1 year ago

Exclusive: Ivey focused on continued growth for booming aerospace industry — ‘Alabama is an easy sell’

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Monday spoke exclusively with Yellowhammer News about her recent trip to the Paris Air Show, discussing the state’s soaring aerospace industry, site selection, workforce development, supply chains and more.

Fresh off of the whirlwind trip to Europe, where she had nine scheduled appointments with aerospace companies and several more impromptu discussions with industry executives, Ivey said, “The trip was very valuable.”

This comes after a historic year for Alabama’s aerospace industry. The Department of Commerce recently announced that exports for that industry rose an incredible 28% year-over-year. The total value of the shipments, going to 97 countries, rose to $2.4 billion, which was nearly $1 billion higher than 2016’s total.

As Ivey explained to Yellowhammer News, this success is not happening by accident. The continuing growth comes amid, and as a result of, diligent strategic efforts to build Alabama into a worldwide aerospace juggernaut.

The governor, noting that she also travelled to Stuttgart, Germany to meet with the leaders of Daimler AG during the trip, said that the current situation for the state’s aerospace industry is similar to what Alabama’s automotive industry was experiencing in the 1990’s, when Mercedes-Benz’s arrival put the Yellowhammer State on the cusp of becoming a leading international automotive manufacturer.

“If we can grow aerospace as fast as we’ve grown automotive, I think we’ll be in good shape,” she remarked.

Ivey outlined that a lot of planning and work has gone into positioning Alabama’s aerospace industry for its surge.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield reinforced this, saying, “This is truly an exciting and pivotal point in our state’s history.”

“The success of Alabama’s economic development team is directly related to the quality of the state’s workforce,” he continued. “Our success is producing the effect of putting more Alabamians on company payrolls across the state, and we are experiencing the lowest levels of unemployment in our history.”

‘Alabama is an easy sell’

Now, just like has occurred with the automotive industry in the state, the growth is becoming exponential. As supply chain companies continue to set up shop in Alabama to support new and existing aerospace companies, the environment gets better and better for the state to be able to recruit even more new companies.

In fact, during the Paris Air Show trip, Ivey said that the Alabama team discovered seven prospective new projects, or recruitment opportunities, and advanced another five potential projects that were already being worked by the state.

A core reason that companies keep choosing Alabama over competitors during the site selection process is the state’s meticulous workforce development efforts.

During such a crucial time for the state aerospace industry, it also inspires confidence from existing and prospective companies that Ivey personally considers the industry as a top priority. This was evident in her presence at this year’s air show, her third consecutive year in attendance. The governor worked tirelessly during the trip, walking to the respective booths of industry leaders she met with at the fair-like event to personally pitch them on choosing Alabama as their “Sweet Home.”

Talking about how those pitches were received, Ivey expressed tremendous optimism that some of the companies she met with will “come on board and do business in Alabama.”

She also explained what selling points go into these industry pitches, emphasizing, “Alabama is an easy sell.”

“They want to know about your infrastructure, and of course we’re proud to tell them we’re right on top of that, and they want to know about your workforce, and certainly we talked to them about our unparalleled workforce,” the governor shared.

“It’s a business-friendly state, we’ve got an unparalleled workforce,” Ivey said. “And if you choose to be ‘Made in Alabama,’ you can expect excellence.”

The governor added that the positive, “very profitable” experiences of companies who have already chosen Alabama naturally attract prospective companies, who are impressed by what they see and hear.

“People were very receptive, and they know the other aerospace firms that are located here already — and that speaks volumes to them. So, it’s an easy pitch to give,” Ivey advised.

It is not just the current workforce strength that companies look at, Ivey said, but “what are you doing to keep the pipeline full.”

“We start out first by telling them what we’ve got in place now, whether it’s AIDT, the community college system, and we talk about when we launched my education initiative ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish.’ We go into the three components of that, etc, etc. And then we move to keeping that pipeline filled and growing, and that’s also major, seems to perk them up,” Ivey shared. “So, we talk about the fact that we’ve created the [Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation], and that office serves solely to align the funding sources for workforce development with workforce development projects all over the state so that all Alabamians can prosper. There’s a lot of money in workforce development, funds that come in. The key is getting the funding aligned with projects, and that showed the folks we were talking to that we are forward-thinking, we’re not resting on our laurels, we intend to grow with them… We’re providing jobs and training for the present, but also we’re looking far into the future.”

In addition to infrastructure and workforce needs, companies are especially interested in an existing and potential supply chain presence, something Alabama is making significant strides with.

“Companies like Airbus, Aerojet Rocketdyne and ULA (United Launch Alliance), these companies have supply chains, and as those companies grow, we can recruit [additional] supply companies. And those supply companies bring more jobs, too — so that’s a good thing,” she added. “And those supply chains also serve as anchors for the firms that they have been doing business with. So, it’s a very easy sell to make on behalf of Alabama.”

‘We want to do business with them’

Ivey was far from the only leader from Alabama making that sell in Paris, exemplifying the unified focus of state and local officials, as well as economic development and industry professionals.

“It’s not so much that I made the trip, as it is that this was the largest delegation Alabama’s ever had at a trade show, so that speaks volumes to those folks to show people that Alabama is serious about doing business with these companies,” the governor stressed. “We want to do business with them — we’re there to meet you one-on-one.”

She detailed that the state’s aerospace industry has widespread geographic strength, from Huntsville and Decatur to coastal Alabama and the Wiregrass.

“Mobile, with Airbus… in less than a decade… will be one of the top four cities in the world in aerospace manufacturing,” Ivey said, before commenting on the rotorcraft strength of areas near Fort Rucker in southeast Alabama.

“Aerospace is growing statewide, not just in Huntsville,” she added.

‘The world’s not standing still’

While the advances being made under the Ivey administration could set up future generations of Alabamians with unprecedented levels of prosperity to enjoy, the governor told Yellowhammer News that she does not think in terms of her legacy.

“No, I don’t focus on my legacy, I just focus on looking at what needs improvement for better quality of life and opportunity for our people,” Ivey said. “And for far too long, just like infrastructure — 27 years with no change in funding… these difficult challenges have been unaddressed for so long that will benefit our people and their opportunities.”

“That’s what I’m focused on,” she added, calling addressing these pressing challenges her “passion.”

Her mode of operation is to “solve these difficult problems, get them out of the way and move on [to the next issue].”

Canfield commented, “Fortunately, Governor Ivey had the foresight to recognize that we must grow a workforce pipeline of available and highly-skilled Alabamians to meet our projected job growth. Her initiatives like Strong Start, Strong Finish, Success Plus, Alabama Works and Apprenticeship Alabama are creating a sustainable and scalable pipeline of highly skilled Alabamians. The Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation plays a major role in aligning the efforts of PK-12, the Community College System, AIDT and our four-year universities as we collaborate with the private sector to prepare Alabamians for the job opportunities of the future in our state.”

“[T]he world’s not standing still,” Ivey emphasized. “The world’s moving on and we’ve got to move with it.”

As time moves on, Alabama’s aerospace industry is poised to continue its upward climb.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne recently closed one of their units in California and transferred the workers here — and closed something else in Virginia and brought their workers here,” the governor said.

“If you talk to the folks at Aerojet, they’ll tell you that when they were first [approached about coming to Alabama, they said], ‘Going where?? Alabama?!’ But now that those folks are here and have been on the job and living here, they love it,” Ivey stressed. “So, I’m trying to find a way that we can get the essence of that message delivered… share that message with other folks so that maybe they’ll just want to move their firms back here to the southeast, where doing business makes sense.”

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

27 mins ago

Alabama surge needed in 2020 Census participation

It’s the final week of the 2020 Census, and Alabama is counting on every household to submit its survey by Sept. 30. This quick, easy questionnaire collects information that determines Alabama’s federal representation in the U.S. Congress and funding levels for the next decade.

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Help shape Alabama’s bottom line by completing the 2020 Census in one of three ways:

  1. Online at my2020census.gov.
  2. By phone at 1-844-330-2020.
  3. By traditional paper form you received in the mail.

Any information given in the 2020 Census is strictly protected by federal law.

A reduction in Alabama’s census could have adverse impacts to federally funded public service programs that affect every single resident.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, lawmakers, business owners and other entities will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, clinics, roads and more services for families, older adults and children. The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

For information on the 2020 Census, get the facts here.

View the 2020 Census questions and learn why they are asked.

Visit Privacy and Security to read about how the U.S. Census Bureau protects your household information.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Racers coming to Alabama for world’s longest annual paddle race

Paddlers from across the United States will be racing each other down 650 miles of Alabama’s scenic rivers later this month in the Great Alabama 650, the world’s longest annual paddle race.

The second annual Great Alabama 650 begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. Racers will have 10 days to reach Fort Morgan in Mobile Bay via the core section of the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the longest river trail in a single state. Laura Gaddy, communications director of the trail, said this year’s race will be different.

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“In 2019, racers with a wide range of skill level and paddling experience competed in the Great Alabama 650, but just three boats made it to the finish line,” Gaddy said. “Even advanced paddlers had to drop out of the race before finishing, underscoring that this race is best suited for paddlers with a proven record. Therefore, this year we limited registration to paddlers who have competed in previous races. As a result, this year’s class of entrants is even more competitive than the inaugural class.”

Paddlers compete in nation’s longest state river trail from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The field features 16 racers, including 2019 overall winner Bobby Johnson, as well as female solo winner Sallie O’Donnell and Alabama native Ryan Gillikin. Johnson covered more than 85 miles per day to finish the race in seven days, 8 hours, 1 minute and 55 seconds.

“Several of our racers have not only completed some of the toughest paddle races in the world, they have won them,” Gaddy said. “Some are or have been professional paddlers. Others have represented the United States in paddling competitions abroad.”

Alabama’s diverse habitats are on full display during the race as competitors experience rushing whitewater, ambling river delta and everything in between. The course includes portages around several Alabama Power dams.

“The Great Alabama 650 elevates our state to the international stage and points to the 600-plus-mile Alabama Scenic River Trail as one of the premiere paddle destinations in the United States,” Gaddy said. “Even the most competitive athletes can be encumbered by the unpredictable challenges presented by the natural world. This is a race to watch.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced race organizers to restrict portages to race staff, crews and racers. Gaddy said there are still plenty of ways for fans to cheer on the racers.

“There are several ways to track the progress of the competitors without leaving your home,” Gaddy said. “Race updates are reported on our Facebook and Instagram accounts, and viewers can visit AL650.com to see our live map, which is updated at least every 2 minutes.”

Viewers can also track the race on social media using the race hashtag #AL650, which may link viewers to behind-the-scene photos posted by racers and their crew members.

“Last year several people with a waterfront property also stood out on their piers to cheer the racers,” Gaddy said. “Some even made signs. When the racers made it to the finish line, they said that the support they received from these spectators helped them to keep going when the race got tough.”

The race, which is sponsored this year by Cahaba BrewingMustang SurvivalMammoth Clothing and Alabama Power, begins Sept. 26 on Weiss Lake in Centre. The prize purse will be awarded across three categories: Male Solo, Female Solo and Team. To follow the progress of the competition or to learn more, visit al650.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Nick Saban: Time for Crimson Tide to flip switch from practice to game mode

Alabama coach Nick Saban said his Crimson Tide football team is showing the right effort and intensity in practice, but it’s time to flip the switch and start finishing plays like they would in a game.

“We haven’t played a game in a long time,” Saban said. “We’ve got to get out of practice mode and make sure we’re practicing to develop the habits that are gonna become a part of our DNA as competitors in terms of how we play in a game.”

Alabama opens the season on the road against Missouri at 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Nick Saban: Crimson Tide focuses on finishing as season kickoff approaches from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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5 hours ago

College football picks — SEC week 1 and more

The Season of Sankey officially gets underway today. The SEC takes the field for the first time this fall as a result of conference commissioner Greg Sankey’s well-planned approach to playing football amid COVID-19 conditions.

During the last two weeks, a parade of conferences have backtracked on plans to cancel their seasons and put in place schedules set to kick off beginning next month. If only they had followed one simple rule: be more like Sankey.

No doubt the season will be unusual. Expect the unexpected. And, as always, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Here are a few picks.

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THE BASICS

No. 2 Alabama (-29) at Missouri: The Crimson Tide have the fewest non-COVID questions of any team in the country. They also have the most talented roster. Missouri will have a tough time scoring while Nick Saban gets to pick his team’s score.

The pick: Alabama 41, Missouri 9

No. 4 Georgia (-28) at Arkansas: Not a lot of intrigue here, either. The D’Wan Mathis era begins. Georgia wins. Maybe the only real question is: how will Kirby Smart handle dipping and wearing a mask at the same time?

The pick: Georgia 34, Arkansas 7

No. 5 Florida (-14) at Ole Miss: Everyone loves Lane. We get it. But there is a difference in these rosters. Through rain, sleet or snow — or direct deposit — Kiffin will recruit better talent to Oxford in the coming years. Right now, Florida is a markedly better team top-to-bottom.

The pick: Florida 52, Ole Miss 20

No. 8 Auburn (-6.5) at Kentucky: Everyone and their momma is taking Kentucky and the points in this game, not to mention the number of people picking the outright upset. Is it bowl game fatigue? Is it Auburn’s losses on the defensive line? We don’t know. What we do know is that Chad Morris may be the best offensive coordinator in the country if Gus Malzahn lets him cook.

The pick: Auburn 35, Kentucky 24

BUYER BEWARE

No. 16 Tennessee (-3.5) at South Carolina: This is a “the barely proven head coach got a raise the week before playing the first game” pick. Plus, South Carolina finally has some actual structure on offense with the addition of Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator and a serviceable starter at quarterback in Collin Hill.

The pick: South Carolina 20, Tennessee 16

West Virginia at No. 15 Oklahoma State (-6.5): This pick breaks two important rules: 1) don’t make a pick because of a coach, and 2) be very wary of the heavily public side. Neal Brown is a rising star. Mike Gundy is something other than that. Neither team has played a game that matters yet, but they looked very different in their respective first weeks. Let’s join the crowd.

The pick: West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21

BONUS

Mississippi State at No. 6 LSU (-16.5): How can we not make a pick in the first-ever SEC game coached by two non-English speakers? All offseason we have heard people ponder about whether Mike Leach’s system will work in the SEC. Any system will work if you have good enough players. The Bulldogs currently do not. On the other hand, one can only imagine the carnage in Baton Rouge post-national championship. At least Coach O gave us this gem.

The pick: LSU 33, Mississippi State 16

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

6 hours ago

Gus Malzahn: Auburn ready to host Kentucky, kick off delayed season

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he is happy game week has finally arrived, even though he knows his Auburn Tigers football team will be tested by the visiting Kentucky Wildcats.

“It’s been a long time coming to get to this point,” Malzahn said. “We’re playing a really good Kentucky Wildcat team. When you look at them offensively, last year they were one of the best rushing teams in all of college football. To be able to do that in this league says a lot.”

But Malzahn said he is also impressed by his own squad.

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“Overall, I’m really excited about this year’s team,” he said. “We have all kinds of new faces out there. I believe we have 13 new starters, so I’m really excited to watch this team grow. I really feel that if we stay healthy, we’ll have a chance to improve each game, and of course with 10 SEC games, it’s important for teams to improve throughout the year. I’m really looking forward to watching our guys play. I’m excited.”

Auburn hosts the Wildcats at 11 a.m. Sept. 26 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Gus Malzahn: Kentucky presents a challenge for Auburn’s opener from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)