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.

4 days ago

Dauphin Island Sea Lab restoring aquatic grass along Alabama coast

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Researchers at Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) are planting underwater grasses in coastal areas of Alabama to improve marine habitats for fish and wildlife.

The work is part of a 5-year project funded by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The council, in connection with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resourcestasked DISL with completing a submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) restoration program in upper and lower Perdido Bay, and lower Mobile/Tensaw River Delta. The lab is also undertaking a comprehensive SAV mapping and monitoring program for coastal Alabama.

“We care about submerged aquatic vegetation because this is the nursery habitat for our juvenile fish, crabs and shrimp,” said Dottie Byron, manager in Ken Heck’s Lab at DISL. “It’s really good hiding places when you’re little to hide and eat and grow up and then move to your adult habitat. That’s why we want to restore this. The more grass we have out there the better fishing we’re going to have, better crabbing we’re going to have.”

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Dauphin Island Sea Lab working to restore Alabama coastal seagrass from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The team will work to bring back to life an area in the Mobile Delta once known to flourish with Vallisneria americana, commonly known as tape grass. The grasses are being planted in areas struggling to naturally heal from damage caused by hurricanes, drought or boat propellers.

“They need that kick-start,” Byron said. “That’s what we want to do. We want to kick-start some of these areas that we know use to have grass, that we know are better now and we want to get them growing and help go back to what they used to be.”

Byron said many of the grasses to be planted are being grown in labs at DISL from seeds harvested in healthy coastal areas.

“We bring them back to the lab, take the seeds out, put those into a growth chamber in the winter and let them get enough light so they will sprout and germinate,” Byron said. “Eventually we will bring them out to a larger container out here. This will be ready for restoration planting when we find the right sites.”

In areas of lower Perdido Bay where grasses are often scarred by boat propellers, Byron said bird stakes are being installed and educational signage hung to inform boaters. She said droppings from birds contain nutrients that help grasses recover quicker.

“Their guano is rich in nutrients,” Byron said. “It’s a low-key way to add nutrients or fertilizer to a localized area to help the grass fill in these scars.”

The boater guides are being distributed thanks to a joint effort with Alabama Coastal FoundationAlabama Cooperative Extension SystemCity of Orange BeachGulf Shores Orange Beach TourismIslands of Perdido FoundationMobile Bay National Estuary ProgramNational Fish and Wildlife FoundationNational Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationState of Alabama State Lands Division and The Nature Conservancy.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 days ago

Alabama Power helping endangered woodpeckers thrive

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

A federally endangered woodpecker is thriving in central Alabama thanks to a partnership between Alabama PowerU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR.)

The red-cockaded woodpecker is making a slow, but steady comeback in the old longleaf pine forests around Lake Mitchell. Biologists from each organization spend much of their spring and early summer months monitoring cavities in the trees for nesting.

“The monitoring that we’ve done has shown the numbers of birds has increased,” said Chad Fitch, a biologist at Alabama Power. “We have 10 active clusters of birds on Alabama Power property. I think it’s an awesome thing.”

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Alabama Power helping endangered red-cockaded woodpecker thrive from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Five additional clusters are in the Coosa Wildlife Management Area, a state-managed Forever Wild area adjacent to Alabama Power property. ADCNR biologist Eric Soehren said the area is prime habitat for the endangered birds thanks to the more than 80-year-old pines and the coordinated management efforts between Alabama Power, ADCNR and USFWS.

“This is what they thrive and exist with,” Soehren said. “It needs this old-growth stand, managed in this way to persist.”

Soehren said two more clusters are located on nearby private property. Those landowners are provided monitoring assistance and protection from USFWS through the federal Safe Harbor agreement.

“This agreement was created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist landowners and to protect landowners from additional regulations when an endangered or threatened species comes on to their property,” said Mercedes Bartkovich, a nongame wildlife biologist at ADCNR. “With so much of the red-cockaded woodpecker population being on private lands in different areas, it’s imperative that we have those partnerships with the private landowners, as well.”

Bartkovich said some landowners initially resist joining the habitat management in fear they will have to modify their land-management plan.

“A lot of times the habitat management for quail or turkey are the exact habitat management tools you’d also be using for red-cockaded woodpeckers,” Bartkovich said. “There are definitely ways you can continue managing for what your goal is and still support RCW and other nongame threatened and endangered species.”

How Habitat Management and Monitoring Works

The process of managing the habitats begins each year in the winter when the biologists begin checking cavities inside trees to make sure there are still enough  for the birds to use when they begin to nest in the spring.

“Most of them are artificially placed but sometimes we’ll actually have a natural cavity that’s excavated by the bird itself,” Soehren said. “We also check the status of the cavity to see if it needs to be replaced. We either classify them as suitable or not suitable.”

The process picks up speed in April when red-cockaded woodpeckers begin to nest. The biologists visit each cluster at least once a week and “peep” into the cavities with a special video camera called a peeper scope.

“The monitoring program consists of going out to each of the clusters and peeping the cavities to check for the number of eggs that are laid and the number of birds that are there,” Fitch said. “We document the number of chicks that actually fledge out of the cavities.”

Not all eggs survive. Natural predators such as flying squirrels and snakes may eat the eggs or the fledglings before they are old enough to fly away, but the ones that do survive are then color-banded by biologists to keep track of the bird movements.

“When you’re dealing with populations where you are closely monitoring, you want to uniquely mark each individual so you know the fate of that bird, where that bird ends up going, who it associates with, if it moves or if it stays within the cluster: those types of things,” Soehren said. “It gives you some really good population dynamic information.”

Once the nesting season ends in late June, the biologists document which fledglings survived and track their progress. They also use the offseason to optimize the habitats through controlled burns and to install new cavities to accommodate the growing population.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood wins award

(L. Glenn/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama Power‘s Smart Neighborhood has been awarded the 2020 Smart Grid award by POWER Magazine.

Aaron Larson, executive editor of POWER Magazine, says the company’s blend of modern technology and energy efficiency in the project is one of the reasons his team selected Alabama Power for this year’s award.

“As technology continues to evolve, this research initiative will help Alabama Power understand how neighborhoods of the future will function,” Larson said. “The project serves not only as a model for new residential communities, but lessons learned could also benefit existing customers in more established communities.”

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Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood wins Smart Grid award from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood, located in the Reynold’s Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover, integrates a microgrid into a community filled with high-performance homes containing energy-efficient systems and connected appliances. The innovative initiative, which includes solar panels, battery storage and a natural gas-fired backup generator, connects 62 homes with a future-focused system.

“Smart Neighborhood is unique because it is truly a first-of-its-kind project to incorporate all these components into one project—and then scale it up to 62 homes,” said Todd Rath, director of Marketing Services and Smart Neighborhood Project Sponsor at Alabama Power. “It is essentially lots of smaller projects and a large variety of technology within one.”

Rath says the lessons learned from the project will help Alabama Power understand when and where these systems may be more applicable in the future.

“As technology continues to evolve, we understood that bringing all these factors together would be crucial to see how neighborhoods of the future—think 2040—will function,” Rath said. “This helps us better plan our resources and identify opportunities to provide energy solutions for our customers to help prep for that future.”

Alabama Power’s Smart Neighborhood, located in the Reynold’s Landing community at Ross Bridge in Hoover, integrates a microgrid into a community filled with high-performance homes containing energy-efficient systems and connected appliances. The innovative initiative, which includes solar panels, battery storage and a natural gas-fired backup generator, connects 62 homes with a future-focused system.

“Smart Neighborhood is unique because it is truly a first-of-its-kind project to incorporate all these components into one project—and then scale it up to 62 homes,” said Todd Rath, director of Marketing Services and Smart Neighborhood Project Sponsor at Alabama Power. “It is essentially lots of smaller projects and a large variety of technology within one.”

Rath says the lessons learned from the project will help Alabama Power understand when and where these systems may be more applicable in the future.

“As technology continues to evolve, we understood that bringing all these factors together would be crucial to see how neighborhoods of the future—think 2040—will function,” Rath said. “This helps us better plan our resources and identify opportunities to provide energy solutions for our customers to help prep for that future.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Construction continues on critical Alabama shoreline protection project

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Construction continues on a new barrier to restore and preserve Bayou La Batre‘s Lightning Point, one of Alabama’s most iconic and important coastal habitats.

The Nature Conservancy in Alabama (TNCA) says contractors have finished installing 1.5 miles of breakwaters around the mouth of Bayou La Batre’s navigation channel, creating a new coastal barrier on both sides of the channel to protect the shoreline from the effects of storms. TNCA says contractors used 51,000 tons of rock to build the breakwaters and jetties, pumped more than 275,000 cubic yards of dredged material to fill the marsh creation areas and planted more than 13,000 plants so far.

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“We are extremely excited about how far we have come,” said Judy Haner, Marine Program Director for TNCA. “Our contractors have been really dynamic. They’ve figured out how to do parts of this project in concert instead of in sequence, so we’ve been able to get this thing really rolling. The contractors have had as much fun on this project as we have.”

Repairs and preservation of Bayou la Batre’s Lightning Point continue from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Bayou La Batre is called “Alabama’s Seafood Capital,” and a large reason is the shrimping industry. Hundreds of boats hit the water each season to catch the tasty crustaceans, favored by chefs all over the country. But major events, such as the BP oil spill and Hurricane Katrina, damaged the shoreline and affected shrimping in the area.

“The goal is to help restore the lost coastal habitats that once benefitted the people that rely on these natural resources,” said Mary Kate Brown, Coastal Projects manager for The Nature Conservancy. “The people of Bayou La Batre are connected to their coast and frequent the current area by birdwatching, scenic viewing, kayaking, boating, fishing, taking a lunch break; this is their community’s front porch and the gateway to the bayou.”
The Nature Conservancy broke ground on the restoration project in April 2019 after securing support from public agencies and private organizations, including the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Alabama Power. In addition to the breakwaters and jetties, the project will create 40 acres of coastal habitats ranging from marshes, tidal creeks, scrub-shrubs and shell hash beaches that support a wide range of fish, shellfish and birds. Brown says many birds and other wildlife are closely watching construction crews.

“Birds have taken to the breakwaters as an oasis, especially the least terns, and this is perfect timing as nesting season is here,” Brown said. “We also have seen ibis, oyster catchers, black skimmers, avocets, dunlins, whimbrels, and more foraging and utilizing the new habitats and fill areas.”

Other improvements planned for Lightning Point include walking paths, a lookout point, an ADA fishing platform and a low-impact parking lot employing green infrastructure techniques, such as pervious pavers, bioretention cells and bioswales to aid in stormwater management.

“It is amazing at what is happening at Lightning Point,” Haner said. “We are actually transforming this community along with the site. It’s really exciting and every time we’re down here, we get to talk with the community and see how excited they are.”

Crews will complete the construction work towards the end of this summer, but the new plants in the marsh and scrub-shrub habitats will need another three to four years to establish and grow to reach appropriate density.

“Once construction is complete, we will be annually monitoring both structural and biological integrity of the Lightning Point restoration project for five years,” Brown said. “We will go out and and measure how the plants are thriving, and we will collect elevation and shoreline position data across the new coastal habitats to make sure the breakwaters are doing its job of protecting the community of Bayou La Batre.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

More volunteers needed to grow oysters in Mobile Bay

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program is looking for more volunteers.

Each year from June to November, thousands of baby oysters are grown in oyster gardens hanging from piers around Mobile Bay. PJ Waters, program coordinator and associate extension professor at Auburn University, said the oyster program needs more people willing to volunteer their time and piers.

“Grow oysters with us,” Peters said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

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Oyster gardening helpful to Mobile Bay from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

More than 940,000 oysters have been raised and later planted in restoration reefs in Mobile Bay and the Mississippi Sound since the program began in 2001. Peters said the oyster gardens improve the water and habitat quality by feeding on phytoplankton and filtering out excess nutrients. Oyster gardening provides an opportunity to participate in ecological restoration by helping improve water quality, create habitat and stabilize shorelines.

“It’s a substantial educational opportunity,” Peters said. “We get school kids involved, we get retirees involved. They know how to eat them, they know where to get them but they don’t know what they do beyond tasting good. It gives us an opportunity to get into the community and talk about what role these oysters play beyond an economic or culinary role.”

Neil Johnston Sr. has volunteered to grow oysters off his pier at Mullet Point for 19 years. He now raises thousands of oysters each year.

“It’s fun,” Johnston said. “To me it’s not work. I look forward to cleaning the cages and see what’s there.”

Johnston said cleaning the cages can be done in one to two hours per week. However, he often takes more time so that neighbors can bring their children to help.

“We constantly have kids over to learn and see,” Johnston said. “If any neighbor has a visitor from out of town, they want to come look at it and help out. They are just amazed at what is going on. It’s just a great program and teaching tool.”

The Mobile Bay Oyster Gardening Program is a partnership between the volunteers, Auburn University’s School of Fisheries, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. To learn more or to volunteer, visit www.oystergardening.org or send an email to oystergardening@auburn.edu.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

2025 World Police and Fire Games coming to Alabama

(World Police and Fire Games/Contributed)

The World Police and Fire Games Federation has awarded the 2025 World Police and Fire Games to Birmingham, officials announced Wednesday.

“From the beginning, we were impressed by all that Birmingham has to offer,” said LC Collins, World Police and Fire Games president. “We believe that this city is the whole package – from its venues, infrastructure and history of hosting major events, to its entertainment, dining and attractions. This is a special place, and we are confident that our first responders, spectators and their families are going to be a part of an event to remember.”

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Birmingham to host 2025 World Police and Fire Games from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The 2025 World Police and Fire Games, which will be June 27 to July 6, 2025, will further establish Birmingham as a premier sports event destination, building on the city hosting the 2017 National Senior Games and The World Games 2022.

“Birmingham is thrilled to open its doors to the 2025 World Police and Fire Games,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “We’re a city that thrives on the spirit of competition. When our world begins to return to a place of normalcy post-quarantine, it’s events like the World Police and Fire Games that will offer the camaraderie and celebration our residents are currently craving. It will be an incredible way to keep Birmingham’s momentum rolling following The World Games in 2022.”

“These events and others of smaller size contribute heavily to our community’s economy, and underline the importance of travel and tourism in the greater Birmingham area,” said John Oros, president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau.

It will feature more than 10,000 first responders competing in 1,600 medal events. The full lineup of sports will be announced in the future but is expected to include more than 55 disciplines, ranging from more traditional offerings like cycling, golf, softball and angling, to unique competitions like “ultimate firefighter,” “toughest competitor alive,” CrossFit, stair climb and dragon boat.

“What it means for this city is growth,” said Birmingham Chief of Police Patrick Smith. “It shows future development. It shows that the city of Birmingham is ready to take on the next challenge.”

“This is a huge deal for the city of Birmingham,” added Birmingham Chief of Fire and Rescue Cory Moon. “Not only does it allow us to showcase our fire service and police department, but it’s also a great opportunity to showcase the greatness the city of Birmingham has to offer the world.”

Organizers said events will be hosted at more than 35 venues across Birmingham and will be free for all spectators.

“It’s exciting to be able to look past COVID-19 to a time when we will be able have events again,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons. “The World Police and Fire Games will showcase our home to over 150,000 people, between athletes, supporters and spectators. I’m confident that we will be prepared to host in 2025, especially following our expected success of The World Games in 2022.”

Founded in 1987 as a biennial international sporting event, the World Police and Fire Games celebrates the service and dedication of first responders across the globe and unites them to participate in a wide range of fierce but friendly athletic competitions equally built on competitiveness and camaraderie. Previous and upcoming host locations:

San Diego, California (1987)
Vancouver, Canada (1989)
Memphis, Tennessee (1991)
Colorado Springs, Colorado (1993)
Melbourne, Australia (1995)
Calgary, Canada (1997)
Stockholm, Sweden (1999)
Indianapolis, Indiana (2001)
Barcelona, Spain (2003)
Quebec City, Canada (2005)​
Adelaide, South Australia (2007)
British Columbia, Canada (2009)
New York City, New York (2011)
Belfast, Northern Ireland (2013)
Fairfax, Virginia (2015)
Los Angeles, California (2017)
Chengdu, China (2019)
Rotterdam, Netherlands (2021)
Winnipeg, Canada (2023).

For more information about the 2025 World Police and Fire Games, visit www.bhm2025.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama Port City businesses helping each other during pandemic

(Casandra Andrews/USA Health)

When the University of South Alabama discovered USA Health and other health care providers faced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the initial outbreak of COVID-19, the university reached out to the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and area businesses for help.

“They found out what PPE they might need,” said David Rodgers, vice president of Economic Development at the Mobile chamber. “Realizing our industrial partners could 3D-print some of these products, they relayed that back to them.”

Those partners include Austal USAAirbus Alabama and Calagaz Printing, who quickly jumped into action adapting their equipment to print face shields, masks and accessories and then delivering it to health care workers and facilities around the Gulf Coast.

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“It really shows how our industrial partners are stepping up during a time of crisis,” Rodgers said. “We’re fortunate to be in a progressive community with the manufacturing sectors and the industrial sectors we have. It’s great to see the partnerships that are coming out of this. Across industry sectors, businesses are working together. They’re all jumping in together. I’m fortunate to be able to help move this forward.”

Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce connecting needs with resources from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The chamber has been a key ingredient in the collaboration. Staff quickly shifted work priorities in March, calling all 2,000 members to connect needs with resources.

“We’ve really had to revamp our entire platform of work,” Rodgers said. “A lot of it has been around information.”

Collecting and sharing information has become the chamber’s most valuable resource. The chamber created a special page on its website dedicated to helping businesses, especially restaurants and those deemed “nonessential” during the statewide quarantine, survive the pandemic. Staff are holding weekly conference calls and sending more frequent emails to members.

“Communication is key,” Rodgers said. “Folks are looking for the information. Businesses are looking for that. Our members are looking for that. That has been one of our most vital assets.”

Rodgers adds that the heightened level of communication and collaboration will continue after the pandemic.

“This is a playbook,” Rodgers said. “This is something that we can foster and continue to work on so that we’re not having to wait for another crisis to come in. You’re seeing so many of the business community find ways to promote and help everybody to get this economy back on track locally. It’s been a blessing a watch.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama Power employee customizing headbands for health care workers

(Erica Wells/Contributed)

As an active volunteer with the Alabama Power Service Organization, Erica Wells typically would have her hands full right now.

“This time of year is normally very busy for us volunteering at events,” Wells said. “I’m used to doing that. I get that from my parents. I’m used to doing something.”

That all changed last month when COVID-19 concerns stopped those public events and distanced people socially. Wells, who is a staff accounting assistant at Alabama Power, was left with time on her hands and a desire to help. That’s when she discovered the need for custom headbands.

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Erica Wells helping health care workers with custom headbands from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“One of my good friends who is also a physician says they are wearing these masks 10-12 hours a day,” Wells said. “Their face is just red and beat up from the protective gear they’re wearing, so I made the headbands to save the back of their ears because if it’s doing it to their face, you know that band is doing it to the back of their ears.”

Wells initially asked her neighbors via Facebook if anyone needed a custom headband. She got 30 responses in less than an hour.

“It has been overwhelming,” Wells said. “I knew we had a few people who worked at nursing homes and hospitals.”

Wells said she has given out about 70 custom headbands and will continue to make more as long as she is able and there is a need.

“There’s always something people can do to give back,” Wells said. “I found out not too long ago that some of the girls in our neighborhood were writing encouraging letters to people in nursing homes. That’s something anyone can do. Not everyone can sew, but everyone can write a kind word.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Virtual Talladega Superspeedway to host eNASCAR race Sunday

(NASCAR/Facebook)

The iRacing eNASCAR Pro Invitational Series continues Sunday with a visit to virtual Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCARiRacing and FOX Sports joined forces last month to create the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series after social distancing guidelines forced NASCAR to suspend its schedule. NASCAR drivers and dignitaries such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer have been competing every Sunday using virtual NASCAR Cup Series cars on digital replicas of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks.

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The virtual racing series has drawn fans. Nearly 1 million viewers tuned in on FS1 to watch the inaugural race March 15. Since then FOX Sports has expanded broadcast coverage to the FOX Network, making the races the most viewed eSports TV broadcasts ever.

Sunday’s race at the virtual Talladega Superspeedway will be broadcast on FS1 and FOX starting at noon. It is the same day NASCAR’s Geico 500 was scheduled to run before the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR released a statement April 17 saying the schedule will remain suspended through at least May 9.

“Our intention remains to run all 36 races, with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined,” the statement said. “The health and safety of our competitors, employees, fans and the communities in which we run continues to be our top priority. We will continue to consult with health experts and local, state and federal officials as we assess future scheduling options.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama servant leaders using technology to help others, each other during COVID-19 pandemic

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

When schools started closing across Alabama last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ken Austin, pastor of New Walk of Life Church in Montgomery, and Madison Darling, director of operations at The Mercy House, contacted two others to see what could be done to make sure schoolchildren in their community continue to receive lunch.

They gathered on a conference call March 16 to work out a plan. Since then, the needs have grown and, as a result, the conference calls have grown to include nearly 150 community, business and government partners in Montgomery’s River Region.

“When this first started, we were concerned how the children were going to get meals,” Austin said. “Because of those on this call, now those schools have worked out plans and ways that people can go to the schools and pick up lunches and deliver them to places where the children live. Churches have partnered with schools and become hubs in a community. None of those things were organized or available before we started with this call. It’s amazing how golden information is.”

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Montgomery agencies come together to help each other serve River Region during COVID-19 pandemic from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The conference call now happens every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 a.m. Darling emails participants an agenda before each call and follow-up notes afterward so everyone can quickly connect needs with supplies and then provide help.

“We’re a conduit,” Darling said. “We’re helping make connections. We’re working together now to make sure that, in this crisis, needs are met and people are cared for.”

One of those needs was internet access. Darling said many of the families The Mercy House serves cannot afford internet access, leaving many schoolchildren without a way to complete online school assignments. However, through conference calls, Darling said Spectrum in Montgomery agreed to provide internet access for children living in government housing.

“Our voices raised together resulted in internet access for our clients in those communities and tangible solutions for children to stay on grade level,” Darling said. “We now have a coalition of people working toward a common goal, caring about the people of our city and our county. It’s really exciting.”

Austin said the coalition includes community agencies such as River Region United WaySalvation Army and Friendship Mission; businesses such as Alabama Power; and representatives from all levels of local and state government.

“We even had representatives from the offices of U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and U.S. Representative Terri Sewell on the call last week,” Austin said. “This has glued us together and this community continues to unite. We’re just excited about how we continue to move this city and community forward.”

Darling said the collaboration will continue well beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

“We now have a coalition of people working toward a common goal, caring about the people of our city and our county,” Darling said. “If someone in northern Alabama or southern Alabama wants to start something similar in their area, we’re more than happy to share how we do it. We want for other people and other communities to be knit together as well during this time because it advances our state as a whole.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama’s Red Farmer, Neil Bonnett among 15 nominees to NASCAR Hall of Fame

(NASCAR/Contributed)

NASCAR announced a list of 15 nominees to be considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2021.

The list includes Red Farmer and the late Neil Bonnett, members of the famed “Alabama Gang” from Hueytown, and six-time Talladega Superspeedway winner Dale Earnhardt Jr.

3 months ago

Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator delayed amid COVID-19 pandemic concerns

The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is coming to Birmingham later this year. (contributed)

The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is pushing back its application deadline and start date amid COVID-19 pandemic concerns.

Managing Director Nate Schmidt said companies interested in being a part of the accelerator will now have until May 10 to apply.

“The economic and community development initiatives specific to our program are best suited for the teams to be onsite in Birmingham,” Schmidt said. “Therefore, in order to provide the highest likelihood of the program remaining on-site and in-person amidst the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are going to need to delay.”

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The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator is supported by Alabama Power, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), the Alabama Department of Commerce, Altec and PowerSouth. It had been scheduled to begin July 13 but is now scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

“We hope this schedule change will give applicants the time they need to take care of their families and businesses,” Schmidt said. “We look forward to working with them in Birmingham this fall.”

Each class of the annual mentorship-driven accelerator will run for 13 weeks and accept 10 startups. Throughout the program, startups will receive seed investment, mentorship through Techstars’ worldwide network of business leaders, and business coaching through the program’s educational components. Focus areas will include smart cities, the “internet of things,” industrial electrification, connectivity and electric transportation.

At the end of the 90 days, the program will culminate in Demo Day, a public pitch event.

For more information, visit the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator program page at www.techstars.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama teachers create thoughtful gift for children stuck at home during COVID-19 isolation

(Kelli McCullough/Alabama Power)

Some school teachers in Alabama have found a creative way to encourage their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers at Cherokee Bend Elementary School in Mountain Brook are creating and sharing a video of a teacher reading a story. Tuesday’s video featured Ms. Vansant reading “The Wonky Donky.”

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Past and future videos can be viewed at chiefpto.com/news-1, the news section of the school’s PTO website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

NASCAR hopes to run full schedule, including Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

NASCAR hopes to reschedule all races postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, even if that means midweek races and doubleheader weekends.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed questions about safety precautions and scheduling during a teleconference with the sport’s media Tuesday. NASCAR announced Monday that races through at least May 3 will have to be rescheduled, including the GEICO 500 race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, which was scheduled for April 24-26.

“The health and safety of our fans, industry and the communities in which we race is our most important priority,” Phelps said. “We appreciate the patience of our fans and we look forward to returning to the racetrack.”

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Phelps said the plan is to ultimately complete the schedule, even if that means scheduling midweek races, doubleheader weekends and racing during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

“We would like to finish the season at Phoenix and keep the Playoffs portion [of the schedule] intact,” Phelps said. “With that said, it will require a lot of different opportunities for us to look at. We’re in the process of doing that.”

To fill the downtime, several NASCAR drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mobile-native Bubba Wallace, along with crew members and enthusiasts, competed Sunday afternoon in an eSports virtual race. Tens of thousands of viewers tuned in, creating enough interest to encourage NASCAR and iRacing to form the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition eSports series featuring many of the sport’s most talented and popular drivers. The simulation-style showcase will include a cross-section of competitors from the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and a group of NASCAR dignitaries.

“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s vice president of racing development. “Our longtime partners at iRacing offer an incredible product, and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”

The multiweek series will kick off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. CT on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers expected to participate include Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. The viewing platforms have not yet been announced, although Phelps said NASCAR is discussing options with its broadcast partners.

“There are discussions we’re having with FOX about what things we can do, discussions with NBC, things that we can put through our own channels that satisfy fans,” Phelps said. “Our fans are obviously thirsty for this content. We want to provide it to them smartly and have interesting content as opposed to just repurposing some of the content that’s already been done. We want to make sure we’re servicing the fans as best we can.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

First class of community college lineworker students nearing graduation in Mobile

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama’s first class of community college students training to become lineworkers is wrapping up with plans to offer another class soon.

In January, 23 students began a 9-week lineworker training program at Bishop State Community College in Mobile. The class is taught by instructors from Alabama Power.

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“Having Alabama Power to come on our campus was just an opportunity we could not pass up,” said Courtney Steele, communications coordinator for Bishop State Community College. “Anytime we can give our students a chance to not only provide jobs for themselves and their family, but also to put back into the economy where they live in, we have to be a part of it. That’s our mission and our job.”

Bishop State Community College partners with Alabama Power for lineworker training class from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The purpose of the program is to prepare students for rewarding careers as lineworkers. Students can learn the fundamentals of electricity as well as the math and science knowledge needed to work on power lines. Coy Thomas, a training analyst at Alabama Power, said seeing the students progress is rewarding.

“Seeing someone start from square one, not having a clue about how to put on a set of hooks, to the time where they can climb a pole and work aloft, it’s a rewarding job,” Thomas said. “The hope is that at the end of this, all 23 of them are able to go out and get a job out in the career field as a lineman or as an apprentice lineman starting off. It might be with Alabama Power, it might be with a contractor, it could be with anybody, but our job is to go out and them have a lineman job somewhere.”

Understanding the importance of keeping safety first when working with electricity is a focus of the program. Philip Stiell, one of the students in the lineworker training class at Bishop State, said Thomas and the rest of the instructors have been great.

“Extremely knowledgeable and patient,” Stiell said. “It’s hard to understand patience until you see it working in your favor. We’re all learning. We’re all new. Very few of us have climbed. The fact that they’re willing to sit there and answer every question we have and make sure we’re doing everything safely means the world.”

Bishop State’s Steele said the students are eager to graduate March 16 and start a career with Alabama Power or any of the other companies along the Gulf Coast.

“We’re just happy to be able to partner with Alabama Power for this program and offer an opportunity for our students and the community,” Steele said.

The next class of lineworker training at Bishop State will begin in June, but registration closes Wednesday, March 4. Additional lineworker training classes will be offered later this year at Lawson State Community College and Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama Power helping girls discover world of engineering

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Amber Gibson did not grow up thinking she would be an engineer, but a field trip in middle school changed her mind.

“I was so adamant against going because I thought engineers drove trains or worked on cars,” Gibson said. “I was a dancer, I loved girly things, I had two sisters — girls ran my world, so engineering wasn’t an option.”

Gibson thought she would follow in the footsteps of her parents, who both worked in the medical profession, until the female engineers from Alabama Power she met during that field trip inspired her to realize the possibilities of a career in engineering.

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“I just loved seeing these beautiful, powerful, brilliant women,” Gibson said. “Those women told me if I got an engineering degree, I could do anything. I liked that idea.”

Alabama Power’s iCan program encourages girls to consider engineering careers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Gibson stayed in touch with the women as she graduated from Hewitt-Trussville High School and went on to college to pursue a degree in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama. She now works at Alabama Power as a Protection and Control Field Services test engineer and, just an importantly, has joined her mentors in mentoring other girls through iCan Girls in Engineering, a program Alabama Power created in 2009 as a way to encourage female students to consider engineering as a career.

“I’m incredibly thankful for their devotion and kind hearts,” Gibson said. “It makes me want to do it for other people. It’s such a great cycle to continue.”

Gibson’s story is one of thousands heard across America this week as part of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)‘s annual Engineering Week, or E-Week, which began in 1951. NSPE uses the week to ensure a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. Gibson said sharing her experience is important.

“The goal is to replicate what happened in me in so many other girls,” Gibson said. “It’s also for them to get to meet each other and to have friends that are like-minded. This is not something that you’re alone in or weird, this is something that’s cool and fun.”

Gibson said she also appreciates her parents encouraging her to consider other career options.

“You can never get them to try too many things,” Gibson said. “I think I tried nine different sports, and I was never good at any of them. It’s OK to not be good at things, but it’s not OK not to try.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Scientist: Fossils reveal Alabama most biodiverse state in the country

(Angela Levins/Dauphin Island Sea Lab)

New research has found that Alabama has more plant and animal species, both living and dead, than any other state in the nation.

Jun Ebersole, an archaeologist and paleontologist at the McWane Science Center, shared his latest findings Feb. 19 at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Ebersole is creating a fossil inventory of the state, concentrating on vertebrates – things with backbones, such as sharks, dinosaurs and bony fish. He’s cataloged more than 300 species in Alabama, easily surpassing South Carolina and Florida, two states historically considered to be the most paleobiodiverse states in the country.

“I’ve tripled what was considered the No. 1 state in the U.S. in terms of paleobiodiversity, and that’s just with sharks and bony fish,” Ebersole said. “We’re just getting started.”

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Ebersole’s research has also helped him and other scientists catalog Alabama’s diversity of living species. A 2002 report by The Nature Conservancy ranked Alabama No. 5 behind California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, but Ebersole said deliberate research in recent years to catalog Alabama’s plant and animal species proves Alabama is the most biodiverse state.

“I moved here because of the unbelievable amount of stuff we have here,” Ebersole said. “That’s why I can stand here with confidence and tell you we are No. 1, and No. 1 by far.”

Paleontologist seeks help finding fossils across Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Ebersole said Alabama’s large amount of freshwater lakes and rivers is the main reason for the state’s biodiversity and paleobiodiversity superiority.

“We have 132,000 miles of inland waterways, which is No. 1 in the country,” Ebersole said. “60% of aquatic biota in North America is in the Tennessee Valley. Anything aquatic, we’re going to rank No. 1 in that in the U.S.”

Ebersole said Alabama’s latitude on the planet and proximity to coastal waters has helped make the state one of the most unique places in North America in terms of surface geology.

“If you want to study the history of life in chronological order, there’s not a better place in North America than Alabama,” Ebersole said. “We have five geologic ecoregions in Alabama, and you can see all five of these regions by just driving I-65. Having five in one state is very unique.”

Besides educating Alabamians, Ebersole is asking the public for help finding more fossils. He showed students, staff and visitors at Dauphin Island Sea Lab how to locate fossils in beach sand, especially in areas backfilled with sand dredged from offshore in 2016.

“Knowing that these things can be found on the beach here at Dauphin Island, I’m using the local community to help me find these things and get a list of what species we have here,” Ebersole said. “So far I’ve found at least 40 different species of sharks and bony fish from the sand on Dauphin Island.”

To learn more about Ebersole’s research, visit the McWane Science Center online at mcwane.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Leaders, educators and students gather for Alabama’s 2nd Annual HBCU Summit

Sen. Doug Jones (left) moderates a panel discussion at the 2nd Annual HBCU Summit. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

Alabama’s 2nd Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit celebrated the state’s 14 HBCUs and the value they bring to higher education across our state and country. Saturday’s event, moderated by Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, was held at Miles College in Fairfield.

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The event kicked off with a panel discussion titled “Women in the Lead: How Six Alabama HBCU Presidents Are Raising the Bar.” The session included comments from:

“Extraordinary panel of women in leadership positions,” Jones said afterwards. “I think they provide unique insights to this. Just an amazing group of women that come from varied backgrounds — they came from academics, but also from business, so it’s a unique perspective that is what is going on with HBCUs but also with higher education in general.”

The panelists touched on a number of topics, including ways to help more high school students and nontraditional students get enrolled, making the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) simpler to fill out, partnering with businesses to offer degrees and curriculum the businesses need and working together to elevate the communities they serve.

“That’s what we pride ourselves on is that the benefit of being an HBCU is that … you may not have these large classrooms like you have (elsewhere), but you have teachers that know your name, teachers that care,” Archie said. “We’re going to give you that pep talk when you need that pep talk and we’re going to help you achieve.”

It is that level of concern for students that stood out to Jones.

“These female leaders are so dynamic and so passionate about what they do,” Jones said. “They care so much about their students and their communities. They really represent the best of all HBCUs. HBCUs are the fabric of the communities and I think you saw that reflected here today.”

The summit also featured a career fair and an afternoon panel discussion titled “Student Voices: How Alabama HBCU Student-Leaders Are Lifting Up Their Campuses.” The panel, moderated by Jones, featured students from Miles College, Alabama A&M University, Shelton State Community College, Talladega College and Trenholm State Community College.

“Trying to educate and train the workforce of the 21st century is going to be a challenge,” Jones said. “We’re changing technologically, we’re changing demographically, we’re online — everything is moving in a different direction. Education has got to keep up with that, but also so do businesses. They’ve also got to start reaching out and develop those partnerships to not only train, but to mentor. I think you heard that today.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Community development key to elevating Alabama

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Many of Alabama’s rural cities and towns are growing their communities, thanks to valuable assistance from Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE) and Main Street Alabama.

Leaders from both organizations shared their benefits Jan. 30 at the Economic Development Association of Alabama’s (EDAA) Rural Development Conference in Montgomery. Bevin Tomlin, Economic and Community Development manager for Alabama Power, hosted a panel discussion with Sidney Hoover, executive director of Alabama Communities of Excellence (ACE), and Mary Helmer, state coordinator and president of Main Street Alabama, in which the women discussed ways their organizations assist communities.

“We go in and help them with community development — all of those quality-of-life issues, such as education, health care, recreational — why do you want to live here,” Hoover said. “We used an asset-based approach and leverage that.”

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Community development helping rural Alabama grow from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Hoover said ACE takes cities one to three years to complete, whereas Helmer says Main Street Alabama is an ongoing community program designed to create jobs, spark new investment, attract visitors and spur growth.

“It’s really talking about how you build that swell of community involvement and engagement and carry it through to economic development,” Helmer said. “Main Street never leaves a community. It’s a way to manage the changes in a district over time.”

Tomlin said a number of cities across Alabama are growing, thanks to help from ACE and Main Street Alabama.

“You can look at towns like Jasper and Decatur at how far they’ve come in the past five or 10 years with the tools and resources that Main Street Alabama has been able to bring to their programs,” Tomlin said. “You can see breweries popping up, you can see clothing boutiques popping back up, you can see people wanting to come back into downtown, and then with ACE you’re developing your leadership capacity in the communities.”

Hoover said ACE helps communities focus on the unique qualities that make them attractive to both their residents and potential businesses.

“We want them to develop what they want to be,” Hoover said. “Some want industries, some that’s not what they want, and so success is the vision they have for their community and the uniqueness of it.”

Helmer said a unified community is a key to success.

“Everybody wants to be able to recruit businesses in, but you really have to work with the existing businesses first, and then look at the market and be able to recruit additional businesses beyond that,” Helmer said. “If you don’t allow people to be involved in the process on the front end, they don’t play or pay on the back side of it, so it’s extraordinarily important.”

Tomlin said both organizations are helping elevate Alabama’s attractiveness to new businesses.

“When your downtowns are revitalized, when your communities are prepared for growth, like through ACE, you are able to attract the population that wants to live in your communities,” Tomlin said. “So, when an economic development project is looking at the state, you’ve got more communities that are able to raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got what you’re looking for.’”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Diverse businesses ‘critical’ to success of Birmingham

African American entrepreneurs were encouraged to embrace growing business opportunities during the start of the 16th Annual A.G. Gaston Conference at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex on Tuesday morning.

A panel of business leaders shared with attendees a variety of opportunities. Bob Dickerson, executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center and host of the conference, said Birmingham has plenty of opportunities available.

“There are a lot of opportunities that are happening in our city, created by The World Games, expansion of the airport, transit – we’re about to build a stadium, and that, in addition to all of the regular stuff that goes on, says that there are tremendous opportunities for small, minority and diverse businesses,” Dickerson said. “We just wanted to put that out there and try to do what we can as the A.G. Gaston Company to help people do more business in the city of Birmingham.”

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Business leaders encourage African American entrepreneurs at 2020 A.G. Gaston Conference from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Dickerson said the Birmingham region is about 30 percent black or brown, but black and brown companies and entrepreneurs only generate about 1 percent of the total spend.

“We have to change that,” Dickerson said. “We need to make sure we understand it and our stakeholders, major corporations, big procurers have to understand that it’s in everybody’s best interests that we grow African American businesses.”

Glenda Thomas, Supplier Diversity manager at Alabama Power, said investing in the services of suppliers helps more than the business.

“For every million dollars that a corporation invests and pays you for your services, that creates 14 jobs,” Thomas said. “We’re changing the narrative about supplier diversity, economic inclusion, where we’re making an impact in our communities.”

David Fleming, president and CEO of REV Birmingham, said small businesses have a tremendous opportunity to thrive.

“In the last decade, we have seen a lot of change in our city,” Fleming said. “Our city center went from having 5,000 people living in it to over 13,000 people and growing. That’s opportunity. Those people need services. They need businesses to serve them. I believe there’s a lot of great days ahead of us in Birmingham and we’re happy to be a part of it with all of these great friends up here to build our city.”

Marcus Lundy, senior vice president and Supplier Diversity manager for Regions Bank, said small businesses can become suppliers to larger businesses, but only with assistance.

“There are three legs to the stool in what we do with supplier diversity: access to opportunities, access to capital, and training and development,” Lundy said. “That’s why we’re here, to share those nuggets with you.”

Melodi Morrissette, Community Relations executive for the East region of BBVA, said educating small business owners is important.

“Our small business curriculum has five modules in there and we’re looking for opportunities to come to you and share one of those modules, such as developing a business plan or how businesses obtain credit,” Morrissette said. “Access to capital has been named one of the biggest needs for small business owners.”

Fred McCallum, interim president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, said BhamBizHub was created to help small businesses and minority-owned businesses connect with people who need their services.

“The goal of the BhamBizHub is to create a place where we can connect small businesses, minority-owned businesses to resource providers,” McCallum said. “If you’ve got services you can provide to those businesses, we would be interested in talking to you.”

Ronald Mathieu, president and CEO of the Birmingham Airport Authority, said his organization is one of those resource providers that needs a robust supply chain.

“We exist to be an engine for this community,” Mathieu said. “The more successful we are, the more money we are ultimately able to put into this community, and the better and healthier the community is.”

Irvin Henderson, president of Henderson and Company, said his company is in Birmingham on purpose.

“We chose to come here because Birmingham is the next hot thing,” Henderson said. “Not here by mistake. Here on purpose.”

The entire panel discussion can be viewed in the video below.

Watch the Business Corner Opportunity Forum at the 2020 A.G. Gaston Conference from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Finding Birmingham’s next A.G. Gaston

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Creating an environment that develops the next generation of young entrepreneurs and business owners was the focus of a panel discussion Wednesday at the 16th annual A.G. Gaston Conference.

Bob Dickerson, executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center and host of the conference, said his team chose this panel topic to talk about how the community can create an incubator to nurture and support the next A.G. Gaston.

“There are people in our midst, folks who are starting businesses, some people who may be working somewhere right now, who have the wherewithal, who have something inside of them that might allow them to become the next A.G. Gaston,” Dickerson said. “I want them to leave here better informed about how to help grow African American business enterprise in our community.”

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Searching for the next A.G. Gaston from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Anthony Hood, director of civic innovation in the Office of the President at UAB, moderated the discussion. He asked participants to talk about Birmingham’s ecosystem and what conditions need to exist for business owners, especially black business owners, to grow, thrive and become the next A.G. Gaston. Elijah Davis, Strategic Growth manager at Urban Impact Inc., said one way is to modernize technical assistance offered to business owners.

“One of the things I continuously complain about is that if we are using 1990s ways of technical assistance, we will fail,” Davis said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the property owners as we really develop a cohesive vision that really of us really believe that it can still be.”

Tene Dolphin, deputy director for Business Diversity and Opportunity at the City of Birmingham, said the city is ripe for becoming a hub for minority entrepreneurs.

“The reason why I love this work so much is because I believe we create culture,” Dolphin said. “We create the energy that’s in this city. If we don’t connect to the businesses that are in somebody’s house, the retail businesses, the businesses that are in somebody’s head, we’re missing the mark.”

Carmen Mays, founder and CEO of Elevators, said there is a whole class of creative young people in Birmingham who people never see because they don’t present themselves in a way that many people think is acceptable.

“Because of that, we miss out on the beauty of the ecosystem,” Mays said. “That’s where all of the culture is. That’s where all of the swag is. That’s where all of the sauce is. All of that stuff that makes us so colorful and great is really with those people.”

Davis said discussions like this are an opportunity to help people around the country.

“I see this, Birmingham, as just not a particular type of local opportunity to uplift black folks, but this is also a signal to uplift black folks in the entire nation,” Davis said. “Nowhere else is there a historic black Wall Street that’s still owned and occupied by businesses that have been here.”

Dickerson said the discussion also helped participants leave with a better appreciation of who A.G. Gaston was and what he meant to Birmingham.

“What he taught, what he left us — I want them to be fired up,” Dickerson said. “I want them to leave here fired up about going out and either supporting an entrepreneur that happens to be an African American, becoming a better African American business owner, or a corporate person that understands the need and significance of supporting African American entrepreneurship in our community.”

The entire panel discussion can be viewed in the video below.

Watch the Day 2 morning panel discussion from the 2020 A.G. Gaston Conference from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

New weigh-in pavilion at Smith Lake reaches construction milestone

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

Construction of a public-use weigh-in pavilion at the Lewis Smith Lake Dam boat ramp in Walker County hit a milestone this week.

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Construction continues on new Smith Lake weigh-in pavilion from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Construction crews began installing steel beams Feb. 3. The beams are the next big step in the project, which began at the first of the year thanks to volunteers from the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance. Lee Smith, apprenticeship coordinator for Operating Engineers in Birmingham, said the work is good experience for the workers.

“I’ve had probably 20 separate apprentices up here since the first of December working on this, doing the foundation, getting the grading and it’s really good experience for those guys,” Smith said. “They’re getting real-world experience for something that we can give back to.”

The pavilion will feature fish holding tanks, which reduce stress and increase survival rates, and shade for tournament weigh-ins. Freddy Padilla, Corporate Affairs manager at Alabama Power, said the pavilion is funded through a partnership between B.A.S.S. and Alabama Power and constructed with the help of many others.

“We’ve brought other people into this project, such as the State of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance,” Padilla said. “That’s what is so cool about this is the private-public partnership. It’s really going to help to invite more tournaments.”

The pavilion is expected to be completed in early spring.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway unveils new kids coloring board

(Talladega Superspeedway/Contributed)

Alabama’s Talladega SuperspeedwayNASCAR‘s largest race track, unveiled Thursday a new coloring board for children to play with inside the track’s Talladega Garage Experience.

“Having a wide range of opportunities for families and kids to enjoy while visiting during race weekend is a top priority here at Talladega Superspeedway,” said Brian Crichton, president of Talladega Superspeedway. “The kids coloring board is a great addition to our Kids Zone in the Garage Experience.”

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Talladega Superspeedway unveils new Kids Zone Coloring Board from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The 4-by-8-foot coloring board is a hand-drawn mural of iconic images from Talladega Superspeedway, such as John Ray’s big rig truck, the Vulcan Trophy and a military flyover. It was created by Sarah Roberts, owner of SarahOMaryDesigns in Jasper.

“We made sure we also incorporated a lot of kid-friendly things that would get them excited, like the flags, the trophies and things like that,” said Roberts. “The camping was a big thing, too, since it’s a big part of Talladega. I looked through many photos and used my memories of watching racing at Talladega when I was a kid, and then we picked out key elements that we wanted to include in the mural.”

The mural is one of several kid-friendly activities inside the Talladega Garage Experience, a 140,000-square-foot infield zone for fans to socialize and interact with drivers.

“It’s all about the guest experience as we move forward,” Crichton said. “Providing experiences like the Talladega Garage Experience, it’s a completely new level.”

NASCAR racing returns to Talladega Superspeedway with the Geico 500 on April 26. Families with access to the Talladega Garage Experience that day will also have the option to go behind the scenes and participate in the Kids VIP Experience presented by Children’s of Alabama. These exclusive “pre-race” options for children 12 and under include:

  • NEW! Fist Bump Alley backstage at Driver Introductions
  • NEW! Gatorade Victory Lane Celebration
  • Fist Bump Alley along the catwalk at Driver Introductions
  • Gatorade Victory Lane photo opportunity
  • Hot Lap around the mammoth track in a Grand Marshal car
  • Guided Garage/Hauler Tour
  • Drivers Meeting Red Carpet Experience
  • Pit Box Tour with a race team.

The youngsters can choose one of the eight experiences on a first-come, first-served basis once at the Kids Station located near the Kids Zone. There is a two-kids-per-one adult limit.

To learn more about Talladega Superspeedway and the Talladega Garage Experience, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Alabama’s Environmental Studies Center teaches more than nature

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contibuted)

For the staff at Alabama’s Environmental Studies Center (ESC), one mission stands above all: to help others love nature as much as they do.

“I have been here for 26 years,” said Susan Clement, a biologist at ESC. “I still love it as much as the first day I started.”

The ESC is a natural sciences education facility owned and operated by the Mobile County Public School System. The center affords teachers, students and the general public an opportunity to experience first-hand natural resources found on more than 400 acres of pine and bay forests, swamps, freshwater streams, a carnivorous plant bog and 20-acre lake. Indoor facilities include an auditorium, library, reptile exhibits, saltwater aquarium and preserved animal specimens native to Alabama.

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“We teach about the plants and animals that are in the environment,” Clement said.

Mobile’s Environmental Studies Center provides unique learning experiences from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The ESC operates a wildlife rehabilitation program, treating more than 600 animals each year.

“Our goal is to release them back into the wild,” Clement said. “On occasion they can’t be released, and a lot of these animals get to stay here and become a part of our educational program.”

Clement said the ESC relies on donations and volunteers to operate.

“We have a very small staff here at the ESC and we have a lot of exhibits, a lot of land, gardens that we can’t always maintain,” Clement said. “About twice a year — sometimes even more, Alabama Power will come out and do a major, outdoor workday where they are raking, trimming, repairing cages, cleaning cages, expansions on exhibits. It’s an amazing amount of work that these people can do in just one day.”

Jack Shaw, a journeyman for Alabama Power and a volunteer with the Alabama Power Service Organization, says he loves volunteering at the ESC.

“I volunteer because I love the fact that Alabama Power gives back,” Shaw said. “There’s a lot of animals and wildlife we don’t really get a chance to see, and to come out here and volunteer really shows that we can give back.”

Alabama Power Instrument and Controls Specialist Webb Bryant agrees.

“We love coming out here and doing the work,” Bryant said. “It’s rewarding for us and with the group that we send out here, we get a lot of work accomplished in a short period of time.”

The ESC is open weekdays from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is $3 per person. For more information, visit mcpsesc.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)