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

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    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.

4 months ago

Birmingham’s Bronze Valley wins federal grant to support entrepreneurial development

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Bronze Valley has been awarded a grant by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The $284,500 grant, which will support Bronze Valley’s strategy for making startup funding more accessible to entrepreneurs from underrepresented ethnic, gender and income groups, was announced July 23.

“We are extremely pleased and excited with our success in this competitive grant process,” said Bronze Valley President Neill S. Wright. “Minority and female entrepreneurs are changing the face of business and technology with every success. The EDA grant will further our mission of making more and greater success possible for groups that historically have been underfunded and often underestimated.” 

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Bronze Valley is one of 18 entities nationwide — and three in the Southeast — to receive funding through the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Seed Fund Support grant competition for 2019. The grants provide funding for capacity-building programs that assist innovators, entrepreneurs and organizations that support startups with early-stage funding. According to EDA, the competition is part of its commitment to “fostering connected, innovation-centric economic sectors that support the conversion of research into products and services, businesses and ultimately jobs through entrepreneurship.”

Specifically, the grant to Bronze Valley will support the Empower Alabama Fund. Created to recruit and deploy seed-stage capital and otherwise ensure the presence of funding opportunities that will help scale a diverse innovation ecosystem, the fund also focuses on maximizing the impact of federally designated Opportunity Zones on economic growth in Birmingham. Bronze Valley’s goal over the next three years is to invest in 20 startups with an average investment of $50,000, and to educate 150 startups and 300 private investors through its Startup & Investor Education Program. The longer-term goal is to expand the Empower Alabama Fund beyond the Birmingham region.

“We have tremendous opportunities,” Wright said. “Bronze Valley is bringing innovation, ideas and thought together with capital and mentorship to create change. Through those efforts, we can help improve the lives of not only individual entrepreneurs, but of our community, our state, our region and the nation as a whole.

“Winning this grant is part of that process, and another step that we can continue to build on,” he said.

Launched in late 2017, Bronze Valley is working to create an education-to-opportunity-to-outcome pipeline for ethnic minorities and women in technology careers, the entrepreneurial ranks and other fields in which innovators will lead the way in creating the jobs of the future. In addition to providing access to capital, Bronze Valley’s efforts are concentrated on workforce development and providing value-added services to entrepreneurs.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Civic innovation panel considers Birmingham’s future

(Dennis Washington/Alabama NewsCenter)

“It’s about building an ecosystem that enables people to thrive,” declared Anthony Hood. “It takes partnerships between universities, the corporate community, nonprofits and elected officials. That means cooperation and, in Birmingham, we’ve never seen the level of cooperation that we’re seeing today.”

Hood is director of civic innovation at UAB, and his comments came in the introduction of a panel on that topic at the 15th annual A.G. Gaston Conference in Birmingham. The conference bears the name of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist who was a grandson of slaves and built a business empire in the segregated Birmingham of the mid-20th century. By the time of his death in 1996, at the age of 103, Gaston had long been hailed as one of Alabama’s greatest citizens.

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The 2019 edition of the conference was devoted to the theme “One Vision, One Cause: Elevating African-American Entrepreneurship.” That theme reflects the current attitude in Birmingham, a city that is enjoying what numerous speakers referred to as a “renaissance” as it continues to emerge as a center for technology-related business growth.

Hood’s civic innovation panel picked up on that theme. But the discussion also stressed economic and social gaps that must be addressed to ensure the presence of a workforce to support Birmingham’s continued growth.

“We have to be honest about the context in which we’re working,” said Kellie Clark, director of operations for Innovate Birmingham, a public-private partnership tasked with fostering inclusion and delivering increased economic prosperity. Clark said one aspect of fulfilling the mission of connecting talented people with prospective employers is providing wraparound services that ensure people can take advantage of programs.

“There are gaps in the pathway,” Clark said, mentioning the costs of housing, food and child care as obstacles that can stall or prevent people from developing their talent. “Wraparound services are crucial. If we want to maximize the potential of our workforce, that’s not charity, it’s necessity.”

That attitude is part of a comprehensive approach to business attraction and workforce development that will distinguish Birmingham in coming years, said Rachel Harmon, deputy director of talent development for the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity. Calling that approach “critical to making sure economic growth is inclusive,” Harmon added that “not a ton of cities have figured out how to do this well.”

“Single-minded approaches to economic development often fail,” Harmon said. “We have to think not just about attracting jobs, but about the quality of jobs we’re targeting. We also have to think about giving people the ability to be entrepreneurs, to create jobs for themselves. We need to make sure that all of those pathways are open.”

Adrienne Starks is founder and CEO of STREAM Innovations, a Birmingham nonprofit that helps students develop and explore their talents in science, technology, reading, engineering, the arts and mathematics. She said that, regardless of the discipline to which they may be inclined, there is a common thread for helping students excel.

“They’re waiting for us,” Starks said. “It’s up to us to create opportunities for them to express themselves.”

Access is a key ingredient to ensuring young people are positioned to take advantage of opportunities. That’s according to Brittney Smith, who recently left her role as manager of workforce development for the Birmingham Business Alliance to take on a similar position for Birmingham-based Protective Life. Smith stresses the value of networking, as companies sometimes overlook talented potential hires who are “right in their own backyard,” most particularly products of historically black colleges and universities. Making sure that doesn’t happen, she said, is key to optimizing Birmingham’s continued economic growth — and ensuring the local workforce is reaching its potential.

“How can we help companies make sure they’re not overlooking great talent?” Smith asked. “How can we challenge them to be a part of developing a pipeline for diversity and inclusion?”

From the corporate side of the economic growth equation, Alabama Power Company’s Ralph Williams echoed moderator Hood’s comments about the fruits of cooperation. He pointed to his company’s partnership with City Hall on “Smart City” initiatives aimed at enhancing public safety, including the recent placement of 21,000 LED lights on poles throughout Birmingham. Beyond such visible improvements, he said, the key is bringing together partners who are “being thoughtful and intentional about the future.”

“This is a wonderful time to live in Birmingham,” said Williams, government and community relations manager for Alabama Power’s Birmingham Division. “We’re only beginning to see the results of what can happen when we’re thoughtful about economic development, about the kinds of jobs we’re bringing to our community, about all of these things that have a positive impact.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)