enjoyed all of the changes in the water and I was blessed to get a few key bites. I got this place dialed in. It was really good to be in Gadsden.”

The tournament was the first Bassmaster Elite series tournament to ever be held on Neely Henry Lake and the second of three Elite events scheduled in Alabama during the 2021 season. Anglers in the Elite series will compete May 20-23 at Lake Guntersville for the 2021 Berkley Bassmaster Elite. To learn more, visit bassmaster.com.

Final Standings – 2021 Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Neely Henry Lake

1. Wes Logan (Springville, AL) – 57 lbs. 9 oz.
2. Paul Mueller (Naugatuck, CT) – 56 lbs. 3 oz.
3. Gerald Swindle (Guntersville, AL) – 54 lbs. 2 oz.
4. Jason Christie (Park Hill, OK) – 52 lbs. 13 oz.
5. Matt Arey (Shelby, NC) – 52 lbs. 1 oz.
6. Bryan New (Belmont, NC) – 50 lbs. 2 oz.
7. Bob Downey (Hudson, WI) – 49 lbs. 10 oz.
8. Brock Mosley (Collinsville, MS) – 47 lbs. 7 oz.
9. Austin Felix (Eden Prairie, MN) – 46 lbs. 4 oz.
10. Todd Auten (Lake Wylie, SC) – 42 lbs. 11 oz.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

House Speaker McCutcheon to ABC 33/40: ‘No lottery or gaming bills on the floor Monday’

(Aidan Howe/Unsplash, YHN)

Gambling is dead for the 2021 regular legislative session according to House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

There had been some speculation a last-ditch effort could be underway on the House floor on Monday, the last day of the 2021 regular session. That could lead to a long-shot agreement with the Senate that would get a vote on the 2022 ballot to amend the Alabama Constitution and remove a prohibition on gambling.

Friday, McCutcheon told Birmingham’s ABC 33/40 no lottery or gaming bills would be up for consideration on the House floor on Monday.

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“We will continue to work on the gaming legislation for the future,” McCutcheon said in a statement to ABC 33/40. “There are many bills that need attention and we need to address those bills rather than get caught in a filibuster over gaming.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

1 day ago

HudsonAlpha launches expansion project at its biotech campus

(HudsonAlpha/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Officials at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology on Monday marked the start of a significant expansion project at its biotech campus, positioning the Huntsville facility for new scientific advances.

The expansion will consist of two facilities: a global headquarters for Discovery Life Sciences, and new state-of-the-art laboratory and greenhouse space for HudsonAlpha’s Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture.

“Alabama has a new accolade: global headquarters to a renowned and respected biosciences company,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “This will undoubtedly strengthen Alabama’s biosciences recruitment efforts and increase the economic impact to the city, state and region.”

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In November 2020, Governor Ivey announced that HudsonAlpha had been awarded $15 million though the Public School and College Authority for the expansion project.

Discovery Life Sciences new global headquarters will consist of 90,000 square feet and house DLS’s research and development, laboratory and business operations.

DLS is an international market leader in biospecimen analysis, procurement, and distribution for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostics industries.

“Discovery Life Sciences, formerly Conversant Bio, began with two entrepreneurs and is now a force in the biospecimen market, employing over 400 people around the world. We look forward to DLS growing its presence on HudsonAlpha’s campus,” said Jim Hudson, co-founder and chairman of the HudsonAlpha board.

AGRISCIENCE

With this expansion, the HudsonAlpha Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture will add 13,000 square feet of lab and greenhouse space and will be able to propagate and grow research plants to improve existing crops and develop new uses for plants.

HudsonAlpha’s partnerships with Auburn University and Alabama A&M University will be strengthened while productivity will be enhanced.

Specifically, the teams will advance genomics enabled breeding pipelines for new varieties of crops, will continue to maximize fuel production from plant biomass, reduce fertilizer use, and reduce or eliminate fungicides to increase grower yields.

“HudsonAlpha is one of the world’s largest genomics institutes in plant science and we collaborate with research groups everywhere to discover and then apply the discoveries to crop improvement,” said Jeremy Schmutz, a co-director of HudsonAlpha’s Genome Sequencing Center.

“We also will work closely with HudsonAlpha’s Educational Outreach team to attract the next generation of plant science students. These students need to be trained and inspired to go further to make an even greater impact in improving agriculture.”

The biotech campus is home to more than 1,000 employees, including those from HudsonAlpha’s research labs and the more than 45 life science associate companies that call the Institute home.

“This is a significant milestone not only for HudsonAlpha, but the entire state as well,” said Carter Wells, vice president for economic development. “Through this expansion, HudsonAlpha further solidifies its leadership position and expertise in plant genomics.

“Additionally, Discovery Life Sciences’ choice of Huntsville, Alabama for their global headquarters highlights the quality of our bioscience workforce and business environment,” he added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 day ago

Conservation Advisory Board limits rods at Sipsey Fork

(David Rainer/Outdoor Alabama)

The Alabama Conservation Advisory Board voted to limit rainbow trout anglers to two rods per person on the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River below Lewis Smith Dam and placed a portion of Colbert County on the dog deer hunting permit system at its recent meeting in Jasper.

The Sipsey Fork from Lewis Smith Dam to the confluence of the Mulberry Fork provides anglers with the state’s only year-round trout fishery. The Board voted to limit the number of rods per person to reduce any potential conflicts between anglers.

The importance of the Sipsey Fork trout fishery to the economy in the Walker County area was highlighted by Paul Kennedy, one of the people who spoke to the Board during public testimony.

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“I ask (the Board) to join with us to plan for the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River to become a world-class fishing destination,” said Kennedy, President of the Walker Area Community Foundation. “Two years ago, we petitioned the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to be one of the communities it would adopt to help us develop a recreational-based economy. We were one of only 10 such sites selected in the United States. We have created a 31-mile blueway. We are working on a mountain-bike trail that surrounds this school (Jasper High School). One of the key opportunities identified in the planning process was that trout fishery. We have the opportunity to turn the Sipsey Fork fishery into the crown jewel of our local outdoor economy. I’m a registered Alabama forester, and I am very aware of the potential this fishery has for us and the state of Alabama. I’m asking (the Board) to work with us to make this a better fishery and a magnet for wildlife tourism, not just for Walker County but for all of Alabama.”

The Board also voted to place the area west of Highway 43 in Colbert County on the dog deer hunting permit system. In the system, the use of dogs for hunting deer in certain regions is prohibited except for those properties with a special permit from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). Those hunting clubs on the permit system must abide by the applicable regulations or the permit will be revoked.

After the Board recommended changes to the wild turkey season at its March meeting, adjustments to the 2021-2022 turkey season were approved. The turkey season in Zone 1, which covers the bulk of the state, will be from March 25 through May 8. Zone 2, which covers northwest Alabama, will be open April 1 through May 8. The dates for Zone 3, which includes Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Clarke, Monroe and Covington Counties, are November 20-28, December 11 through January 1, 2022, and March 25 through May 8, 2022.

The daily turkey bag limit is one gobbler per person per day with a season limit of four, including fall and spring seasons. Decoys are prohibited for the first 10 days of the spring season and for all of the fall seasons.

Also approved at the Jasper meeting were WFF recommendations to close bobwhite quail and fox squirrel hunting on Bankhead National Forest and to establish a special nighttime season for feral swine and coyotes.

The Alabama Legislature passed a law to allow the nighttime hunting of feral hogs and coyotes with a new license that costs $15 for residents and $51 for non-residents. The 2021 season will be from July 1 through November 1. The 2022 season will be from February 11 through November 1. A new law also allows disabled veterans to buy lifetime hunting licenses at reduced prices to make it more convenient instead of renewing yearly.

ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship agreed with Jasper Mayor David O’Mary’s praise of the facilities at the Walker County Public Fishing Lake, which was annexed into the City of Jasper.

“I echo what Mayor O’Mary said about the Walker County Lake,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “It is a good example of great outdoor recreational opportunities at the same location. We have a great fishing lake with a boat ramp, an archery park and hiking trails. And there are plans to do other things to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the citizens of Jasper and Walker County.”

Commissioner Blankenship also provided the Board with an update on ADCNR facilities and activities.

He said a tornado on March 25 went through a portion of Oak Mountain State Park but fortunately missed the campground.

“Speaking of Oak Mountain, the state park will be the venue for three events in the upcoming World Games in 2022,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “I don’t think that I knew initially how big of a deal that is that Alabama will host the World Games. I do fully appreciate they are going to hold three events at our state park. One of the areas hit by the tornado was where one of those events is to take place, so we have a real incentive to get that back to first-class before it is open to the people of the world.”

Commissioner Blankenship mentioned the setting of the red snapper season, which will start on May 28 with four-day weekends (Friday through Monday) until the quota of about 1 million pounds is met.

“Instead of projecting an ending date as we have done in the past, this year we’re using the Snapper Check system to monitor that quota every weekend and provide an update to the public on where we stand,” he said.

The Commissioner said boating and tournament fishing access will be improved with new projects at Roland Cooper State Park and Lewis Smith Lake Dam. ADCNR is partnering with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to construct a new overnight mooring and tournament pier at Roland Cooper. The Department also partnered with Alabama Power, Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Bass Anglers Sportsmen’s Society to expand boat launching and parking capacity and construct a tournament weigh-in pavilion at the Smith Lake Dam boating access area.

“Public boat ramps are very important for economic impact to the communities and getting people out on the water,” Commissioner Blankenship said.

The Commissioner reported that the Alabama Legislature approved a constitutional amendment for an $80 million bond issue for Alabama State Parks that will be on the ballot in 2022.

“This will provide the funds to State Parks to do renovations, build campgrounds, build cabins and really turn our parks into first-class facilities and bring us into the 21st century,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “When a lot of those campgrounds were built, camping was a tent or a pop-up camper. Now camping is done in half-million-dollar motorhomes with three air conditioners that pull 50 or 70 amps of electricity. In order for us to accommodate those campers, we need to upgrade those facilities to keep up with the times. That bond issue will allow us to do that.”

The Alabama Legislature also approved the Alabama Reservoir Management bill that would add $5 to boat registration fees to provide funding to deal with aquatic invasive species or invasive aquatic vegetation and public water debris removal. ADCNR will manage this program for the state.

“Marine debris is a problem in coastal areas with boats that sink or debris left after hurricanes,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “There had been no funds to take care of that. This bill will provide the means to better take care of our waterways in the state. Even though it wasn’t a Department bill, I’m excited about our role in keeping our waterways safe and clean.”

Commissioner Blankenship, who sits on the federal RESTORE Council, also highlighted the funding the state has utilized from the RESTORE Act and GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. An additional $81 million in funds have recently been approved for work in Alabama.

“That brings our total to over $900 million in projects that have been funded by either Deepwater Horizon funds or by GOMESA funds that are being managed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” he said. “That $900 million is a huge investment in coastal Alabama and is really going to make a generational difference in the resiliency of our coast. I think that’s a high point for our staff.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

2 days ago

Tuberville celebrates public charter schools — ‘Look forward to their continued success’

(Screenshot/YouTube)

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) this week co-sponsored a resolution honoring the 22nd annual National Charter Schools Week, which ends this Saturday.

The resolution was bipartisan and introduced by U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

“After spending 40 years recruiting students from high schools all over the country, I know the difference a quality education can make in a young person’s life. I’ve seen public charter schools give parents a valuable option for students in Alabama and across the country,” said Tuberville in a statement.

“Charter schools give educators more flexibility to teach in ways that best fit students’ unique needs, and studies show charter schools help close the achievement gap for our most at-risk students,” he concluded. “I’m grateful for the educators and administrators who have helped make charter schools available to students and parents, and look forward to their continued success in educating America’s next generation of leaders.”

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Nationally, 44 states — including Alabama — and the District of Columbia have public charter schools, with more than 7,500 schools serving approximately 3.3 million students.

Scott’s resolution congratulates “the students, parents, teachers, and leaders of charter schools across the United States for making ongoing contributions to education.”

The resolution notes that “high-performing public charter schools deliver a high-quality public education and challenge all students to reach their potential for academic success.”

“[P]ublic charter schools promote innovation and excellence in public education,” it continues. “[P]ublic charter schools throughout the United States provide millions of families with diverse and innovative educational options for the children of those families.”

The resolutions especially praises public charter schools for “making impressive strides in closing the academic achievement gap in schools in the United States, particularly in schools with some of the most disadvantaged students in both rural and urban communities.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

State Rep. Stringer ousted from Mobile County Sheriff’s Office over ‘difference of opinion’ with sheriff; Blames pro-Second Amendment stance for removal

(Representative Shane Stringer- District 102/Facebook, YHN)

On Friday, the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office announced State Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle) was no longer serving as a captain for the department.

According to Mobile County Sheriff Office spokeswoman, Stringer was dismissed for his support of so-called constitutional carry, and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran had a “difference of opinion” with the Mobile County Republican legislator.

Shortly after those reports surfaced, Stringer responded with his own press statement declaring himself “proud to stand in defense of the Second Amendment.”

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“The Second Amendment gun rights of Alabamians are under attack from a liberal federal government that is out of control and even from some factions right here at home,” Stringer said in a release. “After dedicating my life and career to law enforcement, losing a job because I stand in support of Alabama gun owners is certainly surprising, but nothing will discourage me from defending the constitutional guarantees promised to all of us as American citizens.”

Also, according to the release, Cochran notified Stringer, who served as the Satsuma Police Chief before winning his election in 2018 to serve in the State House, on Wednesday of his dismissal from the captain’s post in the department “because he is sponsoring ‘constitutional carry’ gun rights legislation.

HB618 would allow Alabamians to carry or conceal a pistol without first obtaining a permit from their local sheriff’s office, an effort that the state’s sheriffs have vociferously opposed in the past.

“The U.S. Constitution does not say you have a right to keep and bear arms as long as you pay what amounts to a gun tax in the form of permit fees,” Stringer said in the release. “It says you have the right to keep and carry firearms. . .period.”

“As a state legislator, I swore an oath to God that I would support the U.S. Constitution, and this legislation does just that,” he added. “And whether or not I am employed by the Mobile Sheriff’s Office, my heart and soul will always belong to the mission of enforcing the law and to my fellow officers who seek to protect the men, women, and children of Alabama.”

The bill has 11 other co-sponsors, including State Rep. Proncey Robertson (R-Mount Hope), who served as an officer in the Decatur Police Department.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

2 days ago

Report: Environmental activists team up with socialists, sex workers in Birmingham

(GASP/Facebook)

According to a report published Thursday, left-wing Birmingham environmental group GASP is moving to support socialism and sex work in the Magic City.

Alabama Today reported that a rally is being planned in Birmingham to support sex workers, including prostitutes.

The first speaker listed for the event is reportedly GASP’s Nina Morgan, and the organization itself is set to have a table at the event alongside the local “Party for Socialism and Liberation.”

“Stated in their latest Facebook post is, ‘Without the economic, political, military and diplomatic backing of U.S. imperialism, the state of Israel would not last long,'” Alabama Today noted.

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Morgan is listed as GASP’s “Climate & Environmental Justice Organizer.”

“She became radicalized first and foremost by her parents, who were divorced but often had conversations with her and her twin brother about the social ills of the world. Further, her political analysis emerged during her time serving on the youth council of a reproductive justice initiative called the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth,” GASP’s website advises.

The event, scheduled for June 6, is billed as an “International Sex Workers’ Day Rally.”

Per the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) website, the day is an annual event. One of the organization’s core values is, “Opposition to all forms of criminalization and other legal oppression of sex work.”

A flier promoting the event shows a police car in flames, smushed by a stiletto.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

7 Things: Biden says you have his permission to take off your mask, special session may be needed, Democratic state representatives want Huntsville’s police chief fired and more …

7. 150 Republicans emerge and embarrass themselves again 

  • Since the first day Donald Trump came down the escalator, the American media and their Democrats touted the “courageous Republicans” who would abandon the party over the former president. With U.S. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) losing her leadership post, those same people are leaving the party again, for real this time.
  • The “Call for American Renewal” is an uncompelling list of the usually gripers and grifters, CNN and MSNBC contributors and Lincoln Project hacks. This includes independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, former Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Richard Painter, columnist Max Boot and a “Who’s who or who’s that?” of American politics.

6. White House: We have to teach about systematic racism

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  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded to some who have said that teaching critical race theory is “liberal indoctrination,” saying that they don’t “think we believe that educating the youth, next leaders of the future, leaders of the country, on systemic racism is indoctrination.”
  • Psaki went on to say that teaching about systemic racism is “actually responsible.” This comes after U.S. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced the Ivory Tower Act to tax the endowments of colleges and universities to put more money toward training in trades. Cotton said that these establishments are making money while “indoctrinating our youth with un-American ideas.”

5. Ivey makes it clear that Alabama stands with Israel

  • Governor Kay Ivey clearly stated that Alabama is standing with Israel as they face attacks from the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza. There has been some speculation from UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland that if conflict continues or gets worse, it could result in “a full-scale war.”
  • Alabama has a strong business relationship with Israel, with exports totaling $49 million in 2020, which was 27% higher than the state’s exports to Israel in 2019. Ivey spokesperson Gina Maiola said, “[I]it is appropriate with Alabama’s longstanding relationship with Israel that she reaffirmed our position as an ally and friend. As Governor Kay Ivey said this morning, Alabama stands with Israel.”

4. Group calling for Huntsville PD chief to be fired or forced to resign

  • Due to the comments made by Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray after officer William Ben Darby was convicted of murder, the Rosa Parks Day Committee in Huntsville is calling for Mayor Tommy Battle to fire McMurray.
  • State House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) and State Representative Laura Hall (D-Huntsville) were present with the committee at a press conference where they made these requests. They claimed that McMurray should be removed due to his comments on Darby and the handling of the protests downtown in 2020.

 3. Special session likely needed for issues like prisons and gambling

  • State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) said it’s likely a special session will be necessary to deal with issues like prisons and gambling since there’s only one more day left in the regular session and it’s unlikely that these issues will be resolved in that short time.
  • Chambliss said that Governor Kay Ivey should at least call “a five-day short special session to make it work.” He added that a special session to deal with building more prisons in the state is even more necessary as there have been funding concerns and the state still faces an order from the U.S. Department of Justice to fix unconstitutional conditions. Chambliss went on to say that if the issue isn’t addressed, he thinks “the DOJ is going to be very serious about their next steps.”

2. Biden thinks he did something on masks

  • New guidelines have been released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on when vaccinated people should wear a mask by saying that they don’t need to wear a mask “in any setting” and you can “resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.” The U.S. House, some cities (including Birmingham), states, and many businesses will keep the masks for now.
  • President Joe Biden hilariously tweeted some authoritarian nonsense, stating, “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.” Governor Kay Ivey praised the decision to lift masks, despite only lifting the statewide mask mandate in Alabama about a month ago. She said, “Finally, we are seeing some encouraging, common sense guidance from the CDC.”

1. Now schools should be open, too

  • After months of resistance to reopening schools, a teachers union is now deciding that schools must reopen in the fall. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers said, “There is no doubt: Schools must be open,” adding, “Given current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open.” Weingarten also said, “The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in.”
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling for the schools to open up all the way, telling CNN, “I believe the schools should be open five days, full blast, just the way it was before,” and he wants it done “by the time we get to the fall.”

2 days ago

Huntsville-based Torch Technologies awarded $722M U.S. Army contract

(Torch Technologies/Twitter)

Huntsville-headquartered Torch Technologies this week announced a $722 million contract award from the federal government.

The task order comes via U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Aviation and Missile Center (AvMC) Systems Simulation Software and Integration Directorate (S3I) for Modeling and Simulation (M&S) Aviation and Missile Systems. The order has a five-year period of performance and will be executed primarily in the Rocket City.

According to a press release, the Torch team will develop and apply models and simulations to aviation and missile system analysis ensuring warfighter readiness and future capabilities are realized.

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Torch will reportedly supply cost-effective solutions that facilitate readiness and technological dominance of the Army’s current and future force.

“Torch is pleased to continue our long-standing relationship with the DEVCOM AvMC S3I M&S customers,” stated Torch president and CEO John Watson. “We are proud to be a part of their important mission to provide weapons development and modernization support to our warfighters.”

A 100% employee-owned business with more than 900 global employees dedicated to quality technical services, competitive costs and ethical business practices, Torch also has an Alabama presence at Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass. In 2019, Torch annual revenues were approximately $513 million.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Shelby, Tuberville introduce ‘Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act’

(Senator Tommy Tuberville, Senator Richard Shelby/Facebook, YHN)

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Thursday introduced legislation to establish the Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area, authorizing nineteen counties in the Black Belt as a National Heritage Area (NHA).

The bill – titled the “Alabama Black Belt National Heritage Area Act” – would allow federal funding to be directed to the designated region over the span of 15 years.

The intended heritage area includes the following counties: Bibb, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Conecuh, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox. The legislation names the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama (UWA) as the local management entity. The designation of a local entity, like UWA, ensures its ability to address the interests and needs of those in the surrounding communities.

“Designating Alabama’s Black Belt region as a National Heritage Area will not only help generate tourism and economic activity in the area, but it will also give the public a greater understanding of the natural, historical, and cultural assets our state has to offer,” stated Shelby, the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “This legislation has the potential to impact several future generations and is an important step toward promoting and preserving the diverse resources that exist throughout the Black Belt’s 19 counties.”

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NHAs are partnerships between the National Park Service, states and local entities to protect and support conservation and public access. Through these public-private partnerships, NHAs create a diverse, community-driven approach to increase heritage conservation, economic development, recreation and tourism. Currently, the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area is the only NHA in the state.

“Alabama’s Black Belt region played a central role in both the history of our great state and our country,” said Tuberville. “We cannot lose sight of the Black Belt’s significant impact in the civil rights movement and the fact that this area is home to some of our state’s most celebrated cultural figures. That’s why I’m honored to join Senator Shelby to authorize these 19 counties in the state as a National Heritage Area. This designation will ensure we can protect this region’s historical significance for generations to come.”

U.S. Representatives Terri Sewell (AL-07), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Mo Brooks (AL-05), Jerry Carl (AL-01) and Barry Moore (AL-02) are expected to introduce a companion bill this week in the House. Shelby previously introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress and the 116th Congress.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer participates in ‘Back the Blue Bike Tour’ — ‘Proud to stand with our nation’s police officers’

(Congressman Gary Palmer/Twitter)

Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-06) on Thursday participated in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) “Back the Blue Bike Tour” in Washington, D.C. to show support for law enforcement during National Police Week.

GOP members of Congress rode their bikes from the U.S. Capitol to the National Law Enforcement Memorial, where they laid wreaths in honor of fallen officers from their respective districts.

“It was an honor to join my colleagues in this ride to show support for our law enforcement officers. It’s more important than ever right now to show respect and appreciation for those courageous enough to step up to the task of serving as a police officer,” Palmer said in a statement.

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“These days, the media and radical left activists rush to cast police officers in the worst light,” he continued. “But the vast majority of law enforcement are honorable men and women with a genuine desire to protect their communities. I rode this morning in their honor and in solidarity with the family and colleagues of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to protect others. I thought particularly of the late Officer Nick O’Rear, a young officer from my district who fell in the line of duty last year. Officer O’Rear and the other men and women who gave their lives or were injured in the line of duty are true heroes. The men and women serving in our police departments across the nation deserve our support and gratitude. I’m proud to stand with our nation’s police officers and hope many people take the time to thank them for their service during this National Police Week.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

‘Finally’: Ivey applauds updated ‘common sense’ CDC guidance for those who have been fully vaccinated

(Pixabay, YHN)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday released updated COVID-19 guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated.

People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after receiving the sole dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The CDC has been criticized recently for continuing to be overly restrictive with its guidance for those who are fully vaccinated. In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey had already loosened the state’s health order — including ending the mask mandate — due to the widespread availability of vaccines and relatively low COVID case counts and hospitalizations. Alabama’s health order is set to expire entirely on May 31.

Now, the CDC is no longer advising fully vaccinated people to wear masks “in any setting” except where otherwise required.

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“You can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic,” the CDC wrote regarding fully vaccinated individuals. “You can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Governor Ivey issued a statement following the release of the new CDC guidance.

“Finally, we are seeing some encouraging, common sense guidance from the CDC,” she said.

“Alabama certainly welcomes this good news that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks or maintain social distancing inside or outside, regardless of size,” Ivey continued. “We Alabamians have already embraced this idea, and I am glad the CDC has made it official. Aside from the COVID-19 vaccine being safe and effective, it is also allowing us to do the things we love and enjoy. Alabama is open for business. Alabama classrooms are open for students. Y’all, Alabamians are getting back to living. So, Alabama, roll up your sleeves and get the vaccine!”

RELATED: Alabama expands COVID vaccine eligibility to everyone age 12 and up

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Alabama expands COVID vaccine eligibility to everyone age 12 and up

(Pixabay, YHN)

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced Alabama is expanding COVID-19 vaccination eligibility to include individuals age 12 and older, effective immediately.

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech is approved for those ages 12 and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines both remain available to individuals 18 years of age and older.

This comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this week authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in adolescents, followed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices giving aligning recommendations Wednesday and the CDC giving its final approval later that same day.

“This is great and welcome news that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will now be available for Alabamians 12 and up, offering another option for families in our state as we get back into full gear. We have seen good success so far with these safe and effective vaccines, and I encourage parents and children to consult with your pediatrician if you have any questions,” Ivey stated.

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“The vaccine is our ticket back to normal, and I continue to feel optimistic and hopeful in the positive direction we are moving in as a state,” she added.

With this expansion, there will be more than 4 million eligible individuals in the state of Alabama. Currently, the state receives approximately 135,000 first doses each week, making the supply abundant to everyone who chooses to get vaccinated. As of May 12, 2,722,909 doses have been administered.

“We encourage the vaccination of adolescents ages 12 and older to get the protection offered by the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “This vaccine will be available at private providers and other sites which have Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available.”

Visit vaccines.gov to search Alabama vaccine providers by vaccine brand offered.

RELATED: Tuberville continues call for Alabamians to get vaccinated — ‘Best way we can put this virus behind us’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Birmingham’s Southern Research appoints CEO, EVP

Dr. Josh Carpenter (left) and Allen Bolton (right).

Southern Research, the groundbreaking scientific discovery and research institution headquartered in Birmingham, on Thursday announced that its board of directors has appointed Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., as its new president and CEO, and Allen Bolton as its new executive vice president for Strategy and Finance.

Both appointments are effective June 1.

Founded in the Magic City in 1941, Southern Research is an independent, non-profit scientific research organization where more than 400 scientists and engineers work across three divisions: Life Sciences, Engineering, and Energy & Environment. Southern Research has attracted national research partnerships with leading industries in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, the environment and energy.

“Josh and Allen are forward-thinking leaders who are ready to chart a bold new course for Southern Research,” stated University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray L. Watts, who is chairman of the Southern Research board of directors. “They have the full support of the Board as they begin to lead an amazing team of scientists, engineers and innovators who are working to solve problems and change the world for the better.”

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Southern Research generates over $150 million in annual economic impact and supports more than 1,000 Alabama jobs.

“The work of Southern Research results in life-changing advancements and innovative solutions,” said Southern Research board member Mark Crosswhite, who also serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Company. “Josh and Allen’s vision and expertise will play an important role in leading this institution forward as a continued center of excellence.”

Carpenter most recently served as director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for the City of Birmingham, where he led the City’s efforts in workforce development, COVID recovery and business expansion. Previously, he served as the director of External Affairs at UAB. He earned his doctorate in political economy from the University of Oxford where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship.

“I am truly honored to take the helm of Southern Research and lead this incredible team that is finding solutions to improve people’s lives around the world. Southern Research has had 80 successful years, but I know the best is yet to come,” commented Carpenter.

Bolton most recently served as senior vice president for Finance and Administration at UAB, where he was also a member of the board for Southern Research. He was previously an executive in finance and strategy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and was senior associate dean for Administration and Finance at the UAB School of Medicine as well as executive administrator at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the largest research center in the University of Alabama System.

“Discoveries made at Southern Research have provided breakthroughs in cancer research, pushed the boundaries of science and saved lives. I am grateful for this opportunity to work alongside dedicated and talented people who have an unmatched passion for science and discovery,” concluded Bolton.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Guest: Expansion of broadband will propel economic growth in Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

With the passage of the Connect Alabama Act, the Alabama Legislature has effectively made the single most important investment in positioning Alabama to succeed in the 21st century. The Act will assist in expanding affordable, high-speed broadband internet access across the state to the benefit of all Alabamians.

Serving as executive director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA), representing 500 members from all corners of the state, we work every day to promote economic growth and improve the quality of life for all of Alabama’s citizens. During my eight-year tenure leading this organization, I have come across few pieces of legislation that more perfectly align with the EDAA’s mission than the Connect Alabama Act.

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In the economic development world, we know firsthand that reliable, high-speed internet access is an absolute must when companies are looking to locate to or expand in Alabama. If you cannot guarantee access to broadband internet while recruiting business and industry, you are quickly eliminated from the mix. Alabama is a perennial leader in various economic development rankings but to fully reach our potential as a pro-business state, we must continue to decrease the digital divide that hinders our growth.

The Connect Alabama Act is a bold, impactful and forward-leaning solution to one of Alabama’s greatest needs. The legislation creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority (ADEA) to oversee the expansion and availability of high-speed broadband services throughout the state, including in rural and underserved areas. It also establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division, a new division housed within ADECA, that will develop and execute a state connectivity plan as well as administer a broadband accessibility grant program. The newly created statewide connectivity plan must be submitted to ADEA by July 1, 2022. Prior to this, Alabama was the only state in the southeast without a comprehensive and statewide broadband plan. Lastly, the Act creates the Alabama Digital Expansion Finance Corporation (ADEFC) to issue bonds and serve as a resource to ADEA and the Alabama Digital Expansion Division by helping to fund broadband deployment projects.

The EDAA is grateful to Senator Del Marsh, Representative Danny Garrett and every legislator who supported the Connect Alabama Act for their vision and pro-jobs mindset that helped to get this legislation across the finish line. In addition to economic growth, we know that this effort will have a significant positive impact on education, health care, agriculture and overall quality of life for all Alabamians.

With the continued commitment of our state’s leaders, Alabama is well on the way to even brighter days. The EDAA looks forward to continuing to work with our elected officials, partners and members to build the best possible place for people to earn a livelihood and enjoy life.

As we seek to build a more robust 21st century economy in which every person and business – regardless of where they are located – can thrive, this is a milestone and investment to be celebrated.

Jim Searcy is Executive Director of the Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA)