2 years ago

Alabama Power, PowerSouth named to select national list of ‘Top Utilities in Economic Development’

The Alabama Power Company and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative were both named this month to Site Selection’s annual list of “Top Utilities in Economic Development” that recognizes a very select group of utilities across the United States.

“Dependable and affordable power still lies at the root” of site selection, the publication said about the honorees.

The write-up also praised the companies’ tremendous impact on their respective local communities, saying, “Lest we forget, utilities’ own operations do their part too, with the power company contributing to overall community welfare in a multitude of ways from job creation to taxes.”

While Alabama Power, the state’s largest utility, and its work is known by a broad audience, PowerSouth’s well-deserved recognition has come from their efforts in rural areas of the Yellowhammer State – a much needed success story for locales that often fly under the radar compared to the bright lights of Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Montgomery, etc.
PowerSouth, based in the Covington County seat of Andalusia, is an energy cooperative that serves consumers in 39 Alabama and 10 Florida counties through its 20 distribution members — 16 electric cooperatives and four municipal electric systems. Its distribution members blanket southeast Alabama, running all the way up to Talladega as well as across to Washington County on the Mississippi line.

This adds up to 435,000 residential, commercial and industrial consumers that find themselves “end-use members” of PowerSouth. In these rural areas, PowerSouth’s hard work does not go unnoticed. And now, the energy cooperative is gaining the widespread appreciation and acclaim that it deserves.

“We are proud to receive recognition as a Top Utility in Economic Development from Site Selection Magazine,” PowerSouth Vice President of External Affairs Horace Horn said in a statement.

He continued, “We have a dedicated team that strives to be a sought after resource for our electric cooperative members and our local economic development organizations. We are grateful to have the opportunity to partner with the Alabama Department of Commerce, EDPA and other organizations that work to create jobs and capital investment in Alabama.”

Recently, Alabama ranked atop “Global Trade” magazine’s 2018 list of the best states for manufacturing in the nation, and a big factor – that often goes unnoticed – towards this achievement is the important work done by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), which PowerSouth and Alabama Power both sponsor.

The selection of Alabama in the ranking of top manufacturing states came one month after “Business Facilities,” an economic development focused publication, named the Yellowhammer State as the best in a business-climate ranking.

PowerSouth Governmental Affairs and Economic Development Manager Taylor Williams largely attributes the states’ recent success to the pro-growth policies the Alabama Legislature has implemented along with Governor Kay Ivey and Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield’s leadership.

Site selection opportunities are also key to Alabama’s lofty rankings, and Site Selection’s list makes it abundantly clear that PowerSouth and Alabama Power’s efforts are significantly helping to drive the state’s economic boom.

While PowerSouth is focused on promoting the development of the communities its members serve, the company also works to promote the entire state of Alabama. PowerSouth is a member of not only the important EDPA, but also the Alabama Marketing Allies which showcases the state to site selectors and other prospective industries. Other members include Alabama Power, the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, Southeast Gas, Regions Bank, the Alabama Department of Commerce and EDPA.

PowerSouth’s economic development efforts are strongly supported by its President and CEO, Gary Smith, and its Board of Directors and are guided by its strategic plan – the PowerSouth Playbook, which was created in 2016 to compliment what the Department of Commerce is doing through its “Accelerate Alabama” plan.

The playbook includes metrics in each area of economic development, which are tracked and reported to PowerSouth’s board on a regular basis. These metrics include recruitment of targeted industries, community development, product development and existing industry.

Community development and existing industry are two areas setting PowerSouth apart as it works with its members to grow jobs and improve their quality of life.

One of the extra areas in community development that the company is helping its members with is moving high-speed, affordable broadband capacity into underserved areas.

“Communities without strong information infrastructure are rarely viable candidates for economic growth. Businesses will only locate where they can communicate,” Smith explained.

PowerSouth also works closely with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to administer federal funding through their Rural Economic Development Loan (REDL) and Grant (REDG) programs. Under the former, the USDA provides zero interest loans to local utilities and they, in turn, pass the money through to local businesses that will create and retain employment in rural areas.

To date, PowerSouth and its distribution member have secured $25,025,060 through these USDA programs, resulting in massive capital investments of more than $146,156,540 and the creation of approximately 3,934 new jobs in the rural areas they serve.

The company utilized this program in 2017 to provide Dorsey Trailer in Elba, AL with a zero percent interest, ten-year loan for $1,000,000. The purpose of the loan was to assist Dorsey with access to capital to rebuild after a fire in their paint booth, expand a production line and create 50 new jobs. Since receiving the loan, Dorsey Trailer has thrived, increasing employment from 250 to 380 jobs.

Next, PowerSouth’s Business Development Loan Program is crucial to their economic development efforts. This program is used to construct speculative buildings, provide infrastructure for multi-tenant industrial parks and refurbish existing commercial and industrial facilities.

PowerSouth and its distribution members have, thus far, utilized this program to construct 20 speculative buildings, resulting in greater investment and job creation in our rural areas.

For example, the Troy Industrial Development Board, South Alabama Electric Cooperative and PowerSouth Energy partnered to construct a 50,000 square feet speculative building in the City of Troy in 2012. As a result, the American firearms maker Kimber Manufacturing will open a $38 million production facility in the city, creating 366 jobs over the next five years.

The Talladega County Economic Development Authority, Coosa Valley Electric Cooperative and PowerSouth also partnered to construct a 100,000 sq. ft. speculative building in Lincoln in 2017. This resulted in Lohr North America deciding to locate a facility at the site, invest more than $26,000,000 in the local economy and create around 140 new jobs.

For PowerSouth, the importance existing industry plays in the economic vitality of the state’s rural areas cannot be overstated. The company’s Business Retention and Expansion (BREPS) program is centered on creating partnerships that reinforce customer service and success, as they strive each year to visit as many companies as possible throughout PowerSouth’s service areas. These on-site visits, along with additional communications, provide vital information as to the resources and incentives businesses need to be successful and to expand in Alabama.

Efforts like these are key to the state’s continued economic surge. Right now, as Ivey would say, “Alabama is working again.” With private sector initiatives and partnerships driven by the likes of PowerSouth and the Alabama Power Company, Alabamians have great hope that this success will continue.

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

6 hours ago

Alabama basketball completes the sweep against Auburn

Fresh off of winning the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 19 years, the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday completed a sweep of Auburn for the first time in six years after defeating the Tigers at home 70-58.

Jayden Shackelford led the way for Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the talented sophomore guard went 5-9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 total points in the win over Auburn.

Sophomore Jahvon Quinerly scored 11 points off of the bench and provided sparks for Alabama in crucial moments of the game.

While Alabama led by as much as 16 points in the first half, Auburn was able to cut the lead to five in the second. However, Alabama’s defense began to stiffen up, and seniors Herbert Jones and John Petty stalled the Tiger’s offense out before they could get too hot.


For the Tide, the three-ball has become a major part of their offense. Second-year head coach Nate Oats always tells his players to get at least one touch in the paint first before shooting. This green-light mentality is becoming more and more popular throughout college hoops.

Bama has done really well with this philosophy by becoming one of the most dominant teams from downtown in the conference. Tuesday’s game showed that even when the three doesn’t come through for the Tide, they have other ways of scoring.

Alabama drove the basketball extremely well in the second half against Auburn and proved to be the more physical team in their win on Tuesday night. When tournament time begins, they may have to lean on this more physical style of play in certain games.

The Tide have one more regular season game against Georgia in Athens on Saturday. Bama will look to finish the regular season on a win before the SEC Tournament in Nashville gets underway.

The Tide are currently projected to be a two seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

6 hours ago

Alabama House recap: Bills to increase executive branch oversight, update sex ed language pass chamber

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives met Tuesday and passed six pieces of legislation, including bills that would increase oversight of executive branch agencies and update language in the state’s policy on sex education.

After convening shortly after 1:00 p.m. the chamber spent much of the next five hours in extended debate on two bills, with members of the Democratic Party engaging in protracted discussions of legislation they began their remarks saying they would ultimately vote for.

Seeing the most debate were HB 392 from Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) and HB 103 from Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville).

Jones’ bill creates a joint legislative committee to oversee large financial agreements made by the executive branch, and Kiel’s would prevent the state government from picking which businesses close during states of emergency.


More information on Kiel’s bill is available here.

The legislation from Jones, chair of the powerful Rules Committee, would create the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency. The committee would have the authority to approve or disapprove of contracts, leases and agreements by the executive branch and the agencies therein.

Under the proposed law the committee would meet to review any financial agreement greater than $10 million or 5% of the agency’s annual appropriation from the State General Fund.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice-chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislature is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the proposed committee disapproved of a contract it would be delayed from going into effect until the end of the current or next occurring general session of the legislature.

Jones noted in remarks on the floor that this delay would give lawmakers time to address via legislation the proposal disapproved of by the committee, and added that new legislation would be required to put a halt to any state contract of which the proposed committee disapproved.

HB 392 ultimately received unanimous support in the House, with a final vote of 98-0.

Also passing the House on Tuesday was HB 385 sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill updates language in the legal code that governs how Alabama educators must teach sex ed.

It also deletes from the Code of Alabama language that requires those teaching sex ed to emphasize that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery), two staunch conservatives with backgrounds in education policy, spoke in favor of the legislation on the House floor and voted for its passage. The bill passed the House on a vote of 69-30.

Three other pieces of lower profile legislation passed the chamber on Tuesday:

HB 255 from Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) that would add a tenth member to the advisory board of directors of the Department of Senior Services, and let ex officio members name a designee to serve in their place.

HB 330 from Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) that would change the outdated language in the state legal code concerning video depositions in criminal prosecutions.

HB 136 from Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island) that would designate the aquarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab as the Official Aquarium of Alabama.

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

9 hours ago

Alabama House passes bill that would block the government from picking and choosing which establishments close during states of emergency

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would prevent the state government from designating which types of businesses were allowed to stay open in situations such as the one experienced during the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville), HB103 would not infringe on the governor or state health officer’s ability to implement public health guidance. It would only say that any business or house of worship that followed public health guidelines would be allowed to open.

“I think if it is safe enough to go to the liquor store and wear a mask and socially distance, then it is safe enough to go to church and wear a mask and socially distance,” argued Kiehl on the House floor.


The vote on the floor was 75 in favor and 22 opposed with three members abstaining.

The bill applies to declared states of emergency that involve a “pandemic, epidemic, bioterrorism event, or the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious disease or biological toxin,” per the text of the legislation.

In explaining what inspired him to author the legislation, Kieh said of last spring, “I saw businesses in my town that were suffering,” adding that some small business owners he knew were “scared to death they were going to lose their livelihoods.”

Governor Ivey’s “Stay At Home” order, in place for most of April 2020, allowed major retailers like Walmart to remain open while smaller retail stores that did not sell groceries were forced to close.

Kiehl feels that this arrangement was unfair, and that small shops and establishments deserved the chance to stay open if able to implement the health guidelines. Ivey has expressed regret in recent months about creating the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses.

“[W]hat we were really doing is were we driving all the customers that would have been in all these other stores — in the small mom-and-pops, the Hibbetts of the world — we were driving all those to one central location to buy clothing. That cannot be good for the spread of the pandemic — to bring everybody together in one location or a few locations,” Kiel told FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.”

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is strongly supporting the passage of the legislation.

Kiel’s bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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

10 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act

MONTGOMERY — On a party line vote, the Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed SB 10, the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), the bill would ban the performance of medical procedures and the prescription of puberty-blocking medications and sex-change hormones used as transgender therapies for minors, with certain exceptions.

The vote was 23-4, with the only four Democrats present all dissenting: Sens. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), Vivian Figures (D-Mobile), Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham).

Shelnutt, since first introducing a version of the legislation last year, has said his goal in bringing the bill was to simply protect children from making harmful longterm decisions that they may later regret once more mature.


“The primary concern here is the health and well-being of Alabama’s children,” stated Shelnutt. “We must protect vulnerable minors who do not have the mental capacity to make life-altering decisions of this caliber. The efficacy and effects of these particular surgeries and methods of treatment are not well-sustained by medical evidence, and actions of this severity cannot be undone.”

“I believe it is our responsibility as lawmakers to do all we can to keep our children out of harm’s way,” he added. “Protecting minors from these powerful drugs and consequential procedures will help ensure they do not feel responsible to make a decision they may wish to later undo, ultimately causing more harm.”

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved as amended the lower chamber’s companion version of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy). HB 1 now awaits consideration on the House floor.

In response to the passage of SB 10, Scott McCoy — SPLC interim deputy director for LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation — released a statement.

“The Alabama State Senate is dangerously close to passing yet another piece of discriminatory legislation that likely will lead to long and expensive litigation at high cost to Alabama taxpayers,” McCoy decried.

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

11 hours ago

Alabama GOP Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard: 2020 election ‘stolen from President Trump’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard on Tuesday called upon the Alabama House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee to vote down a bill that would legalize no-excuse absentee voting in the state, among other alterations of Alabama’s elections laws.

The committee is set to meet on Wednesday regarding HB 396, which is sponsored by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill was originally backed by Secretary of State John Merrill, although he has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Blanchard served in the administration of President Donald J. Trump as his ambassador to Slovenia, the home country of then-First Lady Melania Trump.

The Montgomery resident is Alabama’s only declared U.S. Senate candidate ahead of the 2022 race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Blanchard in a written statement said HB 396 significantly weakens Alabama’s absentee balloting rules.


“Absentee balloting invites corruption, cheating, and fraud, so it should be allowed only in rare and unavoidable cases,” she said. “The bill that has been introduced in the Legislature leaves the door wide open for ballot harvesting and other abuses that allowed the recent presidential election to be stolen from President Trump.”

“The bill also begins a dangerous process of watering down Alabama’s election laws, which could lead to the repeal of our photo voter ID requirements and other safeguards that Republicans have put in place,” Blanchard continued.

She concluded, “Alabama should focus on strengthening, not weakening, our honest election reforms, and we certainly shouldn’t implement no-excuse absentee voting, which is often used by liberal Democrats who have refined election fraud and ballot stuffing into an art form.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) have already voiced opposition to HB 396.

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