2 years ago

Greg Reed: ‘God put’ coal on earth for a reason; Alabama’s miners have strong ‘sense of pride’

JASPER — Yellowhammer News on Thursday held the fourth of its 2019 News Shapers events: “West Alabama and the coal industry.”

Hosted at Musgrove Country Club, top stakeholders from industry, government and academia came together to discuss the coal industry’s impact on Alabama.

Yellowhammer co-owner Tim Howe moderated the forum, which featured Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper); Philip Saunders, vice president of engineering for Warrior Met Coal; Ken Russell, director of workforce solutions for Bevill State Community College; Judith Adams, vice president of marketing for the Alabama State Port Authority; and Brett Bussman, senior vice president and general manager for Tractor & Equipment Company.

Areas of focus included analysis on the past, present and future of the industry, highlighting the industry’s state and regional impacts, related workforce development efforts and community influence.

‘For me to represent those folks — it’s important’

Reed was the first panelist to speak and kicked things off by emphasizing how much the coal industry has meant to West Alabama historically — and how that special importance remains today.

He said the impressive standing room only crowd, which included a bevy of state legislators, local elected officials and representatives from various state agencies, was a tribute to the continuing impact coal has throughout the Yellowhammer State.

“Some of you have heard me say this before, but I pride myself on saying that I’m ‘the coal senator.’ And it’s because I represent Walker, Winston, Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties,” Reed said. “If you look at the numbers, those are the top coal-producing counties in the state of Alabama.”

“But you go a long way back — I’m 54 years old and I grew up in Cordova, Alabama, down on the Warrior River in south Walker County,” he continued. “And just about everybody was involved in some way with the coal industry… It’s just a fiber of who I am. My wife Mitsy is with me tonight. Her grandfather was a coal miner. Her daddy was a coal miner. Both my grandfathers were retired coal miners. So, the roots run deep in this community in regards to the significance of coal.”

“And the reality is God put something in the ground, and he gave men and women the intellect to know how to extract it, be able to then use it to produce all kinds of fantastic things that are so important to our lives. So, there is a certain sense of pride in knowing that’s who you are and what you do. For me to represent those folks — it’s important.”

Reed then said while Alabama’s coal industry has experienced “ups and downs,” the present state of affairs looks relatively good.

“[T]hings are back, and they’re positive,” he advised. “They’re exciting.”

However, that has not always been the case, recent times certainly included.

Reed outlined, “We’ve had some difficult times, too. I remember — you may know (Alabama Secretary of Labor) Fitzgerald Washington … this was only, during my tenure in the Alabama Senate, only about five or six years ago. We had an event at the Jasper Civic Center that was a job fair for coal miners (who were unemployed). At that time, I had about 1,000 men and women in my district that were out of work. And the coal industry had run on tough times. That day, we signed up 1,100 men and women that were standing in there with their resume, waiting for an opportunity to ask somebody for a job when they had spent their whole life being a coal miner. The good news is most all those folks have gone back to work (in the coal industry since then). And we’ve got folks that are on the panel with me here and those of you that are sitting out there (in the crowd) that know that the industry has hired hundreds and hundreds of new folks that are making big money doing what they enjoy doing and love doing, which is a great benefit to our community.”

Jobs, jobs, jobs

Bussman then spoke about the steam/thermal coal (which is burned for power generation) industry, explaining the high startup costs that these surface miners in the state face. He said a fleet of equipment alone would easily run someone $15 million off the bat.

Not only is this equipment supporting indirect jobs in Alabama, but so is maintaining the equipment. Whether that means highly skilled mechanics or giant specialty tires for the trucks, this is still big business. Additionally, there are tools and resources needed that have provided many secondary jobs from the industry, including the mining explosives provided by companies such as Nelson Brothers. That is not even to mention the transportation jobs supported by coal, from trucking to rail to inland waterways.

Saunders built off of this in his remarks, explaining that the modern mining industry is now what people perceive it as.

Using pictures to make his point, Saunders said that long gone are the days when coal mining entailed miners using pickaxes picking out rocks out of stores of mined coal by hand.

Now, the equipment is massive, high tech and, yes, very expensive.

However, high tech equipment also calls for highly trained workers to operate and maintain them.

This is why miners at Warrior Met Coal are also highly paid, with starting annual salaries of $80,000.

Through the company’s unique collaboration with Bevill State, Saunders and Russell outlined that Warrior Met Coal has trained 600 new miners this year alone.

Saunders stressed that this public-private workforce development effort is integral to the company’s ability to thrive and grow, which in turn is crucial to the surrounding community.

This past legislative session, Bevill State’s groundbreaking mine training facility was given another major boost via an approximately $1 million grant for longwall mining training. Reed spearheaded this effort, according to the Alabama Coal Association.

A major theme from the industry and academia panelists on Thursday was that the state’s support of workforce development initiatives and infrastructure investments are crucial to the coal industry, as well as many other jobs juggernauts in Alabama.

Adams said this especially included the Rebuild Alabama Act, which will make possible the deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile’s ship channel in order to compete at the highest level of international trade.

In fact, the met coal (coal used for coke, which is a necessary component in steel and iron making) industry is by far the port’s biggest commodity exporter– and Warrior Met Coal is the port’s largest single customer by tonnage. Overall, coal accounts for 50% of the port’s total business.

Looking forward, Adams predicted that deepening the ship channel will allow Alabama’s coal exports to make a significantly increased dent in Asian markets especially.

Saunders advised that Australian met coal producers are currently Warrior’s biggest international competitor, and the Rebuild Alabama Act’s effects are expected to make the state’s met coal industry even more of a player on the worldwide stage.

Adams hailed state leaders, such as Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, for the infrastructure package and especially singled out the stalwart efforts of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) for his support of the port improvements.

“We see the money that’s being invested and what that means for these shippers. And this industry up here (coal), they’re going to be able to load more coal,” she said. “They’re going to be able to put 20/30,000 tons more per ship, and for the first time, we think we’re going to have a competitive edge in the Asian market. We already serve Latin America and Europe… We’re excited about it.”

While things look up from this perspective, Saunders also advised that Warrior Met Coal was seriously looking into another expansion.

He said that its Blue Creek Mine has been identified as one of the largest untapped coal reserves in America. The company is studying the economic feasibility of the project, with a decision to likely come near the end of this year or early 2020.

If Warrior Met Coal does move forward with this expansion, it would probably mean another 450-700 high-paying jobs in the area.

‘This is a big deal’

This type of industry optimism can continue, with the support of the state and federal governments, Reed said.

“We’re proud of the fact that we are a pro-business state,” Reed emphasized. “We are looking for ways … minimize regulatory requirements that would cause us to not be able to see the kind of investment and growth that we have.”

He then recounted a story a vendor told him this past session that provides powerful perspective into the impact of Alabama’s coal industry across the globe and back here at home.

Met coal mined in the state is being shipped by barge down to the Port of Mobile and then shipped out to European steelmakers. Some of that steel is then sent back through the Port of Mobile to Mercedes-Benz’s manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa, and those automobiles are enjoyed worldwide, thanks, in part, to the contributions of hardworking, proud Yellowhammer State coal miners.

“For West Alabama, this is a big deal,” Reed concluded. “And I’m just excited to be a part of it.”

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

8 hours ago

Huntsville City Schools will go on with its vaccination clinic for minors without parental consent

Americans have been bombarded with requests, pleas, shaming and excoriations about how you must get vaccinated.

I bought in, and I think I may have even jumped the line accidentally. I also have a three-year-old, and I don’t envision a scenario where I rush him out to get a vaccine. If he were 14, 18 or 24, I wouldn’t pressure him to get vaccinated. If he were over 18, what could I do?

But if he were 14? That’s a no from me.

Schools in Alabama disagree, and at least one school system doesn’t care what you think.

Madison, Birmingham and Huntsville schools have all taken up the task of vaccinating your kids even though doctors, pharmacies and Wal-Mart have vaccines readily available.

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In the coverage of the Huntsville vaccinations, the Alabama Media Group article specifically states that Huntsville City Schools will not require parental consent for those over 14.

Students under 14 must have a parent or guardian accompany them for the vaccine, according to the announcement on the Huntsville schools website. Everyone receiving the vaccine must present a legal form of identification including a driver’s license, passport, non-drivers ID, or a birth certificate. Participants must sign a consent form prior to receiving the vaccine and must register online in advance to receive the vaccine.

To put it simply — your 14-year-old can decide to take an experimental vaccine without your knowledge.

This is a betrayal of parents by Alabama schools.

They don’t care.

Keep in mind that this is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still looking at the impact of the vaccine on young people.

Even the World Health Organization thinks this is a bad idea.

Some Alabama lawmakers are taking note.

State Senator Sam Givhan appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and suggested the school systems should hit pause.

Explaining that just vaccinating everyone who shows up without parental consent is just a bad practice, Givhan said, “They don’t have everyone’s full medical history, and they don’t know the unique situations from certain kids. … And I just don’t think the high school should be giving these shots when, you know, you could actually cause someone to have medical problems from this, and then they’ll hide behind their state immunity shield and say you can’t sue them.”

Obviously, it is entirely possible that no children have been vaccinated without parental consent, but how would we know?

Huntsville City Schools seems hell-bent on continuing this. Attempts to speak to the school board we unsuccessful.

The board said in a statement, “We appreciate the invitation. Please see the information below surrounding the vaccine clinic. We have nothing more to add at this time.”

The gist is this: “Sorry, not sorry. We will vaccinate your kids without your permission. What are you going to do about it?”

The answer is people with means are going to either change these schools or flee American schools more than they already have.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

10 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

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Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

14 hours ago

Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions has added Joia M. Johnson to its board of directors, according to a release from the company.

Johnson will serve on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank, beginning on July 20.

She arrives at her new responsibilities having recently retired as chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary for Hanesbrands Inc., a leading apparel manufacturer and marketer.

Charles McCrary, chairman of the Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank Boards, believes Johnson’s experience will be a valuable addition to the board.

“Joia’s leadership experience, both at the corporate level and in various board roles, will add greater depth and insights to the Regions Board of Directors as we advance policies and strategies to benefit our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders,” McCrary explained.

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Johnson added that she sees that experience as an asset in assisting the company achieve its vision for growth.

“I believe the breadth of my corporate experience and civic engagement will complement the additional experience and skills reflected throughout Regions’ current directors,” she stated. “As the company focuses not just on continuous improvement but also on long-term, sustainable growth, I am thrilled to become a part of building on Regions’ history of success – while also defining a very bright future for the organization and the people and communities we serve.”

McCrary also noted the alignment between Johnson’s unique skill set and the company’s mission.

“The Regions mission is to make life better for the people we serve, and we accomplish that mission by creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” he remarked. “With her passion for strong governance and strategic community engagement, Joia will help us build on our progress and reach new heights in the years to come.”

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Johnson earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Johnson’s financial services experience includes on the board of Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company and eight years as a board member for Crawford & Company, which specializes in insurance claims administration.

Upon her installment, Johnson will serve on Regions’ 13-member board which will consist of 12 independent outside directors.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

State Rep. Oliver: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Alabama is ‘the way we stand up to woke-ism’

Republicans have made taking on so-called Critical Race Theory a priority in recent weeks claiming such philosophies are an effort to undermine cultural norms and indoctrinate in a way that benefits the Democratic Party.

Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the theory from their public school classrooms. Many would like to see Alabama follow suit, and there have been bills filed for the legislature’s 2022 regular session to do as much. One of those bills is being brought by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), who takes it beyond the classroom and applies restrictions throughout state government.

Oliver discussed the bill during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show” on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5.

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“[I]’ve got a bill that’s fairly unique, and we expect it to go through the state government committee,” he said. “My bill actually covers any state agency, its contractors and subcontractors, to include schools. We felt like it was important to address this issue with a holistic approach.”

“The first thing is deciding what you don’t want taught,” Oliver continued. “That’s the most important piece. And I would like to say, this bill, it absolutely describes what we don’t want taught — it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach inclusion or diversity. It means you can’t teach some things as fact and then we’re not going to teach our kids that one sex or race is better than another. And in a nutshell, that is the crux of it.”

The Tallapoosa County lawmaker said his effort could serve as a bulwark against a creeping effort to indoctrinate.

“[I]t’s the way we stand up to woke-ism,” Oliver declared. “If we’re ever going to draw a line in the sand, Critical Race Theory is it. I say that not because I’m the smartest guy in the world or this is something I’ve thought all my life, but I’ve got a child that goes to a major university in the state. And I am absolutely appalled by what I’ve witnessed there the last three years with my child. If you don’t think universities are indoctrinating your kids, everybody needs to wake up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

15 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama backs Ainsworth for reelection

As Alabama maintains its status among the top states in the nation for manufacturing, the industry’s dedicated trade association has made its choice for lieutenant governor.

Manufacture Alabama has given its full support to Will Ainsworth in his bid for reelection to the office, according to a release from the group.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, cited Ainsworth’s background in manufacturing and knowledge of its key issues in announcing the endorsement.

“Manufacture Alabama is endorsing Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth for reelection due to his commitment to maintaining a business-friendly environment in Alabama,” Clark said. “Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth grew up in the manufacturing industry and understands firsthand that our members are the backbone of the state and nation’s economy. He is a friend to our association and a tireless advocate for manufacturers across Alabama. In his leadership role, it is clear that he is dedicated to serving his home state with enthusiasm and integrity. We are proud to give him our full endorsement for the reelection of Lieutenant Governor.”

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Ainsworth, who has now picked up a string of endorsements from trade associations, believes the state’s successes in manufacturing are something that can continue.

“I am proud to have the endorsement of Manufacture Alabama,” he stated. “Our tremendous manufacturers are sources of good-paying 21st century jobs for hardworking Alabamians, and the goods and materials they produce are integral across a broad range of sectors. Alabama is open for business, and I’m firmly committed to making our state the workforce engine of the Southeast so we can continue to grow jobs through expansion and recruitment. Working together, I am confident we will build an even stronger Alabama for our children and our children’s children.”

The manufacturing industry employs more than 250,000 people in Alabama, a figure which makes up a double-digit percentage of the state’s workforce.

Ainsworth announced his reelection campaign earlier this month.

Since that time, he has received the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association, the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: Huntsville preferred location for Space Command ‘based on merit and based on policies’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia