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.

7 hours ago

Alabama Economic Growth Summit to return this October

(Telegraph Creative/Contributed)

Telegraph Creative on Tuesday announced it will be hosting the Alabama Economic Growth Summit October 24-25 at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, bringing back the event first held by Yellowhammer Multimedia three years ago.

Alabama Power is the title sponsor for the summit, which will bring together a diverse group of powerful and influential leaders in pursuit of four overall objectives:

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1. Celebrate Alabama’s economic development successes,
2. Rally the state’s major economic development stakeholders around our common goals of job creation and increased prosperity,
3. Facilitate dialogue on the most important issues facing our economy,
4. Drive massive media coverage around Alabama’s commitment to attracting companies and creating an overall environment that’s conducive to growth.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard A. Grenell, Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and numerous members of Alabama’s congressional delegation will be among the senior federal government officials participating in the program, along with numerous high-ranking state-level officials from both the legislative and executive branches.

From the private sector, conference organizers told Yellowhammer News that CEOs, venture capitalists, site selectors and economic developers from around the state and nation will be among the speakers and panelists.

A major highlight of the summit will be national media personalities, including Axios executive editor Mike Allen, in attendance covering the event and guiding panel discussions.

The event was first held by Yellowhammer in 2016 when Cliff Sims was the company’s CEO. Now president of Telegraph Creative, Sims is bringing the summit back this year.

“When we launched this event in 2016 at Yellowhammer, our goal was to bring together the state’s leaders around our shared goals of more jobs and increased prosperity for all Alabamians,” he explained to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue that mission this year.”

“Alabama’s had some big economic development wins in recent years. This Summit is all about building on that momentum, and we’re thrilled to have buy-in from the state’s key leaders in both the public and private sectors,” Sims added.

Sims will be on the event’s host committee, which also includes Yellowhammer Multimedia publisher Allison Ross and a host of public and private sector titans, such as:

Will Ainsworth
Lieutenant Governor
State of Alabama

Katie Britt
President
Business Council of Alabama

Stephanie Bryan
Tribal Chair and CEO
Poarch Band of Creek Indians

Mark Crosswhite
Chairman, President and CEO
Alabama Power

Deontée Gordon
President
TechBirmingham

Johnny Johns
Executive Chairman
Protective Life Corporation

Mike Kemp
President and CEO
Kemp Management Solutions

James K. Lyons
CEO
Alabama State Port Authority

Del Marsh
President Pro Tem
Alabama Senate

Mac McCutcheon
Speaker of the House
Alabama House of Representatives

Jimmy Parnell
CEO
Alfa

Liz Pharo
Managing Partner
Featheringill Capital

Jimmy Rane
President and CEO
Great Southern Wood

Jeana Ross
Secretary
Department of Early Childhood Education

Finis St. John
Chancellor
University of Alabama System

Lee Sentell
Director
Alabama Department of Tourism

Gary Smith
President and CEO
PowerSouth

Fitzgerald Washington
Commissioner
Alabama Department of Labor

A complete list of keynote speakers, panelists and VIP guests will be announced in the coming days. Tickets to the event are available now online here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Jones keynoting event highlighting opportunities for Alabama-Israel tech partnerships

(Doug Jones Campaign/Facebook)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Tuesday will keynote an event entitled “Opportunities for Technology Partnerships Between Alabama and Israeli Businesses” in Birmingham.

The Birmingham Business Alliance, Conexx: America Israel Business Connector, the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation and Alabama Power Company are hosting the event, which will include an overview of Israel’s technology ecosystem and the BIRD Foundation, as well as a panel of business leaders on doing business in Israel.

The event is free but does require online registration.

According to Conexx’s Barry Swartz, Israel is home to more startups than the entire European Union and is second only to the Silicon Valley in terms of the volume of startups it produces.

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Technology like Waze, a GPS navigation software app now owned by Google, and Mobileye, which was purchased by Intel for $15.3 billion in 2017, were created in Israel. Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and others all have a major presence in the country.

Swartz added that there will be individuals on hand to facilitate a relationship between Israel and Alabama companies looking to explore Israel’s innovation and technology, as well as possible mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures and alliances.

Jones is set to speak at 3:30 p.m., with the entire event running from 12:30 p.m. — 5:30 p.m. at Alabama Power’s headquarters building in downtown Birmingham.

RELATED: Sloss Tech is evidence of Birmingham’s vibrant innovation economy

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

22 hours ago

ULA’s Alabama-built Vulcan Centaur rocket chosen for 2021 Moon mission

(ULA/Twitter)

Astrobotic on Monday announced that it has selected United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket in a competitive commercial procurement to launch its Peregrine lunar lander to the Moon in 2021.

This is slated to be the Vulcan Centaur’s first launch, with development and assembly on schedule at ULA’s world-class Decatur facility.

Astrobotic CEO John Thornton in a statement said the planned 2021 launch will be “a historic day for the country,” powered by the ‘Made in Alabama’ rocket.

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“We are so excited to sign with ULA and fly Peregrine on Vulcan Centaur,” Thornton said. “This contract with ULA was the result of a highly competitive commercial process, and we are grateful to everyone involved in helping us make low-cost lunar transportation possible.”

“When we launch the first lunar lander from American soil since Apollo, onboard the first Vulcan Centaur rocket, it will be a historic day for the country and commercial enterprise,” he concluded.

Astrobotic, the world leader in commercial delivery to the moon, was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the Moon on its Peregrine lunar lander in 2021. With this $79.5 million CLPS award, Astrobotic has now signed 16 customers for lunar delivery on its first mission.

“Our rockets have carried exploration missions to the moon, the sun and every planet in the solar system so it is only fitting that Vulcan Centaur’s inaugural flight will lead the return of Americans to the lunar surface,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, emphasized. “We could not be more excited to fly this mission for Astrobotic.”

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a champion of American space exploration and Alabama’s aerospace industry, celebrated the announcement in a tweet.

The launch of this mission will serve as the first of two certification flights required for ULA’s U.S. Air Force certification process for the Vulcan Centaur. The company recently submitted its proposal for Phase II of the Launch Service Procurement’ competition.

Bruno said ULA’s partnership with Astrobotic is indicative of how the American space industry is excelling, with Alabama playing an integral role.

“This partnership represents a true ‘whole-of-government’ approach to how our nation is leading the world in space: NASA contracted with a commercial company to land on the moon, who then went on to contract with a commercial company for a rocket built to serve the national security space market,” Bruno advised.

He concluded, “This highlights the power of our American system of partnership between government and industry to solve the toughest problems and the greatest of our human aspirations.”

RELATED: ULA chosen for six missions, lauded for ‘proven safety record and on-time performance’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

23 hours ago

Jerry Carl opens campaign HQ in AL-01; ‘Veterans for Carl’ group forms

(Carl Campaign/Contributed)

Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl on Saturday held the grand opening for his campaign headquarters in the race for Alabama’s First Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (AL-01) bid for the U.S. Senate.

Carl, a Republican, is running in a field that includes State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and former State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile).

As the tightly contested primary gradually approaches, the Carl campaign team this weekend welcomed over 75 people to their Mobile headquarters for a grassroots kickoff. At the event, Carl thanked his campaign’s volunteers in advance for the work they will do leading up to March 3, 2020.

Additionally, his campaign was especially proud to announce that Pete Riehm, a retired U.S. Navy commander, has formed a “Veterans for Jerry Carl” group.

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The group, which has a Facebook page, consists of nearly 30 veterans from multiple branches of the military who strongly support Carl and are volunteering on his campaign’s behalf. Included in this group is AB Grantham and Sy Lichtenfeld, the latter a WWII veteran and former prisoner-of-war.

“Veterans for Carl” bumper stickers are also being made available.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Carl said, “I am humbled by such strong support from our veteran community. These warriors are a key part of our grassroots team that is working hard to help spread my conservative message to the voters of Alabama’s 1st congressional district. I look forward to fighting for them in Congress.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

24 hours ago

Alabama CEO signs major national policy statement affirming importance of free-market, supporting the American worker

(Altec/Contributed, YHN)

The chairman and CEO of Birmingham-based Altec, Lee Styslinger, III, continues to be a champion of American jobs on the national stage.

Styslinger on Monday announced that he has signed the “Purpose of the Corporation.”

A prominent member of President Donald Trump’s trade council, Styslinger worked closely with several other Business Roundtable member companies to help develop this major policy statement, which highlights the importance of corporations to the success of the United States economy and the American worker.

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Business Roundtable is a premier association of CEOs of some of America’s leading companies, and the chief executives who signed the statement with Styslinger are publicly committing to preserving our country’s free-market system while ensuring it works for every American.

The policy statement also highlights the core priority for U.S. businesses to serve the needs of their workers by making sure they have the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing economy.

Signatories of the statement committed to the following:

DELIVERING VALUE TO OUR CUSTOMERS. We will further the tradition of American companies leading the way in meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
INVESTING IN OUR EMPLOYEES. This starts with compensating them fairly and providing important bene ts. It also includes supporting them through training and education that help develop new skills for a rapidly changing world. We foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.
SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITIES IN WHICH WE WORK. We respect the people in our communities and protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses.
GENERATING LONG-TERM VALUE FOR SHAREHOLDERS, WHO PROVIDE THE CAPITAL THAT ALLOWS COMPANIES TO INVEST, GROW AN INNOVATE. We are committed to transparency and effective engagement with shareholders.
DEALING FAIRLY AND ETHICALLY WITH OUR SUPPLIERS. We are dedicated to serving as good partners to the other companies, large and small, that help us meet our missions.

In a statement, Styslinger said, “We are pleased that Altec was asked to take a leadership role in helping to develop this public statement that was ultimately signed by CEOs from the largest and most influential companies in the United States.”

“Altec and other member companies are committed to supporting this policy by providing workers with training, reskilling and education opportunities that help meet the needs of the twenty-first century,” he concluded.

As Alabama’s only member of the Business Roundtable, Styslinger is a leading corporate voice on the importance of free markets, trade and workforce development. In addition to serving on Trump’s trade council, he serves as a business liaison to the White House, the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Styslinger featured prominently at Trump’s “Made in America Week” kickoff event at the White House in 2017, also appearing on Fox News then to espouse the virtues of “Buy American, Hire American” policies.

“This is really celebrating the American worker,” he said at that time. “This is a continuation of the focus by the president and the administration to celebrate, recognize, and grow jobs in America.”

Altec is a leading international equipment and service provider for the electric utility; telecommunications; contractor; lights and signs; and tree care markets. The Yellowhammer State company provides products and services in more than 100 countries throughout the world.

You can view the “Purpose of the Corporation” policy statement here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

‘Operation Yellowhammer’: Codename of UK’s Brexit ‘no-deal’ prep familiar to Alabamians

(Pixabay, YHN)

The United Kingdom’s “secret government dossier” detailing preparations in case Brexit occurs later this year without a deal first being struck with the European Union has been leaked, and the plan’s codename is one that Alabamians will take interest in.

The Sunday Times over the weekend reported that it has obtained the report, “Operation Yellowhammer,” in full.

While the newspaper quipped that the codename would more appropriately be “Operation Chaos,” the internal government report could foreshadow devastating consequences if the UK, now led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, does not reach an exit deal with the European Union before severing ties. Johnson, unlike former PM Theresa May, has strongly signaled he is willing to leave the EU without a deal being in place first.

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Operation Yellowhammer is best summarized as the UK’s comprehensive “no-deal contingency planning.”

According to Sky News, the report covers 12 “areas of risk,” including movement of goods and people across borders, UK food and water supplies, healthcare and transport.

General issues expected include delays at the border for the flow of goods lasting up to six months; food shortages; price increases for utilities, fuel and food; and increased checks for UK citizens traveling to Europe.

The Sunday Times reported that Operation Yellowhammer predicts:

  • A three-month “meltdown” at British ports because 85% of lorries using the main Channel crossings “may not be ready
  • A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be likely
  • Shortages of food and medicine
  • Petrol import tariffs “inadvertently” leading to the closure of two oil refineries
  • Protests across the UK which could “require significant amounts of police resources”
  • Gibraltar facing up to four-hour delays at the border with Spain for “at least a few months”

While Alabamians have known “yellowhammer” as their official state bird since 1927, a different subset of the species is well known in the UK, likely accounting for the operation’s codename.

Sky News reported, “A yellowhammer is an at-risk bird, which has suffered recent population decline, found across large parts of the UK.”

The UK subspecies is known as “E. c. caliginosa,” except in southeast England, which is home to “E. c. citrinella.”

This is a different species entirely from Alabama’s state bird, which is actually a subspecies of the northern flicker, a type of North American woodpecker. In Alabama’s usage, Yellowhammer is colloquial for what is officially the eastern yellow-shafted flicker, or “C. a. auratus.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Alabama Democratic Conference to Doug Jones, DNC: ‘Don’t start what you can’t end’

(MSNBC/YouTube, YHN)

The Alabama Democratic Party has allowed the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) August 17 deadline to hold new elections for the state party’s chair and vice-chair to pass.

This August 17 deadline was an extension past the 90-day window originally handed down to the state party by the DNC.

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This whole saga started August 2018 when Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) led a failed coup of the Alabama Democratic Party during its election of officers, including an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Chairwoman Nancy Worley. Worley was the preferred choice of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), which is known as the “black political caucus” of the state party.

Since then, formal challenges about that election were filed with the DNC, which is still attempting to force the state party to hold a new election of officers and drastically change the structure of the State Democratic Executive Committee in a manner which would include less black Americans.

This has led to significant pushback from leaders within both the state party and the ADC.

Worley has previously referred to the DNC’s call for a new election as “racial” and said “a tiny bit of racism” may be a factor in the Jones- and DNC-led efforts.

However, things really escalated on that front last week.

In an open letter released on Tuesday night, Alabama Democratic Party Secretary Val Bright slammed Jones and the national party for the ongoing attempts to overhaul the state party’s bylaws and leadership structure, saying their “true target” is “blacks.”

Bright’s letter was posted on Facebook by the ADC, which then continued to hit Jones and the DNC via social media in the days leading up to the now-passed Saturday election deadline.

Perhaps the most head-turning ADC post last week came on Thursday when the organization shared a 2018 article from The Root entitled, “Doug Jones and the Democratic Party Just Screwed Black Voters … Again.”

“Don’t start what you can’t end,” the ADC commented on that post, concluding of the Jones/DNC effort, “It is lunacy to divide and conquer.”

The DNC will meet this weekend in San Francisco, CA, where the committee may decide what to do about the Alabama Democratic Party missing this latest election deadline.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

University of Alabama named top college football program of last 150 years; Auburn no. 20

(AU, UA/Facebook)

The University of Alabama has been ranked as the best college football program over the last 150 years, with Auburn University also representing the Yellowhammer State well.

A report by ESPN’s Stats & Information Group used a formula based on the number of national championships, the winning percentage for the best 50 seasons in program history and the winning percentage over the past 150 years, with the most recent 50-year block being weighted heaviest, followed by 1919-1968 and then 1869-1918 coming in as holding the least weight.

Additional adjustments were made to account for discrepancies across divisions and eras, such as national championships below the FBS level counting at 50%, national championships before the poll era (1936) counting at 50% and winning percentages when a team was not in Division I being reduced by 10%.

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Using ESPN’s formula, the University of Alabama was awarded a 74.9 rating.

ESPN outlined, “The Crimson Tide’s history is a panorama of strength and longevity: From Wallace Wade in 1925 to Nick Saban five times in the past decade, four coaches have won a national championship. Seven have won an SEC title. Twelve have at least one 10-win season. Everyone wins there — except Ears Whitworth (4-24-2, 1955-57). But Bama fans even love him. Without Ears, Bear Bryant wouldn’t have heard Mama call.”

The University of Notre Dame was ranked second with a 72.9 rating, followed by Ohio State at 69.6, the University of Oklahoma at 68.5 and the University of Southern California (USC) at 67.25.

Auburn also received a high ranking, coming in at 20th best with a 56.82 rating.

The only current SEC schools ranked above Auburn, besides the Tide, were the University of Tennessee and Louisiana State University (LSU) at numbers 14 and 15 respectively.

ESPN wrote, “What’s it like to live in the shadow of the most successful program in the history of college football? Why, it’s pretty successful, thanks for asking, and War Eagle. The Tigers won national titles in 1957 and 2010, and stopped Alabama from playing for national titles with momentous upsets in 1972, 1989 and 2013 — and a true Tiger fan would have a hard time telling you which was more enjoyable. Auburn became a more successful program in the last generation, when the Tigers began playing home games on campus instead of in Birmingham, two hours away. The Tigers waited more than a century for a true home-field advantage.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

NASA head visits Alabama public high school, praises ‘incredible teachers,’ ‘amazing’ students

NASA Admin. Jim Bridenstine addresses students at Arab High School (Rep. Aderholt/Twitter)

ARAB — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) visited Arab High School on Friday, speaking with students, faculty and local elected officials about all things space.

First on the agenda was meeting with the school’s student robotics team that is competing in NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, an annual competition in which student teams from around the country design, build, program and then operate their very own robotic moonbuggy.

The team’s teacher told Bridenstine that for him, “It’s not a job, it’s a calling.”

This type of passion was evident in the students and faculty when visiting with Bridenstine and Aderholt, as well as a contingent of NASA employees, some from the nearby Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, who were accompanying the administrator.

This included a starring appearance by Ricky Arnold, an active astronaut who has spent time on the International Space Station, among other missions.

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The next stop on the tour was another robotics team at the school, this one annually competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition. This is a “legacy team” for NASA, as it was funded by the agency for the first three years of its existence from 2004-2007. Now, operating for 15 years, it has become a nationally respected program, winning the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award at last year’s regional and advancing to the world championships. 25,000 students across American participate in this competition. And while not receiving funding from NASA anymore, several employees of NASA and/or Marshall Space Flight Center do help the team out as mentors and volunteers.

Bridenstine, while speaking with the students on the team, turned to Aderholt and said, “We at NASA believe in this (supporting student robotics efforts) so much because of the benefit we get from it, from young folks that get involved and end up working in either industry that supports NASA or working directly for NASA.”

“We actually invest about $4,500,000 annually into the FIRST Robotics program,” he advised.

This was a major focus of NASA’s visit to Arab High School — emphasizing the value of STEM education and the pathways to high-quality, fulfilling careers that come from these types of classes and programs.

Bridenstine explained to the students on both teams that the work they were doing for their respective competitions “very closely mimics the kind of projects that NASA does.”

This builds real-world skills and prepares them realistically for STEM and technical jobs.

Bridenstine also offered words of encouragement.

“These kids here … could very well one day be building the robots that we put on Mars,” he stressed.

“I think you’ve got some future NASA employees right here,” Arnold chimed in.

“Yeah, no doubt,” the administrator responded. “No doubt.”

‘You guys are doing amazing things here’

While speaking to a more comprehensive group of Arab High School students shortly afterward in the school’s media center, Bridenstine shared some of the things NASA is working on now, things he told the students they could soon be directly involved in.

“I’ve heard wonderful things about this high school,” he remarked, adding that what he saw Friday affirmed what he had been told beforehand. “Clearly you guys are doing amazing things here.”

“Maybe, one day, NASA will be able to enlist you in some of the projects that we’re working on,” Bridenstine said.

The biggest project, perhaps, that NASA has on its plate was handed down directly from President Donald Trump: the Artemis program, which will see Americans return to the Moon, the first woman step onto the surface of the Moon and eventually see the first human voyage to Mars.

Much of the work on Artemis is actually being done at Marshall Space Flight Center, and Bridenstine, after leaving the high school in the Sand Mountain area, traveled up to Huntsville to announce even more goods news for north Alabama’s space industry — Marshall will lead the lunar lander program for Artemis now.

However, before leaving Arab High School, he left the students with more words of inspiration.

“I think if we were able to find life (microbial life) on another planet … if we can discover that, I think it’s going to change how we think, it’s going to change what we want to go discover and, of course, humanity will go further into the solar system than ever before,” Bridenstine concluded.

STEM — ‘Alabama has some really amazing programs’

Bridenstine and Aderholt also spoke to the members of the media present, sharing their enthusiasm for modern space exploration — and what the future could hold with students like the ones in Arab.

They both reiterated how educational tools like the robotics and STEM programs they witnessed on Friday help prepare students for real careers. The administrator added that at Arab High School and others like it, he hopes NASA can “inspire” students to travel the STEM pathway.

“When we talk about what it’s going to take for the United States of America to lead in the future, we’ve got to have folks entering the STEM educational programs — all across the country,” Bridenstine advised. “And of course, Alabama has some really amazing programs, some really amazing folks.”

Speaking with State Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) afterward, Bridenstine stressed how important state-federal partnerships are to NASA.

Legislators like Kitchens and State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) strongly supporting workforce development — whether it be technical training or STEM education — is important to build the highly skilled pipeline that keeps NASA and places like Marshall Space Flight Center running.

Kitchens told Yellowhammer News, “A lot of these things are teaching the kids what it’s like in a real-world application. Not only seeing it in the classroom, but being able to actually go out and be career-ready once they graduate high school.”

“Marshall Space Flight Center is so important to this area and this whole district, they have such an economic impact that kids are able to see and hopefully inspire them to be the next engineer or astronaut or whatever they want to be,” he added.

One important component that allows for successful STEM and workforce development programs like this, especially in rural areas like Marshall County, is having high-quality broadband in place. Scofield has recently led the charge in the legislature to expand rural broadband access across Alabama.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News, he called workforce development efforts “critical.”

“We’ve made every effort to invest in it here on the local level,” Scofield explained. “We’ve done that for the past nine years, and we’re really seeing the results firsthand here.”

“When we hear the administrator for NASA ask what these young people want to do and they say, ‘Precision machining,’ well that investment has paid off,” he continued. “That’s creating great opportunities for these young people.”

Scofield concluded that workforce development must continue to be invested in on the state and local levels.

You can view a tweet thread from the event, including photos and video clips, here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

‘Consistently improving’: Alabama breaks four more employment records

(Pixabay, YHN)

After shattering five economic records in June, Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington on Friday announced that the Yellowhammer State set four more new employment records in July.

This includes a historic record-low unemployment rate, with July’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted rate coming in at 3.3%. This beat the previous month’s rate of 3.5%, which at the time was the record.

July’s rate represents 2,171,721 employed people, another new record high, which was 11,244 more than June’s count and 57,413 more than in July 2018.

“I’m proud to see our unemployment rate decrease and continue to reach record lows,” Washington said in a statement.

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“This month we also saw the number of people counted as unemployed fall to its lowest count ever,” he continued. “More people are joining the workforce, with the expectation that they will find work, and, for the most part, they are. But even as we celebrate these records, we know that there is still work to be done. We’re proving month after month that Alabama has good, quality jobs. We stand ready to assist anyone who’s ready to work.”

The number of people counted as unemployed also dropped to a new record low of 75,157, which represents a drop of 12,761 people year-over-year.

In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey lauded, “More than 57,000 Alabamians have jobs today that didn’t a year ago. That means that 57,000 more Alabamians have work and are contributing to their communities and our state.

“The effort we are making to bring jobs and employers to Alabama is working. We are consistently improving our workforce and preparing Alabama for the future,” the governor concluded.

Additionally, the civilian labor force increased over the year by 44,652 to a record high of 2,246,878. The civilian labor force represents the number of people, aged 16 and over, who are either working or looking for work, excluding the military and those in institutions.

Alabama’s labor secretary explained that the state’s progress is often outpacing the national average.

“Our over-the-year job growth measured 2.0% this month, which outpaced the nation’s job growth by half of a percentage point. In fact, Alabama has matched or outpaced the national growth rate for six out of seven months in 2019,” Washington advised. “Alabama’s economy added over 40,000 more jobs in the last 12 months, with at least four sectors reaching record level employment highs.”

Over-the-year job growth measured 2.0% in July, compared to the national growth rate of 1.5%. The only month in 2019 in which Alabama did not match or outpace the national growth was January, when Alabama’s growth rate measured 1.8%, and the national rate was 2.0%.

Over-the-year, wage and salary employment increased 40,200, with gains in the professional and business services sector (+8,700); the leisure and hospitality sector (+7,700); and the education and health services sector (+5,000), among others.

Four sectors saw record-high levels of employment in July: transportation equipment manufacturing (66,600); motor vehicle manufacturing (14,100); leisure and hospitality (219,200); and computer systems design (26,300).

All 67 counties saw declines in their over-the-year unemployment rates, with drops ranging from more than half of a percentage point to more than three percentage points. In fact, 64 counties saw no increase or a decline in their over-the-month unemployment rates, as well. All 67 counties saw monthly decreases in May and June.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates in July were Shelby County at 2.1%; Marshall County at 2.4%; and Elmore and Baldwin Counties at 2.5%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates were Wilcox County at 7.5%, Greene County at 7.0% and Perry County at 6.7%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates were Vestavia Hills at 1.7%; Homewood and Alabaster at 2.0%; and Hoover at 2.1%. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates were Selma at 7.3%, Prichard at 6.2% and Anniston at 4.6%.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Fourth-generation Alabama state trooper graduates academy

(CBS 42/YouTube)

Thirty-two new state troopers graduated from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) academy in Selma on Thursday, but there is still a ways to go to reach the state’s target level of staffing.

CBS 42 reported that one of the new graduates is Pate Nelson, making him a fourth-generation trooper.

“My great grandfather was an Alabama state trooper, my grandfather [was] and my father is currently a state trooper,” Nelson told the television network.

Nelson’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather all reportedly reached the rank of captain during their career. Nelson’s father, Tracy, and grandfather, Doug, attended the graduation ceremony.

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall spoke during the graduation ceremony.

Watch CBS 42′ report:

Even with the new graduates, ALEA Secretary Hal Taylor advised that the state is still well short of its goal of having 550 troopers. He still hopes to hire approximately 200 new troopers within the next year, per WSFA.

This comes after the Alabama legislature appropriated $5.5 million during its 2019 regular session to hire a total of 50 new state troopers.

Funding for additional troopers is also expected to be requested in the 2020 session.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Powerful video teases grand opening of Alabama sawmill — ‘American dreams begin with American jobs’

(YellaWood/YouTube)

Governor Kay Ivey recently declared, “Alabama’s timber industry is at full throttle.”

There is no greater evidence to support this statement than the upcoming August 27 grand opening of Abbeville Fiber Sawmill in Henry County.

A “who’s who” of state and local dignitaries will be in attendance, including the governor, to celebrate the creation of over 100 direct jobs in the area, as well as significant new tax revenue for the city and the county.

However, this new facility is about much more than the facts and figures involved. For this rural Yellowhammer State community, Abbeville Fiber is indicative of a way of life.

With the big event coming up, a chill-inducing video featuring the tagline “American dreams begin with American jobs” was released on Thursday evening.

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Watch:

Abbeville Fiber, a part of Jimmy Rane’s Great Southern Wood Preserving Inc., will occupy the former WestPoint Stevens textile plant off U.S. Highway 431 and Alabama Highway 27.

The state-of-the-art sawmill, featuring the latest technology in the industry, will have the capacity to produce 200,000 feet a day of finished wood and will purchase an estimated $14 million to $15 million of yellow pine timber annually from suppliers within a 50-mile radius of the plant, with local timber owners set to benefit as a result. Additionally, the facility will employ over 15 truckers from the surrounding area.

With the same innovation, honesty and hard work that helped build the YellaWood and Great Southern Wood Preserving brands, Abbeville Fiber is the latest reminder that Rane’s legacy is much more than being Alabama’s richest person. This project is all about empowering people in the area to provide a better life for their families and building a stronger, more prosperous community for all — a lofty goal that Rane has made his life’s work.

He and his company are truly committed to the Abbeville area, which is once again evident in this new facility’s location. Keep in mind that Abbeville Fiber will service Great Southern Wood Preserving locations across 28 different states, meaning this sawmill could have been built just about anywhere.

When asked by Yellowhammer News years ago, “Why Abbeville?” Rane showed his heartfelt passion — and loyalty — to his hometown, county and state.

“Why not Abbeville?” Rane replied without hesitation. “I think that’s the better question. Abbeville is home. I’ve lived here all my life. My mother’s family has been here a long time. My friends and family are here. Abbeville is composed of really fine, educated people who want an opportunity… so why not? I want to do all I can to help make Alabama as great as it can be.”

Production has begun

While the grand opening is still over a week away, business is already ramping up at Abbeville Fiber.

Charles Money Logging delivered the first load of logs on July 8 and sawing began that week, a source familiar confirmed to Yellowhammer News. The first finished lumber began shipping this month.

The sawmill has already hired over 50 employees and 15 truckers as of August 1, with more to come.

It should be noted that this is a two-phase project.

During Phase I, the facility will work its way up to an annual production rate of 50 million board feet per year.
In this phase, the sawmill will consume 40-45 truckloads of logs per day.

Then, in the next 12-15 months or so, Abbeville Fiber will ramp up production to 100 million feet, marking Phase II.
At that point, the facility will employ 105-115 people total, plus supporting 15 truckers. During this phase, the sawmill will consume 80-90 truckloads of logs per day.

The total cost of the sawmill will be approximately $40 million.

An $850,000 federal grant administered and awarded by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs will provide transportation construction assistance to ship lumber, timbers and posts produced at Abbeville Fiber. The Henry County Commission and the city of Abbeville have pledged an additional $160,000 to complete the project.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Doug Jones takes mid-week trip to California to visit his biggest supporters

(D. Jones/Twitter)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Wednesday took time out of the workweek to visit San Diego, California.

The unannounced trip to California was revealed by San Diego Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, a fellow Democrat, in a tweet.

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Fletcher also shared that Jones signed a baseball for him, embracing his celebrity status on the West Coast.

“The election of @DougJones to the US Senate from Alabama restored my faith in humanity. It was great to welcome him in San Diego!” Fletcher tweeted.

Jones raised $171,499.38 from California last quarter alone, representing 15.10% of his quarterly total.

Alabama’s junior senator has raised $409,094.05 this year from California, making it his number one fundraising state over New York in 2019.

Jones has accepted $3,258,957.75 in California donations since announcing in May of 2017.

RELATED: Jones’ latest finance report: 88% of funds from out-of-state again

Ironically, Jones’ campaign tweeted about the merits of visiting Alabama as Jones himself was enjoying his California visit this week.

RELATED: Doug Jones, Will Ferrell star in cringe-inducing GOTV video

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

‘Heroes’: Huntsville man goes on nationwide lawn mowing tour dedicated to law enforcement

(Rodney Smith, Jr./Facebook)

Alabama’s Rodney Smith, Jr. has once again embarked on a 50-state lawn mowing tour, with this one honoring the “boys in blue.”

The tour kicked off in Huntsville on Tuesday, where Smith was joined by police officers as they helped him mow. Smith is inviting officers in the areas he is traveling to across the country to similarly join him. He has even designed a special police lawn mower for their use.

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According to a post on Smith’s “Raising Men Lawn Care Service” website, this tour, entitled “Mowing with Cops,” is expected to take just over three weeks to complete.

“Growing up I always wanted to be a police officer, but God had other plans. Mowing lawns for FREE is my way of serving the public,” Smith explained.

He will mow for at least one member of the elderly, disabled, single parent or veterans community in each state.

“The goal of this tour is not just to have officers mow with me and to thank them for their service, but to also bring the community together around those who serve and protect us,” Smith said.

You can follow the tour on Smith’s Facebook page.


Smith further discussed the new tour in a national appearance on Fox News this week. You can watch that interview here.

RELATED: Rodney Smith, Jr. has mowed veterans’ lawns in all 50 states — ‘I remember asking God to use me’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

University of Alabama named nation’s ‘most-Instagrammed’ campus

(University of Alabama)

For those around the Yellowhammer State, it probably comes as no surprise that the University of Alabama’s campus in Tuscaloosa is being celebrated nationally for its aesthetics — as well as the pride of its students.

AT&T this week released a study concluding that UA’s campus is the “most-Instagrammed” in America.

The company comprehensively reviewed posts on the popular social media platform and found that the most popular college hashtag is #rolltide.

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Using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to find all qualifying U.S. universities with more than 7,000 enrolled full-time students in the fall 2017 semester, AT&T found that approximately 60% of the University of Alabama’s 33,000+ students had at least one #rolltide post on Instagram.

(Photo courtesy of the University of Alabama)

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Report: Harvey Updyke back in legal crosshairs over infamous Toomer’s Oaks poisoning

(CBS 42/Twitter)

Harvey Updyke, who in 2011 poisoned the historic Toomer’s Oaks at Auburn University, has been ordered back to court for his crime, according to WRBL.

Updyke wrote his own infamous chapter in Auburn’s football rivalry with the University of Alabama, with the Tide fanatic in 2013 pleading guilty to poisoning — and eventually killing — the since-replaced Oaks with a powerful herbicide.

At that time, he was given a three-year split sentence, with five years probation. Updyke was also ordered to pay almost $800,000 in restitution to Auburn, split into monthly installments.

However, Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes has now advised that Updyke is consistently failing to make his monthly restitution payments.

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The district attorney told WRBL that Updyke has paid less than $5,000 total, frequently missing monthly payments along the way and even more so now that his probation period has ended. Reportedly, the missed payments have reached an egregious level.

“Harvey Updyke has never left my radar,” Hughes told the Columbus, GA-based news station. “We have been keeping an eye on his payments or more specifically, his non-payment, and he has made exactly two payments for a total of $200 in the past year.”

This did not suddenly just become an issue, either.

Hughes said that his office has been attempting to locate the man for nearly 12 months. On Tuesday, they were successful, as Updyke was served with an order to show cause when investigators tracked him down in Louisiana.

“Because of that (non-payment), we have been looking for him for close to a year, and we finally found him,” Hughes advised.

Now, Updyke has a new court date.

“He was served with a show cause order on Tuesday basically telling him he needs to be in Lee County court on October 30th of this year to tell the court why aren’t you paying,” Hughes explained to WRBL.

If Updyke fails to appear, Hughes said he will issue a warrant for his arrest.

“As long as I am in this office and [Updyke] is still breathing, I am going to be a bur in his side under his saddle and make sure he pays what he owes,” Hughes emphasized.

The district attorney believes that based on Updyke’s behavior (and potentially past comments), he has no remorse for intentionally killing the Oaks.

In fact, Hughes said that Updyke seems to celebrate what he did.

“He embraces his role as the villain when he goes to Alabama sporting events, which we know he has been back to an Alabama football game in Tuscaloosa in November,” the district attorney stressed. “If you have enough money to go see your team play, you have enough money to pay Auburn University.”

If Updyke does show up to his October hearing date, the court will decide how to proceed regarding restitution.

This is not the first time Updyke has run into issues with the court following his guilty plea.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 days ago

Auburn implementing metal detectors at Jordan-Hare Stadium

(Bailey Harris)

Auburn Athletics has announced that Jordan-Hare Stadium will implement metal detectors at all gates beginning with the Tigers’ home opener against Tulane on September 7.

Auburn’s football gameday guide for the 2019 season details that all SEC schools will have to make the switch to metal detectors by the following season at the latest.

The new change means fans should arrive 30 minutes earlier than normal at Jordan-Hare.

For those unable or unwilling to pass through a metal detector at a gate, hand-held metal detector wands will be available as an alternative screening method.

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Auburn’s guide states that the usage of metal detectors is being made “[t]o continue our university’s commitment to provide a safe and secure environment for fans, student-athletes, coaches and guests at our athletic facilities.”

While the guide’s frequently asked questions section advises that no prior threats have been made against Jordan-Hare, “like many stadiums and arenas, Auburn is implementing walk-through metal detectors along with other measures as means to enhance all safety and security procedures. Walk-through metal detectors are mandatory at all NFL and MLB stadiums. Several college stadiums across the nation already utilize walk-through metal detectors.”

The clear bag policy remains in effect.

(Graphic via Auburn Athletics)

You can read Auburn’s full metal detector policy here.

The University of Alabama implemented metal detectors at Bryant-Denny Stadium last season and will continue this policy, according to the Tide’s 2019 gameday guide.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Alabama’s ULA chosen for six missions, lauded for ‘proven safety record and on-time performance’

(Sierra Nevada Corp./Twitter)

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) on Wednesday announced that they have selected Alabama rocket maker United Launch Alliance (ULA) as the launch vehicle provider for the Dream Chaser spacecraft’s six NASA missions to the International Space Station.

The Dream Chaser will launch aboard ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rockets for its cargo resupply and return services to the space station, starting in 2021.

“Dream Chaser can launch from any conventional rocket so we had great options,” SNC CEO Fatih Ozmen explained in a statement.

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“SNC selected ULA because of our strong collaboration on the Dream Chaser program, their proven safety record and on-time performance,” he said. “This is bringing America’s spaceplane and America’s rocket together for best-of-breed innovation and exploration.”

(Sierra Nevada Corp/Contributed)

Under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) contract, the Dream Chaser will deliver more than 12,000 pounds of pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the space station and remain attached for up to 75 days as an orbiting laboratory. Once the mated mission is complete, the Dream Chaser disposes about 7,000 pounds of space station trash and returns to earth large quantities of critical science, accessible within minutes after a gentle runway landing.

SNC’s Louisville, Colorado-based space systems division is proudly partnering with ULA, which assembles rockets at its world-class Decatur, Alabama production facility.

“In this very competitive launch vehicle market, we feel privileged that SNC chose to launch this block of six missions to the ISS with ULA,” Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO, commented.

“This is one of the first contracts for our new Vulcan Centaur rocket, and the first of the six missions will serve as the rocket’s second certification flight,” Bruno advised. “We are excited to bring our more than 120 years of combined launch experience with our Atlas and Delta rockets, which build on a progressive history of technology development and advancement, to Vulcan Centaur.”

RELATED: ULA submits proposal for Air Force launch competition; Vulcan Centaur rocket on schedule for 2021

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Tuberville on Senate campaign: ‘When people are coming at you, you’re doing pretty good’

(T. Tuberville for Senate/Contributed)

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville on Tuesday interviewed with Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie” show, discussing his 2020 Republican candidacy for the U.S. Senate in Alabama and some of the recent headlines that have stemmed from his campaign.

Some of the issues that Tuberville touched on included requests to see his driver license, as well as his highly publicized comments regarding veterans’ healthcare that led to criticism from some of his GOP opponents.

“Well, first of all, you know when people are coming at you, you’re doing pretty good,” Tuberville told cohost Matt Murphy. “And our campaign’s getting stronger and stronger.”

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Tuberville then hinted that his candor could occasionally land him in hot water on the campaign trail.

“You know, I’ve never done this for a living, I just go out and speak my peace,” he said. “Sometimes, I probably get a little over-zealous, because I’m passionate about this state and country. I mean, that’s the reason I’m running. I don’t have to have this job. But I’m running against guys that are career politicians — they’re establishment. And they’re ruining this country.”

The former football coach then directly addressed the comments he made regarding President Donald Trump and veterans in Muscle Shoals two weekends ago.

He said his thoughts came from the “listening tour” that he has been on around the Yellowhammer State.

“I’ve been doing less talking and more listening, because I want to find out what people need,” Tuberville advised. “I’m not going up there (to Washington, D.C.) representing them and not knowing what they need.”

He added that in the week leading up to that Shoals speech, he had been consistently hearing from veterans who expressed dire issues with the VA healthcare system, which was the point he was trying to convey during his remarks that day.

“You know, my dad died in the military, and I am very passionate towards the vets and the military,” Tuberville noted.

He then reiterated that “there’s nobody that’s done anything more for our vets or military than President Trump in the last 50 years.”

“He loves them, he’s trying to help them, but he has got a full plate,” Tuberville continued. “And I got up there (during the Shoals speech), and said, ‘Listen, I’d like to talk to President Trump about this. He really doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s turning it over to assistants, which is Congress, and they don’t do a dang thing other than try to get votes.’ Now, they’re on a two-month vacation. He gets more done when he’s up there by himself than when Congress is in session. So I said, ‘Listen, I’d like to talk to him. The vets are hurting in this state. We’ve got to have help for them. I mean, they’re dying. It’s immediate. We’ve got to have help.’ And he’s trying. But he doesn’t have help from Congress… so that’s kind of the direction I was going in.”

He also reaffirmed that he is “120% behind President Trump on everything he is doing.”

“[H]e has saved this country,” Tuberville added. “He has saved us, folks. He has saved this country, and we have got to get him back reelected.”

Tuberville dismissed attempts from political opponents to claim he is not a Trump supporter.

“Look, if that’s all they got — please, come on. Keep coming,” he remarked.

To the chuckles of the show cohosts, Tuberville then added that he wishes to see more of his primary opponents on the campaign trail instead of trying to raise money.

“Better get out there, because I’m getting votes, and I’d like this thing to be a little bit competitive. Right now, it’s not even competitive,” Tuberville quipped.

Co-host Andrea Lindenberg then asked him to address last week’s campaign trail spectacle in which someone asked to see Tuberville’s driver license, as his state of residence has become a seeming point of contention.

“Do y’all think I’m stupid, really?” Tuberville responded, clarifying that he was not referring to the show hosts with “y’all.”

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he continued. “You know, wherever I go, all my [opponents] send these kids in with cameras to shoot everything I talk about. Maybe they can get a word or two that I say that’s probably out of context. Because let me tell you something: I’m not going to be politically correct. And I’m tired of this double standard.”

He explained that the individual who asked him for his license was one of these “trackers” who has been attending his events in different places.

Tuberville said he does not use trackers for his campaign.

“[B]ecause I could care less what these people say, you know that I’m running against,” he advised. Later on, Tuberville said it was a tried and true tactic of “career politicians” to try tearing down their opponents because they themselves have no accomplishments to run on. He suggested his opponents focus on their own campaigns rather than his.

Between the pressing issues facing Alabama, including healthcare, broadband access, veterans’ problems, supporting law enforcement and agriculture, Tuberville also stated it was “amazing” that people are worried about his driver license.

He then explained that he does in fact have an Alabama driver license, telling the story of how he was pulled over recently by a police officer who reportedly wound up saying he was voting for him.

Later in the interview, Tuberville steered the focus to the Alabama GOP’s ultimate priority: defeating incumbent Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in the general election.

“We’ve got to get the Democrat out — socialist. He, for the majority of the people of this state, doesn’t represent [them] and hasn’t even tried to do so since he’s been in there,” Tuberville stressed. “President Trump’s gotta have help. He’s got to have huge help, and it’s got to be in the Senate.”

He expressed tremendous optimism with his chances of emerging from the primary victorious.

“I’m running away with this race,” Tuberville emphasized.

Listen to the full interview:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Madison County’s credit rating upgraded, now highest in county history

(D. Strong/Contributed, Madison County/Facebook, YHN)

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong on Wednesday announced that the county has received an upgrade in its credit rating from Moody’s Investors Service, resulting in the best rating in the history of Madison County.

Moody’s has upgraded Madison County from an Aa2 rating to Aa1. Additionally, S&P Global Ratings maintained the county’s current rating of AA+ with a stable outlook.

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A press release from Strong’s office outlined that during recent meetings with both S&P and Moody’s, Madison County was praised for systematic measures taken to improve and strengthen the financial control of county operations. This includes the execution of debt reduction, upgraded accounting practices, financial management, job creation and organizational rightsizing.

“Our Commission and financial team have embraced change and have set conditions through new policies while making the hard decisions when it mattered most leading to this momentous announcement, and the tax payers of Madison County will benefit the most with lower bond rates,” Strong said in a statement.

In their new rating, Moody’s specifically cited Madison County’s large and growing tax base; healthy financial position marked by solid reserve and liquidity levels; and manageable debt burden. S&P noted strength in the local economy and budgetary performance, as well as strong liquidity and budgetary flexibility.

“These are historical times in Madison County, Alabama,” Strong emphasized.

“Since 2012, we have been very successful in letting the rest of the world know our engineering, advanced manufacturing, and propulsion capabilities thereby leading to more than 25,000 new jobs for the greater Madison County region,” he outlined. “While Huntsville has always been the Rocket City, if your company is in space or missile defense and you don’t have a presence in Madison County you need to rethink your business model because whether it be rockets or automotive engines Madison County is truly the Propulsion Capital of the World.”

Madison County continues to grow quickly, currently with a population of approximately 360,000 residents.

While Strong believes the economy in his county is the most robust he has ever witnessed, he concluded, “I believe Madison County’s finest hours are still ahead. Our team continues to build a solid economy and workforce not only for this generation but for many generations to come.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Roby: ‘I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first’

(S.Ross/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-02) on Wednesday delivered a public speech and spoke to the media for the first time since announcing that she will not seek reelection to a sixth term in 2020.

Appearing before an overflow, hometown crowd at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues Breakfast, Roby seemed at peace with her decision.

However, in a deeply heartfelt speech differing from her normal central focus on policies and the issues of the day, Roby expressed her continued passion for serving the people of Alabama’s Second Congressional District — and emphasized how appreciative she and her family are that she has been able to serve, starting with her time on the Montgomery City Council.

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“I’m just so overwhelmed and grateful. … It’s been 16 years since Riley and I prayerfully considered putting my name on the ballot for the very first time,” she said. “Never, never could we have imagined that by doing so, and by serving on Montgomery City Council, would that prelude us [serving] five terms in the United States House of Representatives.”

Holding back tears, Roby added, “I don’t have the words to adequately express how deeply thankful I am for the confidence that the people of Alabama’s second district have placed in me to represent them … since January 5, 2011.”

She said after much prayer and consideration, it was simply the right time for her family “to close this wonderful chapter” in their life.

Roby then reflected on some of the highlights of her time in Congress thus far, including one overarching common thread.

“Throughout my time in Congress, I have cast every vote with the guiding principle that Alabama always comes first,” she stressed. “Alabama’s priorities have been my priorities, and together we have been able to deliver some accomplishments.”

She outlined that some of her proudest achievements include work done to support the military, veterans, the agricultural industry, the unborn and general constituent services.

One of Roby’s legacies in Congress will certainly include helping bring the F-35 to Montgomery. She celebrated this in her remarks, as did Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Willie Durham when introducing her.

“[T]he River Region’s military footprint continues to lead our nation and our dedicated service members into the future,” Roby lauded, before emphasizing confidence that Fort Rucker in the Wiregrass will continue to play an integral national security role for many years to come.

On her pro-life beliefs, a choked-up Roby told the crowd, “By now, I hope it’s no secret to anybody in this room that I am unapologetically pro-life. And I’ve used this platform that’s been given to me in Congress to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Roby said she will continue fighting tirelessly for these priorities and others until her very last second in Congress and added that America’s immigration system is something she is particularly focused on until the end of her term.

“We face some real challenges in a divided Congress,” Roby acknowledged, before going into a list of current and upcoming priorities.

“For starters, I believe it is absolutely critical that Congress address our nation’s broken immigration system,” she remarked. “And you all know, I’ve said it since 2010 — we absolutely must secure our border.”

She then said continuing to fund the nation’s defense adequately and on-time remains a priority for her. Thanks to the historic leadership of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Congress last year passed the defense appropriations package through regular order and on-time for the first time in a decade. Roby wants to continue this type of important appropriations work, especially for the military, as she serves on the House Appropriations Committee. She also stressed that she wants to avoid any more government shutdowns, as they harm the Department of Defense and federal employees and contractors in her district and throughout the state.

“I believe that our military, our farmers, our veterans and so many others who depend on certainty with government funding deserve nothing less than for us to do our job — and do it on time,” Roby added.

The congresswoman then stated that passing a federal infrastructure plan remains a priority for her, saying she wants to work with the Trump administration and her colleagues in Congress to accomplish this bipartisan goal. Roby said roadway, railway and waterway infrastructure is critical for the economy, including ports such as the Port of Mobile.

“We have not done enough in this country to properly maintain our infrastructure,” she said.

‘There are retirements every cycle’

Following her remarks, Roby spoke at length to members of the press, answering a bevy of questions, including several slightly different variations of why she is not running for reelection. She dismissed speculation from national — and some in-state — commentators that her decision was indicative of the current political climate.

Roby underlined that her relationship with the Trump administration is good and that her decision had nothing to do with being in the minority in the House.

“It wouldn’t matter who was president, who was speaker of the House,” she added of her decision to retire from Congress.

“This happens every election cycle — there are retirements every cycle,” Roby outlined. “I know that the commentators on the news want to make it into something, but I would say for each individual member of Congress, their reason is different [on why they choose to continue serving or not].”

Roby then said that during the 2018 election cycle, she “made it very clear” going into this current term that she was going to be supportive of President Donald Trump and “everything” she could to advance shared priorities.

“When the president is successful, we’re all successful,” she continued. “There are policies that I share, priorities that I share with this administration, and I’ve done everything I can to make sure to get those priorities across the finish line to the president’s desk.”

“I have a good working relationship with the White House. And there are times that I agree, there are times that I disagree. But, again, I want what’s best for the American people,” Roby advised.

Saying she has no specific future political plans, “the one thing” Roby is promising is that her name will not appear on the ballot in 2020.

‘Toxic environment’

One call to action that Roby said applies to elected officials and members of the public alike pertains to the diminished level of civil discourse in the country, particularly through social media.

“The way we communicate with each other now, even as opposed to 10 years ago, has created a toxic environment — one in which our civil discourse is the worst that I have ever seen it,” Roby emphasized.

“You can sit on a phone or a computer and you can type out anything you want to say without consequence,” she explained. “You know, there’s a lot of people that I run into from time-to-time — they think that I don’t read their Twitter, but I do. And the way they act to my face when they’re looking in my eyeballs is completely different than what they’re willing to say on social media. So, I just think we all have a responsibility…”

Roby expressed hope that the “pendulum” can swing back the other way as far as discourse goes. She said this is key “if we hope to accomplish anything.”

“Because if we’re shouting down at every single person that doesn’t agree with our politics or our position, we’re never going to get anything done,” Roby lamented. “I mean, I have strong convictions about the things that I believe in, but I’ve got to be willing to listen — to at least try to understand where my colleagues are coming from.”

Asked by an Alabama Media Group reporter whether “President Trump sets the tone for that (the level of discourse),” Roby said the responsibility is shared across party lines and societal roles.

“Well, I think that there’s [negative] discourse on both sides of the aisle,” she responded. “Oftentimes people want to point the finger at one person or one tweet, but I think that there’s plenty of blame to go around in terms of the way we communicate with each other. As leaders, in office, we have even more of the responsibility to choose our words carefully. But I do think that there’s responsibility on both sides of the aisle, and quite frankly, in every household in America.”

You can view a tweet thread from Roby’s appearance here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Montgomery Zoo announces unexpected passing of Connye, a popular giraffe

(Montgomery Zoo/Flickr)

The Montgomery Zoo and Mann Wildlife Learning Museum on Tuesday announced the sudden passing of Connye, a beloved member of their giraffe herd.

The giraffe was born at the Montgomery Zoo on March 23, 2015.

A statement outlined that zookeepers noticed Connye in an unusual position in the early morning hours of Monday via the zoo’s web camera monitoring system.

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The animal care and veterinarian teams were immediately mobilized to provide medical assistance. However, they were not able to stabilize her condition and she passed away shortly thereafter. Connye had not displayed any signs of illness in the days and weeks prior, according to the zoo.

Veterinarians at the State of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries’ Thompson Bishop Sparks Diagnostic Laboratory will perform a necropsy (animal autopsy) in an attempt to determine the cause of death. Additional information will be made available to the public after the necropsy findings are received from the lab.

In an emotional Facebook post, a member of the Montgomery Zoo staff wrote that Connye “was near and dear to the hearts of our staff.”

Connye pictured with her mother shortly after birth in 2015 (Michelle Ogle Sims/Facebook)

The Montgomery Zoo is a department of the City of Montgomery.

Combined with the Mann Wildlife Learning Museum, the zoo is a 42-acre zoological facility, located minutes from downtown Montgomery, dedicated to animal conservation and education. Accredited by the Zoological Association of American, the zoo is home to approximately 400 animals from Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America. The Mann Wildlife Learning Museum spans 28,000 square feet and houses one of the Southeast’s largest collections of preserved North American wildlife and artifacts.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

6 days ago

Alabama Democratic Party officer: Doug Jones, DNC ‘plan to strip voting rights from blacks’

L-R: U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Val Bright, U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) Credit: Jacque Chandler/Facebook, Fox Business/YouTube

In an open letter released on Tuesday night, Alabama Democratic Party Secretary Val Bright slammed Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for ongoing attempts to overhaul the state party’s bylaws and leadership structure, saying the “true target” is “blacks.”

This whole saga started last August, when Jones led a failed coup of the Alabama Democratic Party during its election of officers, including an unsuccessful attempt to unseat Chairwoman Nancy Worley. Worley was the preferred choice of the Alabama Democratic Conference (ADC), which is known as the “black political caucus” of the state party.

Since then, formal challenges about that election were filed with the DNC, which is now attempting to force the state party to hold a new election of officers and drastically change the structure of the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) in a manner which would include less African Americans.

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Worley has previously referred to the DNC’s call for a new election as “racial.”

Now, Bright is doubling down on that sentiment as the DNC-imposed Saturday deadline to hold the new election looms. This August 17 deadline is an extension past the 90-day window originally handed down to the state party, which has also already had its initial proposed bylaw changes rejected by the DNC.

In her open letter, which was released by the ADC on Facebook, Bright said, “I am so saddened, insulted and outraged at the DNC for their plan to strip voting rights from blacks elected to serve on the SDEC in order to give Doug Jones the ability to control the outcome of an election he has conspired to have in order to control the majority of blacks presently serving.”

Speaking specifically of Jones, Bright continued, “He attempted to replace those black officers in last year’s election with an almost entirely white slate and failed because black members voted his slate down. His insistence in this effort, aided by the DNC, speaks volumes to me and echoes what many of us have long understood.”

She then said that black Americans have historically been taken advantage of after being integral in a political movement’s success, comparing black support that aided Jones’ 2017 special election victory to the efforts to end “slavery” and “Jim Crow.”

“Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins,” Bright stated.

“In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins,” she added. “From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.”

Bright went on to say the electoral challenge to Worley is “a smoke screen to make it appear that Jones and the DNC is not attacking his true target, blacks.”

“This is a huge taint on the national Party and the Senator (Jones) who depends on our vote to get re-elected,” she concluded.

Val Bright posing with absentee ballots in Nov. 2012 (Michael Briddell/ Facebook)

Bright’s full open letter follows (Editor’s note: Yellowhammer News split the letter into paragraphs for reading ease):

I am so saddened, insulted and outraged at the DNC for their plan to strip voting rights from blacks elected to serve on the SDEC in order to give Doug Jones the ability to control the outcome of an election he has conspired to have in order to control the majority of blacks presently serving. He attempted to replace those black officers in last year’s election with an almost entirely white slate and failed because black members voted his slate down. His insistence in this effort, aided by the DNC, speaks volumes to me and echoes what many of us have long understood.

Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins. In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins. From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.

PS. This Nancy thing is BS She is being fronted as a smoke screen to make it appear that Jones and the DNC is not attacking his true target, blacks! She has only been serving as chair for 5 years, no one attacked the previous Chairs who were friends of Jones.

Alabama has only 1/3 black voting population, who vote almost entirely Democratic. The majority white voting population for well over the last 10 years vote overwhelming Republican. This racially motivated shift changed, not only in Alabama but around the US as well. Long before Nancy and those of us presently serving were elected to office. We have been working to change and reorganize county organizations to bring active Democratic leadership to fruition in especially rural counties that overwhelming vote Republican. While this effort has not been seriously undertaken by previous Party administrations and the process is time consuming, the results will eventually bear fruit. It takes hard work and sometimes fighting many local “chieftains” throughout the state who’ve switched Parties but hold onto the positions to keep Republican control for their political benefit. All this and sadly we have for the last year been defending ourselves against a small element within our own Party who have conspired with Jones aided by the army of the DNC and the right wing media to keep them from stripping the black vote.

This is a huge taint on the national Party and the Senator who depends on our vote to get re-elected.

RELATED: Doug Jones on Biden ‘segregationists’ remarks: ‘I’m not sure he needs to apologize’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 week ago

Lockheed Martin’s Huntsville operations given big boost

(YHN)

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) recently awarded Lockheed Martin a major, $240 million contract to support the modeling and simulation framework for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS), a crucial national security program.

Through this contract, the Modeling and Simulation Contract – Framework and Tools (MASC-F), Lockheed Martin will ensure the BMDS remains ready for modern evolving threats by continually assessing system configurations, engagement conditions and target phenomena.

In a press release, the company said that the work on the MASC-F program will be performed at Lockheed Martin’s Huntsville facility.

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“Testing the different elements of the Ballistic Missile Defense System together is an extremely complicated process,” said JD Hammond, vice president of C4ISR Systems for Lockheed Martin. “MASC-F will enable the MDA to run ‘what-if’ scenarios before fielding new configurations to ensure the warfighter gets the most effective system possible.”

(Photo: Missile Defense Agency)

Working with the MDA, Lockheed Martin’s team will enhance the system’s foundational simulation framework.

The Lockheed Martin-led team also includes Huntsville-based Dynetics and more subcontract teammates, such as: Northrop Grumman, CohesionForce, PeopleTec, Penta Research, Corvid Technologies, Archarithms, ISYS Technologies and M&M Technical Services Inc. The team will mature capabilities and develop common interfaces to join digital and hardware-in-the-loop representations into one modular, scalable, reconfigurable system.

Additionally, MASC-F will provide additional products and tools to support the MDA’s modeling and simulation enterprise and provide critical data to assess the operational effectiveness and survivability of the BMDS and its elements.

Through computer-based tools, modeling, algorithms and analysis techniques, MASC-F will enable the integration of real-world hardware and constructive models from each of the BMDS program elements into one system that accurately represents the performance of fielded BMDS equipment. These will then be used to evaluate fielded and conceptual BMDS architectures against a variety of threats in realistic environments.

Lockheed Martin also has a campus in Pike County, which recently broke ground on a new production facility. The company is headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, where it is led by University of Alabama alumna Marillyn Hewson.

RELATED: University of Alabama grad named nation’s most powerful woman in business

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn