1 year ago

Alabama team seeks to build on $3 billion in aerospace projects

Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry added more than 1,400 new jobs and $653 million in new investment last year, advancing the state’s robust lineup of operations that develop leading products and innovative technologies for markets around the world.

Highlights of the 2018 announcements include Airbus’ second production line for A220 aircraft at its Mobile plant, a $264 million project that is expected to create more than 430 jobs.

Other major moves are DynCorp International’s plans to execute its $152 million maintenance, repair and overall contract for U.S. Navy helicopters in Andalusia and Lockheed Martin’s latest expansion of its missile assembly operation in Troy.

“The aerospace and defense industry is a cornerstone of Alabama’s economy, and many of the top international players continue to deepen their roots here,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Since 2011, we’ve seen more than $3 billion in new investment and nearly 11,000 new jobs announced for this industry, bringing prosperity to communities across the state.”

The timing is right for Alabama’s aerospace growth story.

Secretary Canfield joined Alabama Governor Kay Ivey Monday for high-level meetings with aerospace industry decision-makers at the 2019 Paris Air Show, the industry’s most high-profile event this year. The Alabama team is seeking to lay the groundwork for future aerospace investment projects.

Employment in the sector is growing. Aerospace manufacturers added 1,200 jobs in Alabama between April 2018 and April 2019, according to figures from the state Department of Labor. More are on the way, thanks to expansion projects by Aerojet Rocketdyne and others.

‘SOFT LANDING’

While expansions by global aerospace manufacturers drove most of last year’s growth in the state industry, smaller, new-to-the-state firms are also finding homes in the sprawling network of support businesses, according to Commerce Department data.

Among them are Resicum International, an aviation training and maintenance provider that is setting up its headquarters and a new hangar facility in Gulf Shores, a $2.5 million, 18-job project.

Elsewhere in the state, American Plane Painting Co. announced six jobs and a $35,000 investment in Selma.

And in Ozark, home to Fort Rucker and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence, California-based Coast Flight Training and Management Inc. said it would create 40 jobs and invest $880,000 in a new satellite training site for its Rotor Transition Program (RTP).

Ozark was the next logical move for the company, said Dan Verda, Coast Flight’s director of operations for RTP. The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence is the primary training site for Army helicopter pilots.

“There are a number of Army helicopter pilots who transition into the civilian workforce from Fort Rucker every year,” Verda said. “This new satellite site will afford them the opportunity to work on their civilian fixed-wing ratings while they’re still on active duty, drawing a paycheck.

“It keeps from putting our veterans in a tight financial bind and grants them the ability to have a ‘soft landing’ into the civilian workforce as an airline pilot.”

Verda said Ozark was a great fit because of its proximity to Fort Rucker, an airport that exceeds all of the company’s needs and is primed for expansion and strong support from the community and the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corporation.

BUILDING ON GROWTH The Wiregrass region has become a major aerospace hub for Alabama, populated by key names such as Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, along with a host of suppliers and highly-regarded flight training and aviation maintenance programs.

Last year, Dale County alone landed six aerospace and defense economic development projects.

The region’s biggest asset is the Alabama Aviation College in Ozark, an FAA-certified Aviation Maintenance Technician School that offers programs such as Airframe Technology, Powerplant Technology and Avionics, said Veronica Crock, President of the Ozark-Dale County EDC.

While the number of FAA-certified schools fluctuates, Crock said recent data shows only about 160 schools of this kind in the U.S., which gives the local industry and community a distinct advantage in workforce training.

Moreover, the college and the college system have been proactive in developing customized training programs that meet industry needs, she said. As a result, programs have been and are being put in place to meet specific industry needs with companies such as Bell Flight, M1 Support Services, and Sikorsky.

“It goes without saying that aviation is an important industry in Dale County,” Crock said. “We’re fortunate to be home to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and to have companies such as M1 that employ over 3,500 people in support of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

“The jobs created by all of our aviation companies, and supporting companies, are high-wage, high-demand jobs. The increased spending power seen by citizens moving into these high-wage jobs results in increased interest in industrial, commercial, residential, and community development.”

The goal is to keep building on that growth.

Crock said the county’s leaders are focused on ensuring their existing industry has the tools it needs to succeed and grow while they work to attract additional business.

“We’re capitalizing on and improving upon community assets to encourage an environment that is not only a great place to work, but also to play,” she said.

“We’re continuing to work with our workforce partners to ensure existing industry needs are met and to ensure programs are in place for industry we’re trying to attract. We’re also working closely with our regional partners to better market our area as a whole.”

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

11 hours ago

Regions Bank offering disaster recovery assistance to Alabama customers impacted by Sally

Regions Bank on Thursday evening announced a series of generous financial services that are available to help people and businesses in portions of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi that were negatively affected by Hurricane Sally this week.

According to the Birmingham-based company, options include payment extensions, the waiving of certain fees and interest rate discounts, along with additional offers.

“Regions Bank has been part of the Gulf Coast and our inland communities for many years, and we will be here in the days, weeks and months to come as storm recovery moves forward,” stated John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp.

“These financial services are designed to make the recovery easier, and we encourage all customers impacted by Sally to contact us and discuss your individual needs,” he continued.

256

Disaster recovery financial services available for a limited time will include the following:

  • No check-cashing fee for FEMA-issued checks cashed at Regions branches in impacted areas
  • Regions Mortgage Disaster Relief Purchase and Renovation loan programs
  • Personal and business loan payment assistance
  • Regions fees will be waived when the bank’s customers use other banks’ ATMs in the impacted areas for 30 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • One penalty-free CD withdrawal
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on new personal unsecured loans
  • Business loan payment deferrals available up to 90 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • Payment extensions available for qualified credit card holders
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on standard rates for new business loans and/or lines of credit up to $1 million to help with recovery needs in affected areas
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on a new unsecured business term loan of up to $50,000 with a term of up to 36 months, including waived origination or loan document fees and options for the first payment to be deferred up to 90 days

People and businesses in need of assistance are encouraged to contact Regions to discuss individual needs and sign up for applicable services.

More information from Regions can be accessed here.

Additionally, for questions regarding a mortgage, customers can call Regions  at 1-800-986-2462. For assistance regarding home equity and other consumer loans, dial 1-866-298-1113. The general number of 1-800-411-9393 is available for help with other questions and general banking needs.

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

12 hours ago

One of Alabama’s richest men kidnapped in Birmingham home; Suspects arrested

Elton B. Stephens, Jr., the retired CEO of EBSCO Industries, was reportedly kidnapped from his bed last Friday and held for ransom. He is currently safe, and two suspects are in custody.

EBSCO is one of the state’s largest privately held companies, with annual sales of about $3.2 billion as of 2018 counting subsidiaries. Stephens is the son of the company’s late founder. Their family was estimated to have a net worth of $4 billion as of 2014, per Forbes.

Alabama Media Group on Thursday reported that Blount County’s Matthew Amos Burke, 34, and Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 33, have been charged with burglary, kidnapping an adult for ransom, extortion and theft of property.

223

The pair allegedly broke into a Birmingham home Stephens is renting in the early morning hours of this past Friday. When Stephens awoke that morning, Burke was standing over him, per reports.

Burke and Hodges are alleged to have robbed the house of valuables and three firearms.

They reportedly threatened to kill Stephens if he did not comply with them or if he attempted to call for help.

“They took him to a trailer in St. Clair County where they had him wire $250,000 into their account. They returned him to his home about 4:30 p.m. [on Friday]. Police were called,” Alabama Media Group wrote.

Law enforcement officials declined comment on the pending case. Stephens says he did not previously know the suspects.

Stephens’ attorney released a statement, saying: “Elton Stephens Jr. was kidnapped in a home invasion last Friday. I ask that his privacy be respected by the press and the public to allow him time and space to process and deal with these very traumatizing circumstances.”

“We are thankful and grateful for the hard work of the Birmingham Police Department, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office for their hard work in investigating this horrid life experience for Mr. Stephens,” the attorney concluded.

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

12 hours ago

Winston Groom, beloved Alabamian and author of Forrest Gump, dies at 77

Winston Groom, Army veteran, Alabamian, and writer of the bestselling novel Forrest Gump, passed away recently at his home near Fairhope at the age of 77.

The Tuscaloosa News first reported the news of Groom’s death, citing confirmation from a local official with the City of Fairhope.

Groom was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his life in the Yellowhammer State. He spent his childhood in Mobile and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965.

While in Tuscaloosa, Groom was in the ROTC. Groom served in the U.S. Army after graduation, rising to the rank of captain and serving a combat tour during the Vietnam War.

177

The author lived in both Washington and New York after leaving the armed forces, during which time he transitioned from journalism to authoring books.

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Groom returned to Mobile in 1985 at which point he began work on what would become his career-defining work, Forrest Gump, which published in 1986.

The book did not immediately leap off the shelves. It was the runaway success of the 1994 movie that catapulted Forrest Gump to the top of bestsellers lists across the nation.

As noted by many, Groom’s novel is quite different from the best picture winning film that made its central figure a pop-culture touchstone.

“Most writers never put a character into the popular imagination … but Winston did,” Don Noble, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama and a longtime friend of Groom’s told the Tuscaloosa News.

Groom was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in 2018, he is survived by his wife and a daughter.

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

12 hours ago

‘Today’ segment features Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed

A segment broadcast nationally Thursday morning on the “Today Show” featured two of Alabama’s most prominent mayors.

NBC’s Craig Melvin reported on seven mayors — all relatively young black men and most of them from the South — who have formed a group to help each other most effectively lead their respective cities.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, both first-term mayors, are part of this network.

Woodfin was the first mayor featured in the segment, responding to a question from Melvin about the unique challenges of being in their shoes as a mayor in 2020.

291

“All of us are dealing with the trifecta of a global health pandemic, economic crisis and racial unrest,” the Magic City leader noted. “All three of those things combined requires a deep moral compass to make tough decisions.”

At Melvin’s prompting, both Woodfin and Reed were subsequently highlighted as they spoke about being black mayors leading police departments amid civil unrest across the nation.

“You have to listen to all your constituents,” Woodfin advised. “Because at the end of the day, all of our jobs as mayor, the responsibility of public safety is ours.”

“And it takes a balance,” Reed said. “I think what I’ve tried to do is to have a compassion for our community, to have a compassion for our residents.”

While tangible advice and best practices are shared in the group, which communicates mainly by text message, they also offer each other support on a more personal level. Their text thread, they say, is often lighthearted and filled with ribbing each other.

This was evidenced by the mayors jokingly teasing Reed about how big his City of Montgomery office is, as seen on the segment.

Reed landed a one-liner of his own shortly afterward, when Melvin asked who was going to give him some excerpts from the text thread.

“We don’t have any Michael Cohens in this group,” Reed quipped, referencing the former attorney to President Donald Trump.

WATCH:

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

13 hours ago

Dr. Cheri Canon is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Dr. Cheri Canon is much more than an award-winning doctor specializing in diagnostic radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Also a professor and the Witten-Stanley Endowed Chair of Radiology at UAB, Canon’s impact reaches far beyond her important day jobs.

In a recent interview with Yellowhammer News, Canon attributed her success in academia to mentors that shared their experience and advice with her.

648

“Without this advice, I would not have been able to successfully navigate an academic career, particularly as a woman,” she said. “However, this advice has come from both men and women. I often hear women solely seeking mentorship from other women. While this is important, diversity again is key. We must understand the perspectives of men as well if we are to truly achieve our goals.”

Canon understands that she has faced challenges unique to women, but reinforces that diversity is always valuable. She is even published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology on “Gender Diversity within the American Board of Radiology.” She challenges anyone to point to a situation where diversity of thought is not superior to an echo chamber.

“Medicine is complex; radiology is complex,” Canon advised. “If we are to address issues within our field, we need to come together in an open forum that demonstrates diversity of every definition. Only then can we solve the real issues.”

While diversity remains important in her academic career and professional development, she said she selfishly loves seeing women succeed in their field. She is a co-creator for the inaugural nationwide Leading, Empowering and Disrupting (LEAD) Women’s Leadership Program, which is in its second year. The program is a collaboration between the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments across the United States and GE Healthcare to specifically cultivate more women chairs in radiology.

Indeed, Canon is an active leader on the national stage when it comes to her field. She has served as an oral examiner for the American Board of Radiology (ABR) for more than a decade and as a member of ABR’s board of trustees. Canon now sits on the ABR board of governors. Another key example is her previous service as vice chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR), as chancellor on the ACR board and served as the chair of the ACR Commission on Education. She is the president-elect of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD).

However, some of Canon’s most prized work comes outside of the halls of academia and medicine.

She works with Birmingham’s Momentum, which has now blossomed into a network of over 500 women alumnae leaders in Birmingham and continues to grow. Canon serves as a role model so that other women can see that they can be successful in a leadership position and still have a family and life outside of work. She recently finished her second term as president of the Momentum board but considers herself a “lifer.”

Canon told Yellowhammer News that the most rewarding part for her is watching others’ successes.

“As a chair, I feel my most important role is creating a culture wherein our faculty members can thrive and support their development, she said. “It is rewarding to see someone land their first grant, achieve academic promotion, or celebrate their first publication.”

She continued, “For me, there is no greater reward than the knowledge that someone has navigated troubled waters, or risen to greater heights, or taken baby steps toward progress, as a result of time spent with me.”

Canon acknowledged that it is important to choose a career path based upon your profession rather than a path someone else deems fit. She said while others sometimes deter young minds from entering the medical field, she feels that while it has not always been an easy road, it has been incredibly fulfilling for her.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Dr. Cheri Canon a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Lenze Morris, a native of Southeast Alabama, is a special contributing writer to Yellowhammer News for the 2020 Women of Impact series