5 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

Judge rules Alabama-born ‘ISIS bride’ not an American citizen, has no right to return

Hoda Muthana, who left Hoover in 2014 to join ISIS in Syria, has no right to return to the United States, according to a Thursday ruling by a federal judge.

Muthana has been begging to return to America since at least early this year, claiming she made “a big mistake.”

She has previously called for the killings of Americans on U.S. soil, as well as the assassination of then-President Barack Obama.

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Muthana was 19 years old when she left Alabama and headed to Raqqa, Syria. There, she first married an Australian jihadist named Suhan Rahman, who was reportedly killed later in the town of Kobanî.

After Rahman’s death, Muthana – called “one of Isis’s [sic] most prominent online agitators” as well as one of the most militant – took to social media in a vengeful call for the blood of American citizens to be spilled by radical jihadists living in the country.

“Americans wake up! Men and women altogether. You have much to do while you live under our greatest enemy, enough of your sleeping! Go on drivebys, and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriots, Memorial, etc day … Kill them,” she once tweeted.

After the death of Rahman, she married a Tunisian fighter, with whom she had her son, Adam. This second husband was soon killed in Mosul, and Muthana briefly married a Syrian fighter last year to complete her own trifecta of jihadist husbands.

It is supposedly in part out of concern for her son that she wants to return to her family in the Yellowhammer State. She also claims to have become de-radicalized over time after seeing the realities in the Middle East.

President Donald Trump’s State Department has maintained that Muthana is not an American citizen, as such has no rights to return to America and therefore would be banned from reentering the country.

On Thursday, approximately nine months after Muthana’s family sued the State Department in federal court, Senior United States District Judge Reggie Walton of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia officially sided with the government.

The judge found that there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Muthana was born in America while her father, who once represented Yemen to the United Nations, still had diplomatic status in the U.S.

As reported by Buzzfeed News, “Federal regulations and international law state that children of foreign diplomats born in the US are not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees birthright citizenship, because they are born under the jurisdiction of another country.”

Additionally, the judge also ruled that Muthana’s father can not provide financial support to her or her two-year-old without being subject to federal charges of providing material support to terrorism.

A lawyer for Muthana reportedly told Buzzfeed that an appeal is likely.

The ruling came days after NBC News featured the “ISIS bride” in a new exclusive. In that latest report, which was mocked by PJ Media, Muthana asserted that every American of faith must support her return, claiming, “Anyone that believes in God believes that everyone deserves a second chance, no matter how harmful their sins were.”

That report also outlined that a return to live in Hoover was still Muthana’s goal.

“I want my son to be around my family, I want to go to school, I want to have a job and I want to have my own car,” she told NBC.

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has previously advocated that Muthana be allowed to return to America.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) disagreed with Jones’ position, saying, “Look, this is one of many ways that Doug Jones differs from the people – the vast majority of people – in the state of Alabama.”

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

14 hours ago

Roby presses VA officials on staffing issues at Alabama facilities — ‘My veterans are suffering’

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), a member of the House’s Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, on Thursday participated in a hearing regarding the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection’s failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Roby questioned Michael J. Missal — inspector general of the VA — and Dr. Tamara Bonzanto — the assistant secretary for accountability and whistleblower protection of the VA.

In her questioning and remarks, Roby highlighted the importance of whistleblowers in uncovering critical issues at Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System (CAVHCS) and the urgent need for staffing improvements within the VA system.

She specifically pressed the inspector general as to why the system is not seeing any internal change impacting the lives of Alabama’s tremendous veterans.

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Roby asked, “Is there a disconnect between the administration’s view of how the VA is operating and the IG’s reports on the issues, and is the administration doing enough to implement IG recommendations?”

She commented, “This [whistleblower] hearing is important because there are some VA facilities in this country that are working well and serving our veterans well. There are others that are not, and that happens to be the one in my district…There is a tremendous problem with our veterans even having the ability to be seen. …It’s just not getting better. …I continue to be so outraged and frustrated as to why this is not getting better…My veterans are suffering because of it.”

You can watch Roby’s full remarks here.

The southeast Alabama congresswoman has long been a vocal advocate for veterans and improving the VA system.

RELATED: Roby: ‘My name isn’t on the ballot in 2020, but I still have a few fights left in me — The VA remains at the top of my list’

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

15 hours ago

Alabama Policy Institute launches campaign to change state’s ‘dead last’ k-12 ranking

The Alabama Policy Institute (API) on Thursday launched the “#DeadLast Initiative” aimed at focusing elected officials and the public on Alabama’s recent ranking as having the nation’s lowest-ranked public education system.

The initiative includes the launch of DeadLast.org and an online video poking fun at the fact that Alabama is no longer even above Mississippi in its education ranking.

API is not just drawing attention to embarrassing problems — they are proposing tangible solutions.

Chief among the calls-to-action are for Alabama voters to pass Amendment One on the March 2020 primary ballot. The bipartisan proposal would be a historic overhaul of the state’s educational governance structure.

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In addition to outreach to elected officials, API is expected to invest significant time and resources into spreading the message to the public that Alabama must do a better job in educating our children, according to a press release.

“Alabama can no longer say ‘Thank God for Mississippi’,” API president Caleb Crosby said in a statement. “We are letting our children down and not preparing them for a productive life. API is going to do everything in our power to bring about change in the way we educate our children in Alabama – they deserve nothing less.”

API is also advocating for reforms such as the expansion of school choice through charter schools and scholarships; the wise use of tax dollars and not simply increasing spending for the sake of increasing spending; and reformulation of the teacher tenure system so that teacher performance and continual professional development are rewarded more than longevity.

API chief operations officer Carl Jones remarked that it is time to get away from a failing “status quo,” which he said is perfectly represented by the Alabama Education Association (AEA).

“Alabama’s worst in the nation ranking makes clear it’s high pastime we break the status quo in education in Alabama. No one more represents the same old same old as the Alabama Education Association,” Jones stated. “Unions have one goal – get the best deal for their members – that’s it. Our goal is to get the best deal for our children. We don’t want small shiny objects; we want, and our children need, real, aggressive reforms including an immediate expansion of school choice and reforming teacher tenure, among other things.”

API chief communications officer Joshua Pendergrass added, “It is simply unacceptable for Alabama to be number 52 in education – 52 out of 50 states – that means even Washington D.C. and the military are better educating their children than we are. We are committed to moving our state forward through smart, practical education reforms.”

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

15 hours ago

Auburn in the playoffs? Don’t count the Tigers out yet

You can surely call me wacky. You can surely call me unconventional. Just don’t call me Shirley. And after perusing this column, perhaps you will call me enlightened (I can only hope). Yes, I’m telling you that there’s a chance. That chance may be slim, but there’s a chance that the Auburn Tigers could soon find themselves in the College Football Playoffs.

Now, before you send me to my doctor, give me just a few minutes to make my case — my doctor can wait.

I’m here to tell you that if Auburn wins out, the Tigers could become the first-ever two-loss team that makes the four-team playoff field.

How in the name of Aubie can that happen? Here we go:

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The latest College Football Playoff poll has LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Georgia holding the top four spots, with Alabama checking in at number five. While most of us agree that the Crimson Tide can sneak into the playoff field by winning out (Bama will need a big win over Auburn and then hope that LSU beats Georgia in the SEC Championship game), the Gus Bus also has a chance of motoring toward the final four by winning out.

So then, what do Auburn officials need to happen to make their case? They need Auburn to win the remaining games on the schedule: Should Auburn beat Georgia and then Alabama, the Tigers can boast of three wins over top-seven teams (Oregon, Georgia and Alabama). The Tigers can point to their strength of schedule, which currently ranks second in the nation behind LSU. But what about the two losses? The Tigers lost to 11th-ranked Florida by 11 points and #1-ranked LSU by three points — that’s not necessarily the playoff kiss of death.

What about all of those unbeaten and one-loss teams that are in the mix? An Auburn win this weekend would all but eliminate Georgia, and a win in the Iron Bowl would all but eliminate Bama, as a two-loss Auburn team would trump a two-loss Alabama team with the Tiger’s win over the Crimson Tide. But even if three of the playoff teams wind up being LSU, Ohio State and Clemson, how would Auburn sneak past the likes of Oregon, Oklahoma, Baylor, Utah or even Penn State (the Nittany Lions face Ohio State on the 23rd of this month)?

That’s easy, as the power of the SEC, strength of schedule and the ‘ole, “what have you done for me lately” syndrome would kick in (wins over Georgia and Alabama within weeks of one another would indeed be impressive). Oregon could be a wild card should Auburn win out, as the Ducks could claim that their only loss came at the hands of — you guessed it — Auburn.

The world of the College Football Playoffs goes through the Loveliest Village this weekend, as the Auburn-Georgia game is so big that Crimson Tide fans may find themselves rooting for Tua and friends. Remember, an Auburn win this weekend and then a convincing Iron Bowl win by Alabama would all but put the Crimson Tide in the playoffs.

Can the Auburn Tigers go all 2017 starting this weekend? Remember, the Tigers had two losses a few years back before beating Georgia and Bama. It could happen, and if it does, the Auburn family will once again remind the world that it should be respected. Could the Tigers make the playoffs? Most playoff sites are giving the Tigers a 13% chance of sneaking in. Thirteen percent odds are better than many, so yes, I’m saying there’s a chance. So get ready for another wild weekend of college football, as a game with huge ramifications will kick off at 2:37 p.m. CT at Jordan-Hare Stadium. And regardless of the game’s outcome, do me a favor: Don’t call me Shirley.

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.

16 hours ago

Fish added to Alabama creek to boost tourism

Hundreds of fish have been added to an Alabama creek as part of an ongoing effort to boost tourism.

Black Creek was restocked Tuesday with about 1,100 pounds of trout above Noccalula Falls by the Rainbow Fly Fishing Club, The Gadsden Times reported.

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The group also stocked 1,000 coppernose bluegill into the watershed in late March.

Rep. Craig Lipscomb (R-Rainbow City) is a member of the fishing club, and said they’re working with the city to fill a gap for activities at the falls in the winter months.

“We’re thinking about eco-tourism,” he said.

Lipscomb said trout fishing in Georgia brings in tens of millions of dollars for the state and Gadsden would benefit even from a fraction of that.

Georgia has about 4,000 miles of trout streams and they are managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

Fly fishing for trout is expected to last beyond the winter months.

“They’re a cold-water fish but they’ll stick around into summer,” Lipscomb said.

He said the club plans to feed the fish to keep them in the upper part of the watershed instead of following Black Creek downstream into the Coosa.

Lipscomb said even in summer, the deeper part of the pools and shaded areas of the gorge will be habitats for the fish.

The trout will be stocked twice a year — once in November and once in February.

Fishing for trout requires a permit issued by Noccalula Falls Park as well as an Alabama State Fishing License.

Permits cost $9 per day or $11 for a three-day pass.

There are other limitations including dates for catch and release and only using fly rods, artificial lures and barb-less hooks.

More information can be found at www.flyfishgadsdenal.com.
 (Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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