2 months ago

HomTex getting over $10.5M in CARES Act funds to build PPE manufacturing center in Black Belt, creating over 300 jobs

Homtex, a company that made its name producing linens and other cloth products, is receiving $10,572,100 in CARES Act funds from the State of Alabama to build a new plant near Selma that will manufacture face masks and employ over 300 workers.

Governor Kay Ivey announced the expansion in a release on Monday morning, praising Homtex for “stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic to shift their production to create critical PPE supplies.”

Headquartered in Cullman, HomTex has shifted a large portion of their overall operations into personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing since April and plans to make it a focus of their business going forward.

“This second operation will make HomTex one of the largest face masks manufacturers in the USA, and we are proud to be manufacturing these products in Cullman and Selma,” remarked HomTex president and chief financial officer Jeremy Wootten.

Wootten also noted his company is “very honored to be the recipient of COVID-19 Relief Funds from the state of Alabama.”

The governor believes that HomTex’s “ability to be flexible in order to remain operational is the exact intent of the CARES Act funds.”

Earlier in 2020, HomTex was selected as the official face mask provider for the U.S. Capitol Complex.

Homtex is controlled by the Wootten family and was founded in the rural Cullman County community of Vinemont in 1987.

The new facility in Selma will produce multiple types of masks for general use as well as those of surgical quality and N95 grade.

HomTex executives and Alabama officials have noted that the decision to make such a large investment in PPE manufacturing has national security implications.

“If anything good can come from this situation, it’s that the country begins to realize that our domestic textile industry has just about vanished, and that has caused a strategic disadvantage in our supply of PPE,” Homtex founder Jerry Wootten told the Cullman Tribune.

“The coronavirus pandemic has clearly demonstrated that our country needs a dependable domestic production pipeline for PPE, and Cullman-based HomTex has stepped up to fill a portion of that critical need,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.”

State Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), who represents the area where HomTex is headquartered, stated, “Through this pandemic, we have seen the need for bringing supply chain manufacturing back to America. The only way to make these expansions happen is by working together.”

He also praised the intra-state partnerships that brought the Homtex expansion to fruition.

“I must first thank God for these 320 new jobs in the Black Belt of Alabama. I am so appreciative of Governor’s Ivey’s decision and work to make this happen for the people of the Black Belt. It is a major step in our goal to help people help themselves out of poverty in Senator Singleton’s and my district,” said State Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier (D-Selma), whose district will encompass the new plant.

“I am humbled by the bi-partisanship cooperation that made this all possible,” she added.

Ivey concluded, “I appreciate [Homtex’s] commitment to the economy and Alabama workers by providing needed jobs in Dallas County and thank HomTex for being a great corporate partner with the state of Alabama.”

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

2 hours ago

Point Broadband to offer high-speed fiber internet on Alabama’s Lake Martin

Point Broadband announced plans to offer fiber-to-the-premises high-speed internet for select areas on Lake Martin in Alabama.

“In today’s digitally-driven world, fast and reliable fiber internet is crucial to keep everyone and everything connected,” said Point Broadband CEO Todd Holt. “Point Broadband is thrilled to offer residents and businesses in the Lake Martin area access to some of the best broadband technology available today.”

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The fiber broadband company based in West Point, Georgia, which operates in nine states, will provide up to 1 gigabit symmetrical broadband service with whole-home W-Fi, allowing numerous devices to run around the clock.

“With more people working, students learning and families entertaining all from their homes, we recognize the importance of ensuring your home has the right resources to meet your needs,” Holt said.

Lake Martin residents can sign up or express interest at point-broadband.com/lake-martin/.

Point Broadband is partnering with Alabama Power on the new initiative. The company will contract for a portion of Alabama Power’s fiber infrastructure to help support Point Broadband’s offering of high-speed internet on Lake Martin.

“The need for greater broadband accessibility for Alabamians to continue to learn, grow business and lead healthy lives is greater than ever before,” said Leslie Sanders, vice president of Alabama Power’s Southern Division. “We’re excited to partner with Point Broadband to be part of the solution. The advanced technology of our electric grid makes it smarter, more reliable and resilient, and can also help facilitate the expansion of broadband services.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Ivey fulfills request to send Alabama National Guardsmen to D.C. for security of Biden inauguration

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has authorized the sending of approximately 250 members of the Alabama National Guard to help secure the Washington, D.C. area ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

First reported Gray Television and confirmed to Yellowhammer News, the move was made in response to a request by the head of the National Guard, Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson.

According to National Public Radio, which is based in Washington, D.C., around 20,000 members of the National Guard will be in the Capitol area to help keep the peace through the inauguration. They will come from nearly all states, per NPR’s reporting.

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The dramatically-heightened security comes in the wake of a group of President Donald Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, January 6. The violence led to the death of five people including a member of the Capitol Police.

Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, told Yellowhammer News in a statement about the National Guard’s deployment, “At the request of the Chief of The National Guard Bureau, General Daniel R. Hokanson, the Alabama National Guard has activated approximately 250 Soldiers in support of the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington D.C.”

The activation of the soldiers comes as the FBI has warned states that protesters in the vein of those who stormed the U.S. Capitol may demonstrate in their areas over the coming days.

Ivey said at a public appearance on Tuesday that she was aware of law enforcement monitoring the situation.

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

15 hours ago

SAIL awards nearly $1 million to summer learning programs in Alabama

Summer Adventure in Learning (SAIL), a joint project of six charitable organizations, announced Thursday that dozens of organizations in Alabama that provide summer learning opportunities to children will be receiving financial support.

Forty independent programs in the state will receive a total of $898,500.

SAIL cites research showing that students from low-income families frequently lose months of reading and math skills during the summer break. The organization sets out to prevent this learning loss among low-income students by funding summer learning programs that target those kids.

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Most SAIL-affiliated programs are in the Birmingham area, though it also has six programs to whom it gives funds in the Black belt and three large programs in the Huntsville area.

“We have always known the importance of intentionally academic summer programming, but it proved more critical than ever after schools closed in the spring of 2020,” said Elizabeth Dotts Fleming, the executive director of The Schools Foundation, in a release.

The Schools Foundation is SAIL’s chief partner in the Huntsville area.

SAIL does not require the summer learning programs it funds to follow a specific curriculum, allowing a large degree of flexibility among the programs it funds.

However, all programs taking SAIL funding consent to a test of its students at the beginning and end of its run so the program’s effectiveness can be assessed.

In a release, SAIL shared that “In the summer of 2020, SAIL supported 34 programs. 14 provided in-person programs, 17 virtual, and 3 offered an at-home curriculum. Due to COVID restrictions, enrollment was down from SAIL’s normal 2,500+ students to 1,250.”

“State law requires school systems to offer summer reading camps, but leaves the implementation to each district,” remarked Mitchie Neel, the executive director of the Blount County Education Foundation.

“We know from research that how you structure a summer learning program influences how much students will learn. Partnering with SAIL allows us to meet students where they are while nurturing the whole child and bringing them up to grade level,” Neel added.

A list of the programs receiving funding from SAIL in 2021 can be found here for the Birmingham area, here for the Black Belt and here for Huntsville.

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

Four Bama underclassmen — Jones, Waddle, Surtain and Barmore — declare for NFL Draft

Four underclassman members of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s national championship-winning team will not return to Tuscaloosa next fall.

Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, defensive tackle Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II announced on Thursday they will forego their remaining college eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.

The quartet made the announcement via a press conference broadcast by the university. All four are expected by national college football analysts to be taken in the first round of the draft.

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Jones, a Heisman finalist, is declaring for the NFL after his lone season under center for the Tide — a year in which he posted dominant numbers, including leading the NCAA in completion percentage. His 2020 performance pushed him from fringe consideration to a consensus first round pick.

Waddle was already expected to be a top first round pick entering the year, and even an injury that derailed much of his season has not changed the consensus thinking. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., in December, ranked Waddle as the eighth-most talented player in the 2021 draft.

Surtain and Barmore have been similarly been graded as likely pros for much of their time at Bama. Surtain’s father played several seasons in the NFL. Kiper ranks Surtain as the best CB and Barmore as the second-best defensive tackle in the 2021 draft class.

Senior wide receiver Devonta Smith and senior running Najee Harris have not yet made their draft status official — and pandemic rule changes grant them an additional season of eligibility — but their official entrance in the draft is considered a formality. Both are expected to go in the first round along with their four underclassmen teammates who declared on Thursday.

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

18 hours ago

PowerSouth’s Gary Smith elected as chairman of Business Council of Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Thursday announced the organization’s 2021 board of directors, including a new chairman of the board.

PowerSouth Energy Cooperative president and CEO Gary Smith has been elected to serve as chairman of BCA, succeeding John Mazyck. Smith most recently served as chairman of ProgressPAC, BCA’s political arm, and he previously has held several other leadership roles within BCA.

“I am honored to serve as BCA’s next chairman. It’s a privilege to be a part of this organization and the board serving the businesses of Alabama,” Smith said in a statement. “I am grateful to John for the countless contributions he made throughout his time as chairman. BCA has continued to succeed in part because of his leadership. I anticipate great things for the future of this organization.”

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Mazyck is a principal at Montgomery-based The Frazier Lanier Company.

“It has been an honor to serve as Chairman and to work with an exceptional Executive Committee, Board, and Staff. We have advanced the ball for business in Alabama in 2020, and we have led with strength,” Mazyck stated. “I anticipate continued success and progress under Gary’s leadership as BCA continues to work on behalf of the business community, ensuring a stronger, more prosperous Alabama.”

Katie Boyd Britt, BCA’s president and CEO, praised Mazyck’s tenure in a statement.

“BCA is immensely grateful for John Mazyck’s leadership and his many contributions to BCA throughout his time as chairman,” she said. “John has been instrumental in moving our organization forward, building a stronger business community, and furthering the mission of BCA to create an environment where all businesses can grow and flourish.”

Smith is a graduate of the University of North Alabama and of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He currently serves on the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama board, University of North Alabama board, Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives board, Southern Independent Bank board and the South Alabama Regional Airport board, among others.

“Gary Smith has been a valuable partner of BCA for years and has contributed so much already through his involvement,” Britt commented. “His strong leadership has positively impacted BCA and ProgressPAC in innumerable ways, and I look forward to working alongside him as he continues to work on behalf of the Alabama business community.”

Overall, the BCA board of directors includes distinguished pro-jobs leaders from across the Yellowhammer State who are willing to donate their time and resources for the betterment of all Alabamians. View a list of the 2021 directors here.

“We again have gathered an incredible group of professionals to serve as our 2021 board of directors. Every member serves an important role and brings together diverse professional experience on issues important to Alabama business,” Britt concluded. “The board plays an instrumental part in BCA’s ability to achieve the goals of growing the state’s economy, creating jobs, and encouraging investment in Alabama. I am excited to work with and learn from them as we all navigate through the new year.”

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