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.

3 days ago

Landing headquarters move to bring more than 800 jobs to Birmingham

(Landing/Twitter)

More than 800 full-time jobs are coming to Birmingham as a company building a nationwide network of fully-furnished apartments is set to relocate its headquarters from San Francisco to Birmingham.

Gov. Kay Ivey made the announcement on Thursday.

“Landing is a fast-growing company with an innovative business model, and we are thrilled that it will establish its headquarters in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement from her office. “This is great news for Birmingham and for the entire state because it shows that we have the workforce and capabilities needed by a cutting-edge company that is blazing new trails.”

Landing’s move to Birmingham is timely as real estate investors foresee continued growth in the sector. In the midst of the strongest homes-sales market in 15 years, renting has become an attractive option for many.

According Ivey’s office, the company has experienced 1,250% year-over-year growth and has scaled from just nine cities in early 2020 to over 80, with plans to be in more than 100 by year’s end.

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“As a Birmingham native, relocating our headquarters and expanding our Alabama team was a natural transition,” said Bill Smith, founder and CEO of Landing. “I’m excited by the opportunity to continue to scale Landing and bring new jobs and economic opportunities to my community. As we continue to expand across the country, we’re committed to the vibrant cities we operate in and will strive to have a positive impact on all of Landing’s communities.”

Smith previously started Shipt, an app-based delivery service that grew rapidly and was acquired by Target Corp. in 2017.

The Alabama Department of Commerce estimates that in the next two decades Landing’s contribution to Alabama’s economy will result in $112 million in new state revenue and a 356% return on investment to the state.

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield believes Smith’s previous accomplishments in business offer a glimpse at what is to come for Landing and its new home in Alabama.

“Bill Smith is a rock star in Alabama’s innovation economy through his experience with Shipt, and Landing represents an interesting new chapter in a business career that has already produced massive success,” said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The company is off to a strong start, and Birmingham will offer a solid platform for its growth plans as it shakes up the real estate industry.”

Landing’s new headquarters will be located in downtown Birmingham at the John Hand Building, a fact Mayor Randall Woodfin notes is going to be mutually beneficial to Landing and the city.

“Landing’s arrival couldn’t come at a better time,” Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said. “As our city continues to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, the new jobs and revenue Landing will bring to our community will be a boost to our recovery efforts. The financial incentive we offer, pending the City Council’s approval, will help to hire and train our citizens for the more than 800 new jobs, and the revenue generated by the project will provide funding for City schools and infrastructure.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 days ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Will Ainsworth for reelection to Lt. Governor’s office

(Alabama Forestry Association/Twitter)

After announcing in front of 3,000 people last week that he would seek reelection, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth has now picked up the endorsement of one of Alabama’s most influential business associations.

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) has endorsed Ainsworth as he begins his campaign for a second term.

“Lt. Governor Ainsworth has done an outstanding job during his first term in office,” said AFA president Chris Isaacson in a release from the organization. “He is committed to a limited and fiscally responsible government and has been a tireless advocate for Alabama’s forest products industry and a longtime friend of AFA. We were an early supporter in his first statewide election and are honored to stand with Will in his bid for a second term.”

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AFA identified Ainsworth’s strong support of private property rights as part of its decision to support the Marshall County native.

“I am proud to have the support of the Alabama Forestry Association,” stated Ainsworth, himself a timberland owner. “I will continue to fight for smaller government, less red tape and more jobs for hardworking Alabamians. Alabama is open for business, and our best days are ahead.”

Ainsworth’s first term has been marked by his heavy involvement in the state’s economic issues.

He has overseen the Alabama Small Business Commission, a panel tasked with recommending policies and legislation benefiting small businesses operating across the state.

During last year’s COVID-19 crisis, Ainsworth formed an emergency task force within the commission to focus on the reopening of Alabama’s economy. Most of the task force’s plan was implemented by the state during the reopening process.

Ainsworth has also served as chairman of the Aerospace States Association, a national group whose mission is to support and promote the interests of the aerospace industry in Alabama and across the nation.

At his campaign kickoff, Ainsworth asserted that improving the prospects of future generations of Alabamians is driving him to run for a second term.

“The main reason I’m running is for my kids, your kids, your grandkids’ future,” he said. “It is a huge time commitment, but I want to say this: I want our kids, your kids, everybody in here to always be proud to call Alabama home. I don’t want our kids to have to move to Atlanta or Nashville or Austin or another state. I want them to be able to live right here in Alabama and have the same opportunities as any kids in the world. We’re going to do that. We are doing that.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 days ago

Scofield tapped to lead Alabama Digital Expansion Authority

(Clay Scofield/Contributed, Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama Legislature’s long-time champion for rural broadband expansion has been tapped to lead the entity charged with overseeing the state’s broadband connectivity plan.

State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) has been elected chairman of the Alabama Digital Expansion Authority, according to a release from his office. The authority was created under the Connect Alabama Act of 2021, legislation sponsored by State Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville).

Scofield, who also serves as his chamber’s majority leader, has seen the benefits of rural broadband expansion following the implementation of a grant program he helped create.

“Providing high-speed internet to rural and unserved communities in Alabama has been one of my top priorities since I was first elected to the Senate over a decade ago,” he said. “We have witnessed our state transform into an economic powerhouse over the years, cultivating industrial expansion, job growth, technological advancements, and much more.”

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Scofield has previously emphasized the importance broadband expansion to Alabama’s rural communities, saying, “It’s imperative for not only the growth but the survivability of rural Alabama.”

RELATED: Ivey’s broadband expansion effort hits $20 million mark this year

The Connect Alabama Act establishes the Alabama Digital Expansion Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs that will prepare and execute the connectivity plan and establish and oversee a broadband accessibility grant program. The grant program will foster the placement and approval of high-speed broadband internet networks, services and technologies across the state.

During passage of the legislation, Garrett noted that the law would enable the state to develop a more comprehensive plan for expansion and an ability to access more funding.

“Doing so will enhance Alabama’s education, health care system and economy,” Garrett explained. “The state actually has no connectivity strategy or plan right now. All we really have is the ADECA program — which works very successfully, it’s a very good program. We like the way it operates. But $20 million a year is not going to solve the problem, which is to get internet access throughout this entire state.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 days ago

Alabama could determine Trump’s political future

(White House/Flickr, YHN)

It was a campaign rally in Alabama in August 2015 which put the rest of the world on notice that Donald Trump was a force to be reckoned with.

On that warm, humid night in Mobile, Trump packed 30,000 curious and furious people into Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Using the Alabama rally as the template for future events, Trump’s stadium and arena rallies became a signature of his campaign.

After Mobile, his campaign gained enough steam to win Alabama’s presidential primary, the Republican nomination and the presidency. What followed was four years of unassailable success for conservatives in every area from tax cuts to regulatory reform to the federal courts.

Trump has reentered the state’s borders – albeit in the figurative sense this time – to once again put his political fate in the hands of the people of Alabama, a group which has proven to be among the most Trump-loyal voters in the country.

The former casino operator has placed his chips all-in on U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) to be Alabama’s next United States Senator.

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Trump got in early, too, delivering his endorsement more than 13 months ahead of the 2022 Republican primary. Brooks has made two unsuccessful runs at statewide office, including one U.S. Senate campaign, but this one may turn out to be different.

In NFL Draft parlance, Brooks is a high floor, low ceiling candidate, a natural choice for Trump who is seeking to maintain his footing in national Republican politics with an eye toward 2024.

A Club for Growth poll conducted among Alabama Republican primary voters in late April showed Brooks leading the field with 59% of the vote. With a Trump endorsement and the whole of Brooks’ record baked into those polling numbers, Brooks is unlikely to see his numbers nudge up much higher under any circumstance. But a candidate only needs 50% plus one vote to win the nomination, so Brooks currently sits better than the rest of the field.

Brooks – and Trump through his endorsement – are banking on the state’s Republican primary voters to care about the 2020 election with the same intensity in 2022 as they did immediately following the election. After all, the entire premise of Brooks’ campaign, and the reason for Trump’s endorsement, is that Brooks fought for Trump post-election.

Meanwhile, Trump is not the only Republican with designs on a 2024 run.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence have all been circling at a respectful distance and actively gauging Trump’s strength, which is why the Alabama U.S. Senate primary will draw special scrutiny from those aspiring presidential candidates.

Should Brooks stumble and lose a third statewide Republican primary, prospective 2024 candidates are going to see a green light to run. If Trump is unable to steer the outcome of a race in the reddest of red states, what would that signal about his standing among Republicans heading into presidential primaries?

There has been a limited amount of activity in Alabama’s primary, so far.

Earlier this week, Brooks received a gift wrapped in a bow and presented on a platter when he was sued by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for allegations related to the U.S. Capitol riot. However, Brooks passed on the opportunity to bolster his credentials as a fighter for Alabamians. He might have used the opportunity to say something like this: “I was sued by a liberal California Democrat, who had an affair with a Chinese spy, for no other reason than the fact that they know I’ll fight for your Alabama values.”

Instead, the response from Brooks and his surrogates involved a discussion of the proper service of process in a civil suit and the intricacies of Alabama’s criminal trespass statute.

Not exactly a confidence-inspiring campaign strategy for anyone whose fate is tied to Brooks.

Brooks has also reportedly been campaigning on the Gulf Coast with Trump nemesis and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It will be interesting over the coming months to see how that alliance sits with the 45th president.

Trump is in the midst of endorsing candidates in swing states like North Carolina and Georgia. Nowhere has he endorsed a candidate where the electorate is such a clear-cut representation of his voters in 2016 and 2020 like there is in Alabama.

Alabama’s primary is scheduled for May 24, 2022, nearly one year from now. That’s a lifetime in politics. Whatever happens will go a long way toward determining Trump’s political prospects.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 days ago

Ivey releases campaign ad — ‘It’s important to keep our jobs open and keep our people working’

(Ivey Campaign/YouTube)

A little more than one week into her reelection effort, Gov. Kay Ivey’s campaign has already released a new digital ad making her case for another term.

In an ad titled “Four More Years,” Ivey talks about her desire to continue serving her state and the importance of creating economic opportunity.

“I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished in Alabama over these last four years, but we’ve got more work to do and little time to waste to make sure that Alabama’s best days are still ahead of us,” Ivey said in a release from her campaign. “I am grateful for the support so many have offered this campaign already and look forward to continuing to share our message across our great state.”

Watch:

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Ivey, currently on the executive committee of the National Governors Association, became Alabama’s 54th governor in 2017 when she was sworn into office following the resignation of former Governor Robert Bentley. Ivey was overwhelmingly elected to a full term of her own in 2018.

She is Alabama’s second female governor and first Republican female governor.

During Ivey’s tenure, Alabama has consistently enjoyed the lowest unemployment numbers in the Southeast.

As part of a strategy to bolster the state’s small business sector, Ivey recently decided to end the federal unemployment supplement early. Small business owners are hoping Ivey’s decision to opt Alabama out of the program on June 19 will help solve current labor shortages.

RELATED: Ivey’s broadband expansion effort hits $20 million mark this year

Full transcript of “Four More Years” reads:

I’m running hard for a second term because I want to continue to serve the people of Alabama.

These past four years have been resilient, they’ve been responsive to our challenges and our opportunities.

It’s important to keep our jobs open and keep our people working.

Our people are faithful and resilient. And I want to help them be the best they can be in the greatest state there is.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammmer Multimedia

5 days ago

Ivey’s broadband expansion effort hits $20 million mark this year

(Hal Yeager/Governor's Office, Pixabay, YHN)

Gov. Kay Ivey has now awarded more than $20 million in grants for the expansion of high-speed internet in rural Alabama communities in 2021.

The state passed the milestone with Wednesday’s announcement from Ivey that her administration had awarded $1.3 million to expand broadband in Lee, Colbert and Lawrence Counties.

“The Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund is helping us make steady progress in providing high-speed internet services in Alabama,” stated Ivey in a release from her office. “I am thankful for all the partners in this process who are making these projects a reality.”

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Ivey awarded $736,329 to JTM Broadband to provide broadband services in parts of Colbert and Lawrence Counties and $302,245 to Spectrum Southeast to expand services in Lee County.

The Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund was created by the Alabama Legislature in 2018.

“Having accessibility to broadband services can make a world of difference in terms of education, business and health care,” noted ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA is pleased to have a role in this process that is helping to improve the lives of so many Alabamians.”

Boswell’s agency, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, is charged with administering grants from the fund.

RELATED: Expansion of broadband will propel economic growth in Alabama

The latest round of grants will benefit a variety of community needs in their respective areas.

JTM Broadband will deploy approximately 62 miles of cable in Colbert and Lawrence Counties to provide high-speed internet capability to more than 1,200 residents, 31 businesses and seven community anchors (public buildings, fire stations, schools and community centers).

Spectrum Southeast will make broadband services available to more than 430 households and five businesses in west Lee County.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 days ago

Rogers takes Biden to task for lack of action on China’s nuclear buildup

(Joe Biden, Congressman Mike D. Rogers/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, is urging President Joe Biden to get tougher when it comes to China’s growing nuclear weapons stockpile.

In a letter sent to Biden on Tuesday, Rogers and two other Republican ranking members expressed their concern over “the rapid Chinese nuclear build-up, as well as the unwillingness of the Chinese Communist Party to engage with the United States in good faith arms control negotiations.”

The members pointed to the testimony of Admiral Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in front of Rogers’ committee as evidence that the Chinese have accelerated their buildup of nuclear weapons.

China has placed a portion of its nuclear weapons on Launch on Warning status and could see its overall stockpile quadruple in the next 10 years, according to Richard. At that rate, the Department of Defense estimates China could have 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2030.

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The congressmen also referred to a report from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, which stated that “China is fielding a full Cold War-style triad of nuclear assets.”

Rogers and his colleagues concluded, “Combined, these statements by Admiral Richard and Director Haines mean that China is likely to reach a degree of nuclear parity with the United States by the end of the decade.”

The ranking members additionally asserted that China is in violation of Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which it is a party. That provision in the NPT requires parties to negotiate in good faith toward arms reductions.

“Despite China being a party to the NPT, it has not only consistently refused to negotiate in ‘good faith’ but has refused to negotiate at all. We are left to reach no other conclusion that China is in violation of Article VI of the NPT,” the ranking members warned.

Rogers and his colleagues formally requested that Biden and his administration provide them with “a comprehensive interagency strategy for getting China to enter meaningful arms control negotiations, either bilaterally or trilaterally,” a strategy which they said should include “the full use of our diplomatic, military, intelligence, and sanctions toolbox to bring them to the table.”

The three Republicans pushed the administration to make “a determination as to whether or not China is acting inconsistent with Article VI of the NPT, to include any underlying intelligence indicative of China’s willingness to enter into good faith arms control negotiations as required by the Treaty.”

Finally, they requested “an updated comprehensive unclassified IC assessment of Russian and Chinese nuclear modernization trends” to include “updates to any Russian and Chinese chemical and biological weapons programs.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), ranking member on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, joined Rogers as signers of the letter to Biden.

Their statement to Biden comes two weeks after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

6 days ago

Small business survey: ‘Labor shortage is holding back growth for small businesses’

(NFIB/Facebook, YHN)

A record number of small business owners are reporting unfilled job openings, a fact that is preventing growth in the sector, according to a recent National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index fell in May after steadily increasing each month this year, noted the organization in a release on Tuesday.

In response to the survey, 48% of business owners reported an inability to fill current job openings.

In Alabama, NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash welcomed Gov. Kay Ivey’s strategy to discontinue the federal unemployment supplement in an effort to bolster the workforce. Elebash explained that the labor shortage has hindered small businesses from meeting the needs of their customers.

“Our members say job openings outnumber qualified job applicants, but we believe Governor Ivey’s decision to end the federal unemployment supplement early on June 19 will encourage more people to reenter the workforce,” Elebash remarked.

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The federal program, created to help workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic when relatively few businesses were hiring, is set to expire nationwide in September.

However, citing the need to help small businesses in their recovery, Ivey ensured Alabama would opt out earlier.

She remarked at the time of her decision that the program had always been meant as a short-term solution.

“As Alabama’s economy continues its recovery, we are hearing from more and more business owners and employers that it is increasingly difficult to find workers to fill available jobs, even though job openings are abundant,” said Ivey. “Among other factors, increased unemployment assistance, which was meant to be a short-term relief program during emergency related shutdowns, is now contributing to a labor shortage that is compromising the continuation of our economic recovery.”

Workforce challenges are not only a problem in Alabama, according to NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.

“The labor shortage is holding back growth for small businesses across the country,” stated Dunkelberg. “If small business owners could hire more workers to take care of customers, sales would be higher and getting closer to pre-COVID levels. In addition, inflation on Main Street is rampant, and small business owners are uncertain about future business conditions.”

Other key findings from the survey:

–8% of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 26% said that labor quality was their top business problem. Higher labor costs are being passed on to customers through higher selling prices.

–A net 34% (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation, the highest level in the past 12 months. A net 22% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up two points.

–Owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months fell 11 points to a net negative 26%.

Attorney General Steve Marshall last month harnessed the power of his office to pursue additional relief for small businesses.

Marshall filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration seeking to allow states to use federal funds for state tax relief for small business owners.

Marshall stated that a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act “effectively bans states from cutting taxes for several years.”

The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

RELATED: Expanded broadband is essential to our small business community

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

6 days ago

Britt is in — ‘I will put Alabama First and never apologize for it’

(Katie Boyd Britt/Contributed)

One of Alabama’s rising political stars has made her long-anticipated entry into the competition to join the U.S. Senate.

Enterprise native Katie Britt formally announced on Tuesday that she is seeking the Republican nomination to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

Britt, who most recently led the state’s largest business organization, cited a desire to pushback on the policies of the Biden administration as a primary motivator for her candidacy.

“I believe in Alabama and the promise of the American Dream we grew up with – the American Dream in which hard work is rocket fuel; the American Dream that has allowed me to build a career, raise a family and now announce my candidacy for the United States Senate,” Britt stated in a release from her campaign. “But when I look at what’s happening in Joe Biden’s Washington, I don’t recognize our nation. Our Christian conservative values are under attack and opportunity is giving way to entitlement. These past few months, I’ve spent a lot of time praying for America. And now I am stepping up and putting everything on the line. It’s time to fight for our children and our children’s children — and preserve the American Dream for them.”

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President Joe Biden has been roundly criticized among conservatives for a proposed expansion of the role of the federal government not seen since the 1930s.

With a less than a year to go until the Republican primary, campaigning for the coveted seat is anticipated to heat up sooner rather than later.

And that’s a gauntlet Britt says she is prepared to handle.

“I will work hard every day to earn the vote of every Alabamian, because I believe I will best represent our values and deliver results for our state in the Senate,” she said. “I will put Alabama First and never apologize for it, championing pro-jobs policies that increase opportunity for hardworking families in every corner of our state. Because we don’t just need a senator from Alabama, we need a Senator for Alabama.”

Britt is married to Alabama Crimson Tide great Wesley Britt, who garnered first team All-SEC honors and played several seasons in the NFL for the New England Patriots. The Britts have two children and attend First United Methodist Church in Montgomery.

Britt’s campaign has released an announcement video in which she highlights growing up in the Wiregrass as the daughter of small business owners.

Watch:

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Montgomery businesswoman Lynda Blanchard are the other two announced candidates for the seat.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones seeking seat on Alabama Supreme Court

(Debra Jones/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones announced on Monday that she would seek the Republican nomination for the Alabama Supreme Court.

A two-term circuit judge and former prosecutor, Jones is running for the seat currently held by Justice Mike Bolin, who is retiring from the court.

“I have a proven record of being a conservative judge,” Jones said in a statement from her campaign. “I have earned a reputation of being honest and fair. I strictly apply the law to everyone equally without fear or favor and treat each person in my courtroom with dignity and respect.”

Jones touted her support for the rights of women and children as a focal point of her career. She created the Calhoun Cleburne Children’s Advocacy Center and co-founded a free counseling center for rape victims and a faith-based domestic violence shelter for women and children.

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“As a jury trial judge, I will bring a broad range of courtroom experience to the Alabama Supreme Court,” Jones added. “Judicial experience should matter. I have presided over many complex cases including capital murder, rape, child sexual abuse, medical malpractice and wrongful death.”

Jones received an undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama and her law degree from Samford’s Cumberland School of Law.

“I am proud to be born and raised and educated in Alabama,” Jones said. “It would be my honor to serve the great people of Alabama on its highest court.”

Jones plans to make a formal announcement of her candidacy on Wednesday at the Calhoun County Courthouse. She is the second candidate to enter the race. Birmingham lawyer Greg Cook announced last month that he was a candidate for the seat.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

Saban contract extended through 2028 season

(Bruce Nix/Alabama NewsCenter)

As national championship trophies continue piling up in Nick Saban’s office, so do the years on his contract.

The Crimson Tide announced this morning that it has extended its head football coach’s contract through the 2028 season.

Coming off his sixth national championship at the helm of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Saban now has eight years remaining on his existing contract.

“Terry and I are pleased and happy to sign another contract extension that will keep us in Tuscaloosa through the end of our career,” Saban said in a statement. “Our family calls Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama home, it’s a place where our roots now run deep. This agreement gives us the chance to continue to impact the lives of the young men and their families who choose to play football and get an education at Alabama. We want to thank the Board of Trustees, Chancellor St. John, President Bell, Director of Athletics Greg Byrne, our athletics administration, the football staff and the whole University community for their support.”

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The base salary and talent fee of $8.425 million for the current contract year will increase annually throughout the length of the contract. There will also be a contract completion benefit of $800,000 payable at the end of the 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025 contract years.

Saban is entering his 15th season. In addition to his six national championships in 12 years, he has led the program to seven SEC championships. The Tide has had 106 players selected in the NFL Draft since 2009, including 39 first round picks. Those numbers are all the best in the nation during that span. Alabama’s six first round picks in the 2021 draft tied the NFL Draft record.

News of the extension drew a significant reaction on social media. Athletic Director Greg Byrne highlighted the work Saban and his wife, Terry, have done in the community.

The Sabans have raised nearly $10 million for charitable causes through their Nick’s Kids Foundation and have personally donated $1 million to UA’s first-generation scholarship fund

“Coach Saban’s impact on The University of Alabama is immeasurable,” said University of Alabama President Stuart R. Bell. “What his teams have accomplished on the field is extraordinary. Moreover, he is dedicated to ensuring his student-athletes are successful beyond their sport with a stringent focus on their academics and personal development. We’re thrilled to have Nick and Terry Saban, who are among UA’s most distinguished ambassadors, leading by example and serving others in our community for many years to come.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

State officials honor Alabama’s linemen — ‘They’re dedicated to their jobs and the people of Alabama’

(Alabama Power/Twitter)

The men and women who brave tough conditions and work long hours to keep Alabama’s lights on were recognized by several of the state’s elected officials on Monday.

“This past year with the devastating tornadoes and hurricanes throughout our state, we were reminded all too often of the incredible commitment and service from Alabama’s linemen,” said Governor Kay Ivey in a statement. “We honor those individuals today and remember those who were injured on the job or tragically lost their lives.”

As president of the Alabama Public Service Commission, Twinkle Cavanaugh has seen first-hand the challenging conditions linemen are confronted with as part of storm recovery.

“A storm strong enough to knock out power is almost always going to create incredibly difficult conditions for linemen,” Cavanaugh told Yellowhammer News. “Our linemen get out there first and take on back-breaking work to get power restored. They’re dedicated to their jobs and the people of Alabama.”

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To assist the families of linemen who have lost their lives or been injured on the job, the Energy Institute of Alabama (EIA) created a foundation to benefit those families. Funding occurs through the sale of specialty license plates and donations.

EIA Chairman Seth Hammett expressed his gratitude to the more than 2,000 linemen represented by EIA member companies.

“These men and women are the backbone of our dependable energy infrastructure and, importantly, are some of the first responders immediately following catastrophic events who work tirelessly to quickly and safely restore the power,” stated Hammett.

RELATED: Linemen power Alabama’s storm recovery efforts – ‘Some heroes wear climbing hooks’

Alabama Linemen Appreciation Day was formally established by the Alabama Legislature in 2014 by a resolution sponsored by State Sen. April Weaver, then a member of the House of Representatives.

EIA has created a video to honor the occasion:

Alabama Lineman Appreciation Day_2021 from Energy Institute of Alabama on Vimeo.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Business Council of Alabama announces resignation of Katie Boyd Britt

(YHN, BCA)

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) announced Tuesday that Katie Boyd Britt is resigning from her position as president and CEO. Britt has been at the helm of the organization for more than two years and has led it through some of the most challenging days for Alabama businesses in recent memory.

BCA chairman Gary Smith lauded Britt’s work for businesses of every size and sector and for the fact that she left the organization in a better position.

“Today’s BCA is focused on advancing a 21st century economy in which all Alabamians can thrive,” said Smith, president and CEO of PowerSouth, in a statement from BCA. “We will miss Katie’s leadership and energy on behalf of hardworking Alabama families and job creators; however, she leaves BCA having improved the organization and our state. I have no doubt that BCA’s future is bright, as is Alabama’s. We all wish Katie the very best in her future endeavors.”

Smith expressed that the entirety of the organization’s board of directors and leadership team was unified in its gratitude for Britt’s service.

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Prior to Britt taking command of BCA in January 2019, BCA had seen significant membership losses and questions about the direction of the state’s largest business organization.

In addition, shutdowns and restrictions for Alabama businesses in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic challenged the state’s economy in ways never seen before.

“One of my greatest prides at BCA has been bringing the previously forgotten back into the fold – our small businesses on Main Street, and the rural businesses and industry that are the heart beats of local communities in every corner of our great state,” stated Britt.

Britt drove the BCA’s “Keep Alabama Open” effort last year when it appeared the federal government may try to institute national lockdowns on businesses. She also hosted the Small Business Exchange on Alabama Public Television last spring. The event was designed to help Alabama small businesses understand the process of applying for federal stimulus funding under the CARES Act.

“We have relentlessly fought for the things that matter most to hardworking Alabamians trying to earn livelihoods, build lives and raise families,” Britt emphasized. “Certainly, some of our toughest, yet most rewarding, battles have come the past year during the pandemic. We helped lead the successful charge to Keep Alabama Open, and spearheaded the push to protect businesses from frivolous COVID lawsuits.”

Britt has been exploring the possibility of a U.S. Senate candidacy, with an announcement potentially coming soon.

In the meantime, Smith announced that BCA has tapped former Blue Cross Blue Shield executive Robin Stone to serve in an interim leadership role.

“Katie will be difficult to replace, but we are fortunate that Robin Stone has agreed to serve as Interim Executive Director of BCA while our leadership selects a permanent replacement in the President’s role,” Smith added. “Robin is veteran of service in the business community and will provide solid leadership and a smooth transition.”

Stone served a 14-year term as vice president of Government Relations for the company.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

U.S. national security efforts strengthened by latest ULA launch

(ULA/Twitter)

A successful launch from Alabama’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) has positioned the United States to strengthen its intelligence gathering efforts.

On Tuesday afternoon, ULA’s Atlas V rocket powered the Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS) Flight 5 mission for the U.S. Space Force.

Launched from Cape Canaveral, the Atlas V carried the fifth satellite in a constellation currently orbiting the planet. All five geostationary satellites were launched by Atlas V rockets built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur.

The SBIRS satellites, made by Lockheed Martin Corp., occupy a critical role in America’s intelligence gathering.

The American military’s early warning defense system runs through these satellites which continually scan Earth and utilize infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of missiles being launched. Once identified as threats, the system calculates the trajectory of the missile and warns the national command authority.

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Early last year, when Iran fired missiles on U.S. military installations in Iraq, SBIRS was credited with saving the lives of American personnel because of its early warning capabilities.

RELATED: ‘Unmatched power’: Alabama-built ULA rocket successfully launches another national security mission

Gary Wentz, ULA’s vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, highlighted his company’s participation in this intelligence gathering function after the launch.

“Thank you to our mission partners for the tremendous teamwork as we processed and launched this asset that provides powerful surveillance and critical capabilities to protect our warfighters,” he said in a company release. “We are proud to work with the U.S. Space Force to continue to meet the national security needs of our country.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the RL10C-1-1 engine for the Centaur upper stage and the two AJ-60A solid rocket boosters.

This was the 87th launch of the Atlas V rocket and ULA’s 144th launch with 100% mission success.

RELATED: United Launch Alliance honors Decatur’s M&J with Small Business Excellence award

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

New Hoar Construction VP Seth Sargent to focus on health care sector

(Hoar Construction/Contributed, Picryl, YHN)

Birmingham-based Hoar Construction has appointed Seth Sargent to serve as its vice president of Healthcare, according to a release from the company.

The company cited changing conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and new building innovations in the sector as reasons for its increased focus on health care under Sargent’s leadership.

Sargent joins Hoar with over 25 years of experience in the health care industry, having most recently worked for GE Healthcare for 18 years. He steps into the position currently held by Coker Barton, who will retire later this year after 22 years at the firm.

Sargent expressed his eagerness to expand Hoar’s existing health care portfolio.

“Coker, Turner and the Hoar team have created a tremendous portfolio and reputation that I am looking forward to building on as I transition into this new role,” Sargent stated. “Relationships are a key driving factor for this industry, and my experience and familiarity with key healthcare players in Hoar’s geographic footprint will allow us to keep growing in the decade ahead. I’m also excited and fortunate to join a company of incredibly talented and experienced people that truly lives out its core values in everything that it does.”

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Founded 81 years ago, Hoar is entering its fourth decade with dedicated health care services.

Among the trends Sargent sees dominating the health care sector in the coming years are new methods to combat supply chain shortages, the use of modular construction and a rise in building technological advancements.

Hoar’s health care teams have completed over 17.5 million square feet of health care projects across more than seven markets over the last 30 years, bringing in more than $2.4 billion to the firm in total revenue, according to the company. Projects in Alabama include the VA Mental Health Clinic in Birmingham and an expansion at Lakeshore Foundation in Homewood.

In 2020, Hoar was ranked as a Top 10 General Contractor by Modern Healthcare.

“Hoar’s healthcare teams have instilled a level of trust and commitment to quality among our healthcare clients that has solidified us as one of the top healthcare builders in the country,” said Hoar President Turner Burton. “In a season of history where healthcare is evolving so rapidly thanks to technology and the onset of a pandemic, knowledgeable and reliable contractors who have a wide breadth of industry experience are essential to ensure that healthcare workers are armed with all the resources they need to deliver superior patient care. Seth’s comprehensive background in the field makes him the right choice to lead our strategic healthcare efforts into the next 30 years of growth and advancement.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Community college presidents: Job training enhanced if education construction process streamlined

(Bevill State Community College/Facebook, Pixabay, YHN)

Two community college presidents say critical workforce development programs will be enhanced if a proposal to streamline the education construction process is approved by the Alabama State Senate.

In addition to saving what an Alabama lawmaker estimates will be “millions” of taxpayer dollars, the presidents of Bevill State Community College and Jefferson State Community College say the plan will allow their schools to more quickly respond to the job training needs of Alabama industry.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) has sponsored legislation which allows school systems and community colleges to locally control construction projects.

Under current Alabama law, the State Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management in Montgomery maintains oversight responsibilities for construction projects at K-12 schools and local community colleges.

Shifting oversight from a state agency to a more localized level will not only result in cost savings but also faster completion times, according to supporters of the plan.

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“Time can be a very valuable resource when you are working to achieve a quick turnaround on a training program for business and industry,” Joel Hagood, president of Bevill State Community College, explained to Yellowhammer News.

Hagood believes the flexibility provided by construction directly overseen by the community college system is essential to carrying out its workforce development mission.

“Rapid response to the needs of business and industry is vital for workforce training,” he asserted. “If Bevill State is unable to meet the training needs for industry in a timely manner, they will find other avenues to obtain that training.”

Hagood outlined that the need to quickly get trained workers employment-ready helped drive the creation of Bevill’s Workforce Solutions Rapid Training Center in Jasper. The college is establishing a similar center at its Hamilton campus.

RELATED: Alabama’s Bevill State HVAC Fast Track Program graduates students

He pointed out that community colleges currently have to “wait in line” for approval behind all projects in the state which go through the Division of Construction Management.

Removing that extra layer of red tape “would expedite this process for the schools, facilitating a more rapid response for our students’ needs and industry demand,” concluded Hagood.

Emphasizing that responsiveness to the workforce development needs of business and industry is a “primary mission” of Alabama’s community colleges, Keith Brown, president of Jefferson State Community College, said his school is continually assessing and adjusting its job training programs.

“Many times, these programmatic adjustments require renovating or repurposing space to accommodate new equipment, new technology or an overall change in purpose of the facility,” Brown remarked.

This approach was placed into action when Jefferson State implemented its Heavy Equipment Operator Program, which the school was able to customize to meet an urgent industry need.

“The Heavy Equipment Operator program at Jefferson State is a prime example of identifying a need and working with industry to address it in a timely manner through a short-term training solution yielding qualified, certified students who are ready to work on day one,” said Alabama Community College System Chancellor Jimmy Baker.

Bevill State has encountered a similar need to upgrade facilities in order to meet an industry demand, according to Hagood.

“The longwall expansion project at Bevill State’s Mine Technology Program is a perfect example of an addition that was required to meet industry needs,” he noted. “Longwall mining is a highly productive coal mining technique. The expansion of the mine training center will enable all Underground New Miner Trainees to have a greater understanding of the extraction of the coal process from not only a continuous miner section but longwall mining as well. Miners will be shown the safest way to handle all aspects of tasks assigned.”

From Brown’s perspective, no one is better positioned to understand all the demands of a job training curriculum than the community colleges, themselves.

“The ACCS Board of Trustees is well versed in the mission of the Alabama Community College System and has a greater awareness of its ever-changing facility needs,” elaborated Brown. “Vesting oversight of the System’s construction efforts with the ACCS Board of Trustees would provide a narrower focus than the current structure and allow increased prioritization of the System’s projects. This could lead to shorter durations on projects and ultimately provide an increased response time to our business and industry partners.”

RELATED: ‘Saving taxpayers millions of dollars’: Alabama lawmaker wants to cut red tape for local school construction

With 24 main campuses and 32 satellite campuses located across Alabama, Ledbetter has set out to remove what he views as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in the construction process.

“Taking the bureaucracy out of that will end up saving taxpayers millions of dollars,” he stated.

The proposal includes provisions requiring all projects meet applicable safety requirements and building codes.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. It now awaits approval from the full Senate.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

NASA adds ULA’s Alabama-built Vulcan Centaur to its roster of rockets

(ULA/Flickr)

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) next-generation Vulcan Centaur is now set to compete for future NASA launches.

Vulcan Centaur, the newest addition to ULA’s fleet of rockets, is manufactured at the company’s 1.6 million square foot plant in Decatur. Its inclusion in NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is the result of meeting specific criteria and capability requirements.

“ULA is honored that NASA LSP has added our Vulcan Centaur rocket to the catalog of launch vehicles available to support future space exploration missions,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, in a release from the company. “Vulcan Centaur, a single core vehicle, will support challenging missions with unique second stage capabilities unmatched in the industry and we look forward to a continued partnership with NASA LSP.”

Under the provisions of the program, contractors must have the ability to successfully launch and deliver a payload to orbit using a domestic launch service capable of placing, at minimum, a 250 kg (551 lb.) payload into a 200 km (124 mile) circular orbit at an inclination of 28.5 degrees.

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Late last year, Vulcan Centaur was competitively selected by the U.S. Space Force as the best value launch provider for 60% of its launches occurring through 2027. Vulcan Centaur is on track for its first launch later this year.

“Vulcan Centaur is the right choice for critical national security space missions and was purpose built to meet all of the requirements of our nation’s space launch needs,” Bruno remarked at the time. “For decades, we have been a trusted partner to safely and securely deliver strategic national security space assets for our nation’s defense and this award shows the continued confidence of our customer in the commitment and dedication of our people to safeguard these missions by reliably launching our country’s most critical and challenging missions.”

ULA and its heritage rockets have a long history of successful missions on behalf of NASA.

Most recently, NASA’s Perseverance Rover completed its historic Mars landing, a mission launched by ULA’s Alabama-made Atlas V.

“It was an amazing launch, very successful,” said former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It went right on time and of course it is on a trajectory that has been done now with pinpoint accuracy. It was a great day for NASA.”

Already in 2021, ULA has taken a major step toward the inaugural launch of the Vulcan Centaur rocket when it completed modification of its launch pad and facilities in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Completing this phase of preparation moves Vulcan Centaur even closer to a planned 2021 lunar mission.

“Reaching this major milestone required years of hard work and dedication by the entire team to ensure we completed the massive amount of work needed to get the launch pad and facilities ready for a Vulcan Centaur launch,” Bruno outlined.

The company says Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability, and part of that is through the use of new manufacturing technologies that were not available during the production of earlier generations of rockets.

ULA has invested heavily in its Decatur plant, the largest such facility in the western hemisphere, installing a total of six large robotic welders to support the upgraded Centaur upper stage.

In all, ULA has delivered 140 missions to space with 100% mission success.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

‘Saving taxpayers millions of dollars’: Alabama lawmaker wants to cut red tape for local school construction

(W.Miller/YHN)

Seeking to save taxpayers and local schools millions of dollars, one Alabama lawmaker has a plan to streamline the approval process for certain education construction projects.

State Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) has sponsored legislation which allows school systems and community colleges to locally control construction projects when the estimated cost is $500,000 or less.

Under current Alabama law, the State Department of Finance’s Division of Construction Management in Montgomery maintains oversight responsibilities for construction projects at K-12 schools and local community colleges.

Shifting oversight from the state to local level will result in cost savings and quicker completion, according to supporters of the plan.

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Dr. Jason Barnett, Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools, sees a need for the legislation and believes the transition to a more localized approached would be relatively seamless.

“We also have architects and we have facility managers and we have construction managers that we do contract with, we do partner with, and we do work with,” he recently told CBS 42.

Barnett cited one instance in which a local project experienced considerable savings when it removed state-level regulation of the job.

“A local municipality decided we can build that building,” explained Barnett. “We can build the same building, the same architect rendering, the same everything, ultimately saved us about $790,000.”

With 139 local school systems and nearly 1,500 public schools across Alabama, Ledbetter has set out to remove what he views as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in the construction process.

“Maintenance and repair are an important part of making sure our children have the best and safest possible classrooms and learning environments,” Ledbetter told Yellowhammer News. “Taking the bureaucracy out of that will end up saving taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Ledbetter’s proposal includes provisions requiring projects to meet applicable building codes.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. It now awaits approval from the full Senate.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Multiply, Inc. has built a model ‘demystifying’ the sales process for Alabama companies

(Ask Multiply/Contributed, YHN)

A self-described “builder and believer in the Alabama market,” Ryan Robinett channeled his enthusiasm for putting people in positions for success when he founded Multiply, Inc. in 2018.

Calling on his years of experience at a highly successful IT services firm, Robinett created Multiply around a set of core principles to which he has adhered throughout his career.

“The ability to put people in a position to be successful, equip people to be successful and see them achieve personal results that create corporate gains, that’s what I have always enjoyed most about my work,” he explained.

The universal nature of those principles has allowed Robinett to apply them to the sales industry and has resulted in substantial growth for his own company.

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What began as a services firm helping some of Alabama’s largest companies expand the capabilities of their business development teams has now expanded into a multi-dimensional company helping some of Alabama’s smallest businesses create a sales process from scratch.

During its first two years of operation, Multiply’s clients have included Alabama Power, UAB, Brasfield & Gorrie and ServisFirst. Robinett has adapted his model for small businesses, as well. The company’s client base stretches up to Charlotte, North Carolina, and as far west as Colorado.

The firm hit a turning point at the start of 2021 when it added a software component to its offerings.

“I started seeing a gap in the market when I went in to deal with small and medium-sized companies, and even large companies for that matter. A lot of times there was this concept of ‘I know exactly what you are talking about, but budgets don’t allow for the services,’” recalled Robinett. “Or the companies felt it was culturally challenging to bring a consultant in. That was one impetus. The other impetus was I was looking for some way to stop simply building documents that would grow stale if not maintained by the company.  To give companies a way to easily maintain sales messaging and the necessary areas of HR in a frequently evolving environment. I went out and looked for a tool to partner with, surprisingly to no avail.”

The resulting effort has made Multiply a tech-enabled company which has increased the breadth and depth of its capacity to support clients.

“I decided to build a technology product that tightly couples with the Multiply services,” said Robinett. “Now, basically starting in 2021, I have a tech-enabled services firm that goes into companies large and small and not only provides services but also stands up a system that allows the company to continue with or without Multiply.”

Whether through that technology product or its consulting services, or both, Multiply can solve one of the most common problems in business development.

“There’s a huge gap of people doing what I call ‘hiring and hoping’ a sales team,” stated Robinett. “They forget the operational principles that we apply in other job functions. It is fraught with frustration for everybody involved.”

Robinett is quick to point out that his firm’s process fits easily for a company of any size because it is a sales management concept not tied to size of sales force or company.

“The massive assumption is that the salesperson knows what to say, when to say it and how to say it,” he outlined. “The Multiply process, every single thing through services or the tool, is to eliminate that assumption.”

The secret for any company, he says, is to turn a well-educated, new member of the workforce into a contributor quickly.

And that’s where Multiply comes in.

“It’s all teachable,” explained Robinett. “Take the mystique out of the sales process and create a repeatable pattern. When you have a repeatable pattern, you can plug people into a repeatable pattern and that creates scale.”

Under the Multiply model, clients benefit from a trained sales team that knows how to deliver the same pattern of information in any variety of situations. Robinett says his company does not create messages for companies but rather helps his clients understand why someone buys from them and then builds the information pattern that can be easily taught to the sales team.

“It is applicable in all walks, but the question is ‘how do companies turn people into relevant professional contributors quicker instead of saying I have to go hire someone with 5 to 7 years’ experience when that’s just as risky because there are no guarantees that the person is going to work out anyway?’” he offered.

In what has been viewed as disruptive to traditional sales management methodologies, Multiply offers a ROI calculation to help sales team members see the value they are providing to the company and help the companies understand the value their sales teams are bringing as a whole.   

As for what’s next for Multiply, Robinett looks forward to building off of the company’s newly-acquired capabilities.

“Covid will eventually abate, and a new normalcy will evolve, so I think it’s more important than ever for companies to have a finely-tuned sales force ready to contribute to their success,” Robinett concluded.

(Contact Ryan at info@askmultiply.com or give him a call 205.677.6087)

3 months ago

Banks urge PPP participation ahead of deadline for smallest businesses

(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to take advantage of a special window set aside for them to apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

As part of the most recent changes to the COVID-19 relief program, the Small Business Administration (SBA) set aside an exclusive application period for small businesses during which only those with fewer than 20 employees would be permitted to apply.

SBA created the special application period hoping that eligible businesses would apply for either their first or second PPP loan.

As part of its continued effort to assist in the administration of PPP loans for Alabama small businesses, the banking industry has been running radio ads across the state urging participation in the program.

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The Alabama Bankers Association, along with the American Bankers Association, has sponsored the ads, the content of which is as follows:

Is your small business still struggling because of COVID-19? America’s banks want to help. Banks of all sizes have thrown a financial lifeline to millions of small businesses by providing forgivable loans through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Your business could be next. Contact your bank or find a local PPP lender at aba.com/paycheck. That’s aba.com/paycheck. This message brought to you by the American Bankers Association and the Alabama Bankers Association.

After Tuesday’s deadline, the program’s original eligibility criteria resume. Businesses with fewer than 500 employees may apply for a first-time loan, while businesses with fewer than 300 employees may apply for a second loan. PPP is set to expire on March 31.

Funds may be spent over any period of time between eight and 24 weeks, and 60% of the money must be spent on maintaining payroll to receive full forgiveness. The interest rate is still 1%.

Additional SBA revisions to the program now allow sole proprietors to receive more funding. Under the updated regulations, independent contractors who file a Schedule C may calculate their maximum PPP loan amount using gross income rather than net profit.

A total of $1.77 billion in PPP funds have been loaned to 30,599 small businesses in Alabama this year, according to SBA.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 months ago

Cavanaugh: Texas electricity emergency preventable — ‘When in doubt, burn coal’

(Twinkle Cavanaugh/Contributed, Wikicommons, Pixabay, YHN)

The state of Texas experienced widespread electricity outages following this week’s winter storm that left much of the nation in a deep freeze.

Reacting to news of the energy emergency, Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh believes the situation was made worse by choices Texas made in building its energy policy.

“Texas pursued policy that is trendy but doesn’t result in reliable energy,” she told Yellowhammer News. “There are really two things they did wrong. First of all, if you look at their energy portfolio, they rely on wind more than they do coal. So much can go wrong with the way the technology currently exists with wind and solar. When the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining, just know those things won’t work. They don’t produce energy. Or in the case of Texas this week, the wind turbines froze and couldn’t turn.”

With reliability the key factor in withstanding the demand associated with frigid conditions this week, Cavanaugh sees one obvious solution.

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“When in doubt, burn coal,” she stated. “That’s what I always say. God put more than two centuries worth of coal in the ground for a reason.”

Along with that approach comes a commitment to maintaining diverse sources of energy, according to Cavanaugh.

“One of the things we have done in Alabama is take the all-of-the-above approach,” she explained. “Coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, we need all of it. But during crunch time, like the record cold week we have had, you have to be set up with what is most reliable.”

A reported 4.1 million Texans have lost power since Monday. Some residents have been without power for more than 24 hours as temperatures continue to dip below freezing.

Cavanaugh pointed out that this is not the first time in recent months a state has encountered difficulty generating enough power.

“Someone said this week, ‘The less we use fossil fuels, the more we need them,’” she recalled. “That’s so true. We have seen too many cases now of trendy, liberal policies gone wrong. California gloated about getting rid of coal and natural gas, and now they struggle to keep their electrical grid in operation.”

Last August, a summer heatwave pressured California’s electrical grid at a time when it was attempting to transition to generating power exclusively through solar and wind. The state’s grid operator was forced to declare a system emergency, and millions of homes and businesses experienced rolling blackouts, some for hours on end.

At the time, Cavanaugh called it “a nightmare energy scenario.”

Continually planning for these type of weather events is an important part of the Public Service Commission’s work, according to Cavanaugh.

“The other thing we have done in Alabama, that they didn’t do in Texas, is to maintain a large cushion of electricity for times when demand peaks,” she outlined. “In the industry it’s called a reserve margin. In our state, Alabama Power keeps ample reserve margin. During the cold of the winter or the heat of the summer we need to know that we have excess electricity generation capacity in case of an emergency.”

Cavanaugh did not hesitate to pin substantial blame on national policy-making, as well.

“We heard John Kerry tell oil and gas workers they didn’t need those jobs,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s the same thing Obama told coal miners during his term in office. Do you know who wishes those coal miners had kept those jobs that Obama laughed at? Families in Texas freezing in their own homes.”

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered an investigation into the cause of his state’s blackouts, calling them “unacceptable.”

From her vantage point, Cavanaugh would like to see a broader discussion on the future of energy generation throughout all 50 states.

“There’s a lot to learn from this week,” she concluded. “I hope that as a country we take a more sobering look at the direction our energy policy is headed. With what California and some states are doing, plus the Biden administration becoming the Obama years all over again, we’re heading for an economic catastrophe in America. Not to mention it is putting our quality of life in peril. The bottom line is that what constitutes fashionable energy policy in Manhattan and San Francisco has no application in the real world.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 months ago

Who will run for the U.S. Senate? Latest odds on candidates jumping in

(iStock)

There is nothing quite like serving in the United States Senate. One could argue those seats comprise the 100 best jobs in the world.

The six-year terms allow for a more methodical approach to fundraising and campaigning, while the heightened level of influence in the deliberative body of the greatest nation in the world carries quite an allure.

With the venerable statesman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) announcing his retirement at the conclusion of this term, one of those 100 seats will be open, and it will be contested right here in Alabama.

There is no shortage of those aspiring – both publicly and in private – to fill the legend’s seat. In an effort to measure potential candidacies, Yellowhammer News has consulted with its oddsmakers to handicap the likelihood of various individuals qualifying to run for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2022.

These are not odds to win the seat or the nomination. These odds merely represent the market’s assessment of the likelihood an individual will submit the necessary paperwork with the Alabama Republican Party to qualify as a candidate.

In addition, our oddsmakers have segmented the list into several different groupings which reflect their collective chances of running.

Here’s how the board currently looks:

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Gimme the pen and paperwork

Mo Brooks at 2:9 – The favorite … to run. Brooks would seem to be at the peak of his powers among the state’s voters. The question is has he possibly peaked too early or will he hit his apex mountain in June 2022?

Katie Boyd Britt at 2:1 – This tenacious newcomer to Alabama politics may appeal to a segment of the electorate seeking a fresh name and face to take on the aging Biden/Pelosi/Schumer triumvirate in Washington, D.C.

John Merrill at 4:1 – Here’s the rub: This man has been preparing for this election since before he became SGA president at the University of Alabama. Merrill has shown a deft touch while handling public policy issues. He ran briefly for the Senate in 2020, although that campaign was a bit more touch and go than the all-out run to replace his fellow Tuscaloosa resident. A relentless campaigner, Merrill has been known to give out his cell phone to thousands of Alabamians, both friend and foe, to help solve problems. That type of hands-on approach would serve the public well.

Lynda Blanchard at 4:1 – Blanchard served as ambassador to Slovenia under President Donald Trump. Now, this Auburn University graduate sets her sights on a run for the Senate as a likely self-funder and relative unknown.

“This would be an interesting opportunity”

Jim Zeigler at 6:1 – He wrote the book on how to effectively harness the feelings of Alabama’s citizens and turn that into a grassroots campaign. Zeigler will need such a structure if he qualifies to run for the Senate.

Martha Roby at 8:1 – During her time representing Alabama’s southeastern corner in Congress, Roby was particularly adept at attending to the needs of her district while also navigating the treacherous halls of power to the benefit of her stature in a chamber of 435 people.

Jessica Taylor at 10:1 – Even though she just missed making the runoff for the second congressional district seat in 2020, Taylor launched onto the scene like a Roman candle during her first-ever race for political office. She recently formed a political action committee to support conservative candidates around the country.

Gary Palmer at 14:1 – Palmer is a conservative stalwart who has a knack for bridging the gap between Alabama’s business community and rank-and-file voters. A year ago, he would have had higher odds, but Brooks’ ascension has created an interesting dynamic for Palmer.

Moderate value plays

Del Marsh at 18:1 – At these odds, it may be a little bit of a stretch to label Marsh a value play, but he could also turn into a guy we look back at near the end of the year and wonder why his odds were so low. Maybe he passes his comprehensive gaming legislation, feels confident broadband expansion is finally funded and sees some missing elements in the field of candidates. Expect it when you least expect it with Marsh.

Barry Moore at 20:1 – Moore will be asked by people to run. Does he want to give up a seat for which he fought so long and hard? We feel confident his wife Heather Moore is the only other person who might have the answer.

Rick Burgess at 25:1 – He is the candidate we would most like to employ a camera documenting his every move on the campaign trail. The candor, political naivety, and, of course, the jokes would be must-see TV. And he would be a really good candidate.

Robert Aderholt at 33:1 – One could easily envision Aderholt in the Senate, but there’s something about his congressional seat in North Alabama which seems to match him so well. But he had enough “never say never” and “I don’t have current plans” to run language in his statement to The Hill to keep him out of the longshot odds category.

Bill Poole at 35:1 – Poole hails from the same hometown as Shelby, and he is widely regarded as one of the most gifted legislators. His trajectory continues upward.

Jo Bonner at 40:1 – Bonner exudes statesman qualities, in his own right. He has been as active on Alabama’s pressing issues as possibly any chief of staff to the governor, ever. In a more normal election cycle, Bonner’s odds to run would be higher.

Trip Pittman at 42:1 – The businessman and former state senator from Baldwin County would single-handedly elevate the discussion of issues in any campaign he chose to enter. His industry is on quite a run, one he probably would not want to interrupt with a campaign, so his odds are likely capped.

Bradley Byrne at 45:1 – The Mobile attorney and former first district congressman recently rejoined the firm Adams & Reese. Yet, the siren call of one of the world’s 100 best jobs can be difficult to ignore.

Jeff Coleman at 50:1 – The Wiregrass mover lost his bid for Congress last summer when an out-of-state group spent $900,000 against him. After an experience like that, people usually react one of two ways: never do that again or take one more shot to make it right. TBD on Coleman.

Don’t forget about these guys

Clay Scofield at 55:1 – Scofield was recently tapped as majority leader in the Alabama Senate. He is still young with plenty out ahead of him, but the man is a pure political animal.

Steve Marshall at 60:1 – Alabama’s attorney general has made quite a statement in recent years fighting for Alabama and its values in the nation’s court system.

Cliff Sims at 62:1 — Entrepreneur, White House official, deputy director of national intelligence, musician and now dad. Sims would bring an unmatched diversity of experience to the race. If nothing else, everyone would know he was running.

High value plays

Will Ainsworth at 80:1 — If we had a dollar for each of the people who are going to tell Ainsworth he should run, we could retire. However, he will most likely stick to his plan of ascending to the pinnacle of elected office in state government. Probably.

Twinkle Cavanaugh at 80:1 — Being only a few months removed from an election where she garnered more votes than any non-presidential candidate in Alabama history means Cavanaugh has options.

Luther Strange at 85:1 — The former senator may long to run a normal campaign, against (relatively) normal opponents in a normal election cycle.

Long shots

Robert Bentley at 100:1 – As a practicing dermatologist, Bentley has received his COVID-19 vaccination. Next stop, Chitlin Festival?

Rusty Glover at 100:1 – Glover is a well-liked former state senator from Mobile County.

Mike Rogers at 100:1 – His stint on House Armed Services continues to provide value to Alabama year after year.

Matt Gaetz at 200:1 – There is no residency requirement to run for the U.S. Senate.

Marjorie Taylor Greene at 200:1 – See above.

Gene Chizik at 200:1 – The University of Alabama just completed the greatest season in college football history amidst the greatest run of seasons in college football history while coached by the greatest college football coach in history. What if Auburn controlled both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats?

Billy Canary 1000:1 – Canary once worked in the White House. The specter of two one-time Business Council of Alabama presidents squaring off for a Senate seat would unleash uncontrollable euphoria at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 months ago

Alabama’s ULA readies launch pad for next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket

(@ULA/Twitter, YHN)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) has completed another step toward the inaugural launch of the Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year. ULA has modified its launch pad and facilities in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to accommodate the next-generation rocket built at the company’s world-class facility in Decatur.

Completing this phase of preparation moves Vulcan Centaur even closer to a planned 2021 lunar mission.

“Reaching this major milestone required years of hard work and dedication by the entire team to ensure we completed the massive amount of work needed to get the launch pad and facilities ready for a Vulcan Centaur launch,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO, in a release from the company. “I am so proud of the team and we are very excited as we count down to Vulcan Centaur’s first flight carrying an extremely cool mission to the moon for our customer Astrobotic.”

Bruno has previously highlighted the unique role Vulcan Centaur will fill as part of the United States’ effort in space.

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“Vulcan Centaur is purpose built to meet all of the requirements of our nation’s space launch needs and its flight-proven design will transform the future of space launch and advance America’s superiority in space,” he outlined.

The company says Vulcan Centaur will provide higher performance and greater affordability, and part of that is through the use of new manufacturing technologies that were not available during the production of earlier generations of rockets.

ULA has invested heavily in its Decatur plant, the largest such facility in the western hemisphere, installing a total of six large robotic welders to support the upgraded Centaur upper stage.

In 2020, ULA’s Vulcan Centaur was competitively selected by the U.S. Space Force as the best value launch provider for 60% of the launches occurring through 2027.

ULA will power this year’s lunar mission on behalf of Astrobotic, the world leader in commercial delivery to the moon. Astrobotic was selected by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program to deliver up to 14 NASA payloads to the moon on its Peregrine lunar lander.

At the time of award, Bruno emphasized the historic nature of a flight made possible by a “Made in Alabama” rocket.

“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,” he said.

RELATED: Alabama’s ULA completes another successful launch for National Reconnaissance Office

Several modifications were made at Space Launch Complex-41 to accommodate both Vulcan Centaur and Atlas V rockets.

Changes were made to the Vertical Integration Facility, where rockets are stacked and tested prior to rollout, and a new mobile launch platform was built for Vulcan Centaur. The Vulcan Launch Platform, which stands 183 feet tall and weighs 1.3 million pounds, successfully completed its first trip to the launch pad and will remain there for additional testing.

“These modifications were challenging as we needed to complete all of the work at the pad without impacting our customers’ flying Atlas V missions,” said Mark Peller, Vulcan program manager. “We were able to complete this critical work with no impact to our Atlas manifest. To our knowledge, ULA has the first dual-use facilities and launch pad capable of supporting two different launch vehicles, while providing greater flexibility leading up to the first Vulcan Centaur launch and a smooth transition from Atlas to Vulcan Centaur afterward.”

Learn about the journey a ULA rocket takes from Alabama to Cape Canaveral:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 months ago

Frazer Lanier’s newest banker pursues opportunity to help communities – ‘When we are busy, Alabama’s citizens thrive’

(The Frazer Lanier Company Inc./Contributed, YHN)

Tamika Reed’s recent move into the world of investment banking was a natural progression from her many years working to bolster Alabama’s education system.

A lawyer with more than a decade of experience practicing in the area of education, Reed decided to chart a new path for her career while maintaining the same goal of adding to the well-being of her state.

“In the course of my work, I became very interested in working with school boards and superintendents to explore options that would help them achieve their financial objectives,” Reed explained to Yellowhammer News. “Having adequate funds for facilities will ultimately enhance the educational experience for students, teachers and support staff.”

That ability to assist in strengthening the position of Alabama’s school systems through a different means, with the same goals in mind, drew her to join The Frazer Lanier Company earlier this year.

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“The opportunity to work with the professionals at Frazer Lanier seems like the perfect way to use my skill sets and experience to complement the firm’s work,” she added.

The Frazer Lanier Company is an Alabama-based investment banking firm that owns the state’s largest market share of public finance bond business, according to Thomson Reuters. The firm conducted 80 public finance bond issues during the 2020 calendar year.

The company has 15 client-facing bankers with offices in Montgomery; Florence; Birmingham; Tuscaloosa; Mobile; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Boca Raton, Florida.

A native of New Orleans, Reed has called Montgomery home for more than 16 years. In addition to her law degree, she holds a Master of Arts in Educational and Counseling Psychology. She most recently served as legal advisor to the Alabama Education Association.

At Frazer Lanier, Reed will work in all aspects of corporate and public finance.

“While working in conjunction with bankers with decades of experience, I expect to lend value that will help our clients succeed,” she said. “Given my background in working with K-12 school systems, it will be natural to work with school boards and superintendents across the state and beyond.”

RELATED: Alabama’s top investment banking firm a partner in growing the state

Deals in public finance have a particular benefit for communities seeking to make improvements through access to the bond market.

Public entities seeking financing for capital projects may borrow money on a tax-exempt basis. They are able to gain this advantage because those projects serve a public purpose. The interest rate on a tax-exempt bond issue is typically about half the interest rate of a loan.

The buyer of a bond issue does not pay federal, state or local income tax on the interest income received. This results in a lower cost of capital.

“Public finance generates the capital needed to build everything from the Jordan-Hare stadium to public schools, county roads, city parks and all public sector developments,” outlined Reed. “Private companies serve as the contractors and vendors on these projects, employing thousands of Alabamians. When we are busy, Alabama’s citizens thrive.”

Growth in these different areas of the state can often be dependent on the ability of cities, counties or other governmental entities to borrow funds.

“When a community, school system, water and sewer board, university or other entity needs better, safer facilities, they turn to the bond market for their capital needs,” remarked Reed. “Having easy access to the bond market is an essential part of ensuring that communities are developed to their fullest potential.”

Reed’s record of service to her state includes her nomination by Governor Kay Ivey to the Alabama Women’s Tribute Statue Commission and chairmanships of the Montgomery Health and Wellness Task Force and the 100 Women Strong Committee.

Serving as one of Alabama’s preeminent female leaders is a role Reed is glad to embrace as a trailblazer in her new position.

“I’m excited about being Alabama’s first female investment banker,” she indicated. “I believe this opportunity defines the intelligence exhibited by females willing to step out and break the glass ceiling in male-dominated areas. I certainly take this undertaking very seriously and look forward to paving the way for other females who wish to embark upon a career in investment banking.”

And landing at a firm that shared her values and focus was essential as she embarked on the next chapter of her career.

“I’ve been aware of Frazer Lanier’s positive impact on our community for years,” Reed elaborated. “They are proven leaders in their communities and are involved in organizations that focus on uplifting people. I admire that and will certainly follow that tradition.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia