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.

2 days ago

Alabama-made ULA rocket powers another GPS satellite into orbit

(ULA/Twitter)

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) conducted its 135th mission Thursday morning when it powered yet another Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite into its targeted orbit.

The GPS III Magellan, built by Lockheed Martin, will enable the U.S. Air Force to continue modernizing the nation’s worldwide navigation network with improved accuracy, better anti-jam resiliency and a new signal for civil users.

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GPS satellites are frequent payload into space. Today’s launch was the 73rd GPS payload powered by ULA.

Of the 81 Air Force satellites in orbit, 34 are GPS satellites.

This fact recently led former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

This was the final flight for ULA’s Delta IV Medium rocket. The powerful Delta IV Heavy, with its three common booster cores, will continue to fly U.S. government missions.

The Delta IV’s main engine, manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, consumed nearly a ton of fuel per second as it pushed the rocket in flight.

ULA’s 1.6 million square-foot manufacturing facility in Decatur is the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Watch the launch:

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

USDA invests $10 million to improve water infrastructure for rural Alabama

(C. Beeker/Contributed, Wikicommons, YHN)

Some rural areas of Alabama are set to receive more than $10 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture investments for water infrastructure projects, according to a release last week from the agency.

Chris Beeker, state director for USDA rural development, announced the agency will fund three projects to improve rural water infrastructure in Alabama.

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“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA continues to partner with rural communities to address their current and long-term water needs,” Beeker said. “This is great news for rural Alabama. Modernizing water infrastructure will yield key health benefits and help spur economic growth – making our rural communities even more attractive to live and work. When Rural America Thrives, All of America Thrives.”

Rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents are eligible to receive funding for projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. These communities may devote the funds to drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems.

This round of projects includes:

• The Utilities Board of the City of Opp will use a $3,289,000 loan to upgrade a water system installed in the mid-1900s.

• St. Elmo-Irvington Water Authority will use a $3,777,000 loan to upgrade aging wells and insufficient mains at its treatment facility.

• New London Water, Sewer, and Fire Protection Authority will use a $3,294,000 loan and a $552,000 grant to construct an additional well and upgrade water lines.

Increased investment in rural infrastructure was among the key recommendations to President Donald Trump by his Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.

Earlier this year, Beeker announced that Alabama would be at the forefront of USDA’s rural broadband initiative. He called it a “game-changing” investment for the state.

USDA plans to make additional water infrastructure funding announcements in the coming weeks. The agency has set up an online application tool at RD Apply for interested parties.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

2 weeks ago

Alabama’s ULA powers latest Air Force satellite into space

(ULA/Twitter, YHN)

Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the fifth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF5) satellite into orbit. The latest in U.S. Air Force satellite technology, AEHF5 provides high-tech global communications for American warfighters.

The launch was powered by ULA’s Atlas V rocket assembled at its Decatur manufacturing plant. ULA’s 1.6 million square foot Decatur plant is the largest such facility in the western hemisphere.

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The rocket powering AEHF5 into orbit left Decatur on the Mariner cargo ship on April 13 for its journey to Cape Canaveral, Florida, site of this morning’s launch.

ULA rockets have now carried all five 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, AEHF5 will allow the Air Force to improve “global, survivable, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters.”

The Atlas V, which lifted off Thursday morning, is the most powerful of the Atlas V fleet, producing more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust.

Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured five solid rocket boosters for this Atlas V.

The Air Force plans to launch a sixth AEHF satellite next year.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

3 weeks ago

Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority joins quest for clarification of state ethics law

(Pixabay, YHN)

Nearly eight months of uncertainty for one group seeking guidance on the state’s ethics laws could finally come to an end on Wednesday. This action may come to a head as another one of the important parts of Alabama’s economic engine joins the quest to gain an understanding of how its employees and board members should handle certain aspects of state law.

The Birmingham Airport Authority (BAA) originally submitted a request for an advisory opinion to the Alabama Ethics Commission back in January. It has since been a roller coaster ride for the group, which originally sought guidance based on the advice of the agency itself.

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At the commission’s April meeting, Mark White, attorney for BAA, told the panel exactly how his client came to formulate its request.

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

And, now, the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority (HMCAA) has joined in the effort to get answers from the agency charged with issuing opinions on Alabama’s ethics statute.

As governing bodies for two of Alabama’s largest airports, the authorities serve an important function in the state’s overall economic development strategy.

As a result, maintaining highly-qualified boards and workforces will always be priorities for the groups. Receiving clarity on several issues they have encountered under Alabama’s ethics laws will go a long way toward that effort.

In question, among several points of law, is whether individual board members of the organization must file quarterly reports and whether board members and employees of the groups are considered public employees.

Tom Albritton, executive director of the Alabama Ethics Commission, told Yellowhammer News, “We’ll address these issues at our meeting tomorrow (Wednesday).”

After filing its request at the start of the year, the commission granted an audience to BAA at its April meeting. The request was then carried over until June. The commission failed to act at its June meeting, as well, after considering whether to turn over some aspects of its interpreting authority to the attorney general.

Read the entirety of HMCAA and BAA’s requests:

Alabama Ethics Commission BHM Airport Authority by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

BAA Request for Opinion 7-31-2019 by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

4 weeks ago

Alabama rocket CEO and former Air Force leader warn of fierce competition for space

(ULA/Contributed, U.S. AF/Contributed, YHN)

A skyward glance on a clear night for most people means a glimpse toward a place with actual peace and quiet, a place free from the type of conflict and demonstrations of force arising frequently around the globe.

Looks can be deceiving, though, according to two experts who spoke at last week’s Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of Alabama rocket builder United Launch Alliance (ULA), and former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson both concluded that the sought-after edge in modern warfare has driven a frenetic race among nations to control space.

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Appearing with Bruno on a panel at the event hosted by the Aspen Institute, Wilson emphasized that America’s national security has become dependent on the use of satellites given the advanced technology of warfare.

“The United States is the best in the world at space – and our adversaries know it,” pronounced Wilson.

Which is why our nation’s foreign adversaries are working to deny America the use of space.

She said China and Russia have been “developing the capability” to interfere with or destroy American military satellites “in order to influence military operations on the ground.”

The potential for interference has sharpened the military’s approach to protecting the nation’s interests in space.

“Our responsibility is to look at the threat, to develop the strategies and the programs to be able to prevail should war extend to space,” Wilson outlined.

Bruno sees access to space as essential for the country to maintain its position of strength.

“We have the most capable space assets in the world,” he said. “We have the most capable and powerful military in the world.”

Bruno pointed out that while the U.S. military is not the largest in the world, “it is the most capable because it is enabled by space.”

He said other nations seeking to weaken the U.S. military are attempting to take space away because that is a far easier approach than conventional warfare.

“We have not recognized that threat until recently and so we are far behind countering that threat,” he warned. “We will catch up. This country has the most capable technological workforce in military on this planet. We absolutely will prevail but right now we are behind in the race, and it’s going to take some serious and hard work to fix that.”

As an example of ways other countries are developing strategies to interfere with satellite technology, Wilson drew attention to China’s launch of a missile the size of a telephone pole to destroy a dead weather satellite and Russia’s launch of a maintenance satellite with a grappling arm. Wilson wondered aloud why Russia would need a satellite equipped with such a device in the absence of any Russian satellites requiring maintenance. In addition to China and Russia, she identified India as a country capable of interfering with satellite functions.

What’s at stake?

The Air Force has 80 satellites in use, the Navy has 13 and the National Reconnoissance Office has 40 — the smallest the size of a toaster and the biggest the size of a school bus.

Of the 80 Air Force satellites on orbit, 33 are Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites, a fact which allowed Wilson to quip, “The blue dot on your phone is not provided by your cellphone company; it comes from the United States Air Force.”

She elaborated that the Air Force provides GPS coordinates for about 1 billion people every day and enables an $80 billion piece of our economy. With its satellites, the Air Force takes pictures, gathers intelligence, facilitates global communication, monitors weather and conducts the critical task of providing timing signals for the New York Stock Exchange and every ATM in America.

As part of intelligence gathering, satellites provide missile warnings. When North Korea launches a missile, American satellites gather the intel. Wilson informed that the satellites stare at the earth and use infrared technology to identify the hot plumes of gas that come from the end of rockets and then calculate the trajectory and warn the national command authority.

Wilson believes the importance of these activities raises some critical questions moving forward.

“What are the capabilities that we need to have in crisis or war?” she asked. “How will we think about interference with commercial assets on orbit, in particular? Is there more to do? You bet. Particularly when it comes to changing the culture of the institution of space warfighters. From providing a service…to being and thinking like warfighters.”

Having so much at stake will also require drawing a hard line for those seeking to harm American interests, according to Wilson.

“We need to let our adversaries know that there will be consequences for interfering with our satellites in time of crisis,” she said.

What’s next?

Wilson and Bruno recognized the continued building of assets in space as valuable to American interests.

However, based on his expertise as a launch provider, Bruno shared the difficulty that comes with making that happen.

“It is a narrow highway to space,” he said. “So all of those critical assets have to get there on top of a space launch vehicle – which is in itself a technological marvel. A 30-story building that blasts itself into space with an incredibly delicate space craft on top.”

He sees ULA’s participation in the Air Force’s national security launch program, a program to develop new and innovative rockets, as helping to bolster the nation’s space assets.

“We will have access to space that is so much more agile, so much more flexible,” he remarked.

He considers it a program designed to confront “the tremendous strategic challenge of a contested environment in space.”

This is the same program numerous members of Alabama’s congressional delegation have fought to preserve. ULA was one of three companies awarded contracts as part of the public-private partnership.

An effort popped up in Congress to scrap the program in order to allow companies who lost out in the first round of awards to get a second bite at the apple.

Bruno’s view is that opening the process back up to companies who failed to win an award in the first go-round would run counter to the spirit of the competitive process.

“It’s not competition if everybody gets an award,” he remarked.

In the meantime, Bruno expressed excitement for his company’s progress on the new rocket, including the start of fabrication.

And Wilson observes significant progress with how the nation’s leaders have reacted to the competition for space.

She recalled crafting an opening statement for her confirmation hearing which had ‘space’ and ‘warfighting’ in the same sentence. While reviewing it with an Obama administration holdover, the official proceeded to strike it out based upon the policy that those two subjects should not be discussed together. According to Wilson, she told them, “‘You’ll have to get somebody more senior to tell me to take it out.'”

Having left her post as secretary on May 31, Wilson will assume the president’s office at the University of Texas at El Paso on August 15.

She leaves feeling confident in the direction of America’s national security space program in the face of ever-increasing competition.

“We have come a long way in talking about the threats that are there and the things that we need to do about them,” she concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

Huntsville’s iCubate announces FDA clearance for innovative bloodstream infection testing

(iCubate/Facebook, YHN)

A Huntsville biotech company announced that it has obtained U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance to provide clinical laboratories with an innovative testing system for bloodstream infections and sepsis.

iCubate has obtained clearance for its iC-GN Assay which is a diagnostic test for the detection and identification of potentially pathogenic gram-negative bacteria which are associated with bloodstream infection and subsequent sepsis.

According to statistics provided by iCubate, bloodstream infections and subsequent sepsis are associated with high mortality rates that occur frequently in critically-ill, hospitalized patients, with sepsis being the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and responsible for more than $16 billion in direct healthcare costs annually.

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Carter Wells, iCubate CEO, believes the FDA’s clearance will allow his company to help enhance patient care.

“iCubate is proud to join the fight against this unpredictable and deadly condition,” Wells outlined in a statement. “With the ability to provide reliable and cost-effective assays for detecting BSI to laboratories of any size, we are confident that iCubate will add value for health care providers to improve patient outcomes.”

The iC-GN Assay is the final component of iCubate’s comprehensive system for detecting bloodstream infection. The iC-GN Assay also detects important gene markers specific to antibiotic resistance. Results can provide information that can inform healthcare professionals of the appropriate antimicrobial therapy with the goal being better patient care and shorter hospital stays.

The company highlighted the fact that the iC-GN Assay only requires three minutes of hands-on time as well as its ability to detect 11 targets in a single sample.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

1 month ago

VIDEO: Massive Space Launch System test tank lifted in place at Marshall Space Flight Center

(NASA/Youtube)

NASA started the final stages of testing earlier this month for Space Launch System (SLS), which will be the rocket that propels America’s next mission to the moon.

When completed, SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built and the only one powerful enough to carry the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon in one launch.

According to NASA, the test tank is identical to the flight version of the fuel tank which holds 196,000 gallons of cryogenic liquid oxygen.

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NASA and Boeing have worked to assemble SLS components at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. The test tank was delivered to Huntsville from New Orleans aboard NASA’s Pegasus barge on July 9.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) highlighted the importance of SLS within America’s space program earlier this year when he told a NASA official, “What’s important is to build that rocket and build it right.”

A time-lapse video provided by NASA shows a team of engineers working with a heavy-duty crane to carefully guide the test tank into place at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Watch:

2 months ago

Hooper: Alabama ‘at the top of the list’ for National Republican Senatorial Committee

(Perry Hooper, Jr./Contributed)

A pair of Alabama Republicans spent some quality time with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) last week and, in the process, gained some insight into the native Alabamian’s view of the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Paul Wellborn, chairman, president and CEO of Wellborn Cabinet, Inc., and Trump Finance Committee member Perry O. Hooper, Jr. met with McConnell at an event held at McConnell’s Washington, D.C. townhouse.

Hooper shared with Yellowhammer News some details of their conversation with McConnell.

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This was Hooper’s first encounter with Kentucky’s senior senator, and he left impressed.

“It was a good meeting, a productive meeting and very informative,” Hooper explained. “I’m very close to the president’s family but this was the first time I have ever met the majority leader. He’s a great guy. I don’t think he gets enough credit for the great things.”

Being from the Florence, Alabama area, McConnell has a special affinity for the Yellowhammer State, according to Hooper, and this has had an impact on his view of the campaign landscape.

“He loves the state of Alabama, and he doesn’t want to get caught up in all the craziness that happened last time,” he said. “He loves this state and he was thrilled to see that Roy Moore’s numbers had dropped in the last poll to about 13%. It’s not like he doesn’t like Roy Moore, he simply wants someone who can win and beat Doug Jones.”

For his part, Hooper says he offered McConnell his own assessment of the race and the candidates.

“Bradley Byrne is a very good friend,” he said. “When my dad passed away, he took a moment of silence on the House floor and praised my dad in front of the United States Congress.”

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) was one of two candidates about whom Hooper says he spoke with McConnell.

“I talked about him and I talked to him about Tommy [Tuberville],” said Hooper. “What’s going to appeal to people about Tommy is that he is an outsider. He would do a great job, as well. In my opinion, either one of them could beat Doug Jones. John Merrill is a friend of mine but his name didn’t come up.”

Reminding the majority leader of the state’s political and cultural interests was part of Hooper’s assessment.

“I told him, ‘Majority Leader, one thing about Alabama, every poll shows that the favorability of Donald J. Trump is so high it falls off the table,” he reinforced to McConnell. “So Alabama is all about Donald J. Trump and SEC college football. So that’s what makes Tommy Tuberville so popular.’”

And he says he offered an honest evaluation of what he believes are the strengths and weaknesses of each.

“I talked about ‘Fear the Thumb’ and how that could be a concern for Tommy,” Hooper said. “But I think in one of those polls when people were asked if they were for Alabama they said it didn’t have a negative impact on Tommy. I told [McConnell] that funny thing Tommy did with [Paul] Finebaum about how he’s the reason they hired the greatest coach in America, and the majority leader busted out laughing on that one.”

“I did tell them, ‘Both of them are good guys and I love them both but Tommy has $10 million worth of name ID and he hasn’t spent a cent,'” Hooper emphasized. “Bradley is from way down there in south Alabama and it’s hard to win from down there. The subject did come up about Bradley having been such a great Congressman, why doesn’t he stay in the seat and pursue a leadership position in the House. I hate to lose him in the House.”

Republicans in Washington faced criticism for intervening in the Republican primary during the 2017 special election. However, according to Hooper, they may engage again if one particular candidate gains momentum.

“They told me they were definitely going to get involved if Roy Moore’s numbers got into the 20s or 30s or whatever,” he explained. “They don’t want to go through this same process again and lose. The seat is extremely important to keeping the majority.”

Hooper made sure to highlight where the state stands in the pecking order of states where Senate Republicans say they want to win.

“Alabama is with two or three other states at the top of the list,” he conveyed.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Birmingham’s HPM hires industry vet as company focuses on nationwide expansion

(HPM/Contributed, PIcryl, YHN)

As part of its commitment to growing its business in national markets, a Birmingham program management company has hired an industry veteran to a newly-created position. Hoar Program Management (HPM) has hired Derek McSween as the company’s first senior program development manager, according to a release from the company.

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.”

McSween brings more than 30 years of program and construction management experience to HPM and has signature projects totaling more than $3 billion globally. His responsibilities will include leadership on new and developing client projects and serving as a conduit between business development and operational phases of an assignment.

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Mike Lanier, president of HPM, sees McSween’s experience and skill set as well-suited for the company’s expansion into more national program management markets.

“Derek is a dynamic leader with an impressive combination of industry experience and technical know-how that made him a natural fit for this position,” Lanier said. “We’re thrilled to have him on board. His ability to pick up new skills, anticipate clients’ needs and connect them with our overall strategy and core values will generate meaningful results for HPM. We look forward to watching Derek apply his passion and expertise as he helps drive our company into the next phase of growth.”

McSween hopes to build on his extensive relationships to the advantage of HPM’s position in those markets.

“There is a unique opportunity to cultivate new partnerships through my prior connections and experience in the industry, and also utilize my skills as a professional trainer to help grow the next generation of leaders within,” he remarked. “I look forward to playing an active role at the company as we tackle new challenges and build upon an already strong foundation.”

And all of this with an eye toward the company’s future, according to Greg Ellis, vice president of program development for HPM.

“Derek’s ability to manage high-impact teams and effectively deliver projects will be a valuable asset as we plan and prepare for the next decade ahead,” said Ellis. “His experience in the field and as an owner’s rep will be invaluable in developing new strategies that are necessary for HPM to cross the next threshold as a company.”

Prior to joining HPM, McSween served as a managing director, director of diversity and community development and senior program manager for Bovis Lendlease where he provided oversight for the design and implementation of a K-12 bond program. He led the growth of the school system’s bond program from $130 million to its present-day total that exceeds $2 billion.

A former recipient of the Charlotte Business Journal’s Catalyst of Diversity Award, McSween will also oversee the company’s diversity programming and offer professional development opportunities for HPM team members.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Small businesses, job-seekers set to benefit from reforms to unemployment law

(D. Garrett/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

Small businesses in Alabama are optimistic a new law will help provide them a better trained workforce and alleviate some of the regulatory costs they have carried in the past.

State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) sponsored the bill which passed during this year’s legislative session. The aim of the law is to ease the burden on employers while at the same time helping job-seekers get better prepared for today’s economy.

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Garrett explained to Yellowhammer News that unemployment benefits are paid entirely by the employer and that reducing the number of weeks the business has to pay the benefits reduces their overall costs.

At the same time, the new law creates opportunities for unemployed individuals to gain extra weeks of unemployment compensation if they are participating in job training.

“The new law cuts the weeks of unemployment from 26 weeks to a lower number of weeks based upon the actual unemployment rate,” Garrett outlined. “Today, the weeks that unemployment benefits could be drawn would be 14 weeks. For each one-half percent increase in unemployment, an additional week of benefit would be paid, up to a maximum number of 20 weeks. However, regardless of the weeks as determined by the new scale, an additional 5 weeks of benefits will be paid if the unemployed individual is enrolled in a job training program.”

Rosemary Elebash, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), says the new law addresses a problem for her members in a way that helps everyone.

“This bill was a top priority for NFIB/Alabama members,” she said. “The number one problem facing Alabama small/independent business owners is the lack of a skilled and qualified workforce. For more than one year, NFIB members across the nation have cited this as the number one problem they face.”

According to Elebash, the NFIB Small Business Economic Trends reported in April that 57% of small/independent businesses were hiring or trying to hire but 49 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for positions they were trying to fill. Among those, 32% had openings for skilled workers and 15% had openings for unskilled labor.

“This new Alabama law is unique among states that have reduced the number of weeks to draw unemployment by offering five additional weeks to draw if the applicant is attending an approved training program,” Elebash observed. “With over 600 programs available for applicants to choose from, the opportunities for those unemployed to improve their skills and increase their quality of life for their families and provide businesses with the needed workforce.”

Garrett believes each of the changes implemented by the legislature will produce gains throughout Alabama’s economy.

“All of these will positively impact the state’s economy and business climate and will result in unemployed individuals returning to the workforce sooner than now,” he said. “The new law is a win-win-win for individuals, businesses and the state of Alabama.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

Alabama Association for Justice installs new leadership

(Pixabay)

One of the state’s largest legal organizations recently installed a new leadership team at its annual convention.

The Alabama Association for Justice (ALAJ) named seven attorneys to new positions, according to a release from the group.

ALAJ president-elect Josh Hayes, a partner at Prince, Glover & Hayes, outlined the goals for his term.

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“Every Alabamian has a constitutional right to a trial by jury, and I’m going to do my absolute best to protect that important right,” he said. “As president of the Alabama Association for Justice, I see my job as ensuring everyone has a level playing field if they are injured or harmed.”

In addition to Hayes, ALAJ elected the following attorneys into leadership:

– President – Josh Hayes of Prince, Glover & Hayes (Tuscaloosa)
– President-elect – Rip Andrews of Marsh, Rickard & Bryan (Birmingham)
– First vice president – Gina Coggin of The Coggin Firm (Gadsden)
– Second vice president – Erik Heninger of Heninger Garrison Davis (Birmingham)
– Secretary – Wesley Laird of Laird, Baker & Blackstock (Opp)
– Treasurer – Ben Baker of Beasley Allen (Montgomery)
– Immediate past president – Steve Nicholas of Cunningham Bounds (Mobile)

“Josh Hayes has given more than a decade of his life in volunteer service to the Alabama Association for Justice because he believes strongly in our mission of ‘Good Lawyers. Good Laws.’ – and for that I’m grateful,” said Ginger Avery, executive director of ALAJ and member of Yellowhammer News’ Power and Influence 50.

ALAJ is a 60-year-old organization comprised of “attorneys dedicated to protecting 7th Amendment rights.”

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

2 months ago

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

(KING 5/YouTube, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(Aerojet Rocketdyne/Twitter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

Ethics Commission debates rare move to seek guidance from attorney general

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Birmingham Airport Authority by Yellowhammer News on Scribd

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(NASA/Contributed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

Ethics Commission set to clarify pressing issues for Birmingham Airport Authority

(Alabama Ethics Commission)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALBRITTON: Yes, sir.

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

NASA, Boeing continue next phase for Space Launch System

(NASA/Contributed, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

Watch:

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(Wikicommons, YHN)

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

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

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

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

(Andy Andrews/Contributed)

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(YHN/Pixabay)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(Pixabay, YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

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

(ULA/Contributed)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 months ago

Key rural broadband initiative receives final passage from Alabama legislature

(YHN)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HB 400 now goes to the governor for her signature.

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

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News