6 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

12 hours ago

Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker concocting interesting beers

Their slogan is “Life is too short to drink baaad beer” and Goat Island Brewing Co. is doing its part to produce nothing but good brews in Cullman.

Started by a couple of homebrewing friends, Goat Island has added a head brewer, who is a microbiology major with no homebrewing history. The result is an array of tasty beers that are finding a following in northern Alabama.

“People across the board love all of our beers,” said Mike Mullaney, president and co-founder of Goat Island Brewing. “If you want to come in and have a whole bunch of good, variety of craft beers that have a lot of flavor, try us out.”

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Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker of interesting beers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The brewery is open to community events and fundraisers in Cullman.

“I like the fact that we are kind of a cultural community center,” Mullaney said.

With seven beers on tap – excluding a seasonal or a small batch – there is always something for any beer drinker. The Blood Orange Berliner Weisse is the bestselling beer on tap, and keeping up with the demand has been a little challenging. A new canning line should help.

The growth is welcome, but the beer has to be the star.

“We always emphasize quality and making sure everything we put out of here is up to the highest standard,” said Paul White, head brewer and operations manager.

Goat Island Brewing Company

The product: Craft beer.

Take home: A growler of Blood Orange Berliner Weisse.

Goat Island Brewing Co. can be found online and on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

Renew Our Rivers kicks off 21st year

The third decade of Renew Our Rivers (ROR) gets underway in February with the first of the year’s 32 cleanups of Alabama rivers and waterways. If last year is any indication, there will be more volunteers and more trash removed in 2020, said Mike Clelland, ROR coordinator.

Since 2000, when the program began, 122,000 volunteers have collected almost 16 million pounds from waterways and shorelines in the South. In 2019, more than 5,000 volunteers removed almost 450,000 pounds of trash, including old boats, mattresses, tires, appliances and other unsightly items, a 4% increase over the previous year’s haul.

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“We not only picked up more trash in 2019. We also had more volunteers,” said Clelland, an Environmental Affairs specialist for Alabama Power who helps coordinate the cleanups with multiple partners. “Twenty years in and the enthusiasm and participation remain strong. I fully expect 2020 to be just as successful as 2019, if not more so.”

An Alabama River cleanup in Autauga County on Feb. 15 leads off this year’s schedule, which concludes the first week of November at Lake Martin.

Volunteers elevate Alabama through Renew Our Rivers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Renew Our Rivers began in 2000 with a cleanup by Alabama Power employees along the Coosa River at the company’s Plant Gadsden. It has grown to become one of America’s largest river cleanup initiatives, with the help of community partners, volunteers and organizations.

“Alabama is a beautiful place with extraordinary natural resources,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president for Environmental Affairs. “Protecting those resources, while providing reliable, affordable electricity for our customers, is at the heart of our company’s mission. The commitment by Alabama Power employees to Renew Our Rivers remains strong, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our community partners across the state who support the effort year after year.”

Renew Our Rivers is one of many initiatives in which Alabama Power partners with others to promote conservation and environmental stewardship in communities across the state. The 2020 schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups is below. For updates to the schedule, visit alabamapower.com/renewourrivers.

2020 Renew Our Rivers Schedule

Feb. 15: Alabama River

Contact: John Paul O’Driscoll at 334-850-7153

or johnpaulod@juno.com

 

Feb. 29: Bankhead Lake (Warrior River)

Contact: Ronnie Tew at 205-908-4857

 

March 7: Lake Eufaula (Chattahoochee River)

Contact: Brad Moore at bmooreless@gosuto.com

 

March 14: Valley Creek (Spring)

Contact: Freddie Freeman at 205-424-4060, ext. 4188

or ffreeman@bessemeral.org

 

March 21: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Mike Clelland at 205-354-9348

 

March 28-April 4: Logan Martin (Coosa River)

Contact: Bud Kitchin at 256-239-0242

 

March 28: Minor Heights Community at Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

or yohancevilcreek@yahoo.com

 

March 28-April 4: Lay Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Judy Jones at 205-669-4865

 

April 11: Lay Lake at E.C. Gaston Plant (Coosa River)

Contact: Tanisha Fenderson at tfender@southernco.com

 

April 4: Cahaba River

Contact: David Butler at

info@cahabariverkeeper.org

 

April 14-15: Mobile River (Plant Barry)

Contact: Bo Cotton at 251-331-0603

 

April 18: Lake Jordan (Coosa River)

Contact: Brenda Basnight 334-478-3388

 

Date TBD: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: TBD

 

April 22-23: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Allison Cochran at 205-489-5111

 

April 24: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

April 25: Weiss Lake

Contact: Sam Marko at 404-626-8594

 

May 1: Plant Gorgas (Mulberry Fork)

Contact: John Pate at 205-686-2324

or johpate@southernco.com

 

May 15: Lake Seminole

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 16: Chattahoochee River (Plant Farley)

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 18-19: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Aug. 8: Holt Lake (Black Warrior River)

Contact: Becky Clark at 205-799-2449

 

Aug. 14: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: Madison Maughon at 205-438-0150

or mtmaugho@southernco.com

 

Aug. 15: Valley Creek

Contact: TBD

 

Aug. 15: Upper Tallapoosa River

Contact: Lex Brown at 256-239-6399

 

Sept: 8-9: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Date TBD: Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

 

Sept.18: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

Sept. 24: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Jim Eason at msgjeason@yahoo.com

 

Oct. 2-3: Lake Demopolis

Contact: Jesse Johnson at 334-289-6160 or 251-238-1257

 

Oct. 13: Dog River (Mobile County)

Contact: Catie Boss at 251-829-2146 or clboss@southernco.com

 

Oct.17: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Dale Vann at 205-910-3713

 

Oct. 20-22: Lake Harris (Tallapoosa River-Lake Wedowee)

Contact: Sheila Smith at 205-396-5093

or Marlin Glover at 770-445-0824

 

Oct. 26-31: Neely Henry Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Lisa Dover at 256-549-0900

 

Nov. 6-7: Lake Martin (Tallapoosa River)

Contact: John Thompson at 334-399-3289

or 1942jthompson420@gmail.com

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

16 hours ago

Time-lapse video of Birmingham’s new downtown interstate bridges

The new Interstate 59/20 bridges through downtown Birmingham are scheduled to open within the next few days, 12 months after they were closed for replacement.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) announced Jan. 13 the contractor, Johnson Brothers Corp., would have the bridges completed and ready to open no later than Jan. 21. The interstate bridges were closed to traffic Jan. 21, 2019, as part of ALDOT’s phased repair plan for the more than 45-year-old bridges.

Alabama Power recorded the demolition and construction of the western half of the bridges from a 17th-floor window overlooking the junction of the bridges with I-65. The 12-month recording was condensed into a one-minute time-lapse video.

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Time-lapse video of Birmingham bridges replacement from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Once the bridges reopen to traffic, ALDOT says crews will spend the rest of 2020 repairing detours and completing work around the bridges. Plans to develop public space underneath the bridges are not yet finalized.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Roby: More flexibility for America’s working parents

The American workforce has witnessed considerable change in dynamics during the 21st Century: it is more diverse than ever before.

Statistics consistently show the percentage of U.S. families with at least one working parent is on the rise, and it’s no secret that today’s working parents struggle to balance the demands required of them by their jobs and their children.

Time is the most precious resource, especially for mothers and fathers who are putting forth their best efforts to manage families while simultaneously excel in their careers. These hard-working parents deserve and need more choice and flexibility in their daily schedules in order to accomplish both. As a working mom myself, I understand the challenges parents face in managing these responsibilities. I always say that Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees choose to use their time.

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As the dynamics of the workplace have changed over time, our policies that govern the workplace have not adapted to keep up with these changes. I am proud to again introduce the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2020. This piece of legislation offers compensatory time, or “comp time,” benefits in lieu of cash wages for overtime, allowing private-sector workers the same opportunity that currently exists in the public sector.

This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of comp time in the private sector for hourly employees. Comp time would be completely voluntary for the employer and employee with strong worker protections to prohibit coercion. This is the same legislation I have introduced numerous times, and it passed the House on several occasions. This change in law would provide more flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to manage their families.

Think about it this way: should a working dad be forced to use all of his vacation time to be involved in his child’s school? Should a military mom have to take sick leave in order to make sure her child is properly taken care of? Whether it’s a parent coaching a child’s sports team, caring for a sick or elderly family member, or getting children to and from school and extracurricular activities, family responsibilities often require parents to take time away from work.

As times have changed, so have demands on our time. This is one proposal that would offer private-sector American workers more freedom and more control over their time in order to spend it the way they choose. This piece of legislation is about the working moms and dads across the country who value their time. I am honored to introduce this bill again in order to show my support for all of the working parents across our nation and to hopefully make life a little easier for the moms and dads in our American workforce.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

19 hours ago

Alabama hunter grants wishes for kids

Jeff Carter didn’t have a plan in 2011 when he started Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, an organization that takes sick kids on a weekend hunting trip in northwest Alabama.

“At that time I really didn’t know what it looked like,” Carter said. “The Lord put it on my heart and he called me to do this. We stepped out on faith.”

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Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic grants wishes for kids from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Carter’s faith paid off. The event, now in its ninth year, has grown from a hunting trip for one child into an extended weekend experience for three kids at a time. The kids are selected through the United Special Sportsman Alliance, all recovering from a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, or a life-altering disorder like autism.

“This is just an opportunity that God has given us to be able to give these kids and their families a chance to get away and get their mind off of a lot of what they’ve been dealing with,” Carter said.

Beau Terry, 18, is one of the young people hunting in this year’s classic. Terry said he was thrilled to get the chance.

“It’s kind of like having a lot of uncles around,” Terry said. “It means a lot.”

In addition to the hunting trip, the kids are given hunting clothes, a DVD video of their weekend and a canvas picture. Carter said their smiles are a blessing to him and his volunteers.

“It’s awesome,” Carter said. “When God calls us to do something, there’s no sense in worry about how much and how, just step out on faith and roll with it because he’s got it figured out already. He will provide.”

For more information about the Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, visit the organization’s Facebook page here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)