The Wire

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

1 month ago

Alabama native Rachel Baribeau is Changing the Narrative and expanding her own

Rachel Baribeau has pivoted from her successful sports broadcasting career to helping others with her Changing the Narrative movement. (contributed)

Sportscasting is a tough business for anyone, but has been traditionally even more difficult for women. That’s why the change in direction for Rachel Baribeau won’t make sense … until you hear her explain it.

“I am always evolving – as a woman, as a queen, as a daughter and a friend and as a fiancee and a future wife – I am always trying to be better. I’m a lifelong learner.”


Rachel Baribeau is Changing the Narrative in college sports and beyond from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Auburn graduate and former Pell City resident had a career many would consider perfect: covering SEC football and other sports, from the sidelines and from her college football talk show on Sirius/XM (where she was the network’s first female college sports host).

Baribeau was well-respected enough among her peers to be granted a Heisman Trophy ballot. But it was her work away from the microphone that made the most noise.

“The idea that there is royalty inside of all of us; that there is legacy and purpose and greatness.” Baribeau beams as she describes the impact of the conversations she had been having with college athletes.

Changing the Narrative” was Baribeau’s passion project – a movement that promotes positive mental health and inspiring people to build a positive legacy for others. She took her “Purpose – Passion – Platform” message on a nationwide tour of college football programs, filled with candid heart-to-heart conversations.

After spending four years on this consulting journey, Baribeau announced last October that she would be walking away from sports to concentrate on Changing the Narrative full time.

“I started with this desire and belief that athletes could trend for something other than bad news,” Baribeau said.

Now a nonprofit, Changing the Narrative has expanded further. Baribeau is now in demand in locker rooms, board rooms, law enforcement agencies and entire athletic conferences. “We already have the Big Ten on board; how great would it be to be in all of the Power Five conferences?”

Baribeau is scaling the program in several ways. First, the pandemic has forced a shift to more online training and modules. Second, the material is being tweaked to skew younger for high school audiences. Finally, Baribeau is training a network of other speakers including former athletes who can bring their own experiences of Changing the Narrative to even more audiences.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

and 2 months ago

Florists decorate Birmingham Rotary Trail in an act of beauty and healing

(Ike Pigott/Alabama NewsCenter)

Flowers bring joy, and they can heal the soul.

On Friday morning about 25 florists joined in decorating the Rotary Trail in Birmingham. As a beautiful start to the weekend, said Cameron Pappas, florists swathed the trail in greenery, roses and colorful blooms of all sorts. People even brought flowers from their yards.

The effort was to bring “light and joy” to Birmingham residents. And the 46-foot-tall sign with the words “Rotary Trail in the Magic City” was the perfect place to begin.


“I was laying in bed Sunday night, watching these scenes unfold where Birmingham was in chaos. Seeing this was so sad,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist in Birmingham.

When Carolyn Chen called Pappas later, an idea was born. The owner of Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities in Homewood, Chen thought that decorating the entrance of the Rotary Trail could be a start to bringing emotional healing to the Magic City.

Area florists put Birmingham’s Rotary Trail in full bloom from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Random acts of botany

“Carolyn wanted to figure out how to help the city heal after this past weekend and the coronavirus,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist for more than four years. Between the two, giving flowers in a difficult time is a natural response: “Flowers bring joy. Whether it’s a sad time like a funeral or a happy occasion like a birthday, flowers bring happiness,” he said.

Pappas and Chen invited more than 50 florists from a 40-mile area around the city to help. Three wholesale flower distributors in Birmingham – DavisR&W Wholesale Inc. and Hall’s Birmingham Wholesale Florist – donated flowers and greenery.

“It’s cool to have everyone in an industry come together,” he said. “We want to make people happy, and give them something to look at besides broken glass and boarded up windows.”

What started as a simple gesture bloomed into something memorable. Several of the participating florists were livestreaming to Facebook. Several people from outside of Birmingham saw the videos and posts on social media, and came to take their own pictures.

Pappas said that seeing people join together to help was an amazing sight.

“People were cutting flowers, using their talents to help,” he said. “Everyone was busy beautifying the Rotary Trail with one thought: We love Birmingham. We love this city and our people.”

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

3 months ago

Alabama company makes it easier to deliver ‘Props’ in COVID-19 world and beyond

(Props Love/Contributed)

At a time when there are so many people to thank, some are finding it difficult to make that happen.

Service-industry employees, such as those working as restaurant servers, have relied on tips that allow customers to directly register their appreciation. Many other jobs that enhance a customer’s experience are often left unthanked.

That was the thought behind Props Love, an app that began as a labor of love for George Goodwyn of Montgomery-based Goodwyn Building.


Unlike other apps, such as Yelp!, the audience for Props isn’t other customers seeking reviews. “We don’t want to be a place for negativity. This isn’t about a customer’s gripes; this is a place to express thanks for employees who went over and above,” said Taylor Peake, founder of the app’s developer, MotionMobs.

App users can register a Prop (a digital thank-you) for someone who made their day better, and leave the feedback for management. “Too often, the suggestion form doesn’t create the right vibe for the thanking of employees who stand out, and the process is so much that customers just don’t do it,” Peake said.

While the original version of Props was more oriented toward retail businesses and restaurants, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has identified other groups in need of kudos and encouragement: medical workers and those in health care and front-line fields.

“Sometimes that unsung hero is the office worker who helps you navigate the paperwork and helps you get your care more quickly,” Peake said. “Those people don’t work for tips, and their supervisors almost never know the impact they have on relieving pain and anxiety from customers and patients.”

Props launched for metro Birmingham last summer, and by design will not be an overnight success.

“We built Props to recognize the many front-line employees whose work goes unnoticed and unappreciated every day. And now, more than ever, they need that positive feedback and encouragement as we all struggle to adapt to our changing world,” Goodwyn said. “We know there are challenges ahead when it comes to user adoption and how this integrates with business goals, but we’re intently focused on the people we built Props to serve and we’re looking forward to continuing to evolve our product to meet that mission.”

Plans include expansion into Montgomery once the Props team is comfortable with the recent addition to its mission.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Birmingham AIDS Outreach adapts to serve clients during COVID-19 crisis

(Birmingham AIDS Outreach/Contributed)

In a typical month, Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) serves about 800 people. Those services include counseling, legal aid, nutritional supplements and meal delivery. The recent coronavirus emergency has prompted the staff to be even more creative to get the job done.

“Today we had a produce truck come in, and we had to figure out how to unload that while also maintaining distances,” said BAO CEO Karen Musgrove.


Orders to stay home, designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, have varying degrees of impact on the nonprofit’s programs. The youth center has closed and HIV testing has been suspended. The wellness center now sees clients only by appointment and is filling prescriptions over the phone. But one of the more high-touch services continues to fill a vital need – food boxes.

In a typical week, BAO provides food baskets and gas vouchers for nearly 200 AIDS patients in the greater Birmingham area. “We already exist in this world where we have to consider how to help people with compromised immune systems,” Musgrove said. “We know what it’s like to practice universal precautions; it’s ingrained in who we are.”

Those food baskets contain fresh fruit and produce, canned goods and, since this past December, cleaning supplies. Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus, staff members were concerned that few of them would be able to show up for the assistance. Instead, nearly everyone arrived for their appointment, kept safe from COVID-19 exposure by new procedures such as curbside pickup.

Musgrove has had to rearrange schedules and work areas. A few employees work from home, while volunteers are not able to help at all for now. Essential staff members are assigned to keep the population in each site to a minimum and to keep workers from intermingling between buildings.

“It’s amazing how prepared the BAO staff are, and they are going the extra mile to help our clients during this time,” she said. “The need for BAO’s essential services (food, medical services, counseling, legal and case management) is too important to the community we serve.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)