The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 weeks ago

Innovation Depot begins inaugural Voltage idea incubator

(Innovation Depot/Contributed)

Innovation Depot began its Voltage program recently, bringing together 11 entrepreneurs selected for the inaugural cohort in the Depot’s new idea incubator.

Voltage supports entrepreneurs who have an idea for a tech or tech-enabled business as they translate that idea into a prototype. The nine-week program held outside of traditional 9-to-5 working hours enables would-be founders to assess their ideas before leaving a primary job or investing excess funds into a product.

Voltage will help them determine viability to see whether they should forge ahead with the concept, pivot or go back to the drawing board.

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“We are very excited about launching Voltage because we believe it fills a unique gap in Birmingham’s startup ecosystem,” said Kellie Clark, director of Programs at Innovation Depot. “We know a lot of entrepreneurs in the area have great ideas, but they’re not quite sure if their idea is an opportunity. We are providing them with the space to ask questions, gain resources and learn the viability of their ideas before they go all in.”

Participation in Voltage requires no previous tech or entrepreneurship experience. Innovation Depot plans to offer the program multiple times each year.

“2021 is off to a fantastic start for us here at Innovation Depot, and we’re very proud to make this latest announcement,” said Drew Honeycutt, CEO of Innovation Depot. “We will continue to build on the growth and energy taking place in Birmingham’s tech and entrepreneurial community by working hard to pull even more future founders into the fold.”

Here are the members of the inaugural cohort and the problems they are seeking to create solutions for:

(Innovation Depot/Contributed)

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Miles College enters partnership seeking equity in COVID-19 vaccinations, clinical research trials

(Miles College/Contributed)

Miles College has entered a first-of-its-kind partnership with #NOWINCLUDED, powered by Acclinate, for equity in COVID-19 vaccinations and clinical research trials.

Acclinate, a trusted health care solutions provider, integrates culture and technology to educate and engage diverse individuals to make informed decisions about genomic research and clinical trial participation.

“Essential to this partnership is the stark realization that the African American community has been historically omitted from significant consideration for clinical trials and research for cures to the most critical public health threats,” Miles College President Bobbie Knight said. “Partnerships like Acclinate are vital to our institution, and we look forward to educating our students on the role they can play to mitigate the gulf between research and cure within the African American community.”

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The purpose of the partnership is for students and faculty to make informed decisions around their health and act as ambassadors to their communities and families.

“Our partnership with Miles is right on target for what we’d like to see happening with minority students throughout the nation,” said Acclinate Co-founder Tiffany Whitlow. “The sooner we can help them prioritize their health, the better their lives will be beyond college and well into adulthood. This will not only help them but also their future families.”

#NOWINCLUDED will conduct bi-weekly virtual workshops and offer topics such as residential learning in living during COVID-19, building on-line learning communities, and maintaining academic and emotional health during COVID-19. Students, faculty and staff will participate in pre- and post-surveys to better understand their COVID-19 knowledge and current mental health.

“I know first hand how interconnected issues of education and health are. President Knight is to be commended for her innovative thinking and associated action when it comes to bettering not only the education, but the health of her student population,” said Acclinate co-founder and former HBCU business dean Del Smith.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s Innovation Portal invests in two Mobile-based startups

(Innovation Portal/Contributed)

Mobile’s Innovation Portal has announced the first investments from its Portal Fund for early stage startups.

“On behalf of the investment council of Innovation Portal, I am excited to announce our initial investments in Deuce Drone and Barkd,” said investment council Chairman Henry O’Connor. “Partnering with dynamic, engaging and local entrepreneurs is in line with Innovation Portal’s mission and will hopefully encourage other entrepreneurs in our area to pursue their goals.”

Deuce Drone received a $50,000 investment. The company is providing a cost-effective, technology-driven solution for same-day delivery that allows local retailers to compete with major e-commerce players. The Deuce Drone process makes it easy for local retailers to provide same-day delivery in a few easy steps with no intermediate human package handling, making the delivery process truly contact-free.

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Barkd received a $25,000 investment. It is a mobile application that helps you find your next puppy. Using its simple matching process, Barkd ensures you and your pup are perfect for each other. You can download Barkd from the App Store or Google Play.

The Portal Fund was created to “ignite the local entrepreneurial ecosystem” by attracting and retaining entrepreneurs in Mobile. Innovation Portal members Deuce Drone and Barkd will have access to Innovation Portal programming, support and workspace all designed to encourage venture growth, job creation, talent retention and further investment in the region.

“We are very excited to have been chosen as a recipient of the Portal Fund,” said Barkd co-founder Stephen Riggs. “The support from Innovation Portal since the inception of Barkd has been invaluable, and we’re looking forward to working closely with the team at Innovation Portal.”

Barkd co-founder Daniel Riggs said being in the Port City is important.

“We’re proud to be based in Mobile and thankful for this opportunity and the support we receive from our community,” he said. “The funds will greatly help expedite our product development as we’re working towards product-market fit.”

The nonprofit Portal Fund is for early-stage ventures in the Mobile area with high-growth potential. The fund had its inaugural round in May 2020, when the online application process opened. More than 100 applications from around the world and 21 from local founders were submitted.

Eleven semifinalists were chosen from the 20 eligible applications from local founders and that was whittled down to five finalists that were invited to make pitch presentations with two selected for investment.

Funding decisions were made by an investment council consisting of area entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors and a select number of the organization’s staff and board members.

Support from the Alabama Department of CommerceU.S. Economic Development AdministrationBlue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Alabama Power enabled Innovation Portal to develop Portal Fund and make investments into early-stage startups.

For information on eligibility, the evaluation process and future investment rounds, visit innovation-portal.com/portal-fund.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Ann Berry, Alabama native, named first Black secretary of the Senate

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Senate leadership has named Alabama native Sonceria “Ann” Berry secretary of the U.S. Senate, effective March 1. The announcement was made via a press release on the Senate Democrats newsroom.

Berry, who hails from Birmingham, will be the first Black woman and the eighth woman to hold this office, which ensures the institution’s overall effectiveness. She will replace outgoing Secretary of the Senate Julie Adams, who was named by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2015.

Berry is a graduate of the former Phillips High School in Birmingham and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Alabama.

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Most recently, Berry served as Sen. Patrick Leahy’s deputy chief of staff and has worked in the Senate for over four decades, including time with Sen. Tom Carper and former Sens. John Edwards, Pat Moynihan and Howell Heflin.

In 2017, Berry led former Sen. Doug Jones’ transition team after his special election victory over former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. In her new role, Berry will supervise an array of offices and services to expedite the day-to-day operations of the Senate, including legislative, financial and administrative functions.

According to senate.gov, the first secretary of the Senate was chosen in 1789 and was responsible for keeping the minutes and records of the Senate and for purchasing supplies. As the Senate grew to become a major national institution, numerous other duties were assigned to the secretary, including the disbursement of payrolls, the acquisition of stationery supplies, the education of the Senate pages and the maintenance of public records.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

EDAA casts vision for organization, Alabama in 2021

(EDAA/Contributed, YHN)

The Economic Development Association of Alabama (EDAA) is sharing its goals for 2021 – all with sights toward continuing to recruit new business to every corner of Alabama.

EDAA Executive Director Jim Searcy said the organization will prioritize rural communities for economic development opportunities.

“We must ensure that economic prosperity reaches all regions of the state,” Searcy said.

EDAA has laid the groundwork for this focus through its Rural Economic Development Initiative pilot program, which supports and trains rural communities for business recruitment and readiness. The initiative created a model that uniquely implements a regional strategy to develop rural areas, in addition to the city, county or state approach used by others.

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EDAA will provide members access to dynamic educational training opportunities throughout the year, including labor relations, workforce innovation and assessing local economic efforts to thrive in a post-pandemic world.

“The reality is we are all in the process of wrapping our arms around what economic recovery will be needed in a post-pandemic world,” Searcy said. “Our goal is to jump-start these conversations and begin now assessing the needs of our communities so we can come out not just surviving, but also set to thrive in the future.”

EDAA is adding board members to help implement the 2021 strategy:

These members join the EDAA board among representatives from public and private sectors:

Executive committee

At-large board members

“Historically, EDAA has benefited from strong, visionary and effective leadership,” Searcy added. “The current board of directors continues this tradition and we’re better at serving our state because of their service.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Partnership to inject $130 million into Deep South small businesses hurt by pandemic

(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)

Hope Enterprise Corp., with a $130 million commitment from Goldman Sachs, has partnered with seven cities and nine historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the South to launch the Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative (DSEMC).

Birmingham, Montgomery and their respective HBCUs, Miles College and Alabama State University, are taking part in the collaborative, announced Tuesday, which was formed to stabilize and strengthen businesses and communities devastated by the economic crisis. DSEMC invests in the power of small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Deep South, particularly those from underserved and under-resourced communities.

DSEMC taps the expertise and capabilities of Hope Enterprise Corp., Goldman Sachs, institutions of higher learning and cities to provide access to financing, business education classes and business support services, leveraging the private, public and nonprofit sectors. This comprehensive effort focuses on stabilizing and strengthening small businesses and bolstering employment in a region characterized by entrenched poverty and racial disparities.

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“For centuries, racism and economic inequality has thwarted human and economic potential in the Deep South, but our story doesn’t end there,” said Bill Bynum, CEO of Hope Enterprise Corp., Hope Credit Union and Hope Policy Institute. “Equipped with opportunity and the right tools, people of this region can accomplish anything. Fueled by their resilience and harnessing the collective resources of DSEMC, together we will knock down the barriers facing underserved businesses and communities in a way that has never been done before. The collaborative will help build a more inclusive economy that will yield benefits now and for future generations.”

Margaret Anadu, Goldman Sachs partner and head of the Urban Investment Group, said black business ownership is a proven way to advance economic mobility.

“Goldman Sachs has a long history of building up Black and women-owned businesses through 10,000 Small Businesses and by investing in community development financial institutions like Hope. The Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative reflects our ongoing commitment to invest deeply in strategies to close the racial wealth gap,” she said.

While the DSEMC is open to all small businesses, the impact of the pandemic and economic crisis has disproportionately harmed communities of color. Recent research shows that between February and mid-April 2020, 41% of Black businesses had permanently closed, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses. Also, the value of Black businesses in the Deep South is lower than in any part of the country, underscoring the urgent need for solutions in a region with the highest percentage of Black residents.

“Partnering with the world’s preeminent investment bank will anchor Miles College as the incubator for Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in our region,” said Miles College President Bobbie Knight. “This alliance with Goldman Sachs and Hope Credit Union will create a groundbreaking impact and support the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Alabama State President Quinton Ross said the university is excited to join in the launch of the collaborative.

“This partnership acknowledges the impactful work that is already being done in the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Alabama State University,” he said. “The ASU SBDC has helped to launch and support hundreds of small and minority-owned businesses, providing the resources to form a foundation for success even during difficult economic times. Our involvement in DSEMC allows ASU’s SBDC to expand its work and the university to advance its goal of continuing to be a transformative community partner.”

Other cities joining Birmingham and Montgomery in the collaborative are Little Rock, Arkansas; Baton Rouge and New Orleans in Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. Other participating HBCUs are Philander Smith College, Dillard University, Southern University and A&M College, Xavier University of Louisiana, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and LeMoyne-Owen College.

Projections call for the DSEMC to serve 4,000-5,000 businesses and support 30,000 employees and their family members while improving conditions in Deep South communities to further Black economic mobility.

To learn more about the Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative, visit www.hopecu.org/mobility.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Alabama Power parent, Southern Company, named one of Fortune magazine’s 2021 ‘World’s Most Admired Companies’

(Southern Company/Contributed)

Alabama Power’s parent company has been named to Fortune magazine’s list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”

The 2021 list ranks Southern Company among the top four electric and gas utilities worldwide, up two spots from last year.

“On behalf of the thousands of people making thousands of good decisions every day at Southern Company, we are pleased to receive this distinction from Fortune as a leader in our industry and one of the World’s Most Admired Companies,” said Southern Company chairman, president & CEO Tom Fanning.

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Alabama Power, which serves more than 1.4 million customers in the state, is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company. Alabama Power has been serving customers in the state since 1906. For more than a century, the company has been closely involved in supporting economic development and job creation, and elevating Alabama communities.

In addition to Alabama Power, several other Southern Company affiliates and businesses have a strong presence in the state, including Southern NuclearSouthern PowerSouthern Linc and PowerSecure.

Fortune’s 2021 World’s Most Admired Companies is a ranking of the world’s most respected and reputable companies, based on a survey of almost 3,800 executives, directors and analysts.

In determining the list, Fortune collaborated with Korn Ferry on this survey of corporate reputation. They began with a universe of about 1,500 candidates: the 1,000 largest U.S. companies by revenue, along with non-U.S. companies in Fortune’s Global 500 database that have revenues of $10 billion or more.

To determine the best-regarded companies in 52 industries, Korn Ferry asked executives, directors and analysts to rate enterprises in their own industry on nine criteria, from investment value and quality of management and products to social responsibility and ability to attract talent. A company’s score must rank in the top half of its industry survey to be listed.

It is Southern Company’s 10th year being named to the list.

“At Southern Company, we operate every day knowing how we do our jobs – the behaviors we exhibit with customers and each other – is just as important as what we do,” Fanning said. “Our uncompromising values – Safety First, Unquestionable Trust, Superior Performance and Total Commitment – ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and govern our business for the benefit of all.”

To learn more about Fortune’s 2021 World’s Most Admired Companies List visit:  https://fortune.com/worlds-most-admired-companies/2021/

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Expanded broadband access is the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition’s mission

(Pixabay, YHN)

It’s a lot easier to stay home when you have internet; that’s how you survive. Without internet access, you can’t do your homework, can’t work and you can’t order from the grocery store online.

Access to fast and reliable internet is something all Alabamians should enjoy, said state Sen. Clay Scofield of Marshall County.

“As this pandemic has made clear, high-speed broadband access in all corners of Alabama is truly a basic personal necessity in today’s society and could bring in an array of benefits related to education, telemedicine, economic development and even agriculture,” Scofield said.

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The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition (ARBC), formed in 2018, continues to work to expand internet service by offering proactive policy solutions to bring more voices to the conversation and resources to the table. ARBC added more than 30 new members in 2020, now involving more than 50 organizations from different industries working together.

In the past three years, public and private partners have made important advances in the coalition efforts.

How the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition is elevating Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

ARBC was instrumental in securing the passage of legislation to establish the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund to provide grants to expand access to high-speed internet. The fund has distributed nearly $20 million, connecting 25,000 Alabama households and community anchors.

Additionally, ARBC worked with legislators and stakeholders on the Alabama Broadband Over Easements Act, which allows carriers to use electric providers’ existing infrastructure for high-speed internet.

Six electric cooperatives are using or plan to use these policy solutions for broadband in 26 counties. Alabama Power is partnering with C Spire and Point Broadband to support their broadband offerings for customers in Jasper, Trussville and Lake Martin.

“From use in our homes or for e-learning or for video conferencing or remote works, to providing critical healthcare services like telemedicine to our rural hospitals and rural clinics, it has never been more apparent that internet for all is critical now and in the future,” said Dr. Lee Carter, general practitioner, Autaugaville.

The ARBC is a member-led group of organizations from across the state focused on rural broadband expansion, ranging from agriculture and business to economic development, education and health care. ARBC was formed with the assistance of the Energy Institute of Alabama. Learn more at alruralbroadband.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Purchase of large Dauphin Island plot offers protection of endangered species

(Outdoor Alabama/Contributed)

The purchase of 838 acres on the west end of Dauphin Island will help protect a diverse coastal habitat frequented by endangered birds and sea turtles, state conservation officials said.

Funds from Alabama’s portion of the $8.8 billion settlement by BP for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf were used to buy the land that was until recently privately owned, the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group announced. The Dauphin Island West End Acquisition project was approved as part of the Alabama Restoration Plan III and Environmental Assessment.

The new public property is a diverse coastal habitat made up of dunes, marsh and beaches. Turtles and birds use these habitats for nesting. Neotropical migratory birds use the area as a prime resting spot during migrations.

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“Public ownership of the west end of Dauphin Island will allow for the protection and management of its habitats,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Through the collaborative work of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group and the local stakeholders, the acquisition of this land will have a tremendous benefit for coastal and water birds injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

The piping plover is a federally protected threatened species that is among the species on the west end of the 166-square-mile barrier island southwest of Mobile. Conserving this parcel will ensure that the sensitive coastal habitat is protected for years to come, Blankenship said.

Along with providing habitat, barrier islands protect natural and human communities against ocean storms. Waves expend their energy as they break on the island beaches. Because they buffer the Gulf’s wave action, barrier islands protect salt marshes and seagrass beds, which are nurseries for valuable marine species.

In partnership with the Department of the Interior and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural ResourcesMobile County and the town of Dauphin Island will develop a bird conservation and management plan to guide future activities on the new public land. Activities to support productive bird populations will likely include improvements to the habitat, temporary protective closures surrounding nests, protections from predators, and education and outreach.

“The acquisition of the west end of Dauphin Island provides much-needed protections for threatened piping plover habitat,” said Erin Plitsch, restoration biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Alabama’s coastal habitat is a favorite for bird watchers and wildlife habitat enthusiasts alike, and this project will add to the continuing effort to restore these vulnerable areas.”

For more information on this and other Alabama projects, visit the Alabama Restoration Area portion of the Gulf Spill Restoration website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

2021 SEC Media Days to be held in Alabama July 19-22

(Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

The Southeastern Conference said Tuesday that SEC Football Media Days in 2021 is being moved from Nashville to Hoover at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham Wynfrey Hotel July 19-22.

The move of the annual event that precedes the new college football season marks a return to the place where SEC Football Media Days has most often been held the past 19 years.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 event.

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The SEC said it will reschedule the Nashville event to the summer of 2023 and will announce the location of the 2022 SEC Football Media Days soon.

“Nashville’s success with the NFL Draft in 2019 was a point of attraction when we originally selected it as a site for SEC Football Media Days, but the current environment related to the virus will not allow us to explore some of the unique fan experiences we had hoped to pursue in Nashville for this event,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “With two years to prepare, we look forward to making SEC Media Days an even bigger event in Nashville in 2023.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Regions Bank launches virtual Financial Fitness Fridays across Alabama, beyond

(Regions Bank/Contributed)

Regions Bank has announced the launch of Financial Fitness Fridays, a no-cost, high-impact program to help people across Alabama learn more about the power of building strong budgets and managing credit wisely.

Financial Fitness Fridays is built around free virtual seminars that are open to anyone, regardless of whether they have a Regions account. The main topics are credit and budgeting because they are so essential to helping people build and maintain financial security. From buying a home to making other major purchases or reaching any number of additional goals, good credit is essential. And it’s within reach.

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The first Financial Fitness Fridays virtual seminar was at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 22. Regions Financial Wellness Relationship Manager Shalonda Tillman discuss3e practical ways to build a strong credit report while showing how having good credit is an attainable goal that benefits overall financial health.

Another opportunity to learn about credit reports will be offered on Friday, Jan. 29. Regions Financial Wellness Relationship Manager Alicia Somers will offer insights beginning at 11:30 a.m. This session is open to the public as well; anyone can sign up at this link.

“The beginning of the year is a time when many people prioritize their financial wellness, and it gives us a chance at Regions to provide guidance and assistance to help people put a plan in place to meet their financial resolutions,” said Alan Register, market executive for Regions Bank in Metro Birmingham. “We invite everyone to take advantage of Financial Fitness Fridays and learn more about the value of credit and practical ways to put a solid budget in place.”

Financial Fitness Fridays complements Regions Next Step, the bank’s year-round financial wellness program. Through Next Step, Regions offers updated financial education content in a variety of forms. Earlier this month, Next Step released the results of a survey that showed saving more and spending less are the most important financial resolutions for people this year. Next Step articles, virtual seminars, podcasts, budgeting calculators, checklists and more are available for free to anyone to help meet financial goals in the new year.

Additionally, financial guidance is shared through the @RegionsNews Twitter handle and the bank’s news website, regions.doingmoretoday.com. Video content is available through the Regions Financial YouTube channel.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

New respirators to aid front-line workers at Anniston hospital

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

A midnight run to Miami is helping protect health care workers at Regional Medical Center (RMC) in Anniston.

Thanks to the support of multiple community partners, RMC has obtained 20 Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) that will be used by professional staff treating patients at the hospital who are suffering from COVID-19.

PAPRs are worn over the head, typically with a clear screen in front, to protect health care workers from potential exposure to airborne pathogens. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, PAPRs are in short supply, just when they are needed most.

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RMC officials were able to secure a supply of PAPRs – in Miami – with help from the Oxford Police Department. Indeed, not only did the police help find the vital equipment, they also agreed to make an overnight dash to South Florida to retrieve them.

The officers arrived back in Anniston Tuesday morning and delivered the critical equipment to the grateful team at the hospital, which continues to see a surge in COVID patients. 

“Nearly a year into this pandemic, we are grateful for the continued support that has kept our physicians and staff going,” said Lagina Fillingim, RMC Foundation director. “Thank you to everyone who made this donation possible.”

Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge said the department was happy to assist.

“If we help them, it’s going to help us,” Partridge said. “They’re first responders like we are. They’re on the front lines every day.”

He said Oxford Mayor Alton Craft reached out to the department to see if they could help the hospital locate the PAPRs. “I told him we’d certainly try,” Partridge said.

“We went ahead and made an emergency purchase because they’re in high demand. Two officers drove down to pick them up,” he said.

He said the PAPRs will not only help the hospital workers, they indirectly help the police department and the entire community.

“When an officer is hurt or injured in the line of duty, we need the doctors and nurses to take care of them, and they can’t do that if they’re sick with COVID,” Partridge said.

The PAPRs were purchased with support from the Alabama Power Foundation and other community partners, including Noble Bank, the Calhoun County Chamber of CommerceCalhoun County Economic Development Council and the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.

The RMC Foundation continues to seek donors to support a variety of programs at its affiliated facilities, including the purchase of needed equipment and supplies. To learn more or to donate, visit https://rmccares.org/donate-now/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Southern Company, Apple launch Propel Center digital learning hub in Atlanta

(The Propel Center/Contributed)

Southern Company and Apple joined educators and community stakeholders on Jan. 13 in announcing a partnership to launch the Propel Center, a new digital learning hub, business incubator and global innovation headquarters in Atlanta for students of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), including those in Alabama.

Both Apple and Southern Company, which is Alabama Power’s parent company, are founding partners, with the Southern Company Foundation and Apple each contributing $25 million to the effort.

“We know inequities exist in our society, and it’s up to each of us to be more intentional in our efforts to make a difference and bridge the gap,” said Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning. “We know more must be done, and the establishment of the Propel Center is another important demonstration of Southern Company fulfilling our commitment to move our communities to a more equitable future. Partnering with Apple in this initiative is an exciting way to connect future leaders with these critical resources.”

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“We’re proud to partner with Southern Company on this groundbreaking new project to build a global hub for innovation and learning for the entire HBCU community,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives. “This important effort builds on our long-standing collaboration to advance educational equity, and we are thrilled to be working together to help HBCU faculty create best-in-class curriculum and ensure their students have access to cutting-edge skills and opportunities.”

The $25 million investment from the Southern Company Foundation will help grow Black entrepreneurship and provide much-needed technology resources to the workforce of the future. This commitment is part of the $50 million multiyear initiative Southern Company and its subsidiaries announced in 2020 to provide scholarships, internships, leadership development, access to technology and innovation to support career readiness for students attending select HBCUs within the Southern Company system’s service footprint in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

“We are incredibly encouraged by the future possibilities presented through our support of HBCUs,” said Chris Womack, president of Georgia Power. “By investing in better outcomes, we create new opportunities for the students of today to become the leaders of a more prosperous tomorrow.”

Propel is both a physical and virtual campus that is designed to provide HBCUs with shared resources to support their work of preparing leaders to improve the world. Via a physical campus and digital learning tools, students from 100-plus HBCUs will be able to connect with the brightest minds in the world, through one-of-a-kind global opportunities. The students will also be able to connect with each other – a key component as they become more civic-minded leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

“Tech jobs offer lucrative salaries and among the best opportunities for growth, yet the workforce in the nation’s top firms still does not reflect the country’s diverse population,” said Dr. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse College. “Black and Hispanic professionals continue to be underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. What students need are more opportunities at the college level to show and grow their skills in coding, programming and data analysis in partnership with industry leaders. Apple and Southern Company are committed to developing the talent found at HBCUs and are committing resources to help improve diversity in STEM.”

Miles College in Fairfield, near Birmingham, is part of the partnership with Propel Center and will collaborate with the center and other HBCUs to bring leadership and career development programming to its students.

“We look forward to being an active contributor to this groundbreaking center of learning and opportunity for Miles College students,” Miles College President Bobbie Knight said.

Propel’s  physical campus will be in Atlanta at the Atlanta University Center, a consortium made up of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown and Spelman College. Southern Company will serve as the energy partner for the construction of the building, ensuring it is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

“The Propel Center will be a tremendous asset to Atlanta’s thriving HBCU community and will advance the mission of these institutions in the United States, and around the world,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “Thank you to Apple and Southern Company for investing in our youth and our communities. We are honored to join you in this monumental effort.”

The Propel Center continues the work that was established by Alabama Power and Apple in February 2020 with the launch of Birmingham’s Ed Farm, an education initiative supported by the Alabama Power Foundation. Ed Farm aims to equip educators and communities in Alabama with innovative tools and strategies that support active learning for all students. Among Ed Farm’s goals: to increase educational equity, improve learning outcomes through technology and prepare the future tech workforce.

Anthony Oni, vice president, Southern Company Gas, who is the founder and chairman of Ed Farm, designed the Propel initiative to advance collaboration and innovation at HBCUs. He will continue to work on the project going forward, actively engaging with academic and institutional partners.

“These investments are critical as we begin to truly scale Black innovation ecosystems,” Oni said. “By leveraging technology and partnerships to connect students with unique learning opportunities, we can lift up the talent that already exists at these institutions of higher learning and accelerate their development. In doing so, we will have a hand in shaping the workforce of the future – and the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Ed Farm’s foresight to bring together this collaboration will forever impact opportunities for our students as innovators in the future workforce,” added Miles College’s Knight. “The Propel Center exemplifies the sincere commitment of our partners, Apple and Southern Company, to value the cultivation of the HBCU graduate.”

For updates and more information, visit www.PropelCenter.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Point Broadband to offer high-speed fiber internet on Alabama’s Lake Martin

(Point Broadband/Contributed)

Point Broadband announced plans to offer fiber-to-the-premises high-speed internet for select areas on Lake Martin in Alabama.

“In today’s digitally-driven world, fast and reliable fiber internet is crucial to keep everyone and everything connected,” said Point Broadband CEO Todd Holt. “Point Broadband is thrilled to offer residents and businesses in the Lake Martin area access to some of the best broadband technology available today.”

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The fiber broadband company based in West Point, Georgia, which operates in nine states, will provide up to 1 gigabit symmetrical broadband service with whole-home W-Fi, allowing numerous devices to run around the clock.

“With more people working, students learning and families entertaining all from their homes, we recognize the importance of ensuring your home has the right resources to meet your needs,” Holt said.

Lake Martin residents can sign up or express interest at point-broadband.com/lake-martin/.

Point Broadband is partnering with Alabama Power on the new initiative. The company will contract for a portion of Alabama Power’s fiber infrastructure to help support Point Broadband’s offering of high-speed internet on Lake Martin.

“The need for greater broadband accessibility for Alabamians to continue to learn, grow business and lead healthy lives is greater than ever before,” said Leslie Sanders, vice president of Alabama Power’s Southern Division. “We’re excited to partner with Point Broadband to be part of the solution. The advanced technology of our electric grid makes it smarter, more reliable and resilient, and can also help facilitate the expansion of broadband services.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Junior League to host virtual Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Month series

(The Junior League of Birmingham/Contributed)

The Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) is hosting several virtual Anti-Human Trafficking Awareness Month events statewide throughout January. Led by the initiatives of the JLB’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee, the free, educational events seek to promote awareness of the issue and debunk common myths surrounding it.

Alabamians are invited to participate in the “Human Trafficking Awareness: What You Need to Know to Help End It” event series. The JLB statewide initiatives have been rolled out in partnership with the Junior League of Anniston-Calhoun, the Junior League of Mobile, the Junior League of Montgomery and the Junior League of the Shoals, and presented by Regions.

Tasked with addressing ways to provide education about and prevent human trafficking in the Birmingham area, the JLB’s Anti-Human Trafficking Committee focuses on bringing awareness and encouraging engagement from three sectors: the community at large, area college students and the legal and judicial community.

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“Human trafficking is largely successful because of community apathy and denial of its existence,” said Julia Meyers, chair of the JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening right under our noses – and on an enormous scale. With I-20 and I-65 as both major human trafficking corridors running through the Birmingham metro area, this issue should hit home with those that live, work and play in or near Birmingham.”

Considered the second-largest, fastest-growing enterprise in the world, human trafficking cases have been reported in every state in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the commercial sex industry generates $110 million each year in the Birmingham metro area. This does not include illegal activity in massage parlors or strip clubs, nor child trafficking, which is more difficult to quantify.

According to the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), 90% or more of people who are prostituted are actually being trafficked. Anti-trafficking advocates believe it is a higher percentage in Alabama.

“Ending human trafficking will require working together on a state and communitywide response, and the Junior League of Birmingham is committed to bringing awareness to this issue in any and every way possible,” said Toni Leeth, JLB president.

Virtual informational events held by the JLB in January include:

  • Human Trafficking 101 – Thursday, Jan. 7, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. This event features speakers Jessie Keating Hardy and Ellie Friedman, two JLB members of the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee who are attorneys in Birmingham. This virtual event seeks to begin proactive conversations and answer questions on how to combat trafficking. Topics will focus on how the sex trafficking business operates, how traffickers recruit and subjugate young women and children and what you can do to help put an end to this modern form of slavery.
  • Social Media Predators: What Parents Need to Know About Online Human Traffickers, presented by Bark – Tuesday, Jan. 19, from noon to 1 p.m. The JLB’s internet safety training will feature Renee Abrams, the school safety manager from Bark, a parental control phone monitoring app designed to help keep kids safer online. Through her experience helping schools identify digital safety and implementing Bark safety solutions, Abrams will discuss the dangers of social media with trafficking and how parents can monitor their children’s online activity and protect them from online predators and human traffickers.
  • Truckers Against Trafficking and the JLB Present: Be the Voice to Help End Human Trafficking – Tuesday, Jan. 26, from noon to 1 p.m. This panel provides the opportunity to hear from those who have witnessed trafficking firsthand, including a trafficking survivor. Panel topics will focus on how anyone can be a part of the solution to this multibillion-dollar crime operation. Panelists include Lt. Darren Beams of the Tuscaloosa Police Department and West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force; Audrey Jordan, assistant attorney general of Alabama; Dixie Shannon, survivor and certified recovery support specialist; Julia Meyers, JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee chair; and Susan Dold with Truckers Against Trafficking.

During the past four years, the JLB leadership has helped reach thousands across the state to bring a greater understanding of this public crisis and to empower communities and organizations to act. Because of these efforts, 34 area mayors have signed awareness proclamations that led to seven area municipalities declaring themselves Trafficking Free Zones in 2020; signs were installed in every bathroom stall across the Birmingham International Airport; and multiple awareness events and training sessions have reached more than 1,200 people. Partnering with other entities across Alabama, the league supported 2019 legislative efforts, including HB 261, which requires all commercial drivers to take a human trafficking awareness class in order to obtain a license.

Most recently, Vestavia Hills and Trussville renewed their declarations as Trafficking Free Zones and  approved Human Trafficking Awareness Month proclamations for January, as did Alabaster, Chelsea, Bay Minette, Beatrice, Brent, Geraldine and Vincent. Other declarations will take place this month in Hoover, Birmingham, Gardendale, Mulga and Northport. The league partners with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project to implement USIAHT’s Trafficking Free Zone status, as well as End It Alabama to encourage all municipalities to declare January Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which has been proven to open the door for training opportunities in those communities.

With Human Trafficking Awareness Day taking place Jan. 11, the JLB will work with Birmingham City Hall to further promote its anti-human trafficking efforts.

The JLB Anti-Human Trafficking Committee will take its expertise further into the state when members attend the End It Alabama Summit Jan. 28-29. A project of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, End It Alabama works to combat all aspects of human trafficking, including sex trafficking and labor trafficking; coordinate strategies to provide comprehensive response services for victims; focus on prevention efforts to end demand and create awareness through education and community initiatives; and develop legislation to prevent, intervene in and treat human trafficking.

The JLB offers anti-human trafficking training materials and education programs to the community at large, other Junior League organizations and college campuses throughout the nation.

The Anti-Human Trafficking program is one of the JLB’s 40 community projects addressing some of Birmingham’s most critical issues. For 98 years, the JLB has been a positive force for change in Jefferson County, with 2,200 trained volunteers collectively volunteering more than 55,000 hours of direct community service each year.

To register for the events, visit https://jlbawareness.swell.gives/. For more information on the JLB, visit https://www.jlbonline.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

National Carbon Capture Center at Wilsonville achieves major milestone with ‘first fire’ of natural gas testing system

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

The Alabama-based National Carbon Capture Center has completed a successful “first fire” of its new natural gas infrastructure. The event paves the way for the first test runs of carbon capture technologies at the facility using natural gas-derived flue gas.

It’s a significant milestone for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)-sponsored facility adjacent to Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston as it expands its ability to evaluate carbon capture technologies for natural gas power plants. The first test runs for those technologies are expected to begin in January.

“First fire is a key achievement in the National Carbon Capture Center’s evolving research path, which is increasingly focused on technologies to deliver a net-zero future – from carbon capture for fossil fuel-based power generation to carbon utilization and direct air capture,” said Mark. S. Berry, Southern Company vice president of research and development.

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The natural gas carbon capture infrastructure – which includes a natural gas-fired boiler, flue gas cooler, condenser and blower – will offer significant advantages for carbon capture technology developers to demonstrate and scale up technologies, including expanded testing windows and more flexibility.

First fire of the new system included validating its ability to start and operate as designed. John Carroll, National Carbon Capture Center project engineer, said the team carried out a multistep start-up process that included firing the boiler at minimum load and then ramping the system to full load to prove its performance.

“While the system is designed to operate at a lower load to simulate a natural gas combined-cycle unit for testing, it also must operate at a higher load that is very close to coal plant conditions,” said Carroll. “We were able to put the system through its paces to prove it will operate properly at both conditions and a full range in between.”

“The natural gas addition positions our facility to meet the needs of technology developers and research institutions looking to test their advanced designs and processes outside of the lab at bench- and pilot-scale,” said John Northington, director of the National Carbon Capture Center and Southern Company R&D director of net-zero technologies. “With this new infrastructure and our highly specialized team, carbon capture innovators will have more options for moving their technologies forward.”

As the DOE’s primary carbon capture research facility, the National Carbon Capture Center has worked with more than 30 organizations from seven countries and completed more than 110,000 hours of testing to advance a wide range of technologies toward commercial scale. That work has reduced the projected cost of carbon capture for fossil-based power plants by one-third, and further reductions are expected.

In October, DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL renewed their cooperative agreement with Southern Company to manage and operate the facility in Shelby County. The five-year extension of the cooperative agreement formally marked the project’s expansion into new areas of research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-based power plants and to advance carbon dioxide utilization and direct air capture solutions.

Berry applauded the successful first fire at the National Carbon Capture Center as the facility moves forward on supporting important, new research and development related to carbon capture technologies. “I’m excited to congratulate the world-class team who made this important addition to the center’s capabilities a reality.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Cold Alabama nights over Christmas call for safety focus

(Angela Chramer/Contributed)

It won’t be a white Christmas in Alabama this year, but it will feel like winter over the holiday weekend.

Temperatures are forecast to dip into the 20s overnight on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as far south as Mobile, and are expected to drop into the teens in north Alabama. Below-freezing temperatures are also forecast overnight on Saturday, Dec. 26, across the northern half of the state.

Alabamians should keep safety in mind this chilly weekend, especially with the pandemic-affected holidays leading many people to stay close to home.

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Indeed, home heating is one of the leading causes of residential fires, according to the American Red Cross. Nearly half of U.S. families use space heaters, fireplaces, or wood or coal stoves to stay warm.

The Red Cross offers the following safety tips:

  • Never use a cooking range or oven to heat your home.
  • Keep potential fuel sources such as paper, clothing, bedding, curtains or rugs at least 3 feet away from space heaters, stoves or fireplaces. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Turn off space heaters and make sure any fireplace embers are extinguished before going to bed or leaving home.
  • Keep space heaters on a level, hard and nonflammable surface (such as ceramic tile floor), not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Keep fire in your fireplace by using a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs.

Speaking of home fires, the kitchen is a traditional gathering place for the holidays. It’s also one of the more dangerous places in the home. Cooking equipment – most notably stovetops and ovens – is the nation’s leading cause of home fires and injuries, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Here are some tips for staying safe in the kitchen this holiday season:

  • The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking, so stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or baking.
  • Protect children from scalds and burns. Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a “kid-free zone” of 3 feet around the stove.
  • Choose the right equipment and use it properly. Plug microwave ovens and other appliances directly into an outlet. Never use an extension cord for a cooking appliance, which can overload the circuit and cause a fire.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – potholders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper and plastic bags, food packaging, towels or curtains – away from the stovetop. Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Avoid using deep-fat turkey fryers. If you use one, keep it at a safe distance from buildings and other items that can catch fire. Never use a turkey fryer in a garage or on a wooden deck. Watch the fryer carefully, as the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire. Don’t overfill the fryer.
  • Prevent hot spills by using the back burners when possible and turning pot handles away from the stove edge. Use oven mitts or potholders when moving hot food from an oven, microwave or stovetop.

Finally, a fire safety tip for all seasons: have a fire escape plan and ensure all household members know two ways to escape from every room of your home. Set up a meeting place outside in case of fire. Practice escaping from your home at least twice a year and at different times of the day. Teach household members to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches on fire.

Find more home heating and fire safety tips at the National Safety Council website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama music legend Randy Owen named honorary co-chair of World Games 2022 Birmingham

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

The man who proudly sang “My Home’s In Alabama” will be front and center in promoting the largest sporting event the state has ever seen.

The World Games 2022 Birmingham has named country music artist and humanitarian Randy Owen as an honorary co-chair. Owen is a founding member and front man of acclaimed country music group Alabama.

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Randy Owen an honorary co-chair of the World Games 2022 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Millions of people around the world have grown up with Randy’s one-of-a-kind voice,” said World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers. “He’s a national treasure for the USA and for the state of Alabama. And we are excited to have that legendary voice as an honorary co-chair of this once-in-a-lifetime moment.”

Owen will participate in several events at the World Games 2022, including the opening and closing ceremonies. He will also represent, support and promote the message and mission of World Games 2022.

“I’m so honored to join my fellow outstanding Alabamians – Charles Barkley, Dr. Henry Panion and those yet to be announced – in helping bring this event to Alabama,” Owen said. “The people in our state have made a tremendous impact on my life and career, and I’m happy to show the world what Alabama is all about. Our people are as diverse as the landscape in our beautiful state. It is my hope that we are able to bring that uniqueness to the forefront and let the light of Alabama shine out into the world.”

A graduate of Jacksonville State University, Owen is best known for his career as the lead singer of Alabama, the Country Music Group of the Century (Recording Industry Association of America). One of the most successful country music groups in history, Alabama released 21 gold, platinum and multiplatinum albums, had 43 No. 1 singles, sold more than 75 million records, and earned more than 150 industry awards, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in a career spanning more than 50 years.

As a founding member of Alabama, Owen was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and received the BMI President’s Award.

Individually, Owen has received numerous local and national honors, including the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and has been inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

“I could not be more thrilled to have an iconic Alabamian such as Randy Owen join us for this magnificent celebration of sports and the arts, one that will cast the eyes and ears of the entire world upon our city and state,” said Henry Panion, who was recently named artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies. “There has been no greater ambassador for Alabama than my friend Randy, and I am looking forward to working with him on the festivities for the World Games 2022.”

A DeKalb County native, Owen grew up on Lookout Mountain on a farm that his family still owns today. The property, previously sharecropped by his family, has raised world-class cattle since 1981 and is named “Tennessee River Music Inc.” after Owen’s first No. 1 single.

Owen is also known for his philanthropic efforts in his own community and around the world, raising millions of dollars through the June Jam and Tornado Relief charity concerts in Alabama, and groundbreaking fundraising for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Most notably, Owen created the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids Radiothon, which has raised more than $900 million for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. For his fundraising efforts, Owen has also received the Michael F. Tamer Award, The Founder’s Award, National Library of Medicine Award and the Country Music Association Foundation Humanitarian Award.

“My wife, Kelly, and I raised our family in Alabama,” Owen said. “Our children all graduated from Alabama universities: Jacksonville State (Alison), Samford (Heath) and Auburn (Randa). My home’s in Alabama isn’t just a song or lyrics on a page. My home and heart will always be in Alabama, and now it is the home of the World Games 2022!”

Owen joins NBA Hall of Fame inductee Charles Barkley, who was announced as an honorary co-chair in July.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

UAB’s Panion named artistic director of Alabama World Games 2022 ceremonies

(World Games 2022/Contributed)

The opening and closing ceremonies of the World Games 2022 will feature original music from Henry Panion, one of Alabama’s most accomplished and decorated composers.

The Birmingham Organizing Committee announced Monday that Panion has joined the 2022 Games as artistic director of the opening and closing ceremonies. Panion is University Professor of Music and Director of Music Technology at UAB, where he teaches courses in music theory and technology. He owns Audiostate 55 Recording Studios & Entertainment Co. in Birmingham.

Panion will create the entire musical score for the games’ opening and closing ceremonies, write and produce all the original music that will be featured, conduct the orchestra performing the music and collaborate with all major recording artists who participate in the ceremonies. Panion will write and produce an original World Games 2022 theme song.

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Henry Panion to serve as artistic director for the World Games 2022 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Panion’s work has garnered him two Grammy Awards and two Dove Awards. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Alabama A&M University Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2009, Panion was appointed Birmingham’s Cultural Ambassador.

Throughout his career, Panion has worked closely with major recording artists, including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Carrie Underwood.

After graduating from Alabama A&M with a bachelor’s degree in music education, Panion received his master’s and doctorate degrees in music theory from Ohio State University.

“I am honored to serve as artistic director of the World Games 2022 opening and closing ceremonies,” Panion said. “The World Games will bring a once-in-a-lifetime level of focus and attention to Birmingham and Alabama. It is our goal to showcase and celebrate the very best of Alabama in presentations that are both festive and reflective, commemorating our past yet articulating the hope of our future.”

Produced by LRY Media Group, the ceremonies will be hosted at Birmingham’s new $174 million Protective Stadium.

“Dr. Panion’s insight and understanding of both music and creativity bring about extraordinary shows and truly magical moments,” said LRY CEO Rashada LeRoy. “After watching and enjoying Dr. Panion’s work for so many years, I look forward to all there is to come.”

World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers said Panion’s musical ability and his Birmingham background are hugely important additions to the production of the opening and closing ceremonies.

“We are excited to see what Dr. Panion is going to create for the World Games 2022,” Sellers said. “Not only is he a tremendous talent, but he’s Alabama to his roots, and that was huge for us. These opening and closing ceremonies are going to represent the best that Alabama and Birmingham have to offer, and Dr. Panion absolutely fits that description. His talents will offer a gift of music that will live on long after the lights go down and the games conclude.”

The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place July 7-17 and generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact. For more information, visit TWG2022.com or go on FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama Power’s Ephraim Stockdale lauded as outstanding leader by Alabama Communities of Excellence

(Alabama Power/Contributed)

Alabama Power’s Ephraim Stockdale has been recognized as a “shining star” by Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) for his leadership in community development.

The nonprofit presented Stockdale with its Outstanding ACE Leadership Award for his work serving on the ACE Associates Council. The award is one of six STAR awards ACE presents annually to acknowledge its partners, Associates Council members, community participants and volunteers for their work assisting the organization and the communities it serves.

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While serving on the ACE Associates Council, Stockdale has facilitated and developed strategic plans for ACE communities and worked with local leadership to help focus their efforts for success. He also is a mentor to many ACE professionals, and his support and work with the ACE program have been integral to its success, according to a release from the organization.

“I see economic potential in each and every Alabama community I work with,” Stockdale said. “I optimize that potential by helping those communities articulate a vision, state a mission and set priorities to reach their goals.”

Stockdale serves as a project manager on Alabama Power’s Economic and Community Development team. He works with city leaders and Alabama Power’s team to assess community readiness for economic development and help create strategic plans for maximizing a community’s potential for sustainable economic growth.

“Ephraim’s dedication to Alabama Power and our Economic and Community Development team for more than 20 years exemplifies what it means to improve lives and opportunities for the people of Alabama,” said Leigh Davis, Alabama Power vice president of Economic and Community Development. “Through his leadership with ACE and building lasting relationships with our community partners, he continually demonstrates what an asset he is to prepare our state for the future, and this award echoes that sentiment.”

Stockdale graduated from Talladega College and is an active member of the Alumni Association. He has served on the advisory boards for Auburn University’s Economic and Community Development Institute and the Alabama Community Leadership Network.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Sidewalk to bring 2021 Sundance Film Festival to Alabama audiences

(Brandon Joseph Baker/Contributed)

The Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema in downtown Birmingham and the Sidewalk Film Festival announced that they are participating in the 2021 digital Sundance Film Festival. As a partner, the Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema in the heart of Birmingham’s historic theatre district will serve as a satellite venue for this seven-day festival, hosted by the Sundance Institute.
“Sidewalk is thrilled to have been selected as one of only 30 sites across the country to partner with Sundance, a leader in the independent film industry for over 40 years, for their unique 2021 festival,” said Sidewalk Executive Director Chloe Cook. “Our organization has a long history of providing unique content to the Birmingham community and building audiences for indie films from around the world, and we see this exciting partnership with Sundance as an extension of those efforts. We look forward to welcoming local audiences to our pop-up drive-in and cinema (with lots of health and safety precautions in place) as a satellite screen for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.”

Sundance Institute will offer the festival digitally via a custom-designed online platform (festival.sundance.org), alongside drive-ins, independent arthouses and a network of local community partnerships. The online expression of the Sundance Film Festival will provide global access for storytellers and audiences alike to come together, experience artists’ new work, connect with one another and participate in conversation. Sundance Institute, founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theater, film composing and digital media to create and thrive.

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All films in the program will be available online in the United States, with certain films offered globally. The full talks and events program, as well as the New Frontier section for XR and emerging media, will be available globally. The festival will run from Jan. 28 through Feb. 3.

“Even under these impossible circumstances, artists are still finding paths to make bold and vital work in whatever ways they can,” said Tabitha Jackson, Sundance Festival director. “So Sundance, as a festival of discovery, will bring that work to its first audiences in whatever ways we can. The core of our festival in the form of an online platform and socially distanced cinematic experiences is responsive to the pandemic and gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are. And thanks to a constellation of independent cinema communities across the U.S., we are not putting on our festival alone. At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique – a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists and ideas that leave us changed.”

Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam said the organization is looking forward to reaching more audiences than ever before through this online platform.

“Our festival footprint has changed this year, but we are excited to bring an incredible community together in new ways to engage with new artists and new stories – whether they’re joining us for the first year or have been for decades,” said Putnam. “Our ambition is for everyone to come together, safely, wherever they may be and participate in screenings on our platform at the same time. The Sundance team has consulted with artists, worked with incredible partners, and built a plan to welcome new audiences and capture a true festival spirit.”

As at past Sundance Film Festivals, feature films will premiere throughout the day, with “day one” films set to debut Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. Central time. During the 2021 festival, each of the more than 70 feature films will premiere online in a dedicated time slot, followed by a live Q&A.

Multiple films will premiere simultaneously roughly every 3 hours from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Central time. This rollout is designed to preserve the energy of a festival, with an abundance of choices and collective experiences. Audiences will begin the film simultaneously and participate in the live Q&A that follows. Viewers can also begin films any time within 3 hours of the start of the premiere’s start.

All films will return to the platform two days after their premiere for a “second screening,” offered on demand for 24 hours. The platform’s movie player is powered by Shift72 and developed with best-in-industry security and access practices. In a festival first, the entire lineup of more than 70 feature films on the platform will be closed-captioned on demand and Q&As will be live-captioned.

The Short Film and Indie Series programs, focused on creative storytelling outside the feature format, will include 50 short films and world premieres of four episodic works. These will be available on demand on the Sundance Festival platform for the full length of the festival.

The Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier has served as a showcase for dynamic, innovative work at the crossroads of film, art and technology, and 2021 is no exception, with 14 works in the program. For the first time ever, adventurous audiences around the world will be given the chance to engage with the works, the artists and each other via a bespoke virtual platform, accessible via computer and virtual reality headsets.

The New Frontier Gallery hosts the complete slate of live performances, augmented reality, virtual reality and other emerging media works. Cinema House is the festival’s fully immersive, big-screen theater, and Film Party is an interactive social space where the entire community of accredited festival goers can safely gather together again. The environment also features interactive tools such as proximity audio and video chat.

Expanding beyond its Utah home, the Sundance Festival has created a network of partnerships to bring feature films and customized local programming – talks, events, artist meet-ups – to Birmingham and other communities across the country. Each satellite screen will create and host its own events, sharing local cultural conversations with broader festival audiences, with most also screening selections from the 2021 program.

“These partners are the backbone of independent artistic communities across the country, where filmmakers are born and cinephiles are developed,” Jackson said. “We’re entering these partnerships because a healthy ecosystem for artists and audiences requires that independent cinemas across the country survive and thrive.”

Tickets and passes for those who want to experience the festival for the full run, a single day or a single screening will be available to the general public beginning Jan. 7; further details will be available later this month. For more information, sign up at Festival.Sundance.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

BJCC marks topping out of $174 million Protective Stadium in Birmingham

(BJCC/Contributed)

Construction of the $174 million Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex’s Protective Stadium marked a key milestone last week with a “topping out” celebration.

A topping out marks the ceremonial placement of the last steel beam in a construction project. Due to COVID-19, officials signed the beam over three days at the construction site. Once signed, the beam was lifted by crane and fastened to the support structure for Protective Stadium’s score board.

“It was important for us to mark this construction milestone, albeit a little differently than we would have,” said Tad Snider, executive director and CEO, BJCC Authority. “Protective Stadium is a public-private partnership, with many entities working together to produce a worldclass facility for Birmingham. The topping out honors those partnerships while demonstrating the project’s significant progress.”

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Construction on the 45,000-capacity stadium began in late 2019 and is scheduled to conclude in fall 2021 for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) football season. Protective Stadium will be the home of UAB Blazers football.

“We are incredibly excited to make Protective Stadium our new home and are appreciative of the partnerships that have helped bring this project to fruition,” said Mark Ingram, UAB director of athletics.

Protective Life stadium topping out from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Protective Stadium’s construction has moved forward smoothly and on schedule,” said Dennis Lathem, chairman, BJCC Board of Directors. “This year and this project have reinforced how important it is to keep the long view in focus. The stadium’s construction, as well as the comprehensive renovation of Legacy Arena, will yield long-term benefits, strengthening Birmingham as a destination for large-scale sporting events.”

Protective Stadium will be a catalyst for the Magic City, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said.

“When I look at the progress that has been made on the stadium, I don’t just see a place where our community can come together for football, concerts and other events,” Woodfin said. “I see a springboard for economic development, I see new opportunities for small businesses, and I see revenue that will go toward revitalizing each of our city’s 99 neighborhoods. I’m proud to see this great new venue taking shape, but I’m most excited about the groundwork that is being laid to uplift all our communities.”

The stadium’s economic impact will go beyond the city.

“I’m excited to reach this milestone on a project that will bring such benefit to our county,” said Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens. “I look at this stadium as a monument to what happens when we have good leadership across the board – from the city, the county, the state, the BJCC, UAB and the business community – and when we all work together to accomplish something good for our community.”

Protective Stadium will add to the city’s sports infrastructure offerings.

“This is a milestone moment for Protective Stadium and for Birmingham,” said Birmingham City Council President William Parker. “The new stadium will soon join Legion Field, Birmingham Crossplex and the city’s other venues to make Birmingham even more competitive in attracting sporting events that will boost tourism and support our local economy.”

The stadium is named for sponsor Protective Life.

“Protective is excited to celebrate another milestone in the construction progress made at Protective Stadium,” said Rich Bielen, president and CEO of Protective Life. “Upon completion, the events hosted at Protective Stadium will unite the city of Birmingham and we are thrilled to play an important role in bringing this venue to life.”

Protective Stadium will also serve as the host venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Games 2022, coming to Birmingham July 7-17, 2022.

“The progress on Protective Stadium is incredible, and we are excited that it will serve as a cornerstone of the World Games 2022,” said Nick Sellers, CEO of the World Games Birmingham. “In less than 600 days, we will welcome the world to Birmingham, and we can’t wait to show off this beautiful new stadium to fans and athletes from across the globe.”

Protective Stadium is a massive construction project that includes:

  • 3,700,000 pounds of rebar tied, roughly the weight of 11,385 sumo wrestlers;
  • 26,000 cubic yards of concrete placed, enough to fill nearly eight Olympic size swimming pools;
  • 150,000 square feet of elevated concrete, enough to cover more than 17 korfball courts;
  • 160,000 feet of conduit hung, or the length of nearly 1,455 tug of war ropes;
  • 14,600 feet of pipe, the length of nearly 297 boules sports courts;
  • 31,000 linear feet of concrete seating, or taller than 620 sports climbing walls.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama Power joins industry partners to raise awareness on scams

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama Power partnered with utilities across the nation through Utilities United Against Scams (UUAS) to recognize the fifth annual Utility Scam Awareness Day on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Utility Scam Awareness Day is part of International Scam Awareness Week, an advocacy and awareness campaign focused on educating customers and exposing tactics used by scammers.

“Alabama Power is joining with our partners on Utility Scam Awareness Day with one goal in mind – to protect our customers against scams,” said Alisa Summerville, Customer Service Center director for Alabama Power. “We’ve seen a higher number of scammers trying to take advantage of our customers during the coronavirus pandemic, and this is another opportunity to equip our customers with information to identify and combat scams.”

Alabama Power is sharing tips to help customers protect themselves from false tactics used by scammers. Customers should know that Alabama Power:

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  • Will never call to demand an immediate payment.
  • Will never call to request bank or credit card information.
  • Will never come to your door to demand an immediate payment.

Here are ways to spot scams from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Customers with any questions about the status of their Alabama Power account should not hesitate to call Customer Service at 1-800-245-2244. The automated voice system is available 24 hours a day to check account balances and status. Customers can reach a Customer Service agent weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 1-800-245-2244.

“A simple tip for our customers: If you are unsure if a call is a scam, hang up and contact our Customer Service team at 1-800-245-2244,” Summerville added.

UUAS, a consortium of more than 145 U.S. and Canadian electric, water and natural gas utilities and their respective trade associations, continues to build awareness of common scams and new scam tactics being used during the pandemic. Through its work and with the help of customer reporting, UUAS has succeeded in taking out of operation nearly 6,000 toll-free numbers used by scammers against utility customers.

“It is no surprise that scammers have been seeking to exploit the heightened anxiety of people coping with the pandemic,” said UUAS founder and Executive Committee Chairman Jared Lawrence. “I am proud to report that UUAS education efforts and utilities well-publicized customer testimonials have prevented a drastic increase in victims. However, the relentless attempts by these criminals make it clear that we must continue to actively work to protect our customers and to keep scammers from casting confusion on our pandemic recovery messages.”

The Federal Trade Commission website provides additional information about protecting personal information and other information regarding impostor scams.

Visit www.utilitiesunited.org for more information and tips on how customers can protect themselves from impostor utility scams. Follow along with UUAS on Twitter and Facebook.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Birmingham World Games 2022 now selling official merchandise

(Birmingham World Games 2022/Contributed)

Fans from all over the world can now represent the World Games 2022 everywhere they go. The Birmingham Organizing Committee has opened its official merchandise store, making the World Games 2022 T-shirts, hats, apparel and gift items available to the public for purchase.

“This is an exciting milestone on the road to this once-in-a-lifetime event,” said World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers. “There is something for everyone and every season. And as we head into the holiday season, this is a great time to find some cool gear for family and friends. The World Games 2022 Birmingham will be a huge moment and I look forward to seeing everyone wearing their World Games 2022 gear.”

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The online store, powered by Dyehard Fan Supply, offers apparel for all ages and will be open throughout the lead-up to the Games and the closing ceremony.

To see all that the World Games 2022 merchandise store has to offer, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)