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.

5 days ago

Congressional leader seeks to re-route Air Force national security space launch program

(KING 5/YouTube, YHN)

It has been a little more than a month since several members of Alabama’s congressional delegation received a commitment from the Air Force to proceed with the national security space launch program.

Now a high-ranking member of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives may make an end run through the committee process to alter the program which the Air Force and other members of Congress have dubbed as critical to the nation’s national security.

Space News reported Monday that Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, is proposing to alter the plan through revisions to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

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The changes contained in the chairman’s mark will be taken up by the committee and voted on Wednesday.

The type of changes sought by Smith would likely have a negative impact on Alabama’s aerospace industry, which has been heavily involved in the Air Force’s national security space launch program.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal and numerous manufacturers and suppliers located in the Yellowhammer State have taken on an elevated role in the effort.

An industry source has previously noted that maintaining the planned path helps solidify the state’s position even further because of the amount of investments that members of its own industry have already made in the program.

The program, called Launch Services Agreement (LSA), awarded three companies the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for use in national security space missions under public-private partnerships.

News of the award to carry national security payloads brought praise from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and others.

The companies entered into LSA with the understanding that certain performance requirements were necessary to participate in a second phase of the program where the Air Force would only call on the top two providers.

As a result, companies became incentivized to make substantial investments for the opportunity to participate in the second phase.

Not proceeding as planned has some in the industry concerned that companies who fell behind, or were not willing to invest the necessary resources, could end up getting rewarded.

Yellowhammer News has received a copy of an Air Force memo outlining reasons why it opposes any changes to the process. Its chief concerns being that changes would not reward competition and would fail to meet national security needs.

Three members of Alabama’s congressional delegation sit on the House Armed Services Committee: Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Saks), Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope).

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 week ago

More good news for Alabama: Aerojet Rocketdyne opens new manufacturing facility in Huntsville

(Aerojet Rocketdyne/Twitter)

Alabama’s sizable footprint within the aerospace industry continues to grow.

Governor Kay Ivey and other high-ranking elected officials cut the ribbon today on Aerojet Rocketdyne’s new 136,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

The company’s Advanced Manufacturing Facility (AMF) will produce advanced propulsion products such as solid rocket motor cases and other hardware for the Standard Missle-3, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and other U.S. defense and space programs.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne markets itself as “a world-class developer and manufacturer of advanced propulsion and energetics systems for customers including the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and other agencies and companies, both in the United States and abroad. ”

“This is an exciting day for Aerojet Rocketdyne, the city of Huntsville and for the entire state of Alabama,” said Ivey in a statement released after the event. “When a high-caliber company like Aerojet Rocketdyne locates a cutting-edge manufacturing facility in your state, its a powerful testament to the skill of your workforce and to the advantages you can offer to business. We’re thrilled to see this great company grow in Huntsville and make important contributions to the nation’s defense.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s workforce in Alabama now exceeds 400. The opening of the AMF, as well as the company’s 122,000 square foot Defense Headquarters Building, is the result of a consolidation effort that began in 2017. From these locations, the company will oversee work on propulsion projects for space and defense programs.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion is a critical factor in defense of this nation,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield.

Eileen Drake, president and CEO of Aerojet Rocketdyne, sees the new facility as a strengthening of her company’s partnership with Huntsville.

“The AMF provides Aerojet Rocketdyne the capabilities we need to advance our nation’s security today and to further technologies that will allow us to meet the challenges of tomorrow,” she said. “Huntsville is a great place to build a future — and that’s what we are doing with our expansion here.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne has already taken significant steps to contribute to the community in north Alabama. In 2017, the company donated $1 million to the University of Alabama in Huntsville to establish a space science chair.

“We look forward to a long and prosperous future together as Aerojet Rocketdyne continues its leadership role in our nation’s journey into space,” remarked Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Ivey has made Alabama’s position in the aerospace industry a priority during her administration, and today’s event signals her efforts are working.

“This is what advancement looks like,” she concluded. “The possibilities are limitless.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 week ago

Ethics Commission debates rare move to seek guidance from attorney general

(AG/s Office/Contributed, Alabama Ethics Commission/Contributed)

A meeting expected to provide clarity on some pressing issues for the Birmingham Airport Authority produced lengthy debate between members of the Alabama Ethics Commission and its staff over their responsibilities in interpreting the ethics laws.

The point of contention at this week’s meeting was a belief by the commission’s legal staff that the body should seek guidance from the attorney general’s office on the definition of certain terms contained within the ethics law.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, told Yellowhammer News that the commission has not sought an attorney general’s opinion at any point since he began working there. Albritton has served as executive director since March 2015.

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While acknowledging the rarity of the proposal, the commission’s general counsel, Cynthia Raulston, spoke before the commission and asserted that this situation was different.

“One of the other topics that has come up is the long-standing history between the AG and the ethics commission that the AG not answer ethics questions that are contained within our act,” she said. “We believe this very specifically is outside of our act.”

She argued that outside guidance was needed because it was unclear what constitutes “state, county or municipal funds” as the terms are used within the ethics act.

At least one member of the commission, and the attorney representing the Birmingham Airport Authority, expressed their belief that Alabama law accords the commission, not the attorney general, with the responsibility for interpreting issues and terms contained with the ethics act.

To bolster his own contention, attorney Mark White, who represents the Birmingham Airport Authority, cited a provision within the ethics act about funding.

“That is ethics act provision,” he stated. “That is not outside the ethics act.”

White attempted to sharpen his argument that the commission issue his client an advisory opinion by pointing out that the commission is required by law to issue opinions upon request.

“We are absolutely opposed to postponing this,” he said of the staff’s desire to delay issuing an opinion until August. “We think this commission not only has the ability but is mandated to give an opinion on this particular issue because that’s what the statute says. If it’s an ethics act interpretation, you give that.”

Ralston countered that she had already communicated with the attorney general’s office.

“We had talked to the attorney general, and they had said that it is appropriate to answer because it is outside of our act and that it is an appropriate question for them to answer,” Raulston said.

Commissioner Charles Price pressed Raulston on whether this case really required the shifting of duties between the agencies.

“If we are charged with making the decision according to the ethics act, whatever that decision may be, why don’t we make it?” he queried Raulston. “And then if Mr. White wants to go into Circuit Court or get an attorney general’s opinion and let a judge decide whether that’s controlling, that’ll be his business. We’re called upon to make a decision, whatever that decision might be. Then Mr. White can do for his client whatever he wants to do.”

Price continued, “I don’t know why the ethics commission first has to go to the attorney general’s office to get an opinion on the interpretation of the ethics law when that’s what we’re charged to do.”

Albritton spoke up in response to Price and disputed that notion.

“Let’s be clear, we’re not asking them to interpret our act,” said Albritton.

Price also indicated concern over the timeliness of the commission’s action.

“This has been around for quite a while,” he concluded. “We have to resolve this issue.”

The Birmingham Airport Authority submitted its request for an advisory opinion to the commission in January. Someone familiar with the issuing process for attorney general’s opinions explained to Yellowhammer News that it is a deliberative process, in its own right, given the weight and importance of the opinions.

At the commission’s April meeting, White outlined that he had sought a formal ethics opinion for his client based on the commission’s own recommendation.

“In fact, part of the reason we are asking this is when the commission staff did the training for the Birmingham Airport Authority in December, they were told – three brand new board members, by the way – they were told the only way you could really be sure about something was to get a formal opinion,” White told the commission. “Frankly, I think that’s good advice.”

He reaffirmed this on Wednesday and also recounted that the attorney general’s office said much the same during its argument before the Alabama Supreme Court in the case of former Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Hubbard.

“The attorney general, the solicitor general, if he said it once, he said it multiple times, that the safe harbor for someone – in this case the airport authority – is an opinion from this body,” White detailed.

At the conclusion of the back and forth, Commissioner Beverlye Brady made a motion to seek guidance from the attorney general. However, that motion died for a lack of a second.

Albritton indicated that the next step for the commission is to issue an advisory opinion on the questions presented.

“Our Commissioners concluded that the questions fall within the purview of the Commission to answer, and I understand and appreciate their decision.” he told Yellowhammer News. “Therefore, we will do as we’ve been instructed by them and answer the question.”

Read the Birmingham Airport Authority’s request for an advisory opinion:

Birmingham Airport Authority by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s Dynetics one of 11 American companies advancing lunar lander

(NASA/Contributed)

Alabama’s Dynetics was one of 11 companies selected by NASA last month to participate in the next phase of its lunar lander development program.

According to Andy Crocker, director for space strategy and lunar program manager at Dynetics, NASA selected the Huntsville-based company to focus on the descent element of the Artemis Human Landing System program.

“The descent element is the portion of the lander that will provide a safe and precise landing on the Moon,” Crocker outlined to Yellowhammer News. “We were chosen to develop a descent element study and five descent element prototypes.”

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NASA’s stated purpose behind its NextSTEP public/private partnership is the reduction of costs to taxpayers and the encouragement of early private investment in the lunar economy.

“This new approach doesn’t prescribe a specific design or number of elements for the human landing system,” explained Greg Chavers, human landing system formulation manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “NASA needs the system to get our astronauts on the surface and return them home safely, and we’re leaving a lot of the specifics to our commercial partners.”

This project is the latest among many in which the state of Alabama and its aerospace industry have figured prominently, as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has long supported.

At a hearing earlier this spring, Shelby received a commitment from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine that the Space Launch System (SLS) would power astronauts to the moon. SLS is a specialized launch vehicle designed, developed and managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, with numerous components being built by Alabama companies. SLS has been billed as the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.

Dynetics’ Crocker says his company is ready to do its part.

“Our team is eager to take on this challenge,” he said. “We’ve established an agile team of experts that is focused on affordability and lean system integration. This is an exciting time for our country and we are looking forward to seeing humans land on the Moon by 2024.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

Ethics Commission set to clarify pressing issues for Birmingham Airport Authority

(Alabama Ethics Commission)

The Alabama Ethics Commission is scheduled to meet on Wednesday and deliver, as promised at its last meeting, answers to several questions presented to it by the Birmingham Airport Authority.

As the governing body for the state’s largest and busiest airport, the Birmingham Airport Authority serves an important function in the state’s overall economic development strategy.

As a result, maintaining a highly-qualified board will always be a priority for the group. Receiving clarity on several issues the board has encountered under Alabama’s ethics laws will go a long way toward that effort.

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At its April meeting, attorney Mark White spoke in front of the commission on behalf of the Birmingham Airport Authority and presented several issues which remain unclear for nonprofits and their board members.

White outlined that he sought a formal opinion for his client based on the commission’s own recommendation.

“In fact, part of the reason we are asking this is when the commission staff did the training for the Birmingham Airport Authority in December, they were told – three brand new board members, by the way – they were told the only way you could really be sure about something was to get a formal opinion,” White told the commission. “Frankly, I think that’s good advice.”

In an insightful exchange between White, commission member Charles Price and executive director Tom Albritton, White received assurances, from both officials, that the commission would follow through on its statutorily-mandated duty to answer the Birmingham Airport Authority’s questions at its June meeting — scheduled for Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.

The commission passed a motion to carry the advisory opinion and its issues over until Wednesday after the following exchange:

PRICE: Will you be able to answer this by June?

ALBRITTON: Yes, sir.

WHITE: Will the commission on the record say that pending the June meeting, my board members don’t have to file the quarterly reports?

ALBRITTON: We’re more than happy to tell them that while we are sorting all these issues.

PRICE: You are going to get it resolved by June.

The treatment of certain nonprofit organizations under Alabama’s ethics laws has remained unclear for some time. Even the status of charities started by University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and Auburn University football coach Gus Malzahn remain in limbo.

This has resulted in groups such as the Birmingham Airport Authority and the Alabama Association of Nonprofits seeking guidance from the Alabama Ethics Commission.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

(Senator R. Shelby/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

When Vice President Mike Pence announced plans to launch a lunar mission by 2024, it was as if someone had placed the nation’s renewed interest in human spaceflight inside of an accelerator.

Suddenly there was a timeline. A palpable air of urgency arose.

Some balked at the enormity of the task ahead. Without question returning American astronauts to the moon’s surface is a monumental undertaking. What some failed to consider, however, was the work that has already been done. The years of research, design and manufacturing putting the mission within reach.

And no single place has played a greater role in laying the necessary foundation for lunar mission success than Alabama.

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Last week, NASA published a column entitled From Alabama to the Moon. The article outlined with great detail the essential role our state will have fulfilled when the boots of American astronauts settle into lunar soil, once again. The work and accomplishments which have occurred from within the state of Alabama are the reason the nation dare dream of returning itself to its place of superiority in space.

And, in this new era of human spaceflight, no one is more responsible for positioning Alabama as the hub for aerospace advancement than Senator Richard Shelby.

Senator Shelby has served as a tireless champion for the people, organizations and projects which now permit America to view a 2024 mission as an attainable goal. His vision for what the country needed for its space program, and how his home state could lead the effort, has fueled national optimism for the next phase of space exploration.

There was a reason why Vice President Pence announced the administration’s plans for a lunar mission from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, along with the countless aerospace providers in the area, have long served as the backbone of the nation’s space program, and Senator Shelby has consistently fought for their growth and well-being.

Senator Shelby recently explained to Yellowhammer News his views on why the relationship between America’s space program and Alabama works so well.

“Huntsville has always played a critical role in the success of our nation’s space program,” he said. “The innovation and research taking place in North Alabama, and at Marshall specifically, have created economic benefits for our entire state and encouraged young professionals to enter STEM fields. Further, these efforts will soon take humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars.”

Senator Shelby’s support of Marshall Space Flight Center becomes even more critical in light of its economic impact on the Yellowhammer State. Marshall supports more than 28,000 jobs in Alabama with a $4.5 billion economic impact.

An example of Senator Shelby’s persistent focus on pursuing the best outcomes for the nation — and Alabama — popped up in a senate hearing last month. It was there that he gained a public commitment from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine that the agency would utilize the Space Launch System (SLS) for the lunar mission, as well as other long-range space missions.

SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built, and the only rocket capable of carrying the Orion aircraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch. Its design and development is overseen entirely from Marshall Space Flight Center with its own significant value to the state’s economy. The SLS program supports more than 15,000 jobs in Alabama with a $2.1 billion economic output.

So in a fitting response to Bridenstine’s commitment, Senator Shelby declared, “What’s important is to build that rocket and build it right.”

The importance of the state to human spaceflight is widely-acknowledged.

Rick Navarro, director of launch operations for Boeing, stood in front of a rocket in Decatur last month and remarked on the area’s effect on our history in space.

“The entire area has actually contributed to human spaceflight,” he explained. “You cannot tell the story of human space flight without telling the story of northern Alabama. Of Decatur. Of Huntsville.”

And Senator Shelby is the driving force behind the renaissance of America’s space program.

Furthermore, the experts who have devoted their lives to space exploration have a keen understanding of his role.

When Yellowhammer News asked United Launch Alliance president and CEO Tory Bruno about Senator Shelby in an interview in March, Bruno’s eyes widened and a broad smile overtook his face as he responded.

“Anyone who has the voice that Senator Shelby has is great to have in a place, where he really appreciates your team and what you do for the country,” he stated emphatically. “He has been to our factory many times; he understands what we do; he understands the reliability that we bring to the critical missions that we perform for the country.”

Even through a humble, understated response to an inquiry from Yellowhammer News, one can sense a certain level of satisfaction with the immeasurable contribution Senator Shelby has made to the history of America’s space program.

“I am proud of the remarkable work taking place within the space industry in Alabama and look forward to continuing on this strong path of success,” he concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

NASA, Boeing continue next phase for Space Launch System

(NASA/Contributed, YHN)

NASA and Boeing have entered a new phase of assembling structural parts for the powerful Space Launch System. The critical project is being overseen at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center with this phase of work completed at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.

Space Launch System (SLS) will be the rocket that launches America’s next lunar mission in 2024. It will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the only one powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.

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This phase of construction merges the two largest parts of the 212-foot core stage: the massive liquid hydrogen tank and the completed forward section. Upon completion, 80% of the first flight SLS rocket will be connected.

NASA and Boeing will add the engine section and the four RS-25 engines to complete assembly of the core stage with the last piece scheduled to join later this summer.

NASA has produced an informative 60-second video filmed at Marshall Space Flight Center to explain some of the details and science behind SLS.

Watch:

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

Andy Andrews gifts Bart Starr’s wife specially inscribed book — His legacy ‘has changed things for all of us…forever’

(Wikicommons, YHN)

Cherry Starr, wife of Crimson Tide and Green Bay Packer great Bart Starr, received a heartfelt message from noted Alabama author Andy Andrews this week.

Following Bart Starr’s passing over the weekend, Andrews delivered a specially inscribed copy of his book The Butterfly Effect to Starr’s wife of 65 years.

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In his message, Andrews described the vast impact Bart Starr’s life had on so many.

He wrote of the people, families and organizations who will continue to feel the effect of his life and concluded that the NFL Hall of Fame quarterback “will not only never be forgotten, the work he did while here…has changed things for all of us…forever.”

(Andy Andrews/Contributed)

Published in 2010, Andrews’ book eloquently utilizes a single example of how the events surrounding one life can have a seemingly infinite impact on the rest of the world. As with his reflection on the life and legacy of Bart Starr, everything you do matters, Andrews emphasizes in The Butterfly Effect.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 weeks ago

Alabama House votes to slash rural broadband funding by nearly 3/4

(YHN/Pixabay)

Improved rural broadband funding is in serious jeopardy after the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to slash a proposed rural broadband grant program appropriation by 73% — an amount that equals a whopping $22 million decrease.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put $30 million in the Senate-passed Education Trust Fund budget for the state’s rural broadband grant program established last year by State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) landmark broadband legislation.

However, the House-passed education budget hacked away at the broadband funding by almost three-fourths, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million.

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The reduction in funding for rural broadband comes at the same time the legislature is set to enact an innovative economic incentives package aimed at bringing well-paying, high-tech jobs to Alabama’s rural communities.

The state’s top economic developer for 2019 pointed out in a conversation with Yellowhammer News that broadband is critical to the effectiveness of those incentives.

“This [incentives package] will benefit the rural communities in Alabama,” said Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association. “A lot of tech can be done anywhere, especially if you have good internet service.”

The House’s vote to cut the grant program appropriation came shortly before the chamber passed Scofield’s SB 90 as amended on Tuesday, which beefs up his legislation that became law last year.

The education budget will head to a conference committee before the legislature adjourns sine die later this week.

Conferees will have a major decision to make: restore the funding or potentially watch high-speed internet access in the Yellowhammer State continue to lag behind.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 weeks ago

Legislation would incentivize tech companies to ‘stay and grow’ in Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

Legislation aimed at bringing more rural and high-tech jobs to Alabama is one of the remaining priorities for lawmakers and industry recruiters as the 2019 session begins to wind down.

Known as the “Alabama Incentives Modernization Act,” HB540 is sponsored by State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and seeks to bring Alabama’s economic incentives up to speed with what other states are doing to attract jobs.

The bill expands the number of rural communities that may incentivize companies under the Alabama Jobs Act, as well as provides incentives for tech companies to make Alabama a permanent home.

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Passed by the House of Representatives on a 98-0 vote, the bill is now in the hands of Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) who will carry it through the state Senate.

Reed has long been an advocate for both tech jobs and opportunities for rural communities.

He has been a leader in promoting partnerships at Bevill State to better prepare the region’s workforce for jobs in automotive technology and other advanced technology jobs.

Before coming to a vote by the full Senate, the bill must first clear the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee chaired by Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

Himself a fierce proponent of the state’s economic development efforts, Orr also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Morgan County Economic Development Association. Some of the state’s most prominent employers in the aerospace, technology and manufacturing sectors reside in Orr’s district, and many continue to grow on his watch.

And, so, it is not surprising that an industry recruiter from his area sees great value in expanding the use of the Alabama Jobs Act to grow the state’s economy in rural areas and in the tech sector.

Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, thinks this new approach would send a simple, but powerful, message to tech companies.

“Stay and grow,” he explained. “That’s the message this sends those companies.”

Nails believes the need to update the state’s approach has a lot to do with the tech sector itself.

“The tech sector is going to continue to grow,” he said. “We need to recruit more of that into this area and encourage more of that type of entrepreneurship with tech programs. A lot of the tech companies start out small and that’s why you are seeing some of these changes with this legislation whether it’s not requiring fifty jobs when you can do five or ten with a good tech company. So I think it is more representative of today’s workforce model when it comes to tech companies.”

He also recommends that policy-makers continually assess their incentives to make sure they stay up to date with what other states are doing.

Whatever that path looks like, he says, must be done with an eye toward what is going to benefit both prospective companies and the community.

“Incentives are supposed to be an inducement,” said Nails. “It is not the final decision point for most companies. Workforce and location are most important. But it is important to revisit incentives every year, really, to see if any enhancements need to be made. What’s working? What’s not working? What is the benefit to the community and the state? And then does it benefit the company, as well?”

He has an appreciation for the work done by legislators on this economic development package and how every incentive package requires careful consideration.

“Every incentive has a cost benefit analysis to it,” he explained. “People think we give away the farm — that’s not the case. There has to be a win not only for the company but for the community, too.”

One type of community, in particular, would see a win, according to Nails.

“This will benefit the rural communities in Alabama,” he said. “A lot of tech can be done anywhere, especially if you have good internet service.”

Asked what will happen if this legislation is enacted, Alabama’s top economic developer for 2019 did not hesitate to offer his professional opinion.

“You’ll get more tech companies moving in,” Nails concluded. “That will raise the standard of living for the community. Raises your education levels in the community. It gives more opportunities for residents that live in your community.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 weeks ago

Opening of manufacturing facility signals ‘continued growth’ for Huntsville’s Dynetics

(YHN)

HUNTSVILLE — The excitement over the opening of a new facility at Dynetics — and what it means for the company — was evident to visitors who received a sneak peek of the building on the company’s Huntsville campus this past week.

The new Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility is the sixth building on the Dynetics property and adds 78,000 square feet while employing more than 200 engineers, technicians and machinists. The building is named for Dr. Stephen Gilbert, one of the company’s founders, who passed away in 2017.

Headquartered in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, Dynetics provides engineering, scientific and IT solutions to a wide-range of sectors including national security, space, cybersecurity, automotive and critical infrastructure security.

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Matt Bender, Product Development and Manufacturing Division manager for Dynetics, provided some insight into why there was so much enthusiasm surrounding the opening of the new facility.

Prompted to explain what the Gilbert  building meant for the company and what was next for Dynetics, Bender responded with optimism.

“Continued growth,” he said. “We’re hiring a lot of people. We are continuing to grow into space markets, continuing to grow into defense markets and commercial markets. The piece we have only begun to scratch the surface on is the commercial products market.”

One of the commercial product lines Dynetics hopes to expand with the opening of the Gilbert building is GroundAware. GroundAware is something akin to ground radar, which the company describes as “a family of reconfigurable, short and long-range surveillance sensors for real-time situational awareness of critical infrastructure.”

“The GroundAware product is going to be an area we are going to advance a lot more in and have more and more products like that we are going to sell,” noted Bender.

In addition to GroundAware, the four other major areas of production under the roof of the new facility will be automotive configuration and test equipment, electronics manufacturing for avionics, cable harness solutions for the aerospace and defense industries and final product assembly of large and small systems.

“We are a very broad company,” Bender explained. “Really ten years ago we were pretty much defense and commercial. The space aspect of that has really changed the last two years. It’s been very exciting. That’s what has been added in and is a major piece of our company’s business now.”

By providing control over its own schedules and mistake-proofing built in with the investments the company has made, it believes it will have even more flexibility to respond to its customers’ needs.

That’s something the company prioritizes with products that end up all over the world.

“This allows us to continue to develop things that support our partners and our customers,” said executive vice president Steve Cook. “Whether they be astronauts or war fighters in the field, this is what Dynetics is all about. How do we help expand our scientific frontiers while we make sure to protect the homeland and protect our troops and give them the best technologies in the fastest, most agile way possible.”

Bender reinforced the notion that the this new effort is a way of taking care of its customers.

“The reason this facility exists is that we are trying to be responsive to our customers’ needs,” he said. “We have invested our resources to create something that hasn’t existed before. Particularly something local here where a lot of our customers are.”

Even with all the state-of-the-art equipment housed in the Gilbert facility, Bender said Dynetics relies most heavily on the expertise of its people.

“Really it comes back to our people,” he concluded. “We’ve got people that support all those different areas. Whether they work on a space problem or a defense problem. We’ve got people that were working in the automotive industry that transitioned to work in the space industry and we’ve done that very successfully.”

The company has planned a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for May 30.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 weeks ago

Rocket sendoff a reminder of Alabama’s critical role in human space flight

(ULA/Contributed)

A rocket booster built at United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Decatur plant was loaded on a boat bound for Cape Canaveral on Thursday. The booster will help power a historic mission to the International Space Station, the first manned commercial space flight since 2011.

The occasion also served as a reminder of just how critical Alabama has been to the nation’s human space flight program.

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Rick Navarro, Boeing director of launch operations, stood in front of the massive rocket booster inside ULA’s factory to deliver remarks for the event. As part of the mission partnership with ULA, Boeing’s Starliner capsule will carry American astronauts into space.

Navarro recalled his first trip to north Alabama in 1986 and how the area’s importance has been bringing him back ever since.

“The entire area has actually contributed to human spaceflight,” he explained. “You cannot tell the story of human space flight without telling the story of northern Alabama. Of Decatur. Of Huntsville.”

Navarro noted that the Boeing design center in Huntsville provided all the structural design for the Starliner capsule. Additionally, the Boeing division called Phantom Works, which has an operation in Huntsville, provided what he called “revolutionary power systems” for the capsule.

“Very few people forget on the day of the launch how much work was done early on in the mission to get you there,” he said. “Some of that hard work has always been in this area.”

The Atlas V rocket that will power the Boeing capsule was assembled and manufactured within ULA’s 1.6 million square foot Decatur plant. The fabrication of the booster shipped on Thursday began in July 2017 as a piece of flat aluminum material. The Atlas V has flown 79 successful missions.

Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, knows this effort places his area in a unique position.

“Not many communities can say they build rockets that take not only commercial but national security satellites into space,” he stated after the event. “That helps keep our country safe. It helps with our every day life, with cell phones and our GPS. Without a reliable launch provider, and they have had 100% mission success, where would we be as a country without that? Everything they help with — whether that is the military missions or things that help us in our personal lives — that’s done here in Decatur, Alabama.”

Nails also sees ULA as an example of how Alabama’s commitment to the aerospace industry fuels its growth.

“Their presence helps us recruit other companies here because what they do is technical work,” he said. “Their presence allows us to say, ‘If our workforce can make rockets, then it can also do what you’re wanting to do.’”

With the booster as his backdrop, Boeing’s Navarro put the day in perspective.

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of the hardware behind me,” he said. “It will be what returns American astronauts launched from American soil to space — something we haven’t done since 2011.”

The booster’s journey from Decatur to Florida’s east coast covers 2,000 miles and takes eight to 10 days.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

4 weeks ago

Key rural broadband initiative receives final passage from Alabama legislature

(YHN)

With the support of a broad coalition of legislators and stakeholders behind it, a key rural broadband initiative received final passage in the Alabama legislature on Wednesday.

The bill, carried by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) in their respective chambers, will allow electricity providers to run broadband using their existing easements.

This is expected to encourage electric providers to invest in broadband deployment and accelerate the cost-effective expansion of broadband access in rural Alabama, in many cases using existing infrastructure.

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This was one of two bills legislative leadership prioritized to grow the state’s broadband infrastructure. The other, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), would increase the amount of resources devoted to building out broadband in unserved, rural areas. Scofield’s bill awaits final approval from the House of Representatives.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) previously noted the importance of both pieces of legislation.

“These are the two bills that will help us… provide for our citizens, who I believe consider the broadband infrastructure a ‘number one issue’ for the state of Alabama,” he said. “It will have great impact on all of our education… as well as economic development.”

The intent of the ongoing effort is to spur economic development and enhance quality of life for rural areas through greater access to high-speed broadband.

Those were among the benefits outlined by Blake Hardwich, executive director of the Energy Institute of Alabama.

“The passing of this historic bill is important for our state and brings us one step closer to greater economic gains, workforce development opportunities and educational advancements,” Hardwich said in a statement. “We are excited our member companies across the state can be a part of closing the digital divide while also providing reliable and safe electricity to our communities.”

HB 400 now goes to the governor for her signature.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

4 weeks ago

Alabama’s ULA continues factory upgrades, achieves ‘significant milestone’ for next national security rocket

(ULA/Twitter)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) announced it had concluded the final review of the design for the company’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. The Vulcan Centaur is ULA’s next-generation rocket for use on national security space missions and is manufactured in Decatur, Alabama.

Tory Bruno, ULA president and CEO, explained the importance of this event to the progress of the program.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the ULA team and a significant milestone in the development of a rocket – signaling the completion of the design phase and start of formal qualification,” Bruno remarked in a company release. “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.”

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As part of the certification process with the U.S. Air Force, Air Force representatives are included as part of the design review.

The Air Force recently announced that it would proceed with its national security space launch program, a program in which ULA and numerous Alabama-based suppliers will participate.

In the meantime, ULA and its partners continue to invest heavily in the company’s plant in Decatur, the largest rocket factory in the western hemisphere.

ULA will be installing a total of six large robotic welders to support the upgraded Centaur upper stage.

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.

The increased use of lasers and robotics and adding more in-line non-destructive testing will aid in streamlining the process.

Bruno shared on social media a time-lapsed video of one of the new state-of-the-art weld stations going in at the Decatur plant.

Watch:

The new welders offer advanced material joining techniques to produce higher strength and higher quality products and reduced cycle time to produce the hardware, providing greater schedule flexibility to fulfill the needs of its launch customers.

The new Centaur upper stage will first fly on Vulcan in 2021.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

State Sen. Clay Scofield: Survival of rural Alabama depends on broadband expansion

(C. Scofield/Facebook, Pixabay)

The Alabama legislature’s long-time champion for rural broadband is seeking new ways to strengthen the state’s flagship program.

State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) is sponsoring a bill this legislative session aimed at ensuring expanded service under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, a grant program which he helped create.

The program, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), provides grants to build out the state’s broadband infrastructure. The intent of the ongoing effort is to spur economic development and enhance quality of life for rural areas through greater access to high-speed broadband. Scofield and other policymakers envision the upgrades in infrastructure to result in improvements for agriculture, education and health care.

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His legislation, if enacted, would increase the amount of resources devoted to providing broadband in rural or “unserved” areas.

He says his latest attempt to bolster the program is a result of feedback he received now that the program has been in effect for nearly a year.

“I’ve heard both from providers and ADECA and this is a way to make the program work better and work more efficiently,” Scofield told Yellowhammer News.

Much of the original criteria for grant eligibility remains in place. Among the projects that will continue to be given priority are those that can demonstrate community support, show cost-effectiveness, help rural hospitals and local libraries or involve private investment.

Scofield’s improvements would boost minimum transmission speeds required to participate and add a “middle mile” component which he said would create “interstates of broadband at very high speeds.”

He noted that companies offering middle mile would not be selling internet directly to the home but instead would offer opportunities to run off those lines. The purpose behind this component is to provide greater internet access at higher speeds.

Having been an advocate for many years, Scofield said that he has been gratified by the commitment of his colleagues to prioritizing rural broadband.

He pointed specifically to the amount of funding set aside so far in the budgeting process.

“The education budget that came out of the Senate included $30 million for this program,” he explained. “That is a substantial investment by the legislature for rural broadband.”

He also emphasized that in revising the timeline for grant applications to match the federal program, Alabama will be able “to stretch our dollar further.”

“I worked with Congressman Aderholt who has been at the forefront of working with these federal agencies on their program,” Scofield added. “We are syncing our timeline up to the federal program. We definitely want to leverage state dollars to draw down more federal dollars. He did a really good job on the federal program so lots of kudos to Congressman Aderholt.”

Having passed the bill in the Senate, Scofield hopes to see the same success working with the bill’s House sponsor, State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman).

“It’s imperative for not only the growth but the survivability of rural Alabama,” he said.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

Group to host unique country music concert in Birmingham to benefit veterans

(Red, White & Boots/Contributed)

An upcoming event benefiting veterans will take a unique approach to telling their stories through country music with the help of some of the industry’s most accomplished songwriters.

The event called “Red, White & Boots: Songs of Hope” will allow five veterans to share their stories then hear the songwriters turn those accounts into songs. After the songs are performed, members of the audience can vote on their favorites.

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Participating songwriters are Jeremy Bussey, JT Cooper, Dan DeMay, Bernie Nelson and Leslie Satcher. Chris Turner will perform a concert at the event, and everyone in attendance will receive a free copy of his new EP American Made.

Proceeds from the event will go toward helping veterans with PTSD and moral injury as a result of their military experience.

The event will take place on May 16 at Workplay in Birmingham. Anyone wishing to learn more can visit the event page on Facebook.

The evening is hosted by the Crosswinds Foundation for Faith and Culture. Crosswinds is a Birmingham-based ministry which seeks to make “biblical sense of a shifting culture” through information, instruction and influence.

Crosswinds’ program for veterans is called Warriors on Mission and is a result of the experiences of Lt. Col. Don Malin, USA, (Ret.), during his two tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a military chaplain.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

Former Obama Northern District of Alabama US Attorney signs letter saying Trump committed crimes

(WH/Flickr, MSNBC/YouTube)

Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce Vance joined approximately 500 other lawyers in signing a letter saying they believe President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice and would have been charged had he not been president of the United States.

Labeling themselves “DOJ Alumni,” the group alleges that the Mueller report provided evidence of “corrupt intent” on Trump’s part, which they deemed as “overwhelming.”

Posted on the left-leaning website Medium.com, the letter states:

Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.

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Vance, a law professor at the University of Alabama Culverhouse School of Law, has long been a vocal critic of Trump.

Last year, she blamed Trump for bombs mailed to the Obama and Clinton families. Obama nominated Vance to her former position as U.S. Attorney in 2009.

More recently, Vance relied upon her foreign policy credentials to criticize Trump’s stance toward Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

State rep seeks to allow popular fantasy sports games in Alabama

(W. Hui/Flickr)

Technology provides consumers access to most anything these days, right from their fingertips. Getting directions, finding out the weather, listening to music, watching movies and playing games have all been reduced to an app on your phone.

One member of the Alabama legislature wants to expand those game options for the state’s fantasy sports fanatics.

State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) has sponsored a bill which will permit consumers in Alabama to engage in daily fantasy sports contests most often played through an app like the ones on a phone.

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In fantasy sports contests, participants choose a virtual team of real-world pro athletes to create lineups which then compete against lineups assembled by other game players. The competition occurs based on the statistical performance of those athletes.

The fantasy players whose athletes perform the best — statistically — win.

Among the sports from which a daily fantasy player can choose are football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR and golf.

South thinks much of the popularity behind fantasy sports games comes from the camaraderie between contestants.

“It’s an interaction between fans and the sports that they love and their peers,” he explained. “It’s a peer to peer game. It allows you to have an interest in a sporting event that you might otherwise not have.”

All of the states bordering Alabama allow for the playing of daily fantasy sports either through an app or online. The games are played in 43 total states.

While neighboring states have been able to gain a clearer understanding of fantasy sports, South believes some confusion still exists in Alabama about the nature of the games.

He points out that fantasy sports games require considerable skill and knowledge of the athletes and teams for which they play.

South says the difference between skilled and unskilled players matters in fantasy sports, and that’s what makes it different from sports gambling.

“No offense to my mom, but if we play ten times I’m going to beat her all ten times,” he contended.

He said that there is no doubt a clear skill requirement exists in fantasy sports, and he also sees a parallel between fantasy sports and the modern version of sports on the field.

“One thing you can point to are all these major league baseball teams, these professional sports teams are going to an analytics-based system for choosing their players,” South said. “And that’s all we’re doing here.”

The type of analytics-based approach South refers to has taken off in professional sports to the point where an MIT graduate with no professional baseball experience is now the general manager for the San Francisco Giants.

The legislation will simply allow people to play a game where they can be the general manager of their own virtual sports teams, South says.

The average fee to enter a daily fantasy sports contest and compete against other players is three dollars, according to industry data. An estimated 53 million people nationwide participate in fantasy contests. And, in Alabama, an estimated 700,000 people have played fantasy sports.

Aiming to clear up the confusion surrounding the games, South revised his legislation during the committee process to ensure that sports gambling activity would not pop up if his bill became law.

“We added an amendment that made the focus of it a lot more narrow,” he said.

Applying some of his own experience in sports to how fantasy sports are conducted allows him to make comparisons he hopes will help, as well.

“I’m a golfer but same goes for a fishing tournament where you pay an entry fee and the winner receives a cash or cash equivalent prize,” South pointed out. “Some variables are based on chance like conditions and water temperature but the dominant factor is skill. The same applies to fantasy sports.”

It all goes back to being smart about which players you choose and when you play them, South says.

“If we say that there is nothing to the science of analytics, then why does Bill Belichick and the Patriots keep winning every year?” he asked.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

Sen. Shelby to NASA administrator on Marshall Space Flight Center’s SLS: ‘What’s important is to build that rocket and build it right’

(NASA/Contributed, R. Shelby/Facebook)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) received confirmation this week that Space Launch System (SLS) will be the rocket propelling Americans to the moon in 2024.

SLS is a specialized launch vehicle designed, developed and managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. SLS has been billed as the only rocket powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.

Shelby gained the assurance from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) subcommittee hearing on NASA’s budget. CJS is a subcommittee of the powerful Senate Committee on Appropriations chaired by Shelby.

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Having stated his belief in a “unified and clear direction” for those involved in sending American astronauts to the moon, Shelby voiced his concern about comments made by Bridenstine, previously.

“Ambiguity on options and the program I think only detracts from a lot of these efforts, and some of the recent comments made by you and others have arguably created confusion,” Shelby stated. “It has with me.”

The senior senator from Alabama then provided Bridenstine with an opportunity to express his views on SLS.

“We have looked at options and we have determined that the only option where we are going to be able to put humans on the surface of the moon in 2024, which is my mandate, is to utilize the SLS,” Bridenstine said. “Which will be, by far, the most powerful rocket in the American inventory. Nothing, in fact in the world, nothing comes close.”

Bridenstine also agreed with Shelby that SLS can be employed for other missions.

He pointed to travel to Europa, a moon around Jupiter. He explained that SLS can cut down travel time to Europa from seven years to three and a half years.

“It’s very capable asset for the United States of America,” Bridenstine added. “It’s really the only rocket that we’re going to have capable of taking our humans to the moon by 2024.”

“What’s important is to build that rocket and build it right,” concluded Shelby.

Bridenstine agreed.

A variety of essential SLS components are being built by Alabama companies, according to NASA:

The Boeing Company in Huntsville is building the SLS core stage … Teledyne Brown Engineering of Huntsville, Alabama has built the launch vehicle stage adapter that will connect SLS’s core stage to the upper part of the rocket … The initial capability to propel Orion out of Earth’s orbit for Block 1 will come from the ICPS, based on the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage used successfully on [Decatur, Alabama] United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV family of rockets.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

Group plans special walk in Montgomery to create awareness of kidney disease

(ALF/Contributed, YHN)

The Alabama Kidney Foundation (AKF) has a special event planned for Saturday to help create awareness for kidney disease. The group has a walk planned in Montgomery to raise money to support its assistance programs for kidney patients.

The AKF bills the walk as a “fun event” which will attract “thousands of individual and team walkers joining to make a difference in the lives of Alabama’s kidney patients.”

Registration begins at 8:30am at the Baptist DeBoer Building at 301 Brown Springs Road in Montgomery. The walk begins at 9:30am from the same location.

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The AKF has a 43-year history of helping Alabama’s kidney patient population. Its stated mission is “to serve kidney patients by providing financial assistance, education and support services.” KTF also “provides public education to promote organ donation awareness and prevention of kidney disease.”

According to the foundation, Alabama ranks 5th in the nation for the occurrence of kidney disease, with an inordinate number of cases among African-Americans. Over 400,000 total people in the state suffer from kidney disease and 10,000 people are on life-sustaining dialysis. Approximately 300 kidney transplants are performed annually.

The annual Kidney Walk benefits those patients in need of financial assistance, education and support services.

For more information about the walk, visit MontgomeryKidneyWalk.org.

To learn more about kidney disease, visit the AKF website at alkidney.org/kidney-facts/.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Air Force leader responds to Brooks, indicates national security space launch program will proceed as planned

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson has responded to Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) and his request that the military move forward with a national security space launch program heavily supported by Alabama’s aerospace industry.

In her reply, as well as in a separate response to House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, Wilson indicated the Air Force would proceed in the manner called for by Brooks.

Brooks sent a letter to Wilson with signatures from a bipartisan group of 27 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging her to maintain the Air Force’s previously planned course and implement the second phase of the established space launch program.

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The approach called for by the members who signed the letter is based on the need to keep America up to speed in the national security space race — and one from which Alabama’s aerospace industry stands to benefit.

Members of Alabama’s House delegation who also signed the letter in support included Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Martha Roby (AL-02), Robert Aderholt (AL-04) and Terri Sewell (AL-07). Reps. Mike Rogers (AL-03) and Gary Palmer (AL-06) did not sign the letter.

Wilson confirmed to Brooks in her response that the Air Force would soon release a request for proposals for the second phase of the program. She outlined to him that they would announce the contract awards during spring 2020.

This is significant for Alabama because Decatur’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) was among the companies awarded the opportunity to develop launch vehicles for national security space missions under the program.

News of the award to ULA brought praise from Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) and others, at the time.

The companies, including ULA, entered into the agreement understanding that certain performance requirements were necessary to participate in a second phase of the program where the Air Force would only call on the top two providers.

As a result, the companies became incentivized to make substantial investments for the opportunity to participate in the second phase.

ULA’s rocket manufacturing plant in Alabama is 1.6 million square feet and is the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere.

The quality of jobs created by the aerospace industry has a multiplying effect across the Yellowhammer State. Industry estimates are that every aerospace job results in ten more jobs throughout the region.

ULA has calculated its annual economic impact to the state at approximately $285 million, with company leadership envisioning that impact escalating as the Air Force’s national security space launch program proceeds.

After sending the letter to Wilson, Brooks outlined to Yellowhammer News his reasons for urging the Air Force to maintain its schedule for the program.

“America’s military relies heavily on space to defend America,” he explained. “Therefore, America must have reliable and affordable space access options. The Air Force conducted a robust and competitive launch provider selection process open to all U.S. launch providers. National security requires that the Air Force’s launch provider acquisition must remain on schedule.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) had petitioned Wilson to deviate from the Air Force’s plan. Feinstein and Smith registered their objections to the process and sought to modify it based on interests from with their own state.

In her response to the California members, Wilson said she was “proud” of the Air Force’s conduct of the process.

Wilson pointed out that it was Congress who directed the military to “assure access to space using two domestic launch service providers capable of launching to our most demanding National Security Space orbits.”

She also detailed the effort put forth to devise a competitive process, including independent reviews and more than 1,500 industry comments.

Wilson expressed her confidence in the need to advance the program.

“I agree that assured access to space remains a critical component of the Nation’s security strategy,” she wrote. “The time is right to start Launch Service Procurement competition by releasing the Request for Proposal now in order to select the two best-value offerors next spring and meet the deadline set by Congress to end reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine.”

Brooks agreed.

“Essentially, one launch provider is not enough and three providers are too many. Two providers is the sweet spot, and the sooner we get to two providers, the better off America and its taxpayers will be,” he concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Yellowhammer celebrates 2019 Women of Impact

(Kyle Carpenter/Contributed)

MOUNTAIN BROOK — In a packed Birmingham-area ballroom last night, Yellowhammer held its second annual Women of Impact Awards banquet. The event honored 20 of the state’s female leaders who have each made a significant impact on Alabama and its people.

Honorees represented a wide-range of industries and professions, including scientists, engineers, physicians, lawyers, nonprofits, business owners, elected officials and the military.

Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and 2018 Woman of Impact, served as host for the evening. She introduced the award recipients as they were brought to the stage for recognition.

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Andy Andrews, best-selling author and host of the “Professional Noticer” podcast, delivered a speech as the event’s special guest. Possessing a keen sense of human nature, Andrews reminded the audience that their actions impact and benefit countless people in ways they cannot imagine. Interweaving personal experiences and self-deprecating humor, he conveyed numerous points of wisdom and a reminder not to get too caught up in self.

“You can’t believe everything you think,” Andrews explained. “You can think it’s right, but that doesn’t make it right.”

The evening culminated with the presentation of the Lifetime Service Award to Patricia “Sister Schubert” Barnes. The purpose of the award is to annually recognize a woman for “selfless  dedication to improving the lives of Alabamians.”

A trailblazer in the state’s business community, Sister Schubert and her foundation have for decades contributed to the well-being of others at home and around the world.

Yellowhammer’s 2019 Women of Impact:

-Dr. Martina Bebin- Professor of Neurology, UAB School of Medicine
-Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon- Adjutant general, Alabama National Guard
-Katie Britt- President, Business Council of Alabama
-Melanie Bridgeforth- President & CEO, The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham
-Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh- President, Alabama Public Service Commission
-Jody Singer- Director, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center
-Dr. Michele Kong- Founder KultureCity and Pediatric Critical Care Physician, Children’s of Alabama
-Cindy Nafus- Vice president of Operations and Mission Success, United Launch Alliance
-Connie Hudson- President, Mobile County Commission
-Katherine Robertson- Office of the Attorney General
-Neeysa Biddle- Senior vice president, Ascension Health
-Judy Ryals- President & CEO, Huntsville / Madison County Convention Visitors Bureau
-Sara Williams- Managing attorney, Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm
-Connie Rowe- Representative, Alabama House of Representatives
-Dr. Rebecca Boohaker- Assistant fellow, Oncology Department, Southern -Research
-Dawn Bulgarella- CFO, UAB Health System and senior associate dean of Administration and Finance, UAB School of Medicine
-Mary Margaret Carroll- Fine Geddie Associates
-Pardis Stitt- Owner, Highlands Bar & Grill
-Mary Wyatt- CEO, Wyatt General Contractors
-Cindy Griner- Vice president Engineering Services and Solutions, Dynetics Inc.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

One man’s life-altering event leads to Sylacauga ministry, hope for others halfway around the world

(Vapor/Contributed)

Micah McElveen greets visitors walking through the door of his organization’s Sylacauga office with an uncommon enthusiasm. Most can appreciate someone who enjoys what they do.

For the founder and CEO of Vapor Ministries, there is more to it than that.

After hearing McElveen’s story it becomes apparent that his zeal for what he is doing is born out of a life-changing experience and how that experience has led to living out his faith in a very specific way.

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McElveen’s life changed one day in 1995 when he and his brother set out into the water to surf rising swells ahead of a gulf coast storm. McElveen dove through a wave as he normally would — except this time it was all different.

He felt a blow to his head, and then he felt nothing.

Having already spent several minutes unable to move and trapped underwater, his family found him and pulled him out of the surf. After being air-lifted to a Florida hospital, McElveen woke up days later to the news that he had broken his neck.

Micah McElveen (Contributed)

Regaining the ability to walk again and restoring the use of his arms required numerous surgeries and years of rehabilitation. During his recovery, he also began to focus on how he wanted to live his life – the fragility of which he suddenly understood more clearly. McElveen sought to know more deeply the type of life for which Christ calls his followers to live.

So in 2005, McElveen moved to Africa. It was there he encountered yet another life-altering experience.

“While there, I lived on the edge of a large slum where I witnessed heartbreaking scenes playing out in abject poverty daily,” he explained. “For more than a year, I had not taken a hot shower, had eaten on less than $1.50 a day and had become used to blackouts and water rationing.”

He saw human suffering on a level he could have never conceived prior to living in Africa. And it jolted him into action. That was when he knew God had kept him alive to serve the poor and advance the gospel.

Vapor Ministries (Contributed)

“I felt like I came to a crossroads,” McElveen said. “I would either waste the rest of my life trying to forget what I saw or spend it trying to do something about it.”

What came next was dropping out of graduate school and teaming up with numerous friends and supporters to form Vapor Ministries. Less than a year later, he moved back to the same African slum to build the first Vapor center.

With a name inspired by a verse in Psalm 39 (“Surely all people, even those who seem secure, are nothing but vapor.”), the ministry’s stated mission is to “establish sustainable centers for alleviating poverty and multiplying disciples in third-world environments.”

Vapor Ministries (Contributed)

Vapor Ministries centers serve as an oasis for residents of poverty-stricken areas, places where families can come for clean water and children can play sports. Not only do the centers provide opportunities for ministry staff to share the gospel, but they also provide a place for staff development among indigenous believers to further the goal of disciple multiplication.

Centers additionally offer agriculture education, as well as training with a view toward helping local citizens start small-scale business enterprises using existing skills, such as craft-making.

Vapor Ministries (Contributed)

Acquiring land, constructing facilities and employing staff for its management is a resource-intensive effort.

Even so, the Sylacauga-based ministry has seen significant growth since its inception, and McElveen sees that growth deriving from one source.

“What God has done in a short time has been incredible, and we look with hope to His plan for the future,” he said. “God has been faithful and has grown our capacity year over year.”

Vapor Ministries now has five centers  – three in Africa and two in Haiti – with 480 staff members.

McElveen continues to maintain the same perspective that set all this in motion years earlier.

“We’re not guaranteed a long life,” he said. “The truth is our time on earth is like a vapor. When you realize that, you are afforded an opportunity to live it differently.”

Watch:

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

State Rep. Wes Allen sponsors resolution calling for citizenship questions in 2020 census

(W. Allen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services/Facebook)

As the Supreme Court of the United States considers whether the Trump administration may follow through with plans to ask about citizenship as part of the 2020 census, one Alabama state representative is leading the effort among state policymakers to support the requirement.

State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) has sponsored a resolution in the Alabama legislature urging the court to allow questions pertaining to citizenship status to be included on the upcoming 2020 census.

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“The census taking place in 2020 will help determine important issues like the number of seats each state will hold in the U.S. House of Representatives and the amount of population-based federal funding that will be awarded,” Allen said. “While Alabama has taken a hard stance against illegal immigration, liberal states like California, New York, and Massachusetts have thrown open their borders to those who break our laws with their simple presence. In essence, they stand to benefit by thumbing their noses at long-standing federal immigration law.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Congressman Mo Brooks have both been part of the lawsuit as they seek to prevent illegal immigrants from counting toward the nation’s population.

Marshall recently spoke to “The Jeff Poor Show” about the negative effects of counting illegal immigrants and his reason for joining the lawsuit.

“It won’t surprise anybody that means that our electoral vote will go to the state of California,” Marshall said. “And I’m not willing to sit idly by and let that happen.”

Brooks has been out front on the issue for much the same reason.

“Congressional seats should be apportioned based on the population of American citizens, not illegal aliens,” Brooks explained. “After all, this is America, not the United Nations.”

Allen pointed out that the position of his caucus and the Trump administration is backed by long-standing precedent.

“Questions regarding citizenship have been included in the U.S. Census as far back as 1820, and Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom are among the counties that routinely ask them,” he noted. “Including questions about citizenship on the census should be common sense, not controversial.”

Allen fears not asking about citizenship will end up rewarding areas of the country which ignore America’s immigration laws.

He warned that federal dollars and increased representation in Congress would go toward areas that harbor illegal immigrants.

The resolution has been adopted by the House Republican Caucus and will be sent to the court prior to oral arguments in the Department of Commerce v. New York case.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News