6 months ago

Alabama legislature, Ivey stand up for coal during 2019 session

The Alabama legislature and Governor Kay Ivey stood up for the Alabama coal industry in two major ways during the 2019 regular session.

First, the legislature passed and the governor signed a bill sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) to update the state’s archaic, WWII-era mine foreman law. This updated law puts the state on equal footing with other coal states, increasing Alabama’s economic competitiveness, and also increases safety for hardworking Yellowhammer State coal miners.

Additionally, the legislature and the governor backed coal through the now-signed Education Trust Fund budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.

This education budget includes $950,000 in funding to expand Bevill State Community College’s groundbreaking mine training facility to include longwall mining training. Bevill State is the only college in Alabama that offers Mine Technology curriculum.

“Bevill State Community College strives to set the standard of excellence for education, workforce training, partnerships and economic development in our service area. The Legislature’s support to expand the training opportunities provided by our mine training program is exemplary of government, education, and private industry working together to facilitate economic strength and development,” Dr. Kim Ennis, president of Bevill State, said in a statement.

Longwall mining is a highly productive coal mining technique. The expansion of the mine training center will enable all Underground New Miner Trainees at Bevill State to have a greater understanding of the coal extraction process from not only a continuous miner section but longwall mining as well.

Miners will also be shown the safest way to handle all aspects of assigned tasks. The focus of the training center is to instruct on how to do the job right with safety at the forefront. Protecting the health and safety of miners is the absolute top priority.

Warrior Met Coal has been a leading private sector partner with Bevill State.

“Bevill State’s mine training center is a perfect example of how much can be accomplished when the private sector and colleges are working together. The coal industry is a driving force of our state’s economy—it’s an industry that employs thousands of Alabamians—and Bevill State’s program gives young people the skills they need to earn a good living and support their families,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said.

Reed is known as a staunch supporter of Alabama’s coal industry, and his leadership in the Senate was integral during the 2019 regular session.

“I was honored to work with President Ennis to help secure these funds in the state education budget for Bevill State,” Reed added. “This was an extremely busy legislative session, and the budget chairmen had a lot to weigh as they wrote the budgets, but I made sure legislators knew how important Bevill State’s mine training center is to west Alabama and the entire state. I am very excited to see how this program expands in the coming years.”

Currently, the training center, located on Bevill State’s Sumiton Campus, has a mock continuous miner section where miners are trained on the safest way to build and maintain all of the necessary equipment. The expansion will give the training center a state-of-the-art mock longwall with all of the necessary equipment and processes, including a modern classroom inside the mine.

The additions to the facility will also make the center a world-class training venue for mine rescue team scenarios.

“This funding will expand one of our State’s most successful workforce development programs. We appreciate the leadership of our legislative delegation who worked with the budget chairs and Governor Ivey to secure the resources that will make our mine training center one of the most advanced in the country,” Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, commented.

Met coal exports accounted for 80% of Alabama’s total coal production in 2018, while steam coal accounted for the rest. The state has large reserves of both steam and high-quality met coal, with underground coal miners in the state enjoying a starting salary of $85,000.

The expansion of this program at Bevill State will allow for more training in an industry that currently provides high demand, lucrative job opportunities.

“Met coal is a Made in Alabama product that is quietly helping fuel our state’s economic engine,” Cagle emphasized. “The industry’s impact is irreplaceable, from the thousands of high-paying jobs at underground met coal mines in the Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County area to generating almost half the revenue at Alabama’s Port.”

The funding for Bevill State’s training program was also celebrated from the perspective of coal miners themselves.

Larry Spencer, international vice president for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) District 20, which includes the entire state of Alabama, said, “This is exciting news.”

“The United Mine Workers of America represents over 1,500 workers at four mines across Alabama, and our number one priority is the safety of each worker,” he explained. “Bevill State’s Mine Training Center plays an essential role in Alabama’s coal economy, from the annual training offered to veteran coal miners, to the intensive training programs offered for workers just entering the field.”

He also singled out Reed for his exemplary leadership.

“Senator Greg Reed has been a champion for Alabama’s coal miners. There isn’t a better friend in state government to the coal industry than Senator Reed, and I appreciate him working to secure these resources to expand Bevill State’s Mine Training Center,” Spencer outlined.

Bevill State is a member of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS). The ACCS is focused on being Alabama’s gateway to first-class, affordable education and technical training to compete in a constantly evolving workforce.

More than 168,000 Alabamians benefit from the various certification, credential, dual enrollment and degree programs ACCS offers alongside leading industry partners.

ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker applauded this new offering from Bevill State, made possible by the legislature and Ivey.

Baker advised, “The Alabama Community College System is grateful for the Alabama Legislature’s support of the education and workforce training programs our colleges provide across the state.”

“Bevill State’s Mine Technology Program is a key example of our successful efforts to work directly with industry to provide valuable, real-world training that prepares our students to be job ready on day one. This additional funding will ensure that Bevill’s students continue to train on state-of-the-art equipment that mirrors the industry standard and ensures a smooth transition from classroom to industry,” he concluded.

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

51 mins ago

Jalen Hurts gets one more shot at LSU — 3 playoff takeaways

The matchups for the college football playoff are set, and Jalen Hurts is back in Atlanta to face No. 1 LSU.

Hurts’ No. 4 Sooners are set to take on the Bayou Tigers in the Peach Bowl on December 28 in the first round of the playoffs. No. 2 Ohio State takes on No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.

Here are three takeaways from the seedings:

1. There will be points scored in Atlanta. LSU has the No. 1 ranked offense in the country. The No. 2 ranked offense? Oklahoma. LSU and Oklahoma have the No. 32 and No. 24 ranked defenses, respectively. Hurts is an explosive quarterback with playoff experience in a system which has a history of putting up big numbers in big games. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is the likely Heisman Trophy winner. Expect this game to be a classic Big 12-style game flying up and down the field.

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2. The balance in Ohio State’s offense will expose Clemson’s losses on defense for the first time this season. With one of the worst schedules for a playoff team in recent memory, no one really knows how good Clemson is. The soft schedule has allowed Clemson’s defense to mask some of its losses on defense. On the defensive line alone, five players are now in the NFL who were with Dabo Swinney’s Tigers last season. That defense has not come close to getting stressed like it will in Arizona by Ohio State.

3. Prediction: LSU and Ohio State face off for the championship. LSU has gotten healthy in the secondary at just the right time. Three more weeks in between games should help and will be key against a dynamic Oklahoma offense. Ohio State has been the consensus most complete team in the country and one has to wonder how Clemson will handle seeing a good team for the first time all year. Throughout the entire year, LSU and Ohio State have looked like the best two teams in the country. Why would that change now?

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 hour ago

Gaston APSO brightens Childersburg shop window with holiday cheer

The Grinch can’t steal Christmas in downtown Childersburg.

To help catch shoppers’ interest, members of the Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) spruced up an empty shop window with trees, lighting and bright pops of holiday color. Indeed, the Gaston Grinch transformed a forlorn window into a joyful holiday scene.

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Karen White, a Plant E.C. Gaston scheduler, said the decorating project helped propel members into the Christmas spirit. Trish Wesson, the wife of Childersburg Mayor Ken Wesson, spurred the plan to decorate empty shops in the downtown area. With these efforts, merchants and many townspeople in Childersburg – the nation’s oldest continually occupied city, dating to 1540 – hope to attract more shoppers this holiday season.

Gaston APSO members were among 12 teams that spent several hours decorating. Another building resembles Santa’s workshop.

White, Barbara McGinnis, Kamber Nwransky and Sarah Hansen created the Grinch theme with paint, Christmas trees and ornaments. Gaston Maintenance Team Leaders Jason Bailey and Jason Blackerby safely strung and wired lights to illuminate the scene from dawn to dusk. Gaston APSO volunteers gave 18 hours to the mini-revitalization project.

“There are lots of empty storefronts, and these decorations helped revitalize our little town,” White said. “We pulled what we had in our closets and sheds. Our window looks great.”

White thinks that it would be helpful to keep displays in the town’s empty shops year-round.

“It brought joy to people in Childersburg, and we had so much fun doing it,” White said. “It makes you feel good when you go through town and see all of the windows brightened up.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Stars, including Alabama luminaries, come out for ‘Rockers on Broadway’

As Dolly Fox watched “Rockers on Broadway,” a New York fundraiser she produced, unfold a couple of weeks ago, she realized it was a full-circle moment for her.

Her mother, Yolande Betbeze Fox, had won the talent preliminary and the title crown at both the Miss Alabama and Miss America pageants, and Dolly Fox herself had gotten some early performing experience in musicals at Town and Gown’s Summerfest in Birmingham. Now, former Miss Alabama Callie Walker was on stage at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, singing a duet with her sister, Scarlett, who appeared in Broadway’s “Carousel.”

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“This is all about mentoring kids in the arts,” Dolly says about “Rockers on Broadway.” “Mom would have never gotten where she ended up without training with the most wonderful mentors and teachers along the way. Now that I’m an only child, I feel like it’s important to use some of my mother’s money to give back to other young, talented women.”

At the top of that list is establishing a new Miss Alabama scholarship in memory of her mother, who died in 2016, and “Rockers on Broadway.”

In its 26th year, “Rockers on Broadway” was founded by Donnie Kehr, who starred on Broadway in “The Who’s Tommy.” The idea came from the show’s director, Des McAnuff, and Pete Townshend of The Who. The idea was to give the rock opera’s performers – mostly Broadway performers — experience performing in rock clubs.

That has continued year after year, presented by the PATH Fund (Performing Artists That Help) and benefiting several charities.

This year’s event honored Tony Award-winner LaChanze and Grammy-winning producer Russ Titelman and featured performances from Broadway luminaries and up-and-coming artists such as the Walker sisters.

“This event went so well,” says Fox, who has been a member of the PATH board for four years. “Callie and Scarlett were amazing. They were so rehearsed and professional. They really knew their stuff.”

Callie and Scarlett Walker sang “Enough is Enough” (a hit for Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer).  Alexa Ray Joel, daughter of Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley, was among the performers, and her mother was in the audience.

“It was such an awesome evening,” Scarlett Walker says. “Having the opportunity to perform alongside the most amazing vocalists and musicians in the business was so magical.”

Her sister agreed.

“It honestly was one of the most exhilarating and fun performances I have ever been a part of,” Callie Walker says.

Dolly, whose father was Matthew Fox, president of Universal Pictures, had a famous champion herself in Andy Warhol, the pop artist who was a friend and a boss when she was an editor for his Interview magazine.

“Andy was such a mentor to me,” she says. “He came to everything I did, no matter how bad it was. I had such great mentors, and the parallel to Andy is actually quite relevant. He did that for me, and I’m trying to use any clout I have to do that for others.”

And her mother would be with her every step of the way, says Fox.

“We’re finding talent and mentoring it and giving it a leg up,” she says. “She would absolutely love this.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Roby: Celebrating 200 years of Alabama

For many, December 14 will be just another day to cross off the calendar; it’s another day closer to the holidays and the new year. For Alabamians, it marks one of the greatest celebrations to date in the history of our state. On December 14, 1819, Alabama was incorporated into the Union as the nation’s 22nd state. From North Alabama all the way down to the Wiregrass, Alabamians join together to commemorate the 200th anniversary of statehood to honor the beloved place we call home.

There are many incredible stories to be told about the historical impact made by our fellow Alabamians. The state has deep roots in our nation’s history.

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Many Alabama natives, some temporary and some permanent, were involved in critical turning points in American history. Alabama emerged as the center of the American Civil Rights Movement half a century ago and was home to pivotal events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ms. Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist and Montgomery native, is widely known as the “first lady of civil rights.” Montgomery leaders recently unveiled a statue in downtown Montgomery recognizing Rosa Parks for her bravery and to serve as a reminder for future generations to continue down a path of righteousness. Ms. Parks’ actions changed the course of history, and her legacy will be remembered forever. Atlanta native Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., served as a pastor at Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and led the fight for equal rights. Parks and Dr. King represent faces of courage, strength, and equality for all. History changed right on our very own Alabama soil.

Not only is our state widely known for central moments in history, but we are also globally recognized for our presence in industries that are vital components to the success of our country. The agriculture industry is the state’s largest industry and is the largest employer in the Second Congressional District. Our state is home to thousands of acres of fertile farmland. Approximately half of the peanuts grown in the United States are cultivated within a 100-mile radius of the city of Dothan, also known as the “Peanut Capital of the World.”

Additionally, Alabama plays an integral role in the aerospace and defense industries with these two industries contributing to over 60,000 jobs in the state. North Alabama is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal, and the Anniston Army Depot, while Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker are located across the southern region of the state.

These are just a few examples of the incredible, rich history that our state has to offer, and I wish I could include them all. One initiative that does honor each of these milestones is ALABAMA 200 which was designed to celebrate the people, places, and history of the state over a three-year time span. Beginning in 2017 and culminating with the state’s 200th birthday in 2019, ALABAMA 200 curated events and activities across all 67 counties to engage with Alabamians far and wide. Teachers, students, organizations and local leaders are among those included in these exciting events bringing local community residents and even visitors together. On Saturday, December 14, the state will participate in a finale commemoration in the Capital City. It will be the largest birthday celebration the people of Alabama have seen, and it is a unique and special opportunity to gather and honor the history and people that make the state of Alabama great. I am extremely excited to join the people of Alabama to celebrate our state’s history.

If you are able, I highly encourage you and your family to attend the events of the ALABAMA 200 finale celebration. There is no better way to pay tribute to the state we each hold so close to our hearts than by gathering in the Capital City to praise our great state.

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

7 hours ago

Alabama Power Foundation marks 30 years of giving

It’s hard to imagine a time when the Alabama Power Foundation didn’t exist, especially for the dozens of organizations throughout the state that have advanced with its support.

For three decades, the foundation has looked for ways to elevate Alabama and boost communities through charitable giving, giving back more than $230 million to the communities that Alabama Power serves.

“Since our founding 30 years ago, we have prided ourselves in being a catalyst for change and for service to the state of Alabama,” said Myla Calhoun, Alabama Power Foundation president and vice president of Charitable Giving at Alabama Power.

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Alabama Power Foundation marks 30 years of giving from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Organizations that focus on education, the environment, health and human service, civic and community, arts and culture and other areas have benefited.

“We really enable our partner agencies to do what they do best,” Calhoun said. “So, when we talk about our success, really it’s their success that we’re proud of.”

Success like that the Literacy Council of Central Alabama has enjoyed.

“Ever since (our founding), Alabama Power Foundation has been a really strong supporter,” said Katrina Watson, president and executive director of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama. “We couldn’t be where we are without the Alabama Power Foundation’s long-standing support.”

Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership, said the Alabama Power Foundation doesn’t just give money but takes an active role in ensuring programs are successful.

“Alabama Power Foundation and Alabama Power Company have been a big supporter of ours since day one and over the years provided a lot of funding that really allows us to grow our mission, which is to create great schools for every child,” Dixon said. “We do two programs in schools – the Alabama Best Practices Center and A+ College Ready – and part of that is expanding great training for teachers and advanced placement programs for students. Alabama Power helped us fund those as a partner from the very beginning.”

Calhoun said the foundation’s mission fits in with the history of Alabama Power, with the ultimate goal of elevating the state.

“We believe and it is our hope that what we do creates a platform that makes economic development and community development and, really, the health and vitality of the state a bit easier,” she said. “And that’s what gets us going every day and that’s what makes us think strategically about the work that we do. And that’s what helps us to empower the agencies who day in and day out are doing the hard work in the communities where we serve.”

Grant recipients talk about the importance of Alabama Power Foundation from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)