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.

1 hour ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

(David Housel/Contributed)

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

(Chris Pringle Campaign/Facebook)

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@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.

6 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

(Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

sylacauga marble

The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

sylacauga marble

Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

7 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

(Pixabay)

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

7 hours ago

This city calls itself the ‘best small town in Alabama’

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

With a population of nearly 6,100, Jackson is technically defined as a city, but the folks who live and work here will quickly tell you otherwise.

“We call ourselves the best small town in the state of Alabama,” said Katie Soderquist, executive director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce. “Everybody knows your name, your kids, where you live – no matter where you go, there’s always somebody watching out for you that can help.”

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Welcome to Jackson, Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Jackson is the largest city in Clarke County, nestled among the pine trees of southwest Alabama about an hour’s drive from Mobile. It was founded in 1816 and named after the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. The people who live here are proud of the community they’ve developed.

“I could have moved anywhere in the world, but I picked Jackson,” said Jackson Mayor Paul South.

Business-friendly

With a port on the Tombigbee River, a regional airport and two industrial parks featuring rail and highway access, Jackson offers something for just about every business. One example is Packaging Corporation of America (PCA), an Illinois-based manufacturer of containerboard products and paper that is Jackson’s largest employer. PCA operates eight mills and 90 corrugated products plants and related facilities across North America, including a mill in Jackson that employs more than 500 people. In March, PCA announced plans to launch a three-year, $440 million project at its Jackson mill to convert a paper machine to produce linerboard for corrugated packaging.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the state of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the city of Jackson and Clarke County to help us continue providing quality jobs and a positive economic impact in the Jackson community,” PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said during the announcement of the conversion project.

Another example is Canfor, a Canadian wood products company that employs several hundred people at mills and plants across Alabama, including its U.S. headquarters in Mobile and a plant in Jackson. Grady Bedwell, chairman of the Clarke County Industrial Development Board and City of Jackson Industrial Development Board, said these are just two examples of how regional cooperation among public and private partners is helping Jackson and other areas across Clarke County grow.

“When one ship rises, we all rise,” Bedwell said. “A regional effort can get more interest than what we can as an individual town. I believe it’s the best way to attract industry.”

Another success story is iSpice Foods, an American-based importer, processor and supplier of peppers and spices. In 2016, iSpice Foods invested $9 million to open a processing operation in Jackson. The deal happened thanks to a team of public and private leaders, including the city of Jackson, Clarke County and Alabama Power.

“It made me feel real good,” Bedwell said. “The goals were the same: to get this business up and running and get these jobs in here and keep it going. That’s success within itself.”

Jackson’s appeal among other businesses has also grown, thanks to a tax incentive package developed by the city’s mayor and council.

“I researched some of the programs big cities have to get retail,” South said. “We came up with an incentive package where we offer them some of their money back and give them a good break on the deal. Since 2016 we’ve landed eight businesses.”

Soderquist said recruiting more businesses has gotten easier, thanks to the success those companies are experiencing.

“It’s not that hard because, once people get into Jackson they see the support we offer businesses,” Soderquist said. “When something is about to open, we’ll have phone calls for months ahead. It’s a town full of very excited people who don’t want to have to travel outside of Jackson to have all of the amenities they need.”

A fun place to live

Detouring off the beaten path of U.S. Highway 43 will quickly land you among several places to have fun and relax in “The Pine City.”

H.W. Pearce Memorial Park provides a number of recreational opportunities, including golf, tennis, a playground and one of the largest swimming pools in the state, while the nearby river offers plenty of places to fish.

“We’ve got some great recreation here,” South said. “Having a place that’s close to the Gulf and close to a river is just relaxing.”

The chamber hosts community events throughout the year, the biggest of which is the Jackson Fall Festival on the first Saturday in November. While the arts, crafts, car show, live music and entertainment draw thousands of people to downtown Jackson, Soderquist said there is one event that makes the festival special.

“The lumberjack competition draws people from all over the country,” Soderquist said. “It’s just a neat local event.”

The city offers a number of facilities and amenities for public use, including a senior center and library, as well as four modern public K-12 schools. Citizens can choose a private education at Jackson Academy and seek post-secondary education at Coastal Alabama Community College.

“If you want to get a good education, move to Jackson,” South said. “We’ve just about rebuilt every school here.”

The city is working with Alabama Power to install new LED lighting and security cameras through the city’s public safety program.

“The city is clean and crime is low,” South said. “Enjoy your life and then enjoy your grandchildren. That’s exactly what I’ve done.”

Soderqust said being “Alabama’s best small town” is attractive to people seeking a better quality of life.

“A lot of people are looking to move out of big cities nowadays,” Soderquist said. “Although we’re a smaller city, we still have the amenities that you need. It makes it a safe and welcoming environment.”

Bedwell said seeing neighbors and friends find good jobs is rewarding.

“When you see people that don’t have a job, and they find a job – they find local work, it’s quite moving,” Bedwell said. “If you’ve ever been without one, you know how meaningful it is and the quality of life it brings. It means a lot to see other people succeed and do well.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 hours ago

Tuberville opposes renaming Fort Rucker — ‘We’re going to fight that’

(Flickr/senate.gov)

Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced a commission to rename the military bases named for those that served in the Confederacy.

Among those under consideration for renaming are 10 U.S. Army installations, including Daleville’s Fort Rucker, named for Confederate Gen. Edmund W. Rucker, who would later become an early Birmingham industrialist.

In an interview with Enterprise newspaper The Southeast Sun’s Michelle Mann, U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) said he would oppose efforts to rename Fort Rucker.

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“We’re going to fight that,” Tuberville told the Sun. “You can’t destroy history, you can’t change it. We need to learn from history. I believe in our history and how we got here, right or wrong. We build off of history and changing the things that we need to change, but we don’t need to be destroying history. You have to learn from it.”

According to reports, the commission empaneled by Austin will submit recommendations to Congress by October 2022 and the Pentagon must implement the changes by Jan. 1, 2024, according to the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

The base-renaming provision was opposed by then-President Donald Trump, who vetoed the bill. However, Congress later overrode his veto.

@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.

Head to Back Forty Beer Co. on June 26 to celebrate the Shamrock Shindig

(Shamrock Shindig/Contributed, YHN)

Hosted by The Arc of Central Alabama’s Junior Board, this year’s “Not So” Shamrock Shindig will be held later than normal but still consist of all the fun guests enjoy. All proceeds will benefit the mission of #inclusionforall people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The event will have food catered by Back Forty Beer Co., drinks, great live music from The Divines, a balloon drop, and much more. Ticket purchase includes a chance to win the grand prize drawing for a seven-day Orange Beach getaway donated by Phoenix Rentals LLC, with additional purchases available.

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Purchase tickets today and join the fun Saturday, June 26 from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. Don’t forget to show up in green (of course) and bring your luck!

The Arc of Central Alabama serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families through comprehensive and quality programming, advocacy efforts, education, and awareness, all in an effort to ensure each person affected by IDD has the opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential for the most independent life possible.

1 day ago

UAH camp teaches blind and visually impaired high schoolers about cybersecurity

(Michael Mercier / UAH)

Ten high school students with blindness and visual impairments are learning about cybersecurity this week at a GenCyber Camp at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of the University of Alabama System.

The students from Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina will be exposed to a wide range of cybersecurity and computer topics at the camp, which is being held by UAH’s Center for Cybersecurity Research and Education (CCRE).

“Students will build a computer, learn to program, and encrypt and decrypt secret messages,” says Jesse Hairston, CCRE assistant director. “Campers also practice digital forensics and build circuits.”

The camp is a partnership between UAH and the Center for Assistive Technology Training at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB), Microsoft, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the American Printing House for the Blind.

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Camp attendees will hear from a variety of guest presenters, including individuals with visual impairments who work in the technology field.

“Many of our campers make use of assistive technologies like screen readers, magnifiers, braille devices, etc., to learn cybersecurity,” Hairston says.

The camp encourages students with visual impairments to explore cybersecurity careers through camp experiences with skills, technologies and tools used in the cybersecurity field, Hairston says.

A GenCyber Deaf Cyber Force camp for deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students is planned for June 27-July 2.

“This is the fifth year we have hosted this kind of camp, where students learn about online safety, cybersecurity careers, digital forensics, cryptography and how to program microcontrollers,” Hairston says. “We partner closely with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Regional STEM Center and the AIDB to bring in 15 students from multiple states, including Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, California and New York.”

The FBI leads an interactive case scenario at the camp, discusses cybersecurity careers and demonstrates the use of real-world tools for digital forensics.

Also in July, the CCRE will hold a GenCyber virtual training camp for more than 50 teachers.

(Courtesy of UAH)

Officials break ground on whitewater park, entertainment district in Montgomery

(Montgomery Whitewater/Contributed)

Montgomery city and county officials and business leaders broke ground Thursday on a major project that will bring recreational amenities, entertainment and retail to a site along the Alabama River, just west of downtown.

Montgomery Whitewater will feature freshwater rafting, kayaking and canoeing, as well as zip lines, hiking and mountain biking trails, and ropes courses. The 120-acre recreation and entertainment complex is slated to have a conference center, restaurants and facilities to accommodate a variety of activities, including live music and day camps, that will draw residents and tourists.

Gov. Kay Ivey, Montgomery Mayor Steve Reed and Montgomery County Commission Chair Elton Dean were among the officials participating in the groundbreaking before a large crowd of well-wishers.

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“Montgomery Whitewater will reinforce the fact that the River Region offers a high quality of life while also acting as a catalyst for sustainable economic growth in the area,” Ivey said. “This is a game-changing project for Montgomery, and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.”

“This is an exciting day for our region,” Dean said. “Montgomery Whitewater is the type of forward-thinking, quality-of-life project that will grow our population base and attract new visitors, creating additional revenues and opportunities for new and existing small and minority-owned businesses.”

Reed called the project “a milestone for Montgomery” and “a catalyst to transform our city and this entire region.”

Developed by Southern Whitewater Development Group, construction is expected to employ 640 people, with a $39.8 million economic impact. The economic impact from operations is estimated at more than $35 million a year.

JESCO Inc. Construction has been tapped as construction manager by the Montgomery County Community Cooperative District, a board of community leaders formed to oversee construction of the development.

“So many have dreamed big to make today a reality,” said Leslie Sanders, vice president of Alabama Power‘s Southern Division and chair of the cooperative district. “Our partners were bold enough to trust in an idea which will truly transform Montgomery and will add to Montgomery’s growing legacy as a visitor destination.

“The elements to be included in this project will provide unmatched recreational and training opportunities for those in our area but will also attract people from across the United States and the world,” Sanders said.

Also supporting the project is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, which has significant hotel and gambling operations in the Montgomery area and in south Alabama.

“The Tribe is committed to supporting and growing Alabama’s tourism and hospitality industry, and we believe Whitewater will be instrumental in attracting new sports tourism dollars to the state,” said Stephanie Bryan, the Tribal chair and CEO.

“We are proud to have invested in the project, and we look forward to seeing the positive impact it will
have on Montgomery and our state,” Bryan said.

For more information about the project, visit www.montgomerywhitewater.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama’s University of Montevallo wins 2021 national fishing championship

(University of Montevallo Fishing Team/Contributed)

The University of Montevallo’s bass fishing team outfished more than 200 other collegiate fishing programs this season and reeled in the national championship for 2020-21.

After taking over the top ranking in November, Montevallo never relinquished its lead, ultimately earning the distinction of Bass Pro Shops School of the Year.

“I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished. These guys have been so focused since the season started,” said William Crawford, Outdoor Scholars Program director and bass team campus adviser. “We had the goal at the beginning of the year to be the No. 1 team in the country, and since November they have done just that.”

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Throughout the year, the Montevallo fishing team competed in tournaments against some of the largest universities in the nation and earned points based on its performance. Following the final tournament of the season at Lake Murray in South Carolina on May 27, UM had amassed the most cumulative points of any team in the nation, taking home the team’s first School of the Year honor.

Montevallo finished second in last season’s School of the Year rankings. This season, the team knocked off two-time defending national champion McKendree University of Lebanon, Illinois, and topped large universities, such as the University of Tennessee, Auburn University and East Carolina University, en route to this year’s national crown.

Here are the full national standings for the 2020-2021 season.

The 2020-2021 University of Montevallo bass fishing team

Justin Barnes, senior, Monroeville

Jarrett Brown, senior, Montevallo

Adam Carroll, senior, Carrollton, Georgia

Tyler Harless, senior, Helena

Miller Spivey, senior, Tyler

Hunter Ward, senior, Rockford

Weston Hollar, junior, Dadeville

Jack Baron, junior, Arnold, Maryland

Cal Culpepper, junior, Hamilton, Georgia

Trey Dickert, junior, Greer, South Carolina

Cade Holcomb, junior, Helena

Bradley Martin, junior, Pace, Florida

Da’Kendrick Patterson, junior, Ramer

Kopeland Rosser, junior, Helena

Elliot Torode, junior, Montgomery

Drew Traffanstedt, junior, Hoover

Mason Waddell, junior, Waverly Hall, Georgia

Cole Dodson, sophomore, Gardendale

Merritt Arnold, sophomore, Warkinsville, Georgia

Jaxson Brown, sophomore, Birmingham

Tyler Cain, sophomore, Bessemer

Josiah Campbell, sophomore, Pelham

Solomon Glenn, sophomore, Lakeville, Minnesota

Wesley Gore, sophomore, Clanton

Trent Jones, sophomore, Thorsby

Ethan King, sophomore, Wilsonville

Grayson Morris, sophomore, Birmingham

Chandler Olivier, sophomore, Maylene

Griffin Phillips, sophomore, Mount Olive

Chance Schwartz, sophomore, Ball Ground, Georgia

James Willoughby, sophomore, Gulf Port, Mississippi

Kyle Bahr, freshman, Brainerd, Minnesota

Aaron Cherry, freshman, Kinsey

Tyler Cory, freshman, Amherst, Wisconsin

Nick Dumke, freshman, Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Tanner English, freshman, Centerville

Easton Fothergill, freshman, Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Brenton Godwin, freshman, Stapleton

Brock Gullixon, freshman, Iola, Wisconsin

Chandler Holt, freshman, Sterrett

Andrew Howell, freshman, Pisgah Forest, North Carolina

Tommy Loper, freshman, Perkinston, Mississippi

Hagan Marlin, freshman, Opelika

Hunter Odom, freshman, Chunchula

Jordan Pennington, freshman, Bessemer

Jacob Pfundt, freshman, Canton, Georgia

Jackson Pontius, freshman, Wilsonville

Scott Sledge, freshman, Greenwood, Indiana

Davian Smith, freshman, Eufaula

Ryan Thomas, freshman, Madison, Georgia

Riley Underwood, freshman, Hoover

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Tombigbee Communications and Alabama Power expand rural broadband to Fayette County

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter, YHN)

Businesses and residents in Fayette County will have access to rural broadband and high-speed fiber internet service thanks to Alabama Power and Tombigbee Communications’ freedom FIBER, a subsidiary of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative.

“We are excited to continue the deployment of broadband throughout northwest Alabama alongside our longtime partner Alabama Power,” said Steve Foshee, president and CEO of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative. “We both work hard every day to serve our customers and position rural Alabama for growth and prosperity. It’s also important to recognize we have elected officials across the state and in Washington, D.C., who understand that continued deployment of broadband is crucial to keeping our rural communities and state moving forward.”

As the state’s first broadband partnership between an electric cooperative and investor-owned utility, Tombigbee Communications and Alabama Power will join forces to use existing infrastructure to offer broadband services. Tombigbee Communications will lease available capacity on fiber infrastructure, used by Alabama Power on its electric grid for reliable and resilient service, as additional support for its backbone network to reach and connect Fayette County with high-speed internet.

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“The communities in our state need high-speed internet to thrive in today’s digitally driven world,” said Mark Crews, vice president of Western Division for Alabama Power. “Our partnership with Tombigbee Communications highlights the importance and value of businesses joining together to help bridge our state’s digital divide and lift up unserved and underserved rural areas.”

Alabama Power, Tombigbee Electric Cooperative announce broadband partnership from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Recent laws signed by Gov. Kay Ivey related to broadband pave the way for cooperative and utility partnerships. House Bill 400 (Broadband Using Electric Easement Accessibility Act), signed in 2019, allows electric providers the ability to use their existing infrastructure and easements to support high-speed internet.

Since then, Alabama Power has forged partnerships with broadband providers to support high-speed internet offerings throughout the state, including C Spire in Jasper and Trussville and Point Broadband on Lake Martin.

Tombigbee Communications offers freedom FIBER – a world-class fiber to the home network. Its goal is to connect the way to a better future for northwest Alabama with future plans to serve all of Marion and Lamar counties, a majority of Fayette County and portions of Winston, Franklin and Walker counties.

“We applaud this partnership for building off the framework we established in the Legislature to expand broadband options for Fayette County,” said Sen. Greg Reed. “Reliable and affordable high-speed internet impacts almost every area of our life and it is a needed resource to ensure the success and growth of our rural areas and small towns.”

The growth and expansion of broadband services is an important focus area for states across the nation and at the federal level.

“I applaud this first-of-a-kind partnership between Tombigbee Communications and Alabama Power,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt. “New partnerships and fresh ways of thinking are what will close the digital divide. Expanding broadband in Alabama has been one of my top priorities in Congress and will continue to be until we have rural America connected as well as the urban and suburban areas of our country. Our families, businesses and communities all deserve fast, reliable broadband regardless of where they call home.”

High-speed internet services are expected to be available to Fayette County residents and businesses in spring of 2022. To learn more, visit freedomfiber.com.

“High-speed broadband is an essential element in providing the opportunity for economic and population growth in Fayette County,” said Fayette County Probate Judge Mike Freeman. “The teamwork between Alabama Power and Tombigbee Communications’ freedom FIBER improves the timetable for Fayette County to achieve our goal of reliable high-speed internet. We are grateful for the shared vision of these two entities.”

To help support initiatives to provide more Alabamians access to broadband, Alabama Power partnered with business and community organizations in 2018 to create the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition (ARBC). The ARBC is a member-led organization representing more than 50 entities including health care, education, agriculture and economic development groups. For more information on ARBC efforts, visit alruralbroadband.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Archers take aim against breast cancer in weekend tournament in Cullman

(BCRFA/Contributed)

Cameron Mitchell helped put the “bull’s-eye” on the back of breast cancer.

This weekend on June 12-13, more than 150 archers – experienced and amateurs – will compete in the Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer tournament, which is Mitchell’s brainchild.

The mission is personal for many archers who will take part in the event at Cullman Community Archery Park, co-hosted by members of the Heritage Archery Club. Indeed, some patients find release by pulling back a bow to “attack” their breast cancer with arrows. Some find a soothing balm in sharing stories about a loved one’s health battle with those who can relate.

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“Getting volunteers for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama and Bow Hunters of Alabama has created a powerful team for raising money for research,” said Mitchell, a longtime bow hunter who noted that, after nine years, the tournament is a “well-oiled machine, thanks to all of the incredible volunteers.”

On Saturday and Sunday, competitors will begin meeting at the registration desk at 7 a.m. Participants bring their own equipment. Moving around a course with 3D animal targets, it takes about 2 hours to shoot the course. The last card for scoring goes out at 2 p.m. The event has drawn more than 200 spectators.

The cost to play is $25 or adults and $15 for youths. Attendees can bid for bows donated by Nichols Outfitters in Pelham, which will be auctioned by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA).

The event aims to save lives in Alabama and beyond

The event is all in good sport. In the past nine years, Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer has helped the BCRFA donate more than $190,000 toward research in the Yellowhammer state. The event has attracted up to 250 archers. Most importantly, treatments funded by the BCRFA help save the lives of breast cancer patients in Alabama and beyond.

“It’s a great event and it’s family friendly,” said Beth Bradner Davis, executive director of the BCRFA since 2014. “The funds we raise stay in Alabama. This is our 25th anniversary, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama has invested $10.8 million in research.”

Mitchell, who works for an international hunting and conservation organization, put the deadly disease in his sights about 11 years ago.

“My boss a few years ago said one of his biggest pet peeves was people who come up with great ideas but don’t have enough lead in the pencil to follow through,” Mitchell said. “I came up with the idea, and everybody with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, along with the Bow Hunters of Alabama, put together plans for the event.

“The first year, a representative from the BCRFA asked, ‘What’s your goal?’” Mitchell replied that he hoped to raise at least $20,000.

The woman told Mitchell, “I don’t want to burst your bubble, but we’ve never raised that amount for an inaugural event.” That year, the group raised $23,000 for BCRFA.

“It was wildly successful. Since the first year, it has remained one of the largest archery tournaments at the state level,” Mitchell said.

As people saw the event’s success, Mitchell said, it was easier to attract more vendors and sponsorships. The large tournaments drew more competitors, as well as spectators unfamiliar with the sport. Because Alabama’s bow-hunting season opens in October, the BCRFA holds its tournament in June.

About four years ago, Mitchell was forced to step away from organizing the tournaments because his wife was experiencing health issues.

“But I knew the tournament was in very capable hands and the success of the event would continue long into the future,” he said.

Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer supports research in Alabama 

While many attendees look forward to Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer year after year, Bradner Davis said the foundation sponsors several fundraising events. Each October, the BCRFA joins about 25 fire stations in supporting the Pink Ribbon Project. The BCRFA on Sept. 18 will make its foray into competitions at disc golf courses at Oliver Park in Shelby County and George W. Roy Recreational Park in Calera.

“Because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to hold some events this year,” Bradner Davis said. “I’m really excited for us to be able to expand with some events this summer that we weren’t able to do last year, such as our Pink Palace Casino Night on July 24th.”

Alabama’s Breast Cancer Research Tag continues to be a huge fundraiser in the fight against breast cancer. The BCRFA receives $41.25 for each specialty license plate, which is framed with a pink ribbon on a gray background. Alabama drivers can personalize their Breast Cancer Research Tag.

“We’re on target at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama to invest $1.1 million into research in 2021,” Bradner Davis said. “We’re so excited about the Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer tournament and helping patients in Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 day ago

Logging crew protects turkey nest, observes hatch

(Dustin Phillips/Contributed)

Logging crews in Alabama have wildlife encounters on a regular basis as they harvest one of the state’s renewable resources. One crew from Sullivan Timber Company was busy cutting timber in north Mobile County when the loggers spotted something worthy of protection – a turkey hen sitting on a clutch of 10 eggs.

Dustin Phillips, the procurement manager for Canfor Southern Pine’s Mobile mill, had hired the crew to harvest the timber on the tract near Gulfcrest. Crew foreman Brent Weaver spotted the turkey nest while he was running the feller-buncher and sent Phillips a photo on May 8.

“I called Brent and asked him what he was going to do,” said Phillips, an avid turkey hunter. “He said, ‘I’m going to flag around it.’ He flagged an area about 20 by 20. They kept working around her, felling these trees, and she would just sit there on the nest. They were riding all around the area that was flagged, and she did not move one time. I couldn’t believe that. I said, my gosh, she is committed to that nest. I cruise timber and have busted hens off the nest all the time. This time, they were cutting all around her, and she stayed put.”

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Weaver, who also loves to hunt turkeys, soon learned the hen’s daily schedule, sitting on the nest until about 4 p.m., when she would walk to a nearby mudhole for a drink of water. She would then stroll through a nearby greenfield to forage for seeds and insects. By the time the crew arrived the next morning, the hen was back on the nest.

“When we weren’t cutting and skidding right next to the nest, we were loading trucks 100 yards away,” Phillips said. “The loader operator would call on the radio and say, ‘Here she is. She’s getting some water.’ I guess she got used to the equipment. I was just pretty surprised. I’d always been told that if you bump a hen off the nest, she might not come back. I don’t know if that’s true. Evidently it’s not, at least to this hen anyway. I just thought it was neat how she stayed there with all this loud logging equipment. That’s what the crew talked about. They kept track of her every day.”

Phillips went to the site on May 18 and checked on the nest. He found good news. Eight of the eggs had hatched. Two were infertile.

“A day or two later, less than a quarter mile from there, the guy who manages the land went to check on the crew,” Phillips said. “He saw the hen and eight little ones. I told Brent I couldn’t believe that nest had survived.”

Phillips was also encouraged by the amount of turkey activity on that tract.

“There were turkeys all over that place,” he said. “Every time I’d go out there to check on them, you’d see a gobbler or two. They had a huge greenfield there, and sometimes you’d see 20 to 30 turkeys in that field. Brent said two mornings in a row, a gobbler was strutting in the road to the site.

“Sometimes loggers have a reputation of destroying habitat, but we do what we can in situations like this. All you have to do is flag around it. We do that with gopher tortoise burrows too. We flag around it and stay off of it.”

When he wasn’t working timber, Phillips spent his off time in the turkey woods in Wilcox County. He deemed his turkey-hunting success as “an okay year.”

“I missed two. The first two chances I had I missed,” he said. “I was sick. I was hunting this bird the first couple of weeks of the season. It was one of those birds that just didn’t want to cooperate. My dad said, ‘You’re going to waste your whole season on that bird.’ I told him I didn’t care if that was the only bird I got. Then I missed him. I missed another one and was really sick. But I ended up on a pretty good note. I got three the last couple of weeks of the season. I got lucky.”

Steven Mitchell, Upland Game Bird Coordinator for the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, said the number of hunters who got lucky in 2021 was slightly lower than that total in 2020.

“From the Game Check reporting numbers, we had almost two thousand fewer harvests and about the same number of hunters in 2021 as compared to 2020,” Mitchell said.

According to Game Check, 14,905 harvested birds were reported in 2021. That final number is pending the WFF’s post-season harvest survey. In 2020, 16,850 birds were reported through Game Check. After the post-season harvest survey was completed, WFF estimated about 35,000 birds were harvested in 2020.

“Conditions for the 2020 and 2021 seasons were similar,” Mitchell said. “The 2020 season might have been a little better the first couple of weeks of the season. I think the 2021 season went well overall.”

Mitchell said the reports he received throughout turkey season were typical with some areas reporting the gobbling activity was good and hunters were having success. Hunters in other areas of the state were reporting the gobblers were henned up at the start of the season. As the hens started nesting, the gobbling improved in most areas.

“Then it was reversed in other areas,” he said. “The last week of the season where I hunted, the turkeys didn’t gobble much. They were gobbling a few times on roost, but when they got on the ground they weren’t saying much. I saw a few gobblers by themselves, but they didn’t respond to my calling with gobbling. I still had a couple of turkeys I called in. They just didn’t gobble, but they came in strutting and drumming. And, then again, I’ve had reports from as recently as last week of turkeys strutting and gobbling as far south as Clarke and Geneva counties.”

Mitchell said he and the WFF staff will be conducting brood surveys during July and August to evaluate the 2021 hatch and poult survival.

“Most of the poults are so small right now they’re hard to see,” he said. “We won’t be able to do a good survey until they get out in fields and pastures where we can see them and put them in a size category.”

Although he received a few reports of turkeys hatching at the end of April, Mitchell said the average hatch date is around the last week in May.

Mitchell said nest predation is always a concern, especially in areas where people are not actively controlling the predators like coyotes and raccoons.

“But turkeys have always had to deal with predators,” he said. “Habitat improvement is going to be the number one thing we can do to benefit turkeys.”

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

Madison County Commission chair Strong hits Colorado for impugning Alabama in Space Command fight — ‘They’ve got a dope dispensary on every corner’

(Facebook)

Earlier this year, the Air Force said the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters would be Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal.

Currently, the headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, which was among several other installations in Colorado and around the country in competition with Redstone Arsenal.

Despite drawing protests from the likes of U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and others, the Air Force appears to remain committed to the Huntsville location.

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong, a Republican candidate for the fifth congressional district U.S. House seat up in 2022, punched back at Lamborn and his ilk for suggesting north Alabama wasn’t up for the task of hosting Space Command.

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“I’ll tell you this right here: You get down to the facts — Colorado was throwing a lot of darts at Alabama and they actually impugn the integrity of a lot of people in this process to include the Air Force,” he said. “But if you look at the facts on the table — we’ve got the highest concentration of engineers of anywhere in the country. You can look at the education level that’s here. That’s what they’re looking for. You look at Redstone Arsenal with 38,000 acres behind a secure wire, Colorado throwing all these darts. They actually weren’t even second. They were third.”

“Then you look at some of the things that were negative — they don’t have navigatable water,” Strong continued. “They’ve got an elevation issue with altitude sickness. They have a lot of missed business days because of snow. And then, they’ve got a dope dispensary on every corner. And of course, anybody dealing with top security, folks understand that is about the last thing you want — somebody to be tempted to take a hit on a joint. Then they lose their top security clearance. I think if they opened their eyes, they might be able to see some of the things that kept them from getting this. But we’re perfectly positioned, not only for today but for days ahead.”

@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

State Rep. Collins to seek reelection in House District 8

(Screenshot/APTV)

With the Republican primaries less than a year away, members of the Alabama Legislature are rolling out their 2022 plans.

While there will be a few retirements along the way, most incumbents will be running for reelection.

Among those is State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), who represents Morgan County’s House District 8 in the Alabama House of Representatives. Collins made her intentions known on Friday through a press release.

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“Since taking office, Alabama has made great strides in education, economic development, and protecting unborn life, but the job is not yet finished, and our mission is not complete,” Collins said in the release. “We must keep working to give every child access to a quality public education regardless of where they live or how much their family earns, create new jobs and opportunities, and preserve our conservative Alabama values.”

Collins chairs the House Education Policy Committee. She was also the sponsor of the Alabama Literacy Act, which puts in place reading standards for third graders before they can be promoted to the fourth grade. The law nearly faced a setback earlier this year as a bill made its way to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk that would have delayed it two years. However, Ivey vetoed the legislation.

The Morgan County lawmaker also sponsored the 2019 abortion ban intended to challenge the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that effectively legalized abortion.

@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

Jefferson County GOP chair Paul DeMarco responds to critics of Michael Flynn appearance — ‘Most successful event’ in the history of the JeffCo GOP

(Paul Demarco/Facebook, YHN)

On Friday, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn will be part of a line-up for the Jefferson County Republican Party’s “Saluting Their Service” event honoring Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin and State Rep. Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills).

However, the appearance from Flynn seems to be a cause for concern for many in the local media and Alabama Democrats, including former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Jefferson County Republican Party chairman Paul DeMarco, formerly a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and a 2014 congressional candidate, said despite efforts to gin up controversy, he was anticipating the event to be the most successful event in the history of the Jefferson County Republican Party.

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“We’re looking forward to our event tomorrow night honoring Alabama Supreme Court Justice Mike Bolin and Representative Jim Carns,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of great responses. I think this is going to be our most successful event we’ve ever had in the history of the Jefferson County Republican Party. We’re looking forward to hearing General Flynn … really looking forward to hearing him talk about patriotism and public service, his military service, and what we all need to do to move to keep this the greatest nation in the world.”

DeMarco downplayed allegations that Flynn had called for a coup, and therefore, according to detractors, was not fit to appear at the event.

DeMarco suggested Democrats tend to their own affairs and focus on the shortcomings under their leadership in Jefferson County and the city of Birmingham.

“Look, he made it clear that’s not what he wanted, and he said that,” DeMarco said. “He made it clear. I take him for his word. He made it clear on the radio. He made it clear to everyone. Look, the Democrats can talk about this, and generally, I’m surprised — I could care less who they bring to their dinners. Bring whoever they want. We’re looking forward to a great dinner. And I’m also surprised the Democrats aren’t focused on issues like they need to be, which is the violent crime rate we have in the city of Birmingham. It’s all part — they’re focused on stuff that really doesn’t matter. They need to be focused on issues of public safety, which all of our constituents care about, and I know their constituents care about. And yet they seem to be more worried about who we’re going to bring to a dinner than trying to do something about the crime rate in the city of Birmingham and in Jefferson County.”

@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

How will Biden’s American Families Plan affect 2021 business and personal tax planning?

(Kassouf/Contributed)

Join Birmingham-based Kassouf & Co., PC Business Services Group for a review of President Biden’s American Families Plan, American Jobs Plan, and a mid-year tax update for both individuals and businesses. The experts will explain complicated developments to make sure your 2021 tax planning is on track for success.

The webinar will be held Wednesday, June 16th from 2 – 4 pm via Zoom.  Register Here

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Kassouf & Co., PC is a full service accounting and advisory firm with locations in Birmingham, Orange Beach, Auburn and Baton Rouge, LA.  Learn more by visiting www.Kassouf.com.

 

2 days ago

7 Things: Shelby endorses Britt, Alabama legislators looking to ban Critical Race Theory, Brooks complaint against Swalwell’s server in hands of the DA and more …

7. Maybe Texas will build a border wall to keep Vice President Harris out

  • Vice President Kamala Harris is having an interesting few days far-south of the border as she attempts to deal with the disastrous immigration policy of the Biden administration. With Harris out of the country, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has announced the state will build some border wall of its own.
  • Abbott referenced the new administration’s failure and the influx of illegal immigrants into his state while making the announcement as part of a $1 billion dollar plan for border security. Abbott said, “While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows. The state is working collaboratively with communities impacted by the crisis to arrest and detain individuals coming into Texas illegally.”

6. Alabama will never miss the playoffs again

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  • Great news for fans of college football but bad news for the purist in the college football fandom as it appears an expanded playoff is all but inevitable at this point. The proposed system has no guaranteed bids, but the six highest-ranking conference champions are in and then the six highest-ranked determined by the CFP selection committee are in, too.
  • This is great news for the University of Alabama, who have never come close to falling below the 12th best team in college football since the playoff era has been taking place. This would be great for the SEC as well because there is no limit on the number of teams a conference can send.

5. New report says vaccinating those with prior COVID-19 infections is unnecessary

  • The vaccination of those who already had COVID-19 may end up being unnecessary if a new study from the Cleveland Clinic is accurate. According to the study, those infected previously gain nothing by being vaccinated.
  • The study shows that vaccines should be prioritized to those individuals who have never been infected; it also means that counting those with vaccinations as the only metric is a flawed way to discuss where the country is at this moment.

4. Tuberville wants you to get your vaccine

  • High-profile public figures in Alabama have tried to convince vaccine-hesitant individuals to get the coronavirus vaccine. We have seen Nick Saban, Governor Kay Ivey and others record videos for the effort.
  • Now, former Auburn head coach and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has recorded his own where he tells Alabamians, “Getting the vaccine is safe, effective, and free. I got mine. And let me tell you, it’s worth it. Vaccines have slowed the rate of hospitalization and death down dramatically – and we want to keep it that way.”

3. District Attorney has trespassing complaint tied to Mo Brooks and his wife 

  • The man that served U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) for U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) by “accosting” his wife in the Brooks home is now facing a potential legal problem and a charge of misdemeanor trespassing. The case is now in the hands of the Madison County District Attorney.
  • The process server, Christian Seklecki, agreed with the account given by Martha Brooks even though that account was disputed by Swalwell’s attorney on CNN. All of this may be for naught as Madison County district attorney’s office has said they would not seek to extradite Seklecki, who lives in Georgia but could be arrested if he returns to Madison County.

2. Alabama legislators looking to ban Critical Race Theory

  • Even though the Alabama Legislature seems like it just finished meeting last month, some legislators are ready to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the state. Alabama is hardly alone.
  • State Representative Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) has already proposed a bill for the next legislative session that would ban teaching “that this state or the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist” or “that an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

1. Shelby endorses Katie Britt for U.S. Senate

  • U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has endorsed his former chief of staff and the former head of the Business Council of Alabama Katie Britt, saying, “She’s like family. She’d make a good candidate. She’s probably the best-qualified candidate to come along in a long time” but said he will not be active in her campaign.
  • The endorsement of Britt by Shelby is a good get for Britt but al(dot)com tried to plagiarize the headline from Politico and make it about former President Donald Trump with a headline that read, “Shelby distances from Trump with Katie Britt endorsement,” even though Shelby didn’t mention or reference the former president in any way, shape or form.

2 days ago

John Merrill comeback tour? Embattled Secretary of State returns to public appearances — ‘I’ve rededicated my life, I went to a rehab’

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Two months have passed since Secretary of State John Merrill ruled out a run in 2022 for any office after revelations and subsequent admission of an extramarital affair. However, in recent days Merrill seems to be slowly getting back to his old routine, making media appearances and speaking to groups around the state.

Recently, Merrill appeared on Alexander City television’s WAXC’s “The Front Porch” and spoke at the Cullman County Republican Party’s monthly Republican Breakfast event.

Could Merrill be staging a comeback? During the Cullman event last Saturday, Merrill addressed the recent controversy.

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“I want to tell you this before you go,” he said. “I want to thank you for your prayers about what we’ve been going through. I want to thank you for your concern. I want to make sure you understand some things — number one is this — I’ve been a Christian since I was six years old. But for the last several years of my life, I have not lived my faith the way the Lord has required me to do so. And what I want you to know is since we’ve gone through these things, I’ve repented my sins that were well reported in the paper. I’ve rededicated my life. I went to a rehab that was out of our state for a month, really almost five weeks, and made sure I’ve refocused on the things I need to be focused on and the things I needed to do in order to make sure I’m being the husband, the father, the friend, the elected official that I need and expected to be. And I want you to know — people are asking me, ‘How’s it going?’ And a lot of time, people will say, ‘Well, I’m taking it one day at a time,’ because that’s what we say. That’s not true for me. What’s true for me is I’m taking it every 15 minutes at a time because that’s a manageable increment for me where I know I can do what I need to do.”

“Some people have asked me, ‘Do you think this is a political hit job?'” he said. “I do. It’s pretty evident because after a week of it, and I was out of the Senate race, you haven’t seen or heard anything else about it. But don’t miss the bigger point. The bigger point is I made some choices that were poor. I made some mistakes that were introduced to everybody in the state and the nation who wanted to know about it. And, whether or not I was set up or not is not important. I’m the one that made the choice. I’m the one that stumbled. I’m the one that made the mistake. I’m the one that has to pay for it. And so, I’m going to continue to do what I can to be the Christian I’ve been called to be and to be the leader the Lord has allowed me to be. And I want you to know how much it means to me to have y’alls support.”

Merrill will make another appearance on Monday in Muscle Shoals before the Republican Women of the Shoals.

(Facebook)

@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

Landing headquarters move to bring more than 800 jobs to Birmingham

(Landing/Twitter)

More than 800 full-time jobs are coming to Birmingham as a company building a nationwide network of fully-furnished apartments is set to relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Birmingham.

Gov. Kay Ivey made the announcement on Thursday.

“Landing is a fast-growing company with an innovative business model, and we are thrilled that it will establish its headquarters in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement from her office. “This is great news for Birmingham and for the entire state because it shows that we have the workforce and capabilities needed by a cutting-edge company that is blazing new trails.”

Landing’s move to Birmingham is timely as real estate investors foresee continued growth in the sector. In the midst of the strongest homes-sales market in 15 years, renting has become an attractive option for many.

According Ivey’s office, the company has experienced 1,250% year-over-year growth and has scaled from just nine cities in early 2020 to over 80, with plans to be in more than 100 by year’s end.

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“As a Birmingham native, relocating our headquarters and expanding our Alabama team was a natural transition,” said Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Landing. “I’m excited by the opportunity to continue to scale Landing and bring new jobs and economic opportunities to my community. As we continue to expand across the country, we’re committed to the vibrant cities we operate in and will strive to have a positive impact on all of Landing’s communities.”

Smith previously started Shipt, an app-based delivery service that grew rapidly and was acquired by Target Corp. in 2017.

The Alabama Department of Commerce estimates that in the next two decades Landing’s contribution to Alabama’s economy will result in $112 million in new state revenue and a 356% return on investment to the state.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield believes Smith’s previous accomplishments in business offer a glimpse at what is to come for Landing and its new home in Alabama.

“Bill Smith is a rock star in Alabama’s innovation economy through his experience with Shipt, and Landing represents an interesting new chapter in a business career that has already produced massive success,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The company is off to a strong start, and Birmingham will offer a solid platform for its growth plans as it shakes up the real estate industry.”

Landing’s new headquarters will be located in downtown Birmingham at the John Hand Building, a fact Mayor Randall Woodfin notes is going to be mutually beneficial to Landing and the city.

“Landing’s arrival couldn’t come at a better time,” Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said. “As our city continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, the new jobs and revenue Landing will bring to our community will be a boost to our recovery efforts. The financial incentive we offer, pending the City Council’s approval, will help to hire and train our citizens for the more than 800 new jobs, and the revenue generated by the project will provide funding for City schools and infrastructure.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Will Ainsworth for reelection to Lt. Governor’s office

(Alabama Forestry Association/Twitter)

After announcing in front of 3,000 people last week that he would seek reelection, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth has now picked up the endorsement of one of Alabama’s most influential business associations.

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) has endorsed Ainsworth as he begins his campaign for a second term.

“Lt. Governor Ainsworth has done an outstanding job during his first term in office,” said AFA president Chris Isaacson in a release from the organization. “He is committed to a limited and fiscally responsible government and has been a tireless advocate for Alabama’s forest products industry and a longtime friend of AFA. We were an early supporter in his first statewide election and are honored to stand with Will in his bid for a second term.”

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AFA identified Ainsworth’s strong support of private property rights as part of its decision to support the Marshall County native.

“I am proud to have the support of the Alabama Forestry Association,” stated Ainsworth, himself a timberland owner. “I will continue to fight for smaller government, less red tape and more jobs for hardworking Alabamians. Alabama is open for business, and our best days are ahead.”

Ainsworth’s first term has been marked by his heavy involvement in the state’s economic issues.

He has overseen the Alabama Small Business Commission, a panel tasked with recommending policies and legislation benefiting small businesses operating across the state.

During last year’s COVID-19 crisis, Ainsworth formed an emergency task force within the commission to focus on the reopening of Alabama’s economy. Most of the task force’s plan was implemented by the state during the reopening process.

Ainsworth has also served as chairman of the Aerospace States Association, a national group whose mission is to support and promote the interests of the aerospace industry in Alabama and across the nation.

At his campaign kickoff, Ainsworth asserted that improving the prospects of future generations of Alabamians is driving him to run for a second term.

“The main reason I’m running is for my kids, your kids, your grandkids’ future,” he said. “It is a huge time commitment, but I want to say this: I want our kids, your kids, everybody in here to always be proud to call Alabama home. I don’t want our kids to have to move to Atlanta or Nashville or Austin or another state. I want them to be able to live right here in Alabama and have the same opportunities as any kids in the world. We’re going to do that. We are doing that.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

UAB meets needs of campus, community, state and beyond during pandemic

(UAB/Contributed)

A day after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the University of Alabama System made immediate plans to transition to online or alternative instruction and remote work at all three campuses. Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency, and UAB Hospital prepared patient surge plans and implemented visitor restrictions.

At the very onset of the pandemic, it was clear that historic levels of planning, preparation and collaboration would be critical to success, says UA System Chancellor Finis St. John. The UA System Office swiftly created an internal Health & Safety Task Force dedicated to ensuring the safe fulfillment of the System’s core mission of teaching, research and service. The Task Force, led by UAB medical experts, ultimately developed an operational return plan that became a national model for colleges, universities, corporations and nonprofit organizations.

“Our three campus communities and the employees of the UAB Health System proved throughout this challenging period that, while we are individually distinct, we are altogether stronger,” St. John said. “I am grateful for each person in the UA System and the guidance provided by our Board of Trustees, led by President pro tempore Stan Starnes and his predecessor, Ron Gray.”

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While uncertainty became the norm in 2020, one thing is certain: The University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine were uniquely prepared to help their students, employees and patients, as well as the city, state, nation and beyond, get through the pandemic.

UAB — and its people — responded quickly, strategically and emphatically. The result: During the worst pandemic in more than a century, Alabama’s largest single employer expanded each area of its mission to advance education, research, innovation and economic development, patient care, and community service. UAB also set a record high for enrollment, improved its S&P financial outlook, and became Forbes’ Best Large Employer in the United States, topping the list of more than 500 public and private corporations, hospitals, universities and Fortune 500 companies across dozens of industries and ahead of the likes of Amazon, Google, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, NASA, Netflix and Yale University.

What made Forbes’ recognition so meaningful, says UAB President Ray L. Watts, is that it is based largely on whether UAB employees would recommend UAB to friends and family. Forbes honored UAB again in April by naming the university and UAB Medicine No. 4 among America’s Best Employers for Diversity and did so a third time in May with its selection as the No. 4 Best Employer for New Graduates 2021, which made it the top ranking institution in education.

“More than a year ago, we didn’t know what impact the COVID pandemic would have on each of us and the many people we serve,” Watts said. “Those were frightening times, but we rolled up our sleeves and adapted. Throughout a difficult year, the perseverance of our people and their dedication to our vision, mission and values — with the unwavering leadership and support from University of Alabama System Chancellor St. John, the System Office team and the UA System Board of Trustees — have been extraordinary. And the results — what we have been able to do for the UAB community and our city, state and beyond — speak for themselves.”

Fulfilling the mission

The pandemic put UAB’s commitment to its mission and the communities it serves on full display.

“UAB has been an international leader in keeping the public safe and informed throughout the pandemic,” said School of Medicine Dean and Senior Vice President Selwyn Vickers. “We answered the call when our institution’s collective knowledge and expertise was needed more than ever. I can’t thank our people enough for working together so selflessly and demonstrating just how outstanding UAB is as an academic medical center and institution of higher learning.”

UAB launched the state’s first appointment-based mass community COVID testing site in conjunction with the Jefferson County Department of Health. Student and employees from across UAB helped the Alabama Department of Public Health with contact tracing, calling upward of 4,000 cases a month by December 2020.

UAB vaccinated its first person on Dec. 18, 2020, and eventually opened five community-based, mass vaccination sites. By May 2021, UAB had administered approximately 200,000 doses of the vaccine to residents in 62 of Alabama’s 67 counties.

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“Every time a site is opened [and I’ve been there] it is this moment of realization that I am a part of hope in the big picture… We’re all in this together, and it’s very very meaningful that I get to be a part of the solution. ”
– Alex Morton

UAB’s Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center worked with community leaders to reach out to educate underserved populations about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. Those efforts, along with investing roughly $1.4 million a month to operate five community vaccine sites, including at Parker High School in downtown Birmingham, Cathedral of the Cross AOH church in Center Point and at the Hoover Met, enabled UAB to provide vaccines to racially diverse groups of Alabamians, far exceeding the national average of underserved populations vaccinated — bolstering Alabama’s effort.

The School of Medicine’s Fungal Reference Lab in the Department of Pathology has been a focal point for testing for the entire state throughout the pandemic. Because of the lab’s efforts, UAB was among the first academic medical centers in the country to offer in-house COVID-19 testing after it launched its own, extremely accurate laboratory-developed test in March 2020.

The lab, directed by Sixto M. Leal Jr., M.D., Ph.D., has been analyzing 100 COVID-positive samples a week for the Alabama Department of Public Health to help identify which variants are in Alabama. Leal’s lab also worked closely with UAB Hospital labs and private-sector biomedical companies to scale up and support the GuideSafe™ Entry Testing program in 2020. Free COVID-19 testing was made available to students at all Alabama colleges and universities in advance of the 2020 fall semester, resulting in the largest-scale higher-education testing initiative in the nation.

UAB research also played an important role. Remdesivir — widely used to treat COVID-19 — was developed through research conducted within the Antiviral Drug Discovery and Development Center, anchored at UAB. UAB was among the first U.S. sites chosen to conduct preclinical testing of an inhaled monoclonal antibody for COVID-19 that showed therapeutic efficacy in October. Monoclonal antibodies have been widely heralded for keeping high-risk patients out of the hospital and saving lives.

UAB researchers, led by Fran Lund, Ph.D., in collaboration with Altimmune, have found that a single intranasal dose of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate AdCOVID provides sterilizing immunity in the lungs of vaccinated animals. AdCOVID is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial to test safety and immunogenicity in people, and Altimmune expects to report topline data in June.

  • Sixto Leal directs the UAB Department of Pathology Fungal Reference Lab which worked closely with UAB Hospital labs and private-sector biomedical companies to scale up and support the GuideSafe™ Entry Testing program. More than 75,000 students were tested, making it the largest-scale higher-education testing initiative in the nation. Leal’s lab also analyzes 100 random COVID samples a week for the ADPH and has identified all known variants in Alabama.

UAB offered testing, patient care, and administrative expertise and support to hospitals and health systems across the state, improving outcomes for many Alabamians struck by COVID-19. UAB experts also collaborated with and provided critical public health and infectious disease insights to local and state officials, and also took a lead role in an aggressive public information campaign to increase knowledge and safety. UAB experts kept a high public profile throughout the pandemic, as they were featured in constant local media coverage and thousands of appearances in national and international outlets.

UAB COVID-19 by the numbers

  • As of May 27, 2021, UAB has administered more than 207,000 vaccinations to residents in 62 of Alabama’s 67 counties.
  • To date, UAB has cared for 4,439 COVID patients in UAB Hospital.
  • UAB hosted 5 Vaccination sites.

The patient care demands of UAB Medicine have been significant. UAB Hospital admitted its first COVID-positive patient in March 2020, starting multiple waves of patient surges that continued to stress the system and its clinical care and support teams. Early in 2021, more than 30 percent of patients in UAB Hospital — one of the largest hospitals in the nation — were people with an active case of COVID-19 or those who had recovered from COVID-19 but were still too sick from complications to leave the hospital.

“Our employees overcame great challenges and pushed through personal and professional anxiety and exhaustion to provide world-class care to thousands of patients throughout the pandemic,” said UAB Medicine CEO Reid Jones. “We continued to innovate to best serve patients and really demonstrated why UAB is so vital to all Alabamians.”

A new multidisciplinary Post COVID Treatment Program was developed to help evaluate patients still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms more than three weeks after a positive test to help them find appropriate specialized care.

A team led by Sue Feldman, Ph.D., professor in UAB’s schools of Health Professions and Medicine, developed the daily Healthcheck tool and worked with Google and Apple to develop the GuideSafe exposure notification app made available to all Alabamians. The anonymous app was designed to alert users if they had been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

“With the great challenges we were facing as a university and health system, it would have been easy to turn inward and just try to solve our own problems,” Watts said. “But that’s not who UAB is. Improving outcomes for all Alabamians is our mission and responsibility, and the pandemic showed just how much that’s in our DNA with the high-impact programs we undertook.”

Meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff

A key tenet of UAB’s positive momentum before the pandemic was a shared commitment to shared governance, which only strengthened as the university shifted to remote learning in March 2020.

Students, faculty and staff — from the undergraduate and graduate student government associations to the faculty senate and staff council — were invited at the request of President Watts and Provost Pam Benoit to share important insights in key committees and workgroups.

The dialogue led to new and enhanced resources that helped members of the campus community safely continue their education and jobs — from a robust e-learning platform to guide remote learning to processing grants and other crucial university business.

Prior to the pandemic, UAB’s eLearning and Professional Studies office supported faculty and staff with instructional design services, media production services, academic technology tools and training, and continuing education/professional studies offerings. In March 2020, when UAB courses moved online in response to the pandemic, the eLearning team assisted faculty with course design and technology through online workshops and one-on-one assistance.

“Our eLearning and Professional Studies team developed a dynamic approach to helping students and faculty in the online learning environment. In partnership with talented faculty, this team designed quality face-to-face, hybrid and online courses and programs. The effort of the eLearning and Professional Studies team — and its collaboration with our dedicated faculty — was indicative of UAB’s efforts as a whole across our entire enterprise.”

– UAB Provost, Pam Benoit

“Our eLearning and Professional Studies team developed a dynamic approach to helping students and faculty in the online learning environment,” Benoit said. “In partnership with talented faculty, this team designed quality face-to-face, hybrid and online courses and programs. The effort of the eLearning and Professional Studies team — and its collaboration with our dedicated faculty — was indicative of UAB’s efforts as a whole across our entire enterprise.”

“We are fortunate to work with a faculty body so adept and creative,” said Pam Paustian, Ph.D., associate provost for Academic and Learning Technologies. “It was an incredible team effort based on a shared commitment to our students.”

In July, an Incident Command Committee was established to monitor data and how effective UAB was in implementing operational and safety strategies. “The idea was to bring together campus leaders with access to resources and people to address any areas where additional support may be needed,” said Katie Crenshaw, J.D., UAB chief risk and compliance officer, who chairs that committee.

UAB increased and promoted mental health resources, provided free personal protective equipment, made childcare options available to employees and subsidized it, made vaccines available to employees and the community within Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines, and made COVID-19 testing free and conveniently available to employees. The UAB-developed sentinel testing program developed with GuideSafe was also made available to other institutions across the state.

Ultimately, Watts says, UAB’s efforts saved lives and livelihoods.

“We have worked tirelessly to leverage our resources, expertise and talent and made a big difference in safeguarding the health of people and our economy,” Watts said. “It is incredibly humbling and gratifying to talk to people who continue to thank me for all UAB has done. It is equally gratifying to know the UAB family is proud of what we have all been able to do together for each other and our community.”


Our COVID year from UAB on Vimeo.

Photography and videography: Andrea Reiber, Laura Gasque, Jeff Myers, Carson Young, Andrea Mabry, Steve Wood, Lexi Coon and Amanda Chambers

3 days ago

Alabama wins Gold Shovel Award for 2020 economic development

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office)

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey announced today that Area Development, a prominent national business publication, has selected Alabama for its Gold Shovel Award, recognizing the state’s economic development success in the manufacturing sector during a challenging 2020.

The honor follows a year of strong results for Alabama, with companies announcing new facilities and expansion projects involving nearly $5 billion in new capital investment despite uncertain global business conditions.

The projects, many in key strategic industry clusters, will create almost 10,000 jobs across the state and inject economic vitality into many communities recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“This Gold Shovel award is a testament to Alabama’s skillful workforce and to the pro-business environment that makes out state such an attractive location for investment,” Governor Ivey said.

“High-performing companies from all over the world have discovered that they can find all the competitive advantages they need to succeed with their growth projects right here in Sweet Home Alabama.”

MANUFACTURING GROWTH

Area Development singled out several 2020 economic development projects in its decision to award a Gold Shovel-Manufacturing to Alabama, including:

  • Steelmaking giant ArcelorMittal announced a $775 million project to add an electric arc furnace facility at the mill it operates with Nippon Steel in Calvert, near Mobile. The AM/NS Calvert project will create 200 jobs and expand production at the site.
  • Mazda Toyota Manufacturing revealed plans for an additional $830 million investment at its assembly plant in Huntsville that will begin production later this year. Total investment at the plant now tops $2.3 billion, and it will employ up to 4,000 workers.
  • Cullman-based HomTex, a maker of household linens, shifted gears during the pandemic to launch a project that will create 300 jobs in Selma, where it will manufacture 3-ply and N-95 face masks.

Area Development’s annual Gold and Silver Shovel Awards recognize the overall effectiveness of economic development efforts in states across the nation. Read the report.

Alabama has been a frequent winner since the magazine launched the awards in 2006, when it won a Gold Shovel. The state also claimed a Gold Shovel Award in 2013 and in 2019.

STRATEGIC EXECUTION

The state’s 2020 economic development results are outlined in the Alabama Department of Commerce’s comprehensive “New & Expanding Industry Report,” released earlier this year. The report provides a detailed look at 220 projects recorded in the state during a record-setting year of business recruitment and support.

“The chief goal of Alabama’s economic development team is to help spark the creation of jobs and opportunity throughout the state by strategically focusing on industries with solid long-term growth prospects,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Winning another Gold Shovel Award demonstrates that our team is executing on this plan and delivering results that make a difference for the state and its hard-working citizens,” he added.

This is the second Golden Shovel Award that Alabama has won during Governor Ivey’s tenure and the third since Secretary Canfield took the helm at Commerce.

Alabama joined Michigan and Indiana in receiving a Gold Shovel-Manufacturing Award from Area Development. Other states winning a Gold Shovel Award were Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Utah and Kansas.

Alabama’s ability to overcome the complex economic development challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic also recently earned the state a Top 10 ranking in Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cups analysis.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

Alabama Air National Guard promotes first female brigadier general

(Spc. Cody Muzio/Joint Force Headquarters - Alabama National Guard)

MONTGOMERY – Colonel Tara D. McKennie of the 187th Fighter Wing was promoted to brigadier general during a pinning ceremony at Montgomery’s Dannelly Field Saturday, becoming the first female brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard.

Alabama’s Gov. Kay Ivey presided over the historic event, pinning the rank of brigadier general on the shoulders of McKennie’s service coat, alongside McKennie’s daughter. Coworkers of her civilian occupation, Radiology Partners, completed the pinning ceremony, placing rank insignia on McKennie’s dress blouse.

McKennie enlisted in the Air Force in 1989 as an airman basic, and served six years on active duty. She earned a commission as a second lieutenant through the Army’s Officer Candidate School in 1999. McKennie transferred to the Air National Guard in 2002 and has served in the 187th Medical Group since 2015.

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“Each time we come together to celebrate a newly promoted Airman, we honor a military tradition that dates back to 1845,” said McKennie. “Promotion ceremonies were mostly held on the battlefield. Though not on a battlefield, getting here has required navigation of social and professional landmines. Surviving and getting here to this moment fills me with humility, pride, and gratitude for the distinction to serve as a general officer.”

McKennie made history on two fronts Saturday: she became the first female brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard and the first Black female brigadier general in either component of the Alabama National Guard.

“Since the inception of the Alabama National Guard, none of the general officers have looked like me,” McKennie said. “This is one of the many reasons that I feel proud, but not special. It is not lost on me that I am walking the path paved by those before me.”
McKennie continued, “My hope is that my journey—my story—will become the norm, not an anomaly that warrants special recognition. I am honored to be the first, but nothing would make me prouder than knowing I will not be the last.”

In her civilian life, McKennie is the vice president of Culture and Leadership Development at Radiology Partners, a national physician practice, supporting and leading operations for more than 5,000 employees. In uniform, she now serves as the chief of staff of the Alabama Air National Guard.

“She’s a true professional,” said Alabama National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon, “and that’s why she was selected for the job. She excels in her personal professional career and in her military career and that’s a great combination.”

Gordon added that she believes McKennie’s selection will be a boon for all Guardsmen in the state and her progressive vision for a stronger, faster, more unified force will be felt quickly.

“I had a long meeting with Brig. Gen. McKennie about my vision for moving the Alabama National Guard forward and what we could do and how we could do it, and it was amazing how closely our thought processes synced,” Gordon said. “I don’t have to convince her of my vision because she’s already got that same vision: to take care of Airmen, to give them the opportunities they need and to move everybody forward. I’m excited about what the future has to offer the Alabama Air National Guard under the leadership of Brig. Gen. McKennie and I’m excited to have her as part of our leadership team.”

McKennie is a Chicago native, and holds Bachelor of Science degrees in both Radiologic Science and Healthcare Management from Southern Illinois University, a Master of Business Administration degree from Bellarmine University, and a Master of Strategic Studies degree from Air War College. She was awarded and recognized as one of 2021’s 10 “Most Influential Minority Executives in Healthcare” by industry publication Fierce Healthcare.

(Courtesy of Defense Visual Information Distribution Service)