2 months ago

Catherine Sloss Jones is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Her family helped create Birmingham in the late 1800s. Now, Catherine Sloss Jones has built a legacy of her own by working to rebuild the Magic City.

Jones serves as president and CEO of Sloss Real Estate, which was founded in 1920 by her grandfather, Arthur Page Sloss.

The successful business has been a family affair since then, led next by her father — Arthur Page Sloss, Jr. — before Jones took the helm.

In a way, the family business started two generations further down the line.

James Withers Sloss, Jones’ great-great-grandfather, was a leading industrialist who founded the Sloss Furnaces and is credited with bringing the railroads to Birmingham, which opened the door for the city’s boom in the iron and steel industries.

As the city’s industrial center created wealth in Birmingham throughout the early to mid-1900s, Arthur Page Sloss was at the forefront of suburban development in the metropolitan area. This included the creation of the 24-acre Five Points West shopping center.

Along with his son, Sloss also developed several residential areas outside of Birmingham proper, including neighborhoods in Homewood and Mountain Brook.

This was a trend not just with Sloss Real Estate; the better part of the 20th century saw massive suburban sprawl occur in the Birmingham area, as people — and wealth — left downtown and other urban areas.

However, since Jones joined her father at the business in 1975 (becoming president in 1986), Sloss Real Estate has actually bucked that trend of which they were once at the center.

Jones’ prolific career has featured monumental efforts to rebuild historic areas in the City of Birmingham, revitalizing locales that had been abandoned and become blighted by the gradual deindustrialization that has occurred over the years.

Core examples include turning the old Dr. Pepper plant and Martin Biscuit Building into what is now known as Pepper Place.

Pepper Place, located in Lakeview, has blossomed into a hub of modern residential and commercial development. One of its trademarks is the Saturday farmers’ market, which is widely viewed as the state’s best.

Other signature success stories of Jones’ include the Hope VI housing at Park Place, as well as One Federal Place.

These endeavors — and many others — show that for Jones, “city-building” is really about “community-building.” What started as a passion for refurbishing and retooling infrastructure has blossomed into a people-driven mission.

“We are all about city-building. We are interested in urban revitalization and rebuilding neighborhoods, protecting historic buildings, and creating healthy, equitable neighborhoods,” she has explained. “We are intentional about community-building. Our team thinks critically about how is this going to impact the neighborhood and the city, and how is it going to unite people. So it’s more about fairness and equity and health, as opposed to getting people to come and live downtown, which we did for a long time.”

Jones’ incredible work in Birmingham has been nationally acclaimed, including when she was named a Loeb Fellow in 2007. That fellowship would see her study graduate courses at Harvard for a year, and she then returned for a second year as a visiting scholar.

In addition to her distinguished business career, Jones has been an active leader in her community for decades. Many of the boards she sits on and organizations she works with directly tie into building up local communities. She has sat on the board of directors for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and counts Odessa Woolfolk and Fred Shuttlesworth as mentors.

“There’s no city like Birmingham,” she has outlined. “When my friends come to Birmingham, they say, ‘You have an embarrassment of riches.’ We have all of the ingredients to be a great, great city. The challenge for us is that we tend to fragment. We all operate in our own silos more than we should. So when you can connect the dots in Birmingham, that’s very powerful.”

Jones has been recognized for her dedication and success through several major accolades, including being inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor and previously named the Birmingham Businesswoman of the Year.

“We’ve worked very hard for a long time to try to convince people to come back, and now we’re seeing this resurgence. It feels wonderful to see all this positive momentum,” Jones has noted, speaking to what is perhaps the best indicator of her success.

The real estate developer recently sat down for an interview with Yellowhammer News, explaining that “commonality” is a cornerstone of the community-building at the heart of her business. And, just as finding common ground is key for development efforts, Jones believes that building consensus is integral for leadership in general. Fostering a true sense of togetherness — whether in a neighborhood or within a business — breeds success.

The industry she works in has changed in a big way, she also advised.

Since starting at the family business right out of college, Jones has noticed marked progress for women in real estate over the subsequent four-plus decades. She called the differences “night and day.”

“It’s really exciting to see it,” Jones remarked. “It was a world of men (when she started). … There were few women, and we all knew and supported each other. But it was a very male-dominated community. … Now, today, it’s completely different.”

Over the course of her career, Jones has traversed other areas of the country, to cities of varying sizes, in an effort to learn and share best practices. During those travels, her love of and appreciation for her own home state has only been reinforced.

“First, seeing other places makes you realize how fortunate we all are to be from Alabama,” Jones said. “It’s just the most extraordinary state in terms of our natural resources, our cities, and I’m just always struck by the beauty and wonder of Alabama.”

“And the people in Alabama are awesome. You know, that’s the other part of our state,” she added. “We will work together to solve problems, and it’s important that we do so.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Catherine “Cathy” Sloss Jones a 2020 Woman of Impact.

WATCH:

Watch the full interview here.

Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

8 mins ago

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne: Timeframe on I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge ‘not unlimited’ — State, local leaders ‘need to do it in the next several months to a year’

Last week, state and local officials in the Mobile and Baldwin County areas had reportedly resumed discussions about a new I-10 Mobile Bay Bridge.

A now-infamous proposal came to a halt last year after the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to remove the bridge from the organization’s Transportation Improvement Program, which resulted in Gov. Kay Ivey (R-AL) calling it off.

Questions remain about the future. However, according to U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), the clock is ticking if the state wants to use available federal money.

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During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Byrne, who has a little over a month remaining in office until U.S. Rep.-elect Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) is sworn in, said it was up to state and local leaders to agree on how to proceed because the federal component had already been settled.

“The real center of gravity here is with local leaders and state leaders,” he said. “It’s really not federal leaders. Jerry Carl doesn’t have to worry about that money that’s been put out there going away in the next couple of years. It’s still going to be there. This is really off federal government, and really on state and local government.”

“It won’t be there forever,” Byrne added. “Now, it might be enhanced if we get some big infrastructure bill comes out in the next year or so. I still think the onus with coming up with most of the money has got to be on the state and local governments here. The state has a lot of money that it gets from the federal government every year from the national highway fund. And it could bond money. You know, I’ve been saying we should bond some of this [Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) funds] to do it, etc. There is a way to set all this together and make it work. The federal end is done, ready to go. There is state money that can be used for it, that comes from the federal government, including GOMESA money, and there’s a way to put it all together. But it is going to require these local leaders, the new local leaders, working with the governor.”

Byrne urged local and state officials to put a proposal forth within the next year.

“Our timeframe is not unlimited here,” he said. “If they’re going to do something, they need to do it in the next several months to a year — come up with a plan that’s approved, etc. I think the U.S. Department of Transportation will help them to find some way to make this happen because one thing we have accomplished — we’ve got the Department of Transportation, going back to the Obama administration — so it’s not a Democrat or Republican thing — the Department of Transportation has said this is critical for the United States of America. So, we’re teed up with the federal government. We’ve just got to get the state and locals together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

49 mins ago

This month marks 20 years since all humans were on Earth at the same time

NASA and its international partners — including the many in Alabama — this month marked a new milestone in human spaceflight. It has now been 20 consecutive years since the last time all humans were on the planet Earth at the same time.

Indeed, November 1, 2000, was the most recent day humans dwelled only on our planet. The Expedition 1 crew – NASA astronaut William Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko – launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on October 31 of that year, arriving to become the first crew to live aboard the orbiting laboratory on November 2.

NASA and its partners have successfully supported humans living in space aboard the ISS ever since, including Boeing — which has been the lead industry partner for the ISS since 1993.

Boeing has partnered with NASA to help design, build, integrate and — now — manage operations for the ISS. Just this summer, the company received a $916 million contract extension through September 2024 to continue supporting the space station.

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In Alabama, Boeing employees work closely with NASA at Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center and perform sustaining engineering and manufacturing support for the ISS. This work is reportedly critical to proving deep-space technology for future NASA missions and providing a cornerstone for developing and operating commercial enterprises in low Earth orbit.

“Men and women have been working in space for 20 years, an accomplishment that speaks to Boeing and NASA’s commitment to crew safety and widening access to space,” stated John Mulholland, ISS vice president and program manager for Boeing. “The space station is the realization of a dream that has inspired countless generations to reach for the stars, and we will continue to increase its uses as our imaginations catch up with its extraordinary capabilities.”

In its history, the ISS has hosted more than 240 individuals from 19 different countries. Astronauts have conducted 231 spacewalks totaling more than 1,400 hours to build and maintain the station.

The scientific research performed aboard the ISS has come from and affected 108 nations around the world. More than 3,000 experiments have taken place aboard the space station so far.

In the present, the ISS is also newly receiving missions powered by NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Boeing is one of two companies selected as prime contractors on this program. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft used for this program is powered by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama. The Starliner was also designed at Boeing’s Huntsville operations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Bruce Pearl: ‘I felt terrible’ telling players about self-imposed postseason ban

Auburn University head men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl spoke remotely to the media on Wednesday ahead of the team’s first game of the season.

The Tigers are scheduled to face Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving in the Fort Myers Tip-Off event.

However, the opening contest has been overshadowed this week by Sunday’s announcement that Auburn will forgo postseason competition this season.

Pearl on Wednesday revealed that his players were not made aware of this decision to self-impose a postseason ban before the public was informed.

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“We made them aware as we were announcing it,” he advised. “We just felt like it was something the university wanted to get out in front of. I was telling the players as it was being announced.”

“I had a zoom call set up with their parents for as soon as I finished up with my players. They probably had heard something about it, but they knew they had a call from me, so when they saw it, I’m sure they realized this is what the call was about. It all took place on Sunday afternoon,” Pearl continued.

He also commented on the team’s reaction to the news.

“It’s been a really difficult time. It was a difficult few weeks leading up to the announcement because it was something we had talked about,” Pearl said.

“If there was any comfort, it was their reaction. I got more guys coming up and hugging me because I felt terrible for them. We kept some things in perspective and reminded ourselves – I asked the question beforehand of why did you come to Auburn, and I got a lot of answers about graduating, being an Auburn Man, getting better, maybe have a chance to play professionally, wanting to be part of the Auburn Family – all those things. I was then able to say right before I gave them the information that they’re still going to be able to accomplish almost all of those things,” he added. “This year, we’re not going to be able to compete in the postseason. A couple years ago, after we won the regular season [SEC title], postseason was only a couple of games. Without minimizing it, because it is important and we all work and strive for it, I tried to keep their focus on what they’re trying to get accomplished and why they’re at Auburn as student-athletes. All I can tell you is, it was an amazing response from my players and their parents how we’re going to get through this together.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

6 hours ago

Saban to miss Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19, has ‘very mild symptoms’

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is set to miss Saturday’s Iron Bowl after testing positive for COVID-19.

Team physician Dr. Jimmy Robinson and UA Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine Jeff Allen made the announcement on Wednesday in a joint statement.

Saban experienced a false positive earlier in the season, but this situation is apparently different.

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“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19. He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a potential false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home,” stated Robinson and Allen.

The Iron Bowl is scheduled to be played in Tuscaloosa’s Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on CBS.

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.

Saban on an SEC teleconference told reporters that he is the only person within the Crimson Tide football program to have tested positive during this latest round of regular testing. The positive result reportedly came from a PCR test.

The legendary coach said he essentially only has a runny nose.

“I feel fine. I don’t really have anything significant. I don’t have a fever,” Saban added.

RELATED: Alabama No. 1, Auburn No. 22 in first College Football Playoff rankings of 2020

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn