8 months ago

Alabama’s top investment banking firm a partner in growing the state — ‘We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities’

From inside his office at the historic Union Station in downtown Montgomery, John Mazyck eagerly worked his way through the story of his company’s growth and what it can mean for communities across Alabama.

Mazyck is an owner of The Frazer Lanier Company, an Alabama-based investment banking firm which owns the largest market share of investment banking business in the state, according to Thomson Reuters. With 46 deals closed in 2019, that amounted to a deal nearly every working week.

He is also the newly installed chairman of the Business Council of Alabama. As the owner of a business whose mission is to facilitate growth in both the public and private sectors, and a leader of the state’s largest business organization, he is positioned to exercise significant influence on how Alabama’s cities, counties and job creators prepare for the 21st century economy.

With the low rumble of a freight train on the nearby tracks unknowingly helping to underscore his message, Mazyck methodically explained the ways in which he believes Alabama is primed to move forward, as well as the role his company can play in helping the people of this state fulfill their potential.

Describing the availability of capital to cities and counties in Alabama as “enormously important,” he quickly rattled off a list of projects for which his company had helped provide financing, including schools, hospitals and airports.

“The corporations in Alabama are doing very well,” Mazyck said. “The economy is humming along on all cylinders. I think we serve a more important role in public finance because the smaller communities, they really need help.”

And “help” for those areas comes in the form of guiding local decision-makers through financing from start to finish.

“We want to talk to them when they are thinking about a deal because we can help them figure out how to get the money,” he outlined.

Public entities seeking financing for capital projects may borrow money on a tax-exempt basis. They are able to gain this advantage because those projects serve a public purpose. The interest rate on a tax-exempt bond issue is typically about half the interest rate of a loan.

The buyer of a bond issue does not pay federal, state or local income tax on the interest income received. This results in a lower cost of capital.

Founded as a public finance company in 1976 by Rod Frazer and Clifford Lanier, corporate finance now makes up about 50% of its business, according to Mazyck.

The Frazer Lanier Company has been involved in some major economic development projects across Alabama. For example, Hunt Refining Company, the largest private employer in Tuscaloosa County, has spent well over $1 billion building out its refinery with financing obtained through The Frazer Lanier Company. The companies closed a $612 million deal just last year.

The Frazer Lanier Company has helped finance large capital projects in manufacturing, research and other sectors across Alabama counting a ‘who’s who’ list of Alabama employers as clients.

Yet, Mazyck is quick to point out that his company never strays far from its roots in public finance.

“We spend our time, and have since 1976, calling on and developing relationships with universities, airports, hospitals, states, counties, cities to be there when they want to borrow,” he emphasized.

This approach is evident in the company’s footprint across the Southeast.

Co-owner Jason Grubbs manages the company’s Birmingham office. They also cover North Alabama out of their Florence office, as well as maintain a presence in West Alabama, Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Florida.

Alabama is home, though, and this fact drives Mazyck and his company to excel.

“We have to do an excellent job in Alabama,” he stated. “We try to be innovative and work harder.”

Mazyck sees the competition from large, national firms as a motivating force for his company, and good for the communities across the state which benefit from his company’s work.

“It keeps us in check,” he said. “We have an advantage because we know the people here, they see us. That is a huge advantage, but our performance has to match up to the big boys, or we’ll be out of business.”

Mazyck cited trust as a principle fundamental to his company’s operations and the maintenance of its standing as the state’s top investment banking firm.

“We have earned these peoples’ trust, and we have to keep it,” he elaborated. “We ensure our fees are fair. Our job is to deliver them service over and above what they even know. We don’t want anything to reflect poorly on that city or county. We don’t play any games, none whatsoever. We are very open and deliberate.”

That trusting relationship is especially vital given the transparency of public finance.

“This market is very transparent,” Mazyck outlined. “Anybody can see anything anybody is doing because you are dealing with the public’s money. It is very transparent so you can’t mess up. If you don’t do a good job your competitors will go tell them you didn’t do a good job. You won’t get the next deal. It is a business that is very light of day. Your competitors are always there. It keeps everyone honest. It keeps your fees low. It keeps performance high.”

Work on public financing deals can be a long, drawn-out process, so the sooner local decision-makers can get involved with a company like his, the better, according to Mazyck.

“I would advise them as soon as they are thinking about doing something, talk to someone,” he suggested. “This will allow them to get the most value out of the professional.”

Mazyck and his company help a local government go through the entirety of the borrowing process with a particular focus on that entity’s standing within the financial markets.

“One thing that is incredibly important is credit,” he outlined. “We have to tell their credit story every time they borrow. We have to tell their story to Wall Street. We have to tell their story to Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch. They give their approval, their opinion of the credit rating of that bond issue. And then we sell those bonds to institutional investors on Wall Street.”

All of this is being targeted toward a critical outcome.

“Our job is to get the absolute lowest interest rate we can get,” stated Mazyck.

That job can bring a lot of pressure and expectations given what is at stake in some areas of Alabama.

“Rural healthcare is in a crisis situation in this state,” he mentioned as an example. “We’re doing a deal for the hospital in Marengo County. The hospital is in trouble over there. It’s tough situation. The county has put on a tax to dramatically help the hospital. So we’re doing a bond issue secured by that tax to help the hospital.

He said those are the type of circumstances where “it means a lot” for the people of those surrounding communities.

“It will make that hospital stay there and thrive for the next twenty years,” said Mazyck. “If this didn’t happen, who knows.”

One area where he sees a definitive pattern for improving the state is through education.

“One thing that is a trend, the cities and counties that invest in education are doing the best,” he noted. “Look at the City of Auburn as an example, they stand up for education. Places that are investing in public education are winning.”

As for The Frazer Lanier Company, Mazyck believes strongly that its makeup as a younger, more ambitious firm will continue to provide it with a competitive advantage.

Continuing to find ways to grow the economy and improve the quality of life for areas not connected to the interstate will remain a priority for his company.

“Those communities really need us,” concluded Mazyck. “We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities. We really pride ourselves on our working with the smaller places, the infrequent issuers, because we really know we are helping them. And they make a decision based on character.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

26 mins ago

Hometown heroes: Bama, UAB, Troy, Jax State and more

Before anyone has even seen a single snap of Big Ten football, national sports media this week returned to its pandemic panic room and pronounced the conference’s season a failure.

Sports media argued tirelessly during the summer months that it was not cheering for football to get canceled. However, following Nick Saban’s false positive coronavirus test, it did exactly that here, here and here.

At Yellowhammer, we are cheering for college football. More specifically, this week, we are mainly cheering for underdogs.

Let’s get to some picks.

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THE BASICS

Alabama (-22) at Tennessee: The largest margin of victory in this series was a 51-0 win by Alabama in 1906. Alabama’s current win streak over the Vols began a mere three years later (or at least that is what it feels like). Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt allegedly fired an assistant coach mid-game on Saturday. That is a bad start to what is, for some people, a favorite week of the year. Those people will not be disappointed.

The pick: Alabama 34, Tennessee 17

NC State at North Carolina (-14.5): North Carolina went into Tallahassee a double-digit favorite and lost. That may have had more to do with Florida State getting its first quality coaching since Jimbo Fisher’s national championship season. Mack Brown has a good team. Now it is a matter of them playing like it.

The pick: North Carolina 40, NC State 20

Texas State at BYU (-28.5): The Cougars have been a fun story this season amidst their mini-revival. They are physical along the lines of scrimmage, and quarterback Zach Wilson has worked his way up to No. 4 on ESPN’s Heisman Watch List. If this team remains undefeated in late November, we can all hope they handle the playoff talk a bit more graciously than UCF has in recent years.

The pick: BYU 30, Texas State 13

HOMETOWN HEROES

Louisiana (-2.5) at UAB: This is a game between two of the nation’s more underrated coaches, UAB’s Bill Clark and Louisiana’s Billy Napier. Do not be surprised to see both coaching in the SEC sooner rather than later. This will be an emotionally-charged game for Louisiana, as it will pay tribute to former assistant coach D.J. Looney, who passed away suddenly in August. The Ragin’ Cajuns plan to wear his name on the back of their jerseys. This could be as good a game as has been played at Legion Field in a while.

The pick: UAB 24, Louisiana 20

Georgia State at Troy (-2.5): The Trojans bring a two-game win streak into this Sun Belt matchup. Both teams have scored points freely so far this year. Georgia State is ninth in the country in rushing offense and 73rd in scoring defense.  Troy is a respectable 33rd in scoring defense and 31st in total offense. All signs point to a shootout.

The pick: Georgia State 42, Troy 35

Jacksonville State at Florida International (-10): This game was originally scheduled for September 2. Since its postponement, the Gamecocks have gone to Tallahassee where they gave Florida State a scare and won a couple of tight ball games against Mercer and North Alabama. It was good to see this one get back on the calendar because no one ever turns down a trip to Miami.

The pick: Florida International 38, Jacksonville State 30

BUYER BEWARE

Tulsa (-11.5) at South Florida: There was a time when the Thursday and Friday night college games meant something, and visiting favorites were constantly on upset alert. That has not been the case in a while. In late October, Tulsa has still only played two games, a close loss to No. 6 Oklahoma State and a win against Central Florida. South Florida is in rebuild mode under first-year head coach Jeff Scott, whose team has started to show just a glimmer of improvement the last few weeks. Anyone tuning in to watch this game should not expect to see a work of art.

The pick: South Florida 20, Tulsa 16

Last week: 4-1 straight up; 3-2 ATS
Season: 13-2 straight up; 9-6 ATS

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

40 mins ago

$37M in rural broadband funding coming to Alabama — ‘When rural America thrives, all of America thrives’

PRATTVILLE — Two Trump administration officials and U.S. Representative Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) gathered on Friday to announce a $37 million investment by the federal government in rural Alabama’s internet access.

The investment comes in the form of grants and loans to internet providers that make expanding high-speed service to more rural customers economically feasible.

According to the USDA, the investment announced Friday will provide high-speed internet to more than 28,000 people across over 11,100 households, including 432 farms.

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The two Trump administration officials present for the announcement on Friday were United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary of Rural Development Bette Brand and USDA Rural Development State Director Chris Beeker.

“When rural America thrives, all of America thrives,” said Brand at the announcement, which was hosted by Central Alabama Electric Cooperative and emceed with efficiency by Beeker.

Six companies will split the $37 million, which will be distributed via both grants and loans. The customers receiving the upgraded internet service are in a 14-county stretch of central Alabama to the north and west of Montgomery.

The funding comes from the second round of the federal government’s ReConnect program, which was recently infused with an extra $100 billion under the CARES Act.

ReConnect is run by the USDA and is tasked with evaluating and selecting applications by rural broadband providers that want public funds to help allay the cost of providing high-speed service to more people.

Alabama received the fourth-most funding of any state in round one of the program, a big portion of which was announced in Hamilton in late 2019.

The USDA detailed each new investment it is making as follows:

  • Central Alabama Electric Cooperative will use a $8.6 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 13,853 people, 149 farms, 77 businesses and one fire station to high-speed broadband internet in Bibb, Chilton, Perry, Autauga, Talladega, Elmore and Coosa counties in Alabama.
  • Millry Telephone Company Inc. will use a $8.3 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 4,444 people, 84 farms, 46 businesses, four fire stations and a post office to high-speed broadband internet in Choctaw and Washington counties in Alabama.
  • Pine Belt Telephone Company Inc. will use a $6.5 million ReConnect grant and a $6.5 million ReConnect loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 5,799 people, 143 farms, 83 businesses, five fire stations, five educational facilities and four post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Perry, Hale and Marengo counties in Alabama.
  • Mon-Cre Telephone Cooperative Inc. will use a $5.8 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,546 people, 36 farms, 19 businesses and three fire stations to high-speed broadband internet in Crenshaw, Lowndes and Montgomery counties in Alabama.
  • Hayneville Telephone Company Inc. will use a $1.5 million ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 1,481 people, 19 farms, nine businesses, and four educational facilities to high-speed broadband internet in Lowndes County, Alabama.
  • Moundville Telephone Co. Inc. will use a $166,000 ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 111 people and a farm to high-speed broadband internet in Hale County, Alabama.

Palmer, who has constituents that will be provided better internet because of the announced grants, spoke at the event on Friday.

“Having grown up in rural Alabama, I know how important this is,” he remarked.

Palmer was raised in Hackleburg, current population of 1,466, a small town in Marion County.

“We have a chance to revitalize rural economies, especially around small towns,” he added about the impact of investing in rural broadband.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate echoed that sentiment after the event, telling reporters that quality internet gives communities such as his home of Lowndes County a shot at cutting down on the population loss that affects so many rural areas.

“Connectivity is critically important for families, businesses, farms, and public safety and community services – particularly during a time when remote access is paramount,” said U.S. Senator Shelby (R-AL) in a statement on Friday.

He added, “These USDA grants will help provide high-speed internet access to thousands of Alabamians in rural areas. I am proud that the Administration has awarded this $37 million investment to our state and look forward to the benefits it will bring to 14 counties in central Alabama.”

Beeker, in his remarks, praised the “great partnerships and incredible teamwork” that was necessary to pull off such a large project.

“A lot of work has gone into all of this; these are good programs. What Bette says, it really means a lot when you stop and think about it. When rural America thrives, all of America thrives,” Beeker concluded.

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

2 hours ago

Following the money on Alabama New South Coalition’s $6-per-early-vote operation

Yellowhammer News earlier this week broke the story about a group supporting the respective campaigns of U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden offering Black Belt pastors $6 “per person” they get to vote early ahead of November 3’s general election.

Now, newly filed federal campaign finance reports shed light on where the funding for this group, the Alabama New South Coalition (ANSC), is coming from.

Yellowhammer News examined FEC reports filed this week after the original story broke.

Senator Jones’ campaign reported transferring $1,100,000 to the federal account of the State Democratic Executive Committee of Alabama — the Alabama Democratic Party — on October 2.

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The Party’s FEC filings reported that they received the same sum from Jones’ principal campaign committee that day. A separate FEC filing by the Party this week shows that they also received $87,300 from the Jones Victory Fund on September 29. The Jones Victory Fund is the official joint fundraising committee for Jones’ campaign.

Five days after the October 2 transfer, the Party reported sending $75,000 to “New South Alliance, LLC” for “GOTV” — which is short for “get out the vote.” The Alabama New South Alliance is the ANSC’s political arm and has endorsed Jones’ and Biden’s respective campaigns this cycle.

The same day, on October 7, the Party also sent $10,000 to the local Jefferson County chapter of the Alliance. This expense was simply listed as a “contribution” rather than being for GOTV. That local chapter’s Facebook page shows that it is distributing sample ballots simply advising people to vote the straight Democratic ticket.

Seven days later, ANSC on October 14 ran an advertisement in a local Choctaw County newspaper advertising its $6-per-ballot operation. At the bottom of the advertisement, ANSC disclosed that it had indeed paid for the ad, listing an address in Montgomery in the disclosure. That exact same address was listed in the Party’s FEC filing for the Alliance expenditure.

The Party’s most recent FEC filing also showed a bevy of other related spending for GOTV efforts, as well as “contributions” to civic organizations in the Black Belt and Birmingham. In total, this spending amounted to $1,104,531.36. Combined with the two ANSC expenditures, that total rises to $1,189,531.36 — almost a perfect match for the recent influx of Jones campaign money into the Party’s account.

This included sending $40,000 as a “contribution” to the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention, which is comprised of historically and predominantly Black churches across the state.

Another “GOTV’ expense by the Party that stuck out was $3,000 to “Gray Family Limited Partnership” in Tuskegee.

As reported by Yellowhammer News this week, under the leadership of Chairman Fred Gray, Jr., the Macon County Democratic Party has paid for and is distributing signs that proclaim, “Racism is on the ballot.” This text is displayed over a Confederate flag and Trump campaign flag.

“Vote the straight Democratic ticket on Nov 3 and make a difference,” the signs add.

These FEC filings come after Yellowhammer News reported how little Jones’ reelection campaign had spent directly with Black-owned businesses and other organizations through the second quarter of this year.

Jones’ campaign has still not responded to separate requests for comment on the three Yellowhammer News stories from earlier this week referenced in this article.

Background

Looking back at the ANSC’s financial ties to Democratic campaigns and political entities, it should be noted that the respective campaigns of Jones and Biden have directly given the group and its political arm at least $296,200 combined, starting with Jones’ 2017 special election victory.

Each campaign reported giving the Alliance $25,000 this spring for “printing & distributing sample ballots.”

In 2017, Jones paid the Alliance $49,000 for serving as a “consultant.” His campaign that cycle also paid the Alliance $192,000 for “canvassing.”

On the state level, the group has received funds from the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee and the Alabama AFL-CIO. Democratic gubernatorial Walt Maddox’s campaign paid the Alliance a total of $102,400 in the 2018 cycle. While $50,000 of that total was purportedly for “GOTV” (get out the vote), $35,000 was labeled for “consultants/polling” and $15,000 was designated as being for “advertising.”

A difference between the ANSC and Alliance between that 2017 Jones cycle and the current one comes down to transparency. During the 2017 and 2018 cycles, Alabama New South Alliance was registered as a federal “Super PAC,” technically known as an independent expenditure-only committee. It thus had to report federally related expenditures. The group terminated its FEC registration in summer 2019, so it is unclear exactly how all of its money — or how much — is being spent this time around.

The ANSC website says the organization has local chapters in 40 Alabama counties.

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

5 hours ago

Sec. of Interior Bernhardt adds handicap accessible path in Cheaha State Park to National Trails System

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has added the Bald Rock Boardwalk in Alabama’s Cheaha State Park to the National Trail System.

The Department of the Interior made the announcement Thursday in a press release. The Bald Rock Boardwalk, also known as the Doug Ghee accessible trail, is one of several dozen additions to the National Trails System made public this week.

“I encourage Americans to get outside, enjoy our incredible public lands and visit a nearby national recreation trail. Spanning more than 83,000 miles, larger than the interstate highway system, the National Trails System provides easy access to a wide variety of outdoor experiences,” Bernhardt said in a release.

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The Trump administration has now added 49 trails to the national system, totaling 1,645 miles of space for Americans to enjoy the outdoors.

The National Trails System was created by Congress in 1968. It aims to establish “trails in both urban and rural settings for people of all ages, interests, skills, and physical abilities,” according to its website.

“American Hiking Society welcomes the designation of 30 new National Recreation Trails that will create enhanced recreational opportunities for hikers and all types of trail users,” remarked American Hiking Society executive director Kate Van Waes in a statement.

“Each trail selected to receive this honor must support a diversity of users, reflect its region, and be among America’s best trails, all qualities that benefit the hiking community,” she added.

The Department of the Interior described the newly designated Alabama trail as:

Located in Cheaha State Park, the Doug Ghee Accessible Trail (Bald Rock Boardwalk) is a 0.3-mile boardwalk trail that allows users of all abilities to journey through the enchanted hardwood forested foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Interpretive signs along the accessible boardwalk unfold the history, culture, and natural history of Cheaha Mountain. This unique boardwalk invites and enables all guest to embrace the natural wonder and beauty of the Bald Rock Overlook located at the end of the boardwalk.

The official state website for Cheaha state park and its offerings for hikers can be accessed here.

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

Habit Stacking: How simple decisions can lead to big change

The power of consistency is real.

“Habit stacking” is a mantra we preach at Iron Tribe. Every time you do something good (like attend a workout or meal prep), you must do it again. And then another time. Until it’s engrained in your mind and routine. The more we practice our good habits, the easier they become!

This past year has certainly given us plenty of excuses to hit pause on our goals and slump back into old habits. If you need some motivation to get to the gym and kickstart your healthy habits, then check out this interview from one of Iron Tribe’s most dedicated gym couples, Jim and Betty Warren of Birmingham.

This fearless pair has made it a habit to show up at the gym and, more importantly, show up for themselves. They’ve hit the gym 19 weeks in a row and show no sign of slowing down.  Read their story and see how simple habits can stack up to powerful results.

To learn more about Iron Tribe, visit irontribefitness.com

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