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.

2 weeks ago

Alabama restaurant empowers, prepares youths for life

(Michael Jordan/Alabama NewsCenter)

The steady stream of customers who walked into Pannie-George’s Kitchen in Montgomery for a late lunch were all greeted with a friendly smile and an immediate offer to help. Noticeable was the youthfulness of those working. There’s a 17-year-old prepping food, a 16-year-old washing tables and sweeping, another 16-year-old frying chicken, and a college sophomore and high school junior running the front register. Adults are watching nearby and providing encouragement with only minor corrections.

COVID-19’s effect on businesses, especially restaurants, are well-known. Many restaurants have responded in unique and supportive ways to continue business, but also help the community.

Pannie-George’s Kitchen, located in Auburn and Montgomery, experienced similar struggles, but invited local students to help with their growing curbside and takeout business. The students became more of the mainstream inside the restaurants, gained experience and confidence, and learned valuable lessons in leadership and customer service. The Pannie-George’s Leadership Academy was born at the crossroads of need meeting opportunity.


Pannie-George’s Leadership Academy from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Once the pandemic started, we began to look for ways to help,” said Jerelene Askew, managing partner of Pannie-George’s. “We wanted to help families and kids through the crisis. What started as a way to help became a program to mentor and guide and prepare these students so they can give back to their community.”

Since the pandemic began, Pannie-George’s has hired 13 students and built a leadership program based on 11 tenets: integrity, character development, spiritual development, academic success, financial understanding, civic and community outreach, management and leadership planning, strategic and critical thinking, project management, public speaking and benefit to the company.

Not hard to miss is the drive and motivation of each of the participants in the Leadership Academy. “They come to us for the opportunity,” said Askew, “but they quickly learn what it takes to be successful here, but away from here as well.”

Most of their students are without previous work experience, but each has embraced the lessons of the leadership program and accepted instructions as the path to be a better student and achieve future goals.

Keyndon Floyd, a 16-year-old high school junior and aspiring astronaut, hopes to attend Tuskegee University. “I’ve learned things like hard work and dedication,” Floyd said. “You have to work really hard for anything you want in life. I do everything with effort.”

Those sentiments were echoed by 16-year-old Donald Dees, whose sights are set on college to pursue a criminal justice degree. “What I’ve learned here will help me because I know how important it is to be on time … being in classes on time, being on time to do anything: great expectations and high standards to be able to succeed and go to college and be successful.”

Every student who is part of the Leadership Academy discussed the values of excellent customer service and clear communication as a measure for success.

“I have learned very good customer service,” said Jasmine Hill-Cleare, an 11th grader with a goal of attending Howard University to study to be an intensive care nurse. “How to treat the hot-line appropriately and secure food appropriately and how to treat everyone with great care.”

Staff of Pannie-George’s Kitchens have taken ownership of the program and are offering guidance and encouragement. Sidney Williams, a high school senior, is the lone student who talked of being a future chef. “I follow chef Sidney and take what he tells me and learn those skills.”

Askew said Pannie-George’s Leadership Academy will continue to grow.

When asked what she is most proud of in this first year, she said, “I’m passing a lot of these skills I’ve learned over the years to these young people to make them more powerful. They can further themselves along and then they’re going to reach back and help somebody else.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

AFLAC donates 10,000 face shields to Montgomery County EMA

(Michael Jordan/Alabama NewsCenter)

AFLAC donated 10,000 face shields to the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency on June 8 – a donation that started with a concerned doctor’s comment to her husband.

“What you really come to understand is that we’re really a small community and a small world,” said retired Brig. Gen. Trent Edwards, senior vice president of Military and Community Development at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

Accepting AFLAC’s donation, Edwards said the chamber’s quest for personal protective equipment (PPE) for people in Montgomery started with the comment a  Baptist Health doctor made to her husband, who works for Alabama Power.


PPE face shields donated to Montgomery from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Dr. Mary Karst lamented about the lack of PPE to Keith Karst, Southern Division marketing manager at Alabama Power. Keith Karst mentioned the need to Leslie Sanders, vice president of Southern Division at Alabama Power, who then mentioned it to Edwards and led him to Dr. Joanna Newton at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. That led to a conversation with Sherry Farrugia, chief operating and strategy officer of Georgia Tech’s Pediatric Technology Center and director of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Partnership (and a native of Evergreen, Alabama).

Farrugia had seen Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on national television explaining the situation in Montgomery, and Farrugia was looking for a way to help. AFLAC got involved and the result was Monday’s delivery of 10,000 face shields.

“We’ve still got more work to do,” Reed said. “We haven’t won the battle yet. We’re trying to get closer, but we still need everyone to do their part.”

Edwards acknowledged the large amount of PPE donations coming from individuals, families, organizations and businesses, ranging from homemade cloth masks to 3D-printed face shields. The military and the chamber even got involved.

“It’s just been a tremendous show of support,” Edwards said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

Alabama Power connects Auburn University students with city of Tallassee

(Alabama Power/Contributed)

Graduate students from Auburn University’s Landscape Architecture program were in Tallassee recently to help produce a new vision for the local landscape.

Led by Rob Holmes, Auburn University assistant professor of landscape architecture, the students met with Tallassee Mayor John Hammock, Central Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission Executive Director Greg Clark and Alabama Power employees. They discussed the history of Tallassee, issues facing the community and opportunities to incorporate the area’s existing and natural resources.


Hammock shared several ideas that city leaders have discussed to promote development around Thurlow Dam and the Tallapoosa River, including new walking paths, a pedestrian bridge, downtown streetscapes and redevelopment of an old textile mill site.

The meeting was coordinated by Chris Goodman, Alabama Power Hydro manager, who saw an opportunity to connect the students with the city after hearing about the project. Tallassee is home to Alabama Power’s historic Yates Dam and Thurlow Dam.

Thurlow Dam, built in 1930, sits next to a former textile mill that was the heart of the Tallassee community for many years. The site is also home to what was an ammunition and supply factory during the Civil War.

Yates Dam, built in 1928, sits just upstream from Thurlow Dam. In addition to electricity, both dams and lakes have boosted the economy while providing recreation, wildlife habitat and flood control for the area.

“Students previously completed a project on the Chattahoochee River (on the Alabama-Georgia border), and for this class we wanted to focus on a waterway here in our home state of Alabama,” Holmes said. “I knew Chris Goodman with Alabama Power and reached out to see if, after seeing firsthand some of the work students were doing, he could connect us to a local community to work with. I have heard a lot about the city of Tallassee and Thurlow Dam and was very excited to hear that he thought the community would be open to a partnership with our students.”

The Auburn students have been asked to use everything they have learned about landscape architecture in creating the new vision for Tallassee. Holmes emphasized that their vision should be based on a long-term investment and partnership with the community. Using the Tallapoosa River as an anchor, each of the 10 graduate students will develop his or her own idea of how best to use the lands surrounding the river and city. These projects are part of their final coursework in the Landscape Architecture program.

“We welcome fresh eyes looking at the issues we face and helping us address them through a new perspective,” Clark said. “This has reaffirmed existing partnerships between Tallassee, Alabama Power and Auburn University, showing that these relationships are alive and well. Cities can’t do it alone; it takes partnerships. Partnerships are what help move things forward.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

R.B. Hudson students partner with community groups to beautify Selma

(Michael Jordan/Alabama NewsCenter)

When art, schools and the community get together, lasting partnerships are formed.

In Selma, such a partnership is ongoing as students from R.B. Hudson STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) Academy are taking part in an art project aimed at creating a new and attractive space for the community.


Last month, students began working with Selma-based ArtsRevive to transform a building owned by Cougar Oil into an inspirational mural, which students say will be their vision for the future of Selma.

“We wanted to encourage students to think outside the box, but we also wanted to embody the history of Selma itself, all while giving a ray of hope to the community, “said Mariama DeRamus, R.B. Hudson visual arts teacher.

ArtsRevive is a Selma not-for-profit that believes the arts offer an entry to economic and community redevelopment and can spur creative place-making in Selma and Dallas County. The group works to bring together community members, governmental leaders, artists and designers to increase vibrancy and diversity.

“We told students that we wanted them to focus on what they envision for the future of Selma, while not forgetting the past,” said Becky Youngblood, executive director of ArtsRevive.

Organizers say they hope to have the mural complete this month.

ArtsRevive has several ideas for future use of the space. The organization plans on creating space for an art studio and flower garden for students and the community to enjoy.

The mural is at 136 Maxey St. in Selma.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

Alabama Power Explorers Program inspires future engineers

(Michael Jordan/Alabama NewsCenter)

For 24 years, Alabama Power engineers have led an Explorers program in which they provide hands-on learning opportunities for high school students interested in engineering.

The program is a collaboration with the Boy Scouts of America to introduce students to various types of engineering. More than just a presentation, students discuss potential career paths and compete in a hands-on project to better understand the importance of different engineering fields.

“I was involved in similar programs when I was young, and it is so rewarding to be able to help other young people experience this opportunity,” said Amber Bryant, an engineer in Montgomery.


A recent civil engineering project involved different types of trusses for bridge building. After learning about designs, students competed to see who could build the sturdiest bridge using popsicle sticks. The winning team built a bridge capable of holding more than 45 pounds.

Another project involved a discussion of mechanical engineering in which students focused on concepts of inertia and torque in the design of catapults. They formed teams and competed to see who could build a functional catapult out of a soda can, rubber bands and popsicle sticks. They catapulted peppermints approximately 20 feet.

“We received great feedback from the students on our most recent project involving catapults. The students as well as the engineering mentors were extremely impressed by the teams’ designs,” said Isreal Askew, an engineer in Prattville. “We have found that tying a hands-on project like this into our discussions really helps students not only develop a fuller understanding of the concept but encourages active input and a continued involvement with the Explorers program.”

In future meetings, students will learn about aerospace, electrical and computer engineering, giving them a well-rounded understanding of possible careers.

“I am incredibly proud of Alabama Power’s engineers for giving of their time to open a potential career path to area students,” said Southern Division Vice President Leslie Sanders. “The program’s success is built upon our employees having a love for their career and having a desire to share those lessons with others. Every year, because of this program, we know of students who graduate to pursue a career in engineering.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Butterfly Bridge restores shattered lives of Alabama youths

(Michael Jordan/Alabama NewsCenter)

The streets of downtown Clanton fill with people shopping, getting a bite to eat for lunch and attending to business at City Hall. In the background, children laugh and scream while playing outside at a local day care. For most, the day is peaceful.

Within earshot of all the activity is the Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, a nondescript building with a small sign on the door. Inside, paintings, play areas, bright spaces and friendly, dedicated men and women welcome children who are victims of, or witnesses to, sexual and/or physical abuse. The paintings by area children, some as young as 4, offer a bright, happy welcome.


Butterfly Bridge restores lives of abused children from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“We offer a safe, child-friendly environment to children victimized by abuse or neglect,” said Jana Zuelzke, executive director of Butterfly Bridge. “We are a place of healing.”

The highly trained women and men who work within Butterfly Bridge know the laughter heard from the nearby playground can be replaced in an instant with fear, trauma, tears and physical harm. The staff assists law enforcement officials to prevent abuse, to educate about potential signs of abuse and to help heal victims’ emotional scars.

Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center serves children in Autauga, Chilton and Elmore counties. In 2018, the nonprofit provided 5,354 services to children – 31% to children ages 6 and under; 37% to children ages 7-12; and 32% to children aged 13-16. Reasons for referral primarily involved sexual abuse (70%), although critical services were provided to victims of physical abuse or those who witnessed domestic or sibling abuses.

“Our goal here is rebuild lives, which may be shattered,” Zuelzke said. “Our giving partners, such as the Alabama Power Foundation, help us to provide information to raise abuse awareness, allow us the ability to hire the professionals who are so critical to our mission, and help with the education materials for parents and caregivers and the community. We take very seriously our role in helping children feel safe and loved.”

When the peace of a day is broken, the Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center is ever-present to help rebuild lives and futures.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Children and the needy in Alabama Power’s Southern Division get holiday help

While the bustle of the holiday shopping season is in full force, members of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) Southern Division chapters joined in the shopping spirit (Contributed)

While the bustle of the holiday shopping season is in full force, members of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) Southern Division chapters joined in the shopping spirit, but not for themselves or family members. Instead, they spent time over the past two weeks buying and wrapping presents for children and families in need across central Alabama.

The Tallassee APSO chapter supported the Association of Christians in Tallassee for Service (ACTS) with gifts for 15 children. ACTS was created in the mid-1980s by a collection of area churches to assist those in need with food, clothing and shelter in Elmore and Tallapoosa counties. Each family received a box of dry goods to allow them to prepare a holiday meal, as well as a gift certificate from SuperFoods for a turkey or ham and cold goods, such as eggs and milk.

In Auburn, APSO supported the BigHouse Foundation’s Santa’s Workshop. BigHouse helps foster parents buy gifts for their foster children and serves families in Lee, Macon, Tallapoosa and Chambers counties.


In addition to the gift purchases, members volunteered time wrapping presents and staffing the Santa Workshop event at Cornerstone Church. At the event, foster parents selected from among donated items for their children. Employees volunteered their time to wrap presents to assist the Lee County Department of Human Resources (DHR). Auburn Power Delivery, Marketing and Accounting employees adopted a family in need in lieu of exchanging gifts.

“These are small but important ways we can help and support those in need throughout our communities,” said Melinda Landers, Auburn Business Office supervisor. “Every gift purchased or wrapped and the time donated is special, not only to those who will receive, but for us who are giving. The needs are great in our communities and we are blessed to be able to support one another.”

In Wetumpka, APSO sponsored a DHR Christmas Party with First Baptist Church, providing food and gifts for 51 children.

In Montgomery, the 16 children spending Christmas at the Family Sunshine Center will have their wish lists granted by members of the Montgomery APSO chapter. Gifts were bought and wrapped for each child. The Family Sunshine Center is a safe space for adults and children who have fled domestic violence, sexual assault or human trafficking. The center provides transitional, temporary housing, which supports victims in a variety of ways as they recover from trauma and prepare to transition back into the community.

Michelle Mann, Bankruptcy and Litigation senior specialist, organized the purchases and wrapping schedule for children at the Family Sunshine Center.

“We want those kids to know they are loved,” Mann said. “Our goal is to provide them with the hope and encouragement that they are special and valued and we support them.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)