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 week ago

Cavanaugh sees obstacles on road to recovery — ‘More regulations are poisonous to job growth’

(Twinkle Cavanaugh Campaign/Contributed, Made in Alabama, YHN)

Reacting to Thursday’s gloomy third quarter economic numbers, Twinkle Cavanaugh fears some of the proposed government overreach, and a return to the days of job-choking regulations, may stifle any hope of a turnaround.

“The economic numbers show just how badly the coronavirus pandemic has hurt our economy,” Cavanaugh observed to Yellowhammer News. “We will come back out of this. I don’t have any doubts in my mind. The hard-working people of Alabama and across the country have spent the last few years building the strongest economy the world had ever seen. Everyone did it. Everyone who worked and everyone who hired and everyone who built a business contributed to a historically strong economy. Together, we can all do it again.”

Reports came in on Thursday that the U.S. economy had shrunk at an annualized rate of 33% during the April through June quarter while COVID-19 cases continued to mount. This was the largest recorded contraction in history for such a time period. Nationally, unemployment claims rose this week while the same claims dipped slightly inside the Yellowhammer State.

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There is one big obstacle to the comeback, according to Cavanaugh, who is serving her second term as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission.

“What we don’t need, though, is for government to get in the way of the comeback,” she asserted. “The last thing small business owners, workers, builders or manufacturers need is government red tape. We’ve spent the last few years peeling back all the red tape put into place by Obama and Biden during those dark years for our economy and American workers.”

For her part, Cavanaugh spent significant time from 2010 through 2016 fighting the Obama administration’s rules aimed at outlawing the use of coal to produce energy. And now she fears that, in the wrong hands, another administration will set out to crush the nation’s energy production and take the economy down with it in the process.

“Just look at what Joe Biden has said,” stated Cavanaugh. “He announced that his administration will subject us to the Paris Climate Agreement as soon as he takes office. Why would you promise the American people that you are going to tie one hand behind their back your first day in office? It makes no sense. As soon as he traps us back into the European regulatory system our ability to create jobs and recover from the pandemic is made far more difficult.”

It is the fallout from such a policy move which Cavanaugh believes could have a lasting impact.

“Our energy options will shrink, businesses will have less flexibility to expand and Alabama families will have a tougher road back,” Cavanaugh explained.

The path forward and the effort to dig out of the current pandemic-induced downturn will require some principled policy making, according to her.

“Economic recovery will require all hands on deck,” stated Cavanaugh. “Let’s empower our small business owners, not hurt them. Let’s encourage companies to expand, not make it harder for them to operate.”

And Cavanaugh believes restoration of the nation’s economy begins on the state and local level.

“I have all the confidence in the world in Alabama’s people but not the liberal politicians in D.C. who are salivating over the possibility of growing government,” she concluded. “AOC, Pelosi and Biden want more money for government programs and more control over the private sector. More regulations are poisonous to job growth.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Alabama’s ULA praised for role in Mars mission: ‘They gave us a perfect launch’

(ULA/Twitter)

United Launch Alliance (ULA) was lauded by NASA officials for the performance of its Atlas V rocket in launching the Mars 2020 mission.

At a post-launch news conference on Thursday morning, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine went out of his way to praise ULA and its leadership for their role in the historic launch.

“It was an amazing launch, very successful,” began Bridenstine. “It went right on time and of course it is on a trajectory that has been done now with pinpoint accuracy. It was a great day for NASA. I want to say thank you to our partners at United Launch Alliance. Tory Bruno, your team did an absolute magnificent job. It could not have gone any better from a launch perspective.”

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The Atlas V rocket tasked with carrying NASA’s Perseverance rover into space was built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur. It is the largest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Bruno, president and CEO of ULA, was pleased with his team’s execution.

“We ended with an extraordinarily accurate orbital insertion,” he remarked in an understated manner.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) took to social media to recognize ULA, saying the launch was “paving the way for future human exploration.”

Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for NASA, also mentioned the accuracy of the Atlas V’s performance.

“They gave us a perfect launch this morning,” he said. “Right down the middle. Could not have aimed us any better.”

ULA’s ability to meet the demands of the launch schedule was something Wallace counted as critical to the success of the mission.

“[ULA] really pushed us hard to keep on this limited planetary launch window in 2020,” noted Wallace. “As most of you know, if you miss this window, you have to wait a couple years. So it was critically important for us to hit this. And I can’t say enough about the professionalism and the support they gave us over the last couple of months in particular.”

Wallace outlined that the spacecraft will spend the next six and a half months in cruise mode while NASA does a litany of checks to ensure the craft is ready to go for entry, descent and landing.

He called the spacecraft’s entry, descent and landing on the surface of Mars the “most difficult” part of the mission because the conditions are so challenging.

NASA expects the spacecraft to land on Mars on February 18, 2021.

This was ULA’s 140th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 85th for an Atlas V rocket.

Vice President Mike Pence offered his own congratulations to NASA and ULA, as well.

Upon arrival to Mars, Perseverance rover will explore the planet while gathering samples and performing groundbreaking tests to see if it can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

Tucked beneath Perseverance will be a small helicopter called Ingenuity. The rotorcraft weighs four pounds and will operate under solar power. It received its name through a NASA contest won by an Alabama high school student.

The time delay between Earth and Mars will prevent Ingenuity from being controlled in any meaningful way, so it will fly the planet autonomously.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to the launch.

RELATED: Alabama rocket launches NASA’s Perseverance rover toward Mars

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 week ago

Alabama rocket launches NASA’s Perseverance rover toward Mars

(NASA/Twitter)

NASA’s Mars 2020 launch went off without a hitch early Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Catching a lift from United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Alabama-made Atlas V rocket, Mars Perseverance is now setting its trajectory toward the Red Planet. The Perseverance rover will explore Mars while gathering samples and performing groundbreaking tests to see if it can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

The Atlas V rocket launched promptly at the opening of the first launch window. Launches to Mars face additional urgency because launch windows only come along every two years.

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Perseverance now embarks on a seven-month journey through space before reaching its destination. It will be the ninth robot that NASA has landed on the planet. ULA and its heritage rockets have launched every previous U.S.-led mission to Mars, beginning in the 1960s. Thursday’s launch marks ULA’s 20th trip to Mars.

Another unique aspect of this mission is the plan to fly a small helicopter around the planet.

Ingenuity, named by an Alabama high school student, is attached to the belly of the rover. Because of the time delay between Earth and Mars, Ingenuity cannot be controlled in any meaningful way so it will operate entirely on its own. The rotorcraft weighs four pounds and will operate under solar power.

“Ingenuity is going to transform how we think about exploring worlds in the future,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said prior to the launch.

This was ULA’s 140th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 85th for an Atlas V rocket.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

Birmingham Airport Authority scores final win in court over Alabama’s ethics law

(Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport/Facebook)

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) notched one more win in what is likely the final chapter of a nearly two-year legal battle over the treatment of its employees under the state’s ethics law.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid issued an order on Wednesday saying that employees paid from “self-generated” funds are not considered public employees under the Alabama Ethics Act.

Joined by several of the state’s airports and nearly 40 utility boards from across Alabama, BAA had long sought a clarification on the status of its employees. BAA’s position, agreed to by Reid in her order, has been that its employees are not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as user and landing fees paid by airlines and rental and concession fees at the airport.

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Alabama’s ethics law outlines that an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics laws if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.” Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

It is estimated that the decision could affect thousands of people in Alabama who are employed by these entities in a wide variety of jobs.

Reid’s order is a rare second win in the same case for BAA and its attorney Mark White. The first-term judge had issued an order in favor of BAA in June. However, the Alabama Ethics Commission asked for her to change the order, soon thereafter.

White told Yellowhammer News that Reid’s most recent order provided the clarity his client was seeking.

“We are very pleased, again, with the result, and it is a very well-reasoned and considered opinion,” he said.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, expressed in a statement to Yellowhammer News that the commission also gained from the ruling.

“All the Commission ever wanted was for the Judge to clarify language which in the original order was unclear, confusing, and not supported by the case law the Order itself cited,” he stated. “She has provided that clarity through this amended order and we appreciate it.”

Read Judge Reid’s full order:

BAA Final Order Reid by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

Long shot no Moore — Coffee County Republican takes congressional primary runoff

Contributed

Long shot candidate Barry Moore has defeated Jeff Coleman for the Republican nomination in Alabama’s Second Congressional District.

Moore went from barely squeezing into the runoff in March to likely becoming the next congressman from the Wiregrass. He looks to replace the retiring Martha Roby, who was first elected in 2010. That is the same year Moore first won office to a seat in the State House of Representatives, where he served until 2018.

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Down more than 20 points going into the runoff, Moore received significant outside help from D.C. interest group Club for Growth. Club for Growth reportedly spent close to $800,000 on television and in the mail on Moore’s behalf.

Alabama’s second district stretches from Prattville and Wetumpka on the north side of Montgomery all the way down through the Wiregrass to Dothan. Maxwell Air Force Base and the Army’s Fort Rucker are vital military installations within the district.

Moore was one of the first state officials to endorse Trump during the president’s 2016 run, and Moore tailored his entire congressional campaign around that event.

Early during his run for state office, Moore became known for his common-sense approach to conservative governance and fiery speeches.

Listen:

This article may be updated.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 weeks ago

Winners and losers — Election day fallout

(Jeff Sessions/Facebook, Senate Democrats/Flickr, White House/Flickr, Wikicommons, YHN)

After months of delay under pandemic conditions, Alabama’s primary election has finally (mercifully) come to an end. With two congressional runoffs serving as the undercard, the showcase U.S. Senate race went to former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville.

The fallout from these races left some in the winners column, while others were not so fortunate.

Let’s take a look.

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Winners

President Donald Trump

The president went to the mat for Tuberville in 2020. Whatever his motivations, it worked out well for him and much better than his last foray into an Alabama U.S. Senate race. Though battling a virus, social unrest and a tenuous economy, one thing remains certain from Tuesday’s results, and that is Donald Trump’s popularity in the Yellowhammer State.

Jeff Sessions

Sessions’ service to his state and country spanned more than four decades. When Alabama Republicans could meet in a booth at Waffle House, he was one of the people there. With the likes of Bill Pryor, Harold See and Edgar Welden, Sessions was an early visionary for bringing conservative governance to his home state. A storied career in public service — one that should be celebrated — came to an end on Tuesday.

Lou Saban

Tuberville was not the only former college football coach for whom Trump went to the mat. Lou Saban received glowing words of praise from the president during an election week tele-town hall. Saban, who passed away in 2009, is a distant cousin of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. One piece of trivia about Lou Saban’s coaching career: he posted an 0-8-1 record in his only season as head coach at Northwestern, and yet his winning percentage was not the worst in the program’s history.

Poll workers

Talk about a challenging environment. Try being a poll worker during a pandemic. In July. In Alabama. Layered in PPE, poll workers across Alabama greeted the state’s citizens and dutifully aided them in exercising their constitutional right to vote. Elections cannot happen without them, and they are to be specially commended today.

ALFA

The Alabama Farmers Federation went decisively for Tuberville with its early endorsement in the race. This allowed the organization to harness its grassroots horsepower to effectively assist him in an incredibly challenging campaign environment. This is the type of support that is long-remembered by elected officials.

Will Ainsworth

Alabama’s lieutenant governor continues to strengthen his political base. Another early advocate for Tuberville, Ainsworth pushed aside a possible run at the office, himself, instead throwing his support behind Tuesday’s winner. One of the state’s fastest ascending power players, Ainsworth’s shrewd move should continue paying dividends down the road.

Club for Growth

Sometimes a donor pass-through, this time the D.C. interest group completely changed the course of at least one congressional race and supported Tuberville’s win statewide. Club for Growth spent millions in advertising and mail going into voters’ homes. In enough cases, it worked.

Losers

Chuck Schumer

Polling throughout the year had shown Tuberville beating Jones by a wider margin than Sessions. Schumer, the aspiring Senate majority leader, had likely hoped that the chaos of having a Trump nemesis on the ticket in Alabama would have provided an opportunity to retain the seat. Jones and the national Democrats are undoubtedly not going down without a fight, but Schumer had hoped for better.

Lincoln Project

Here’s guessing this collection of self-righteous elites does not like Tuberville. Formed by a group of GOP consultants outwardly mad at Trump (and inwardly mad they did not get hired by Trump’s campaign), the group has taken up the cause of electing Joe Biden. Do not be surprised if the group, or a few of its members, get involved in the fall election on behalf of Jones.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Birmingham Airport, state water boards push for clear application of ethics law

(Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport/Facebook)

More filings rolled in on Wednesday in the quest to determine which employees are considered “public” for purposes of Alabama’s ethics law.

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) and the Alabama Water and Wastewater Institute (AWWI) filed briefs urging Montgomery Circuit Judge Brooke Reid to deny a motion by the Alabama Ethics Commission to revise an order she issued in June.

Reid had ruled that BAA employees were not public employees because the funds used to pay them is generated from private sources, such as user and landing fees paid by airlines and rental and concession fees at the airport. Alabama’s ethics law outlines that an entity’s employees are subject to the ethics laws if the funds used to pay their salaries come from “state, county or municipal funds.”

The issuance of Reid’s order brought about a clarity welcomed by BAA and nearly 40 utility boards from across the state that supported BAA’s position.

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“This was going to create a mess for thousands and thousands of people working for these entities,” Mark White, an attorney representing BAA, told Yellowhammer News last month. “This was really an invasion of the private sector.”

Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

White previously cited the fact that an employee who simply worked the jetway or on the tarmac at the airport would unknowingly be subject to Ethics Commission filing requirements as an example of what motivated BAA to pursue its clarification of the law.

In asking Reid to revise her order, the Ethics Commission proposed a new standard for determining if someone is not a public employee.

Rather than looking to whether someone is paid through taxpayer contributions, the commission asserted the standard should be whether their salaries were paid out of revenue from negotiated “commercial arms-length” transactions.

This new proposed standard left White questioning the commission’s approach.

“Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, the Ethics Commission is trying to change the facts and the law that resulted in Judge Reid’s order by simply ignoring both,” he said.

AWWI pointed out in its recently filed brief that the proposed standard would leave its members having to untie a tangled knot of revenue.

The association, which represents 19 water and sewer suppliers in Alabama, noted that while some services are negotiated, those are the exception in the water and sewer business. The industry standard is payment by customers according to set rates. Trying to determine which employees were paid out of which funds would be a significant burden, according to AWWI.

AWWI joined BAA in its belief that the Ethics Act should apply to those employees whose salaries are actually paid out of taxpayer dollars.

Under this strict interpretation of the law, directors for each board are still considered public officials and required to comply with provisions of the Ethics Act. In addition, board members and employees remain subject to other parts of the Ethics Act, as well as the criminal code.

Read BAA’s entire response below:

Airport Authority Response to Motion to Modify by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Huntsville healthcare executive: Masking and distancing a ‘temporary vaccination’ for COVID-19

(Pixabay, YHN)

At a Wednesday press conference of governmental entities in Madison County, Dr. Pam Hudson outlined the dramatic effect masking would have on reducing the transmission of COVID-19.

According to Hudson, CEO of Crestwood Medical Center, COVID-19 transmission would be reduced by 90% if 80% of the community wore a face covering.

Hudson’s statement comes as 66 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Madison County, according to her. She also noted that the percentage of positive tests at healthcare facilities in the area was now running at about the statewide average, and that there were currently more than 90 COVID-19 hospitalizations in county facilities.

“Things are not all well in our county,” Hudson remarked. “COVID-19 has gained and is continuing to gain footholds in our community.”

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She attributed this growth in cases to a lack of masking and social distancing.

Madison County enacted a mask mandate which went into effect Tuesday evening. This is a move that Hudson supports.

“Much asymptomatic transmission is likely going on,” she asserted.

With concerns about the number of available healthcare personnel, Hudson called for a renewed focus on precautionary measures.

“We have to flatten the curve again,” she said. “We have to cover our faces. We have to social distance at least six feet apart.”

Believing a COVID-19 vaccination is “months” away, Hudson remarked, “I would like to suggest we think about this masking and distancing as a temporary vaccination.”

RELATED: Dale Jackson: Either put the mask on for America, or donate to my GoFundMe and we’ll test the constitutionality of these mandatory mask rules

Also participating in the press conference, Madison Mayor Paul Finley expressed his desire to see a masking policy statewide.

“It would be much easier, statewide, if a mandate came out from the governor when it came to face coverings,” Finley outlined.

As for local enforcement of his area’s mandate, Finley sought to clarify his city’s role.

“We’re not out hunting folks who are not wearing masks,” he said. “We are there to support the community in moving forward. We are not out there as mask police. We are out there to try to help a community through this situation.”

Responding to a question asking whether the state should consider closing businesses again to stop the spread of COVID-19, Finley answered quickly, “I hope not.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 month ago

Status of thousands of airport and utility board employees back up in the air

(Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport/Facebook)

The legal battle over who is deemed a public employee under Alabama’s ethics law is not over, quite yet.

The Alabama Ethics Commission is asking for revisions to a court order issued earlier this month saying the Birmingham Airport Authority’s (BAA) employees are not considered public employees because they are not paid through tax dollars. BAA employee salaries come from user and landing fees paid by airlines, as well as rental and concession fees at the airport.

In its motion filed on Friday, the Ethics Commission requested Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid reconsider her order and redefine the type of funding which would exclude employees from certain Ethics Act requirements, such as filing annual income reports.

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In her order granting summary judgment for BAA, Reid outlined that “the funds used to pay [BAA] employees are self-generated revenues that are not derived from or linked to actual taxpayer contributions, and therefore those funds do not constitute ‘state, county or municipal funds’ as that phrase is used in the Ethics Act.”

The Ethics Commission is petitioning Reid to redefine airport revenue as money coming from “commercial arms-length transactions” rather than simply saying it does not come from taxpayer funds.

Mark White, an attorney representing BAA, believes any effort to clarify this particular provision of the ethics law would be thwarted by the commission’s proposed revisions to Reid’s order.

“Unfortunately, and for reasons unknown, the Ethics Commission is trying to change the facts and the law that resulted in Judge Reid’s order by simply ignoring both,” White told Yellowhammer News.

RELATED: Birmingham Airport Authority wins appeal of major ethics ruling

Nearly 40 utility boards from across the state filed briefs in the case supporting BAA’s position. It is estimated that the decision could affect thousands of people in Alabama who are employed by these entities in a wide variety of jobs.

BAA sought clarification more than a year ago out of fear that an employee who simply worked the jetway or on the tarmac at the airport could unknowingly be subject to Ethics Commission filing requirements.

It is unclear how the “commercial arms-length transaction” standard would impact employees of local utility boards which generate revenue from set rates.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Ethics Commission, explained in a statement to Yellowhammer News that the agency’s purpose in filing its most recent motion was for Reid to “clarify her previous order so that we can have clearer guidance moving forward in similar cases.”

A hearing on the matter is set for July 13.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Pioneering Alabama businessman Jimmy Pursell passes away

(@PursellFarms/Twitter, YHN)

Jimmy Pursell, known for his generous philanthropy and for building an East Alabama fertilizer company into a global industry leader, has died. He was 89.

Pursell passed away on Sunday, according to a message from Pursell Farms.

On behalf of his family, the East Alabama landmark he co-founded remarked, “Beloved family patriarch and Pursell Farms co-founder Jimmy Pursell, known to many as Mr. Jimmy, passed yesterday. He was dearly loved.”

Pursell’s life began on the land he and generations of his family would call home as the result of matchmaking by Sylacauga native and world-renown entertainer Jim Nabors.

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It was Nabors who introduced Pursell to his future wife based on some events that happened in a high school football game between Sylacauga and Pursell’s Talladega team. Pursell broke his leg his senior year of high school while playing at Sylacauga. The next day, Nabors organized a group to visit Pursell in the hospital, and a life-long friendship resulted.

While the men were in college, Nabors invited Pursell to a friend’s house in Sylacauga to see an electric razor, a brand new invention at the time. It was there that Pursell saw the razor and his future wife, Chris, who was a member of the Parker family.

After marrying Chris, Pursell joined the family business under Howard Arrington Parker’s tutelage. Sylacauga Fertilizer Company had been founded in 1904 and was a successful business when Pursell took over in the 1960s. However, with a technological innovation discovered under Pursell’s leadership, the company became a giant in the fertilizer industry.

The company developed and patented the POLYON fertilizer technology used to manufacture a coating for application to any type of fertilizer product. The thicker the coating, the longer the product would last with Pursell’s company developing different grades for different uses. Certain grades were developed for agriculture, others for tasks as sensitive as fertilizing golf course greens. The release technology allowed it to last anywhere from six weeks to one-and-a-half years.

In a conversation with Yellowhammer News last year, Pursell’s son, David, described the impact the innovation had on the fertilizer industry and agriculture and gardening consumers who relied upon it.

“It was kind of like rocket fuel compared to kerosene,” said David Pursell. “We’re from Sylacauga, Alabama. I can’t overemphasize that more. We were competing against public companies that were operating in foreign countries and whatever, and we were just Sylacauga. We only had one plant and it was right here in downtown Sylacauga.”

The company eventually moved its headquarters from downtown Sylacauga to the family property outside of town and onto the land that is now Pursell Farms.

RELATED: Pursell Farms — This family-owned business showcases the best of ‘Alabama The Beautiful’

Jimmy Pursell and his family sold the fertilizer company in 2006 and then began to operate one of the nation’s premier golf and vacation destinations on their East Alabama property.

Visitors to Pursell Farms are greeted by a message from Psalm 111, which reads, “Great are the works of the Lord. He has made His wonders to be remembered.”

About Jimmy Pursell, his family wrote, “He left behind the most incredible legacy and he will be missed dearly by family, friends and his extended Pursell Farms family.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Ranking Bama’s future non-conference games

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed, Ohio State University Football, Texas Football, Notre Dame Football, Florida State Seminoles Football, Oklahoma Football/Facebook, YHN)

With a keen eye toward an expanded college football playoff format, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide continues its effort to bulk up its non-conference schedule in future years.

The Tide announced Thursday that it has reached an agreement with the Ohio State Buckeyes to play a home-and-home series in 2027 and 2028.

There is now an impressive list of opponents packed into Alabama’s future schedules.

Some of these appointments have the potential to be quality wins for a playoff resume. Others could even end up being historic encounters about which college football fans talk for decades.

Overall, all of these games will add value to college football’s most enduring brand.

In this feature we set out to rank these games from worst to best taking into account tradition, location and the anticipated trajectory of the respective programs. Although the coaching profession is increasingly fluid, we even take a shot at projecting who will be facing off against Alabama head coach Nick Saban in some of these matchups.

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12. Virginia Tech

Years: 2034 and 2035

This game is the farthest out on the calendar, and it is also the least appetizing of the Tide’s future matchups. The program has some residual name identification from the height of the Frank Beamer era, even though it has resided in lower-tier bowls the past several seasons. A trip to Blacksburg is not high on anyone’s travel itinerary, and the area’s recruiting value is low.

11. Georgia Tech

Years: 2030 and 2031

The historic Yellow Jacket program has seen its peaks and valleys over the years. While the Atlanta area is essential recruiting territory in the SEC, exposure has never been a problem for the program, and Georgia Tech is not the Tide’s competition in the region. One bonus here is that Saban will not have to prepare for Paul Johnson’s wonky triple-option when this game gets played, as Johnson exited the program at the conclusion of the 2018 season. On his way out, Johnson bemoaned the school’s lack of commitment to football. There is no reason to believe that will change in the next decade.

10. Miami

Year: 2021

It has been nearly 20 years since the Hurricanes have breathed air thinned by altitude in the college football world. Head coach Manny Diaz is a popular figure in Miami, so he may enjoy some extended job security. This is a single-game being played in Atlanta and should serve as a little additional motivation during fall camp. Yet, this game should more closely resemble last season’s opening game against Duke than it will the iconic national championship game in New Orleans.

9. West Virginia

Years: 2026 and 2027

This could end up being a sneaky good series if Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown sticks around. The former Troy head coach is one of the game’s up-and-coming coaching talents. Expect success for Brown at West Virginia. This game is lower on the list because there is minimal recruiting value in West Virginia and getting to Morgantown is not easy, nor is the location great once you get there.

8. South Florida

Years: 2023, 2024 and 2026

Former Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott has taken over the program at USF and will likely face off against Saban in at least one or two of these games. Although a Group of Five program, the USF series sits at No. 8 on the list almost solely because of the recruiting possibilities in the Tampa market. With an ability to mine the area for some of the prospects left behind by Power Five programs, USF has traditionally fielded athletic, scrappy teams which could make for three surprisingly competitive games.

7. Arizona

Years: 2032 and 2033

Arizona has mastered mediocrity during the last two decades so this series may be slightly over-ranked. The Wildcats have averaged 5.6 wins per season during the last 20 years. But any time the Tide can parachute into PAC-12 recruiting territory and make a statement, it is a good thing. Plus, Tucson is a beautiful city to visit for the road game half of the series. Expectations should probably be tempered as to the quality of the games.

6. Wisconsin

Years: 2024 and 2025

Under no circumstances would a vacation to Madison, Wisconsin, sound enticing — except for a football game. Witnessing a game at Camp Randall Stadium is on the bucket list of many college football fans. That alone elevates interest in this series. The Badgers are never spectacular but reliably steady in the Big Ten. These are the kind of games which will keep Saban up at night even though the talent disparity will be significant.

5. Notre Dame

Years: 2028 and 2029

Storied programs. Enough history between them to fill up the Smithsonian. This series almost has a reenactment quality to it. If this list was simply ranked on brand names, it might be at the top. With an appearance in the college football playoff two years ago and a title game appearance against the Tide in 2013, the Irish have shown they still have a pretty high ceiling. It will be disappointing if this is not a pair of meaningful games when they are played. A trip to South Bend is another bucket list event.

4. Florida State

Years: 2025 and 2026

Playing a hunch here. We have a good feeling about the hire of head coach Mike Norvell as he enters his first season in Tallahassee. A prolific offensive coach, with the kind of energy and focus the program has lacked even before Jimbo Fisher left, Norvell has a lot of promise. Look for the Noles to dethrone Clemson in their own conference and pose a problem for out-of-conference opponents like Alabama. This is the kind of series that looks ordinary now but could boast one of the season’s biggest games five years from now.

3. Oklahoma

Years: 2032 and 2033

The Sooners sit eight games behind Alabama in the all-time program wins total. This series could be higher except Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley will probably be in the NFL by the time it kicks off. The teams also played a rather uneventful home-and-home series in the early 2000s and then got together in the college football playoff two seasons ago, which resulted in a Tide win. Oklahoma fans have the reputation of being among the best and most hospitable, and this game will be big no matter which decade it is played.

2. Texas

Years: 2022 and 2023

Texas and Alabama are tied for third in all-time wins at 916. A fun plot twist would be if two seasons from now they were playing to get a game up on one another. Chances are decent that Tom Herman will still be around to at least get the series started. The Big 12 is looking for someone — anyone — to supplant Alabama and the rest of the SEC. There are probably a lot of Longhorn boosters, fans and players who already have this game circled even this far out. Saban has prospered recruiting in Texas, and a win there would build on the program’s success. Throw in a trip to Austin, and this series is a can’t-miss.

1. Ohio State

Years: 2027 and 2028

Ohio State football seems as sure a thing as something could get outside of Tuscaloosa. An equally sure thing is the incredible hype that will accompany this series. Head coach Ryan Day just concluded his first season in Columbus after taking over for Urban Meyer. Look for Day’s tenure to be a long one. The Buckeye’s recruiting has continued at an elite level and the program will never lack for resources. It’s basically Bama-north. Games this huge render the recruiting impact and travel considerations nearly irrelevant. The television numbers for these games will challenge previous records.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Progress continues on Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, HPM managing construction

(Cooper Carry/Contributed, YHN)

Auburn University’s Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center took another step toward completion with the naming of Birmingham-based HPM as construction manager for the state-of-the-art facility.

HPM joins a project which will result in Auburn University having one of the most unique culinary and hospitality learning environments in the nation. In addition to classrooms and demonstration and food production laboratories, the complex will include a boutique luxury hotel, a restaurant and a food hall.

The desire to achieve AAA Five Diamond status afforded to elite hotels contributed to the selection of HPM as construction manager. HPM previously served as the owner’s representative during the construction of a $35 million AAA Five Diamond Hotel in Houston, Texas.

The Five Diamond designation is granted to less than half of 1% of the 27,000 hotels evaluated on an annual basis. Should Auburn University’s hotel achieve that status, it would be the only such experience for students in the country.

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Mike Lanier, president of HPM, believes his company’s blend of experience will help contribute to Auburn University becoming a national leader in culinary science.

“Our previous history in providing project management leadership on other high-profile hospitality and higher education initiatives made this an ideal fit for HPM,” he said in a release from the company. “We are honored to partner with Auburn University on building this one-of-a-kind facility, which serves as a forerunner that will inspire a new breed of food and beverage as well as hospitality-focused learning centers at college campuses across America.”

The project became a reality a little more than three years ago when Auburn Board of Trustees member and Great Southern Wood founder Jimmy Rane donated $12 million toward construction. The center is named in honor of his parents, Tony and Libba Rane.

Renown architectural firm Cooper Carry has performed the design work. With offices in Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C., the firm has designed over 35 new urban and suburban districts across the country. With the site’s downtown Auburn location, the design work required consideration of its urban planning impact.

RELATED: Jimmy Rane —- ‘I love Alabama, and I want to see it win every time’

Located at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street in downtown Auburn, the 142,000-square-foot complex will provide rare opportunities for students, teachers and guests.

“The potential impact is enormous,” remarked Frank Stitt, owner of the award-winning Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, prior to construction. “The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is going to be one of the most interesting and exciting culinary education centers in America, if not the world.”

With construction having started earlier this year, Lanier sees his firm adding value to the project in several areas.

“With so many moving parts and a variety of different work cultures, it’s imperative to have a seasoned owner’s representative that can quickly create and implement processes to keep things moving while maintaining cost efficiency for the university,” he stated. “We’re making steady progress on all fronts and look forward to the completion of construction next year.”

Founded in 1997, HPM provides comprehensive guidance to clients on the construction and development process and offers “a one-stop approach to complete program management and owner’s representation.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Birmingham Airport Authority wins appeal of major ethics ruling

(Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport/Facebook)

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) has won its appeal of a ruling by the Alabama Ethics Commission determining that BAA’s employees are considered public employees under Alabama’s ethics law.

As part of its appeal of the Ethics Commission’s 2019 ruling, BAA contended that because the salaries of its employees come from user and landing fees paid by airlines, as well as rental and concession fees at the airport, they do not fall within certain provisions of the Ethics Act.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Brooke Reid agreed and outlined in her order granting summary judgment for BAA that “the funds used to pay [BAA] employees are self-generated revenues that are not derived from or linked to actual taxpayer contributions, and therefore those funds do not constitute ‘state, county or municipal funds’ as that phrase is used in the Ethics Act.”

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Based upon that determination, Reid held that BAA employees are not “public employees” under the Ethics Act.

Mark White, an attorney representing BAA, asserts that the Ethics Commission’s interpretation of the law could have affected people working for many other utility boards and airport authorities around Alabama.

“This was going to create a mess for thousands and thousands of people working for these entities,” White told Yellowhammer News. “This was really an invasion of the private sector.”

Numerous requirements and restrictions accompany the designation as “public employees” for purposes of the ethics law, including the filing of annual statements of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

White cited the fact that an employee who simply worked the jetway or on the tarmac at the airport would unknowingly be subject to Ethics Commission filing requirements as an example of why the ruling by the regulatory body was problematic.

“Nobody is in favor unethical conduct,” he stated. “However, the average person should be able to know and tell if they are breaking the law. This is not possible if the Ethics Commission is arbitrary in its interpretation of the law.”

Reid’s interpretation of the law follows the precedent set by previous cases, according to White.

“These provisions are not new,” he stated. “It has always been interpreted this way.”

And he believes the Ethics Commission’s ruling from last year stood on “a novel argument.”

“It is difficult to know why that interpretation changed,” White remarked.

Several other airport authorities and utility boards from across the state filed briefs in support of BAA’s position, an act White called “very meaningful and helpful.” He said nearly 40 utility boards were represented by the supporting briefs.

Directors for each board are still considered public officials and required to comply with provisions of the Ethics Act. In addition, White is quick to point out that board members and employees remain subject to other parts of the Ethics Act, as well as the criminal code.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, said the agency has yet to determine its next course of action.

“We’re reviewing the order and have not yet decided whether we’ll appeal,” he stated to Yellowhammer News.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Jobs numbers show historic jump up, unemployment down

(WH/Flickr, UAH/Contributed, YHN)

The nation’s unemployment rate dropped in May, while Alabama saw its fewest unemployment claims in nearly three months.

The U.S. Department of Labor released it May jobs report on Friday. The report showed that the U.S. economy added 2.5 million jobs in May, a jump which amounted to the largest increase on record.

Meanwhile, the Alabama Department of Labor reported 20,786 unemployment claims had been filed for the week ending on May 30. This was the lowest number of claims filed in a week since early-March.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Governor Kay Ivey reacted to the latest jobs numbers by expressing her optimism for a strong economic recovery.

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“While the past few months have been difficult, our state and nation are beginning to bounce back,” Ivey said. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I have emphasized the need for us to strike a balance between protecting people’s personal health during this health crisis and their jobs – simply, you cannot have a life without livelihood. President Trump has provided solid leadership during a time that no one could have fully prepared for, and because of that, our nation is beginning to bounce back. He is charging the states with opening again in a smart and safe way, and we are doing just that in Alabama. We still have more work to do on both the health and economic sides, but we will exhaust all efforts to ensure Alabama is back on her feet.”

Citing states, like Alabama, which reopened their economies earlier this spring, U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia outlined his belief that conditions are now favorable for sustained growth.

“There is an opportunity to return millions upon millions [of people to work] in the next few weeks,” he told Fox News.

Scalia expects a full recovery to be well underway before the end of the year.

“I think we can make a lot of headway this year,” he remarked. “I think we can start now. We’re seeing it.”

The national unemployment rate dropped to 13.3% in May. Fox News reported that some economists had expected the unemployment rate to surge to nearly 20%. Construction, manufacturing, healthcare and retail all saw significant increases in employment last month, a sign that the economy could be rebounding more quickly than expected.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter early on Friday morning to share his thoughts.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Alabamians support NASA mission returning astronauts to space from American soil

(NASA)

As soon as NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifted off atop a SpaceX rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, reaction from all corners of Alabama was swift.

Saturday afternoon’s launch set forth the commercial crew era of U.S. human spaceflight, and significant support for the mission is taking place at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“What a great day for NASA, what a great day for SpaceX, and what a great day for the United States of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a Saturday evening press conference. “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and now we have done it again.”

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After the launch was scrubbed earlier in the week due to inclement weather, the NASA Marshall team prepared for the next launch window during the days in between.

Following the successful launch, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) congratulated Behnken and Hurley through a series of tweets, adding, “Success in space has always required close work between the private sector and NASA. I look forward to a regular tempo of crewed flights to the Space Station followed soon by flights of the Space Launch System program.”

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) sought to convey the historic nature of the launch.

“FANTASTIC for America!” were the words of Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05).

The spacecraft arrived to orbit and separation occurred about 12 minutes into the flight. The crew has spent several hours performing maneuvers to prepare for docking at the International Space Station on Sunday morning. Hatches should open and the crew will board the station sometime around 11:45 a.m. CST.

At the conclusion of their time on the International Space Station, Behnken and Hurley will depart aboard the spacecraft on their way to reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Targeted splashdown is off of Florida’s Atlantic coast.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

Dynetics finishes critical hardware for NASA’s Space Launch System

(Dynetics/Twitter)

Huntsville-based Dynetics has finished a critical hardware component for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).

As part of its effort to build the Universal Stage Adapter (USA) for SLS, the Dynetics/RUAG Space USA team recently completed the USA composite panel Manufacturing Test Demonstrator (MTD), according to a release from Dynetics.

The MTD is a full size USA panel, representing one of four panels that comprise a complete USA. The company noted that the demonstration panel is a significant step toward building the USA flight hardware at the Dynetics and RUAG facilities in Decatur.

“Our team has worked with the RUAG team to complete this MTD panel that will be used to validate manufacturing, handling and testing aspects of the design before steaming ahead to manufacture the flight hardware,” said Robert Wright, Dynetics’ USA project manager. “This panel is a result of our teams working closely with NASA to reach a high fidelity design baseline well ahead of the USA Critical Design Review, allowing us to purchase the long-lead bonding mold required to make full scale USA composite panels.”

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SLS will be the rocket that launches America’s next lunar mission planned for 2024 and 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.

A key piece of hardware for SLS, USA will measure 32.4 feet tall and 27.6 feet in diameter at its largest point.

The company outlined that once RUAG has completed the panel manufacturing demonstrations, Dynetics will begin system assembly manufacturing demonstrations. The final USA demonstration will take place at the Dynetics Aerospace Complex and involve a full length, vertical bonded joint.

“The vertical bonded joint technology allows the team to eliminate splice plates and fasteners that are typically used in composite joints,” said Wright. “This results in lower mass for the USA and improved payload lift capability for the SLS rocket.”

RELATED: Watch — Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft prepped for final phase of testing

Following completion of the MTD operations at the Decatur facilities, the team will begin working at Marshall’s test stands to perform full-scale damage tolerance testing.

NASA announced last week that it has resumed Green Run testing of SLS’s core stage, an essential step toward the rocket’s completion.

“Green Run is the step-by-step testing and analysis of the new SLS rocket core stage that will send astronauts to the Moon,” said Richard Sheppard, the SLS Stages Green Run Test Lead from Marshall Space Flight Center. “This testing will reduce risks for, not only the first flight, but also for the Artemis mission that will land astronauts on the Moon in 2024.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 months ago

South Alabama football schedules series with Ole Miss

(Wikicommons, YHN)

The fewer than 300 miles between Mobile and Oxford will become familiar territory for fans of the University of South Alabama Jaguars and the Ole Miss Rebels later this decade.

The two schools have reached an agreement for their football teams to play a home-and-home series in 2028 and 2029, according to a release from the Jaguar athletic department.

“We are very excited to sign this home-and-home contract with Ole Miss,” Jag head coach Steve Campbell said. “They have a proud program and tradition, it will be great to have them play in Hancock Whitney Stadium; hopefully they will be the first of many Power Five schools to make that trip to play here in Mobile. Mississippi has been very good for us as far as recruiting, we have brought in a lot of talented student-athletes from the state, I know it will be exciting for those future recruits to play Ole Miss.”

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The teams will kick off the series in Oxford on September 2, 2028, with a return trip to Hancock Whitney Stadium set for September 1, 2029.

A visit from the Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2014 was the last time the Jags squared off against an SEC team at home. The Jags last played the three-time national champion Rebels in Oxford in 2017, a game the home team won 47-27.

The Jags will also face Florida in 2020, Tennessee in 2021, LSU in 2024, Auburn in 2025 and Kentucky in 2026.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Crimson Tide solidifies home-and-home series with Pac-12 opponent

(AlabamaFTBL/Twitter, YHN)

While questions linger about the Alabama Crimson Tide’s out-of-conference game with a Pac-12 opponent this season, the University of Alabama athletic department announced it has added a home-and-home series with the Arizona Wildcats for the 2032 and 2033 football seasons.

“We are excited to announce another home-and-home for our future football schedules with the addition of Arizona for the 2032 and 2033 seasons,” said Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne in a release from his department. “These meetings will be the first between the Crimson Tide and Wildcats, providing our teams and our fan bases exciting new opportunities during the regular season. As I said early on, we are going to work hard at adding more home-and-homes to our non-conference schedules, and we are pleased that we’ve been able to do that, securing nine of them thus far that will begin in 2022 with Texas.”

The Wildcats come to Tuscaloosa on Sept. 4, 2032, with the Crimson Tide heading west to Tucson on Sept. 3, 2033.

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban sees the series following in the pattern of top-tier competition for his program.

“The addition of Arizona is another example of the commitment our administration has to creating outstanding schedules for many years to come,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Arizona is a tremendous football program and the opportunity to play this type of competition only makes our program stronger while providing a lot of excitement for both fan bases.”

Earlier this year, Saban reached yet another astonishing milestone when he became the first head coach to have players at all 22 positions drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

As for this season’s Pac-12 opponent, the Crimson Tide and the rest of the college football world await decisions from West Coast schools on when, and if, they plan to start the season as they deal with COVID-19. The Crimson Tide are scheduled to open against USC on September 5 in Arlington, Texas.

RELATED: California shouldn’t tell Bama, Auburn if they get to play football

One national pundit based in Los Angeles has reported the game will not be played. Paul Finebaum has reported that Alabama is exploring options with other opponents for the same weekend in the event USC is unable to play.

Mike Bohn, USC’s director of athletics, has said the school has “every intention” of playing the game. Bohn is scheduled to appear on Finebaum’s radio show on Thursday afternoon.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Reed, Woodfin highlight small business relief efforts in their cities

(Mayor Steven L. Reed, Randall Woodfin/Facebook, YHN)

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin outlined their cities’ respective efforts to aid small businesses during a regional teleconference Wednesday night.

Hosted by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the teleconference included numerous black leaders from across the Southeast.

SBA regional administrator Ashley Bell, an Entrepreneurship Policy Advisor for the White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council, noted that “the clock is ticking before the lights go out” on many minority-owned small businesses suffering as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Woodfin pointed out that, in his city, “90% of our businesses only had 14 days of cash buffer in the bank prior to COVID-19.”

He assessed the situation as critical.

“Our small businesses are struggling, have been struggling,” Woodfin remarked. “Many will be forced to close if we did not do anything locally. There was no cavalry coming.”

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To begin providing assistance, the City of Birmingham formed a public-private partnership called #BhamStrong. Under the program, contributions from the private sector helped to form a $2.4 million pool of funds from which small businesses could pull for relief.

Woodfin said the program has provided 90 businesses with low-interest loans for six-month periods. Out of those, 51% are minority-owned and 41% are owned by women, according to him.

The city has also formed a partnership with Hope Credit Union and Goldman Sachs to facilitate access to SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Woodfin said the partnership has served 52 Birmingham businesses.

RELATED: #BhamStrong expands small business relief through partnerships with Goldman Sachs, Hope Credit Union

“Our whole goal is very simple, we have to do everything we can to invest in and protect black businesses in our community,” Woodfin said.

In Montgomery, Reed said some of the shortfalls of PPP have led the city to establish some of its own programs for small business relief.

“What we’ve done here in Montgomery is we’ve developed economic and community impact task forces to really look at not only the financial but the socioeconomic impact of this pandemic on our city and look at ways we can restore Montgomery’s vibrant economy and help those who are most impacted,” he stated.

Among the community programs the city of Montgomery has undertaken are free mask giveaways and testing partnerships with Hyundai and Alabama State University.

Reed, a member of the board of advisors at a regional bank, mentioned that he and his team have performed significant outreach to the private sector to encourage their involvement in assisting small businesses.

“We’ve challenged our bankers to really look at those disadvantaged businesses, look at the high-need communities and those entities that are serving in those areas that did not have access to some of the traditional loans and see if we can help them,” he explained. “We have had tremendous success in doing that.”

Guidance on how to navigate what can be an overwhelming process is an additional resource the city is helping to provide, according to Reed.

“We have also established an opportunity with our chamber of commerce by pulling together trained professionals that are doing an initial triage, consultation over the phone with business owners,” he explained. “When necessary they are scheduling follow-up appointments to assist these business owners in how to get their documents before the financial institutions. What information do they need that they don’t have right now and how to connect these dots for them.”

Coming soon will be a local fund from which Montgomery small businesses can gain access to resources.

Reed outlined that the hub the city has set up for all of the relevant information is MGMReady.com and that his work on behalf of his city’s small businesses will continue in the coming weeks and months.

“We know that help is still needed,” Reed concluded. “This shortfall impacts those entrepreneurs, workers and small businesses. So while national retailers and chains might be able to rebound, for businesses in Montgomery, we know that is not always the case. So we are always looking for good ideas that we can implement.”

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Relief available for Spire small business customers

(Alabama Retail Association/Facebook, YHN)

One of Alabama’s natural gas utilities is seeking to help small business customers get back on their feet.

Spire has created a fund to provide relief on bills for small businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 closures. Under the program, eligible businesses may receive up to $200 in grant money through the program.

Customers can apply through the company’s website.

Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh believes the program is one of many which can provide an added boost to the state’s small businesses.

“We need to do whatever we can to help small businesses,” she told Yellowhammer News. “Programs like Spire’s will give Alabama’s small businesses the relief they need until they get fully back on their feet. The quicker we can get the small business sector moving at full speed, the faster our economy will recover.”

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Cavanaugh, whose commission regulates Spire, pointed out that grants continue to be available.

“There is still plenty of money remaining in this relief fund, so I would encourage everyone not to be shy and apply immediately,” she said. “Alabama’s entrepreneurs are at the heart of our economy. It’s encouraging to see companies such as Spire stepping up to do their part to help them.”

On the front end of the application process, small business customers with active gas service through Spire during the last six months will need to show a loss in revenue month over month due to COVID-19 closure, a valid business status through either the Alabama Secretary of State’s Office or the Better Business Bureau and that they are locally-owned and not a franchise.

Spire committed in April to provide $500,000 in matching funds as part of its DollarHelp program for customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Spire originally created the DollarHelp program in 1982 to assist limited-income customers in the communities it serves. Now managed through the United Way, DollarHelp allows Spire customers to donate $1, monthly, to help other customers in need of assistance with their natural gas bills.

Spire began on April 16 matching the expected first-year contributions of new and increased pledges, dollar for dollar, up to $500,000.

“With these new challenges, come new opportunities – new opportunities to help and engage with our customers on an even deeper level,” said Suzanne Sitherwood, Spire CEO, in a release from the company.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Video: ULA launches Boeing’s secretive space plane back to orbit

(United Launch Alliance/Flickr)

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the secretive Boeing X-37B space plane back to orbit on Sunday.

The mission, conducted on behalf of the U.S. Space Force, marked X-37B’s sixth trip to space and the fifth time it was delivered by ULA. For this mission, ULA employed its Atlas V 501 rocket built at the company’s 1.6 million square foot facility in Decatur.

Watch:

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Launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this was ULA’s second mission for the U.S. Space Force. The company previously completed the newly-formed space agency’s first national security space mission in March.

RELATED: U.S. Space Force makes powerful recruiting pitch

The X-37B is an autonomous, reusable spacecraft built by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force. It is designed to operate in low-earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth.

Although part of a classified program, the X-37B has been more visible to the public lately. Two different X-37B vehicles have been built.

What started out as a program featuring short trips to and from space has turned into long missions.

“Each flight has been successively longer in setting a record for duration,” Boeing’s Jim Chilton recently outlined. “The last flight was 780 days, start to finish. If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and a billion miles. So a lot of traveling by this machine. It has hosted a wide-variety of experiments and kind of advanced the state-of-the-art in both reusable vehicles and the experiments you can host.”

In 2012, the U.S. Air Force released footage of the vehicle returning from its second mission.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

SBA releases loan forgiveness applications for Paycheck Protection Program

(SBA/Twitter)

The Small Business Administration (SBA) released an application and guidelines for businesses seeking forgiveness on loans they obtained as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

SBA plans to release additional regulations and guidance to assist borrowers and lenders during the forgiveness application process, according to a release from the agency.

Businesses can access the current application and instructions online through SBA.

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The forgiveness application process is an essential next step for Alabama small businesses and the state’s banking industry, which helped facilitate the loans.

“With the release of guidance on Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, small business owners are one step closer to realizing the greatest benefit of the stimulus program designed to provide relief from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Scott Latham, president and CEO of the Alabama Bankers Association, in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Just as in the initial phase of PPP, Alabama banks stand ready to help small business owners through the forgiveness process and to further partner in working to reignite our state’s economy.”

The National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB) is holding a special webinar on Tuesday, May 20, to advise small businesses on the loan forgiveness process. Those interested in participating can register through the NFIB site.

The second round of PPP funding has brought more than $1.5 billion in relief to Alabama small businesses.

A report in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday noted that lawmakers expect to revise PPP to provide more flexibility in how the funds may be spent. Under the original terms, businesses are required to spend at least 75% of the loans on payroll. However, some businesses with higher overhead costs, such as restaurants and hair salons, have struggled to make PPP funding work for their operations.

It is also expected that changes will include extending the time to use the funding beyond the terms currently required by the program.

The form and instructions from SBA include several measures to reduce compliance burdens and simplify the process for borrowers, including:

Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles.

Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan.

Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness.

Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30.

Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

Boeing’s classified X-37B payload for ULA’s most recent U.S. Space Force launch

(Boeing Space/Twitter)

Three minutes and 40 seconds into Sunday’s mission carried out by United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Alabama-built Atlas V rocket, the payload fairings jettisoned on schedule, introducing Boeing’s cutting-edge space vehicle to space for the sixth time.

The X-37B is a reusable spacecraft built by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force. Although part of a classified program, the X-37B has been more visible to the public lately. Two different X-37B vehicles have been built. The most recent launch was the fifth time ULA has powered X-37B into space.

During a pre-launch interview, Boeing’s Jim Chilton provided an understated summary of the vehicle’s characteristics.

“X-37B is a really interesting machine,” he remarked.

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X-37B is a reusable, autonomous space plane. It is designed to operate in low-earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth.

“It can be rapidly reconfigured to host a wide-variety of experiments, and it can take off from standard launch pads in standard rockets, under fairings,” explained Chilton. “And it can land autonomously through public air space. You add all that up, and there is a lot of innovation in this machine.”

What started out as a program featuring short trips to and from space has turned into long missions.

“Each flight has been successively longer in setting a record for duration,” Chilton outlined. “The last flight was 780 days, start to finish. If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and a billion miles. So a lot of traveling by this machine. It has hosted a wide-variety of experiments and kind of advanced the state-of-the-art in both reusable vehicles and the experiments you can host.”

This most recent U.S. Space Force mission, ULA’s second for the newly-formed agency, brought something new for the X-37B.

RELATED: ULA successfully launches its second U.S. Space Force mission

“This mission is really interesting in that it is the first time we have flown the service module,” said Chilton. “The service module extends the vehicle capability. We can host more payloads that way. So this is the most we have ever carried on X-37B.”

Boeing is utilizing the features of the service module to facilitate research at one of the nation’s service academies.

“One of the things we are carrying on the service module, which can release independent satellites, is a satellite designed and built by the cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy,” Chilton detailed. “They built it, we’ll release it, and they’ll get a lot of learning out of that, a lot of science.”

The Naval Research Lab has placed an experiment onboard X-37B which will turn solar energy into RF energy and attempt to beam it back to Earth.

“Very early research kind of project, but long term great potential,” Chilton said of the experiment. “Very exciting and the kind of thing this machine was built to do.”

X-37B can exercise some agility unavailable to other space vehicles, and this opens up another range of experiments.

One of those Chilton pointed to on this mission was a NASA experiment gauging the effects of radiation on seeds in space previously conducted on the space station.

“X-37B can go some places the station doesn’t go, collect different kind of radiation, and our payload bay can be different kind shielding, so they’ll get more data to complete their study,” he noted.

Although only a quarter of its size, the similarities of X-37B to the space shuttle are obvious to the eye.

“You could say the X-37B stands on the shoulders of the space shuttle,” Chilton recognized. “An interesting fact a lot of people don’t know is we modified the orbiter processing facilities. The actual hangars the space shuttle flew in and out of are the homes of the X-37B.”

Its autonomous capabilities, flight duration and an ability to more rapidly reconfigure are some of the ways in which X-37B sets itself apart, according to Chilton.

“Frankly, the challenge of coming down through public air space without crew has been proven to work well,” he noted. “A difference is also the duration which the X-37B can fly. Our last mission was 780 days, and that’s just a lot longer than a shuttle could stay aloft.”

RELATED: U.S. Space Force makes powerful recruiting pitch

Chilton sees X-37B continuing to bring value to the nation’s efforts in space.

“The flexibility this offers the U.S. Space Force to advance the whole ecosystem, all of industry, the government research labs is terrific,” he concluded.

Watch U.S. Air Force footage of X-37B’s return to Earth from its second flight in 2012:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 months ago

ULA successfully launches its second U.S. Space Force mission

(ULA/Twitter)

Alabama’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the USSF-7 mission Sunday morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

This was ULA’s second mission for the U.S. Space Force. The Alabama rocket builder previously completed the newly-formed space agency’s first national security space mission in March.

Built at ULA’s 1.6 million square foot plant in Decatur, the Atlas V 501 rocket lifted off at 9:14 a.m. EST carrying a full payload, including Boeing’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6).

This is the sixth flight of the Orbital Test Vehicle, an autonomous space vehicle capable of spending long periods of time in space. ULA has carried four previous Orbital Test Vehicles to orbit.

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“The success of this mission resulted from collaboration with our customer while working through challenging, and ever changing, health and safety conditions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs in a statement from the company. “We were honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force to dedicate this mission to first responders, front-line workers, and those affected by COVID-19. It is truly a unique time in our history and I want to thank the entire team for their continued dedication and focus on mission success.”

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In congratulating the launch participants, Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett cited the mission as “[a] prime example of government-industry partnerships enhancing National Security Space.”

Riding along with OTV-6 is FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy. The mission also carries NASA experiments, including one to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials and another to assess space effects on seeds used to grow food.

This was ULA’s 139th mission, during which it has enjoyed a 100% success rate. It was the 84th for an Atlas V rocket and the seventh in the 501 configuration.

Watch the Atlas V at the moment of liftoff:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia