3 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

13 hours ago

Bradley Byrne campaign announces launch of ‘Farmers for Bradley’ coalition

Bradley Byrne’s campaign for United States Senate announced Friday that key leaders from Alabama’s agriculture community have launched a “Farmers for Bradley” coalition to support Byrne.

Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, and we need a Senator who will not only vote right, but who will actually fight tooth and nail to support our farmers, landowners, and agribusinesses,” Byrne said in a statement. “To have such a strong group of agriculture leaders backing our campaign is a real honor and a testament to the hard work we have done over the years to support our Alabama farmers.”

Both State Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) and Mark Kaiser from Baldwin County, who lead the coalition, believe Byrne will fight for farmers in the Senate.

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“When I first met Bradley, it was clear he is a fighter,” Jones said. “Agriculture is a very difficult industry with a wide range of challenges, so it is so important we have a U.S. Senator who will work with our farmers and leaders at the state level to make life a little easier.”

Kaiser echoed Jones’ comments and said, “Bradley just gets it when it comes to agriculture. He has taken the time to learn about the various issues impacting Alabama’s agriculture community, and he has used that knowledge to fight for us in Washington. Bradley doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”

“Bradley has an impressive record as a champion for Alabama’s farmers,” a press release stated. “From supporting the Farm Bill to cutting bureaucratic red tape, Bradley has always fought to ensure the farm economy remains stable and fair. Bradley plans to continue the fight for farmers by seeking a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

14 hours ago

Did a police officer go for his gun or not? This is not an appropriate resolution to the Alabama A&M/UNA issue

Last weekend, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs upset the University of North Alabama Lions in a football game that most of you didn’t know even took place by a 31-24 score.

After the game, a series of allegations were made that were pretty serious and require further investigation.

Here are the problems Bulldogs’ head coach Connell Maynor pointed out:

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  • “It ain’t 1959, we don’t have to put up with that type stuff.”
  • Alabama A&M received no free tickets or tickets to sell to the public
  • Alabama A&M player weren’t allowed access to the field prior to two hours before the game
  • Alabama A&M coaches were told to have their credentials hanging around their neck, UNA coaches had theirs around their waist
  • His assistant coaches were not able to use the elevator right away because of fans being given priority
  • “There was too much stuff that went on off the field, behind the scenes that was not professional on their part at all.”
  • “And we were very very disappointed in the way they treated us, in every aspect off the field.”
  • The teams will not play again

And most importantly, according to the Florence Times Daily:

Maynor also alleged an incident occurred in which a police officer put “his hand on his gun” and saying “Did you hear what he said?” during an argument between a coach and security.

Whoa… what?

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with staff?

Wait.

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with the staff of a Historically Black College and University at a football game?

Why don’t we know what agency this officer was with?

His name?

The name of the coach involved?

This is a serious allegation and is, no doubt, a racially tinged accusation.

There must be an investigation of this entire situation.

Only, there will not be an investigation. Alabama A&M has made it clear neither the coach nor the school will be commenting further, which is insane.

Alabama A&M’s head coach is alleging some pretty serious stuff, including a police officer going for his gun over a coach’s access to part of a football stadium.

Instead, we got a statement from the two schools that says the following:

“Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama are vital educational institutions that serve the North Alabama region and beyond. Both institutions are committed to working collaboratively to advance our respective missions. We are separated by 76 miles; however, we remain united in ensuring the viability of our institutions and the success of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and programs, both academically and athletically. As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary. Both institutions are committed to providing a safe, accommodating, friendly, and inclusive environment. We remain dedicated to furthering our relationship and enjoying a bright future, both on and off the field.”

The highlight is this (bold text added for emphasis):

As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary.

To put it bluntly, that statement is complete garbage.

Was there racism or not?

Was this just normal rivalry stuff?

Was there an effort by the University of North Alabama to behave in a way that Alabama A&M’s coach, staff, and players led to these words by a state employee about another state institution?

Is Coach Maynor lying?

If he is, why is he still employed?

If he is not, why don’t we know what actually happened?

Why is this police officer still on the job?

Shame on everyone involved in this situation, especially the leadership of these universities who have no interest in getting to the bottom of what actually happened.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

15 hours ago

OIG report: ‘Serious issues,’ possible misuse of taxpayer dollars at Alabama Women’s Business Center locations

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report identifying “serious” material deficiencies with Women’s Business Center, Inc., an Alabama-based recipient of the SBA’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) grant program.

Women’s Business Center, Inc. is responsible for operating two WBCs, located in Mobile and Brewton.

In the course of the OIG’s audit of SBA’s oversight of the nationwide WBC program, Women’s Business Center, Inc. denied OIG auditors access to both coastal Alabama center’s offices and records.

After issuing an administrative subpoena, the SBA OIG uncovered that both WBCs had actually been permanently closed since the fall of 2018 yet were still collecting federal government funds.

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Further violations uncovered by the OIG included inadequately staffing centers, late and unpaid payroll, a major potential conflict of interest and failure to maintain an adequate financial management system and audited financial statements.

The OIG’s report concluded:

We determined that the Recipient has materially violated federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements. Its lack of required financial systems, records, and policies, and inability to pay its obligations, maintain open and available facilities and service hours, and staff its WBCs with full-time program directors indicates serious issues in the Recipient’s ability to operate and fulfill the WBC program requirements. We have deemed the documentation the Recipient has provided to us to be insufficient and incomplete. The Recipient denied access to OIG, an independent, authorized oversight entity, and disregarded governing federal regulations and terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements.

These findings impel SBA to take prompt corrective action to protect taxpayers’ dollars and help to ensure the integrity of the WBC program. SBA should pursue actions including, but not limited to, suspension, termination, and nonrenewal of the Recipient’s cooperative agreements, as well as suspension and debarment of the Recipient and its personnel.

In a statement reacting to the OIG report, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said, “The gross lack of oversight uncovered in the SBA OIG’s most recent management advisory is incredibly troubling.”

“SBA must take action to remedy the numerous deficiencies identified and enact the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations immediately,” he added. “I appreciate the Office of the Inspector General’s diligence in this matter and look forward to its swift resolution.”

Read the OIG report here.

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

16 hours ago

Ivey back in Montgomery after outpatient procedure ‘went well and as planned’

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday underwent an initial outpatient procedure at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for early-stage lung cancer.

This followed her Thursday announcement that disclosed the next day’s procedure and radiation treatments to follow.

In a statement, Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, said, “The governor’s outpatient procedure today at UAB went well and as planned.”

“She is back in Montgomery and looks forward to returning to her regular schedule next week,” Maiola concluded.

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RELATED: Support pours in after Ivey announces cancer diagnosis — ‘No step too high for a high-stepper’

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

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