2 weeks ago

Alabama putting added horsepower behind rural economic development efforts

Rural economic development in Alabama is getting some personal attention from two experts with a track record in recruiting industry and adding jobs.

Brian Hilson steps into the newly-created role of rural development strategist at the Economic Development Association of Alabama. Hilson most recently was the president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. He held the same position at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce prior to that.

On Monday, the Alabama Department of Commerce announced Brenda Tuck is the first to take on the new job of rural development manager at the state agency. Tuck previously served in Commerce’s Workforce Development Division as regional workforce council liaison. Prior to that, she served in economic development positions in Southwest Alabama, including Marengo, Dallas and Wilcox counties.

In her new role, Tuck will provide technical assistance to rural communities being considered for economic development projects. She will also provide ongoing assistance and training for rural communities seeking to enhance their competitiveness for new investment and jobs.

“Rural communities in Alabama can benefit from having a go-to person who can connect them with the resources they need to improve their economic development prospects,” Tuck said. “I look forward to working with the leaders from rural counties and communities across the state in this important role.”

In his job at EDAA, Hilson has been traveling around the state meeting with officials in the 40 of Alabama’s 67 counties where the population is 50,000 or less.

“This is something that has really never been done before in Alabama,” Hilson said.

Those visits are revealing common issues – some that are easier to fix than others.

“It’s really important to help everyone involved in economic development around the state understand the importance of our rural communities and how they’re performing, or not performing in economic development,” Hilson said. “Some are doing very well, some are kind of in the middle of the road and some have a long, long way to go to get properly organized and understand their assets.”

More resources helping develop, promote rural Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

At the EDAA Summer Conference on Monday, Hilson moderated a panel of companies who have found success in rural areas. David Holder, general manager of Southern operations for auto supplier Sanoh America, talked about how his company has expanded seven times in the past 19 years and grown with the automotive industry in the state. He said Scottsboro has been a partner in the company’s growth, helping with workforce, infrastructure, incentives and other issues.

Although Kimber Manufacturing is still ramping up its firearm assembly business in Troy, Scott Moore, the vice president of manufacturing, said working with local economic development officials has been a key to the early success at the plant.

Another perfect marriage appears to be between Thomasville and the Westervelt Company. Steve Metz is the plant manager of the Westervelt sawmill being built in the Clarke County community that will create 175 jobs.

Metz said he is constantly being asked by local officials if there is anything the company needs. Most of the time he said the company doesn’t need anything but, on the off-chance he mentions he does need something, it is provided almost immediately or a plan is put in place to provide it.

“The support you get from a local community is amazing,” Metz said.

Thomasville Mayor Sheldon Day said he is glad to hear Westervelt feels welcome.

“We think it’s cool to be rural in Thomasville,” Day said. “If you want to do something special, really special, come to a rural community.”

Day said a plant like Westervelt can have a big impact on a small community like Thomasville. It’s a town where the plant manager is recognized in the grocery store and given a ‘thank you’ by a grandmother for giving her grandson a job.

Day said he’s heard lip service and seen studies done before to address the needs of rural Alabama. But something is different today.

“So many times, they did these beautiful studies and it told you some of the things they needed to do but those studies weren’t put into action,” he said. “I’m pleased to see it looks like now we’ve got a joint effort between the state, EDAA and many other organizations – folks like PowerSouthAlabama Power and others – focusing truly on rural development now.”

Day said Thomasville is proof that rural economic development is possible if a community is prepared to put in the time and effort.

“If we can do it 65 miles from the closest interstate, anybody can do it,” he said. “You’ve just got to put your nose to the grindstone and do what my grandfather used to say, ‘Keep your head down and keep plowing, son.’”

Hilson agreed that communities like Thomasville are examples of what’s possible.

“There is really plenty of that to go around, but it takes a lot of preparation for communities to do that – I’m talking about physical infrastructure, workforce, of course, but also leadership and those are the kinds of issues that we’re really focused on,” he said.

Putting communities in a position to be competitive is the focus.

“They can’t market themselves effectively until they’ve got a more marketable product,” Hilson said.

He said the EDAA rural development committee will be launching a pilot program in 2020 in which five rural areas of the state will get specialized attention to prepare them for economic development. Hilson said those initial pilot communities will likely be regional and not individual cities.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

27 mins ago

NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace: Talladega Superspeedway renovations ‘a whole different level’ — Expect to see other facilities follow its lead

On Wednesday at the Talladega Superspeedway, former NASCAR great Rusty Wallace, the 1989 champion of the sanctioning body’s premier series, took part in a tour with members of the media that showcased the finishing touches being put in the facility’s “Transformation” renovations with its October fall race weekend fast approaching.

The $50 million “Transformation” project comes as Talladega Superspeedway celebrates its 50th anniversary. Among the improved amenities are the Talladega Garage Experience, which is made up of the Open Air Club. Also included are a new Race Operations tower high above the track’s tri-oval and the new Pit Road Club that offers race fans a close-up view of team pit stops.

On Wednesday, Wallace appeared on Huntsville radio’s WVNN to discuss the facility’s overhaul and other changes to NASCAR over the past few decades.

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“These guys have taken it to a whole different level,” Wallace said. “I got there today, and we’re talking about all brand-new garage areas and they made it so all the fans can come down in the garage and stand literally three-foot in front of the race cars, watch the race cars pull in, watch the drivers get out, watch them run their motors, watch all the behind the scenes stuff. And that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in our sport at all.”

“It adds some aspects to the new builds – the Daytona build, Phoenix, Ariz., Richmond, Va.,” he continued. “And those are fantastic. But Talladega is probably the best I’ve seen. I mean, you literally – you’re a fan. You can stand right in front of that car. It’s neat having that much access.”

When asked how it compared to another time in NASCAR when things were much more accessible, Wallace explained this offered an organization that that era did not provide.

“What it does is it organizes a lot better,” Wallace explained. “There’s places to watch. There are ways to watch. They’re even telling the pit crews where they can put their big toolboxes that they operate out of so it won’t obstruct the view of a fan that has come down there to see these cars.’

Wallace also touted the new 35,000-square foot Talladega Social Club with its 41-foot television and 71-foot wide bar, which was adjacent to the garage area.

The 1989 champion said he expected other NASCAR facilities around the country to follow Talladega’s lead.

“I think you’re going to see all these facilities around the country trying to keep up the facilities and make them the best you can,” he said. “If you ask Rusty Wallace, ‘Hey, do you want it hard or easy to sit inside of a race track,’ I’m going to tell them I want it easy. Do I want to go inside with the air conditioner when it is 100 degrees outside, I’m going to tell you yes. That’s the reason I like these new facilities they’ve got.”

Access to drivers and internet access also compliment the new facility, according to Wallace.

The track, along with its parent company, International Speedway Corporation, announced last year it’s “Transformation,” an approximate $50 million redevelopment that is part of ISC’s long-term capital allocation plan and reinvestment into its major motorsports complexes.

Full completion of the modernized project is anticipated for October. For ticket information for the 1000Bulbs.com 500 and Sugarlands Shine 250 doubleheader NASCAR Playoffs weekend, October 11-13, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

58 mins ago

Alabama-made ULA rocket powers another GPS satellite into orbit

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted its 135th mission Thursday morning when it powered yet another Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite into its targeted orbit.

The GPS III Magellan, built by Lockheed Martin, will enable the U.S. Air Force to continue modernizing the nation’s worldwide navigation network with improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

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GPS satellites are frequent payload into space. Today’s launch was the 73rd GPS payload powered by ULA.

Of the 81 Air Force satellites in orbit, 34 are GPS satellites.

This fact recently led former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

This was the final flight for ULA’s Delta IV Medium rocket. The powerful Delta IV Heavy, with its three common booster cores, will continue to fly U.S. government missions.

The Delta IV’s main engine, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, consumed nearly a ton of fuel per second as it pushed the rocket in flight.

ULA’s 1.6 million square-foot manufacturing facility in Decatur is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch the launch:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

1 hour ago

16 female inmates baptized in Blount County, turn to Jesus Christ — ‘I was crying like a baby’

The Blount County Sheriff’s Office continues to offer voluntary baptisms to inmates as a way for them to help turn their lives around, this time with a group of female inmates baptized for the first time under their program.

Yellowhammer News in June reported on 24 male inmates being baptized at the Blount County Jail through a partnership with Redeemed Ministries, which is run by a former convict who found faith and turned away from a life of crime.

Sheriff Mark Moon at that time explained the thought process behind the program, “This is who I was before I met Jesus Christ, and now, I’m dead and I’m buried. My old self is gone, and I’m resurrected new. And I’m somebody totally different in Jesus.”

Now, Moon has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that 16 female inmates chose to be baptized at the county jail on Monday through this same program.

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This latest round of baptisms was first reported by WBRC.

No public funds are given to Redeemed Ministries for the program, which is completely voluntary for inmates to participate in.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News on Thursday, Moon said ultimately he wants this to help end the “revolving door” of the same people cyclically coming in and out of the county jail.

“If we can help them change their motives by changing their heart, getting their life right, getting their families back together — if we can get families back together then we can really make a difference in communities,” the sheriff outlined. “And with the epidemic that’s going on in our country with opioid abuse, drug abuse, I believe that if you change people’s hearts, you change their motivations, you change their desires, then you can start seeing them get their families back together — and they can become positive contributors to society instead of just continually being in and out of jail.”

“I truly want people to make a difference and to make good choices,” he stressed. “I don’t want people in my jail.”

Also a pastor, Moon explained that helping inmates and others in need certainly has biblical roots.

“Jesus even said, ‘Because you fed me when I was hungry, because you clothed me when I was naked, because you visited with me when I was in sick in the hospital or in prison, then you’re blessed.’ If we can reach out to the ones that… our world sees as unlovable and unreachable, if we can reach them and change them — man, what a difference we can make,” he said.

Moon advised that he was was not able to attend the baptisms of the male inmates in June, since he was preaching in a revival that day. However, he got to witness Monday’s baptisms and was overwhelmed with what he experienced.

“It was so powerful… It was so powerful, the Holy Spirit was just really thick and I was crying like a baby, I’m not going to lie,” Moon told Yellowhammer News. “It was fantastic. I’m so thankful for what God’s doing.”

He added that there will be some people skeptical that all of the inmates are getting baptized for the “right” reasons. However, Moon emphasized that just one inmate truly accepting Jesus Christ and turning their life around makes it well worth it.

“We’ve got to get them the Word, we’ve got to get them the Gospel,” Moon concluded. “If they make true conversions, true changes … it’s a success in the eye of the Lord, and that’s what we want to do. We want to please God with what we do, not man.”

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

2 hours ago

Byrne on ‘disgusting’ NYT scandal: ‘Anti-Semitism is growing and being adopted by the radical left’

It was reported on Thursday that a New York Times political editor has a history of anti-Semitic comments on social media, with Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) reacting by saying this could explain the newspaper’s defense of Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Breitbart detailed that Tom Wright-Piersanti, a senior staff editor at the NYT who oversees the paper’s political coverage, “has made a series of antisemitic and racist tweets over the year.”

Examples of these social media posts in question are included in Breitbart’s report, including one in which the NYT editor wrote, “I was going to say ‘Crappy Jew Year,’ but one of my resolutions is to be less anti-Semitic. So…. HAPPY Jew Year. You Jews.”

Byrne, a Republican running in Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate race, first reacted to the revelation in a tweet of his own on Thursday.

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“More anti-Semitism, NYT?” Byrne lamented.

He outlined that this came a day after the NYT “falsely labeled” President Donald Trump as “an anti-Semite.”

“Today, it’s revealed that one of their editors has a long history of anti-Semitic tweets,” Byrne continued. “Maybe this explains why they’re always defending Omar & Tlaib?”

“DISGUSTING,” the congressman concluded.

In a further statement to Yellowhammer News, Byrne added, “This kind of biased reporting is disgusting and the American people deserve better.”

“It’s clear that anti-Semitism is growing and being adopted by the radical left,” he concluded. “As a nation and as a people, we should always stand up against anti-Semitism.”

This latest episode involving the NYT comes just days after the executive editor of the newspaper was caught stating that they intend to target Trump on racial issues leading up to the 2020 election.

Read Breitbart’s full report for more on the charges of anti-Semitism against the NYT.

Byrne on Thursday also published a Facebook post saying “The Squad,” comprised of Omar, Tlaib and Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), are “allies” with groups committing terrorist attacks on Israel, including Hamas.

RELATED: Jones: Israel shouldn’t have barred Omar, Tlaib; Trump’s Tuesday comments ‘imbecilic’

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

4 hours ago

Ainsworth: ‘Shouldn’t be the job’ of citizens, others to come up with Mobile Bay Bridge alternatives — We have a well-funded ALDOT, John Cooper

Wednesday during an appearance on Birmingham radio Talk 99.5, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth challenged the claim of the purpose of October’s meeting of the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge, and Tunnel Authority as a forum for those to offer alternatives to the proposed $2.1 billion I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge project and toll structure to finance the project.

According to Ainsworth, that responsibility should fall on the Alabama Department of Transportation and its director John Cooper.

The lieutenant governor also called attention to the binary offering from Cooper on the project.

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“I want to say this because this is an important point: It really shouldn’t be the job of citizens and other people to have to come up with a plan. We’ve got an organization that is well funded in this state called ALDOT and a gentleman named John Cooper that is running it that really should come to this meeting with a series of other alternatives. And you’re going to see us come out and push on that pretty hard. They’re the experts.”

“He has taken a position, just like he’s done in the past on some things that ‘hey, it’s this way or nothing,” Ainsworth continued. “And from talking to other experts across the country, that’s not the case. But really, they should be – ALDOT and John Cooper – should be saying ‘these are all the different options we can do,’ if we want to do it in phases over a 40-, 50-, 60-year period. ‘These are some things we can do.’ But you don’t hear that from them. It’s basically, my understanding – I was not able to attend one of the meetings down there – my understanding was it was basically this or nothing. That’s not leadership. That’s not solving problems.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.