The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

    Excerpt:

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

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

2 months ago

Alabama – A paradise of water

(Manufacture Alabama/Contributed, Sam Dellaporta/Unsplash, YHN)

Alabama is blessed with many natural resources. Water is one of the most important because it is so vital to Alabama’s environment, economy, recreation, biodiversity and quality of life.

In fact, Alabama has 132,000 miles of rivers and streams as well as large groundwater supplies available for our personal use and recreational enjoyment, for keeping our farming and forestry-based opportunities functioning at optimal levels, and for supporting the industries that provide products and jobs for our residents.

But what do we know about our water resources and who helps the state prepare for extremes such as droughts or floods? Fortunately, there is a plan and a process designed to monitor water data and bring representatives of water-use groups at every level together for their input and perspectives. It has served Alabama well.

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The primary entity for monitoring Alabama’s water resources is the Office of Water Resources (OWR), a division of the Alabama Department of Economic Community Affairs (ADECA). OWR is supported by the Geological Survey of Alabama for groundwater assessment and availability.

The OWR was created in 1993 to improve the understanding of how, when, and where water is used and to improve Alabama’s ability to negotiate with Georgia, Florida and the US Army Corps of Engineers in the litigation commonly referred to as the “water wars.” The Alabama Water Resources Act tasked the OWR as the lead technical group supporting interstate litigation issues and as the office with the primary responsibility for monitoring statewide water use.

The Act also created an advisory committee to the Governor and Legislature – the Alabama Water Resources Commission (AWRC). The AWRC is composed of 19 members, representing various water uses such as agriculture, industry, water utilities, navigation, and recreation as well as specific regions of the state. Roy McAuley, Executive Director of the Alabama Pulp and Paper Council, currently chairs the Commission.

Times of extremes – droughts or floods – bring greater awareness of Alabama’s water resources. To support drought planning and response, the Alabama Drought Assessment Planning Team (ADAPT) is a committee consisting of state and federal agency representatives, plus representatives from agriculture, forestry, electric utilities, and industry, who are appointed by the Governor. ADAPT advises OWR and the Governor when drought conditions present significant impacts and provides recommendations on responses. ADAPT’s Monitoring and Impact Group Technical Subcommittee meets regularly to evaluate current and anticipated conditions which help guide OWR when it periodically issues an Alabama Drought Declaration.

Additionally, Alabama has adopted a statewide Drought Management Plan to help guide drought planning and response. The drought plan works, as demonstrated in the 2016 drought; which had a major impact in central Alabama. The frequent communication and coordination under the plan helped water users manage their supplies to ensure availability throughout this period. The process also encourages public and private water users to ensure sustainability by having alternative water supply sources and activating local drought response plans when necessary.

At the other end of the water spectrum is flooding. OWR plays a major role in the development, modification, and approval of flood risk maps used by local leaders to determine and minimize risk in their communities. They are also important to the management of the National Flood Insurance Program that guides municipalities in the prevention and mitigation of flood impacts to property, homes, and businesses.

Finally, OWR has led Alabama’s efforts to provide reports of water availability and use. These reports help us better understand how water is used and the resulting trends. Total water use in Alabama has not increased in about 40 years, while our population has increased about 25%. This is strong evidence that Alabama water users know the importance of our water resources and are working to help ensure that Alabama will continue to be a “Paradise of Water.”
ADECA’s OWR is at the forefront of these efforts to help manage the state’s water resources, and Governor Ivey’s support is appreciated in this continuing effort.

George Clark is the president of Manufacture Alabama, the only trade association in Alabama dedicated to creating a business and political climate that promotes a positive, competitive environment and enhances the opportunity for growth of Alabama manufacturers.” As president, Clark acts as CEO and principal for the organization.

4 months ago

George Clark: Texas failed to prepare. Alabama shouldn’t.

(Manufacture Alabama/Contributed, Unsplash, YHN)

There is no substitute for being prepared. That’s true whether you’re protecting your family in a time of crisis or ensuring your business is ready for the worst. And as we’re learning in Texas, it’s especially true when it comes to delivering power.

There can be no question. What has happened – and what continues to happen – to power customers in Texas is a disaster. The state’s one-of-a-kind power grid was simply not prepared for extreme winter conditions. The companies customers trusted to heat their homes and power their businesses failed when the chips were down. And for all the finger pointing about which fuel source was to blame, it was never about one power source or another, but a failure of accountability and preparedness across the board.

Fortunately, it’s a disaster that Alabama has taken aggressive steps to avoid.

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In June, Alabama regulators approved nearly 2 gigawatts of new power generation for Alabama Power customers, including investments in Mobile and Autauga Counties that will strengthen the ability of the state’s largest power provider, Alabama Power, to deliver power to families and businesses in extreme winter conditions.

These investments are critical in light of data showing that in recent years the utility’s winter peak demand has exceeded the summer peak demand. During the 2014 Polar Vortex, for example, customers demanded 12,610 megawatts of power, a figure that eclipsed the prior all-time peak of 12,496 megawatts that occurred in the summer of 2007. Making investments now, as opposed to waiting until the worst happens, was the best way to protect power customers in coming years. We were pleased to support the decision.

Investments like these are absolutely critical, especially in light of what’s happening in Texas. Even with a reserve margin of over 15%, the Texas grid still failed. The investments approved by Alabama regulators will move Alabama Power’s reserve margin in upcoming years to more than 25%, a figure that provides additional peace of mind that electricity will be available to Alabama Power customers when they need it most.

For decades, our members have been able to count on Alabama Power, TVA, and the state’s electric cooperatives to prepare for the worst. We can also rest assured that all utilities in the state, whether investor-owned like Alabama Power or locally managed ones like electric cooperatives, are accountable to those they serve. Our system of regulation creates bright lines of responsibility for keeping the lights on, a layer of accountability that Texas’s mostly deregulated electric marketplace clearly lacks.

Not all voices agree, of course. A number of groups, including Energy Alabama, GASP, and the Southern Environmental Law Center, opposed the additional investments in Alabama Power’s generating portfolio. In fact, those groups are still intervening at the Alabama Supreme Court to stop these investments, claiming that the system doesn’t need more power and that a reserve margin of more than 25% is too high.

Alabama’s Public Service Commission understands what affordable and reliable energy means to all electric energy customers. It’s easy to take for granted the reliable part of this equation. Commissioners Cavanaugh, Oden and Beeker should be commended on taking the steps to prevent the type of disaster experienced in Texas, from happening here in Alabama.

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.  

3 years ago

Lawmakers must see the road ahead: Modernizing our transportation system benefits us all

(Pixabay)

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.

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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 fewer vehicle 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.  

4 years ago

Dual Enrollment: Good for Students, Good for Alabama (opinion)

(COD Newsroom/Flickr)
Flickr user COD Newsroom

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.

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