8 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

3 hours ago

OK, it’s time to start talking about opening up Alabama’s economy

The irresponsibility of the media, national public health officials and China has effectively destroyed our economy, individual businesses and American lives.

It is time to look for the exit ramp.

On March 14, Ramsey Archibald, son of John Archibald, was responsible for a completely ridiculous piece of video that rightly scared the heck out of many Alabamians.

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Archibald helped push the message that 2.5 million Alabamians would get the coronavirus, adding, “Let’s be conservative and say 50% get COVID-19.”

But wait, there’s more.

The video also makes the following claims:

  • 500,000 will need to be treated at a hospital.
  • 125,000 will need treatment at an intensive care unit.
  • 25,000 people could die

The Alabama Media Group “data reporter” painted this projection of millions getting sick and 25,000 dead as the best-case scenario.

He — and his publication — got it wrong. Big time.

But it worked. In concert with other lunatics, they declared that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey wanted people to die, or was at least cool with it, if she didn’t declare Alabama to be a “shelter-in-place” state.

After all, they just heard of such a thing and the smart states were doing it, so the dummies in Alabama should do it as well.

I, for my part, saw this for what it was and pointed out that at some point the governor’s office would cave and make the order, so she should just do it.

That’s exactly what happened.

The numbers began to change.

March 14 — 25,000
March 31 — 1,700
April 1 — 7,300+
April 2 — 5,500+
April 5 — 923
April 8 — 634

Now, this other info came from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projections.

Archibald’s info? A CBS News piece and a calculator. The projection went from 25,000 to 634 in less than a month.

The national line moved from 2.2 million to 60,000+ in that same time frame.

But the storyline didn’t reflect that change.

“People will die!” after all.

It won’t change now either.

It’s time to acknowledge that Alabama should be figuring out how to get back open for business.

Here is my suggestion how:

  1. Social distancing continues until August 1
  2. All businesses, outside of bars, restaurants and sporting events, can open on May 1
  3. Bars, restaurants and sporting events can open on May 15 with half occupancy
  4. Everything can fully open up on June 1
  5. Dates can change based on data

Why these dates?

Why not? Archibald based his on less.

The other steps we took were based on incorrect information and a guess.

Nations in Europe are doing similar things, and I thought people wanted us to be like Europe.

Give Alabamians some hope. Let them know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be optimistic, but safe. Be smart, but understand that people are suffering here.

Jobs and businesses are already lost, unemployment is through the roof. It’s time to show the people of Alabama that there was a reason for that.

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

3 hours ago

Yellowhammer connects your business to Alabama consumers

After nine years, our mission remains the same: reflect our state, its people and their values. As the state’s second-largest media outlet, Yellowhammer connects your business to the people of Alabama.

Online, on the radio, podcasts, events and more. What can Yellowhammer do for you?

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3 hours ago

Ainsworth encourages Alabamians to ‘Ring for the Resurrection’ on Easter

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is asking all Alabamians to join him in a “Ring for the Resurrection” campaign on Easter Sunday. The effort is intended to promote unity at this COVID-19 time of prolonged separation and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion.

Ring for the Resurrection, which was created by Ainsworth, calls for all churches and individuals across the Yellowhammer State to ring a bell at noon on Sunday, April 12, in joint celebration of the holiday.

“Social distancing guidelines require us to remain apart from our extended families, church members, and other individuals on a sacred religious holiday that normally encourages us to gather together,” Ainsworth said in a statement on Wednesday. “But I realized that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.”

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“My wife, Kendall, our twin boys, Hunter and Hays, and our daughter, Addie, will be among those ringing a bell at noon on Sunday to celebrate the miracle of Easter,” he concluded. “While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

This comes after Ainsworth earlier this week unveiled a new website designed to provide small business owners with a one-stop online information hub related to the ongoing pandemic.

RELATED: Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

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

4 hours ago

COVID-19 restrictions unfairly choke small business

When Mark and Susan Anderson were required by a statewide mandate to close the doors of their Dothan clothing and outdoor gear store, Eagle Eye Outfitters, they felt like it was a necessary sacrifice for the good of public health. By limiting retail shopping to essential items such as groceries, prescriptions, and fuel, the governor’s order takes a great many people off the streets.

Hopefully, it slows the spread of the rampant COVID-19 virus. But the closure is incredibly painful for owners like them: it has forced them to furlough more than 150 employees, and the massive loss of revenue will leave a mark on their business for years.

What the Andersons don’t understand was how it is fair for one of their local competitors, the national chain Academy Sports and Outdoors, to continue selling the same types of apparel and outdoor gear.

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In this case, the loophole for Academy is their small firearms counter. Guns and ammunition are considered essential under the current order. Therefore, Academy and others who carry firearms have been allowed to continue to do business — even if guns and ammunition are only a small percentage of their overall sales.

One of the unintended consequences of the mandate is that small businesses, which often specialize in a more narrow range of merchandise, are penalized more heavily than their national chain competitors.

You heard that right: businesses owned and operated by Alabamians are absorbing the crushing cost of total closure, while national chains based out of state continue to snatch up what little retail demand still exists in the downturn.

If all businesses operating in Alabama were restricted from selling non-essential goods, small businesses might at least expect to benefit from the pent-up economic demand that will exist once the mandate is lifted. As it is, demand for those goods and services is funneled immediately to the big chains, cutting small business owners out of the deal entirely.

Bob Couch of Couch’s Jewelers feels that his small business is paying a higher price than others, as well. While he is forced to shutter his 75-year-old family jewelry store in downtown Anniston, Wal-Mart is allowed to continue selling jewelry just a short distance away. Because they carry groceries and have a pharmacy, they are allowed to sell anything.

None of the small business owners I spoke with this week felt the retail sales restrictions were unnecessary, given the scope and seriousness of the pandemic. But they think the state government has picked winners and losers with a poorly-conceived order.

They are right. And the governor can correct it today if she chooses.

Vermont heard a similar outcry from its small business community. In response, it amended its closure order so that businesses that remain open to offer essentials are limited to just those sales. In a large department store that offers a variety of goods, selling non-essentials is temporarily prohibited. No more going to Wal-Mart for groceries, but then wandering the aisles looking for a pair of gold earrings or a sleeping bag.

These are trying times for businesses of every size. But there’s no good reason for our own state government to damage Alabama’s small business owners further.

None of us likes the loss of civil liberties, or the freedom to do business as we choose — not even for a day. But if our current public health concerns are so extraordinary as to require such restrictions, the least government can do is ensure that they be equally and fairly applied. Every business operating in this state — big box or main street — should bear its share of the burden.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute; reach her on Twitter at @dhmccain.

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

5 hours ago

Alabama community colleges donate medical supplies to those fighting COVID-19

Community colleges across Alabama, many of which house nursing programs, are donating their medical equipment to those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a release from the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), many campuses across Alabama have equipment for their “simulated healthcare settings” where students train for medical careers.

“We are grateful for the daily sacrifice of Alabama’s healthcare providers and are grateful we can do our part to help serve our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the ACCS.

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The equipment donated includes much sought-after ventilators that can help treat the most serious coronavirus cases.

The community colleges also handed out their supply of Personal Protective Equipment like masks to cover the face to local hospitals.

“Much like our efforts to meet the needs of every student that crosses our paths, our colleges work every day to help meet the needs of the communities they serve,” added Baker.

“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Health, I am grateful for the willingness of the Alabama Community College System to grant the urgent request for the loan of their available ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented State Health Officer Scott Harris.

“We are continually encouraged by the number of entities across the state that are rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the citizens of Alabama,” Harris concluded.

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