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

Expanded broadband is essential to our small business community

(John Adams/Unsplash, YHN)

When the pandemic reached Alabama a year ago last month, a lot of businesses and schools and office workers simply moved online. It wasn’t always perfect – “You’re on mute” – but having a good internet connection let a lot of businesses avoid closing. It allowed our children to keep learning and a lot of people to keep working.

If they lived in the right ZIP code.

Here in the third decade of the 21st century, when the phones in exour pockets are smarter than the computers that guided the astronauts to the surface of the moon, there are pockets of Alabama without broadband internet, and that’s unacceptable.


“Broadband” is fast, always-on internet. Washington says it’s a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speed of 3 Mbps. According to the FCC, you need 1 Mbps to check email, 6 Mbps to join a video conference and 10 Mbps to download files without it taking all afternoon. Broadband lets everyone in the workplace do all that at once.

According to Broadband Now, a consumer research site, 88.6% of Alabamians have access to wired broadband, but that means the rest – about 475,000 people, mostly in rural communities – don’t, and there’s at least one county where the fastest average internet speed is just 0.16 Mbps. To put that in perspective, Birmingham’s average download speed is 103.2 Mbps.

Without broadband, without fast, reliable and affordable internet, a small business can’t compete, and a community can’t hope to attract new jobs.

That’s why my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, supports Senate Bill 215, legislation that would create an Alabama Digital Expansion Authority. Under the bill, the authority would come up with a statewide connectivity plan and promote the expansion of broadband networks throughout the state – particularly in rural and underserved areas.

The bill passed the Alabama Senate in March on a vote of 32-0 and is awaiting action in the House.

Companies looking to expand need broadband the same way businesses in the past needed rivers, rail and roads; they’re not going to locate someplace if they can’t connect with their customers. And as far as local businesses are concerned, broadband is just as important as having a telephone. Broadband allows them to reach customers in other towns and across the country and even across the world.

SB 215 is essential to ensuring the economic vibrancy of our small business community. That’s why we’re urging the Alabama House to pass SB 215 and make it easier for broadband to reach every corner of the state.

Rosemary Elebash is the Alabama director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization.

5 months ago

Why Small Business Saturday really matters in 2020

(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)

Without a doubt, the coronavirus is taking a toll on Alabama’s small businesses.

Governor Ivey has gradually eased many of the restrictions put in place to keep customers and employees safe, but small business owners say it may be months or even years before the local economy fully recovers from the pandemic.

That’s why it’s important this holiday season to make a point of shopping small.


Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and that’s a great reason to bypass the chain stores and support locally-owned shops and restaurants, but small businesses need our support every day.

Small business is the backbone of our economy, making up 99.4% of all employers in the state. And while it makes headlines whenever a big corporation adds a few hundred jobs here or there, small businesses are responsible for a net increase of 23,841 jobs statewide in 2019, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small businesses were doing well at the beginning of the year. Since spring, however, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, while employers have had to learn new safety procedures and invest in additional equipment from hand sanitizer stations and face masks to plastic shields at the checkout. Some small businesses intended to close temporarily and wound up closing for good.

When my association, the National Federation of Independent Business, surveyed its members nationwide last month, most thought the local economy would rebound to pre-COVID levels in 2021, but nearly one-third didn’t think things would get back to normal until 2022 or later. And when we asked how long they thought they could stay in business under current conditions, 19% said seven months to a year, while 15% said three to six months and 3% thought only a month or two.

We can’t afford to lose our small businesses.

NFIB is asking Congress to approve additional financial assistance to help local businesses avoid layoffs and keep the lights on until the pandemic is past, but there are simple steps everyone can take to help small businesses get through this:

  • We can shop local and shop small – not just on Small Business Saturday and the holiday season but year-round. National brands make a big deal out of their holiday sales, but local shops and restaurants offer deals – and exceptional personal and friendly service – that you won’t find at the chains.
  • If you can’t shop in person or want to avoid crowds, shop small businesses online or order by phone and take advantage of local delivery or curbside pickup. Or buy gift cards and gift certificates you can redeem once things get back to normal.
  • Remember that all kinds of eateries – from pizza places to fancy sit-down restaurants – offer take-out and, increasingly, delivery. If you want to sit down with your family and friends at your favorite restaurant after the pandemic is over, you must support them now – and don’t forget to tip your server or delivery driver.

This is a trying time for Alabama’s small businesses, but they’re working every day to deliver the goods and services to their customers, provide jobs for employees and support their local community.  Small businesses are implementing the safety protocols issued by federal and state officials and they are showing a real determination to get through this.  Please join me and shop local and show your support for locally-owned businesses.

Rosemary Elebash is the Alabama director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

1 year ago

NFIB: Alabama’s small businesses need our support during the COVID-19 crisis

(Pixabay, YHN)

There’s no doubt that Alabama’s small businesses are feeling the impact of the coronavirus.

Under advice from state and federal officials, people are staying in unless they absolutely have to leave the house, and that’s taking a toll on sales.

According to a survey released Monday by the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, 76% of small businesses say they’ve been impacted in some way by the response to COVID-19. Fifty-four percent report weaker sales, while 23% say they’ve had trouble getting the supplies they need.


Twenty percent of small businesses say they haven’t been affected yet by the novel coronavirus, but most of them believe it will affect them eventually if the outbreak spreads in their immediate areas. About 5% say it’s helped their businesses, likely because of a virus-related spike in specific supplies or services.

As NFIB’s state director for Alabama, the impact the virus is having on small businesses concerns me. Small business is the heart and soul of our economy. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for about 99.4% of all employers in the state and employ 47.2% of the state’s workforce.

Small businesses keep the economy strong. They create jobs, support our schools, and give to our charities. They’re the glue that holds our hometowns together.

That’s why I believe it’s important for everyone to continue to shop local and shop small during this extraordinary crisis.

This is a challenging time for Alabama’s small businesses, but they’re trying to deliver the goods and services their customers need as safely as they can and showing a real determination to get through this, and we can help.

Here are some simple ways everyone can help lessen the impact the coronavirus is taking on small business owners and employees:

· Order something to eat. Grocery stores might be sold out of fresh chicken and ground beef, but restaurants, are still pretty well stocked. And while we might not be able to sit down for a meal, many eateries are still making deliveries or letting people pick up meals.
· Tip workers a little extra, if you can. Food servers and delivery drivers depend on tips, and with business down, they’re not making as much money as they did a couple of weeks ago.
· Shop online. You might not be able to go shopping, but lots of local stores have their own websites and will let you order by phone or online.
· Buy gift cards and certificates to local businesses. Order them now online or by phone and use them later.

Small businesses are doing their best to get through this without cutting jobs or closing their doors, and we can help blunt the impact the coronavirus is having on the local economy by continuing to support the family-run businesses that support our communities throughout the year.

Rosemary Elebash is the National Federation of Independent Business’ state director for Alabama.

1 year ago

Patronize local stores and restaurants on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30

Picture from Nov. 27, 2019 (NFIB/Contributed)

Governor Ivey has proclaimed Nov. 30, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, as Small Business Saturday in Alabama.

Small business really is the bedrock of Alabama’s economy. It accounts for 99.4 percent of all businesses in the state and employs about 47 percent of the workforce, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Small Business Saturday, then, is a day when we can support the locally owned shops and restaurants that support our communities throughout the year.


Small Business Saturday was created 10 years ago to support the clothing stores and coffee shops struggling to recover from the Great Recession. Since then, it has become one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

We don’t have sales figures for Alabama, but, nationwide, shoppers spent a whopping $17.8 billion last year on Small Business Saturday, according to American Express and NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. To put that in perspective, people spent only $7.9 billion online two days later on Cyber Monday.

Overall, an estimated 104 million Americans supported local stores and restaurants on last year’s Small Business Saturday. And it wasn’t just brick-and-mortar businesses that benefited from the sales holiday. According to American Express and NFIB, 41 percent of those who participated in last year’s Small Business Saturday shopped small online, too.

One of the things I enjoy most about shopping small is the service. When you #ShopSmall, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing directly with the owner, someone with a personal stake in making you a satisfied customer who’ll become a regular. And it appears they’re succeeding; 96 percent of shoppers surveyed by American Express and NFIB last year said Small Business Saturday makes them want to shop at small businesses the rest of the year, too.

Shopping malls and chain stores can be generic, but small businesses are unique. When you shop small, you stand a better chance of finding clothes and gifts they don’t sell at the mall. Plus, more of the money we spend at a small business stays in the community – 67 cents of every dollar, according to a study by American Express. What’s more, every dollar spent at a small business creates another 50 cents in local business activity because of employee spending and purchases to keep the business up and running.

Small business is important. Small business is fundamental to the economic health of our communities. Small businesses are owned by – and employ – our family, friends, and neighbors. They create jobs and support our local charities and schools.

That’s why I hope you’ll go out on Small Business Saturday. Small business really is the glue that holds our communities together. When we help small businesses, we help everyone.

Rosemary Elebash is the Alabama state director of NFIB, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. She lives in Montgomery.

1 year ago

Congress considering three bills bad for Alabama small businesses


Sometimes, Congress comes up with a bill that would be bad news for Alabama’s small businesses. This time, though, it’s come up with three competing bills, each even worse than the other.

In the House, we have the Corporate Transparency Act of 2019. In the Senate, there’s the ILLICIT CASH Act and the TITLE Act.

Whatever it’s called, it’s overreaching legislation that would make it even harder and more expensive for people to operate a small business.


Supporters of the bills say they’re merely trying to crack down money launderers and other crooks trying to hide behind small businesses. However, the measures would impose costly and burdensome new mandates that would distract employers from running their businesses. They would pose a severe invasion of innocent people’s privacy.

The common thread running through all of the bills is a provision that would require owners to file periodic reports with the government. The reports would include personal information on everyone with an ownership stake in the business. The Corporate Transparency Act in the House and the ILLICIT CASH Act in the Senate define that as owning at least a 25 percent stake in the business or receiving “substantial economic benefits” from its assets. The TITLE Act’s definition is even broader.

These filing requirements would hurt every business, regardless of size, but they would be especially destructive to small businesses.

Big corporations have teams of lawyers and compliance officers to keep up with the latest government mandates and ensure their employers are following the rules, but small businesses don’t.

The vast majority of NFIB’s small business members in Alabama has fewer than 10 employees. Over half fewer than five.

At a small business, the person in charge of compliance, of keeping track of the government’s latest mandates and filling out the paperwork is usually the same person who turns the lights on in the morning, locks up at night, and signs the checks – the owner. And if the owner makes a mistake and doesn’t comply, she could be fined or even sent to prison.

Under the House bill, owners who fail to provide the information could be sentenced to three years in prison and fined $10,000. Under the ILLICIT CASH Act, it’s four years and a $10,000 fine. Under the TITLE Act, it would be three years and a $1 million fine.

Paperwork is already a problem for Alabama’s small businesses.

According to the latest NFIB Small Business Problems and Priorities survey, federal paperwork ranks 12th out of 75 potential problems facing small businesses. If any of these bills become law, they would make federal paperwork an even greater distraction for entrepreneurs. It would divert even more time and resources from running and growing the business.

Just as troubling is the potential for a massive breach of people’s privacy.

These bills require the government to keep the beneficial ownership information for the life of the business plus five years. They also grant broad access to federal, state, local, or tribal government agencies through a simple request without the need for a subpoena or warrant. That’s bad enough, but there’s also the possibility that the information could be leaked or hacked.

Our members understand the need to stop criminals from exploiting small businesses for illegal gain. However, this legislation places an unfair burden on law-abiding entrepreneurs and makes it even harder for them to grow their businesses and create new jobs.

That’s why NFIB is urging Alabama’s congressional delegation to reject the Corporate Transparency Act, the TITLE Act, and the ILLICIT CASH Act.

Rosemary Elebash is NFIB’s state director for Alabama. She lives in Montgomery.