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.

1 day ago

Treasury Department issues guidance for small businesses seeking relief funds

(Pixabay)

The U.S. Treasury Department released new information on Tuesday afternoon for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The resources distributed by the agency provide guidance on how to tap into the $340 billion pool of relief funds set aside for the small business sector.

Under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program, businesses with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive the lesser of $10 million or 2.5 times its payroll over the period of several months.

Banks will distribute the funds in the form of loans granted under criteria contained in the law. Loans may become available as soon as Friday, April 3.

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Call your banker

That is the advice the Treasury Department is giving to small businesses.

The chairman of the Alabama Bankers Association has stated that banks in his state are ready, willing and able to immediately assist with the small business sector’s recovery.

“Banks in our state are already very familiar with helping customers access SBA funding,” said David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank and Trust. “Nearly 94% of banks headquartered in Alabama are SBA-approved lenders, and that number could easily grow higher over the next few weeks.”

RELATED: Alabama banks preparing to assist small businesses with recovery — ‘Call your banker’

Nast echoed the Treasury Department’s advice that interested small businesses should promptly contact their bank.

“Regardless of how banks are interacting with their customers, our advice for individuals and small businesses has been to put ‘Call Your Banker’ near the top of the to-do list,” Nast emphasized.

Info for small businesses

The Treasury Department is maintaining a comprehensive website for those seeking information about the economic stimulus programs it is administering.

Within the site are documents for small businesses to better understand the programs designed for them and how to apply for funds:

Overview of the Paycheck Protection Program

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Borrowers

Application for Borrowers

Paycheck Protection Program Information for Lenders

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Video: Ride along with ULA’s Alabama-built rocket on U.S. Space Force’s first national security mission

(ULA/Flickr)

Alabama’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) teamed up last week with the U.S. Space Force to complete the newly-formed agency’s first national security space mission.

A Decatur-built Atlas V rocket delivered the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite. The AEHF-6 will enhance the communications capabilities for American warfighters around the world.

The mission became ULA’s 138th overall. With its completion, ULA maintained its 100% mission success rate.

Watch rocket preparation, launch and satellite delivery in space:

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Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Ivey awards $9.5 million in grants to expand broadband access

(YHN/Pixabay)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Tuesday that she has awarded more than $9.5 million to go toward expanding high-speed internet access around the state.

Ivey awarded 20 grants to nine broadband providers as part of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, according to a release from her office.

These grants resulted from the 2019 round of applications and are administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

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“Availability of high-speed internet has always been vital, but the events of the past several weeks magnify just how imperative it is that all Alabamians have access to broadband,” Ivey said. “I am pleased to support these projects and look forward to the day when every household, school, healthcare facility, emergency service and business throughout Alabama is afforded broadband availability.”

The fund was created through the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, passed by the legislature, and signed into law by Ivey, in 2018. Its purpose is to spur economic development and improve the quality of life in the state’s rural areas by increasing high-speed internet access.

The requirement for remote learning during the COVID-19 crisis has only hastened the need to expand the state’s efforts.

“As our day-to-day way of living has been impacted over the past few weeks, it has underscored the value and necessity of high-speed broadband services,” emphasized ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “That is something that Governor Ivey, the Legislature and ADECA have been working to address through the Broadband Accessibility Fund. ADECA takes its role in administering this program seriously and is honored to be entrusted with the responsibility.”

State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), a long-time champion for rural broadband expansion, recently expressed similar sentiment.

“I don’t think anything else could have brought the issue more to light than [COVID-19] — on something I’ve been jumping up and down, screaming about for a long, long time. And that is narrowing the digital divide in the state of Alabama,” Scofield remarked to radio host Jeff Poor. “You know, roughly only almost one-fifth of the state doesn’t have access to high-speed internet. And you know, that really — those areas of the state are making it difficult to make a decision on what our students are going to do for the rest of the school year, just in case they can’t go back to school.”

While the 2019 grants will continue roll-out, the next round of expansion from 2020 applications has hit a roadblock.

RELATED: Alabama’s rural broadband expansion meets resistance

Fourteen of the applications for the first round of this year’s grants have been challenged by other providers, according to ADECA.

Scofield questioned the motive of those issuing bulk challenges to grant applications. He believes the intent is “to slow them down.”

“They don’t want to service rural Alabama, but they don’t want anyone else to pick up any market share,” he elaborated.

Now is not the time, he believes, to slow the process down.

“I’ve been working on the issue for six years now,” Scofield explained. “This year, if all the grants go through at ADECA, they could hook up about 86,000 more entities. I think, ‘If we could have been doing that for the last five years, where we could be right now?’ This expansion does not need to be slowed down right now, we need to be ramping it up and the coronavirus situation is proof positive as to why.”

Below is a full list of grants awarded by Ivey this round:

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $224,175 to provide broadband services in north Lowndes County including 301 households and 15 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $289,100 for service in southwest Autauga and southeast Dallas counties including 343 households and 38 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $480,200 for service in northwest Autauga, northeast Dallas and south Chilton counties including nearly 500 households and 31 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $682,325 for service adjacent to the town of Billingsley in Autauga County which includes 656 households and 45 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $1.06 million for service in Chilton County south of the city of Clanton and north of the town of Billingsley which is in neighboring Autauga County. The project will offer service to 1,093 households and 41 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $557,987 for service in north-central Autauga County and parts of south-central Chilton County to include service offerings to 743 households and 21 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $531,650 for service in southeast Chilton County, northeast Autauga County and northwest Elmore County including 509 households and 17 businesses.

Central Alabama Electric Cooperative – $279,300 for service in northwest Chilton County and east Bibb County including 409 households and 12 businesses.

Charter Communications – $336,830 for service in the town of Autaugaville in Autauga County including 641 household and 14 businesses.

Comcast of Alabama – $820,750 to service the Town of Dauphin Island in Mobile County including 2,500 households and 24 businesses.

Hayneville Telephone Co. – $205,705 for service in Lowndes County’s Black Belt and Hicks Hill communities including 258 households and four businesses.

Hayneville Telephone Co. – $125,671 for service in an area southeast of the town of Hayneville including 187 households and one business.

Hayneville Telephone Co. – $143,265 for service southwest of the town of Hayneville including 191 households and two businesses.

Hayneville Fiber Transport Inc. (Camellia Communications) – $90,072 for service in the Butler County community of Poorhouse community northeast of the city of Greenville.

JTM Broadband – $404,414 for service in Lauderdale County east of the town of Killen including 1,303 households and 247 businesses.

Mon-Cre Telephone Cooperative – $529,707 for service in north Crenshaw County and south Montgomery County including 350 households.

National Telephone of Alabama – $357,171 for service in the Red Rock community in Colbert County including 205 households and six businesses.

Roanoke Telephone Co. – $308,882 – for service in an area of south Randolph County between the municipalities of Roanoke and Wadley including 269 households and four businesses.

Troy Cablevision – $1.38 million for service in parts of Coffee, Covington, Geneva and Houston counties including 1,190 households and 80 businesses.

Troy Cablevision – $750,625 for service in parts of Coffee, Crenshaw and Pike counties including 603 households and 38 businesses.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 days ago

Alabama banks preparing to assist small businesses with recovery — ‘Call your banker’

(Wikicommons, J. Tuggle/Flickr, ALFA/Flickr, YHN)

It was only two months ago that the small business sector recorded its highest level of confidence in the last 50 years. Now, most of those same businesses across Alabama await the opportunity to rebuild once the COVID-19 crisis stabilizes.

At the center of that recovery will be Alabama’s banking industry.

A key provision of the historic economic stimulus package passed by Congress, and signed into law by President Donald Trump, is the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program.

Under this program, small businesses with fewer than 500 employees will be allowed to apply for a low-interest Paycheck Protection loan of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs to cover expenses related to payroll, health insurance, retirement contributions, covered leave, rent, utilities, and interest on debt payments.

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Alabama’s banks will play a pivotal role in getting this much-needed capital into the hands of small businesses all across the state.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank and Trust, stated that his industry is ready to handle the needs of its customers as they take advantage of the federal stimulus package.

“Banks in our state are already very familiar with helping customers access SBA funding,” said Nast, who currently serves as chairman of the Alabama Bankers Association. “Nearly 94% of banks headquartered in Alabama are SBA-approved lenders, and that number could easily grow higher over the next few weeks.”

Reassuring its customers throughout the crisis has been a priority for the Alabama Bankers Association (ABA).

Through its “Safe and Sound” campaign, the ABA has been spreading the message that even in these uncertain times, a bank account is the safest place for funds to be stored.

But the association has also made clear that banks and customers will need to work together to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

“No Alabama bank has closed its doors during this crisis,” Nast said. “Even banks that have changed their lobby hours are still meeting customer needs through drive-thru or online options or by appointment. Regardless of how banks are interacting with their customers, our advice for individuals and small businesses has been to put ‘Call Your Banker’ near the top of the to-do list. While every bank and every customer is unique, bankers can provide access to multiple helpful options, whether it’s applying for an SBA loan or modifying an existing agreement.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin outlined today that loans may be available for small businesses as soon as Friday with filing instructions potentially coming by Monday afternoon.

Wiregrass banker Hope Johnson emphasized that bankers will continue to be one of the best resources for information for customers.

“Congress is clearly positioning SBA to be a key player in the country’s economic recovery,” said Johnson, president and CEO of Slocomb-based Friend Bank and the current treasurer of the Alabama Bankers Association’s Board of Directors. “As an SBA Express lender myself, my advice would be for anyone considering an SBA loan, including the Paycheck Protection loan, to contact your local banker. Importantly, the Paycheck Protection loan may be forgiven if borrowers meet certain payroll requirements.”

When it comes to SBA loans in particular, there are some things small business owners can do to prepare for the next steps.

While regulations related to the Paycheck Protection Program have not been finalized, business-owners should be ready to produce information regarding payroll, debt and overhead expenses when they meet with their banker and apply for one of these loans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has prepared a helpful checklist that will answer questions about eligibility, proper documentation, borrowing limits and loan forgiveness.

“Even though this new SBA program is gaining a lot of publicity, it’s likely not the only solution available for customers who have been damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Johnson. “Alabama banks stand ready to work with our customers during this challenging season, and look forward to helping our small businesses restart Alabama’s economic engine.”

Watch a short video from ABA aiming to help inform its customers during the COVID-19 crisis:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

5 days ago

Alabama legislators believe latest Ivey order penalizes small business

(YHN)

In separate social media posts, two Alabama legislators have expressed their belief that Gov. Kay Ivey’s latest order unfairly penalizes the state’s small businesses.

On Friday, Ivey announced an update to her State of Emergency order dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19). Her updated order requires the closure of non-essential business effective 5:00 p.m on Saturday.

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Businesses affected by Ivey’s order fall into one of four broad categories: entertainment venues; athletic facilities and activities; non-essential “close-contact” service establishments; and non-essential retail stores.

RELATED: Ivey orders non-essential businesses shuttered statewide — No ‘shelter-in-place’ order at this time

In a Friday evening social media post, State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) outlined his concerns that Ivey’s recent order treated small business differently from national businesses selling the same products.

“I support the Governor’s efforts to make Alabama safer, but the government should not pick winners and losers,” Garrett wrote. “This recent order, in my opinion, is unfair to small business owners.”

At issue for Garrett is the fact that non-grocery items in big box stores are still for sale even though they are considered non-essential items by the state.

“I spoke with the Governor’s office this afternoon and told them that allowing these large out of state stores to operate at 100% and sell all items, while at the same time shutting down small local retailers, was unfair,” he stated.

While indicating similar concerns about the affects on small business, State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) emphasized the disproportionate impact of the order on rural Alabama. Whatley chairs the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.

“Rural Alabama cannot go shop in the same way folks in big cities can,” Whatley told Yellowhammer News on Saturday morning. “Walmart and Target they can stay open but local stores that sell a lot of the same items have to close even if they don’t have coronavirus cases in their area. This is incredibly harmful to the independent business owner who supports local charities, goes to church with you and has a stake in your community.”

Whatley has joined the growing chorus of leaders who think the health crisis cannot be separated from the economic crisis.

“Health and economic concerns need to be considered side-by-side in this process,” he explained. “My primary concern is for rural Alabama and the state, so any order that is issued I would want it fairly and equally administered. Right now, orders are being fit for the big metropolitan areas. They are keeping the big, high-traffic places open that need to be closed and at the same time hurting rural Alabama where there are fewer cases and smaller stores.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

6 days ago

Mission success: Alabama’s ULA powers first U.S. Space Force national security launch

(ULA/Twitter)

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully completed the first national security space mission for the newly-formed U.S. Space Force.

Under clear skies Thursday afternoon at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, ULA’s Atlas V rocket lifted off with the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite as its payload. The latest in U.S. Air Force satellite technology, AEHF-6 provides high-tech global communications for American warfighters.

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It was a historic launch for the U.S. Space Force and for ULA.

In a pre-launch message, ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno emphasized the significance of national security space launches for his company.

“At ULA we care a lot about these missions, we understand them, we know how important they are and we are all about their mission success,” he remarked.

The mission marked ULA’s 138th launch while enjoying a 100% success rate.

The Atlas V rocket was assembled at ULA’s North Alabama manufacturing plant. Located in Decatur, the 1.6 million square-foot plant is the largest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

ULA rockets have now carried all six of the AEHF satellites into space. According to ULA, “AEHF gives the warfighters what they need — enhanced communications traffic, increased bandwidth throughput and faster data transmissions.”

Developed by Lockheed-Martin, AEHF-6 will allow the Air Force to improve “global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters.”

Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured five solid rocket boosters for this Atlas V and provided more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust.

“Thank you to the Aerojet Rocketdyne team for your outstanding partnership,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs, in a release from the company. “The RL10 is integral to our unique Centaur upper stage, supporting ULA’s launches of military, civil and commercial satellites and has sent spacecraft to explore every planet in our solar system.”

Watch Atlas V at the moment of liftoff:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

7 days ago

Andy Andrews: Imagination control and the Chicken Little syndrome

(Andrews/Facebook)

Best-selling author and Alabama native Andy Andrews delivered some thoughtful advice on self-control and keeping things in perspective in his latest video.

Here is how Andrews elaborated on this perspective:

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Today, the world is changing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean it’s all for the worst. A mind left alone, however, can lead us to believe that is the case. A mind without specific direction from its owner soon begins to run out of control. And, a mind out of control feasts on “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” If you ask me, Seneca nailed it. After all, fear, anxiety, and worry are nothing but a misuse of the creative imagination that has been placed in us.

As you’ll see in my latest video, it’s this powerful ability to control our thoughts that sets us on the path toward the peaceful life we’re searching for, especially during times of uncertainty.

Watch:

In addition to being a sought-after speaker and host of the Alabama-based podcast “The Professional Noticer,” Andrews has written the New York Times bestsellers The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. His thought-provoking How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think appeared on Yellowhammer News’ list of Alabama-authored books to read in 2019.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Alabama’s ULA preps to launch first national security mission for U.S. Space Force

(ULA/Twitter, YHN)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is set to power the first national security space mission for the newly-formed U.S. Space Force.

ULA is making final preparations to launch the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, according to a release from the company. The launch is scheduled to take place Thursday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

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“In the current dynamic environment, national security is of utmost importance,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are proud to launch the first National Security Space mission for the U.S. Space Force and look forward to delivering the final AEHF asset to support our nation’s national defense and the warfighter community.”

ULA will utilize an Atlas V 551 configuration rocket which is the most powerful in the Atlas V fleet. Built at ULA’s factory in Decatur, it will produce more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The AEHF system, developed by Lockheed Martin, provides vastly improved global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters.

Watch a brief video showing the details of the mission:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Trump: ‘Our country wants to go back to work’

(WH/Flickr)

In a Tuesday afternoon interview with Bill Hemmer of Fox News, President Donald Trump stated he thought the country getting back to work by Easter was “absolutely possible.”

Trump emphasized that, while hygiene protocols will remain vital, a return to normalcy is important to the American people.

“People are going to have to practice all of the social distancing, and don’t shake hands, and wash your hands and all of the things that we’re doing now but we have to get our country back to work,” he said. “Our country wants to be back at work. Our country wants to go back to work.”

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He was also quick to point out that the extreme measures taken to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) can outweigh the benefit of implementation.

“The cure is worse than the problem,” Trump remarked.

RELATED: Are we in danger of being broke and sick instead of just sick?

As someone who campaigned on a job creation platform and oversaw one of the biggest economic booms in decades until the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump expressed concern about the long-term effects of a shutdown.

“They’re going to lose their jobs maybe to never get them back,” he said. “They’re going to lose their businesses never to get them back. We want to start up as soon as we can because we’re going to have a very quick comeback if we do that. If we delay this thing out, you’re going to lose more people than you’re losing with the situation as we know it. So I think it’s very important for our country to go back.”

In response to Hemmer’s point that his position is controversial, Trump indicated he has been contacted by people supporting the position.

“Most people think I’m right about it,” he declared.

“Our country has to get back to work, otherwise it’s going to be very hard to start it up again,” he said. “We can’t lose the advantage that we have.”

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

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Are we in danger of being broke and sick instead of just sick?

(YHN)

It’s getting harder and harder to work. For some employees and businesses in Alabama, it’s not possible at all anymore.

Schools, movie theaters, dental offices and all onsite dining and drinking establishments are closed by edict of state government. Jefferson County has now ordered all non-essential retail businesses closed. Production has shut down at the state’s signature auto plants.

These are all places where people earn paychecks.

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Fear is also doing its part in keeping cash registers quiet. Health professionals have doled out the advice they are suited to give: don’t go near anyone else.

Even in an increasingly digital economy isolation has a devastating effect on communities and families across the state. Not everyone can work virtually. Brick and mortar locations will always matter.

Businesses not ordered to close are facing shut down for a lack of traffic. Perhaps most harmful is the complete lack of consumer confidence driven by the uncertainty.

The ripple effect taking place across our economy is difficult to overstate.

The National Federation of Independent Business, which touts itself as “the voice of small business,” released the results of a survey of its members this week. According to the survey, 76% of small business owners have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This is up substantially from a survey 10 days earlier in which 25% said they had been negatively impacted. It’s reasonable to think that number will eclipse 90% in the coming days.

Some leaders are beginning to fully realize the problem we’re facing. To “fully” realize the problem requires an understanding that health considerations simply cannot be separated from economic considerations.

On Friday, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) remarked that he had questions about some of the decisions which have been made.

Orr astutely pointed out that the impact on employers in many cases will be permanent.

“It takes much longer to start a business back up if it hadn’t gone into total bankruptcy and failure than it does to just shut her down,” he noted.

At a briefing on Monday, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson reiterated that his city’s “first and foremost concern is the health of our citizens.” However, he also was firm in his belief that the long-term effect on the economy has to be taken into account when making decisions.

Stimpson reasoned, “[W]e can’t let the health crisis become an economic crisis more than what it already is.”

Watchdogs are obsessing over the number of doctors present at government briefings. It’s time for economists and members of the business community to share the stage, too. Their voices need to be heard equally in rooms where decisions are being made.

Health professionals have made invaluable contributions to the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In a mere two weeks, they have fueled possibly the most effective public information campaign in history. People are consumed with maintaining proper hygiene. People are spraying, wiping and washing at every opportunity.

We’ve all been trained. People are much better equipped to take precautions now than they were two weeks ago.

It’s impossible to know the number of people who have been exposed to the virus, have the virus or will get the virus. There is a prominent line of thought in the medical community that we are all going to get sick, at some point. A lot of decisions are being made assuming data that does not actually exist.

We’re approaching two weeks into what amounts to government-imposed and self-imposed time off. It sounds like a third week is all but certain. That’s not all that much different than the French in a normal year.

Fortunately, we’re not France.

The time is getting close to when people need to return to the world and rebuild before it becomes too late. They will take their training with them. Businesses will surely employ precautions which make their customers most comfortable. If it takes extra space and wipes to close a sale, then that’s what they will provide.

The freedom to show what we’re made of is what our leaders should soon provide.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson: ‘We can’t let the health crisis become an economic crisis’

(Sandy Stimpson/Facebook)

During a Monday afternoon briefing, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson described the ways in which his city was looking to keep business moving amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“City government, to the degree that we can, we’re going to remain as fully active in providing all the services that we have been providing,” Stimpson noted. “The wheels of government have to continue.”

Recognizing the immense challenges facing the state’s businesses, he outlined ways his city is seeking to help relieve some of that stress.

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“To help business owners in the city, we are going to waive late payment fees for the months of February, March and April on sales and lodging taxes,” Stimpson stated.

City staff is also directing people trying to do business within the city to online tools, particularly with building and permitting issues.

Easing the burden on businesses was a predominant takeaway for Stimpson during a Sunday call with mayors from the ten largest cities in Alabama.

“The mood was that we need to keep our cities open,” he recalled. “The reason is, we can’t let the health crisis become an economic crisis more than what it already is.”

Stimpson shared that shutting down completely was not the sentiment expressed in the call with other mayors.

He attributed it to “the negative impact that completely shutting everything down would have.”

As for dealing with coronavirus itself, Stimpson reiterated that his “first and foremost concern is the health of our citizens.”

Testing options for those exhibiting symptoms will improve, according to Stimpson.

“What you can count, though, is that you will see there will be more tests developed,” he said. “There have been regulations loosened, done away with. Every laboratory that has the ability to produce a test is now taking a look at it.”

He believes this will benefit the collaborative effort ongoing between governments and the medical community.

“You will see the private sector step up and do things that they were not doing prior to this,” Stimpson stated.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Recent survey paints grim picture for small business amid outbreak

(Pixabay, YHN)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has left the nation’s economy in peril, and small business is showing signs of being among the hardest hit sectors.

A recent survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shows 76% of small businesses have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, according to a release from the organization.

This figure is up significantly from a survey a mere 10 days ago which showed 25% of small businesses had been negatively affected.

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Rosemary Elebash, state director for NFIB in Alabama, spoke of her members’ resolve despite these foreboding statistics.

“This may be a difficult time for small businesses, but they’re trying to deliver the goods and services their customers need as safely as they can and showing a real determination to get through this,” Elebash stated.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced over the weekend that small businesses harmed by the outbreak are eligible for assistance under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, oversees the state’s Office of Small Business Advocacy. He has been actively engaged in conversations with small business owners in recent days.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities all across Alabama, employing local residents and sustaining economic vitality,” Canfield said. “It’s critical that small businesses around the state remain healthy, and the SBA’s disaster loan program could prove to be a lifeline for many of them.”

Jefferson County has ordered all barbershops, hair salons and non-essential retail stores to close effective 5:00 p.m. on Monday.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) questioned some of the extreme measures which have been put in place at varying levels of government in response to the outbreak.

Orr’s comments seemed to reflect a concern for many of the small businesses suddenly facing uncertainty with no end in sight.

“It takes much longer to start a business back up if it hadn’t gone into total bankruptcy and failure than it does to just shut her down,” he remarked.

NFIB’s survey indicated that, of those businesses negatively impacted, 23% are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 54% slower sales and 9% sick employees.

The level of concern among small business owners about the coronavirus impacting their business has elevated significantly over the past two weeks. About 68% of small business owners are “very” concerned about its potential impact on their business compared to 16% in the earlier survey.

Founded in 1943, NFIB touts itself as “the voice of small business,” advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle on coronavirus: ‘We’re coming through this very well, so far’

(Tommy Battle/Facebook)

During his daily briefing on Thursday, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle expressed both caution and optimism for how the people of his city have handled the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Sitting more than six feet away from representatives from Huntsville Hospital, emergency management and the chamber of commerce, Battle began his briefing by reassuring his constituents that municipal work continued as normal.

“To the people out there, City Hall is open, we will remain open,” he explained. “It’s important for your government to stay functioning.”

As a few examples, he cited the fact that public safety personnel are working around the clock, inspections and permitting are being done and roads are being built.

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He also advised that “separate and sanitize should be everyone’s motto” right now.

“This community has done a great job of responding to that,” he stated. “The community has responded time and time again, and think this is one of the reasons while there has been so low of a rate of actual detection in this area. But we need to continue to be vigilant.”

Beyond health, one of city leadership’s chief concerns remains the impact of the crisis on small business and employees, according to Battle. He singled out the hospitality industry as one which could feel the negative effects.

“There are a number of ways we are looking at how we can help,” he said. “We’re working with community partners on this. I reached out to bank presidents in Huntsville this morning to engage them on some solutions, and I can tell you the banks are responding very well to it. Everything from interest-only payments to no payments for several months. Lots of different ideas on how to help businesses out there.”

Battle also noted the United Way has started a COVID-19 fund to help businesses and employees and the Small Business Administration is offering assistance.

As he did throughout the briefing, Battle wrapped up the day’s briefing with a reminder that individual behavior is most important to contain the virus.

“Make sure that you keep washing your hands, sanitizing, stay separated,” he concluded. “But also continue to be smart. We are a smart community. We call ourselves ‘Huntsville: The Smart Place,’ ‘Huntsville-Madison: The Sky is Not the Limit.’ And we have a lot of things that we have, as our citizens do the right things, we’re coming through this very well so far, and we will continue to monitor, continue to watch and change if necessary.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s rural broadband expansion meets resistance

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama’s broadband expansion efforts may have hit a roadblock at a time when it is needed the most.

Several challenges have recently been filed against grants aimed at helping deliver high-speed internet to rural areas.

State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), the Alabama’s legislature’s long-time champion for rural broadband expansion, worries the challenges are part of a concerted effort to slow down a high-tech buildout in some parts of the state.

Scofield’s legislation created a program, administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA), to provide grants to build out the state’s broadband infrastructure.

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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 and healthcare and provide the type of remote learning opportunities needed during the COVID-19 crisis.

Fourteen of the applications for the first round of this year’s grants have been challenged, according to ADECA.

Among those challenged was an application from Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative (FTC) for a grant to expand broadband access in Northeast Alabama.

“Ours was challenged by Charter Communications,” explained Fred Johnson, executive vice president and general manager of FTC.

Johnson credited Scofield and Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) with helping to craft legislation that allowed ADECA flexibility in applying data to determine the areas most in need of broadband expansion.

FTC, according to Johnson, had done painstaking research to come up with their data to present as part of its application.

“To their credit, ADECA has been exceptionally diligent in also understanding – it’s actually been gratifying to see a government agency to actually see a government agency do what they were tasked to do,” he said. “They have been extremely good about [applying the data].”

Johnson believes last year’s grant awards proved the program has, thus far, been administered effectively.

(YHN)

“In our first round of awarding grants in 2019 they had identified a few areas where we had made a mistake, asked us to recheck it, we rechecked it, realized we made a mistake and we just amended the grant to exclude it,” recalled Johnson. “That’s fine and it couldn’t work any better. We, like everybody else, are capable of mistakes.”

This year’s round of applications have become grounds for contention.

“When Charter filed an application protesting our grant they did so in total,” Johnson outlined. “First of all, they claimed our grant application overlapped their service territory and hence was ineligible for funding. Then they also said even if they don’t serve it someone else does, and so we should be denied. They didn’t take the time to advise ADECA that they were using the [federal] data. And the other company they identified as serving all these people, they didn’t bother to tell ADECA that the company was us – and only us.”

As part of its response to the challenge, FTC provided ADECA with a map showing it is actually the company currently serving the area.

“Charter is saying that another provider provides service to this entire census block, well we’re the provider,” Johnson said. “We just gave them a map specifically showing with latitude-longitude coordinates where we can and can’t serve so we think we know better than Charter does.”

Another expansion project being challenged belongs to Covington Electric Cooperative (CEC).

CEC has applied for grant funding to build out a “middle-mile” of fiber in the Wiregrass. Middle-mile is a line of fiber off of which other companies can build to deliver high-speed internet. It is considered a fundamental infrastructure project in broadband expansion.

Rick Clifton, president and CEO of the Covington County Economic Development Commission, wrote in support of CEC’s application to ADECA.

CEC’s project has been challenged by Charter Communications and Mediacom.

Clifton views broadband expansion as “essential” to his area’s economic development efforts.

“Covington Electric and its management are very much into economic development,” he remarked. “Broadband is important everywhere but it’s especially important in our rural areas. If you’ve got broadband you can connect to the world. Having good, reliable broadband is a priority for us, and we do whatever we can to support it.”

CEC’s middle mile project would connect their substations and then allow them to have a third-party come in and build out from that fiber to provide broadband access to people who lack suitable access now.

“It’s almost like the reason the electric coops got started, it just wasn’t economically feasible for the big companies to run lines out to very sparsely populated areas of the country so the coops formed to do that,” stated Clifton. “It would also allow us to take industrial or business service out from that middle mile of fiber.”

He views the project not as a threat to anyone else’s business but as a way to improve life in communities throughout CEC’s service area.

“I don’t think they have any interest in getting in the cable business themselves, or the internet business themselves, but once that middle mile is done then it opens up a whole lot of different options for different folks to come in and help,” he offered.

As someone who is charged with helping grow jobs in Covington County, Clifton believes there is significant incentive to expand broadband options.

“In a rural area you have a lot of obstacles to overcome,” he explained. “Recruitment is a process of elimination. They don’t pick you, they eliminate you. If you don’t provide high-speed internet access, they eliminate you.”

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary shares Clifton’s sentiment toward the critical nature of offering high-speed internet options to potential employers.

He said internet access is one of the first things about which industrial targets ask.

“I’ve been to Japan twice to recruit businesses,” O’Mary said. “If you don’t have that, you don’t get a look.”

Jasper and surrounding areas have a middle-mile project of their own for which they have applied to receive grant funding. This project has been challenged by Charter Communications and Community Cable.

RELATED: Fiber network bringing high-speed internet to Jasper area

Asked what broadband expansion would mean for his city, O’Mary did not shy away from touting its impact.

“Let me put it real simple, it will make us a lot more like Huntsville, the second largest city in the state,” he said. “I have become good friends with the mayor of Huntsville, Tommy Battle, and what he says is that you have got to have technology to meet the needs of industry.”

Offering updated infrastructure by expanding broadband is an integral part of his plan.

“We’re working very hard on industrial recruitment,” said O’Mary. “We have a nice industrial park. You have to meet the expectations of people that look to live in your city. Work from home has become a big thing across this country. Without high-speed internet access, we’re flat on our back in those two games.”

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 crisis reinforce the need for expanded broadband in Alabama, according to Scofield.

RELATED: Aderholt requests emergency funding for rural broadband

“I have been working to get the infrastructure delivered as quickly as possible,” he said. “How do we get kids to stay home and get them to do their lessons online the rest of the year?”

Scofield questioned the motive of those issuing bulk challenges to grant applications. He believes the intent is “to slow them down.”

“They don’t want to service rural Alabama, but they don’t want anyone else to pick up any market share,” he elaborated.

Now is not the time, he believes, to slow the process down.

“I’ve been working on the issue for six years now,” Scofield explained. “This year, if all the grants go through at ADECA, they could hook up about 86,000 more entities. I think, ‘If we could have been doing that for the last five years, where we could be right now?’ This expansion does not need to be slowed down right now, we need to be ramping it up and the coronavirus situation is proof positive as to why.”

Under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, ADECA must resolve the challenges within 30 days.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Malzahn inducted into Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame

(AU/Facebook)

One of the most successful coaches in the history of Auburn athletics received his due from his home state last week.

Head football coach Gus Malzahn was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in Little Rock on Friday.

“Growing up in the state of Arkansas, and now being able to be a part of the sports hall of fame in your home state is pretty surreal,” Malzahn said in a release from the Auburn athletic department.

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Set to enter his eighth season as Auburn’s head man, Malzahn sits among the elite in his profession.

He has led the Tigers to an SEC championship, two division titles and a national championship game with a No. 2 final ranking. He has led Auburn to seven consecutive bowl games. Five of those bowl games have been of the New Year’s Day variety.

Malzahn is also the only current SEC coach to have beaten Nick Saban three times.

His hall of fame resume has been built while playing what could be regarded as the most difficult schedule of any program in the country during his seven seasons on the Plains.

His teams have faced 35 ranked opponents. He has looked across the field and seen a top 10 team 24 times. Six times he has seen the No. 1 team in the country on the other sideline. Eleven times he has seen a top 3 team. In 2016, the Tigers were the only team to face the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. In 2017, Auburn matched up against three of the four college football playoff teams, a total of four times, while earning two wins.

In all, he has had seven wins against top 10 teams.

One of the earliest innovators of the up-tempo, spread offense now prevalent across college football, Malzahn has had an enduring impact on the Auburn program as both head coach and as an offensive coordinator under Gene Chizik.

“I’ve been so blessed to be at Auburn,” he said. “This will be my 11th year at Auburn. It’s a real honor and a really special thing for me and Kristi to be a part of the Auburn family, doing what we’re doing.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Keith Richards describes mindset starting Taziki’s — ‘I knew at that point there was no plan of failure’

(Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe/Twitter, YHN)

Keith Richards, founder of Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe, appeared recently on Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Living Life on Purpose” to talk about the leap of faith it took to launch his business and many other topics, including a program created for special needs employees.

Richards described to podcast host Matt Wilson that the idea to start Taziki’s took form after a three-week trip to Greece with his wife, Amy.

At the time, Richards was working with Frank Stitt at Bottega in Birmingham, but he wanted to start his own restaurant.

So he borrowed $50,000 and relied on family to help him get the restaurant ready to open.

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“I knew that at that point there was no plan of failure,” Richards told Wilson. “I could not fail. I could not stop what I was doing.”

One Friday night during only their third week in the business, that resolve got put to the test.

That was the night the dinner crowd swelled beyond what Richards expected, and he ran out of food. He recalled Amy, who worked for US Airways at the time, having to shut the restaurant down. As an apology to their customers, Amy handed out 50 signed menus that were good for a free dinner at a future date.

Richards said he got back 49 out of 50 menus, and now Taziki’s has 93 locations in 17 states.

He credits the trust he built with restaurant customers in Birmingham as essential to Taziki’s success.

“My relationship that I created with our guests at Bottega was very important,” said Richards. “The guests trusting me. Trusting me knowing while they were at Bottega they were going to get great pizza or great pasta. I was going to make sure that I saw through what Frank was serving, it was going to hit our guests in a positive way, and then I was going to make that connection. Honestly, I feel that is how we became successful.”

When Richards set out to open the second Taziki’s, Amy had become pregnant with twins. Apparently, a pattern had set in because Amy was pregnant with twins again when the third Taziki’s opened.

Even with the added responsibility at home, Richards knew he was working as he was called to do.

“A lot of its faith built,” he said. “Trust the Lord in giving us the right direction. And really being passionate about guest services.”

Another part of his business about which he is passionate is his employees.

Tazkik’s has an exceptional special needs hiring program that has grown to include 15 employees. It was born out of a chance encounter with a special needs teacher from Shelby County. Now it is one of the most valuable aspects of Taziki’s culture.

“For me, it wasn’t so much of just bringing in the student, it was almost how can I get back to that parent,” outlined Richards. “God has blessed us with four healthy children, I thought, you know what, if I could give Momma D or Daniel’s mom or Steven’s father just some time to reflect and play tennis or pray or meditate or shop without them, then I’ve kind of created two little opportunities for both. For them to be self-sufficient and work with us as our team, then the parents go do what they want to do. It gives them time away because when you look at the life expectancy now of a child with Down Syndrome, now they are living to 70 or 80 years old.”

Richards believes the program has even allowed him to look at his company in a different way.

“We cherish them, we protect them, and we love them,” he said. “To me, that was another aha moment with Taziki’s. It’s so easy for us to give back.”

“How can you have a bad day?” is a question Richards often asks himself when he sees one of his special needs employees engaged in their daily routine at work.

“We want to make sure these kids flourish,” said Richards. “I don’t do it for the feeling. I do it because it gives them an opportunity, it gives them a meaning and a purpose.”

Another opportunity he developed to help them and his restaurants is called HOPE Project. HOPE stands for Herbs Offering Personal Enrichment.

Under HOPE Project, special needs students at several Shelby County schools grow herbs that are used in Taziki’s restaurants. What started as a project in a small bed in front of one school is now the recipient of grants and includes greenhouses and numerous sites.

Richards believes he is fulfilling an inherent responsibility by partnering on these types of projects.

“It’s up to us as business leaders to empower and to hire those [special needs] students,” he concluded.

Listen to the entire episode of Living Life on Purpose to hear Keith Richards provide some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and warn of the challenges they will face. He also describes the unique ways he fought burnout while he was getting his business going. He discusses plans and expectations for growth, how technology has made a difference in their business and find out why he says, “Taziki’s is my middle name.”

For more stories of how people have lived their lives with a purpose, listen and subscribe to Living Life on Purpose with Matt Wilson on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spotify and Google Play. Matt’s guests include Andy Andrews, UAB head football coach Bill Clark, Congressman Gary Palmer, Scott Dawson and many others.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Alabama super-volunteer gearing up to help Trump campaign in battleground states

(Joan Reynolds/Contributed, YHN)

Joan Reynolds is one Alabama Republican who has never let grass grow under her feet.

A successful small business owner, she was the first woman elected into the Alfa Insurance Hall of Fame. Now she spends her time as a super-volunteer for conservative causes and candidates in Alabama and around the country.

Reynolds currently serves as chairman of the Shelby County Republican Party, by itself a tall task considering Shelby is one of the reddest counties in the state.

But her impact on electing Republican candidates extends far beyond Alabama’s borders.

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Reynolds was one of the Trump campaign’s most prolific grassroots coordinators in 2016 and will shoulder similar responsibilities for President Trump’s reelection this year.

The idea to become a volunteer operative for national campaigns was hatched during the 2008 presidential campaign. As general election duties became lighter and lighter in Shelby County, where GOP candidates largely run unopposed, Reynolds sought out ways to make a difference in the national effort.

It was a conversation with her husband, Alabama National Republican Committeeman Paul Reynolds, which got her wheels turning.

“We were concerned that we could do more than just vote on election day,” she explained to Yellowhammer News. “Alabama was a solid Republican state but there were many states that needed help.”

After a phone call to former Congressman Spencer Bachus, and another to the Republican National Committee, Joan Reynolds was off to a swing state to help coordinate the get-out-the-vote effort.

“They needed help in North Carolina,” recalled Reynolds. “The RNC asked me to go to Durham, North Carolina. I would have three offices in and around Durham and Orange County. I noticed Chapel Hill and Duke University were both located in the area. I felt like they would be a source to recruit volunteers. I was in for a surprise.”

North Carolina turned out to be tough ground for John McCain’s campaign during that election, and not particularly hospitable for Republicans trying to make headway in a place marked early by Barack Obama’s campaign as one they could turn blue.

The operation of a get-out-the-vote campaign like the one Reynolds ran involves creating as many contacts with voters as possible within a short window of time. These contacts are most effective when done in person, going door-to-door, or over the phone. Neither method is particularly comfortable or easy for volunteers. Yet, the activity is fundamental for winning campaigns.

“North Carolina in 2008 was difficult,” outlined Reynolds. “My Durham office had 24-7 security. My volunteers were afraid to go to Chapel Hill. Signs were burned in yards at night in subdivisions. One of my offices had a brick thrown through the plate glass of the office. Voters would tell us at the door they would be voting for McCain, but we couldn’t mention it to their neighbors and definitely couldn’t put a sign in the yard.”

Carrying with her many of the lessons learned in North Carolina, Reynolds spent six weeks recruiting and training volunteers in Iowa during the 2012 presidential campaign.

She believes it is the commitment of volunteers which makes the critical difference. With most get-out-the-vote efforts going full-throttle one week before election day, she sees volunteer morale as incredibly important to ensuring goals are met.

“We have a goal and that’s to feel that we have all made a difference,” Reynolds remarked. “We try to make it fun and competitive. In Iowa we gave away an I-pad one month; sometimes it’s just gift cards or a dinner. But at the end of the day we check with the computer tech to get the number of doors we hit that day. Each person is listed separately with their totals. That tells us if we need to work a little longer the next day.”

In addition to working the last three presidential elections, Reynolds has found herself on the ground in several states where there has been a competitive United States Senate race, including in Arkansas for Sen. Tom Cotton and in Louisiana for Sen. Bill Cassidy.

One of Reynolds’ enduring memories from 2016 is the disconnect between the campaign’s portrayal in the news media versus the experience the volunteers enjoyed on the ground.

“The media and the responses we were getting were totally different,” said Reynolds. “Hispanics were Trump voters. In fact, we were eating lunch outside Panera Bread in Tampa and two Hispanics came over and prayed for us. I only wish I had recorded some of their responses.”

In her typically understated fashion, Reynolds regarded the more than 50,000 voter contacts made by her team in Florida as “a productive trip.”

All told, she estimates that the teams with which she has worked have made more than 250,000 voter contacts throughout various campaigns.

And she has begun solidifying plans to add to that number in 2020.

“I met with the Trump campaign and the RNC a few months ago,” Reynolds said. “I will be recruiting and vetting volunteers again to travel in October. They had several battleground states to choose from.”

She continues to be driven by her belief that there is a lot at stake this election cycle.

“I think you can turn your television or radio on and see that we have a lot of work to do,” she elaborated. “Our goal is to keep Trump in the White House and take control of the House. Impeachment will never end until we are in the majority. Socialism is not an option for us.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Alabama’s top investment banking firm a partner in growing the state — ‘We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities’

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

From inside his office at the historic Union Station in downtown Montgomery, John Mazyck eagerly worked his way through the story of his company’s growth and what it can mean for communities across Alabama.

Mazyck is an owner of The Frazer Lanier Company, an Alabama-based investment banking firm which owns the largest market share of investment banking business in the state, according to Thomson Reuters. With 46 deals closed in 2019, that amounted to a deal nearly every working week.

He is also the newly installed chairman of the Business Council of Alabama. As the owner of a business whose mission is to facilitate growth in both the public and private sectors, and a leader of the state’s largest business organization, he is positioned to exercise significant influence on how Alabama’s cities, counties and job creators prepare for the 21st century economy.

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With the low rumble of a freight train on the nearby tracks unknowingly helping to underscore his message, Mazyck methodically explained the ways in which he believes Alabama is primed to move forward, as well as the role his company can play in helping the people of this state fulfill their potential.

Describing the availability of capital to cities and counties in Alabama as “enormously important,” he quickly rattled off a list of projects for which his company had helped provide financing, including schools, hospitals and airports.

“The corporations in Alabama are doing very well,” Mazyck said. “The economy is humming along on all cylinders. I think we serve a more important role in public finance because the smaller communities, they really need help.”

And “help” for those areas comes in the form of guiding local decision-makers through financing from start to finish.

“We want to talk to them when they are thinking about a deal because we can help them figure out how to get the money,” he outlined.

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.

Founded as a public finance company in 1976 by Rod Frazer and Clifford Lanier, corporate finance now makes up about 50% of its business, according to Mazyck.

The Frazer Lanier Company has been involved in some major economic development projects across Alabama. For example, Hunt Refining Company, the largest private employer in Tuscaloosa County, has spent well over $1 billion building out its refinery with financing obtained through The Frazer Lanier Company. The companies closed a $612 million deal just last year.

The Frazer Lanier Company has helped finance large capital projects in manufacturing, research and other sectors across Alabama counting a ‘who’s who’ list of Alabama employers as clients.

Yet, Mazyck is quick to point out that his company never strays far from its roots in public finance.

“We spend our time, and have since 1976, calling on and developing relationships with universities, airports, hospitals, states, counties, cities to be there when they want to borrow,” he emphasized.

This approach is evident in the company’s footprint across the Southeast.

Co-owner Jason Grubbs manages the company’s Birmingham office. They also cover North Alabama out of their Florence office, as well as maintain a presence in West Alabama, Alabama’s Gulf Coast, Louisiana and Florida.

Alabama is home, though, and this fact drives Mazyck and his company to excel.

“We have to do an excellent job in Alabama,” he stated. “We try to be innovative and work harder.”

Mazyck sees the competition from large, national firms as a motivating force for his company, and good for the communities across the state which benefit from his company’s work.

“It keeps us in check,” he said. “We have an advantage because we know the people here, they see us. That is a huge advantage, but our performance has to match up to the big boys, or we’ll be out of business.”

Mazyck cited trust as a principle fundamental to his company’s operations and the maintenance of its standing as the state’s top investment banking firm.

“We have earned these peoples’ trust, and we have to keep it,” he elaborated. “We ensure our fees are fair. Our job is to deliver them service over and above what they even know. We don’t want anything to reflect poorly on that city or county. We don’t play any games, none whatsoever. We are very open and deliberate.”

That trusting relationship is especially vital given the transparency of public finance.

“This market is very transparent,” Mazyck outlined. “Anybody can see anything anybody is doing because you are dealing with the public’s money. It is very transparent so you can’t mess up. If you don’t do a good job your competitors will go tell them you didn’t do a good job. You won’t get the next deal. It is a business that is very light of day. Your competitors are always there. It keeps everyone honest. It keeps your fees low. It keeps performance high.”

Work on public financing deals can be a long, drawn-out process, so the sooner local decision-makers can get involved with a company like his, the better, according to Mazyck.

“I would advise them as soon as they are thinking about doing something, talk to someone,” he suggested. “This will allow them to get the most value out of the professional.”

Mazyck and his company help a local government go through the entirety of the borrowing process with a particular focus on that entity’s standing within the financial markets.

“One thing that is incredibly important is credit,” he outlined. “We have to tell their credit story every time they borrow. We have to tell their story to Wall Street. We have to tell their story to Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch. They give their approval, their opinion of the credit rating of that bond issue. And then we sell those bonds to institutional investors on Wall Street.”

All of this is being targeted toward a critical outcome.

“Our job is to get the absolute lowest interest rate we can get,” stated Mazyck.

That job can bring a lot of pressure and expectations given what is at stake in some areas of Alabama.

“Rural healthcare is in a crisis situation in this state,” he mentioned as an example. “We’re doing a deal for the hospital in Marengo County. The hospital is in trouble over there. It’s tough situation. The county has put on a tax to dramatically help the hospital. So we’re doing a bond issue secured by that tax to help the hospital.

He said those are the type of circumstances where “it means a lot” for the people of those surrounding communities.

“It will make that hospital stay there and thrive for the next twenty years,” said Mazyck. “If this didn’t happen, who knows.”

One area where he sees a definitive pattern for improving the state is through education.

“One thing that is a trend, the cities and counties that invest in education are doing the best,” he noted. “Look at the City of Auburn as an example, they stand up for education. Places that are investing in public education are winning.”

As for The Frazer Lanier Company, Mazyck believes strongly that its makeup as a younger, more ambitious firm will continue to provide it with a competitive advantage.

Continuing to find ways to grow the economy and improve the quality of life for areas not connected to the interstate will remain a priority for his company.

“Those communities really need us,” concluded Mazyck. “We often feel like we’re truly helping the smaller communities. We really pride ourselves on our working with the smaller places, the infrequent issuers, because we really know we are helping them. And they make a decision based on character.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

NASA, Boeing complete first phase of testing on Space Launch System

Boeing/Contributed

NASA and Boeing tested the structural integrity of Space Launch System (SLS), according to a release from Boeing.

Simulating the pressure placed on SLS on its way to space, electric motors and impulse hammers shook and pounded the rocket’s core stage as part of the rigorous testing procedure.

Assessing how the rocket performs under the rigors of launch is one part of the overall test program called the Green Run.

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Green Run will conclude with the “hot fire” test of all four engines simultaneously. The 8.5-minute test of the engines will replicate the 2 million pounds of thrust required at launch.

Alabama’s aerospace industry has led the effort to build the most powerful rocket ever built.

The SLS program is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center. Developed by Boeing in Huntsville, and powered by four Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25 engines, SLS stands 212 feet high and 27.6 feet in diameter.

Watch the complex transport and installation of SLS:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Book details how Alabama journalist broke the story on Bill Clinton’s secret meeting with Obama’s top cop

(Matt A.J./Flickr, Christopher Sign/Contributed, YHN)

As U.S. Attorney General William Barr continues to spar with Democrats in his role leading the U.S. Department of Justice, an Alabama journalist has published a book detailing the events which led to President Barack Obama’s attorney general being embroiled in her own controversy.

Christopher Sign, an anchor at ABC 33/40 in Birmingham, appeared on “Fox & Friends” on Monday morning to talk about his book, “Secret on the Tarmac,” and the events which led to him breaking the story about former President Bill Clinton’s clandestine meeting with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Lynch’s meeting with Bill Clinton coincided with the Department of Justice’s intent to launch an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of an unauthorized email server during her time as Secretary of State.

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Sign told “Fox & Friends” that he immediately sensed something was not quite right about the events on the airport tarmac in Phoenix that day in 2016.

“We knew something had occurred that was a bit unusual,” he remarked. “It was a planned meeting. It was not a coincidence.”

According to a 538-page report released by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice, Clinton and Lynch held different recollections of how the meeting came about.

Clinton claimed that Lynch invited him onto her government-owned jet, while Lynch maintained Clinton boarded the plane uninvited.

“I just wanted to say ‘hello’ to her and I thought it would look really crazy if we were living in [a] world [where] I couldn’t shake hands with the Attorney General, you know, when she was right there,” Clinton said, according to the report published in 2018.

Clinton bristled at the notion that the appropriateness of the meeting was being called into question.

“I don’t know whether I’m more offended that they think I’m crooked or that they think I’m stupid,” he told investigators.

Although Lynch expressed her discomfort with the meeting to investigators, both she and Clinton denied the subject of his wife’s emails coming up.

Sign, like many others across the nation, remained skeptical that conversation in such an urgent meeting was confined to small talk.

“[Secret on the Tarmac] details everything that they don’t want you to know and everything they think you forgot, but Bill Clinton was on that plane for 20 minutes and it wasn’t just about golf, grandkids, and Brexit. There’s so much that doesn’t add up,” explained the former Crimson Tide football player.

At the time, Donald Trump joined in the chorus of those questioning the substance of the secret meeting.

“Secret on the Tarmac is available for purchase at ChristopherSign.com and other outlets, including Amazon.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Small business report reveals sustained confidence in the economy, workforce needs

(NFIB/Facebook, YHN)

Optimism among small businesses continues to climb, according to the latest National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) report.

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index hit the top 10% of all readings in its 46-year history.

NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg underscored the health of the current environment for small business.

“2020 is off to an explosive start for the small business economy, with owners expecting increased sales, earnings, and higher wages for employees,” he said in a statement from his organization following the report’s release. “Small businesses continue to build on the solid foundation of supportive federal tax policies and a deregulatory environment that allows owners to put an increased focus on operating and growing their businesses.”

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The report also revealed another essential area of focus for small business in this state.

“The report reflects the No. 1 issue facing Alabama businesses: the lack of a qualified, trained workforce,” stated NFIB Alabama state director Rosemary Elebash. “Alabama’s unemployment rate stands at 2.7 percent, which is below the national average, but small business owners here are scrambling to backfill jobs as their workforce is hired by other companies.”

Estimates are that the state will need to produce an additional 500,000 trained workers within the next five years to address the impending workforce needs of Alabama’s economy.

Elebash outlined her organization’s effort with state leaders to seek solutions to this building dilemma.

“NFIB is working with the Ivey administration to promote the new State Office of Apprenticeship and the Alabama Community College system’s efforts to create curriculums that address the needs of employers around the state,” she noted.

Earlier this week, a study group assembled by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth reported its findings and recommendations after months examining the issue.

Its primary recommendation was the creation of a cabinet-level coordinating agency called the Office of Talent and Workforce Development.

The report also calls for increased investment in areas highlighted by many of the state’s pre-existing workforce development initiatives; technical education, STEM classes for K-12 students, coordination between government and industry, and bringing people back into the workforce through retraining.

RELATED: Workforce development identified as most pressing issue at Yellowhammer small business panel

Elebash believes the commission’s report addresses some important concerns for all employers in the state.

“The Lt. Gov.’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce report strongly supports expanding Alabama’s workforce for small and large employers in metro and rural areas,” she emphasized to Yellowhammer News. “The report supports expanding workforce to include apprenticeships and career coaches at the secondary school level. The goal of having 500,000 new employees by 2025 will require the participation of all business sectors and small business owners look forward to participating.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

NASA, ULA successfully launch Solar Orbiter

NASA/Twitter

Late Sunday night in Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA’s Solar Orbiter lifted off atop United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

Made at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot plant in Decatur, the Atlas V notched its 82nd successful mission as it jumpstarted what will be a decade-long expedition to study the sun.

“The ULA team is extremely honored to launch Solar Orbiter, enabling more discovery of our sun,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs in a statement from the company. “Thank you to our NASA and international mission partners for the outstanding teamwork.”

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Solar Orbiter is a spacecraft that will deliver never-before-seen views of the sun while providing new information on how the star affects space weather. Scientists hope to collect data that will help them gain a better understanding of the sun’s behavior.

According to officials at NASA, Solar Orbiter will spend about three months in its commissioning phase, during which the mission team will run checks on the spacecraft’s 10 scientific instruments to ensure they are working properly.

It will take Solar Orbiter about two years to reach its primary science orbit.

Alabamians played crucial roles in this incredibly complex launch.

In addition to the Atlas V rocket having been built in Alabama, the person overseeing the launch for NASA is a native Alabamian.

Tim Dunn, NASA launch director at Kennedy Space Center, was born and raised in Arab and is a University of Alabama graduate.

This is the second mission in as many years that ULA has powered to the sun. In 2018, one of its Alabama-built Delta IV Heavy rockets launched the Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft achieved a milestone recently when the probe passed within 11 million miles of the sun. No spacecraft had ever flown that close before.

RELATED: Alabama built rocket powers historic launch

ULA rockets have now powered more than 135 missions with a 100% success rate.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Mission possible: Alabamians set to launch Solar Orbiter for NASA, ULA

(NASA/Contributed, ULA/Twitter, YHN)

By the time NASA’s Solar Orbiter launches late Sunday night, Alabamians will have left an indelible mark on the historic mission.

Solar Orbiter is a spacecraft that will deliver never-before-seen views of the Sun while providing new information on how the star affects space weather. Scientists hope to collect data which will help the gain a better understanding of the sun’s behavior.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket, built at the company’s 1.6 million square foot plant in Decatur, will deliver the spacecraft to orbit.

The person responsible for overseeing this momentous and complex mission is Tim Dunn, a native of Arab.

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Dunn, launch director for the Launch Services Program (LSP) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, plans, implements and directs the launch campaigns of science and robotic spacecraft for NASA-managed launch vehicle services.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force and graduate of the University of Alabama, Dunn reflected on the mission at Friday’s prelaunch press conference in Florida.

“I’m especially proud of our team for the Solar Orbiter mission,” he said. “Working alongside our United Launch Alliance colleagues, the engineers and analysts of NASA LSP who take great pride in launching this international partnership mission. A scientific marvel that, among other science, will provide unprecedented views of the Sun’s poles. NASA LSP has a demonstrated record of success flying on the Atlas V. To date, we count seven missions successfully launched on this magnificent rocket.”

He outlined that Solar Orbiter will be the 18th NASA science mission on an Atlas V and the 81st overall mission on ULA’s workhorse vehicle.

Solar Orbiter is an international partnership mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Dunn spoke to the uniqueness of this arrangement.

“The Solar Orbiter launch campaign has been unique and memorable,” he stated. “As an international partnership mission covering many years, we, the launch team, have encountered cultural and operational differences, as well as some communication challenges. But the entire team has always found common ground and moved forward toward launch because we all speak the universal language of mission success.”

ULA’s Atlas V will accelerate Solar Orbiter to 27,000 mph as it makes its way to the inner solar system. The spacecraft will then reside in an elliptical orbit and make a close approach of the sun every six months, going within 26 million miles of the star’s surface.

Cesar Garcia, ESA project manager, expects Solar Orbiter to spend approximately 10 years surveying the sun and its atmosphere.

This is the second mission in as many years that ULA has powered to the sun. In 2018, one of its Alabama-built Delta IV Heavy rockets launched the Parker Solar Probe. The spacecraft achieved a milestone recently when the probe passed within 11 million miles of the sun. No spacecraft had ever flown that close before.

This specific Atlas V configuration has been used previously on five other launches, according to Scott Messer, NASA LSP program manager for ULA. He explained the rocket stands about 189 feet high, a height he compared to six school buses stacked end-to-end.

“We at ULA are very proud to deliver Solar Orbiter to its orbit and continue to reliably deliver our nation’s most important spacecraft for all of our customers with 100% mission success,” Messer concluded.

The Solar Orbiter launch is scheduled for a two-hour window beginning at 11:03 p.m. EST on February 9 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Air Force conducts key test launch of Boeing-built ICBM

(U.S. Air Force)

The Air Force Global Strike Command successfully completed a developmental test launch of the Boeing-built Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) early Wednesday morning at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The Minuteman III program is managed out of Boeing’s Huntsville location.

The unarmed missile was equipped with a test reentry vehicle which traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, according to a U.S. Air Force release.

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Test launches are critical in verifying the accuracy and reliability of the ICBM weapon system. This is the second such test of a Boeing-built ICBM in the last six months.

RELATED: Boeing supports test of Huntsville-managed ICBM, secures more critical national defense work for Alabama

The data provided from test launches contributes to the maintenance of the ICBM as a priority nuclear deterrent for the United States.

“Developmental testing provides valuable data to Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center for both modernization and sustainment of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is aging, and modernization programs such as this are essential in ensuring that our Nation has a reliable nuclear deterrent through the rest of its lifespan and beyond. Most importantly, this visible indicator of our national security capabilities serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

Boeing designed the first Minuteman ICBM in 1958. The Minuteman I first went on alert for the Air Force in 1962.

The company’s land-based Minuteman III is as fast as a seismic wave, traveling up to four miles per second and up to 15,000 miles per hour.

One of Boeing’s objectives is to continue to support the Air Force in keeping the Minuteman III reliable into the 2030s.

The test launch calendars are built three to five years in advance, and planning for each individual launch begins six months to a year prior to launch.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia