11 months ago

Aerospace, defense industry leaders praise Alabama at Yellowhammer ‘News Shapers’ event: ‘I wouldn’t be anywhere else’

HUNTSVILLE — Yellowhammer News on Wednesday held the third of its 2019 “News Shapers” events: “Prepare for Launch.”

Hosted at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), key stakeholders from industry, government and academia came together to discuss Alabama’s soaring aerospace and defense industry.

Yellowhammer Editor and Co-owner Tim Howe moderated the panel discussion between Governor Kay Ivey; Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield; Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01); Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05); Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA); John Shannon, vice president and program manager of space launch system for Boeing; Steve Cook, executive vice president of Dynetics; Todd May, vice president space and mission solutions for KBR; Miranda Bouldin, president and CEO of Logicore; Kris McGuire, CEO of Victory Solutions; Dr. Dale Thomas, professor and eminent scholar at UAH; Rey Almodovar, CEO of Intuitive Research and Technology; John Watson, president and CEO of Torch Technologies; and Dr. Peter Weiland, chief technology officer of Radiance Technologies.

“It’s unique to see this many distinguished guests in one room,” Ivey commented.

A major talking point during the hour-long forum was how to continue growing the industry in the Yellowhammer State.

After Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle graciously welcomed the panelists and attendees to the Rocket City, Ivey delivered the opening remarks.

She noted the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 that just passed, giving a nod to the Huntsville-built Saturn V rocket that powered the famous mission. With that landmark achievement in mind, Ivey said that Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry is set to make history once again, playing a leading role in the Artemis Program and working towards new technologies and discoveries once undreamt of.

‘Nurturing the workforce’

Following the governor’s comments, Canfield shared statistics on just how fast the industry is growing in Alabama.

“I don’t believe that anyone would have understood or projected the state of Alabama to be as robust in the growth of aerospace, defense and space as we have been,” he said. “Particularly over the last few years — I’ll put that in perspective. In 2018 alone, the Alabama aerospace and defense industry … added 1,400 new jobs and invested $653 million in new investments in the state of Alabama. If you look at the industry since 2011, it is even more profound.”

“From 2011 through the end of 2018, we saw $3 billion of investment made in the state of Alabama in this critical sector,” Canfield outlined, saying this created over 11,000 new jobs. “If you look at exports, which are a great measure of the health of a state and particularly the health of an industry sector, aerospace and defense in the state of Alabama makes us the 12th largest exporting state in the U.S. for aerospace, defense and space products that are made in Alabama. We exported, in 2018, to over 97 countries across the globe. Our exports valued $2.4 billion, which was a 28% increase over the previous year. And, we saw since 2014, when our exports at that time were $747 million, a three-fold growth in export value in 2018.”

This growth should continue, Canfield projected.

“I don’t think that we are going to see another faster-growing sector in our state in the next ten years than aerospace and defense,” he told the crowd. “That’s why the governor and her department of commerce are committed to creating the type of business environment that are important to providing not only the climate, but also nurturing the workforce that are going to be required.”

Workforce was a major theme from almost all of the panelists throughout the discussion, from Ivey’s opening comments onwards. UAH was specifically applauded by several government and industry leaders for being an international powerhouse in preparing future aerospace professionals.

Canfield called UAH “a leader in the preparation and education and skills development of great engineering students — and not only engineering students, but also students that are graduating with the types of degrees that are in high demand in the aerospace and defense and space industry.”

He later named Auburn University’s impressive additive manufacturing work, the University of South Alabama’s research related to an unmanned biological lab for the lunar Gateway and the University of Alabama’s award-winning astrobotics team as other examples of the state’s higher education institutions helping the industry thrive.

Because of four-year institutions like those, the community college system and the state’s emphasis on workforce development, Alabama has become an ideal location for preeminent members of the aerospace and defense industry.

‘Probably the best I’ve ever seen’

Boeing’s Shannon said the state’s investment in UAH was especially key for the industry in Alabama, calling the university in Huntsville “world-class.”

With several state legislators in the room, Shannon advised that this investment is appreciated — and well worth it. Boeing alone has an annual $2.3 billion economic impact on the Yellowhammer State.

He also took time to thank Ivey for actively supporting the industry, as well as her overall pro-jobs policies. Shannon lauded the governor for spearheading the Rebuild Alabama Act, saying this infrastructure investment is already paying off in enhanced industry outlook, even though the additional gas tax revenues have still not begun phasing in.

“It is extremely important for us to have the infrastructure inside the state to be able to move parts, people and hardware around,” Shannon explained.

He also noted that the state government, the city of Huntsville and Alabama’s congressional delegation work very well with private sector partners, something that is crucial for industry.

In fact, Shannon said this public-private collaboration in Alabama is “probably the best [he’s] ever seen.”

‘We love Alabama so much’

ULA’s Bruno reinforced that the Yellowhammer State truly is a business-friendly destination.

Introducing himself to the crowd, Bruno remarked, “I do build rockets here in Alabama, and I wouldn’t build them anywhere else.”

Saying actions speak louder than words, he noted that ULA just finished modernizing its facilities in Decatur, an additional investment of approximately $100 million, showing that the company wants to continue growing in the state. In fact, Bruno said ULA even convinced a supplier from Europe recently to move a factory from Switzerland to north Alabama, bringing in jobs and money from overseas.

He then outlined “why we love Alabama so much.”

“[T]he reason we want to do business here is simply for two reasons,” Bruno stressed. “Talent and leadership.”

“We have a great workforce here, we get tremendous engineers [from] this university (UAH),” he continued. “We have a wonderful apprentice program for our skilled technicians that build these rockets. I cannot get access to this kind of talent anywhere else. And the leadership that we get from the state, local and congressional delegations is really unmatched.”

Speaking to government officials in the room, Bruno added, “Your commitment to space is incredible.”

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” he concluded.

‘The pipeline’

This was far from the only eyebrow-raising testimonial to Alabama’s job-friendliness during the panel discussion.

McGuire of Victory Solutions shared her personal story.

“Alabama — I’m not from here. I’ll speak honestly,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect when I came here. You know, when you look at the [national] news and you hear all these things — but when I came here, I was like, ‘What are these people talking about?’ This is an amazing place.”

She highlighted workforce strength as the driving factor that has made her company successful in the state since she located here over 12 years ago.

Cook of Dynetics, during his remarks, said that the state must continue growing “the pipeline of great innovators” that fuels the industry.

He advised that higher-education partners like those at UAH, UA, UAB and Auburn have helped Dynetics meet their demand “for some of the best and brightest.”

This pipeline of graduates going immediately into the industry is “critical,” Cook added.

Dr. Dale Thomas, professor and eminent scholar at UAH, discusses evolving workforce needs, saying that the pipeline needs to expand. (Michael Mercier/UAH).

Making closing remarks later on, Ivey assured the industry leaders around the table — and around the state — that workforce development is at the top of her list of priorities.

She concluded by stressing that the aerospace and defense industry’s success in Alabama means success for the entire state.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

9 hours ago

UA System chancellor featured at White House Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools

University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John IV continues to be one of America’s foremost leaders on safely and responsibly getting the nation’s students back in classrooms this upcoming academic year.

As reported previously by Yellowhammer News, St. John is part of an exclusive national group of education leaders who have consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, leader of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, and other key administration officials on an all-of-America approach to respond to COVID-19 and drive a phased national economic revival.

St. John’s status was elevated even further this week, as he was chosen to represent all of the nation’s public four-year university systems and flagships at the administration’s Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools.

Held at the White House on Tuesday, the summit focused on “reopening America’s schools in safe ways that respect the holistic health and learning needs of America’s students,” an email from the administration said.

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The summit was live-streamed, featuring expert insight and best practices from state, health and education officials from across the country.

Trump administration officials such as White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary DeVos participated in the summit, which included panel discussions on “the ABCs of reopening schools safely and implementing safe school reopenings.”

The summit concluded with a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, VP Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and top stakeholders from K-12 and higher education institutions, including St. John.

The UA System is comprised of the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), UAB Health System and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

St. John delivered a statement approximately three minutes in length during the roundtable.

He highlighted the four pillars of the UA System’s return-to-campus plan: testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment. St. John also thanked the president and the administration for their support of federal COVID-19 relief programs made available to higher education and health care institutions nationwide.

“Our students are yearning to come back to campus,” St. John noted. “[The pandemic] has reaffirmed the value of on-campus instruction at our institutions of higher learning.”

The chancellor explained that expert medical input and research went into the system’s return plan, emphasizing that the board of trustees has already committed to in-person instruction being available at all three campuses to begin the fall semester. The goal of this plan, as the system previously announced, is for its three campuses to be the safest universities in America when on-campus instruction resumes.

On Tuesday, St. John advised that “keeping” campuses open after reopening them will be “the hardest part.”

“I want to thank you and the vice president for the assistance that we’ve received through these federal programs,” he told Trump. “Without those, it would have been difficult for our medical center to continue [and] for our campuses to make it through these difficult times.”

The chancellor further noted these federal programs afforded them the ability to test every single student for COVID-19 before they return to campus.

“We promise to do our best to provide this essential service to our students and our citizens, and we greatly appreciate the assistance you’ve given us,” St. John concluded.

Trump then responded to the chancellor.

“Thank you very much,” the president said. “It’s a great place, a great state. And you’re right about one thing [especially], there’s nothing like a campus.”

Trump continued to extol the benefits of utilizing traditional in-person instruction versus solely remote instruction.

“That’s great, great statement actually,” Trump concluded to St. John.

Watch:

At a different point during the roundtable, the topic of college football also came up. Trump again turned to St. John for his input.

The president asked if the Crimson Tide will be playing football this year.

“Mr. President, that’s not the first time we’ve heard that question, I can promise you,” St. John quipped, drawing a round of laughter from the room.

“We are planning to play the season at the University of Alabama,” he added, with the president interjecting, “Good.”

St. John then continued to acknowledge “great difficulties and complexities” involved with playing the season.

“[W]e are hoping for [the season to be played],” he said. “It’s important to a lot of people, but we’re doing our best on that one, too.”

Trump responded, “Say hello to the coach, great coach.”

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

Byrne: Our common defense

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee, which I’m proud to be a member of, passed and sent to the full House the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. This is the 60th year in a row that we have passed this act out of Committee, and since we passed it unanimously, we are optimistic it will pass the full House later this month. This year’s version is named after a longtime member of the Committee and former Chairman, Mac Thornberry of Texas. Mac led the charge to increase defense funding when President Trump took over. He is also a personal friend of mine and a true friend to the people of Southwest Alabama.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense … of the United States,” “declare war,” “raise and support armies,” and “provide and maintain a Navy.” It’s our most important power, and the hard work of exercising that power is carried out by our Committee. We pass only one bill each year, but in my judgment, it, along with the bills appropriating money for operating the government, comprise the biggest legislative job of Congress each year.

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The NDAA authorizes the defense of the country and the operations of the Department of Defense and the respective service branches. It’s one of the few bills that enjoys broad bipartisan support year after year because our Committee’s members are committed to bipartisan support for the men and women who wear the uniform and defend the nation. We hold numerous hearings, classified and unclassified, before the bill is written. Our subcommittees do the same for their respective parts of the bill. And we really legislate, that is we work through differences and address the nitty gritty details with the seriousness they deserve. The bill is hundreds of pages long and takes an enormous amount of work.

This is my seventh and last year to participate in the process and I am proud of the work the Committee has done even though there are some parts I personally would have done differently. For example, I don’t agree with the topline spending we authorized because I think we have shortchanged some important defense endeavors like shipbuilding. But, I understand that the number was negotiated last year by President Trump and Congressional leadership as part of a two-year spending plan. Our Committee had no choice but to honor that agreement, but I know it’s too low.

We also had a protracted debate on military bases named after former Confederate generals. We Republicans backed an amendment to require the service secretaries responsible for those bases to review the use of those names going forward but did not want to dictate to them what their decision should be. The Democrats on the Committee wanted to require them to change the names but didn’t dictate what the new names would be. I couldn’t support the Democrats on this point because I don’t like usurping the service secretaries’ authority on operational details and I also wanted stronger input from the local communities where the bases are located. As they form the majority on the Committee, the Democrats’ version prevailed.

We also had a long discussion regarding the Insurrection Act. Passed in 1807, and amended twice, in 1861 and 1871, the Insurrection Act empowers a president to use active and national guard personnel under very exceptional circumstances, such as an armed uprising. It was last used in 1992 to quell riots in Los Angeles. President Trump talked about using the Insurrection Act when the protests around the country turned violent in late May and June, and that set off the national news media and the Democrats who wanted to limit his authority to do so. As it turned out, President Trump did not invoke the law at all, but that didn’t stop the Democrats from offering an amendment that would have substantially limited a president’s authority. I took the lead for the Republicans on the Committee as we didn’t want to limit that authority any more than it is already limited by the Posse Comitatus Act. Fortunately, we won the debate, and the amendment to limit a president’s authority was defeated.

Most importantly for our area, the Committee added an Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship at my request and with the blessing of the Navy. The EPF is an aluminum-hulled catamaran capable of transporting 600 short tons of cargo 1200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in Sea State 3. It has a roll on/roll off capability for things like the Abrams Main Battle Tank, and a helicopter flight deck. Its shallow draft dramatically expands the ports and waterways it can operate in. It’s made at Austal USA in Mobile, and I’m very proud of the work the great shipbuilders there do. I predict you will be hearing more about varied uses for the EPF in the future.

The American people deserve the peace of mind a strong national defense brings. The men and women who wear our uniform and provide that defense deserve the Congressional authority to carry out their important jobs. I have not hesitated to be critical of Congress when we have all too often failed to do our job in the past year and a half. But, this time we did our job and passed a bill out of Committee which, while not perfect, fulfills Congress’s responsibility to provide for the common defense of our country.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

10 hours ago

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian undergoes successful heart surgery

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian underwent a “successful” heart procedure in recent days, according to a statement released by the University of Alabama Athletics Department on Tuesday afternoon.

The statement outlined that Bama’s football coaching staff participates in an annual executive physical.

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“During Coach Sarkisian’s physical last week, it was determined that he needed a procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular anomaly before it became an issue,” the statement explained. “Coach Sarkisian underwent a successful procedure this past Thursday (July 2) in Birmingham. He is back home in Tuscaloosa and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Sarkisian, 46, was hired as the Tide’s offensive coordinator in January 2019, following a stint with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Before that, his coaching experience included serving as an offensive analyst for Alabama during the 2016 season, culminating in Sarkisian being interim offensive coordinator in the National Championship game against Clemson. He was previously the head coach at the University of Washington and the University of Southern California (USC).

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

10 hours ago

Battle officially qualifies for reelection as Huntsville mayor

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle officially filed for reelection on Tuesday, just five minutes after qualifying opened.

First elected in 2008, Battle is seeking his fourth term as mayor of Alabama’s fastest-growing big city.

The Huntsville mayoral election will be held on August 25.

Candidates do not run as a member of any political party; though Battle is known across the state as a Republican after seeking that party’s nomination during the 2018 gubernatorial election.

In an email to supporters, Battle said that in the last 12 years, “Huntsville has grown into the shining star of Alabama. Our teamwork with Huntsville’s city council and our partners across Madison County and North Alabama has resulted in nearly 30,000 jobs, more efficient infrastructure, excellent quality of life amenities, and fiscal responsibility.”

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Battle was joined for the signing of the official papers by his wife, Eula, a former teacher who runs a lauded charity called Free2Teach that gives classroom supplies to public school teachers so they do not have to pay out of their own pocket.

“We are living in unprecedented times. There is no playbook for the current crisis. But because of solid leadership, we will move forward together,” Battle said with regards to his case for reelection.

“I am running for reelection because proven leadership is important in times like these,” he added.

The mayor is expected by most observers to receive only token opposition; he won his two most recent municipal campaigns with 80% of the vote.

According to census estimates, Huntsville’s population grew from around 180,000 in 2010 to around 200,000 in 2020. The Rocket City became the state’s second-largest in that time period and is expected to pass Birmingham before the year 2025.

The mayor often says he is very proud of his city’s growth, but is quick to also point out the infrastructure improvements he has championed to keep the city’s average commute time under 20 minutes.

Battle counts among his successes the recruitment of tens of thousands of jobs to the area, including the massive Mazda-Toyota manufacturing plant currently under construction in the westernmost portion of the city.

“It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and there is still much to be done,” Battle continued in his remarks on Tuesday.

“Let’s continue to improve Huntsville. I’m ready to keep working for you,” he concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

11 hours ago

Either put the mask on for America, or donate to my GoFundMe and we’ll test the constitutionality of these mandatory mask rules

I oppose mandatory mask orders and ordinances, but there is no question that we are going to see more of them.

They can’t be enforced in any real way, but they will lead to more people masking up.

They will work.

Are they illegal? No. Bear with me here.

People will gripe, but most will begrudgingly mask up.

People should begrudgingly mask up on their own, whether it be for our nation’s health, for the economy to recover, for President Donald Trump’s reelection, so we don’t get U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and so the next Supreme Court justice is more like Brett Kavanaugh and less like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Those are the stakes.

The latest order in Alabama comes from the health department of Madison County.

But they can’t do that! They did. If you don’t like it, keep reading.

This will not be the last order in the state. Governor Kay Ivey will probably get in on the action at some point, and many will be infuriated by it.

Much of the response to almost any order by the government in this regard is being met with two responses: “Yay! Government!” or, “How dare they? This is a violation of my rights.”

Both responses are wrong.

It is odd to ask the government to implement these rules that will be almost impossible to enforce. The enforcement tasks retail employees with being forced to ask customers to mask up or leave.

And, imagine if the government did send in the police to enforce these rules. These same people think cops are killing African-Americans for sport.

So, what are these cops to do when someone refuses and becomes belligerent? Arrest them? Use force?

One of the hot takes right now is that people shouldn’t call the cops on black people at all because it could be a death sentence.

Should the stores call the police on people who refuse? Because 80-year-old Mabel greeting customers at Walmart isn’t going to stop a rampaging herd of women who won’t mask up.

We will not see that.

The correct answer is the same answer we have had for months. More people should mask up on their own, and those who oppose it should stop and think about what they are doing by running their mouths online.

The more you go off about how your freedoms are under assault, the more restrictions we are seeing. It seems counter-productive.

If you want a more normal society, put on a stupid mask.

Even Donald Trump agrees.

But if you really believe this is an affront to your very freedoms, do something about it.

I will even provide you the venue to do so.

Let’s fight one of these ordinances and get it knocked down.

Donate to my GoFundMe campaign that will help me fund a lawsuit against the tyrannical government of Madison County. I will hire lawyers to fight this battle in court and if we win, the orders shall crumble before our feet as we ride to freedom mask-less.

The Madison County Health Department has taken a step many people have informed me is unconstitutional, they are mandating that citizens wear masks in public.

If this is so unacceptable, let’s put our money where our mouth is and hire a legal team to take down this tyrannical local government.

Donate now and I will hire attorneys and fight this fight for you.

Or, you can comment on social media and tell everyone how in 1930 they found masks don’t stop the flu or how the government said masks were not needed in February.

This stuff is foolish and gets us nowhere. Recent studies show that face coverings do not stop anything 100%, but it is better than nothing.

I have already explained that your social media griping has not worked, so try something else.

https://business.facebook.com/TheDaleJackson/posts/10157590173486270

But understand this: there will be no “herd immunity,” there will be no “let it burn through the population,” and we will not “just learn to live with it.”

If you push those narratives, you have lost embarrassingly.

The battle is over. Your “no mask” position is a fringe position.

Keep this up and it will impact the 2020 presidential election.

The worst this coronavirus pandemic is, the less-likely Trump wins the election.

He knows it, they know it.

You can incorrectly believe the data is fake. You can share obvious fake stories about your neighbor’s friend’s cousin’s gardener who waited in line for a test but never got one and how they got positive results if you need to (yes, I read this all over the internet last week and heard this on my radio show today).

Or you can help us take whatever precautions we can that will help us get back to normal, get the economy going again and work to “Keep America Great.”

You cannot do both.

The only path to normal at this point is that we stop the numbers from going up. We need to do what we can to make that happen.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.