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’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.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Lawmakers must see the road ahead: Modernizing our transportation system benefits us all
Alabama’s manufacturing industry has always been at the heart of our state’s economy. Even today as Alabama’s economy is growing, the manufacturing sector is projected to have above-average growth according to a recent study from the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business.
As we look to continue this economic growth and expanded job base, Alabama must address several challenges, including those regarding our transportation and infrastructure systems. Alabama’s crumbling roads and bridges have garnered much-deserved attention, but there are other issues, too. For example, one of Manufacture Alabama’s primary focuses during the 2019 legislative session will be state funding for a critical port expansion project.
It is important to understand, especially when lawmakers are constantly at odds over how to allocate limited resources, that infrastructure investments are not the only remedy to alleviate stress and congestion on our bridges and roads. Adoption of certain policies – such as increasing the length of twin trailers from 28 feet to 33 feet – should also be considered as a way to modernize our transportation systems.
The length of twin trailers – that is, trucks that pull two connected trailers – is currently capped by a national standard at 28 feet per trailer. However, some states, like neighboring Florida, have passed modern state regulations that allow for 33-foot twin trailers, known as “twin 33s.” By allowing a trailer length increase of just five feet, these states have created an environment for manufacturers, shippers and distributors to transport goods safely and more efficiently.
Twin 33s are a win-win-win proposition. If adopted nationwide, twin 33-foot trailers would result in 3.1 billion fewervehicle miles traveled each year. From a safety standpoint, this would eliminate an estimated 4,500 truck accidents per year. From an infrastructure standpoint, it would reduce trucks’ impact on roads and bridges, thus improving longevity. And from an efficiency standpoint, it would increase the capacity per delivery by more than 18 percent, even with the current federal total truck weight limit of 80,000 pounds.
The current federal regulations were put in place more than 35 years ago and do not align with the demands of our 21st-century marketplace. Allowing twin 33-foot trailers to operate in all 50 states is a commonsense solution that would improve our transportation and infrastructure systems at no expense to taxpayers. In a time of innovative growth in the business and manufacturing sectors, twin 33-foot trailers will modernize the delivery of products and goods to businesses and consumers across the country. It will allow carriers to move more goods without putting additional trucks on the road and already crowded highways.
As leaders in Washington consider the future of our nation’s economy and our transportation and infrastructure systems, modernizing trucking standards should be an important part of these policy discussions. Our local, state and national economies are on the rise; we must look at the road ahead and support policies to better foster future growth and success.
George Clark is the President of Manufacture Alabama.Manufacture Alabama is the only trade association in the state dedicated exclusively to the competitive, legislative, regulatory and operational interests and needs of manufacturers and their partner industries and businesses.
Dual Enrollment: Good for Students, Good for Alabama (opinion)
Dual enrollment is a program that allows students to earn college credits while still in high school. In other words, it is an opportunity for high school students to gain a leg up on their peers. The way it works is simple. Alabama community colleges partner with local high schools, and students use their elective periods to take college courses. The completed college coursework is applied to both the student’s high school graduation requirements and the student’s college transcript.
The results are tremendous. By the time a dual enrollment student graduates high school, it is possible that he or she will have earned enough credit hours to also receive a two-year degree. The credit hours through dual enrollment can be applied not only towards a two-year degree, but can also be transferable to a four-year university. Industry-recognized certifications are also available, which qualify students to enter the workforce immediately. Any of these outcomes should be considered a success depending on that particular student’s needs and goals.
But there is a catch. The dual enrollment program is not free. Each student who enrolls in the program is responsible for paying program tuition to the community college. However, most students are afforded this otherwise unattainable opportunity through state-sponsored scholarships for the career-technical dual enrollment program. I was pleased in previous years when the Legislature appropriated $10.3 million to support Alabama’s dual enrollment students, but it turns out that there was a greater demand than expected.
With only $10.3 million in available funds, over $12 million worth of dual enrollment scholarship applications were received from students across Alabama. While it is unfortunate that some motivated students were not able to take full advantage of the program, this is, in fact, good news. To me, this is clear evidence that the dual enrollment program is gaining in popularity and is working successfully.
Let me give you a real example. Just recently, I learned of a public high school student who is scheduled to graduate a couple of months. Before he receives his high school diploma, he will have earned enough college credit hours through the dual enrollment program to receive an Associate’s Degree. Not only that, but he has a $42,000 per year job offer from a local manufacturing company and a scholarship offer from a four-year institution.
This is a real success story. The dual enrollment student is the clear winner, but so will be the manufacturer or the four-year school who are competing for him. Dual enrollment has given this student both educational and career-oriented options. It prepares young Alabamians to financially support themselves and their families without the burden of student loans, and it benefits industry in Alabama, which is desperately seeking to provide high-paying careers for the right candidates. Keep in mind, also, that the state’s modest investment in each dual enrollment student is quickly returned, as they are likely to contribute economically in a short period of time.
The Alabama Community College System is requesting a $5 million increase for dual enrollment to further serve and invest in Alabama’s high school students. Before the Legislature’s spring break, the program had received only level funding from the Senate education committee, but with a long legislative road still ahead of the education budget, I remain hopeful that the program will receive its additional $5 million funding request.
When I served in the Legislature, I considered funding proposals according to the state’s projected return on investment. Now, looking at the dual enrollment program, there is no doubt in my mind that increased funding would generate a significant return on investment. For a program that so greatly benefits students, employers and the state, $5 million is a small price to pay.
George Clark is the President of Manufacture Alabama, the state’s only trade association dedicated exclusively to the competitive, legislative, regulatory and operational interests and needs of manufacturers and their partner industries and businesses. He also serves as Chairman of Alabama’s Workforce Development Board and Vice Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.