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Groups, initiatives align under AlabamaWorks! Success Plus

Alabama is moving quickly in developing a trained workforce that meets the needs of business, with major changes in recent years in how our workforce development system operates.

The process began four years ago when the Alabama Workforce Council recommended a re-alignment of our workforce programs. The Alabama Legislature responded by passing legislation to make the changes possible, and Gov. Kay Ivey, then lieutenant governor, fully supported these measures. Today, Alabama’s workforce landscape is strikingly different.

One of the Alabama Workforce Council’s recommendations was to reorganize the state’s 10 workforce regions into seven. The Legislature approved funding for staff to run these councils, and these regional workforce directors work closely with the business community as well as the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Community College System, K-12, the Alabama Department of Labor, the Career Center System and other related agencies, to identify and meet the needs of industry and workers. In addition, Commerce and the ACCS have assigned liaisons who link each region to workforce training and other resources.

The legislature also required that at least 75 percent of the voting members come from the business community within each region. This raises the level of engagement with Alabama businesses.

Another significant change in the streamlining of workforce development was the realignment of the Workforce Innovations Opportunity Act program. The three local WIOA boards were expanded to seven and aligned with the seven workforce areas. Many business leaders from around the state were appointed to the state’s WIOA board and, in some areas, to the local boards. Again, this change has resulted in a more even approach to WIOA funding and a significant increase in business engagement across the state.

In 2016, the Legislature approved the creation of Apprenticeship Alabama, designed to increase the number of apprentices to assist companies in building their pipeline of workers.
In its first year, 2017, Apprenticeship Alabama significantly increased the number of apprentices statewide. And while the modest tax credit was a new benefit to companies, the fact that there was an office dedicated to helping businesses register their programs with the U.S. Department of Labor enabled the program to grow. Navigating the waters of federal registration can be tedious, but the Apprenticeship Alabama staff, along with the regional councils, are dedicated to assisting companies with the expansion of this training program.

At first glance, the various components of workforce development appear to be separate entities with separate goals. When you look closer, however, they form the backbone of Gov. Ivey’s recently announced AlabamaWorks Success Plus initiative.

The Success Plus education attainment initiative is the cornerstone of the governor’s “Strong Start. Strong Finish” endeavor. Ivey announced that by 2025, Alabama MUST have 500,000 additional workers who have more than a high school diploma.

Many high schools and career technical programs offer students credentials that qualify within Success Plus. Some students involved in dual-enrollment programs with the ACCS receive not only a high school diploma, but an associate degree or certificate.

Without doubt, one of the most important factors in the development of Alabama’s workforce system has the foresight and the wok of the Alabama Workforce Council, a business-led advisory group for the governor, the Legislature and agency heads. Under the Chairmanship of Zeke Smith, from Alabama Power, the council has provided the sounding board needed by among business and state leaders and the vehicle for candid discussions about workforce development initiatives. The importance of the AWC cannot be understated.

Finally, workforce development in this state would not be complete without the work of AIDT. AIDT is Alabama’s workforce training incentive program. It assists both existing businesses in expansion and new businesses moving to the state. AIDT is consistently ranked in the top three training incentive programs in the country, and we are extremely proud of our ranking. Day in and day out, AIDT staff are boots on the ground assisting more than 130 projects across the state helping fill thousands of jobs.

Of course, the best entry point to any job-seekers is the 50-plus Alabama Career Centers located strategically across Alabama, managed by the Alabama Department of Labor.

When you build a team, the goal is to be the best. This involves uniting team members who are good at a particular position. On their own, they may not make a significant impact. But working as a unit, they perform like a well-oiled machine. During the past four years, we’ve been putting this team together, and we’re seeing the fruits of our labor.

Why does this matter to you? Simply said, these changes, these new initiatives, program improvements and alignments will keep Alabama in the game for new industry and jobs. We must have an educated and skilled workforce for our businesses in the world to come.

For more information about these and other programs within Alabama’s education and workforce infrastructure, visit www.alabamaworks.com.

Ed Castile is deputy secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce and director of AIDT.

14 hours ago

State Auditor Jim Zeigler eyeing 2020 run against Doug Jones for U.S. Senate

Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler has announced an exploratory campaign to “test the waters” for a potential 2020 United States Senate seat occupied by Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook).

In a press release, Zeigler says the exploratory campaign “will gauge support and ability to raise the funds to get our message out.”

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Zeigler said he plans to tell people in his exploratory campaign that “the federal government must cut out waste and mismanagement.

“Our national debt now exceeds $21 trillion dollars – and growing,” said Zeigler. “No one is standing firm to rein in spending, balance the budget, and start gradually paying down the national debt.”

Zeigler also insisted he can play watchman in Washington D.C.

“I can play a similar role of watchman in Washington,” Zeigler declared. “While Alabama government can waste millions, the federal government can waste billions.”

He added, “There is not a Jim Zeigler-type in the U.S. Senate – there is not a watchman against waste. We badly need a watchman for taxpayers. Just the interest alone on the national debt is becoming harder to pay each year. Someone needs to stand up. No one is doing that. I stood up in Montgomery and would do so in Washington.”

Zeigler, who is now term-limited and cannot run as state auditor again, was elected as state auditor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018. In 2018, Zeigler received 61 percent of the vote.

“My number one priority is of course to do the job as state auditor, and I’ve been working on that all day every day, even today,” Ziegler said.

In order to challenge Jones, Zeigler must make a decision before a November 2019 qualifying deadline.

The primary for the U.S. Senate seat will be held in March 2020, and will establish which Republican will face off with Jones in the November 2020 general election.

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

15 hours ago

Mazda-Toyota site selection team tells the story of how they chose Huntsville

The world-class site selectors who handled the Mazda-Toyota project have told the inside story of how Huntsville was chosen, praising the city and Alabama’s long term prospects in the process.

In a podcast series, the site selection team from JLL Chicago recently discussed this tremendous accomplishment for the Yellowhammer State, which Made In Alabama called “one of the most coveted industrial prizes in years.”

Meredith O’Connor, a JLL international director, concluded, “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Officially coined “Project New World,” the now-under-construction Mazda-Toyota venture in Huntsville stemmed from a rigorous, fast-paced site search. The team at JLL revealed the key factors that separated Alabama from other suitors for the sprawling assembly plant that will employ 4,000 workers producing 300,000 vehicles annually.

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One of the most striking revelations from the site selectors is how elite a level the state’s economic development and business climate have reached.

“Huntsville was ultimately selected because they were ready, willing and able. The site shows years of thoughtful preparation, and the city has ample advanced manufacturing expertise,” JLL noted in a project profile, separate from the podcast.

They added, “It’s a place where two savvy automakers will collaborate, fortifying a shared competitive advantage as technology companies continue to focus on the industry as one ripe for disruption.”

Interestingly enough, this historic project, however, did not actually start out with that massive scale of two giants coming together.

Initially, its secret code name was “Project Mitt,” and the project involved only Toyota. The JLL team at first examined potential sites spanning 500 to 1,000 acres, but the game completely changed when Mazda joined as a partner in the venture.

“That scope became much larger. We covered a lot of ground in terms of states that could qualify, although once Mitt became Project New World, several states were eliminated due to the scope and size of the project itself,” O’Connor explained.

Wide disparity between Alabama and most of the nation

Throughout much of last year, O’Connor and her renowned site selection colleagues worked closely with both Toyota and Mazda on the search, narrowing down a list of possible sites that originally numbered 300.

There were many factors to analyze that separated real contenders from the rest, including “workforce, operating environment, site specifics, logistics, incentives, and quality of life, among others.”

The team faced an ambitious timeline for a project of such magnitude and had to move quickly, as Mazda-Toyota wanted their new plant to be up and running by 2021.

“Before our first flight was booked, we made sure we understood what was important to our clients – Toyota and Mazda – from site specifics to the softer requirements of cultural fit and others,” Christian Beaudoin, JLL’s director of research, outlined.

Their process was cutting edge and adds to the objective credibility of their praise of Huntsville and Alabama.

“Our research team turned those requirements into an algorithm using data analytics to define labor and site requirements, and then we started a cross-country search,” Beaudoin added.

Beaudoin said the site selection team’s “high-level screening model” aggregated over 100 data points involving individual sites and then provided a ranking.

After the data work, the team members physically embarked on site visits that took them to 20 states over an intense six-week span.

Engineers from the two automakers joined them on “operational tours.” They viewed sites from helicopters, talked to human resources managers in cities to get a true sense of the respective labor markets, explored whether there was a Japanese school nearby and even sampled dishes at local Japanese restaurants.

After the data screening process and this round of visits, the list of potential sites dropped rapidly, as economic development agencies struggled to meet requirements that seemed off the charts. Most places around the nation are simply not on Alabama’s level when it comes to meeting the needs of modern industry.

One quote from O’Connor in the podcast was especially revealing, as it pertains to this state-by-state economic development gap.

“I think we all got the same types of calls from individuals saying, ‘Are there too many zeros in this column?’ If you just removed one zero, it made sense to them, but in some cases, there were two extra zeros. It was just things they had never seen in their career,” O’Connor advised.

Alabama is working again

As 2017 wrapped up, only two sites remained – Huntsville and a competitor in North Carolina.

The site selection team at JLL recognized that Huntsville offered many advantages. For one, the site was already assembled, and it also offered a large buffer zone so the plant could fit like a glove with the community.

Plus, the economic development specialists working the project in Huntsville and across the state were responsive at all times.

“There were days where we worked 18, 19 hours when we got down to the end of this. They never wavered. They were with us. They didn’t care what time of the day it was,” O’Connor shared.

Then, there is a huge advantage that the Yellowhammer State has built over time – Alabama’s booming auto industry has a network of suppliers that few states can even fathom. This includes original equipment manufacturers.

“There are reasons there are multiple OEM’s in their state,” O’Connor emphasized. “As a state, they get it. They’re ready. I think we’re going to continue to see success in Alabama for these types of uses.”

Combine all of this with the nation’s best business climate and overall manufacturing sector, the Port of Mobile, an ambitious workforce development plan and the work of the University of Alabama System, and Mazda-Toyota came to call Alabama its sweet new home.

If these site selectors are correct, these types of successes could begin to snowball.

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

16 hours ago

Mo Brooks questions Trump administration’s reaction to lawsuit about counting illegal aliens in the census

Republican Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) and Attorney General Steve Marshall have filed a suit against the federal government and their plans to count illegal immigrants in the 2020 census and use those numbers for congressional reapportionment, as well as the allocation of federal funding.

An adverse decision for Brooks, Marshall and Alabama would most likely cost the state a congressional seat, untold federal dollars and an Electoral College vote. States that have welcomed illegal immigrants are poised to benefit from their inclusion, and if this is allowed, it would incentivize policies that bring more illegal immigrants to those states.

Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Tuesday and said counting illegal immigrants on the census would result in American citizens losing out on representation while illegal immigrants gain power and influence.

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He added that members of Congress would become more inclined to pander to those who advocate for more illegal immigration.

“These large non-citizen populations in the state of California have an adverse effect on all the rest of us because they’re taking congressional seats from the rest of us,” Brooks explained. “[T]hat is the equivalent of about 25 or 30 congressional seats that are being taken from law-abiding states and given to those states that, by in large, are sanctuaries for illegal conduct.”

The Department of Justice helmed by Trump appointee and acting-Attorney General Matt Whitacker has asked federal courts to dismiss the lawsuit on a procedural basis for lack of standing. This move leads one to believe they will fight this lawsuit in court, a decision that has Brooks “baffled.”

“I am baffled that the Trump Department of Justice, at least in this instance, would side with sanctuary cities,” he said. “I would hope that they would do what you’re supposed to do as an attorney representing the United States of America, analyze it, and do what I have done. And that concludes that the 14th Amendment for the United States Constitution and Equal Protection Clause guarantees that no one citizen’s vote will be worth any more or less than another citizens vote.”

He argued the decision by the DOJ harms Americans and empowers pro-illegal immigration states.

“[W]hen you count illegal aliens in the census count, that redistributes Electoral College votes, and that redistributes congressional seats, those jurisdictions – particularly those who are sanctuary cities or sanctuary states – their citizens get more power per vote because there are fewer citizens in each of those Congressional Seats and the difference is the illegal alien headcount,” Brooks stated.

You would think Brooks would find a common ally in the current administration with a president who has made his campaign and administration about protecting Americans first and reigning in our out of control immigration policy but it does not appear to be heading that way on this issue and Alabama could lose out big time.

Listen here:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a conservative talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

18 hours ago

Marshall confirms: Clark Morris to replace Hart in leading Special Prosecutions Division

On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall officially confirmed Yellowhammer News’ reporting that Anna “Clark” Morris will lead the office’s Special Prosecutions Division.

Morris is a longtime federal prosecutor who currently serves as first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. She will officially take over the AG’s Special Prosecutions Division, which investigates public corruption and white-collar crime, on January 7.

“I am delighted that Clark Morris has agreed to lead my public corruption unit,” Marshall said in a press release. “She is universally respected throughout the law enforcement community and is the kind of hard-nosed prosecutor you want on your team. Her work ethic, professionalism, and integrity are visible to those with whom she interacts on both sides of her cases.”

Marshall continued, “Public corruption continues to be a scourge on our great state, and I am confident that the people of Alabama will be well served by Clark in this role.”

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Marshall also highlighted that the move will boost the crucial working relationship between federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors in Alabama.

“Clark is not only highly experienced, but she also commands a strong working relationship with the U.S. Justice Department. Her addition to our office will make the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division more effective in partnering with federal law enforcement to target public corruption – a goal I have sought since I first took office in 2017,” Marshall explained.

U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin also noted that Morris’ appointment will enhance combined Federal/State efforts to combat crime in the Yellowhammer State.

“Mrs. Morris has been an incredible asset to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and her absence will be a huge loss. However, her new position at the Attorney General’s Office creates an opportunity for a partnership that we have not seen in years. Her leadership and judgment will serve the State of Alabama well, they are lucky to have her,” Franklin said.

Morris is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). She has served as an assistant United States attorney in both the Middle and Northern Districts of Alabama. In 2013, she was named first assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District and has served two presidential administrations in that role. Her vast prosecutorial experience includes work in the White-Collar Crime Unit of the Middle District’s Criminal Division. Morris also served as acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District from March 2017 to November 2017.

A native of Alexander City, she is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law (JD).

The role leading the Special Prosecutions Division became vacant when controversial Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart resigned on Monday morning.

Marshall has named James Houts as the interim chief for the Special Prosecutions Division. Houts is the former chief of Criminal Appeals for the Attorney General’s Office.

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

18 hours ago

Solar farm proposed in Wiregrass would be Alabama’s largest

An energy project proposed for southeast Alabama could become the state’s largest solar farm.

The Dothan Eagle reports that Houston County commissioners have approved a 10-year property tax abatement for about 1,000 acres of land selected for a huge solar array.

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Matt Parker of the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce says the move allows NextEra Energy to project its potential costs and could help land the $75 million project for the area.

Parker says solar panels would cover about 600 acres of land, with additional acreage for buffers and other facilities.

He says the solar project could begin producing power in about three years.

NextEra Energy is based in Juno Beach, Florida.

It has a large solar array in Lauderdale County that provides power to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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