8 months 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

19 mins ago

Alabama Launchpad selects finalists competing for $150K in prize money

Alabama Launchpad, a fund that invests seed money in startup companies, announced the six finalists that will compete for $150,000 in prize money.

The six companies are split evenly into two groups, those currently in the “concept stage” that are not generating revenue yet and those in the “early seed stage” that aim to ramp up their existing business.

A panel of judges will hear the pitches from the companies while a live audience watches. The event will occur in the evening on February 27 and will be located in the Warehouse at Alley Station in Montgomery.

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Three companies in the concept stage will be trying to bring home a $50,000 prize.

Those companies as follows:

  • Acclinate Genetics, a Huntsville-based company addressing the lack of diversity in clinical drug trials
  • Pure Game Sports Network, a sports media & marketing company created for high school athletic departments and fans.
  • Smart Solutions, whose products offer assistive technology allowing more living independence for persons with disabilities

Three companies at the early seed stage have bigger stakes. The winner of that competition will take home $100,000.

Those startups as follows:

  • Buolo Solutions, a company connecting professional women to talent-seeking companies with flexible jobs
  • CerFlux, a cancer-fighting company creating personalized medicine solutions to identify the best and most effective cancer therapeutics for patients.
  • MOXIE, whose engineering team is producing custom-designed IOT solutions for clients within 30 days

Alabama Launchpad is a program by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. According to their website, the EDPA “is a private non-profit organization funded by more than 60 Alabama companies, whose mission is to attract and retain world-class talent across a broad spectrum of interests and industries.”

“We are proud to support these innovative entrepreneurs,” said EDPA President Steve Spencer in a press release. “Alabama Launchpad is here to serve early stage companies all over Alabama, and we look forward to seeing these finalists compete onstage in our state’s capital.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

45 mins ago

7 Things: Doug Jones calls abortion question ‘stupid’, medical marijuana bill advances, Democrats slug it out and more …

7. If Moore can’t make the news for his campaign, he’ll make it for his lawsuit

  • Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has requested that the judge presiding over his case with Leigh Corfman recuse himself just before a status conference that could determine a date for the trial
  • Judge John Rochester donated to U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) campaign when he ran against Moore, and according to a press release from Moore, Rochester’s “criticism and mocking of Christianity on his Facebook page with full knowledge of Judge Moore’s belief in God” are reasons that he should be removed from the case.

6. Aniah’s Law has advanced

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  • As the nation continues to move towards more lacks bail rules, the Alabama House of Representatives advanced Aniah’s Law, a bill that would grant judges more ability to deny bail to those accused of violent crimes.
  • The bill is named after Aniah Blanchard, who was allegedly abducted and murdered by a man who has been released on bond despite prior violent offenses.

5. The GIRL Act is going further

  • The “Gender is Real Legislative” (GIRL) Act has been advanced by the Alabama House State Government Committee, which would require that public school student-athletes only compete in the gender which they were born.
  • The committee vote was along party lines, 8-4. Bill sponsor State Representative Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) has said that “gender is a real biological truth. It truly defies logic that anyone would deny science and want male students competing in female sports.”

4. Assange’s lawyer claims Trump dangled a pardon

  • Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made an allegation that former U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (D-CA) met with him at an Ecuadorean embassy to offer him a pardon in exchange for information about the DNC server and who fed him the information. The media is reporting this as an absolute fact because they need it to be true.
  • Rohrabacher and President Donald Trump say this is not true. Rohrabacher explains, “When speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him.” He added, “At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President.”

3. Presidential debate Wednesday night, but the guy at a rally in Arizona won 

  • The Democratic presidential debate took place Wednesday night in Las Vegas. The main target was not President Donald Trump or the 78-year-old socialist that is running away with the race. Instead, most of the fire was trained on the 78-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg who was attacked for his money, his history with women and his history with “stop and frisk.”
  • There wasn’t really a moment at this debate that will reset the field, but U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) essentially took over the debate early on and attacked every person on the stage with pointed criticism, except for Bernie Sanders. This will probably be seen as her attempt to damage Bloomberg and will be compared to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s takedown of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) from 2016 because she won’t win but she tried to make sure he won’t either.

2. Medical marijuana is going before the full Senate

  • In an 8-1 vote, the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee passed the medical marijuana bill by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence). The bill will now face the full Senate; if eventually signed into law, Alabama would become the 34th state to legalize medical cannabis. Last year, a similar bill passed the Senate but failed in the House.
  • This bill will require Republican votes to pass the Senate. State Sens. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), Tom Whatley (R-Auburn), Will Barfoot (R-Montgomery) and Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) showed there is some Republican support for it. Only State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) voted no while State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) abstained.

1. Doug Jones really wants to be a one-term senator

  • U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) was recently asked by a tracker, “Do you think abortion should be banned after five months?” to which Jones responded, “[W]hat a stupid question.”
  • The tracker referenced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that Jones will be voting on next week. Jones said he’ll “vote on it next week, just like I did last time.”

2 hours ago

Medical marijuana bill clears Alabama Senate committee

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A medical marijuana bill cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in the Alabama legislature, giving hope to advocates after years of setbacks.

Audience members applauded as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 for the bill, putting it in line for a Senate floor vote later this session.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people with a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for 15 conditions — including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain — and purchase cannabis products at one of 34 licensed dispensaries. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, gummy cubes, oils, skin patches, gels and creams but not in smoking or vaping products.

Advocates crowded into a public hearing at the Alabama Statehouse to watch the debate and tell lawmakers their stories.

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“This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Colorado doctor who described the success of using medical marijuana on people with seizures and cancer.

Cristi Cain said her son Hardy’s debilitating seizures have been helped by CBD oil, now legal in Alabama, but said the higher doses that could help him more aren’t legal in the state. Hardy had as many as 100 seizures per day before trying the oil, and now has about 20 to 30, she said

“An area code shouldn’t affect one health’s care. If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees,” Cain said.

Another woman described how patches used in another state were the only thing that relieved her husband’s leg pain from Parkinson’s

The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement and conservative groups. They expressed concern about dosing, safety and the potential for abuse.

“Just because we put the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Shelby County Sheriff’s Capt. Clay Hammac said.

The Rev. Rick Hagans described addicts he buried. He said that although they obviously didn’t overdose on marijuana, they started their drug use with pot.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition that noted marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

The vote was a moment of optimism for medical marijuana advocates who for years made little headway in the conservative-leaning state. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives.

Melson said he is hopeful about the bill’s chances in 2020. He said there are multiple steps in the process of obtaining medical marijuana that should limit the danger of abuse.

“You are going to have to go to a physician. You are going to have to get a card. You are going to be on the (state) register,” Melson said. He defended the bill’s allowance of marijuana for a variety of conditions.

“I’m sure some people look at that 15 (conditions) and go, ‘Ýeah, really, that one?’ That’s because they don’t have it or don’t know the literature,” he said.

Sen. Larry Stutts, an obstetrician who cast the lone no vote on the committee, said state medical marijuana laws circumvent the process of drug trials usually required to introduce a new medicine

Stutts said other medications have been “through the process and been through the trials that study its effectiveness and side effects” before patients get them.

Before the vote, Sen. Cam Ward described his late father’s battle with cancer.

“I would have given anything, anything, had he had a tablet to take, something to chew on, some drops to put in his food to avoid the nauseousness from the chemotherapy. That would have changed his life. As a human being, who am I to say … you can’t have that to make you feel better?” Ward said.

(Associated Press, copyright 2020)

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3 hours ago

Alabamians can buy emergency preparedness items sales-tax free this weekend

The weekend from Friday, February 21 through Sunday, February 23 is Alabama’s ninth annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday.

As such, several items needed to help prepare for a weather-related disaster can be purchased without state sales tax across stores in Alabama.

Items that cost $60 or less like batteries, ice packs, duct tape, plywood and flashlights will all be exempt from state sales tax this weekend.

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The biggest ticket item that can be purchased without tax is a portable electricity generator, although, any generator that costs $1,000 or more will begin incurring regular taxes.

Dozens of cities and counties also exempt their local sales tax on the holiday weekend, including Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile and Tuscaloosa. A full list of those areas can be found here.

A full list of the tax-exempt items can be found here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

16 hours ago

Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal announces historic Blue Creek mine development

Brookwood-based Warrior Met Coal on Wednesday announced that they will begin development on a new “world-class” longwall mine near its existing mines located on the Blue Creek reserves in West Alabama.

Met coal is the type of coal sometimes referred to as coking coal. Unlike the thermal or steam variety, met coal is used as a vital ingredient in the steelmaking process instead of being utilized for power generation.

The new Blue Creek development is expected to have the capacity to produce an average of 4.3 million short tons per annum of premium High-Vol A met coal over the first ten years of production. It is one of the last remaining large-scale untapped premium High Vol A met coal mines in the U.S.

“We are extremely excited about our organic growth project that will transform Warrior and allow us to build upon our proven track record of creating value for stockholders. Blue Creek is truly a world-class asset and our commitment to this new initiative demonstrates our continued highly focused business strategy as a premium pure-play met coal producer,” Walt Scheller, CEO of Warrior Met Coal, said in a statement.

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The company expects to invest approximately $550 to $600 million over the next five years to develop Blue Creek with expected spending this year alone of approximately $25 million to kickstart the project.

Based on the current schedule, Warrior Met Coal expects first development tons from continuous miner units to occur in the third quarter of 2023 with the longwall scheduled to start up in the second quarter of 2025.

The company trades on the New York Stock Exchange and as such must report specific financial details on the project. This included the company projecting a “net present value” of “greater than $1 billion over the life of the mine with a projected after-tax internal rate of return (IRR) of nearly 30% and an expected payback of approximately two years from initial longwall production.”

Warrior Met Coal previewed this project at a Yellowhammer News event in 2019.

RELATED: Study: Alabama coal industry has nearly $3 billion impact; met coal reserves to last centuries

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