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 hours ago

Rebuild Alabama projects keep coming: Hwy 82 in Prattville and Hwy 411 in Cherokee County

(YHN, Pixabay)

Announcements of Rebuild Alabama infrastructure projects are starting to become an everyday occurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday outlined that the Alabama Department of Transportation has selected major transportation projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

“Drivers across Alabama have experienced the troubles of the state’s crumbling infrastructure for far too long. In selecting these projects in Autauga and Cherokee counties, we’re showing that stagnation is no longer the case in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “For the ease of our drivers, for the safety of our drivers and for the future of our state, it’s finally time we Rebuild Alabama!”

This comes after announcements of significant projects for the Huntsville area and Tuscaloosa in recent days.

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In a cluster of Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan projects, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 82 in Prattville, a project that this area has long been awaiting for over 60 years. These enhancements to US 82 will shorten the daily commute of over 17,000 drivers and also complete the Prattville Bypass, according to the governor’s office.

Additionally, the widening of US 82 will improve access for loggers traveling to the International Paper plant from 18 Alabama counties. Six hundred workers from 23 Alabama counties will reportedly find increased ease in their work commutes, as this project improves access to the James Hardie Building Projects Facility and the other companies in the area.

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), who carried the Rebuild Alabama Act in the Senate, lauded the announcement as a huge win for jobs and the community. He also emphasized that these types of projects will ultimately be transformational for the Yellowhammer State.

“These are the first steps of many that will begin the process of Rebuild Alabama. Industry is a backbone of our economic engine, and I am pleased that Governor Ivey is moving Alabama forward with these improvements,” Chambliss remarked. “I firmly believe that we will look back on 2019 as a turning point in the history of our state.”

State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville), who represents this project’s district in the House, voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act. A freshman legislator, he is currently considering a run for the U.S. Senate, as reported by Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “The Insider.”

‘Long-awaited’ project for a rural part of Alabama

In Cherokee County, ALDOT will widen U.S. Highway 411 as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan.

“The widening of US 411 has been long-awaited by the folks of Cherokee and Etowah counties, and it is vital for the economic development of this area,” State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre) said. “As we begin to see dividends from the Rebuild Alabama Act, I once again thank Governor Ivey for her leadership in its passage and look forward to continually working together in the future.”

Cherokee County is one of 16 Alabama counties currently not served by a four-lane route to an interstate. This Rebuild Alabama project will fulfill a promise that the people of this area have waited for since the early 1960s.

“I appreciate and support Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, including investing in rural districts,” State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Leesburg) said. “Four lane access to the interstate will greatly increase economic development opportunities for new and existing industry in our area. The people have been waiting decades for this project to be completed, and Governor Ivey is the one who is getting it done!”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Ivey to introduce book published by Alabama nonprofit dedicated to health and literacy

(Pixabay, YHN)

As part of its HEAL Day celebration in Montgomery, an Alabama nonprofit advocating for health and literacy will host Governor Kay Ivey for the introduction of a new book written by its founder.

Ivey will read the book, written by HEAL founder and CEO Christy Swaid, to 200 children in the state capitol auditorium.

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The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is a book that Swaid hopes will help children better understand the connection between health and literacy.

HEAL is an acronym summarizing the group’s mission: Healthy Eating Active Living. According to HEAL, it is “dedicated to unifying Alabama to reverse the trend of chronic disease and poor literacy.” The organization works with 30,000 students and 85,000 family members in 153 schools across the state.

Ivey’s book reading is part of an event the group is calling “HEAL Day: A day of education & celebration of health, academic achievement and literacy in the great state of Alabama.”

Where: Alabama State Capitol
When: May 1, 10:30am-1:00pm — Governor’s presentation is set for 11:00am with book reading to follow
Watch:

4 hours ago

Alabama’s Coach Saban undergoes hip replacement surgery

(University of Alabama Athletics/Facebook)

Alabama coach Nick Saban has undergone hip replacement surgery.

Dr. Lyle Cain said Monday the 67-year-old Saban is expected to make a full recovery and “should be able to return to work in the very new future.”

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Cain says the right hip replacement was “robotic assisted” at Andrews Sports Medicine, with hip specialist Benton Emblom.

Cain says Saban could now have “a few more yards off the tee” in his golf game.

Saban said after Alabama’s spring game that his hip problems would be evaluated and that he could need six to eight weeks of recovery.

He said he wanted to get it fixed “because I don’t want to coach for one more year, I want to coach for a lot of more years.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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4 hours ago

Jefferson County ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests

(Jefferson County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

Alabama’s most populous county will immediately end arrests for misdemeanors including the possession of small amounts of marijuana, officials announced Monday.

Officers will begin issuing tickets for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses rather than taking people to jail, Capt. David Agee, a spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, told a news conference.

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“People are always talking about criminal justice reform,” he said. “Well this is more than talk, this is action. This is big.'”

People could still wind up in jail if misdemeanor offenses are tied to more serious crimes.

Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway advocated curtailing arrests for small amounts of marijuana during his campaign last year.

The change will save jail space and supplies and allow officers to concentrate on more serious offenses, Agee said.

He also questioned whether young people caught with a small amount of marijuana should have to spend a night in jail.

“I think this is going to help a lot of people and get a lot of people back on track. Those who want help will be able to get help,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the change in Jefferson County, which has a population estimated by the Census at 659,300.

The change in Jefferson County came as the Alabama legislature is considering a measure that would reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana meant for personal use.

The bill would make possession of less than 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana punishable by a fine instead of jail time.

An offense would be classified as a violation, a step below a misdemeanor and carry a fine of up to $250.

The measure would also allow for charges to be expunged in some cases.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Another state legislator looking at 2020 U.S. Senate bid

(YHPN)

Episode five of “The Insider with Sean Ross” has the scoop on a new potential candidate looking at mounting a Republican 2020 U.S. Senate bid. This time, it is a state legislator who voted against the Rebuild Alabama Act, Gov. Kay Ivey’s infrastructure package that will raise the state fuel tax 10 cents over three years.

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Join Sean Ross for the inside scoop on all the latest from Goat Hill to Capitol Hill as he hosts “The Insider,” a podcast on the new Yellowhammer Podcast Network.

Episodes will be released as news breaks, so subscribe now to stay in the know on all things political in Alabama.

19 hours ago

Del Marsh not running for U.S. Senate in 2020

(Del Marsh/Facebook)

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has confirmed to Yellowhammer News that he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) in 2020.

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This came after The Anniston Star published an interview Monday evening with Marsh saying, “I’m not running.”

Marsh, who has been one of Alabama’s most powerful people since the Republican takeover of the state legislature in 2010, was rumored for months to be a leading contender for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination this cycle.

However, Yellowhammer News had reported in recent weeks online and on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” that Marsh had become significantly less likely to mount a bid.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) also confirmed recently that he will not run for Jones’ seat in 2020.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville are the only announced Republican candidates thus far.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

21 hours ago

Montgomery wins international ‘Smart City’ competition

Savio Dias, the Montgomery City/County IT Manager accepted the honor on behalf of the team during the Smart Cities Council’s annual conference and awards ceremony in San Diego. (Contributed)

The City of Montgomery last week was named one of five winners of the prestigious Smart Cities Readiness Challenge competition thanks to the collaborative efforts of Alabama Power Company, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the city, the county, Montgomery Public Schools and military and other national defense partners.

The international competition was hosted by the Smart Cities Council and will garner global recognition, new development opportunities and access to a special year-long technology program for Alabama’s capital city

“This is another special moment – a watershed day – for our community signifying our success in capitalizing on the opportunities for growth and economic development that come through the advancement of technology across our city,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said in a statement Monday announcing the win.

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“But what’s even more important is our resolve to adopt practical high-tech solutions that better serve residents, add to our quality of life and expand access to the tools and technology needed for future success. We are grateful to our partners who raised their hands to join us in this venture,” the mayor added.

Montgomery formed a Smart City Committee specifically to steer the application process for the competition. The city’s application provided an overview of up-and-running projects, like the Smart City Living Lab, Star Watch, Rubicon and Open Data Montgomery, as well as future plans to use technology to impact residents – including providing free Wi-Fi access to all Montgomery students by upgrading infrastructure at local community centers.

“This award underscores recent technology and data-driven initiatives advancing Montgomery as a major player in the Smart City movement,” City IT Manager and Smart City Committee Coordinator Savio Dias said. “It also builds on our current momentum in the Smart City space, carrying it forward into the future through strategic planning.”

TechMGM, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to connect and leverage the city’s unique technology assets, was proud to partner with the entire team that worked for weeks to put the application together. TechMGM and the local chamber said that they are eager to continue to promote and invest in smart city initiatives with their many community partners.

“Montgomery is maximizing and refining the region’s existing infrastructure and physical and intellectual resources to establish innovation strategies that continue to drive demand for the city as a long-term sustainable location for investment,” TechMGM Executive Director Charisse Stokes said. “Receiving this honor reinforces our strategy to make Montgomery a smarter place to live and work.”

While vying with more than 100 major cities — as large and geographically diverse as Dallas, TX, and Jersey City, NJ — Montgomery impressed the Smart Cities Council by demonstrating a concise vision for incorporating innovative data-driven approaches in multiple projects, as well as shoring up efforts to enhance communication and collaboration with its team of regional stakeholders and community partners.

As a winner, Montgomery will receive a full-year Readiness Program, including mentoring, an outcome-oriented Readiness Workshop, a Readiness Roadmap based on its priorities and regular progress calls and follow-up workshops. Montgomery will also receive nationwide publicity as a great place to live and work, plus travel scholarships to Smart Cities Week twice per year to continue learning. To top it off, the city and its partners get access to financiers who can structure public/private partnerships and other forms of alternative financing.

Officials see this competition result as essential to attracting potential job creators and expanding the city’s high-tech workforce, according to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce.

The four other winners were Baltimore, MD; Edmonton, Canada; Racine, WI, and Cleantech San Diego (San Diego, CA).

This competition victory and award marks yet another technology honor for Montgomery this fiscal year. The city earned two Smart 50 Awards from Smart Cities Connect in January and the Digital Cities Survey Award by the Center for Digital Government in November.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Student anglers rescue others during fishing tournament

(Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association/Facebook)

Two young anglers competing in a high school fishing tournament rescued two other competitors whose boat was sinking on a lake in northwest Alabama.

Sardis High School 10th graders Garrett Howington and Issac Darden are being called heroes for their actions during an Alabama Student Angler Bass Fishing Association tournament at Pickwick Lake.

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Howington and Darden were fishing on Saturday when they heard another fishing team calling for help.

They tell the TimesDaily of Florence that the back of the other boat was filling up with water.

They got close to the sinking boat and helped two students and an adult from Arab High School to safety.

No one was injured.

Kevin Walls, the coach of the fishing team Arab High School, says a boat malfunction caused the vessel to sink.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 day ago

Another Rebuild Alabama Act project confirmed: Tuscaloosa’s McFarland Blvd to be expanded

(Rebuild Alabama/Twitter)

Major infrastructure projects made possible by the recently passed Rebuild Alabama Act continue to solidify, as what used to be pipe dreams are now becoming reality.

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that the Alabama Department of Transportation is purchasing the right of way for the expansion of McFarland Boulevard (US 82) in Tuscaloosa from State Route 69 to Rice Mine Road, as part of the Rebuild Alabama First Year Plan 2020.

This is one of west Alabama’s busiest stretches of roadway, with the governor’s office advising that over 50,000 trips per day are made on this main east/west corridor through Tuscaloosa.

“Enhancing this particular section of US 82 will provide safer and more efficient travel on one of Alabama’s busiest four-lane roads,” Ivey said in a statement. “Tuscaloosa is a city known for how it has rebuilt itself, and with these necessary infrastructure projects, we will see this area thrive even more. Tuscaloosa and the surrounding areas will certainly have a better future for it.”

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This is a two-phase project. Following the acquisition in the first year, construction will begin in the second year.

State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), who sponsored the Rebuild Alabama Act in the legislature, thanked the governor for her leadership, as did Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox. Maddox, as the Democrats’ nominee, faced off against Ivey in the 2018 general election.

“I would like to thank Governor Ivey for her leadership to help our state improve its public safety, offer a better quality of life for our citizens and provide opportunities for future prosperity,” Poole said.

He emphasized, “This infrastructure investment will have a positive impact for not only ourselves, but also our children and grandchildren. Tuscaloosa and the surroundings areas will benefit greatly from this project on Highway 82.”

Maddox highlighted the overwhelming, bipartisan manner in which the legislation passed.

“Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama Act passed with bipartisan support because job creation requires roads and bridges with the capacity to connect the present to the future,” Maddox said. “Tuscaloosa appreciates the governor’s leadership in securing this critical investment in the First Year Plan, and we look forward to working with her in strengthening our city.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 day ago

Tuberville to ‘Fox & Friends’: I’m the only candidate in this race who supported Trump in this last election

(Screenshot/Fox News Channel)

During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” on Monday, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 candidate for U.S. Senate, revealed part of his strategy when asked to do so by show host Steve Doocy.

Much like he did on a radio interview on Saturday, Tuberville pledged his support for President Donald Trump.

However, Tuberville went out of his way to claim he was the “only candidate” to support Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

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“Well, first of all – you know, on I’m going to support President Trump,” Tuberville said. “I supported him from day one. I’m the only candidate in this race who supported him in this last election. I believe in him. He has a great work ethic. You know, the guy is a winner. And the things that he’s done – we need people to stand behind him – in the Senate, in Congress to help him get his agenda through.”

“But I want to help this state and Alabama,” he added. “You know, Alabama is going to grow. It’s going to really grow.”

Tuberville was likely referring to the only other formally announced candidate currently in the race, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope). The day after audio of then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump boasting about sexual misconduct surfaced in October 2016, Byrne was among a number of high-profile Republicans to call on Trump to step aside.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

University of Alabama’s CCN to create vital learning opportunities with Nursing Kid

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Nursing Kid Simulator is a skills-based, child-sized manikin designed to train nursing students for the care and management of a variety of pediatric patients. The simulator represents a 6-year-old child and will allow students to practice numerous skills, including IV insertion, tracheal and nasogastric suctioning and wound assessment, among others.

The current pediatrics manikin at the University of Alabama’s Capstone College of Nursing, known as Pedia, has several cords that connect to a control panel to program various scenarios and can be used only in the simulation lab. Nursing Kid, on the other hand, is a standalone manikin that is portable and controlled by a computer tablet.

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“We want our faculty to be able to bring simulation-type experiences into the classroom,” said Dr. Megan Lippe, assistant professor and simulation specialist at the Capstone College of Nursing. “The new simulator will provide us more teaching flexibility and opportunities with our students.”

Being able to provide ample training opportunities for those who want to go into pediatric care is vital because many pediatric units limit what nursing students can do during clinical rotations. Nursing Kid will allow UA nursing students to hone their skills before joining the workforce.

“Pediatrics is a very specialized field,” said Jessica Johnson, clinical instructor at the Capstone College of Nursing. “While a lot of the skills translate from adults to children, the way they are implemented is very different. I feel that Nursing Kid is going to allow our students to experience that and prepare them for what they will see in the future.”

According to Johnson, about one-third of each nursing class wants to pursue a career in pediatric care. One key advantage of Nursing Kid is that it will allow more students to cycle through to practice various skills.

“Nursing Kid is designed for rapid-fire clinical techniques and it will allow us repeat skills for multiple students,” Johnson said.

The Capstone College of Nursing capitalized on a recent Universitywide crowdfunding event called Bama Blitz to help raise money to purchase Nursing Kid to meet the needs of nursing students. Dean Suzanne Prevost was thrilled with the support shown to the Capstone College of Nursing during Bama Blitz.

“We were seeking to raise $6,500 for the Nursing Kid Simulator, but were excited that individuals also supported various areas that interested them,” she said. “Now, not only will CCN be able to purchase a new pediatric simulator, but the college will also benefit in numerous additional ways because of the generosity of our donors.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Ag equipment maker AGCO expands in Alabama with 50 jobs at new line

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

BREMEN, Alabama – Agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO Corp. announced plans today to invest $5.7 million to relocate production of its Farmer Automatic Aviary Systems to Cullman County as part of a project that will create 50 jobs.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey joined company officials and local leaders at AGCO’s facility in unincorporated Bremen for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on a 32,000-square-foot expansion that will house the new production line.

“AGCO’s addition of the Farmer Automatic production line in Bremen is a significant step for this area and for all of rural Alabama. I’m very grateful that these products will now, not only be Made in America, but also Made in Alabama,” Governor Ivey said.

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“Today, we’re celebrating 50 more Alabamians earning a wage, and as a native of rural Alabama, I’m proud that we’re also celebrating the fact that companies can, indeed, thrive in rural Alabama,” she added.

Duluth, Georgia-based AGCO’s Farmer Automatic line offers innovative products for ultramodern poultry farming. Farmer’s Automatic’s pullet rearing technology allows farmers to take advantage of automation to boost efficiency.

The Farmer Automatic production line is moving from Laer, Germany, to the facility in Bremen where AGCO began operations 10 years ago. The company is also marking a decade without a work stop accident at the Alabama facility.

“AGCO is excited to expand our investment in Cullman County at our Bremen facility,” said Hans Lehmann, vice president and general manager, AGCO Grain & Protein North & South America. “We like to say our products are ‘Proven and Dependable.’ The same can certainly be said about Cullman County.

“The fact we’ve not had one lost time safety incident speaks volumes to the quality of the workforce in the county,” he added. “And with the community’s commitment to assist with industrial training and critical infrastructure improvements, we’re confident in the future.”

At the event, Lehmann said AGCO, a global company, quickly “determined that Farmer Automatic should be made in Alabama.” The company’s employees at the Cullman County plant sported “Made in Alabama” T-shirts at the ceremony and presented Governor Ivey with one after the ribbon cutting.

RURAL GROWTH

Dale Greer, director of the Cullman Economic Development Agency, said AGCO’s expansion project was made possible through the cooperation of state, county and city leaders.

“We are very fortunate to be able to work with our state and county leadership to keep a great company growing in Cullman County,” Greer said. “It’s a big advantage to have the ability to ensure companies succeed in the rural parts of the county the same way they succeed in more urban areas.”

State Senator Garlan Gudger of Cullman said Alabama’s leadership is focusing on driving economic growth in the state’s rural areas through infrastructure improvements and job creation.

“To have a globally renowned industry in AGCO locate, grow, and expand here is a testament to the generations of hardworking families in this area and the flourishing Alabama economy,” he said.

“Every day, it seems as if there is a new headline about some region in Alabama that is growing, expanding, and adding more jobs, but to see it happen here in Bremen, in rural Alabama, truly is special.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Alabama’s lead economic development agency is taking steps to elevate the competitiveness of the state’s rural areas when it comes to attracting new investment and jobs.

Under the Alabama Jobs Act, projects locating in certain “targeted,” or rural counties qualify for enhanced incentives. Earlier this month, Secretary Canfield announced that Commerce is creating a rural development management position to help rural areas better prepare for the economic development process.

“While we have had success in facilitating rural economic development, we want to continue to improve and do more to help the state’s rural counties and small towns and cities,” he said. “We’re committed to providing additional resources to stimulate rural development, and the creation of the rural development manager position will move that effort forward.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

Auburn University researchers recognized for innovative ideas

(Auburn University/Contributed)

Three Auburn University research teams have been recognized for innovative ideas that could have an impact not only on the economy of the state and region, but its health as well. The Office of the Vice President for Research presented faculty experts with funds from the LAUNCH Innovation Grant Programin an effort to help move their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.

“The LAUNCH program helps bring some of Auburn’s most promising research innovations to the marketplace, for the public good,” said James Weyhenmeyer, Auburn vice president for research.

“We encourage our faculty, staff and students to be entrepreneurial. Delivering research-based solutions to our stakeholders is part of Auburn’s land-grant tradition — delivering those solutions through commercialization creates jobs, grows the state’s economy and improves quality of life,” said Cary Chandler, director of business development and startups for Auburn’s Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization.

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This year’s recipients are:

  • Feng Li, assistant professor, Department of Drug Discovery and Development, Harrison School of Pharmacy, for “SMILE Plus: A Nanoparticle Drug Formulation for Cancer Therapy,” a novel formulation to enable a new use of an approved drug against late-stage, drug-resistant cancers for which there is currently no treatment.
  • Elizabeth Lipke, the Mary and John H. Sanders Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, as well as Yuan Tian, a doctoral candidate also in Chemical Engineering, for “Flexible microfluidic platform for rapid production of uniform cell-laden hydrogel microtissues,” a device that can encapsulate human cells to better mimic their natural environment, allowing for more efficient early screening of drug candidates.
  • Professors Sue Hudson Duran and Julie Gard Schnuelle and associate professor Tom Passler from the Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine; Soren Rodning, extension veterinarian and associate professor, Department of Animal Sciences, College of Agriculture; as well as Misty Edmondson, associate state veterinarian, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries; and Jennifer Koziol, a clinical assistant professor from Purdue University, were recognized for “Treatment of Bovine T. foetus with an Extended Release Topical Formulation,” a novel formulation of an approved drug to create the first treatment for an infectious reproductive disease in cattle that reduces birth rates.

Each team will receive a cash award from a pool of $150,000 toward commercialization of its work.

“We are very excited to receive this award,” Lipke said. “Our system for producing tissue microspheres has the potential to advance a wide range of fields, including drug discovery, therapeutic cell production, bioprinting and veterinary and human regenerative medicine. This funding will enable us to take important steps in bringing this technology from the lab to industries that can use it.”

LAUNCH is an endowed fund conceived by the Auburn University Research and Economic Development Advisory Board as a mechanism to bridge the gap between innovative research and the marketplace. Milestone-based awards are given to winning teams who complete a competitive process involving a two-stage evaluation of proposals by internal and external parties, followed by a live presentation before judges and the public. The fund was started in 2015 with the goal of creating an endowment of $10 million that will generate approximately $400,000 annually for research grants. Until the endowment is fully funded, the Office of the Vice President for Research provides the awards.

LAUNCH recipients have the opportunity to meet with experts in entrepreneurship from Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business as well as members of the Office of Innovation Advancement and Commercialization to assist in developing plans and assembling resources to move scientific achievement into commercial success.

Researchers may also be partnered with Auburn MBA students as well as alumni and friends with related experience whose expertise will assist in advancing the projects.

More information about LAUNCH is available online at https://cws.auburn.edu/ovpr/pm/tt/launch.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 days ago

Alabama Power Company bike riders raise money for MS Society

(Meg McKinney/Alabama NewsCenter)

For the fourth year, Alabama Power Company bike riders took to the streets for the annual Dam Ride.

The group, called the Power Pedalers, biked 78 miles Friday and Saturday from Alabama Power headquarters in downtown Birmingham to Lay Dam near Clanton and back.

“Seventy-eight miles is a little more than your casual, average group ride. It takes a little bit of training and experience for an endurance ride like this, to get to the level to enjoy a ride like that,” said participant Nick Kirby. “A lot of us ride together during the week, but it’s always good camaraderie for us to get together.”

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There was also a kayak component for the second year from Waxahatchee Marina in Chilton County to Lay Dam and then on to Mitchell Dam.

In addition to exercise and fun, the ride raises money and awareness for a good cause, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Every time I turn around I learn of someone else who has been diagnosed with MS. That’s what all of this is about, reaching out to our community,” said John Morris, who helped organized the ride and is power generation specialist.

MS is a chronic, often disabling disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system. About 1 million people in the United States have the disease.

The Birmingham ride is a training ride for Bike MS events later this year. Those include Bike MS: Rocket City 2019 in Madison in June and Bike MS: Tour de Beach 2019 in Orange Beach in September.

To learn more, visit www.bikeMS.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Tuberville makes ‘values’ pitch in first campaign media appearance — ‘We’ve lost Christianity in this country’

Saturday on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “Politics and Moore,” former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama, argued that backing President Donald Trump at this point time was critical.

Tuberville, who has been absent in the local media since announcing his candidacy earlier this month up until now, explained that supporting Trump was his inspiration for running for U.S. Senate. He said the current occupant of the Senate seat, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), has failed to back the president.

The former Auburn coach cited values and ideals many Americans support, including upholding of the law, religion and a good economy.

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“He brought up a lot of things the average person really clings to,” Tuberville said. “You know, about law and order – we’ve lost a lot of law and order in this country and [Trump] has brought it back. The previous administration tried to change everything and tries with everything we believe in in this country. We’ve lost Christianity in this country. It’s being attacked every day.”

“Now President Trump has got the economy going,” he continued. “He changed all the regulations that the previous administration had done. He has done so much for many people. He has got people working again and feeling good about themselves.”

However, Tuberville said his support for Trump was not absolute.

“Now do I support a whole lot of the things he tweets out and says?” Tuberville added. “No, nobody is going to agree with everybody. I tell you, I believe in what he’s doing in getting people back to work, putting money in their pockets and making them feel good about themselves and try to bring our values back. We’re losing our values. If we don’t do that, we’ll lose this country.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

EPA grant to University of Alabama team assists in understanding wastewater issues in rural Alabama

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Researchers from the University of Alabama are shedding light on the issue of raw sewage draining into waterways of the state’s Black Belt region, a problem garnering international attention.

With a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, UA researchers from environmental engineering and geology will build a model to quantify the extent of untreated raw sewage discharges from homes throughout five counties in the Black Belt, an economically depressed region in the state named for its dark, rich soil.

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“Basically, the big issue with rural wastewater that we see in Alabama is the confluence of impermeable soil and rural poverty,” said Dr. Mark Elliott, UA associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering. “The fact is, though, the scope of that problem is not well understood.”

The situation has brought the attention of the United Nations, which sent an official to examine straight pipe drainage in 2017. There has also been national and international reporting on the conditions as studies have shown diseases and parasites common in tropical areas, and once thought contained in the United States, are appearing in the Black Belt.

Much of the country can dispose of household wastewater safely, either into a sewer system that leads to a treatment plant or into a septic system that uses engineering and natural geology to filter out contaminants before reaching the groundwater.

The Black Belt, an area of 17 counties across southwest Alabama, is often different. Underneath the topsoil is clay and chalk, which holds water. This can cause a backup of a septic system and risk sending untreated wastewater into the streams, lakes, rivers and groundwater nearby.

Added to the soil challenge, the Black Belt is a poverty-stricken area of the country, especially outside its small towns. Many find it difficult to afford advanced septic systems needed for the soil, instead using a straight pipe running from the home to some other part of the property to drain untreated wastewater.

A 2017 survey by Elliott’s group in Wilcox County conservatively estimated that 60 percent of homes drain wastewater without treatment. Elliott said it is possible more than 500,000 gallons of raw sewage enter the rivers and streams in Wilcox County each day.

Site surveys are expensive and time-consuming, so the full extent of straight pipe drainage in the region is largely unknown.

“Not knowing the scope of the problem prevents any sort of estimate of how much it costs to fix the problem or the benefits of fixing the problem,” Elliott said.

Aaron Blackwell, a graduate student in Elliott’s lab, leads the work of making maps to predict the risk of homes using straight pipe drainage. The maps combine geological information of the soil, property values from the county government and population density to show areas where there is greater risk of homes discharging untreated waste through straight pipes.

“Based on a just a few publicly available data sets, we can come up with decent estimates of where these straight pipes are located and how much wastewater is being discharged untreated to the environment,” Elliott said. “This is an important step.”

The maps can show areas where intervention could be effective, such as clusters of homes outside a town that could share a simple treatment system, he said.

The $15,000 grant to UA comes through EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet, or P3, program. Research teams receive funding to develop sustainable technologies to help solve environmental and public health challenges. The P3 competition challenges students to research, develop and design innovative projects that address a myriad of environmental protection and public health issues.

UA’s team is in the first phase of the program, and it will attend the TechConnect World Innovation Conference and Expo in Boston in June to showcase its research. The team can then apply for a second-phase grant for funding up to $100,000 to further the project design.

Other members of the team include Dr. Joseph Weber, UA professor of geological sciences; Dr. Sagy Cohen, UA associate professor of geological sciences, and Rebecca Greenberg, a UA graduate student studying geology.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Mercedes-Benz unveils the ‘S-Class of SUVs’ to be built in Alabama

(Mercedes Benz/Contributed)

Mercedes-Benz is turning heads in the Big Apple and among the world’s automotive press today with the unveiling of its new full-size SUV to be built in Alabama.

The automaker unveiled the 2020 GLS at the New York International Auto Show. Calling it “the S-Class of SUVs,” Mercedes is signaling this is the new standard-bearer for luxury SUVs in its product line.

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“The new GLS is the S-Class of premium SUVs,” said Ola Källenius, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG responsible for corporate research and Mercedes-Benz Cars development. “It embodies luxury, confidence and intelligence like almost no other vehicle.”

Mercedes will produce the six-cylinder GLS450 and the eight-cylinder GLS 580 at its plant in Tuscaloosa. The latter will come with a hybrid electric and gas V8 engine featuring Mercedes’ EQ Boost technology with a 48-volt onboard electrical system.

Among the other highlights:

  • MBUX infotainment system allows for easy control from the driver’s seat and two 12.3-inch displays provide vehicle control information. An optional Interior Assist function responds to hand gestures and other movements. An artificial intelligence function allows for the Interior Assist to learn and anticipate a driver’s habits.
  • Executive Rear Seat Package has a separate tablet for controlling all the MBUX comfort and entertainment functions from the rear seats.
  • Electrically adjustable seats throughout are standard, as is the Easy-Entry function, which makes it easier to get into and out of the third-row seats.
  • Simple folding-down of all rear seats at the push of a button.
  • Choice of either three-seat rear bench seat or two luxury individual seats with armrests in the second row.
  • Two fully fledged seats in the third row (for people up to 6 feet 4 inches tall).
  • Heated seats and separate USB charging ports for the third row.
  • Five-zone automatic climate control available (standard on GLS 580).
  • A new car wash function that folds in exterior mirrors, closes windows and sunroof, suppresses the rain sensor on the windshield wipers, switches climate control to air-recirculation mode and activates 360-degree camera to assist in entering the carwash.
  • E-Active Body Control suspension works with the newly developed Airmatic air suspension to individually control spring and damping forces at each wheel for a smoother and safer ride.

Driver-assistance safety features such as Distronic to anticipate traffic jams and slow highway speeds automatically and Active Stop-and-Go Assist for driving in heavy traffic.“The GLS combines modern luxury with the character of an off-roader,” said Gorden Wagener, chief design officer at Daimler AG. “Powerful highlights of the off-road design idiom combined with an elegance reminiscent of a classic luxury sedan. The interior is a synthesis of modern, luxurious aesthetics, hallmark SUV practicality and digital high-tech. In our view, the new GLS therefore offers the best of all these worlds.”

Mercedes will begin producing the new GLS at its Tuscaloosa County plant later this year and the vehicles will be in dealers’ showrooms by year’s end.

Mercedes-Benz unveils the new GLS to be built in Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

$24 million American Life building renovation kicks off Birmingham’s opportunity zone initiatives

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

One of the most prominent vacant buildings in downtown Birmingham is about to get a $24 million transformation into 140 workforce housing apartments thanks to opportunity zone funding and a new initiative by the city of Birmingham.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin used the redevelopment announcement of the Stonewall/American Life building at 2308 Fourth Ave. N. to unveil the Birmingham Inclusive Growth (BIG) Partnership, a two-pronged effort to identify potential opportunity zone projects in one of the city’s two dozen designated opportunity zones, and to work with a separate investment board to find opportunity zone dollars to fund those projects.

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“We believe that this innovative vehicle can help drive investment in Birmingham’s 24 opportunity zones – guided by community voice, bolstered by city resources and elevated by respected leaders in the investment community who believe in Birmingham’s potential,” Woodfin said.

Although the opportunity zone projects announced in Birmingham thus far have been mostly downtown, Woodfin noted that potential exists in almost every part of the city.

“They touch 77 out of 99 neighborhoods,” Woodfin said of the 24 opportunity zones in Birmingham. “That is a major, major opportunity – pun intended – to invest in the entire city, not just the central city.”

Woodfin said the city is working with Opportunity Alabama on an educational program that will see 500 residents trained by June 2020 in identifying and presenting opportunity zone projects.

Alex Flachsbart, founder of Opportunity Alabama, said Birmingham is prepared to be a leader in how opportunity zones are designed to help elevate communities.

“We have been excited for months now about releasing to the public the city of Birmingham’s incredible vision for opportunity zones, which Opportunity Alabama has been an integral part in creating and now bringing to life,” Flachsbart said.

“Where we see the greatest potential is in Birmingham’s 77 neighborhoods that are all in opportunity zones and that all have the ability to surface projects just like this one,” he said. “That’s why over the course of the next two months we’re putting together a first-of-its-kind-nationally educational curriculum designed to help communities understand how this program can benefit them and raise projects up in all the neighborhoods so that we can see opportunity zone capital flowing out to the entire city and not just downtown.”

Woodfin said the American Life building is symbolic.

“If you drive along on any highway that surrounds downtown, you can’t help but notice the 12-story, blighted building that we’re standing in front of right now,” Woodfin said. “At the top of this building, above cracked windows and shuttered doors, are painted words ‘American Life.’ For the last four decades, these words suspended on an eyesore in our city center have hung over Birmingham as a constant reminder that even though we enjoy pockets of prosperity, hardships still persist in Birmingham and all of our Americans’ life. But today we are announcing that the American Life building is once again going to be filled with life.”

Ed Ticheli is the owner and developer of the American Life building.

“We’ve owned the building since 2004 and we’re about to put her into service with 140 units of workforce housing,” Ticheli said.

Ticheli said the apartments will not be low-income housing that requires a separate approval process. Rather, rents are designed to provide affordable apartments for the working class who desire to live closer to their jobs.

Ticheli said rents will run from $700 per month to $1,200 per month and will average 750 square feet. He said the units will be small as 350 square feet and as large as 800 to 1,200 square feet duplexes on the first floor.

Five of the units will be reserved for placements by the Dannon Project, which helps people reintegrate into the workforce after prison or other obstacles.

Demolition and abatement work will begin in the next 45 days and the project will take about 14 months to complete. PNC Bank is financing.

Ticheli said it was the opportunity zone designation that helped make the project a reality.

“It’s been a godsend, not just for our team, but for the city of Birmingham because now the people who commute and hour and a half each way will have affordable housing here,” he said.

Ticheli said although the building has most recently been known as the Stonewall Building, he is leaning toward using the American Life name.

“I really do like ‘American Life’ because it symbolizes what we’re doing here,” he said.

Ticheli is eyeing an additional project next to the American Life building.

“Hopefully we will get the other 400 units up next door in time to come, with retail and a 600-space parking deck,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a game-changer. You’re right by the highway. If we put a nice little grocery story in here, I think it’s going to be fantastic.”

Woodfin was joined by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin, both of whom serve on the advisory council of Accelerator for America, which has spearheaded the opportunity zones initiative across the country.

“Our signature work that brings us here to Birmingham is opportunity zones – this moment to say to any community that your ZIP code is not a debit, it is an asset,” Garcetti said. “That it will attract investment, but we will make sure that that investment brings the community with it – listens to, comes from and hand-in-hand, that’s what we see here. That is exactly what is happening in Birmingham.”

Benjamin, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said “Birmingham is very much on the leading edge” when it comes to adopted opportunity zone policies.

“We’re here because opportunity is here in Birmingham,” he said. “We’re here in Birmingham right now because we are learning from Birmingham. The reality is that Birmingham is a leader in this movement.”

That’s music to the ears of Flachsbart, who has been singing the tune of opportunity zones in the state for the past year.

“When you go back to the policy goal of opportunity zones, it wasn’t just to do the big buildings downtown, it was to do the little things in neighborhoods,” he said. “And, more importantly it was to facilitate investment into businesses, into startups that are located in communities across the U.S. Here in Birmingham, we have a comprehensive strategy for building a pipeline, both on the real estate side and on the active business side, to service those opportunities, bring local capital to those opportunities, and help to see a whole new wave of additional growth. While we’re all standing here today talking about this and while we’re all incredibly excited about it, I think the real story is going to come over the next two or three months as this effort starts to roll out on a citywide basis.”

While real estate projects have been the biggest beneficiary of opportunity zone investment so far, Flachsbart said there is some clarification of the opportunity zone regulations underway now that should see more investment flow into startup companies and active businesses.

“We’re very hopeful, based on initial guidance that we’ve gotten publicly from Treasury, that that is going to throw the doors wide open for investment into the exact kinds of startups and operating companies in neighborhoods that this program was supposed to promote in the first place,” he said.

David Fleming, CEO of REV Birmingham, said Birmingham saw it important to be an early adopter of opportunity zones so the city could capitalize once investors were ready.

“Having an intentional strategy is really important and then having projects like this one announced today in Birmingham as a potential recipient of that shows that it does have an impact,” Fleming said.

The American Life project could be the first of many examples.

“This is a great project,” Fleming said. “We’ve been hopeful for years that the right thing would happen here. Really, the planets lined up between getting the state historic tax credit a few years ago to twin with the federal, and then now the opportunity zones is going to help make this project happen. Hopefully this will be a model that a lot of people will replicate around Birmingham.”

Josh Carpenter, director of Birmingham’s office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, said opportunity zones are a great tool the city can use for growth.

“The BIG Partnership is another way that Birmingham is telling the nation that we are open for business.,” he said. “The BIG Partnership could become a model public-private endeavor that harnesses the investment expertise of our investment committee, the convening power and resources of the city and neighborhood-level expertise to drive inclusive growth in our community.”

Garcetti said Birmingham will be held up as an example to others.

“Folks, take it from Accelerator for America. We’re working with 30 cities right now across America in opportunity zones and to all of them and to every city in America we say, ‘Look here at Birmingham,’” he said. “We have been blown away by the partnership, by the success of state and local folks across party lines coming together and do what’s right. Revitalizing an iconic part of this city – this metaphor for an American life and what America’s life can be like in the future – and making sure there is a return for investors while there is a return for community. It can be a win-win and Birmingham is showing us that way.”

The website for the BIG Partnership is  www.birminghamoz.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

Electrathon Alabama participants zip toward another fantastic finish at Barber Motorsports Park

(Dennis Washington/Contributed)

Barber Motorsports Park was filled with the whir of electric vehicles as participants in Electrathon Alabama converged on the park under sunny skies Monday, April 15.

“Each year the competition and participation grow,” said Robin White, Electrathon coordinator and Alabama Power Project Manager.

“We saw 19 high schools and six professional and collegiate teams enter a grand total of 37 cars. We appreciate everyone who participated.”

Electrathon provides both educational and competitive opportunities for students.

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One team, Bob Jones High School out of Madison, has participated for the past four years and although they aren’t technically competing with other schools, Electrathon gives them an opportunity to test their vehicles. The students assembled their vehicle without the help of a teacher.

Bob Jones High School boasts national championship wins three years in a row in Greenpower USA competitions.

Adam Bastien is a senior at Bob Jones High and one of the drivers in the Electrathon competition. “We enjoy this competition because it is a well-put-on race with lots of teams,” said Bastien.
Ben Runyon works as the general mechanic for the team.

“Both the coolest and most annoying part of this competition is working with a team,” said Runyon.

More than 350 people turned out for the annual event. Students also enjoyed a plug-in electric car show featuring vehicles from BMW, Chevrolet and Ford.

Electrathon sponsors include Alabama PowerSKY (Skilled Knowledgeable Youth) and Zoom Motorsports and Barber Motorsports Park.

Here’s a look at the winner’s from Electrathon Alabama:

Open Class – Professional/College

1st Place:  #48 University of Southern Florida
2nd Place: #365 Tampa Bay University
3rd Place:  #321 Archer Racing

Electrathon High School

1st Place:   #22 Dothan Technology Center
2nd Place:  #115 Walker County Center of Technology
3rd Place:   #251 Spanish Fort High School

Green Power High School

1st Place:   #5 Bob Jones High School
2nd Place:  #1 Bob Jones High School
3rd Place:   #314 Grissom High School

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

Connie Rowe is a 2019 Woman of Impact

(C. Rowe/Contributed)

A woman of faith. A great friend, wife and mother. A powerful legislator. A career law enforcement officer. A trailblazer.

Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) is many things to many different people around Alabama.

However, throughout all of her roles and responsibilities, intertwined with a multitude of exemplary traits, is the unmistakable fact that Rowe is a leader.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R- Monrovia) remarked to Yellowhammer News, “From her first moments as a member of the Alabama House, Rep. Connie Rowe set herself apart as a leader and as someone whose words would be respected and appreciated by her colleagues. Those same leadership skills allowed her to become the first female police chief in Jasper, Alabama.”

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‘Challenges? I think all people face challenges’

Rowe is also someone who embraces challenges and has turned the hurdles that come with being a woman in a historically male career field into opportunities, shattering glass ceilings at every step along the way.

“Challenges? I think all people face challenges in their career paths. Your male colleagues are also subject to the pace and progressiveness of your leadership,” she told Yellowhammer News when asked about some unique obstacles that she has faced in leadership.

Advising that there undoubtedly “are some challenges unique to women working in male-dominated fields like law enforcement and in the political arena,” she shared her outlook on dealing with them.

“In 1984 when I joined Jasper Police Department as a nightshift Patrol Officer, my training officer informed me I had been assigned to him because none of the other seasoned officers wanted to deal with a 21-year-old female rookie,” Rowe reminisced. “He used that circumstance to challenge himself and motivate me. It worked in a positive way for both of us. I acknowledged him the day I was sworn in as Chief of Police for the City of Jasper.”

From a rookie officer no one wanted as a partner to becoming the City of Jasper’s first ever female police chief in 2011, Rowe has come a long way. It was not easy, but with her mentality and trademark toughness, the sky has always been the limit for her ascent.

However, even after she reached the top of her profession, Rowe still had naysayers when running for the Alabama House of Representatives for the first time in 2014.

She said, “Thirty years later on a Saturday morning in 2014, I was campaigning in a rural community for my first election to the House of Representatives and experienced similar sentiment. I approached an older gentleman at a curb market and gave him my best campaign pitch. I kept talking hoping I could change the blank expression on his face. When I finally ran out of words, he continued to stare for a moment then shared with me his vision of where I should be and what I should be worried about.”

“Bless him,” Rowe continued. “He’s somewhere being him, and I’m in Montgomery being me. Again, it worked out well for us both.”

“The point of sharing both of those situations is that they are understandable when a woman emerges in a new arena and that they did not deter me from moving forward,” she emphasized.

Making history time after time

Rowe is proud of some of the “firsts” she has been able to achieve in the state, humbly adding, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to hold some first female posts. I’m grateful for those opportunities.”

In addition to her Jasper Police Department trailblazing, Rowe was the first female investigator to ever serve the Walker County District Attorney’s Office (14th Judicial Circuit), doing so from 1988-2010.

Then, her election to serve the citizens of House District Thirteen in 2014 broke down another barrier, as did her election as vice chair of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in 2016, which made her the first female in state history to hold a GOP caucus-elected leadership position.

McCutcheon advised, “The respect and admiration that Rep. Rowe commands from her fellow Republicans is evidenced by the fact that she was elected to serve as vice chair of the House Republican Caucus while still a freshman member.”

Perhaps what makes her most proud is the knowledge that more young women will see these types of opportunities as real possibilities for themselves.

Rowe said, “Seeing a woman do something that historically has only been done by a man unlocks that role in the mind of all watching.”

‘A public servant who cares deeply about her constituents’

In the legislature, Rowe – in addition to continuing her service as GOP caucus vice chair – is the vice chair of both the powerful House Rules Committee and the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. She also holds seats on the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, the House State Government Committee and the House Internal Affairs Committee, which is responsible for disciplining members who violate chamber rules and handling other matters related to the body’s operations.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) told Yellowhammer News, “I first came to know Connie Rowe when we served together in the Alabama House, and it has been my honor to bear firsthand witness to her effectiveness as a lawmaker and as a public servant who cares deeply about her constituents.”

One of her biggest lasting legacies in the legislature, Ainsworth said, will be that Rowe “passed landmark legislation that makes it easier for military veterans to gain employment.”

Indeed, her time serving the public has been marked with numerous tangible accomplishments that advanced the safety and wellbeing of the community, both in the state house and in law enforcement.

Ainsworth extolled her “efforts to combat crime, protect the public, and uphold the law,” while highlighting her “tireless” advocacy for victims.

At the end of the day, Rowe said, “I think Jasper Police Department was in better shape the day I left than what I found the day I walked into the building.”

“We developed a well-trained Critical Incident Response Team following Sandy Hook that included deep involvement with the local school system. Another contributing circumstance is that I was also able to prepare and present a case on one of my officers that resulted in his federal prosecution. That resolution eliminated an element of corruption that existed within the department before my tenure began,” she outlined.

Rowe has also been a leading authority on domestic violence related-crimes for decades.

She explained, “Earlier in my law enforcement career, I authored and developed a domestic violence curriculum that is used in all law enforcement academies in the state. From 1988 until 2010, I conducted law enforcement trainings in the public law enforcement academies as well as regional trainings in the subject areas of DV, Sex Crimes and Crime Victims Rights on behalf of the Alabama Peace Officers and Training Commission and the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”

‘What a wonderful world this would be’

Perhaps the most personally rewarding part of her career journey has been positively influencing those around her, Rowe said.

“Leadership roles give you opportunities to impact the path of others,” she advised. “I think the most important leadership responsibility is to help the people around you develop to their greatest potential. I’ve had that experience while leading a police department and as an elected official. Grabbing the hand of another person and hoisting them up in this world is rewarding. If we all did that continuously, what a wonderful world this would be.”

McCutcheon reflected, “There is no doubt that Connie Rowe is a ‘woman of impact’ because I know she has positively impacted my life and the lives of all of those around her.  She is most definitely deserving of this fine honor.”

And, with all that she has done and continues to do in the public sphere, Rowe has always had her priorities straight: Faith, family and friends.

“I am proud to know Connie Rowe and am humbled to be her friend because she truly personifies the words in Matthew 5:16, which read, ‘…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,’” Ainsworth lauded.

“Without a doubt,” Rowe said, her biggest accomplishment in life, “is bringing a child into this world.”

“The miraculous way in which children come into our lives and the responsibility we bear in raising them in this world are, to me, the most important role we serve in as women,” she added.

To all those aspiring girls out there looking to make their own way as a leader, Rowe offered some powerful advice.

“Don’t let the world define you. Define yourself, because even people who love you may not realize who you are capable of being,” she emphasized. “Remember that seeking equality doesn’t mean you want to be treated special and specific to your gender. It, in fact, means the exact opposite.”

Rowe concluded, “Leadership is organic for some and a hard fought battle for others. Find your spot and become relevant to what draws your interest. Leaders are essential at every level of a successful process. And finally, rely upon the fact that God has a plan. Lend yourself to it.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Connie Rowe a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

4 days ago

AG Steve Marshall shuts down alleged ‘human traffickers’ masquerading as massage parlors in north Alabama

(AG Marshall/Facebook)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is proving his staunch commitment to combatting human trafficking in the state.

On Friday, the attorney general’s office announced that the Madison County Circuit Court has granted a request by Marshall for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a chain of north Alabama massage businesses that he said was actually operating a human-trafficking enterprise.

TY Green’s Massage Therapy, Inc., its owner Yuping Tang, its manager Jiao Liu (who is her daughter) and their four businesses are now barred from conducting business in Alabama by the TRO. The businesses operate in Huntsville under the names “Health Massage and Massage Foot Care” and in Madison and Decatur under the name “Massage Foot Care.”

All assets have been frozen, and a receiver was appointed by the court to take control of the businesses until a preliminary injunction hearing can be held.

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This is a historic legal milestone, marking the first civil action taken under the new civil enforcement provision to Alabama’s human- trafficking law. The complaint also alleges violations of Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

“Alabama’s new law provides a valuable tool to more effectively fight human traffickers and restore dignity and freedom to their victims,” Marshall said in a statement. “With this civil action, we were able to respond to the dire urgency of the situation, shut down the trafficking operation, rescue the victims, and preserve assets that can be used to help those who have been harmed.

In his legal complaint, Marshall told the court that “evidence collected during this investigation has revealed that the Defendants are running illicit massage businesses that serve as fronts for a human-trafficking operation. In the Defendants’ organization, the ‘employees’ work incredibly long hours during which at least some of them are expected to engage in sex acts with the businesses’ customers. When the victims are not ‘working,’ they seem to have little freedom of movement, they are transported in groups to and from the Defendants’ businesses and are kept in houses owned by the Defendants where they are left to eat and sleep in terrible conditions. The Defendants, on the other hand, have reaped millions of dollars in revenue from their businesses, and the Attorney General now brings this action in order to put an end to their conduct and protect their victims from further harm.”

This immediate civil court action was crucial, the attorney general explained, to keep the defendants from moving and hiding their victims, as well as to stop disposal or transfer of assets. In addition to financial accounts, the defendants’ business premises and residences have been seized.

Marshall has further asked the court to permanently shut down the defendants’ human-trafficking network and grant monetary damages as restitution for its victims.

Marshall thanked all agencies involved in the investigation of this case, including the following: the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy; the Alabama Departments of Labor and Revenue; the Morgan and Madison county district attorneys’ offices; the Madison, Huntsville and Decatur police departments, the Madison City Attorney’s Office, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the National Children’s Advocacy Center and the Alabama Fusion Center.

The victims are of Chinese nationality. Information is not available at this time about how many victims there are. For safety reasons, their whereabouts may not be disclosed.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Employment records ‘shattered’ after another historic month

(YHN/Pixabay)

The number of people counted as employed in the Yellowhammer State is once again at a record high under Governor Kay Ivey’s Administration.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington made the announcement in a statement on Friday.

“Once again, we’ve shattered employment records in Alabama,” Washington said. “More people are working now than ever before in Alabama’s history. Employers are continuing to post jobs, companies are moving operations, and our existing businesses are expanding, all of which is great news for Alabamians.”

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2,132,578 people were counted as employed in March, up from 2,127,676 in February, and up 28,953 from March 2018’s count of 2,103,625.

Additionally, Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted March unemployment rate is 3.7 percent, unchanged from February and remaining at a record low, and well below March 2018’s rate of 4.0 percent.

The current rate represents 82,368 unemployed persons, compared to 88,723 in March 2018.

And the good news does not end there.

“We’re seeing great growth in some of our high wage sectors as well,” Washington advised. “Building construction employment has increased by nearly 11 percent over the year, and aerospace parts and manufacturing is right behind it with more than 10 percent growth.”

Building construction employment increased to 21,200 in March, representing a yearly growth of 10.99 percent, while aerospace products and parts manufacturing employment increased to 13,100, representing a yearly growth of 10.08 percent.

Wage and salary employment increased over the year by 33,200. Sectors showing the most over-the-year growth were: leisure and hospitality (+5,900), professional and business services (+5,600) and manufacturing (+4,700), among others.

Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+3,400), the construction sector (+2,500) and the professional and business services sector (+2,000), among others.

Construction sector weekly earnings also showed tremendous growth over-the-month, rising to a record high of $1010.21, representing a $61.39 increase from February, and marking the first time in history this sector’s average earnings exceeded $1000.

Counties with the lowest unemployment rates are: Shelby County at 2.8 percent; Marshall County at 3.2 percent; and Morgan, Madison, and Elmore Counties at 3.3 percent.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates are: Wilcox County at 8.4 percent; Lowndes County at 6.7 percent; and Clarke County at 6.5 percent.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are: Homewood and Northport at 2.6 percent; Hoover and Vestavia Hills at 2.7 percent; and Alabaster at 2.8 percent. Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are: Selma at 7.5 percent; Prichard at 6.1 percent; and Anniston at 5.3 percent.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Blue Origin will test Alabama-made rocket engines at historic NASA site

(Made in Alabama/Contributed)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Private space company Blue Origin will refurbish the historic test stands at Marshall Space Flight Center to support testing of the BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines built at a new Blue Origin facility in Huntsville.

Test Stand 4670 served as a the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which delivered man to the moon 50 years ago.

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” Marshall Center Director Jody Singer said. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built.”

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Following the Apollo program, Test Stand 4670 was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility, constructed in 1965, has been inactive since 1998.

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team began exploring the proposed partnership.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard said. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.”

ALABAMA-BUILT ENGINES

Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, earlier this year began construction on a $200 million manufacturing facility in Huntsville that will manufacture the BE-3U and BE-4 engines.

The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket, which will be assembled at ULA facility in Decatur, and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle. Both are being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin.

“Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.”

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 days ago

Woman killed in Alabama after tree falls on home during severe storms

(Pixabay)

Alabama authorities say a woman has been killed after strong storms knocked down a tree onto her mobile home in St Clair County.

The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office tells WVTM that a tree fell on a home on U.S. Highway 231 in Pell City just before 8 p.m. Thursday.

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Emergency crews responded and found the woman dead inside. The woman has been identified as 42-year-old Monica Clements.

Authorities said Clements’ 10-year-old son suffered minor injuries.

Sheriff Billy Murray said in a news release that the “Sheriff’s Office is deeply saddened by this tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time.”

A second man has been reported dead in Mississippi due to a storm system moving across the South.

WLBT-TV reports that 24-year-old Kenderick Magee was killed Thursday while driving in the storm.

Amite County Coroner Campbell Sharp says Magee’s car crashed near the rural town of Gillsburg in southwest Mississippi, killing Magee.

Neshoba County Coroner John Stephens tells local media that a driver was killed Thursday afternoon when his car hit a downed tree on a highway south of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Officials have not released that driver’s name.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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