The Wire

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


    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


    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


    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.

7 hours 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:


  • 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 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)

5 days 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.”


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)

2 weeks ago

Have you visited these Alabama musical attractions?

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Alabama has a rich musical history that has given way to a vibrant musical legacy. We’ve brought you stories of Alabama Music Makers carrying on the tradition in virtually every kind of musical style. There are some places where the musical roots run especially deep. Here are a few Alabama musical attractions everyone should visit.

3 weeks ago

North-South All-Star football game moving to Mobile’s new University of South Alabama stadium

(University of South Alabama/Contributed)

The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s oldest all-star game has found a new home.

The 62nd annual North-South All-Star Football Classic will be played at the University of South Alabama’s Hancock Whitney Stadium Dec. 18 in Mobile, said Jamie Lee, director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA). The 25,000-seat stadium, which opened this season, is the home of the USA Jaguars.

“We are thankful for the city (and county) of Mobile, the Mobile Sports Authority and the University of South Alabama for their interest and support of one of our premier events,” Lee said. “Several cities showed interest in the event, but Mobile rose above them all in order to support our student-athletes and coaches. We look forward to partnering with them the next three years.”


The contract includes 2020, 2021 and 2022.

Mobile was home to the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic from 1988 to 2010. AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese said Mobile created a great experience for those contests.

“I am glad to see our North-South game moving to Mobile,” he said. “I coached in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and saw firsthand what a great experience it was for the players and coaches.”

The AHSADCA, operating under the auspices of the AHSAA, manages the North-South All-Star game, which features two 37-member teams of current seniors. The South holds a 31-27-2 lead in the series.

The North-South Classic got its start in Tuscaloosa in 1948 and was played yearly through 1984. It was discontinued from 1985 through 1996 and brought back in 1997 during the AHSAA Summer Conference and AHSADCA All-Star Sports Week. It was played at Montgomery’s Cramton Bowl from 1997 until 2004, then moved to December and played at Troy University’s Veterans Stadium in 2004 and 2005; moved to Alabama A&M University 2007-2010 as a summer game; returned to Cramton Bowl in 2011 and has been played there every year since.

The 61st game was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns this past summer. The game is to be moved to December beginning this year.

Some of the state’s top high school, college and professional football standouts have played in the North-South game, including Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan (1968), Auburn All-American receiver Terry Beasley (1968) and Green Bay Packers great Bart Starr (1952). Alabama All-American linebacker and NFL All-Pro Cornelius Bennett grabbed MVP honors in the 1983 game. Decatur High School teammates Joe Brewer and Bobby Golden earned MVP honors in the first game, played in 1948.

Kickoff is set for Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. WOTM TV and executive producer Vince Earley will coordinate the televise game over the AHSAA TV Network and live-stream over the NFHS Network.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Alabama’s Mazda Toyota Manufacturing reveals new logo, updates plant progress

(SellarsPhoto/Mazda Toyota Manufacturing)

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), the joint venture between Mazda Motor Corporation and Toyota Motor Corporation, revealed its corporate logo this past week and updated progress at the $2.3 billion plant, which has hired 750 workers.

The logo was developed through partnership with Decatur and Huntsville agency Red Sage Communications. The symbolism in the logo speaks to “MTM’s mission, vision, values and ties to north Alabama,” the company said.

“The development process for the MTM logo was very intentional. We solicited the collaboration and support of our entire team – from production employees to executive officers – to ensure there was meaning in nearly every facet of the design,” said Mark Brazeal, MTM vice president of administration. “We want north Alabama to see our logo as a reminder of our commitment to serve as a hometown company as much as we want our team to be inspired and motivated to build the highest-quality products for our customers every day.”


The logo, which reads “MTM”, is composed of two sides joined by three lines representing the company origin and foundation of support from its parent companies, Mazda and Toyota. It uses a custom red that was created through a mix of three shades of paint; Alabama state red, Toyota red and Mazda soul red. The blend was created by students at Limestone County Career Technical Center and was painted on the vehicle cabs at the AIDT/MTM Assessment Center.


“The opportunity to work collaboratively with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing’s team to develop their new logo and brand identity was tremendously exciting. We were honored to be chosen for the partnership,” said Ellen Didier, Red Sage Communications founder and president. “The company’s brand values of innovation and collaboration, as well as a desire to relate to and connect with the north Alabama community, were key inspirations for the design.”

Brazeal said the plant is hiring production workers to add to the current 750 employees. The plan is for the plant to eventually have 4,000 workers and the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles as soon as next year.

“As we prepare to resume applications for production team members in the upcoming months and continue to make strides toward start of production, we are so proud to reveal our logo to the community. We look forward to being here, building our team and offering exciting opportunities to join us for many, many years to come,” said Brazeal.

Construction on the Huntsville plant – which has two assembly lines, Apollo and Discovery to highlight the region’s ties to NASA and the space program – has reached milestones including:

  • HVAC operation, 95%.
  • Parking lot completion, 85%.
  • Topsoil and seeding, 70%.
  • Exterior utilities, 100%.
  • Onsite partner utility supply, 100%.
  • Process equipment install
    • Press 65-70%.
    • Weld Apollo 99%.
    • Weld Discovery 15-20%.
    • Paint 50%.
    • Assembly Apollo line 40-50%.
    • Assembly Discovery line 0%.
    • Audit 90%.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama Power Foundation seeking Classroom Grant applications

(Alabama Power Foundation/Contributed)

The Alabama Power Foundation is now accepting applications for its Classroom Grant Program.

The program focuses on improving and expanding educational opportunities at schools throughout Alabama. This year, the program has expanded to meet additional needs, such as technology support to enhance virtual learning, which has become commonplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants are available to public elementary, middle and high schools to purchase materials, supplies and other resources to enhance learning in the classroom. Grants can also be used to buy sanitation supplies needed to keep classrooms safe and to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the coronavirus.


Funds can also be used to support mental health needs for educators and students.

Nonprofit organizations that work with schools to support these efforts are also eligible to apply. Up to $1,000 is awarded per grant.

“Many organizations, including our schools, face unique challenges this year. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t easy and can weigh heavily on students and educators,” said Tequila Smith, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “We want to find new ways to continue to meet their needs and hope these grants will serve as much-needed support for stability and enrichment in classrooms across Alabama in these difficult times.”

The grants are available to schools in which 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The grant program will remain open for the remainder of the school year. Grants are awarded to eligible recipients on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are exhausted.

For more information or to apply, visit

Since its creation in 1989 with funds donated by shareholders, the Alabama Power Foundation has supported Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships, using non-ratepayer dollars. Learn more at

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

JetBlue reveals new ‘Hops’ tail fin design on Alabama-built Airbus A220


JetBlue this week revealed its latest aircraft tail design – “Hops” – which will be featured on the airline’s newest aircraft, the Airbus A220-300.

The first A220 aircraft for JetBlue rolled out of the paint shop at Airbus’s Mobile manufacturing site Monday morning. Travelers will spot the new design in 2021 after the first aircraft is delivered this December.

“Hops” represents an evolution in the JetBlue design experience with a slightly more multidimensional look than previous tail fins. The playful pattern, created by JetBlue’s in-house designers, echoes a sense of continuation and offers a nod to the idea of connecting many short trips together as part of a larger journey, commonly referred to in travel as a hopping – whether city to city or island to island.


The A220 cabin design – with JetBlue’s legroom and free FlyFi broadband internet in the sky – will include wider seats, spacious overhead bins and extra-large windows with a better view from the sky and on the ground.

JetBlue officials said the A220 seating capacity will add flexibility to the airline’s network strategy as it targets growth in focus cities, including options to schedule transcontinental flying. The aircraft’s favorable economics open the door to new markets and routes that would have been unprofitable with JetBlue’s existing fleet.

JetBlue has ordered 70 A220 aircraft, which will be phased in as replacements for JetBlue’s fleet of 60 Embraer E190 aircraft.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

New documentary explores Alabama ‘Black Belt Blues’

(Roger Stephenson/Contributed)

A new, one-hour documentary digs down deep into Alabama’s African American inspired blues tradition, one less well-known than its Mississippi counterpart, but equally rich.

Alabama Black Belt Blues is produced by One State Films in partnership with Alabama Public Television (APT). It premiered on APT stations Friday, Oct. 23, and will be rebroadcast at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25.


The film is produced and directed by Alabama filmmaker Robert Clem. It is his eighth feature documentary about Alabama, its history and culture.

His latest details the state’s African American blues tradition, from the days of slavery to the 1930s and ’40s, when John and Alan Lomax recorded hundreds of songs for the Library of Congress with the aid of Sumter County folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt; and on to the present day.

Alabama’s blues tradition is centered in the state’s Black Belt region, which was the heart of the antebellum cotton-growing industry – fueled by the labor of enslaved Blacks. According to a description provided by APT, the music “is more rural than the well-known Mississippi Delta blues and, in some sense, closer to the original source.”

The film deploys slave narratives, archival blues recordings and the recorded music of contemporary Black blues artists to explore the role the music has played in the region from slavery until current times.

Among the musicians heard in the film are Vera Hall, Dock Reed, Willie King and “Birmingham” George Conner, who was born and raised in the Black Belt. Other featured musicians include Jock Webb, B.J. Reed, Michael Carpenter, Little Lee and the Midnight Band, B.J. Miller, teenage blues phenomenon Nigel Speights, and Alabama Blues Hall of Famers Clarence “Bluesman” Davis, Sam Frazier and Earl “Guitar” Williams.

The film includes archival recordings, and live performances filmed at Black Belt juke joints in Boligee, Panola and Union, and at the famed Red Wolf Lounge in Birmingham. The film also pays a visit to Gip’s Place, the juke joint founded in Bessemer by the late Black Belt native Henry “Gip” Gipson.

Among those discussing the state’s blues culture in the film are Tina Naremore Jones, founding director of the Center for the Study of the Black Belt at the University of West Alabama; folklorist Kern Jackson, head of African American studies at the University of South Alabama; and singer B.J. Reed of the Alabama Blues Project. Others talking about the blues in the documentary are Jock Webb, Clarence Davis, Little Lee, B.J. Miller, Roger Stephenson of the Magic City Blues Society and the late Willie King.

The documentary includes archival film of Black Belt Alabama from the 1920s into the early 2000s and a collection of photos taken in Alabama’s Black Belt in the 1950s by writer, historian and jazz expert Fred Ramsey. Some of the photos appeared in Ramsey’s book, “Been Here and Gone,” but have never appeared in a film until now.

Clem, the film’s producer and director, is a Birmingham native and graduate of Birmingham-Southern College and New York University film school. He also has been a fellow at the Sundance Institute. His other Alabama-inspired documentaries include the 1997 Big Jim Folsom: The Two Faces of Populism; John Patterson: In the Wake of the Assassins (2007); The Jefferson County Sound (2012); and The Two Worlds of William March (2017), all of which have been broadcast on APT. Clem’s most recent film, How They Got Over, documents the history of African American gospel quartet music, starting with the Alabama Blind Boys and other native Alabamians who achieved quartet fame.

Funding for Alabama Black Belt Blues comes from the Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Chapman Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Paul & Alma Fischer Education Endowment and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama’s Bishop State awarded $1.3 million grant

Bishop State Community College is the recipient of the highly competitive $1.3 million TRiO Student Support Services Grant. (contributed)

The U.S. Department of Education announced Bishop State Community College is the recipient of a highly competitive $1.3 million TRiO Student Support Services grant. Student Support Services (SSS) is one of eight federal TRiO programs authorized by the Higher Education Act to help college students succeed.

The grant is designed to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds with opportunities for academic development and assistance with basic academic requirements.


SSS helps students who have limited income and are first-generation or have disabilities. The grant will provide an array of comprehensive services, including academic advising, financial aid advising, career and college mentoring, and assistance with academic tutoring. These services enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate with the lowest possible debt.

“We are delighted to receive this highly competitive grant,” Bishop State President Reggie Sykes said. “The services provided by this multiyear Student Support Services grant will provide vital resources to support our student retention and graduation initiative, but most importantly these new resources will help our students succeed.”

The TRiO grant is effective for the 2021 fiscal year.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

1 month ago

Airbus delivers first A220 made in Alabama to Delta Air Lines


Airbus has delivered its first U.S.-assembled A220 aircraft from Mobile to Delta Air Lines to add to its fleet.

“The delivery of the first U.S.-built A220-300 is a historic moment that highlights Airbus’ growing industrial footprint in North America and makes us all extremely proud,” said C. Jeffrey Knittel, chairman and CEO Airbus Americas Inc. “We look forward to seeing passengers delighted by the experience of traveling on board this brand new A220-300 proudly built in Mobile, Alabama.”


Airbus broke ground on the Mobile A220 Final Assembly Line in January 2019 and began A220 production in August 2019. The inaugural flight of this aircraft took place in June.

“Handing over the first U.S-assembled aircraft to a U.S.-based customer is a real point of pride for the A220 program,” said Philippe Balducchi, leading the A220 program. “This delivery is the first of many to come and shows the strong collaborative spirit between the A220 Program teams globally.”

Delta Air Lines is the largest A220 customer, with a total of 95 A220 aircraft on order, and will be the first A220 operator in the Americas to be operating both A220-100 and A220-300 aircraft types.

The A220 is the quietest, cleanest and most eco-friendly aircraft in its category with a 50% reduced noise and 25% lower fuel burn per seat.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

The World Games 2022 adds three to board of directors

(The World Games/Contributed)

The World Games 2022 announced three additions to its board of directors – Birmingham executives Pamela Cook, Mark Ingram and Tad Snider.

“All three of these individuals represent excellent additions to our board of directors,” said Jonathan Porter, chairman of the board for the World Games 2022. “Each of them brings a valuable perspective, unique experience and outstanding reputation to our team, so we’re excited to be working with them.”

Cook, Ingram and Snider join the existing 15-person board, whose members meet quarterly and participate on planning subcommittees, providing leadership and vision to the Birmingham Organizing Committee in the planning and execution of the World Games 2022.


Cook, the director of multicultural marketing and community affairs for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, was hired at Coca-Cola in 2015 as media and promotions manager, coordinating advertising to support pillar programs in the community. She oversaw the execution of market promotions that supported sponsored events for Coca-Cola, including the Magic City Classic. She was eventually promoted, becoming Coca-Cola’s first Black female director of multicultural marketing and community affairs.

Outside of work, Cook serves in leadership or board positions with a number of organizations, including the Alabama Beverage Association; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Red Mountain Theatre Company; Lifeskills Foundation; Lawson State Community College Barbering and Cosmetology Board; Workshops Inc.; Coca-Cola HBCU Pay It Forward Internship Program; Omicron Omega Chapter; Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; YWCA Central Alabama; and the Black Women’s Health Imperative Marketing advisory board.

“I’m thrilled to represent Coca-Cola Bottling Company United as we prepare for the gathering of world-class athletes in Birmingham for the World Games,” Cook said. “I’m looking forward to serving alongside the entire team, and I’m ready to get started.”

Ingram is in his sixth year as athletic director at UAB. During his tenure overseeing Blazers athletics, the department has raised more than $100 million in cash and pledges, completed the design and construction of a $22.5 million football practice facility and helped obtain approval for Protective Stadium, the future home of UAB football.

Prior to arriving in Birmingham, Ingram was associate vice president/executive senior associate athletics director at Temple, senior associate athletic director at the University of Tennessee, and assistant athletics director for development at the University of Georgia and the University of Missouri.

“I am so grateful to have been asked to join the World Games board of directors,” said Ingram. “This is a historic, once-in-a-lifetime event for our city, and being a part of something that exemplifies the pinnacle of sport is a great honor for me personally.”

Snider, a Birmingham native, joins the board while serving as the executive director and CEO of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), a role he took on in 2010 after more than 15 years with the BJCC.

During his tenure as CEO, the BJCC has been operated as one of the most diverse convention, meeting, performing arts, entertainment, office and retail center operations in the country.

“I’m tremendously excited to be joining the World Games board of directors,” Snider said. “The BJCC has been involved in the planning and preparation for the World Games for some time now, and with our venues set to be involved in a number of events and activities, we look forward to playing our role in helping the World Games be a positive statement about our great city on a world stage. The opportunity to feature all that is great about Birmingham to the world is a truly special opportunity to be a part of.”

All three of the new board members were unanimously approved by the current board of directors and will participate in the meeting of the World Games board of directors on Oct. 14.

“We are excited and grateful to add this impressive trio to the World Games family,” said CEO Nick Sellers. “They have each made a sizable impact on Birmingham and have a passion for this community that they are eager to share with the world.”

The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place July 7-17 and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

JumpStartAL energizes Enterprise schools students to explore futures in STEM

(JumpStartAL/Contributed, YHN)

Enterprise City Schools (ECS) students are better positioned than ever for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) thanks to the school system’s partnership with JumpStartAL.

The private-public partnership helps carry out Alabama’s strategy for the future of workforce development by using leading-edge virtual reality (VR) training solutions from Transfrvr, an education technology company focused on preparing people for jobs that will set them on a pathway to better lives.

ECS has begun incorporating workplace simulation and live work opportunities to students as young as third grade, offering unique opportunities all the way through high school.


“The incorporation of career exploration through virtual reality software will provide our elementary school students the opportunity to explore careers that they would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience until the middle or high school level,” said Joylee Cain, special education director for Enterprise City Schools. “Through concept-based curriculum units, our students are engaged in STEM through collaborative activities that require effective communication, problem solving and resilience.”

For students entering middle school, research has shown children can benefit most from career exploration, learning about potential careers and developing a plan for reaching goals. Using VR software, students are able to engage in high-interest, career-based activities using real-life scenarios, allowing them to explore areas of interest while developing substantive skill sets.

“These experiences help students, parents and educators to make more informed decisions regarding the selection of electives at the high school level and possible acceleration in dual enrollment courses at the community college level in career and technological education,” Cain said.

ECS plans to use Transfrvr software to incorporate career exploration modules for students with disabilities in grades nine through 12.

“Our primary focus with the software is to engage our students with disabilities in the educational setting in a way that incorporates real-world activities and applications to identify their potential areas of strength and career interest,” Cain said. “Once identified, we will develop an individualized VR training plan coupled with real-world, career experiences.”

Cain said having the opportunity to practice a skill with virtual coaching and then with guided support in the classroom will afford students a more robust  experience that fosters success as they enter the workforce. “What an exciting opportunity to have the potential to change a student’s trajectory in life,” Cain said.

The JumpStartAL initiative offers new education and training programs in several Alabama school and university systems to develop the next generation of skilled workers.

The statewide network of partners for JumpStartAL includes the Alabama Community College SystemReady to Work, which is operated by Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT); the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education; the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development; the Business Education Alliance; Transfrvr; Shelby County economic development organization 58 INCCentral Six Alabama Works; and the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Alabama PowerAltec and Kamtek are among the private sector leaders of JumpStartAL. The statewide business community is supporting the initiative through job placement strategies and financial efforts. 

Companies interested in joining the partnership can visit For more information on training locations and how to sign up, go to

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama Power to present World Games 2022 opening ceremonies at new Protective Stadium

(World Games 2022/Contributed)

The new $180 million Protective Stadium will host the World Games 2022 Opening Ceremony Presented by Alabama Power and cap off the international sporting event with the closing ceremony.

The World Games 2022 officially kicks off on July 7, 2022. Today, officials from the Birmingham Organizing Committee, city of BirminghamBirmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) and Protective Life Corporation announced that Protective Stadium will be the host venue for the opening ceremony and closing ceremony.

“Being able to open and close the Games in this beautiful new stadium adds yet another layer of excitement and anticipation,” said World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers. “We’ll be putting Birmingham on a global stage, and people across the world are going to be impressed with this venue.”


New Birmingham stadium to host opening, closing ceremonies for the World Games 2022 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Protective Stadium is scheduled to be completed in 2021 with a seating capacity of 47,100 and will be the permanent home of the UAB Blazers football team. In addition to Protective’s role as the naming rights sponsor of the stadium, the Birmingham-based insurance company is a foundation partner of the World Games 2022, sponsoring the Athlete of the Day, Athlete of the Month, Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Games programs.

“During this significant moment in our city’s history, the eyes of the world will be on Birmingham,” said Rich Bielen, president and CEO of Protective. “The World Games 2022 will showcase Birmingham as the dynamic city we know and love, and I’m proud that Protective Stadium will play such an important role in welcoming athletes, fans and visitors from across the globe.”

Protective Stadium is part of the BJCC complex designed to be an epicenter of future events in the city.

“Events like the World Games opening and closing ceremonies are exactly what we had in mind when designing Protective Stadium to be a versatile, multiuse facility,” said Tad Snider, executive director and CEO of the BJCC Authority. “We’re excited to work with the World Games and the city of Birmingham to host elite international athletes and fans in Birmingham’s new, next-generation stadium.”

As the official introduction to the World Games 2022 and the city of Birmingham, the Opening Ceremony Presented by Alabama Power will feature live entertainment and special effects. The program will include remarks from key dignitaries and the official Parade of Athletes, representing more than 100 countries. Produced by Birmingham-based LRY Media Group, the opening ceremony will celebrate Birmingham’s past, present and future.

“The opening ceremony will invite attendees to travel along as we unlock the magic of the Magic City – a city known for its revolution, activism and innovation,” said Rashada LeRoy, CEO of LRY Media Group. “Our concept, seen through the lens of four girls, will show Birmingham being transformed into a  world-class city; a city that used its past to fuel a desire to be the best, a champion city in Alabama that will welcome elite athletes from all over the world.”

The closing ceremony will be the grand finale of the World Games 2022. A celebration of the 10 days of competition of the Games, it will feature live entertainment and an opportunity for athletes, fans and volunteers to bid farewell to Birmingham. It will include the ceremonial passing of the World Games flag to representatives from Chengdu, China, the next host city.

“Each day, I become more excited about the momentum surrounding the World Games 2022,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “The decisions being made now will lead to a world-class, unforgettable experience for both our international guests and the people of Birmingham. This event will provide a chance to bring each of us closer together – to understand collectively where we have come from and where we are going. Let the world know, Birmingham is ready to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

“We are looking forward to welcoming the world to Birmingham at one of our city’s newest venues,” said Birmingham City Council President William Parker. “There is no better opportunity to showcase all of the incredible venues that our city has to offer, than at the World Games 2022. Athletes and fans from all over the world will get to experience every part of our great city during those 11 days in July of 2022.”

The World Games 2022 Birmingham will be July 7-17, 2022, and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the host city.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama Power among those honored at NAACP State Conference

(Alabama NAACP State Convention/Contributed, YHN)

The 68th Annual Convention of the Alabama NAACP State Conference was held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2-3 with the theme “No Vote, No Justice.” While this year’s event was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the slate of speakers, topics discussed and those recognized created a ceremony to be remembered.

With the passing of civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis earlier this year, the importance of equality and justice, and honoring his legacy, was a foundational element of the convention. Over the two-day event, key focus areas for the state were discussed, including the importance of economic development, bridging the digital divide in rural Alabama, the importance of education during the pandemic and exercising the right to vote during this election year.


The convention concluded Saturday evening with the Freedom Awards program. Derrick Johnson, national president and CEO of the NAACP, delivered the keynote address.

During the Freedom Awards program, NAACP Alabama State Conference President Benard Simelton recognized key contributors to the state and the Alabama NAACP. State Rep. Prince Chestnut of Selma was recognized as the Legislator of the Year. Judge Karlos Finley was honored as Attorney of the Year along with The Yellow Store as Minority Business of the Year and Vivian’s Door as Partner of the Year.

“We are happy and elated to recognize community leaders and NAACP members for their significant contributions, particularly during the pandemic,” said Simelton. “Now more than ever, it is important to be civically engaged, and encourage those around you to vote and make your voice heard.”

The Corporate Advocacy Award was given to Alabama Power in recognition of the company’s work with the NAACP in providing critical resources and information to people affected by COVID-19 during the more than six-month suspension of disconnections and late payments.

“I am moved that the state’s most prominent civil rights organization honored Alabama Power, and our employees, for the work we are doing in the community,” said Quentin Riggins, Alabama Power senior vice president for Government and Corporate Affairs. “The award and recognition is special and I am excited about our continued engagement with the NAACP to continue making a positive impact in the communities we serve.”

NAACP leaders recognized included: Joshua Thompson of the Youth and College Division; Leon Steele as executive committee member of the year; Lonzo Bullie and the Tuskegee Macon County branch; and Jessie Qualls and the Veteran Affairs Committee. Dorothea Crosby received the Chapter President of the Year award for outstanding work in strengthening the Metro Birmingham Branch.

The awards ceremony continued with the induction of influential leaders into the new NAACP Hall of Honor, including:

  • Fred Gray Sr. – Influential civil rights attorney and activist who successfully fought to allow the NAACP into Alabama after the state had outlawed it. Gray also successfully defended the rights of Vivian Malone and James Hood to attend the University of Alabama.
  • Della M. Bryant – Longtime NAACP member recognized for her contributions to the city of Montgomery.
  • Mary Walker – Longtime NAACP member recognized for her contributions to the city of Mobile.
  • Frank Travis – Created Alabama NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) designed to encourage academic achievement and cultural participation for Black high school students on local and national levels.

The Hall of Honor names will be inscribed at Talladega College, which was the site of the first NAACP branch in Alabama.

To learn more about the NAACP, please visit

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

University of Alabama partners with Alabama Power, energy-focused accelerator

(Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator/Contributed)

A partnership with an organization that supports startups in energy technology will advance the University of Alabama’s educational and research mission.

In an agreement with the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator, UA students will have access to unique opportunities to engage with startups to broaden their own skill sets and help improve Alabama’s economy.

Students will be given the opportunity to intern with participating startups in the accelerator, learning how to build a company in the dynamic energy sector. The accelerator will provide hands-on learning around energy, technology, entrepreneurship and research for students and faculty. Pending COVID-19 conditions, there are plans for students to visit the accelerator and participate in networking events.


“This partnership with Alabama Power and Techstars demonstrates our efforts to provide innovative, entrepreneurial, research-oriented and student-centric opportunities,” said Dan Blakley, associate vice president for economic and business engagement. “This public-private partnership is a great example of our focus on statewide workforce development, job creation and technology transfer that create opportunities for our students to remain in state and succeed after graduation.”

With Alabama Power as the founding partner, the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator identifies and evaluates high-potential startups addressing industry problems with solutions to better serve customers and communities. The accelerator invests in early stage companies with a technology or business model relevant to the energy industry.

In addition to UA and Alabama Power, the Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is supported by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, the Alabama Department of CommerceAltec and PowerSouth. These supporters play a key role in the accelerator and share the common goal of growing the number of startup companies in Alabama.

The accelerator inaugural class of 10 startups was recently selected for the 2020 program, which launched an intensive 13-week endeavor Sept. 8. Companies from seven states make up the class, three of them already calling Birmingham home.

At UA, the accelerator’s companies will work with faculty, the UA Career CenterThe EDGE and EDGE Labs, and other relevant UA units to provide experiential entrepreneurship and learning opportunities for students. As part of the partnership, students will have the chance to participate in the accelerator’s Demo Day, scheduled for December.

The partnership will explore ways to engage faculty and students in six core technology emphasis areas: battery storage and charging; electric vehicles; cybersecurity; smart homes and businesses; renewable energy; and connectivity.

Techstars is the global platform for investment and innovation. Founded in 2006, the company began with three simple ideas – entrepreneurs create the future; collaboration drives innovation; and great ideas can come from anywhere. Today the mission is to make innovation accessible to everyone, everywhere. Techstars does this by connecting startups, investors, corporations and cities to create a more sustainable and inclusive world. Since 2006, Techstars has invested in more than 2,200 companies and today has a market cap of $29 billion. For more information, click on

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

BIO Alabama event to highlight economic development, cutting-edge research and capital access


BIO Alabama’s virtual conference, “Connecting the Alabama Bioscience Community,” taking place Oct. 5-9, features keynote speakers former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, Newmark Knight Frank Vice Chairman Bob Hess, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and BIO President and CEO Michelle McMurry-Heath.

“A global pandemic made science, specifically bioscience, an overnight media sensation and the #ALBioTech community has responded rapidly with jaw-dropping innovation,” said Sonia Robinson, BIO Alabama executive director. “Beyond COVID-19, our researchers, scientists and business leaders bring the same sense of urgency to solving the world’s most challenging health and environmental problems.”


Robinson said the conference is ideal for bioscience professionals at any professional level, as well as economic developers, investors, students, media and industry stakeholders and supporters. The conference will provide an opportunity to connect one-on-one and network with other attendees. Interested attendees can register online.

Throughout the conference, online attendees will hear from thought leaders who will discuss topics relevant to the Alabama bioscience community, McMurry-Heath said. The lineup of more than 60 speakers includes top corporate executives, elected officials and economic and health care experts from Alabama State UniversityAuburn University, the University of Alabama and UAB.

Sessions on the opening day include “Biopharma’s response to a pandemic” and “Made in Alabama: How Alabama’s manufacturers play a major role in the global supply chain.” For a complete agenda of each day, visit the BIO Alabama website. All sessions will be streamed via Zoom and payments will be accepted through PayPal.

BIO Alabama is the leading advocate for Alabama’s bioeconomy, Robinson said. The nonprofit professional membership group promotes the intellectual and innovative capital that make the state a premier place to invest, start and grow in bioscience. BIO Alabama is the state affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and represents five core sectors: drugs and pharmaceuticals; medical devices and equipment; research Institutes, universities and medical laboratories; biotechnology distribution; and agriculture and chemicals.

Among the scheduled speakers are Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of AlabamaCerFlux CEO Dr. Karim Budhwani; Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield; Inform Diagnostics COO Darryl Goss; Vitruvias Therapeutics President Roger Graben; Innovation Depot CEO Drew Honeycutt; Acclinate Genetics co-founder Tiffany Jordan; The Written Science CEO Rachel Lane; Category Design Advisors co-founder Kevin Maney; Innovation Portal Executive Director Michelle Parvinrouh; GeneCapture CEO Peggy Sammon; and Reveles Clinical Services President and CEO R’Kes Starling.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama communities turn focus to long-term recovery following Hurricane Sally

(Alabama Power Service Organizations/Contributed)

As the focus turns from post-storm response to long-term recovery, government agencies, individuals, corporations and nonprofits are coming together to help the victims of Hurricane Sally.

On Sunday President Donald Trump granted a Major Disaster Declaration for the state of Alabama, triggering the release of federal funds to help people and communities recover from the hurricane. Individuals in Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties, as well as the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, can register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance by going online to, calling 1-800-621-3362 or by downloading the FEMA app.


The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest disaster loans for both businesses and residents in the affected areas. “The SBA is strongly committed to providing Alabama residents with the most effective response possible to assist businesses, homeowners and renters …,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority.”

The SBA has opened a virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center/Business Recovery Center to help survivors apply, either online via a secure website at or by calling 800-659-2955. Representatives are available by phone daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. CDT.

Volunteers with the Alabama Power Service organization (APSO) have already mobilized to collect essential items for victims of the hurricane, including non-perishable food, household cleaning items and toiletries as part of APSO’s Good Samaritan Project. The initiative first launched in 2017 to help victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The Mobile-area APSO chapter also donated meals and other supplies to local nonprofits. APSO members are comprised of Alabama Power employees and Alabama-based employees of Southern Nuclear, Southern Linc and Southern Company Services employees, along with their families.


Posted by Alabama Power Service Organization/Mobile Chapter on Sunday, September 20, 2020

Also gathering supplies for Sally victims is the City of Birmingham. People can drop off supplies at Boutwell Auditorium downtown through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Among the needed supplies are bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper, flashlights and batteries, canned goods, diapers and baby wipes and baby food. A more extensive list of items can be found here. The nonprofit organization Christian Service Mission is transporting the collected items to south Alabama.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office has created a special Hurricane Sally relief fund at where people can donate online. Donations can also be made via mail to: Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund, P.O. Box 1523, Montgomery, AL, 36102.

The United Way of Southwest Alabama also has a relief fund, and is offering a variety of services to Sally victims through its partner agencies. For more information or to donate, visit The American Red Cross also is collecting financial donations for Sally victims but also for victims of Hurricane Laura, which devastated portions of the Louisiana coast earlier this month.

Trista, Jill, Michi, and Leslie are working at the Baldwin County Volunteer Registration Center in Robertsdale. Volunteers can come in and register to volunteer between 9AM and 2PM.
#LIVEUNITED #HurricaneSally

Posted by United Way of Southwest Alabama on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Posted by Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Meanwhile, a number of corporations or their philanthropic arms have already made or pledged contributions to the governor’s fund or to local nonprofits working to help those recovering from Sally. They include AT&T and the Regions Foundation.

“As our teams are working alongside their neighbors along the gulf coast to restore their communities, we are proud to support our first responders and organizations that are dedicated to helping our friends and families as they get back on their feet …,” said Wayne Hutchens, president of AT&T Alabama.

“The Regions Foundation, Regions Bank and our community partners are committed to serving and supporting the Gulf Coast,” said John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp. “Our top priority here is to help people, businesses and communities recover and emerge stronger.”

Customers and communities impacted by Hurricane Sally–you may be eligible for special waivers, programs and assistance….

Posted by Regions Bank on Thursday, September 17, 2020

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Tuskegee ranks fourth among U.S. News & World Report’s top HBCUs

(Tuskegee University/Contributed)

U.S. News & World Report places Tuskegee University fourth among the nation’s best Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the magazine’s latest rankings.

According to the report for 2021, released Sept. 14, improved student retention and alumni giving helped move Tuskegee forward from eighth place in the 2020 ranking. It is the second time in a row that Tuskegee has been ranked among the top 10 HBCUs.

“We are thrilled that U.S. News & World Report has ranked Tuskegee among the nation’s top collegiate institutions,” said Tuskegee University President Lily D. McNair. “The new rankings reflect the university’s focus on student success and the enthusiastic support of our outstanding alumni.


“Since I arrived at Tuskegee, the motto ‘Excellence in Every Way’ is what drives the work we do every day,” McNair said.

To identify the nation’s best HBCUs, U.S. News measures the quality of undergraduate education programs and other relevant metrics. In addition to ranking fourth among HBCUs nationally, Tuskegee appeared on the magazine’s 2021 list of “Best Regional Universities-South,” advancing five places to the 20th spot. The university also tied for 20th place in the category, “Undergraduate Teaching – Regional Universities-South.”

Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Tuskegee University offers students 42 bachelor’s, 16 master’s and six doctoral degree options. Several academic units and degree programs in specialized fields or disciplines are also accredited by their respective accrediting bodies.

“Moving from 15th to fourth in a matter of two or three years is quite an achievement,” said Tuskegee University Board Chair Norma B. Clayton. “It affirms the improvements the university has made over the last few years in using data and other tools to improve the outcomes that matter most.”

Along with Tuskegee, many other Alabama colleges and universities are featured on U.S. News’ 2021 lists of best colleges. Here are the best colleges in Alabama and their rank in the report’s various categories.

National Universities

National Liberal Arts Colleges

Regional Colleges-South


For more information on universities’ standings and U.S. News’ ranking methodologies, visit

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama opera ‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’ makes television premiere

(Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division/Contributed)

“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” an original opera by Alabama composer Joseph Landers based on the classic book of the same name by author James Agee, was received with acclaim at its October 2019 debut performance as part of the state’s bicentennial celebration.

On Sunday, Sept. 20 at 2 p.m., Alabama Public Television will broadcast and livestream the opera, performed by the University of Alabama Opera Theater in collaboration with the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra at the Moody Concert Hall.

“We can’t wait to share this production with everyone in Alabama,” said Phil Hutcheson, APT interim executive director. “It’s an amazing story about Alabama, created here in Alabama, and featuring beautiful performances.”


“Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” features the stories of impoverished tenant farmers struggling to survive in Depression-era Alabama, yet it is also a story of hope. The characters face loss and tragedy, but they are not defeated.

In 1936, Agee and photographer Walker Evans chronicled the stories of rural families during the Depression. The notes and photographs became their book, published in 1941. The three families at the center of the book lived in Moundville, Tuscaloosa and Greensboro, but Agee gave pseudonyms to the people and the places.

Landers said he created the opera to celebrate the strength of these common working people and their families through cycles of success and hardship, never losing their dignity.

“We especially want to thank the Alabama Bicentennial Commission for helping to make it possible, and the Agee estate for permitting this broadcast,” Hutcheson said.

Only one broadcast of the opera is scheduled. It will also be livestreamed at

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

BIO Alabama announces all-star panel for virtual annual conference

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

BIO Alabama announced a panel of executive leaders from the state’s biopharma and medical device and equipment manufacturers will join for a discussion at the organization’s virtual annual conference Oct. 5-9.

“Made in Alabama: How Alabama’s manufacturers play a major role in the global supply chain” is a panel discussion that will be on Monday, Oct. 5 at 1:45 p.m.

Alabama’s biopharma and medical device and equipment manufacturers are making headlines with growth and expansion in the wake of the pandemic. Conference viewers will hear from executive leaders who are putting Alabama on the map as an ideal destination for manufacturing facilities.

The panel discussion will include:


  • Arthur Tipton, panel moderator, is a principal for Vulcan Gray, a consulting company advising startups primarily in the biotech sector. Previously, he was president and CEO of Southern Research (2013-2019). He worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries for 25 years, participating in the growth aspects of three startup companies, one that went public and two acquired by public companies. Tipton is an inventor on 43 issued U.S. patents and was inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Controlled Release Society and the American Institute of Biological and Medical Engineers. He is a past chairman of BIO Alabama.
  • John R. Daly, site manager with Evonik Birmingham, has 25 years of experience in leadership and technical expert roles in all aspects of pharmaceutical manufacturing. Evonik’s Birmingham laboratories focus on bioresorbable polymer supply for pharmaceuticals and medical devices and on injectable drug delivery services and manufacturing for other pharmaceutical companies. Earlier this year, Evonik announced the expansion of its advanced biomaterials facility in Birmingham that will support global demand for the use of its Resomer-brand polymers with implantable medical devices and parenteral drug products.
  • Lawrence Ganti, president and chief business officer at SiO2 Materials Science, looks after the day-to-day operations of SiO2. He brings more than 25 years of building commercial organizations, leading billion-dollar P&Ls, creating award-winning marketing campaigns, and driving growth initiatives in the pharmaceutical, consumer products and data analytics space. Ganti has worked for Pepsi, J&J, McKinsey and Merck across five continents. He has lived in Europe, South Asia, North Asia, North America and South America. In June, SiO2 Materials Science received a $143 million contract from the U.S. government to accelerate capacity scale-up of packaging for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
  • Roger Graben is a founding member and president of Vitruvias Therapeutics and a past member of the founding board of directors. His responsibilities include oversight and leadership of product development and management, manufacturing/supply chain, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance and quality assurance. Vitruvias, an Auburn-based pharmaceutical company, focuses on bringing to market generic drugs. It has a proposed facility to be built in Alabama to produce critical medicines.
  • Timothy Tyson is chairman and CEO of TriRx Pharmaceutical Services and chairman at Icagen-T Inc. He is on the board of Tyme Technologies Inc. Tyson recently was chairman and CEO of Aptuit. His corporate career spans over 35 years in the pharmaceutical industry. His expertise in leadership and management is internationally recognized. TriRx recently announced the acquisition of MSD Animal Health manufacturing site in France including a long-term supply agreement.

Earlier this month, BIO Alabama announced its keynote speakers for the virtual conference.

Additional speakers, organizations and sponsors can be found on the conference website. Up-to-date information on the agenda and thought-leaders presenting can be found on the conference website. Event registration will open soon.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Birmingham chef and Muscle Shoals grill master do well in World Food Championships Final Table

(Michael Durr/World Food Championships)

The chef at Birmingham’s SAW’s Soul Kitchen and a winning barbecue competitor from Muscle Shoals finished fifth and eighth, respectively, at the World Food Championships Final Table: Indy event last month.

As the World Chef Champion in the World Food Championships Main Event, Matthew Statham won a spot in the Top 10 to compete at the Final Table. The chef and general manager of SAW’s Soul Kitchen proved he belonged there when, in the opening round, he and other competitors were asked to make a Pork and Parisian Gnocchi dish using Red Gold tomatoes and pork cuts sourced from the National Pork Board.


RELATED: Two Alabama cooks competing in World Food Championships finals

Working with his team, Dan Navarro Jr. and Dan Navarro III, Statham produced his “Jager Schnitzel with Parisienne Gnocchi Spaetzle, Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage,” which scored 95.25 out of 100, earning him third place and a chance to compete against the other Top 5 competitors in the second challenge.

As the World Burger Champion, Morgan Cheek of Muscle Shoals earned a spot in the Final Table’s Top 10. Working with his team, Casey and Judy Jones, the competitive barbecue cook turned in his “Reimagined Indiana Pork Sandwich” in the first round, which scored a 90.75 out of 100 forcing Cheek out of the competition with an eighth place finish. Cheek won an additional $750 on top of his $10,000 he won as the World Burger Champion.

In the Final Table’s second challenge, the remaining five competitors had to recreate a delicate duck dish designed by Chef Greg Hardesty and using Maple Leaf Farms’ product. Statham and his team cut their plating close on the time limit before presenting their dish to the panel.

The score of 80 put Statham in fifth place and knocked him out of the tournament, sending him home with an additional $1,500 in prize money, on top of his $10,000 category win at the Main Event.

Only three cooks moved on to the final round to make an Indiana Famous Sugar Cream Pie. The finish is embargoed until it is revealed on the Cooking Channel Oct. 3.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Teach For America has been supporting educational achievement in Alabama for a decade

(Teach for America - AL/Contributed)

Five numbers, the ZIP code where you were born, provide the strongest predictor of future success, including educational attainment and economic outcomes. Damon Bailey, executive director of Teach For America – Alabama (TFA-AL), hopes to change that.

“We want a high-quality education to be the norm for all students,” Bailey said. “So that each child can become economically mobile, happy and live the lives they’ve dreamed of for themselves.”

In a state with a poverty level of 16.8%, 12% of people under 65 years of age without health insurance, and about 25% of households without broadband internet access, creating change and opportunity in some of the highest-needs schools can seem impossible.


According to Teach For America (TFA), in the U.S., only one in two students living in poverty will graduate from high school, and those who do will leave high school at an eighth grade skill level and only 8% will graduate from college by the age of 24.

“We know right now that the problem in America is that all children do not have the privilege of getting an excellent education,” Bailey said. “We’re not preparing all of our children to be learners in a 21st century world.”

10th anniversary

In 2010, community members from the Black Belt believed that the TFA program could increase the educational opportunity for students in their districts and invited the organization into the state.

According to Bailey, that’s the first step.

“If the community thinks we can be a partner that adds value to what they’re trying to accomplish with the children, we’ll engage in the conversation to understand the challenges and partner to serve students and schools with the greatest need,” Bailey said.

Need is defined loosely by the percent of students who are economically disadvantaged, receiving free and reduced lunch, and student performance scores.

“We’ve observed correlation between high poverty systems and student achievement,” Bailey said. “If you have an economically disinvested community usually not too far along the line, you’ll see disinvestment in the education system as well.”

Teach For America, an AmeriCorps designated nonprofit, believes that teaching is an act of leadership. Therefore, the program identifies graduates from a diverse list of universities around the country that have a strong commitment to learning, an appreciation for the potential of all children, and a desire to create meaningful change in the education system, to strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.

“We think that the very best teachers exhibit behaviors and make decisions that are consistent with any high performing leader in any other context,” Bailey said. “They have to build trust with different groups of people, use data to inform the decisions they make, set bold goals in partnership with others, and invest and organize others in working toward accomplishing those.”

Corps members are asked to make a lifelong commitment to expanding opportunity, beginning with two years of teaching in some of the highest-need schools. According to TFA, during this time, members will gain firsthand experience of the assets and challenges in their communities, as well as the institutional barriers that limit access to opportunity – developing the skills and a mindset to effect change as a lifelong “systems-change leader.” Informed and inspired by their students, many corps members continue teaching, while others pursue leadership roles in schools and school systems or launch careers in fields that shape educational access and opportunity.

“The key distinction with TFA, is that while you’re learning the leadership philosophy, multi-adaptive and technical skills teachers need, you’re assigned a coach that is making sure you’re codifying all of that learning and putting it into practice over the two years,” Bailey said.

Since 2010, over 500 active and alumni members have contributed to meaningful work in Alabama, reaching over 80,000 students. There are over 150 teachers currently working in Alabama classrooms today.

“As we go into our 10th year, it is impressive that we have current corps members who were previously taught by Alabama corps members when they were students,” Bailey said. “They’re all brilliant and very talented and deeply committed towards devoting the next two years to creating the same opportunities and delivering the same kind of educational experience that has so deeply shaped their own lives.”

Leading Alabama

Bailey is an example of the mission in action.

“I stumbled across Teach For America at Hampton University,” Bailey said. “I never had an interest in teaching.” Bailey had been on track to be a cardiac surgeon, his lifelong dream, when he sat in on an informational session for TFA his senior year.

“The recruiter used terms and language that gave voice to experiences I had as a child,” Bailey said. “There were distinct differences between the education I received and the experiences I was having, compared to cousins, teammates and friends from church, but we only lived 5-10 minutes away.”

According to Bailey, that informational session gave him the language to understand the policies and practices that structured the inequality he witnessed and experienced.

“She was talking about the population of people who don’t get the access to quality education – people who look just like me,” Bailey continued.

Since Hampton University is a private, historically black university, the session attendees were all black college students.

“A significant minority of people in our community make it to that level,” Bailey said. “We have to be the people on the front line creating a different reality for people that right now, just because of where they were born, will never get the opportunity to sit in the seat we’re sitting in.”

Determined to make a difference, Bailey joined the Metro Atlanta TFA corps in 2009. He advanced within the organization, teaching for three years, serving as a corps coach to new teachers for two years, and then managing the middle school and high school student achievement strategy for two years.

In August 2019, Bailey was named executive director for Alabama’s TFA program.

In the years since his teaching experience, Bailey had been in touch with former students who are now part of the TFA program.

“It’s surreal. … You’re making an impact and planting a seed for that child and creating a base of people who are committed to justice and equity for their life,” Bailey said.

A future for the state

“While there has been a lot of progress in education in Alabama, there are still measurable differences in outcomes drawn along very clear lines,” Bailey said. “Those who have opportunity and access to credible education, and those who don’t.”

“We have to make sure equity is at the center of how we evaluate progress,” Bailey continued. “It has to be the driver for all the decisions we make and how we evaluate success. We should adequately resource and support people in communities based on the challenges specific to each community”

For the 2020-2021 session, TFA-AL has active partnerships with the Birmingham City Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools, Perry County Public Schools, Hale County, and Selma City Schools, supported by grants, state and federal funding, as well as corporate nonprofit contributions.

The Alabama Power Foundation has provided grant support for Teach For America since the program’s inception.

“By immersing themselves in the communities in which they serve, Teach for America teachers are solving the problems of inequities in education that exist even beyond the classroom,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “It is inspiring to witness this transformative work and the measurable outcomes they have created by providing access to quality education for students in Alabama.”

Bailey said much progress has been made in the past 10 years.

“In the previous school year, one in five students in Birmingham City Schools were taught by TFA-AL teachers. On average, our secondary students increased their ACT scores by 2.39 points, and our elementary students saw gains of 1.2 years of reading growth in a single year,” he said.

Over the next decade, Bailey hopes to see twice as many kids achieve key educational milestones, while developing a path toward economic mobility. “Twice may not be as much as we can accomplish. … That’s just the baseline.”

To help accomplish this goal, Bailey has devised a local strategy to augment the national program, which includes actively recruiting high-quality leaders from historically black colleges and universities that do not receive national support, developing an effective digital coaching and mentoring program for teachers during the COVID pandemic, reaching out to veteran teachers who have roots in Alabama and encouraging them to return, and partnering deeply to align strategies with those of the district and school sites where TFA-AL works.

“We want to bring as many people as possible into this work,” Bailey said. “To build a diverse coalition of people who believe education inequality is solvable and they’re willing to bring their own friends in, mobilize around policy, and hold our state, our system and everyone in the work of education accountable for delivering an education our students deserve.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

BIO Alabama announces keynote speakers for virtual annual conference

(BIO Alabama/Contributed)

BIO Alabama announced the keynote speakers and lineup for the organization’s virtual annual conference Oct. 5-9.

The leading advocate for Alabama’s bioeconomy said despite challenges presented by COVID-19, a virtual conference is still able to inspire, educate and connect the state’s researchers, scientists, startups, manufacturers, investors, students, economic developers and bioscience companies of all sizes.

Speakers for BIO Alabama’s virtual conference include:


  • Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, the new president and CEO of BIO-Biotechnology Innovation Organization, the world’s largest biotechnology advocacy group. She is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote address on Monday, Oct. 5 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Bob Hess, vice chairman of Global Corporate Services at Newmark Knight Frank, where he focuses on corporate location strategy and site selection. He is scheduled to speak Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 10 a.m. with a focus on bioscience economic development.
  • Dr. Regina Benjamin was U.S. Surgeon General from 2009 to 2013. She was the first African American woman on the board of the American Medical Association and the recipient of the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. She is a leader in preventative medicine, fighting health disparities and developing innovative community health strategies and systems for low-income and rural communities, most recently in Bayou La Batre. She is scheduled to speak Thursday, Oct. 8 at 12:45 p.m. delivering the closing keynote address.

Additional speakers, organizations and sponsors will be announced during the next several weeks. Up-to-date information on the agenda and presenters is on the conference website. Event registration will open soon.

During the conference, BIO Alabama plans to amplify the innovative work of its members, partners and the broader Alabama bioscience community. Throughout the conference, attendees will hear from industry thought leaders who will discuss topics including responses to COVID-19, diversity, equity and inclusion, biopharmaceutical manufacturing, precision and genomics medicine, bioagriculture, nanotechnology, funding and economic development.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Central Alabama Generating Station joins Alabama Power fleet

(Billy Brown/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power has completed the purchase of the Central Alabama Generating Station in Autauga County – a historic move that will support the long-term energy needs of Alabama Power customers.

The 885-megawatt, natural gas combined-cycle generating facility can produce enough power to serve more than 220,000 homes. The facility, in Billingsley, was formerly owned by Tenaska Alabama II Partners L.P., of which Omaha, Nebraska-based Tenaska was the managing partner and operator. Nineteen Tenaska employees will join Alabama Power as the company takes over operations.


Alabama Power completes purchase of Central Alabama Generating Station from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The purchase of the plant by Alabama Power was unanimously approved by the Alabama Public Service Commission.

“We’re excited to add Central Alabama to our diverse generating fleet, and we welcome the plant’s employees to the Alabama Power team,” said Jim Heilbron, Alabama Power senior vice president and senior production officer.

“Central Alabama will play an important role in meeting the future needs of our customers for resilient, reliable, affordable energy,” Heilbron said.

Because of prior, existing contracts, Central Alabama won’t begin to provide energy to Alabama Power customers until 2023. Proceeds from those contracts, however, will benefit Alabama Power customers.

It is the first time in Alabama Power’s 114-year history that the company has purchased a natural gas generating facility from a third party. The plant has been reliably serving its customers since 2003.