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.

6 days 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.”

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“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 aptv.org/watch

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks 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:

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  • 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)

2 weeks 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.

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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 weeks 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.

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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 weeks 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:

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  • 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 weeks 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.

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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.

1 month ago

Alabama Power crews back home after aiding other states

(Alabama NewsCenter,Contributed)

After spending much of August assisting power companies in New Jersey and Illinois following violent storms, more than 200 Alabama Power linemen and support personnel are back safely in Alabama.

The crews left on Aug. 5 for New Jersey after Tropical Storm Isaias left thousands without power. Alabama Power worked with Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) to restore power to more than 10,000 customers.

As they were wrapping up work in the Garden State, a powerful derecho storm swept through the Midwest, downing poles and power lines in multiple states.

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RELATED: Helping out old friends

Alabama Power crews traveled west on Aug. 11 to near Chicago. There, they assisted Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) by replacing 58 poles, more than 300 spans of wire and 35 transformers to restore power to more than 5,000 customers.

Just like in New Jersey, residents in Illinois were appreciative of Alabama Power’s efforts and took to social media to offer thanks and praise a job well done.

“Just wanted to let you know that everyone here in Illinois is so grateful for you guys,” Shelby Ruettinger wrote to Alabama Power through Facebook Messenger. “All the crews have been so friendly and so efficient and have been a ray of sunlight during these frustrating times after the storm.”

Patricia Olszewski also wrote through Facebook Messenger.

“Hey, Alabama Power, thank you from Illinois! After 1 week without power due to the derecho storm they arrived and got job done,” Olszewski wrote. “Polite and efficient – they rocked! Kudos to your Kankakee, Illinois teams.”

Alabama Power’s help was coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, an association of utilities.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama Power urges customers to prepare for hurricanes

(Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power is urging customers to prepare for the possibility of severe tropical weather early next week as the company’s crews prepare to quickly and safely respond following the storm.

Forecasters are predicting the possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall next week somewhere in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Meteorologists at the Alabama Power-USA Coastal Weather Research Center at the University of South Alabama are providing frequent updates about the storm to Alabama Power and other businesses around the Southeast. Alabama Power spokesperson Dennis Washington said those updates are helping the company prepare its crews.

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“We work daily to maintain reliable service, but in the event of storm damage the information provided by the Coastal Weather Research Center will help us respond just as quickly and as safely as possible,” Washington said.

Alabama Power is prepared for tropical weather from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Alabama Power has also implemented additional safety measures during this COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the continuity of services and the well-being of its employees and the public.

“Our proactive safety and health planning for COVID-19 has prepared us to effectively respond to severe weather and provide the reliable service our customers expect and trust us to deliver,” said Power Delivery General Manager Kristie Barton.

The company is asking the public to help maintain a safe social distance of 6 feet from crews and field representatives, allowing employees to safely continue to serve customers.

Preparing for a hurricane

The threats from hurricanes to you and your family can vary widely depending on where you live.

Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm.

Things to know about hurricanes from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Inland flooding

Hurricanes and tropical storms can cause flooding in every county of Alabama.

Tropical hurricanes often produce widespread, torrential rains in excess of 6 inches, which may result in deadly and destructive floods. Flash flooding, defined as a rapid rise in water levels, can occur due to intense rainfall. Longer-term flooding on rivers and streams can persist for several days after the storm.

Rainfall amounts are not directly related to the strength of tropical cyclones but rather to the speed and size of the storm, as well as the geography of the area. Slower moving and larger storms produce more rainfall. In addition, mountainous terrain enhances rainfall from a tropical hurricane.

Tornadoes and damaging wind

The wind from a hurricane can cause tornadoes and damaging wind gusts across all of Alabama.

Hurricane‐force winds, 74 mph or more, can destroy buildings and mobile homes. Debris such as signs, roofing material, siding and small items left outside become flying missiles during hurricanes. Winds can stay above hurricane strength well inland. In 2004, Hurricane Charley made landfall at Punta Gorda on the southwest Florida coast and produced major damage well inland across central Florida with gusts of more than 100 mph.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can produce tornadoes. These tornadoes most often occur in thunderstorms embedded in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane; however, they can occur near the eyewall. Usually, tornadoes produced by tropical cyclones are relatively weak and short-lived, but they still pose a significant threat.

Tropical storm winds, 39 mph or more, are strong enough to be dangerous to those caught in them. For this reason, emergency managers recommend completing evacuations before the onset of tropical storm-force winds, not hurricane-force winds.

What you need in a hurricane emergency kit

Just having enough supplies to make it through a hurricane isn’t enough. You need plenty to make it through what could be a long recovery period, too. Storm damage could block your access to supplies for days. That’s why you and your family need enough supplies to last a minimum of three days.

Here is what your storm-ready kit should include:

  • Nonperishable food.
  • Water (1 gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation).
  • Medications.
  • Extra cash.
  • Battery-powered radio.
  • NOAA weather radio with tone alert.
  • Flashlights.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Portable crank-powered or solar-powered USB charger for cellphone.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Whistle (to signal for help).
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air).
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place).
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation).
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities).
  • Manual can opener (for food).
  • Local maps.

Store items in airtight plastic bags and put them in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as plastic bins or a duffel bag.

What every emergency supply kit should include from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Additional emergency supplies

Since spring 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people include additional items in kits to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, other viruses and the flu. Consider adding the following items to your emergency supply kit based on your individual needs:

  • Cloth face coverings (for everyone ages 2 and above).
  • Soap.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces.
  • Nonprescription medications, such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives.
  • Eyeglasses.
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream.
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet.
  • Important family documents, such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Emergency reference material, such as a first-aid book.
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket.
  • Complete change of clothing, including a long-sleeve shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper (dilute nine parts water to one part bleach to make disinfectant).
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Matches in a waterproof container.
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.
  • Paper cups, plates and plastic utensils.
  • Paper towels.
  • Paper and pencil.
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children.

 

How to prepare your home for a hurricane

There is a lot you can do around your home to help protect it from hurricane winds.

Just like an emergency supply kit is essential for surviving a storm, preventive maintenance and repairs to your home can give it the added strength it needs to withstand significant damage. The following suggestions should be completed well ahead of an approaching storm because supplies may become scarce when a storm approaches land.

Patio and yard inventory

If a high-wind event comes your way, you will need to bring in or anchor any items outside of your home that could become dangerous flying projectiles. To make sure you don’t miss anything at the last minute, create a checklist of all of the items you will need to take inside.

Landscaping

In a high-wind event, anything can become a dangerous flying object. Take a day to make your landscaping more hurricane-resistant. Activities include replacing landscaping rocks with mulch or trimming tree limbs hanging over your roof. Make sure to stay away from power lines.

Gutters

Along with strong winds, hurricanes bring heavy rains. Your gutters are there to direct rainfall away from your home and prevent flooding. This works only if your gutters are clear and in good shape. Clear out leaves or other debris and replace broken gutter pieces.

Soffits

Soffits are designed to keep water out of your house. Properly installed soffits should stay in place in most high-wind events, so apply suitable caulking and screws to make sure yours will stand up to a hurricane.

Enhancing roof sheathing attachment

You can improve your roof’s resistance to uplift by applying the right caulk. To reduce your risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration, do this when your attic is at its coolest, such as early morning hours.

Measure for temporary emergency plywood shutters

If a hurricane is headed your way and you do not have preinstalled hurricane shutters, you are going to want to board up windows with plywood shutters. To make the process easier, measure all of the windows in your home that need protection. You will then want to get all of your plywood cut and labeled to make installation easier if a storm is closing in.

Strengthen Your Home from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Other suggestions

If you plan to ride out a hurricane in your home, make sure it is up to local hurricane building code specifications. Remember, the garage door is the most vulnerable part of the home, so it must be able to withstand high winds. You should also find a safe location for your vehicle.

For more detailed suggestions on how to improve the wind resistance of your home, click here to read the Wind Retrofit Guide for Residential Buildings from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Alabama Wildlife Federation recognizes conservationists at annual ceremony

(Alabama Wildlife Federation/Facebook)

The Alabama Wildlife Federation Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards ceremony was Friday, Aug. 7, representing the highest conservation honors in the state.

Honorees at this year’s ceremony included: Dr. Mike Drummond, Forest Conservationist of the Year; Carl Jamison, Land Conservationist of the Year; and The Alabama Rivers and Streams Network, Water Conservationist of the Year.

Over the past 45 years, the Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF) has presented these awards to individuals and organizations that make great contributions to the conservation of Alabama’s wildlife and related natural resources.

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Dr. Mike Drummond was recognized for his extraordinary commitment to forest management. White’s Bluff, his 1,700-acre property along the Alabama River in Dallas County, consists of riparian hardwoods, mixed pine-hardwoods, loblolly pine plantations and open pine-grasslands. Black Belt prairies and old field habitats are also interspersed throughout the property.

A variety of forest management techniques have been used to improve forest productivity and wildlife habitat at White’s Bluff, including:

  • Reclaiming loblolly pine stands from hardwood invasion.
  • Thinning and prescribed burning in loblolly pine plantations.
  • Prescribed burning in mixed pine-hardwoods.
  • Retaining riparian hardwoods along intermittent streams, creeks and the river.

In addition, Black Belt prairie restoration, old field habitat establishment and exotic species control are conducted to further improve wildlife habitat on the property and have all yielded significant results.

Jamison was presented the Land Conservationist of the Year Award for his exceptional commitment to restoration and management of one of Alabama’s unique landscapes.

As managing partner of Ridge Farms, a 2,000-acre property in Greene County composed of hardwoods, mixed upland forests, loblolly pine plantations and Black Belt prairie, Jamison established a goal to manage the property for the benefit of people and wildlife. His first step was engaging natural resource professionals to develop a habitat management strategy for the forests and prairie.

In addition to active management of the forests on the property, that strategy included restoration of over 400 acres of Black Belt prairie. These sites were invaded by eastern red cedar and have now been reclaimed and are actively managed to support functional native prairie.

Jamison’s commitment to Black Belt prairie conservation goes beyond just the property he manages. He is a member of the Alabama/Mississippi Black Belt Prairie Restoration Initiative, where he provides a private landowner’s perspective for prairie conservation. In addition, he is advancing Black Belt prairie knowledge by allowing researchers from the University of Alabama to conduct prairie-related research on Ridge Farms.

The Alabama Rivers and Streams Network was recognized as Water Conservationist of the Year. Comprised of a diverse partnership of industries, agencies, nongovernmental organizations and landowners working together to protect water resources, the network began with four organizations in 2010 and now includes 50.

Network partners have identified 60 watersheds and river reaches across the state for habitat and water quality restoration, and the recovery of imperiled and listed aquatic species. Their early results are impressive:

  • Over 40 stream restoration projects.
  • Over 500 Biotic Integrity Surveys.
  • Over 5,000 stream/road crossing assessments.
  • 200,000 cultured freshwater mussels and snails released into native streams.
  • And due to studies conducted by network members, four aquatic species have been federally delisted, one downlisted, and three listed, and 13 aquatic species have avoided federal listing.

AWF’s Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards were created to promote leadership by example, and, in turn, increase conservation of the natural resources in the state, including its wildlife, forests, soils, water and air.

The program is designed to bring about a greater knowledge and awareness of conservation practices and projects and to give proper recognition to those persons and organizations that make outstanding contributions to the natural resource welfare of their community and state.

This year’s event was modified to incorporate COVID-19 safety precautions. Usually an indoor banquet with 400 attendees, this year’s event was held outdoors at the Matt Bowden Gathering Area at the Alabama Wildlife Federation’s NaturePlex facility in Millbrook, and the 90 attendees were encouraged to wear face coverings.

Gov. Kay Ivey provided a congratulatory video prepared specifically for the 2020 award recipients.

Presenting sponsors for the event were Alabama Power and PowerSouth Energy. The Westervelt Company, Hammer LGC Inc., and FirstGuard LLC sponsored the food and refreshments for the event. Alabama Gulf seafood was sponsored by the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission. Additional sponsor support was provided by the National Wildlife Federation, Southeast Region.

The Alabama Wildlife Federation, established by sportsmen in 1935, is the state’s oldest and largest citizens’ conservation organization. To learn more about AWF, including membership details, programs and projects, contact Alabama Wildlife Federation at 334-285-4550 or visit www.alabamawildlife.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Honda supplier expands Alabama plant

(Honda/Contributed)

Honda supplier Unipres Alabama is investing $6.3 million and will create 10 jobs with the latest expansion of its stamping plant in Steele in St. Clair County.

The St. Clair County Economic Development Council announced the project, which follows a $40 million expansion of the plant in 2018 that created 70 new jobs.

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Unipres Alabama is a direct supplier to Honda Manufacturing of Alabama in Lincoln and Honda’s East Liberty Plant in Ohio.

“We are always happy to support Unipres and their growth in our community,” Steele Mayor Roger Adams said. “Steele is proud to count Unipres as one of our great industrial companies. They are one of our largest employers and we congratulate them on their continued growth and success.”

St. Clair County Commission Chairman Paul Manning also acknowledged the expansion.

“On behalf of the St. Clair County Commission, I would like to congratulate Unipres on their continued growth in St. Clair County, and we wish them continued success,” he said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Census Day of Action for Alabama businesses set for Aug. 12

(Tony Webster/Flickr)

Wednesday, Aug. 12, will be Census Day of Action for Alabama businesses, it was jointly announced by The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) and Alabama Counts! – in partnership with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama (CCAA) and the National Federation of Independent Business, Alabama Chapter (NFIB).

Dubbed “Drop Everything, Get Counted Day,” business owners, CEOs and upper management are asked to provide opportunities for all employees to set aside time to participate in the census, if they have not already.

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“We are encouraging businesses around the state to give employees a break in the workday to fill out their census forms – whether online, by phone or by traditional paper form,” said Kenneth Boswell, Alabama Counts! chairman and ADECA director. “It should take each person roughly six minutes, but these six minutes are vital to Alabama’s future.”

If Alabama’s count falls shy of the 72% participation rate recorded in the 2010 census, the state would experience reduced representation in Congress, the loss of millions of dollars in census-derived community funding and reduced economic development opportunities. Currently, Alabama stands at a 60.6% response rate.

“The census is vital to the well-being of our state and its people,” said Katie Boyd Britt, president and CEO of BCA. “We are thrilled to participate in ‘Drop Everything and Get Counted Day’ of action, working to ensure Alabama’s workforce is counted and our state receives the full benefit of an accurate count.”

“Local chambers of commerce are a proud partner for the upcoming ‘Drop Everything, Get Counted’ business census day on Aug. 12,” said Jeremy Arthur, president and CEO of CCAA. “Alabama chambers represent over 60,000 businesses that collectively employee over 1 million working Alabamians every day. Just as those businesses are vital to our state’s economy, they are also essential partners to help us ensure a complete census count. Alabama’s business community will show just how important completing your census is by making sure every Alabama worker gets counted.”

In addition to allowing employees’ time to take their census, business owners are encouraged to be creative in their methods to promote “Drop Everything, Get Counted Day” and ensure they see a 100% staff participation rate.

“This can be a unique and engaging exercise for companies of all sizes, whether it is a competition between departments or a 30-minute census-only time slot designated for participation,” added Boswell. “No matter the method, we are calling on all leaders to do all they can to move Alabama forward and across the finish line.”

The last day to take part in the 2020 census is Sept. 30. Alabamians can participate in the 10-question census online at my2020Census.gov, by phone at 1-844-330-2020 or by traditional paper form. Any information given in the 2020 census is protected by strict federal law.

“Drop Everything, Get Counted Day” coincides with the week that U.S. Census Bureau workers will begin following up with Alabama households that have not yet self-responded to the 2020 census. The workers are equipped with personal protective gear and have been trained to maintain social distance and to adhere to state and local pandemic safety guidelines. Workers will begin visits the week of Aug. 11 and continue until Sept. 30. Alabamians who wish to avoid a visit are asked to self-participate in the 2020 census.

For more information and free digital items to promote the census and “Drop Everything, Get Counted Day,” visit www.alabama2020census.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Incoa Performance Minerals investing nearly $111M in new Alabama facility

(INCOA/Contributed, YHN)

Incoa Performance Minerals is investing $110.85 million in a new calcium carbonate facility in Theodore that will employ 74 workers over the next five years.

The company will sell to U.S. markets high-quality calcium carbonate, a product used as a filler in a variety of products from antacids to paint.

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With the backing of Partners for Growth investors, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce‘s economic development team reached out to Incoa representatives to bring the project to Mobile and connected them to the Millard Maritime.

“Mobile and the Gulf region continue to experience strong growth in logistics and transportation,” said Brad Hall, president of Millard Maritime. “Our partnership with Incoa is another important step in expanding that growth.”

Incoa is owned by a Salt Lake City, Utah-based private equity firm, Peterson Partners, and is a startup company. It will locate its processing operations at Millard Maritime, the owner and operator of a port facility on 300 acres in Theodore.

“The value proposition is its central location on the Gulf Coast with good rail, barge and relative distance from a major interstate,” said Tyson Creamer, Incoa’s chief operating officer. “We will provide performance-based minerals that go into the products we use every day – paper, plastic, paints, glass, film wrappers, etc.”

Shelby Glover Zaricor, director of business development at the Mobile chamber, said Incoa will be a valuable addition to the community.

“It’s great when we can connect an economic development project to an existing company with logistical assets in place like at Millard Martime. Millard’s infrastructure and involvement were key to securing Incoa,” she said. “Incoa will be making a high-demand product that is currently not being manufactured in our region.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

U.S. Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. C.T. Vivian to be honored with vigil in Birmingham

(Wikicommons, YHN)

A candlelight vigil will honor U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and the Rev. C.T. Vivian at 6 p.m. Monday, July 20, in Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. The city of Birmingham is hosting the event.

Vivian, a key lieutenant of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. who pushed for voting rights for Blacks in Selma, and Alabama native Lewis, one of the original Freedom Riders who was beaten by Alabama law officers on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, died within hours of each other Friday, July 17.

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Posted by City of Birmingham Government on Sunday, July 19, 2020

Masks are mandatory at the vigil and social distancing is required, according to the city of Birmingham’s Facebook page.

After the infamous beating of Freedom Riders at the Birmingham Trailways station in May 1963, Lewis led a group of Freedom Riders from Nashville to Birmingham with the goal of completing the rides – to Montgomery, through Mississippi and to New Orleans. Their bus made it to Birmingham safely, but it was surrounded by a white mob as they waited for a new driver.

Infamous police Commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor placed the riders in “protective custody” and jailed them. Just before midnight, Connor had the riders dragged from the jail into three unmarked station wagons. He told them he was taking them back to Nashville.

Taylor Branch in the first volume of his civil rights history, “Parting the Waters,” captured the odd ride north on U.S. 31 as Lewis sat behind Connor.

“His fears of police beatings, even a prearranged lynching, gradually receded as Katherine Burke, one of the more outspoken Freedom Riders, launched into a friendly conversation with her fearsome captor, offering to cook him breakfast and smother him with Christian kindness if he would accompany her back to Tennessee State in Nashville,” Branch wrote. “Connor responded with good-natured yarns about how much he would appreciate her cooking. As the miles rolled by, the two of them settled into a rather jolly conversation, much to the wonder of Lewis and others.”

The ride ended abruptly when Connor stopped the police caravan in Ardmore and left them and their luggage on the side of the road, about halfway between Birmingham and Nashville.

Lewis would go on to become the youngest speaker at the March on Washington, where King gave his “I have a dream” speech, and to lead marchers in Selma on an attempted voting rights march to Montgomery that troopers ended at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge with a wedge of Alabama state troopers descending on the crowd with nightsticks and tear gas. The images of the brutal assault shocked the nation and helped lead to the passage of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 and cemented Lewis’ status as a civil rights icon.

Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin will join several community partners in delivering comments at the candlelight vigil. Birmingham City Hall will be lit up in red, green, gold and black all week in honor of them. These colors are used during Black History Month and Juneteenth.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Bronze Valley and gener8tor bringing accelerator to Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

Nationally ranked startup accelerator gener8tor announced today a partnership with Bronze Valley to fuel the growth of business startups emerging from Birmingham, the state of Alabama and throughout the Southeast.

Through this partnership, gener8tor will launch the Bronze Valley Accelerator program – a free version of gener8tor’s accelerator program that provides individualized mentorship and coaching for up to 15 startups each year.

The Bronze Valley Accelerator is a free accelerator for early-stage technology startups with local roots. The program provides participants with intensive and individualized coaching and access to gener8tor’s national network of mentors, potential customers, corporate partners and investors. The program is designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea and establish metrics that make them competitive applicants for full-time accelerators or seed investment.

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The accelerator is supported by Alabama Power and the Alabama Department of Commerce, and thanks to this support will run up to three times per year, capped at five companies per cohort to ensure a high level of individualized attention.

Participants will be selected from the Southeast and the program will work with companies across all industries and business models. The program will be geared toward helping underrepresented founders – specifically, people of color and women – as well as students and affiliates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) accelerate their businesses.

“This is part of Bronze Valley’s commitment to continually enhancing the ecosystem for business growth,” said Bronze Valley Chairman John O. Hudson III. “As we work to create and maintain an entrepreneurial environment that is more nurturing, more supportive and more inclusive, the Bronze Valley Accelerator will play a critical role in preparing early-stage ventures for long-term success.”

The program is a perfect fit for the Department of Commerce’s emphasis on innovation and emerging technology as an economic development focus area.

“The Department of Commerce is pleased to partner with the Bronze Valley Accelerator through the Growing Alabama Credit program,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said. “Alabama’s economic development team has made fostering the growth of technology-focused jobs a priority. The accelerator will serve as a launching pad for promising tech startups in Birmingham and around the state.”

Alabama Power helped bring Bronze Valley to Birmingham more than two years ago.

“As a long-time supporter of Bronze Valley, Alabama Power is committed to promoting and supporting the growth of minority- and women-owned businesses in the technology and innovation sector,” said Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite. “We know that a more inclusive Alabama economy is a more robust economy. The Bronze Valley Accelerator will be a key driver of technology entrepreneurship in our state.”

Through the Bronze Valley Accelerator, Bronze Valley and gener8tor hope to build on the momentum in the Birmingham and Alabama startup ecosystem by providing additional resources that will spark further entrepreneurship, drive local economic growth and spur innovation in various industries.

Applications are being accepted for the Bronze Valley Accelerator director role, and startups interested in participating in the program can learn more by visiting www.bronzevalleyaccelerator.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama entrepreneurs can apply now for Walmart’s Open Call for products

(Walmart/Contributed)

Walmart’s seventh annual Open Call is underway for entrepreneurs dreaming of landing U.S.-manufactured products on Walmart shelves by successfully pitching their wares to company officials during online meetings.

“Walmart’s Annual Open Call event gives us a unique occasion to identify new suppliers who can meet our customers’ needs with unique and innovative products manufactured or produced in the U.S.,” said Laura Phillips, Walmart senior vice president for Global Sourcing and U.S. Manufacturing.

“During this year of unprecedented challenges for U.S. businesses, Walmart remains committed to sourcing products made, grown or assembled in the U.S.,” Phillips said.

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In 2013, Walmart announced a 10-year commitment to help boost job creation and U.S. manufacturing through buying an additional $250 billion in products supporting American jobs. Walmart’s Open Call is one way the company continues to invest in the commitment.

“By Investing in products that support American jobs, we are able to bring new exciting products to our customers, support new jobs in our local communities and invest in small business across the country,” Phillips said.

The Open Call, scheduled for Oct. 1, kicks off Walmart’s celebration of U.S. Manufacturing Month and will include programming similar to previous years. In addition to one-on-one pitch meetings with Walmart buyers, participants will have an opportunity to hear directly from Walmart executives and learn from company leaders during small breakout sessions designed to inform, empower and encourage suppliers.

“For the first time, this year’s Open Call event will be virtual, enabling even broader participation from potential new suppliers,” Phillips said. “We know how important this opportunity is for many small businesses, especially this year, and we are looking forward to seeing the new product submissions and meeting potential new suppliers.”

This year’s Open Call attendees could secure deals ranging from a handful of stores in local markets to supplying hundreds, or even thousands, of stores, Sam’s Clubs and on Walmart.com.

Gwen Hurt, owner of Shoe Crazy wine, participated in Walmart’s 2018 Open Call, where a Walmart buyer decided to test her product in 66 stores.

“We were walking into an entirely new and welcoming world,” said Hurt. “Everyone was so professional and kind throughout the process.”

“We’ve been thrilled to work with Walmart and are excited about the continual growth of our product,” Hurt continued. “Thanks to this relationship, we’ve been able to expand our operations to 15 employees while reinvesting in our community through the purchase of a once-abandoned warehouse and additional resources.”

“It’s a dream come true for our family,” Hurt said. Walmart is expanding Shoe Crazy Wine to 118 stores across Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia.

The deadline to apply to participate in this year’s Open Call for U.S.-manufactured products is Aug. 10. The application and information about the event are at Walmart-jump.com.

Information about Walmart can be found by visiting corporate.walmart.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/walmart and on Twitter at twitter.com/walmart.

 

3 months ago

Alabama Power partners with Chorus SmartSecure for Smart Neighborhood Builder program

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power is partnering with Chorus SmartSecure as a trusted home equipment provider for the Smart Neighborhood Builder program.

Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood homes feature energy-efficient construction and appliances, connected devices, innovative security solutions and home automation designed to simplify homeowners’ lives and give them more control over their home and energy use.

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“We are excited to serve Alabama Power and the builder community with the latest advances in SmartHome technologies,” said Rob Hardman, president of Chorus SmartSecure. “We look forward to bringing connectivity to each home in these neighborhoods.”

Chorus SmartSecure will work with Alabama Power on three neighborhoods under development:

“Our Smart Neighborhood Builder program focuses on bringing comfort, convenience and control to the homes of our customers through forward-thinking builders and innovative partners like Chorus SmartSecure,” said Caitlin Hilliard, Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood Builder program manager. “Chorus SmartSecure will be a great partner with its fully integrated smart technology solutions and strong focus on customer service.”

Birmingham-based Chorus SmartSecure specializes in security, automation, access control, low-voltage wiring and custom audio video solutions for homes and offices. The Chorus team delivers state-of-the-art equipment designed to simplify and enhance life at home and work.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Signs, countdown clocks reflect new dates for Birmingham World Games

(The World Games/Contributed)

A global pandemic postponed the 2020 Olympics and, in turn, the World Games Birmingham was to host in 2021.

Despite the one-year delay, organizers of what is now the Birmingham World Games 2022 want to start building the public’s anticipation again with new signs and updated countdown clocks leading to July 7-17, 2022.

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There are new countdown clocks at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham City Hall and the Uptown entertainment district.

The Birmingham CrossPlex and Legion Field – two of the venues for the World Games 2022 – have new signage.

The Waites Building has a World Games 2022 mural.

New city and state roadway signs identify Birmingham as “Home of the World Games 2022.”

More than 3,600 athletes from around the world are expected to compete in more than 30 sports. The 11-day event is projected to have an economic impact of $256 million. The World Games was established by the International World Games Association, an organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee. The Birmingham event will be the first time the World Games have been held in the U.S. since the inaugural games in Los Angeles in 1981.

Keep up to date with the World Games 2022 at twg2022.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama students, teacher have strong showing in National History Day Contest

(Alabama Humanities Foundation/Contributed, YHN)

Alabama History Day representatives made their presence known in the 2020 National History Day Contest with winners emerging on the student and teacher levels.

Following an intense competition among middle and high school students from across the nation, Alabama participants had a strong showing in the virtual awards ceremony that was held Saturday.

Eli Stapler of Hampton Cove Middle School near Huntsville won the History in the Federal Government Special Prize for his exhibit project, “CCC: Roosevelt’s Tree Army.” The prize is awarded to the best entry in any category, in either division, which illuminates the history of the American federal government.

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Savi Fistein and Aiden Seabrook of Phillips Preparatory Middle School in Mobile won the distinction of Outstanding Alabama Junior Entry. Savi and Aiden’s group performance, “Raven Wilkinson: The Black Ballerina Who Broke Ballet Barriers by Braving the Jim Crow South during the Civil Rights Movement and Inspiring Others,” was the highest ranked Alabama junior project at the national contest.

Joy Kim of Huntsville High School earned the distinction of Outstanding Alabama Senior Entry for the contest. Her paper, “Foot Soldiers for Freedom: The Little Rock Nine and the Youth of the Civil Rights Movement,” was the highest ranked Alabama senior project at the national contest.

Alabama students weren’t the only standouts during the contest. Sarah Woltring of Murphy High School in Mobile was a finalist for the Hannah E. (Liz) MacGregor Teacher of the Year award.

“This teacher and these students exemplify the magic of National History Day,” said Alabama History Day Coordinator Jerald Crook. “They truly embodied this past year’s NHD theme, which was Breaking Barriers in History.” This year’s contest was historic, going virtual on the state and national levels.

“It wasn’t easy working through the challenges of this year’s NHD contest season because of the coronavirus pandemic,” Crook noted. “They had to navigate technological obstacles to participate in new virtual contests, and they missed the opportunity to travel to Montgomery and Washington, D.C. for the state and national competitions, but they endured, put in hard work, and it all paid off in the end. I am so proud of our Alabama NHD winners and all who represented the state on the national level.”

National History Day promotes the teaching and learning of history through a variety of programs for teachers and students in middle and high schools. Its largest program is the National History Day Contest, which was created in 1974 to encourage middle and high school students from around the world to conduct original research on historical topics of interest. They then present projects at the local and affiliate levels.

“With the NHD2020 contest coming to a close, Alabama students and teachers are already preparing for next year’s contest, which will explore the national theme of Communication in History: The Key to Understanding,” Crook said.

Alabama teachers who are interested in getting their students involved in the National History Day program are invited to attend one of the upcoming AHD training webinars on July 8 or July 15. Visit the Alabama History Day Educator’s page on the Alabama Humanities Foundation website to learn more and register.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama Power Foundation accepting Good Roots, Gateway grant applications

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

As part of its longstanding commitment to Alabama communities, the Alabama Power Foundation is accepting applications for the 2020 Good Roots and Gateway grant programs.

“Good Roots and Gateway grants represent an investment in the communities we serve,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “These programs not only contribute to the economic and cultural well-being of our cities and towns, they also promote civic pride.”

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Good Roots grants provide up to $1,000 to help cities, towns, schools and nonprofit organizations plant trees to enhance community green spaces. New to this year’s program is the option to use the grants to support community beautification efforts. To date, the foundation has awarded more than 690 Good Roots grants totaling more than $620,000 to plant trees at schools, parks and other community locations.

The Gateway grant program helps revitalize communities by supporting and advancing city and town promotion efforts. Grants of up to $2,500 provide funding for signs that greet visitors, as well as marketing materials and website development. Since 2012, Gateway has awarded more than $100,000 to cities, towns and communities throughout Alabama.

The deadline to apply for Good Roots and Gateway grants is Aug. 10. To access online applications and learn more, visit www.powerofgood.com and click on “Grants.”

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 nonratepayer dollars. Learn more about the Alabama Power Foundation and its charitable initiatives at www.powerofgood.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Atmore wins jackpot with Main Street Alabama designation

(Chris Pruitt/Wikicommons)

Many travelers along Interstate 65 in southwest Alabama recognize Atmore as home of the Wind Creek Casino, but travel just five more miles to find the pride of the community – the historic downtown district.

On June 6, Main Street Alabama announced that Atmore had been selected as a new Main Street Alabama Designated Community.

Using the National Main Street Four Point Approach, Main Street Alabama helps communities focus on organization, design, promotion and economic vitality with strategies unique to that community that are centered on market-based outcomes.

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“Setting achievable goals using community input and market data is critical to the revitalization of the district, but it’s also equally crucial to bring stakeholders to the table to work towards a common goal,” said Mary Helmer, Main Street Alabama state coordinator.

“Main Street works 100% of the time if the community is willing to work,” Helmer said. “Atmore impressed upon the selection committee that they had the work ethic to become a successful Main Street program that will bring jobs, dollars and people back to the district.”

The dedication of the continued revitalization of the district made the case for designation and was demonstrated during the five-month long application process, through partnerships with community organizations, the city’s commitment and proven track record of many projects, including the ongoing renovation of the Strand Theatre.

Atmore’s historic notable figures and events include being the birthplace of boxer Evander Holyfield; the site of Railroad Bill’s death, an infamous train robber who was killed following a shootout with the law in 1896; and the home to Luverne Wise Albert, who in 1939 became the first female football kicker to score in an American football game. In addition to the Strand Theatre, the former Atmore Hardware Store serves as a focal point of the district.

Atmore was originally named Williams Station, in 1866, after William Larkin Williams, a logging entrepreneur who set up shop along the spur of the Mobile and Great Northern Railroad. The town was renamed in 1897 in honor of C.P. Atmore, the general railroad ticket agent.

“These facts, along with the capacity to maintain a Main Street program, scored major points with us,” said Main Street Alabama’s social media announcement. “This bustling railroad town is ready for renewal and Main Street Alabama is ready to provide a game plan for success.”

Main Street Alabama will begin work immediately in Atmore to provide board development, goal setting, work planning, market study with economic development strategies, targeted design assistance, and training related to downtown development.

Atmore joins Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Birmingham, Calera, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Headland, Heflin, the Historic Fourth Avenue Business District in Birmingham, Marion, Monroeville, Montevallo, Jasper, Opelika, Oxford, Scottsboro, South Huntsville and Wetumpka in using Main Street’s comprehensive and incremental approach.  Each designated community listed above reports its success by tracking reinvestment statistics.  Main Street Alabama’s designated communities have reported 976 net new businesses, 5,040 net new jobs, $419,950,397 in private investment, $51,592,047 in public improvements and 105,789 volunteer hours in their districts collectively since June 2014.

Main Street Alabama application workshops are held in January each year.  Communities interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to join the Main Street Alabama Network. More information can be found at www.mainstreetalabama.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Scam targeting Alabama Power customers resurfaces

(PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama Power has seen an uptick in scams aimed at customers.

The most recent scam is similar to one identified in March, with scammers calling customers and claiming to be a representative from Alabama Power, demanding immediate payment on accounts. The caller requests a customer’s bank or credit card information, warning if payments are not received within 30 minutes service will be disconnected.

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A variation of the scheme includes scammers directly contacting customers who recently made a payment on their Alabama Power account and falsely claiming the payment did not process and they need to repay immediately.

“Any contact of this nature is a scam and an attempt to take advantage of our customers during a vulnerable time,” said Alisa Summerville, Alabama Power Customer Service Center director. “If customers are unsure if a call is a scam, we encourage them to hang up and contact Customer Service at 1-800-245-2244.”

These scams are cyclical, with scammers often reusing the same tactics or deploying new ones every few months to prey on residential and commercial customers.

As always, Alabama Power works with each customer to determine the best service option for their account. The schemes that criminals use are not part of the company’s business practices.

Alabama Power is sharing the following tips to help customers protect themselves from false tactics used by scammers:

  • We will never call you and demand an immediate payment.
  • We will never call you and request bank or credit card information.
  • We will never come to your door and demand an immediate payment.
  • If you ever have any question about the status of your Alabama Power account, do not hesitate to call us at 1-800-245-2244. The automated voice system is available 24/7 to check account balances and status. You also can reach a Customer Service agent weekdays from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. at 1-800-245-2244.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Ashley Robinett to lead Alabama Power Public Relations

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Ashley Robinett has been named Alabama Power’s vice president of Public Relations, effective immediately.

In this role, Robinett will oversee the company’s corporate communications and brand management, providing strategic communications counsel that ensures messages reach employees, customers and key stakeholders.

Robinett most recently served as vice president of Corporate Real Estate where she was responsible for managing the company’s land holdings in support of business objectives through land management, acquisition and sales.

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Prior to leading the company’s corporate real estate efforts, Robinett was the area manager for Alabama Power’s Birmingham Division, where she was responsible for business office operations, customer relations, community development and external affairs.

“Ashley is a proven leader with a strong commitment to the community. She brings invaluable experience to this role that will help shape how we communicate with our employees and customers, and adapt strategies based on their evolving preferences,” said Mark Crosswhite, Alabama Power CEO.

Robinett joined the Southern Company system in 2001 as an engineer at Southern Power. She worked several years in Southern Company’s fuel services organization, managing emission allowance, procurement and other strategic environmental issues for the generating fleet.

In 2008, Robinett returned to Southern Power to manage its resource planning, risk analysis and business case development functions, including renewable energy. She has served as the assistant to the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Southern Company and to the president and chief executive officer of Alabama Power.

Robinett is a graduate of Leadership Birmingham and is active in the community, serving on the board of directors for Preschool Partners and Children’s Harbor. She is involved with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Birmingham and the 2019-2020 Class of International Women’s Forum Fellows Program.

Robinett is a member of the Auburn Alumni Association board of directors and remains involved with the university through the Auburn Engineering Alumni Council and 100 Women Strong, an initiative supporting female students in the College of Engineering. She is a leader on the Alabama Power Council on Culture and Inclusion and serves on the Southern Company Diversity and Inclusion Alliance, overseeing the alignment and execution of D&I strategies.

Robinett received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a minor in business from Auburn University. 

Alabama Power Company, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), provides safe, reliable, affordable electricity to more than 1.4 million customers across the state. Learn more at www.alabamapower.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama farmers and ranchers affected by coronavirus can apply for monetary relief

(Alabama Farmers Federation/Flickr)

Alabama farmers and ranchers affected by coronavirus can apply for monetary relief through the Farm Service Agency (FSA).

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to American agricultural producers who have suffered losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s Farm and Agribusiness Management team will be working closely with FSA offices and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Centers to guide producers through the application process.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged many of our farmers into more difficult situations,” said Jessica Kelton, regional extension agent and Farm and Agribusiness Management team leader. “So many producers were already struggling after a dry year with an uncertain market. Now, there are a lot of producers with wasted products because of the market declines related to the pandemic.”

The CFAP program specifically targets producers of agricultural products who have suffered a 5 percent or greater price decline, as well as losses, because of market supply chain disruptions.

Eligible commodities are divided into five groups.

  • Nonspecialty crops
  • Wool
  • Livestock
  • Dairy
  • Specialty crops

A complete list of specialty crops is available at Applying for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through Farm Services Agency.

Alabama Extension economist Max Runge said unprecedented is a word used to describe many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the payments to farmers as a result of this virus really are unprecedented.

“In my years as an agricultural economist, we’ve not seen assistance payments as a result of a pandemic,” Runge said. “While we’ve been in uncharted territory for an extended period of time with COVID-19, the farmers in Alabama have continued to operate their farms as usual facing adversity and uncertain markets. I am thankful that the importance of their work is being recognized through these payments.”

Applications

The USDA will begin accepting applications today. Producers may submit applications through Aug. 28. Applications will be accepted by email, scan or fax.

Extension professionals recommend contacting the local FSA office before sending applications. Runge said FSA offices will have an increased volume of applications and phone calls, so patience on the part of the producer will be appreciated.

USDA Service Centers will schedule appointments by phone only. Farmers can prepare for appointments by gathering records of recent farm sales and agricultural product inventories. Required application information includes:

  • Name and address
  • Personal information, including Tax ID number
  • Farm operating structure
  • Adjusted gross income
  • Direct deposit information

Necessary forms are available at farmers.gov/cfap.

Shortage fears this spring

According to Alabama Extension economist Ken Kelley, the financial assistance for producers comes at a time when many livestock and dairy producers find themselves receiving prices well below the 10-year average, even as consumers see higher prices in the grocery stores.

“There were significant supply chain and processing issues earlier in the spring,” Kelley said. “However, the U.S. was and is amid record production of beef, pork and poultry. The issue was not availability of animals, but the logistics of processing and movement.”

While the situation is improving, Kelley said it will be a while before processors catch back up to supply.

“In the meantime, the backlog of supply will continue to hold producer prices at lower levels,” Kelley said. “CFAP will be a welcome assistance as producers work through the effects of COVID-19 on agricultural processors and markets.”

Payment structure

In order to ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of the maximum total payment for their operation when their application is approved. Producers will receive remaining payments as funds are available.

More information

Find more information from Alabama Extension’s Farm and Agribusiness Management team at Applying for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program through Farm Services Agency.

Read more about the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program at www.farmers.gov/cfap. Additional and more detailed information from the USDA is available at its website, www.usda.gov.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama businesses hope for a quick recovery after COVID-19 pandemic, survey finds

(Pixabay)

Nearly half of Alabama businesses are anticipating an improved business climate in the next six months despite the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey found.

The survey conducted by AlabamaWorks! and the Alabama Workforce Council revealed Alabama businesses are struggling with laying off employees, a lack of market demand, disruptions in the supply chain and a fear of being forced to permanently close.

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The survey was conducted in April, before most businesses were allowed to at least partially reopen. Nearly 1,800 businesses responded to the survey, with the vast majority (68%) being small businesses with 25 or less employees. The largest swath (41%) said three-quarters or more of their employees are paid by the hour.

“We are grateful to the business owners who took the time to help us identify critical needs and priorities for a full workforce recovery,” said Tim McCartney, chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council. “Utilizing the survey results, the Alabama Workforce Council will continue with our important work of assisting the state to the fullest extent possible with all workforce recovery efforts and continue to push career pathways and programs that are most resilient to create a more agile workforce.”

Not surprisingly, 82% expect this pandemic to have a negative financial impact on their business. A third of respondents have laid off employees as a result and 53% have implemented a hiring freeze.

One important finding for AlabamaWorks! and the Workforce Council going forward was the 53% who expressed a need for more employer-delivered, skills-based training to help in the recovery.

Other findings included:

  • 53.4% of businesses reported that their current business climate is “bad,” but 49.6% expected their climate to improve in the next six months.
  • 49.4% of businesses expect that their workforce size will remain relatively constant over the next three months.
  • 35,9% of businesses reported that the biggest factor limiting business activity is a lack of market demand, making it the most common limiting factor.
  • 46.3% of businesses felt at least somewhat equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic at its outbreak, indicating that most responding businesses felt inadequately prepared to some degree.
  • More businesses (46%) are facing supply chain disruptions than not (39%).

A three-page report of the survey results can be found here and at www.AlabamaWorks.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)