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

The Preserves, Alabama Power recreation sites, open to all to enjoy nature

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Alabama is known for its beautiful lakes, but there is even more to discover along the state’s lakeside lands.

Alabama’s rivers, lakes and streams have some of the most topographically and ecologically diverse property surrounding them, and The Preserves are Alabama Power’s celebration of this land, offering the gift of splendid outdoor experiences to Alabama residents and visitors alike.

“The Preserves are our company’s way of giving back by enhancing our state’s natural resources and making space for residents and visitors to take in and appreciate the beauty and solace around them,” said Ed Windsor, Alabama Power Recreation Development assistant. “They are designed to be open for everyone to enjoy. As the weather continues to get warmer and people are venturing outside again, we want to remind everyone that they are welcome to hit the road and enjoy some of these sites.”

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Explore The Preserves by Alabama Power along Alabama lakes from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Preserves, which were officially branded in 2018, leverage existing land around the lakes and reservoirs to create 65 unique public-use spaces across 12 reservoirs for individuals and families to venture outside, enjoy nature and make lifelong memories.

With lands along the Black Warrior, Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers, there are Preserves within driving distance of everyone in Alabama.

Visitors to The Preserves can learn about the importance of protecting and preserving the environment for generations to come. Educational nature trails can be found at the recreation sites at these lakes:

Some of The Preserves’ day-use parks provide an educational component with interpretive signage on the nature trails that teach about different native species of plants, animals, birds and pollinators, in addition to offering picnic spots, boat ramps, playgrounds and swimming holes.

“We are incredibly proud of our Preserves and all they have to offer,” said Sheila Smith, Alabama Power Shoreline and Recreation land supervisor. “Our sites provide access to boaters, picnickers, hikers and swimmers. These areas have been updated in the past couple of years with features such as gazebos, benches and trails perfect for walking, biking and even bird-watching.”

In 2021, Alabama Power plans to continue working on updating The Preserves sites with added features, such as barrier-free amenities, paved and striped parking lots, new walkways and more.

For visitors looking for specific amenities, The Preserves website, apcpreserves.com, includes a map and detailed charts that outline what each site offers.

In the coming months, check back at apcshorelines.com for new stories that offer an in-depth look at some of the individual Preserves sites and one-of-a-kind amenities available to visitors.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Lake Martin Tourism Association’s Brandy Hastings predicts ‘strong summer’ on Alabama lake

(Lake Martin Tourism Department/Contributed)

As the weather slowly gets warmer with the promise of longer days and more opportunities to spend outdoors, Lake Martin Tourism Association (LMTA) Executive Director Brandy Hastings is excited to welcome visitors from both near and far.

“It’s going to be a strong summer for us,” said Hastings, who joined the nonprofit in 2020.

Originally from Louisiana, Hastings began her career in broadcasting in Florida and later transitioned into a career in tourism. After serving in different roles to market the Sunshine State, she realized her true passion was to make a big impact on smaller, more targeted destinations.

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In February 2020, Hastings made her first trip to Alexander City and experienced a slice of what Lake Martin has to offer.

“Everyone was amazing,” she said, sharing how a chili cook-off, a trip to Wind Creek State Park and a delicious meal at the iconic Kowaliga Restaurant left an impression on her.

Hastings’ enthusiasm for Lake Martin and all it has to offer is evident in the great strides LMTA has made in growing its digital presence. With a new website that launched in September 2020, consumer and tourism industry e-newsletters, and a fresh social media presence across FacebookInstagramYouTube and LinkedIn, Hastings is committed to finding new ways to tell the story of “Alabama’s Freshwater Coast.”

She said unlike some destinations, the Lake Martin area has continued to grow and thrive despite the pandemic.

“While a lot of destinations were really hurt by decreased tourism numbers, we had record bed and sales tax collection numbers, which is unheard of,” Hastings said. “We were a destination people felt safe coming to. People needed to get out and be doing something, and coming outdoors was a safe way to do it. We will continue to take safety precautions because our visitors are coming to us to feel safe, and it’s our duty to give them that experience everywhere they go.”

Hastings said she expects tourism around Lake Martin will continue to grow in 2021 because a renewed interest in safe outdoor activities isn’t likely to wane, even after the pandemic subsides, adding that people who may not have been particularly outdoorsy in the past are now investing in outdoor lifestyles and hobbies.

“Memorial Day through Labor Day is a very busy time for us, and it remained strong last year,” Hastings said, explaining that tourists are still looking for safe, outdoor destinations in light of the lingering COVID-19-related travel risks. “We have another group of people who weren’t ready to travel before, and they are now getting ready to make those travel decisions, and they’re putting their toes in the water – hopefully they’ll be putting their toes in our water.”

Looking ahead, Hastings said LMTA’s top goals are to continue to increase visitation to the Lake Martin area, boost lodging and sales tax numbers, and grow brand awareness within the market’s 200-mile radius.

LMTA aims to “introduce the unique spirit of Lake Martin to visitors from around the world,” and Alexander City certainly has plenty of allure that makes it stand out as a prime destination. Beyond the pristine waters for fishing tournaments and water sports, the area offers one-of-a-kind experiences like Goat Island, Peanut Point, Wind Creek State Park, country legend Hank Williams’ cabin, on-the-water dining and plenty of lodging options and  noteworthy businesses.

“We offer great opportunities to experience the outdoors and to really come make memories with your family, friends, pets or even by yourself,” Hastings said. “No matter what your travel consists of, we are a great place to go and take it all in.”

In addition to reaching and engaging tourists, Hastings is putting a special focus on working and partnering with Alexander City merchants and residents – both seasonal and full-time – to ensure they have the resources they need from the tourism association, in addition to encouraging them to experience the area themselves.

One way LMTA is doing this is through “Lakin’ Like a Local,” a new, unscripted YouTube video series that features Lake Martin locals talking about their love for the community, where they like to go and what they like to do.

“Authenticity is so important in the story we are telling,” Hastings explained. “The lake is one part of the story, but there is so much more, too.

“It’s very important for me that people want to come here,” she added. “We want to show that we welcome them with open arms to come to our community.”

Lake Martin boasts the designation of being a Treasured Alabama Lake by the Lake Martin Resource Association (LMRA), an honor it has held since 2010. The designation signifies that Lake Martin stands out for its water, beauty and recreational opportunities, and the ongoing efforts designed to ensure those qualities will be preserved for generations to come.

In advance of Earth Day on April 22, Hastings highlighted efforts of LMTA and LMRA to maintain and care for the lake and its community. In addition to Renew Our Rivers cleanups, the buoy placement project for boater safety and many other initiatives, Hastings said LMTA is teaming up with LMRA on a “tourism gives back” program to keep areas in and around the lake clean and presentable.

“Keeping our area clean is a main priority to us because we are the ones welcoming visitors in,” she said. “It’s the same way I feel about cleaning my house before company comes – we are encouraging people to get out and help us clean before company comes. It’s a way for our tourism industry to give back to the community.”

Hastings said LMTA wants to always be giving back, and welcoming people in.

“With COVID, I think this has been a very crazy year for all of us, but time with family and friends and making memories is more important than anything. We are a place to do that.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama startup Fledging gains traction following 2021 CES conference

(Fledging/Contributed)

Last month, Fledging, a Birmingham-based tech startup, joined nine others from Alabama to exhibit their companies with the Alabama Startup Pavilion at the all-virtual 2021 CES conference.

Hosted by the Consumer Technology Association, CES is the world’s largest and most influential consumer technology event, giving even the smallest startups the opportunity to interact with businesses, thought leaders, policymakers, media and the broader worldwide tech community.

Fledging provides affordable alternatives to manufacturer-provided storage hardware, called Feather SSDs, for Mac products.

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“Our mission is to make premium electronics accessible to everyone,” said Fledging CEO Ethan Summers. “We believe you should be able to repair and get the most out of your devices for the long term, and we offer really high-quality, premium performance products at a fair price point.”

Despite the all-virtual conference platform, Fledging took full advantage of the networking and exhibitor opportunities available, taking time to reach out to nearly 300 people in the days leading up to the event.

Their work garnered serious traction with various manufacturing and supplier partners, as well as securing coverage from major publications, including The Wall Street JournalForbesC|Net, Wired and Gizmodo, with positive reviews of Fledging’s latest product, Hubble for iPad.

Summers said he was proud to promote Alabama as one of the country’s brightest entrepreneurial hubs during his outreach.

“Any chance I get, I am really committed to bringing up our Alabama storyline and helping our community be more of what it can be,” he said. “In a world where there are so many products, adding that hook will go a long way.”

Summers sees Alabama as having an exceptional edge when it comes to the success of startups.

“The saying is that a rising tide raises all ships,” he said. “Alabama has a highly collaborative landscape when it comes to startups, and I think that’s unique.”

The Alabama Startup Pavilion was sponsored by Made in AlabamaAlabama PowerEconomic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA)Techstars Alabama Energytech Accelerator, and the University of Alabama.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 months ago

Two Alabama bioscience companies receive AdvanSE Life Sciences Awards

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Two Alabama-based companies and BioAlabama members – Acclinate and SiO2 Materials Science – have been recognized by Southeast Life Sciences as winners of the association’s AdvanSE Life Sciences Awards.

The regional AdvanSE conference recognized Acclinate for best initial funding, while SiO2 was honored for best strategic partnership.

This recognition further elevates Alabama’s growing bioscience sector, which during the COVID-19 pandemic has played an essential role in responding to the virus and health equity challenges surrounding it.

Acclinate

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Acclinate, a digital health company founded in Huntsville, assists biopharmaceutical companies and research organizations to increase minority and ethnic participation in clinical trials and research.

“We are deeply humbled by the honor of being recognized by such a distinguished organization,” Tiffany Whitlow, Acclinate co-founder and chief development officer, said of the company’s recognition for best initial funding. “We are passionate about this work yet understand that funding is a catalyst for an emerging, minority-owned company.”

Bronze Valley, a nonprofit tech accelerator founded in Birmingham and focused on supporting diverse, underrepresented and underestimated startups, recently added Acclinate to its investment portfolio, noting their shared mission for developing solutions for addressing health care disparities and increasing diversity in the technology startup arena.

“The current method of drug trials and biotech development does not properly take into account minorities and their health differences,” Whitlow explained. “This can lead to drugs that don’t perform as expected when given to people of color, which can have a rippling effect on the overall health of the community. By addressing these issues and educating both trial participants and biotech researchers, this underrepresentation can hopefully be improved, leading to better and safer medication for everyone.”

Specific to COVID-19, Acclinate supports the Alabama Community Engagement Alliance Against COVID-19 Disparities (CEAL), which is led by Dr. Mona Fouad and her team of experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Minority Health & Health Disparities Research CenterUAB was awarded a grant by the National Institutes of Health for outreach and engagement efforts in ethnic and racial minority communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

Acclinate recently announced that it has opened a second office, in the Denham Building in Birmingham, in addition to its office at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville.

SiO2

SiO2, an Auburn-based materials science company, received the AdvanSE Life Sciences Award for best strategic partnership. As COVID-19 vaccines move into late-stage testing in the U.S., SiO2 recently received a federal contract to produce the vials for the forthcoming vaccine.

“As always, we feel humbled and honored to be recognized,” said Lawrence Ganti, SiO2 president and chief business officer. “We have been focused on helping to bring a solution to market which can help save the world one vial at a time.”

With significant funding from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), this summer SiO2 invested $63 million to expand and upgrade its packaging plant to increase production capacity for vials and syringes, as well as building a new injection molding facility nearby.

Ganti said that the DOD’s Operation Warp Speed (OWS) program has been a collaborative effort by various U.S. government agencies and private corporations, the funding and collaboration from which have changed the landscape of U.S. domestic medical supply in ways not seen in 50 years.

“We have hired more than 400 employees and supported the economic development of biotech in Alabama,” Ganti said. “We fully expect to continue to lead this development in the state as we bring more technological advancements and products to the world … from Alabama.”

For more information about these two biotech companies and the work they are doing for both Alabama and the country, visit Acclinate Genetics and SiO2 Materials Science.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)