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.

3 days ago

Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

(Doing More Today/Contributed)

It’s a tradition that’s now over 40 years strong.

Every year, the Regions Center tower in Birmingham, Alabama, is transformed into a brilliant holiday display – with Christmas trees, a massive wreath and a giant stocking celebrating the season every evening.

The lights are visible for miles – from vistas along Red Mountain, to travelers crossing through town on nearby interstates, and to airline passengers about to land at the airport a few miles to the east.

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“Every year, we’re asked how we do it, and while we’ve made a couple updates over time, the process is still very similar to the way it was in the late 1970s,” explained Emilio Cerice, Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for Regions Bank. “The lighting display didn’t begin until the late 70s, but it turned out, the stage was set for the display about 10 years earlier.”

While the building was under construction between 1968 and 1971, Cerice said a light tube was placed in a small area above each window starting on the fifth floor. Initially, the idea was to light the building in bright white every night. But the energy crisis of the 1970s brought that to an end.

“The history of using the lights as a Christmas display started after the energy crisis was over,” Cerice said. “Back then, the building was owned by First National Bank of Birmingham and a company called Sonat – or Southern Natural Gas. The details have been hard to pinpoint, but it’s been said that a Sonat executive was in Houston and saw a building that used its ‘curtain wall’ design – similar to what we have – for a Christmas display. That executive came back to Birmingham and led the effort to get a display here.”

Over time, the building has gone on to carry the AmSouth name; then, following the 2006 merger of AmSouth and Regions, the Regions name and its updated logo were placed atop the tower. But through it all, the holiday lights have remained.

“It’s something we look forward to every year – and it’s something the city looks forward to,” Cerice said. “In recent years, it’s been fun to watch social media and see people sharing creative photos of the building or sharing their memories of coming downtown to see the lights.”

Preparations for the display get underway around late summer or early fall each year.

“The images are created by placing red and green ‘gel sleeves’ over the white light tubes above each window,” Cerice said. “Crews operate with a grid showing the pattern of the display on each side of the building, and that lets them know which windows need which colors. Then, they change the display in February or March every year to the golfer image that we display during the Regions Tradition golf tournament. That one uses some different shades of green, as well as blue, so there’s a lot of changing and re-changing of the gel sleeves that takes place.”

Testing of the Christmas display takes place during the early morning hours in the days before Thanksgiving. If needed, any corrections are made. Then, at 5pm on the day after Thanksgiving, the display comes to life. It remains illuminated until midnight each evening through Dec. 31.

“If you’re near a window from the fifth floor and up when the display comes on each night, it’s very noticeable,” Cerice said. “A lot of people like to try to figure out where their office is in the tree, or the wreath, or whichever side of the building they’re on. We had a team that moved offices two years ago, and not long after they moved in, they looked at the lights above the windows and tried to figure out, ‘So where are we within the tree here?’ They compared the colors of the lights to a video of the building on YouTube and determined they were almost halfway up the tree in their new offices.”

Besides the holiday display and the golfer, the tower has hosted two other displays.

“In 1991, there was an American flag and the letters ‘USA’ in support of those serving during the Gulf War. Then, in 1996, there was an Olympic torch and the Olympic Rings when Summer Olympic soccer was being played at Legion Field,” Cerice said.

The Regions Center tower rises nearly 400 feet over 5th Avenue North at 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham. Some of the best views are from Birmingham’s Railroad Park, as well as from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain.

“Birmingham is our headquarters city. We’re proud to occupy a prominent spot in the city’s skyline,” Cerice said. “And we’re proud to carry on this tradition.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

4 months ago

Financial fraud targeting college students: How to stop the scam

(Regions Bank/Contributed)

“Hey, I can help you earn some quick cash.”

To some, those words are an immediate red flag. Surely, this must be a scam. Just say, “No, thanks,” and move on.

But wait. The person making the offer has someone else with him. And that person has a stack of cash.

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They sing the guy’s praises. “Hey, it worked for me. All I had to do was cash a check for him – and he paid me a lot.”

In other cases, there’s a story about an urgent need – some down-on-my-luck concoction that appeals to the conscience of the person who the criminal is trying to lure.

“Hey, I’m new here, and I just haven’t been able to get my bank account set up yet. I’ve gotta get my power and water turned on. I just need someone to deposit this check and give me the cash. I’ll even give you a cut of the money,” they say.

It’s happening nationwide.

Often, college campuses are ground zero.

Security experts at Regions Bank say they – and their counterparts at other banks – are seeing more cases of financial fraudsters preying on young adults. And as students head back to campus this fall, there are two clear warnings:

  • Don’t fall for it.
  • If you do, there may be little chance of recovering what’s lost.

“At first, the amount of money someone wants to move through your account may seem small enough. You might think, ‘What’s the harm?’” said Jon Kucharski from Regions Bank’s Enterprise Fraud Prevention division. “But there’s plenty of harm. The checks they want to deposit are fraudulent. And if you’re assuming ownership of these checks, and you’re even giving these people access to your account, you’re making yourself part of the fraud. You’re setting yourself up.”

The criminals have a lot of experience. They know how to convince people to take part. They also know when to vanish. And because they’ve conned their way into getting your bank account information, they drain the money that’s in there as they disappear.

“It’s basically their full-time job,” Kucharski added. “It’s up to all of us to be on guard. There is no good reason to do what these people are asking you to do.”

And keep in mind, while the crime often begins in-person, a lot of college students are recruited online or through social media.

(Photo: Regions Bank)

No matter how it starts, the results are often the same.

“We see too many cases where the student has even given someone their online login or their debit card and PIN,” said John Joyce of Regions Corporate Security. “The conmen will sometimes coach the student on how to try to trick their bank into thinking all these deposits and withdrawals are legitimate. Sometimes they’ll get the student’s login ID and password and then change the online banking credentials and lock the student out of the account.”

While banks are seeing a lot of students falling into the scheme, they caution that anyone could get drawn in. And when someone essentially hands over the keys to their account by giving someone else their login ID, password, debit card and other private banking information, they have little recourse for getting their money back.

“Our teams are working every day to detect and prevent fraud. We have many cases where our associates detected something was wrong, and they took action to help protect the customer,” Joyce added. “But ultimately, if you’ve chosen to deposit a fraudulent check, or if you’ve given someone access to your account and they take off with the money, there may be little that we can do to recover what they take.”

Regions Corporate Security recommends a handful of simple steps to protect your account.

  1. Don’t take the bait: Remember, the fraudsters are good at adapting. They’ll come up with some persuasive story about why they need your help. But it’s never a good idea to put a stranger’s check in your account.
  2. Decline, move on, and speak up: If you’re approached by someone running a scam like this, politely explain that you cannot take part, and move on. Then, let your local bank branch – and law enforcement – know what happened. The more people are looking out for activity like this, the less likely it is for criminals to succeed.
  3. Take immediate steps to secure your account if you’ve fallen into a scheme: Change your password. Review your account carefully. And let your bank know. If the fraudsters have already taken money because they were given access, that money might not be recovered. But alerting bank staff can help protect what remains – while raising awareness of fraudsters operating in your area. The safest bet is to never share personal financial information with anyone.

“Our focus is protecting customers,” Kucharski concluded. “And in cases like this, awareness and prevention are the best defense.”

More information on financial fraud prevention can be found on Regions.com. Also, Regions offers financial advice and guidance specifically designed for college students and graduates in the Next Step section of Regions.com. The information is accessible to anyone for free.

So be aware as the new semester begins – someone may try to separate you from your money. Don’t fall for it. And continue to check Doing More Today in the coming weeks and months as we share additional insights and resources designed to help protect accounts – and combat fraud.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

5 months ago

Major employers join new Birmingham workforce-development program

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

You could feel it in the atmosphere. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Curiosity.

And maybe a little nervousness? No, not nervousness. More like anticipation.

“I knew what to expect. I researched the company,” said Brian Thomas. “And I went in confident. I wasn’t nervous at all – just ready to start working.”

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Thomas, only moments before, was one of 20 recent graduates and rising seniors from Birmingham City Schools who were connected with paid apprenticeships at some of the area’s top employers. Those connections took place earlier this month following several rounds of interviews at the Birmingham Negro Southern League Museum. Students rotated from table to table, speaking with different companies, sharing their career goals and showing employers the skills and benefits they could bring to their workplace.

The format – think speed-dating-meets-workforce-development – was ideal, offering each employer and student the chance to get a feel for which workplace would be the best fit.

Questions were friendly but strategic. Students were looking for signs that the employers could help them reach their professional goals; employers were looking to ensure the types of jobs they offer would match what the students were seeking. Participating companies represented four industry sectors: finance and insurance, healthcare and life sciences, energy and engineering, and digital technology.

Before long, the connections were made.

It’s all part of a new program called Birmingham Promise.

In its pilot stage, Birmingham Promise is an initiative of Mayor Randall Woodfin in conjunction with school leaders and area employers. The idea is to give young people on-the-job exposure to rewarding career paths. The apprenticeships will last for a few months, equipping students with valuable skills and long-term connections. Students can then build on their experience as they continue their education – or enter the workforce full time.

Following this summer’s pilot, the program is expected to grow and reach more students beginning this fall.

Woodfin said Birmingham Promise is about providing new opportunities to thrive in today’s economy, adding, “We have to change the status quo. We need to change our approach to preparing our builders of the future.” Students in the inaugural class of Birmingham Promise were paired with companies such as Regions BankAlabama PowerShipt and Brasfield & Gorrie.

Students shared with Birmingham Promise organizers the industry sectors that were of the most interest to them. Each was assigned to a handful of interviews with companies representing those sectors. Organizers then used the interviews to determine which students would be paired with which companies for summer apprenticeships.

Thomas, who just graduated with honors from Huffman High School, was encouraged by his mother to pursue an apprenticeship at Regions. At first, he didn’t realize how many careers intersect with banking.

“I was like, ‘Regions is just a bank,’” he recalled. But then, “I learned more about the corporate business and the other opportunities that they have – whether it’s lawyers, IT development and other areas. There are many careers you can get into at Regions besides just the bank aspect.”

Technology resonates most with Thomas. Following the rounds of interviews, he and the 19 others in the pilot program lined up, waiting to be formally paired with employers that had been designated as a match. Think National Signing Day meets career training.

Thomas got what he came for – an apprenticeship with Regions. His mother is encouraged to see a clearer path between schools and employers.

“It’s like having a career fair in the school. But this time, they get that on-the-job training,” Laquita Thomas said. “They are able to figure out, ‘This is exactly what I want to do.’ It gives them that next level of hope – that they’re not just dreams, they’re aspirations.”

Woodfin celebrated with apprentices as they were matched with employers.

“Birmingham has always been the Magic City – a city of promise,” Woodfin said. “The promise has always been more than our steel mills; it’s always been more than our startups or our infrastructure. It has always been its people. These students who are here today represent Birmingham’s true promise.”

Ana Gregory is another example of Birmingham’s true promise.

“This is so exciting. All the energy here is just amazing,” the Huffman grad said as she scanned the room.

Speaking of energy, that’s the line of work she’s pursuing — specifically, mechanical engineering and how it complements the energy industry.

“Since I was 7, I’ve been building – destroying, as my mom would call it – and putting back together a lot of things, from vacuums to flashlights,” she said. “I just love being hands-on. You name it, if I can mold it into something, I will do it.”

Her employer match for the apprenticeship? Alabama Power.

“I’m just super-excited to meet people who are successful in what they do so I can learn from them,” Gregory said. “Meeting people that are actually offering me a job to learn about what they do, and being able to have hands-on experience, I’m super-grateful and thankful that I’m able to be here.”

Leroy Abrahams, head of Community Affairs for Regions, said there are several reasons for employers to get involved in workforce-development programs.

“Having really good, well-trained people is critical, and it’s worth it for a business to invest in that,” Abrahams said. “Because they’re investing in their own success.”

Not only does Birmingham Promise connect students with future careers and employers with future professionals; career training helps the city, and its people, remain competitive.

“We live in a global economy,” Abrahams added. “So for the students who we’re speaking with today, and the companies that are interviewing them, it’s not only a matter of how competitive we are in Birmingham, it’s about how competitive we are across the state, across the country and beyond. That’s why it’s so important for companies to invest both in the workforce of today and the workforce of the future.”

Abrahams pointed to Regions’ ongoing commitment to fostering more inclusive prosperity.

“This is one of the most powerful ways we can make a difference as an organization,” he said. “The employers who are here today are connecting people with opportunities to grow and succeed. This is creating not only short-term benefits, but long-term benefits that I believe can impact Birmingham for generations.”

Birmingham Promise is addressing an urgent community need. Woodfin shared numbers that underline the importance of new opportunities. Specifically, he said:

  • 50% of students in Birmingham City Schools live in poverty.
  • 40% of the city’s potential workers are on the sidelines and not in the labor force.
  • Of the 54% of Birmingham students who pursue college, they are carrying, on average, $31,000 in debt.
  • The city has the 16th-highest youth unemployment rate in America.

The numbers can be discouraging.
But by taking a united approach, the city, the school system and major employers are working to reverse trends.

“Together, we will build the infrastructure that our schools and our employers need to scale youth apprenticeships,” Woodfin said. “This type of program – this pilot apprenticeship – will lay the groundwork for a larger Birmingham Promise that will combine secondary and post-secondary apprenticeships with college scholarships to develop pathways for higher-quality jobs in our community.”

Additional information can be found here.

This story originally appeared on Regions Bank’s Doing More Today website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)