3 months ago

Huntsville’s Dynetics signs Trump’s ‘Pledge to America’s Workers,’ will hire 700 new employees over five years

HUNTSVILLE — U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta on Thursday went on a flurry of tours highlighting north Alabama’s high-tech boom, saying the area’s success would not be possible without higher education and industry stakeholders working together.

After stops at Calhoun Community College’s Decatur campus and Huntsville’s ADTRAN, Acosta participated in a roundtable discussion about apprenticeships and manufacturing with senior leaders from Dynetics.

He then took a tour of the manufacturing division at Dynetics Technical Solutions, with the Trump cabinet official leaving more than impressed.

At a press conference afterward, he touched on getting rid of the “stigma” of hands-on jobs that require technical training rather than a four-year degree, something that Mike Rowe of “Dirty Jobs” fame has made a personal mission.

Acosta emphasized that, backed by his tour just minutes earlier, modern manufacturing jobs are anything but “dirty.” He marveled at the state-of-the-art, high-tech facilities at Dynetics, which produces advanced technologies and products in industries that include defense and aerospace.

“What they are producing is precise,” Acosta explained. “And they’re not just running machines, they’re programming machines. We need to realize that what we think of as manufacturing is not what manufacturing is today.”

A big reason why Dynetics has been able to become an international industry leader is their own workforce development efforts.

Dynetics CEO David King outlined that the company’s “rich history of science and innovation” is driven by its employees.

Since being founded in Huntsville in 1974, Dynetics has grown to employ over 2,000 people across ten different states.

“The words manufacturing and Dynetics are becoming more synonymous with each day,” King said. “We provide solutions to address our nation’s most challenging advanced missions.”

In the precision machining and fabrication center that Acosta toured, King advised that Dynetics employs “more than 130 highly skilled personnel.”

Additionally, in their newly opened Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility in Huntsville, Dynetics employs another 200 employees, all also of high skill and training — a core point of emphasis at the company.

Dynetics has achieved their level of success by offering their employees more and more ways to achieve a lofty degree of education, skill and training.

For example, they are currently conducting a summer internship program featuring 120 interns from 30 different colleges and universities. These interns get unique hands-on experience, often coming back to work at the company upon graduation with a head start.

“We’ve added more than 600 employees to Dynetics in the last three years,” King outlined. “And we take training and education very seriously. We’ve had over 500 employees be a part of ‘Dynetics University,’ which is an internal education movement that we have been doing for more than 30 years, where folks from Dynetics teach other folks here at Dynetics.”

“Last year, more than 2,000 employees participated in some other type of training, as well,” he continued. “This is tremendous for our company.”

While Dynetics is on the cutting edge of technology, education and training, the company wants to do even more. Which is why, on Thursday, King signed the Trump administration’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” which is a commitment to expand programs that educate, train and re-skill our nation’s workers from high-school age to near-retirement.

Dynetics, King said, is pledging to create “enhanced career opportunities for 700 individuals over the next five years” alone.

“Dynetics is definitely growing,” he said, before affirming that the company’s pledge is to hire “700 new employees,” many of whom would be in Alabama.

Speaking after King, Acosta thanked Dynetics for signing the important pledge.

“As I was walking around Dynetics today, I started talking to several employees. And so many individuals started out coming from tech schools, and then they had an opportunity to learn. And to progress along the career track, because Dynetics did not just give them a job. They gave them learning opportunities,” the labor secretary lauded.

“I met a young man who started from a tech school who’s now a manager of an entire department,” Acosta said. “I met another individual who’s coding, and again, he started from a tech school. And he is now running incredibly advanced machinery.”

He then broke down exactly what Dynetics’ story proves and what others can learn from their model of success.

“So the message is this: there are so many career paths available,” Acosta explained. “College for some. Apprenticeships for others.”

He hailed “employers that recognize talent and empower individuals by providing them educational and skill opportunities.”

‘Cooperation’ between industry, education key to north Alabama’s continued growth

Acosta’s visit came at a time when 7.4 million jobs are available across America. In Alabama, just like the rest of the nation, the biggest problem in this high-performing economy is that employers cannot find enough qualified workers to fill available positions and help grow their companies.

To address this, the Trump and Ivey administrations are both being aggressive in their workforce development efforts.

On the federal level, Acosta said that grants are being handed out to state community college systems to bolster local programs.

For example, the U.S. Department of Labor in recent days announced that the Alabama Community College System was being awarded $12 million to expand apprenticeships.

However, education and industry also need to work hand-in-hand, Acosta stressed to Yellowhammer News on Thursday.

“Northern Alabama’s manufacturing base is growing rapidly — faster than Alabama and faster than the nation’s manufacturing is,” he said. “Every year about 2,300 individuals are hired into advanced manufacturing in Alabama. And those career tracks pay great… for that $12 million investment, which is being matched by industry in the private sector to the tune of more than $4 million, the community college system has pledged to create an additional 5,000 apprenticeship opportunities in Alabama. So, I thank Dynetics for what its doing, I thank the community college system for what it’s doing, and, most importantly, we need to keep this up.”

As the economy continues to grow, so too will the need for more skilled workers.

“What we have seen that is most successful is when companies and educational partners come together,” Acosta advised. “And we’ve seen this in north Alabama in the apprenticeship programs. We’re seeing this at Dynetics and their commitment to educate their workforce. Education needs to work with business so that it focuses on the skills that are being demanded by the workforce. It has to be a partnership.”

Unfortunately, the American education system has not necessarily changed with the times across the nation to accommodate this need.

Alabama, under Governor Kay Ivey’s administration, has been trying to change this in pre-k — 12. Additionally, industry stakeholders such as AlabamaWorks continue to move the state’s workforce development efforts forward at impressive rates. And, luckily for the Yellowhammer State, the state’s four-year higher education institutions and community college system have been leaders in working alongside industry instead of telling industry what it should be doing. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is a prime example of this in north Alabama.

“So much of business has changed, so much of the way we interact with the world has changed with [increased technology],” Acosta remarked. “But something that hasn’t really changed is education. We still view education as a system where we learn and then we stop learning and we start working. And that doesn’t work. It needs to be a continuous burning and learning process. Where we continue learning on the job, continue acquiring skills to move up that career ladder and to learn the new technologies that are being used in places like Dynetics.”

Asked to pick one word to summarize what he witnessed on his north Alabama visit, Acosta immediately responded, “Cooperation.”

“Because the Huntsville area is growing so quickly, businesses have to… partner with the community college and educational system. And if they were not, the growth would not be happening,” he concluded. “Companies choose a city that has an educated, ready-and-able workforce. And the cooperation I have seen between the educational systems and their business partners here is spectacular.”

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

12 mins ago

Ivey to undergo outpatient procedure with ‘very high rate of success’ after cancer discovered early

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced that she will undergo an outpatient procedure at UAB on Friday after a recent routine exam revealed she had spot on her lung.

After more testing, “a tiny, isolated malignancy” was confirmed, meaning the spot was indicative of cancer.

The procedure and subsequent radiation treatments are not expected to interfere with her duties as governor, Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey said “this was discovered early, and it is very treatable.”

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She added that the procedure “has a very high rate of success” and expressed great confidence in Alabama being “home to some of the world’s leading physicians.”

The governor welcomes prayers and support from around the state.

Ivey’s full statement as follows: 

Throughout my life, I am constantly reminded that I have so much for which to be thankful; God has been incredibly gracious to me.

One of the highest honors you have given me is serving as your governor.

Because I always shoot straight with you, I want to share a recent challenge that has been placed in front of me.

Within the past few weeks, during a routine exam, my longtime family physician discovered a spot on my lung that was unusual. Additional tests confirmed that this was, indeed, a tiny, isolated malignancy.

The good news is I am one of the fortunate ones where this was discovered early, and it is very treatable.

The better news is Alabama is home to some of the world’s leading physicians. My team of doctors have assured me this treatment has a very high rate of success and will have a minimal impact on my schedule.

Tomorrow morning, I will travel to UAB for an outpatient procedure, which will allow me to soon begin a series of specialized radiation treatments. None of this will prevent me from continuing to serve as your governor and doing the work you elected me to do.

Naturally, I welcome your prayers and your support. Just as so many others who have been affected by cancer, I am confident of God’s plan and purpose for my life and feel extremely fortunate this was caught so early.

May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.

Update 2:30 p.m.:

The governor also released a video message to the public.

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

41 mins ago

On this day in Alabama history: Alabama legislature ratified the 19th Amendment

Sept. 19, 1953

The fight for the right for women to vote officially ended in 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In Alabama, there was an active suffragist movement, led by the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association, but opposition by some Alabama groups resulted in the legislature not taking up the amendment, and after Tennessee signed on the issue was moot. Thirty-three years later, the legislature decided to “record its approval of extending the right of suffrage to women” and officially ratified the 19th Amendment. Although the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association dissolved in 1920, many of its leaders and members joined the newly founded League of Women Voters, which remains active today in Alabama elections.

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1 hour ago

Canfield elected chair of Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Waggoner vice-chair

The Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies recently held its inaugural meeting, at which commission members elected Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield as chairman and State Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) as vice-chairman.

The commission plans to schedule additional meetings over the next seven months, with all meetings being open to the public.

The members will deliver a report in May to Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, recommending strategies and policies on how AI and other emerging technologies will be of benefit to the Yellowhammer State’s economy.

In a statement on Thursday, Canfield explained the importance of the commission’s work.

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“Artificial intelligence is a powerful, disruptive technology that has the potential to forever change the way we live our lives and how businesses across Alabama operate,” he emphasized.

“It’s critical that we understand how AI will bring about these sweeping changes, and this Commission will help us develop insights into what the future has in store for Alabama’s citizens and businesses,” Canfield concluded.

Waggoner spearheaded the legislative resolution that formed the commission. His leadership has been, and continues to be instrumental, in this process. The powerful chair of the Senate Rules Committee identified the goal of Alabama being on the cutting edge of AI research and job creation in the technology sector.

“We want Alabama to be a leader in AI research, innovation, technology start-ups, and technology jobs,” Waggoner stated. We believe that we are competitive with other states.”

He continued, “The Commission will look at how Alabama is positioned and ready for the opportunities of tomorrow. Those are some of the issues and questions this Commission is going to answer. We will meet with key business groups and different industry sectors to understand the impact of AI and automation on their industries.”

According to Waggoner, the commission will also examine how schools and universities can develop AI-educational programs, and investigate what privacy safeguards might be needed to protect consumers.

“We want Alabama’s education system in a place where we can equip students with AI-relevant skills through engineering and technology classes and apprenticeship programs,” he added. “As we promote innovation and educational readiness, we must also protect the privacy rights of citizens, and examine whether existing state laws are effective in regulating these emerging technologies. There’s a lot of work ahead.”

The commission will be divided up into five sub-committees, focused on the following:

  • state regulations, government oversight, and potential legislative action;
  • education and workforce development;
  • healthcare and medical services;
  • future and evolving industries, economic development, and research;
  • ethics, privacy and security.

The subcommittees will begin their work in mid-October.

State Senator Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) was appointed to the commission by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston). Roberts came away from the body’s initial meeting impressed at the experience and expertise of its membership.

“Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning are very complex subjects. Thankfully, I think we have some of the finest minds in our state working on this project. The sub committees that have been established will allow every person on the commission to hone in on their particular areas of expertise,” Roberts outlined.

The 25 members of the commission are as follows:

Greg Canfield – Secretary of Commerce (chairman)

Marty Redden – Acting secretary of the Alabama Office of Information Technology

Ivey’s appointees:

1. Dr. Hari Narayanan— Auburn

2. Dr. Gerry Dozier— Auburn

3. Dr. Jeff Carver – UA (Tuscaloosa)

4. Dr. Curt Carver – UAB

5. Dr. Alec Yasinac – USA

6. Dr. John Beck – UAH

7. Dr. James Cimino – UAB

8. Melvin Evans – Hand Arendall

9. Jim McLane – NaphCare

10. Jacob Kosoff – Regions Bank

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s appointees:

Joshua Jones – StrategyWise

Dr. Vicki Karolewics – Wallace State Community College

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon’s appointees:

Rep. Kirk Hatcher

Rep. Craig Lipscomb

Marsh’ appointees:

Sen. Jabo Waggoner (Vice-chair)

Sen. Dan Roberts

Non-Voting members appointed by the governor:

J. Michael Hardin – Provost & vice president at Samford University

John Brandt – Southern Company

Leonard Tillman – Balch & Bingham

Mike Rowell – Senior VP & CIO at ALFA Insurance

James Mizell – Senior account executive at Microsoft

Jason Asbury – NXTsoft

Dr. Syed Raza – Jefferson State Community College

An Alabama CEO, also a commission member, said artificial intelligence is on the cusp of transforming every industry.

“Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing every industry, and it is incredibly important for us as a state to think strategically about what that means to our economy,” advised Joshua Jones, CEO of Birmingham-based StrategyWise, an AI and data science consulting firm.

He concluded, “I applaud Senator Waggoner and Secretary Canfield for leading Alabama to be one of the first states to really address these opportunities and changing dynamics systematically. It sends a message to the rest of the U.S. that Alabama is serious about investing in our future, and we’re growing our tech-based ecosystem. For companies that want to leverage all that AI has to offer, we’re going to be prepared with a trained workforce, accommodating public policy, and a strong tech infrastructure.”

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

2 hours ago

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling open to Tennessee River toll bridge — If that moves freight, freight companies, truckers ‘would just be thrilled to do it’

For decades, traffic headed west from Huntsville and other points toward the Shoals has relied upon the Captain William J. Hudson “Steamboat Bill” Memorial Bridges to cross the Tennessee River into Decatur. Once traffic crosses that bridge, it either heads south on U.S. Highway 31 toward Hartselle and Cullman, or it makes a hard-right 90-degree turn on to U.S. Highway Alternate 72 and heads toward Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia and Sheffield.

As the manufacturing base in northern Alabama expands, freight traffic is expected to increase at that intersection and make the turn west even more precarious for commuters and commercial traffic.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday, Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling discussed that spot and possible solutions for the future, which could include a tolling component.

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“If you were to go now and sit in the Doubletree Hotel, which is where you’re talking about there where you make that turn to go to the Shoals, and just look at the amount of freight that comes in out of Memphis — Memphis is the distribution hub for America,” Bowling said on Wednesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show.” “And that freight that comes out of Memphis, straight down [U.S. Highway Alternate] 72, and then it makes its way across our bridge and goes various routes from there — into Huntsville, Madison, Athens, gets on [Interstate] 65, has different directions it can go from there. But whenever we start producing a thousand cars a day, we have 4,000 employees plus the tiered suppliers who will be there. The amount of freight that will come in to take care of that I believe is going to double.”

Bowling noted the situation at the Hyundai facility near Montgomery as a sign of what is to come and commended Gov. Kay Ivey for the commitment to widen the existing Interstate 565 that connects Decatur and Huntsville.

“We visited the Hyundai facility manufacturing a thousand cars a day just south of Montgomery — just-in-time deliveries: batteries, tires, things of that nature — they receive a truck a minute,” he continued. “You think widening [Interstate] 565 is important? Heck yeah, it’s important. We’re thankful Gov. Ivey is going to get that done for us in the Spring of 2020.”

The Decatur mayor said the completion of a nearby overpass for Alabama Highway 20 remains his current top priority.  Once that is completed, Bowling said exploring the possibility of an alternate route over the Tennessee River would be appropriate.

“We’re working on an overpass on [Alabama] Highway 20 where Apple Lane Farms is,” he said. “That’s Decatur, and that’s a build grant that we received for $14 million from the Federal Highway Department. We’re very thankful for that. A lot of people made that happen. Once that project gets going, then we’ll start working on the other. But we want to be sure we do everything to make sure that project gets going first.”

As for the possibility of using tolls to finance a new bridge, Bowling said he expected that those moving freight would be “thrilled” if it expedited transit and that if it would improve commuter traffic on existing structures, it could be a possibility.

“If that moves freight, I would believe that the freight companies, the truckers would just be thrilled to do it,” Bowling explained. “If we were to take the trucks off of the [U.S.] Highway 31 bridges, I believe that our commuter traffic — it would be a lot easier to make that commute. And so, we’ll see what we can do. We’ll come up with a traffic plan. We’ll do traffic counts. Things to prove it out.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

Patriot Flag to be displayed in Mobile on Thursday to honor fallen American heroes

The Patriot Flag will be displayed at the USS Alabama in Mobile on Thursday, September 19.

According to WALA Fox 10, the flag is currently on a national tour intended to honor and thank fallen American men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation’s freedom and safety.

Measuring 28 by 60.5 feet and weighing 50 pounds, the Patriot Flag’s nationwide journey began on the 15th Anniversary of 9/11 when the flag was displayed at all three locations that were attacked by radical Islamic terrorists. The tour will end in 2021, on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

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On Thursday, the flag will be unfurled at 3:00 p.m. at Battleship Memorial Park. Mobile Fire-Rescue firefighters will assist.

You can read more about the tour and see photos from previous stops here.

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