8 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

14 hours ago

How the Regions Tradition led to Alabama’s star-studded vaccine PSAs

You already know the Regions Tradition’s reputation for competition. It’s the first major on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule in 2021, and it produces millions for charities.

But it’s also the place where things get done. And this year’s focus was intended to save lives.

The Bruno Event Team, which manages the Tradition, and the Alabama Department of Public Health used the annual Celebrity Pro-Am tournament as a stage to create a public awareness campaign encouraging Alabamians to get the COVID vaccine ASAP.

The idea, the pitch and the execution all came together in a week. And when approached, the centerpiece of the project agreed to participate without hesitation.

The centerpiece?

Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

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RELATED: College football’s biggest names turn out for 2021 Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am

“Research told us you don’t use national celebrities,” said Gene Hallman of the Bruno Event Team, which produced the spots. “You use local doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. Or you use local celebrities. And in this state, no one is better known than Coach Saban.”

In fact, according to a Montgomery pollster the Bruno team consulted, there’s no one more respected throughout the state than Saban. John Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal that Saban’s favorability rating is the highest in the state – 77 percent. That means that even Auburn fans who root against him each week still respect him.

Or, as Anzalone told the Wall Street Journal, “He is a God.”

The Alabama Department of Public Health reached out to the Bruno team to create a marketing campaign for the state’s underserved population, intending for the spots to motivate Black, Latino and tribal populations to get the vaccines. The public awareness videos will run on television and radio stations statewide, as well as on social media.

But as the campaign expanded, the goalpost moved. With federal and state grants provided for that specific reason, “we’re going to try to reach a very broad audience – the entire state,” Hallman said. “We’re not hammering people. We just want to provide an education on the science of the vaccine, so people can make an informed decision.”

And, since it’s Alabama, there’s also another lure: the opportunity to pack college football stadiums at 100% capacity next fall if enough people get vaccinated.

It’s not the first time the tournament known as the Regions Tradition proved to be a catalyst for change.

When the Champions Tour first came to Birmingham in 1992, Hallman’s group was called in to help with a very hush-hush operation. They were told an unnamed group of visitors from Europe, interested in bringing business to the U.S., would be coming to town to see what Alabama had to offer. No other information was provided, but they were to be shown a good time.

Only one problem.

The first tournament was held in August, a notoriously bad time for southern hospitality – at least for people used to cooler weather than the notorious sticky, 100-degree days. But, as luck would have it, an unusual cold front swept in at the start of the tournament, providing record low temperatures that created perfect temps for the visitors.

So, the secret entourage spent a week at the tournament, got to meet popular Champions Tour legend Chi Chi Rodriguez, and spent a day touring a large plot of land outside Tuscaloosa, less than an hour away …  land that would eventually become the site of Alabama’s first automotive manufacturing plant.

As for the vaccine spots, once Saban came on board others followed. The list includes an NBA legend, a college conference commissioner, a U.S. Senator and other coaches. All recorded their parts while participating in the Regions Tradition Pro-Am.

“We asked and they answered in two seconds,” Hallman said. “There was no hesitation. We got them all on camera that day.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

14 hours ago

Governor Ivey urges Alabamians not to panic-buy gas

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday spoke with the U.S. Department of Energy on a call regarding the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack, which has caused a shutdown of the pipeline operations.

The pipeline, which is the largest system for refined oil products in the United States, is 5,500 miles long and can carry 3 million barrels of fuel per day between Texas and New York. It is operated by Colonial Pipeline Company, which is headquartered in Georgia.

The pipeline runs through Alabama, as people may remember from a Shelby County leak in 2016 that caused gas shortages in the region. The county is home to the Colonial Pipeline Co. Pelham junction and tank farm.

However, Ivey wants to assure Alabamians that the temporary pipeline shutdown should be resolved in the coming days and that any potential gas shortages have not reached the Yellowhammer State.

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“Please do not fill up your car unless you need to and do not fill multiple containers. Overreacting creates more of a shortage. Please use common sense and patience!” Ivey said in a social media post.

The governor’s spokesperson reiterated Ivey’s message.

“She was assured that the pipeline should be operational in a few days,” said Gina Maiola. “She is urging Alabamians and others to not panic and to use good judgement. A shortage has not reached Alabama at this time, and she reminds us that an overreaction would only lead to that. Be courteous, only fill up if you need to, and do not fill up multiple containers. Governor Ivey urges patience and common sense.”

Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden echoed Ivey’s words.

“While the state of Alabama is fortunate to this point to not be suffering from gas shortages, there have still been reports of panic-buying and gas price increases,” he said in a statement. “I echo Governor Ivey’s request that Alabama residents refrain from panic-buying, which would only cause more anxiety in the market. As Colonial has stated publicly they are working vigorously to reestablish service.”

The Colonial Pipeline shutdown comes as the average price of gas in the U.S. has risen from $2.112 per gallon before President Joe Biden was elected to $2.985 per gallon this week.

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

15 hours ago

Vocational center for construction, electric vehicle, aviation technology fields coming to DeKalb County

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced a $1 million grant to help the Fort Payne Board of Education construct a new vocational center aimed at training students in careers that include construction, electric vehicle and aviation technologies.

The funds come from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs administers the ARC program in Alabama.

The new DeKalb County vocation center will prepare Fort Payne high school students and adults for the future while helping to meet the needs of Alabama’s workforce in several career fields.

“Alabama is sounding the call for a skilled workforce and the Fort Payne Board of Education is responding to that demand,” Ivey said in a statement. “This program will ensure that students graduating from high school will be ready for rewarding and high-paying jobs, and that employers will be hiring a qualified workforce to move our state forward.”

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RELATED: Guest: Electric vehicles important for Alabama’s automotive industry

The new Building, Electric and Aviation Technology Center will provide students with a rigorous training program in a workplace environment to ready them for careers.

“The path to rewarding careers does not always go through colleges and universities,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell added. “I applaud the Fort Payne Board of Education for offering other options for students who have the same dreams for successful careers but choose a different path to get there.”

The project is supported by Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro), who chairs the Alabama Space Authority and the legislature’s Aerospace and Defense Caucus.

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

15 hours ago

Alabama State Senator Andrew Jones running for reelection

State Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) on Tuesday announced he will seek reelection to a second term in the 2022 election cycle.

As a freshman member of the legislature’s upper chamber, Jones currently serves as chair of the Children, Youth, and Human Services Committee.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last 2 ½ years,” he stated. “I ran for the State Senate because I had seen first-hand as a business owner and farmer how government impacts hardworking Alabamians. I have worked hard to be the people’s voice in the Alabama Senate and bring much-needed resources back to the people of Etowah, Cherokee, and DeKalb.”

Jones will kickoff his reelection campaign at respective events in Etowah and Cherokee Counties on May 25 and June 3.

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Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) offered his support for Jones’ reelection bid.

“Senator Jones has quickly learned to navigate the ins and outs of the Alabama Senate. He is known by his colleagues as a capable and effective Senator who will do whatever it takes to fight for his district. Andrew is not afraid to take bold, decisive action to meet the challenges our state faces,” Reed said.

Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) echoed Reed’s comments.

“Andrew has been a key voice in our Republican caucus for conservatives policies to improve the lives of everyday Alabamians,” Scofield commented. “Senator Jones is a champion for his local folks, but at the same time he has also won the respect of his colleagues. He has the full support of our caucus in his reelection effort.”

Elected in 2018 in his first run for public office, Jones campaigned on economic development, infrastructure, education and protecting Alabama values. Progress has been made, he now says, on all of those fronts.

“During my campaign, I talked about three infrastructure projects in my district. The U.S. 411 expansion project between Etowah and Cherokee Counties is currently underway, which is a $43 million project. We also recently secured $2 million for the engineering design of the I-759 Eastern Connector, and we are working with local leaders on multiple applications for funding for the Southside Bridge project. Last year, that same application made it to the final round,” Jones advised.

The freshman senator also touted a $2.7 million investment at the Etowah County Little Canoe Creek Megasite through the Growing Alabama Tax Credit Program, an investment which was made possible through an amendment that Jones negotiated to prioritize megasite properties over 1000 acres. He has also supported broadband expansion, incentives for small businesses and workforce training efforts in the Senate, as well as education initiatives to expand pre-K, provide teacher raises, and recruit math and science teachers. Additionally, Jones has backed pro-life legislation, election security measures and Second Amendment protection bills.

In the Senate, Jones has also authored legislation to support the military, incentivize adoptions, promote small farm wineries and repeal the grocery tax, among various other causes. Locally, the Republican has led an effort to repeal occupational taxes in five Etowah County municipalities. In 2020, voters approved a local constitutional amendment sponsored by Jones to designate surplus prison food funds for law enforcement purposes, including school resource officers.

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

16 hours ago

NFIB survey: Record number of employers have job openings

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) on Tuesday announced that its Small Business Optimism Index rose to 99.8 in April, an increase of 1.6 points from March. While this index has now increased 4.8 points this year, a record 44% of employers reported job openings that could not be filled in the latest month’s survey.

Additionally, 8% cited labor costs as their top business problem and 24% said that labor quality was their top business problem, unchanged from March as the top overall concern.

A net 31% (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation in April, while a net 20% plan to raise compensation in the next three months. Increased compensation is being passed on to customers through higher prices, per NFIB.

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This is backed up by the net percent of owners raising average selling prices increasing 10 points to a net 36% (seasonally adjusted), the highest reading since April 1981 when it was 43%. Price hikes were the most frequent in wholesale (62% higher, 3% lower) and retail (46% higher, 6% lower). Seasonally adjusted, a net 36% plan price hikes, the highest reading since July 2008.

“Small business owners are seeing a growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers,” stated NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Finding qualified employees remains the biggest challenge for small businesses and is slowing economic growth. Owners are raising compensation, offering bonuses and benefits to attract the right employees.”

Alabama currently has the lowest unemployment rate in the Southeast and one of the lowest in the nation.

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB state director for Alabama Rosemary Elebash said, “Today in Alabama, there are more job postings than there are job applicants, but hopefully Governor Ivey’s decision to end federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits will encourage people to return to the workforce.”

RELATED: Aderholt, Palmer praise Ivey’s decision to opt-out of $300 federal unemployment supplemental

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