4 weeks ago

Huntsville’s economic future is tied to our airport’s success

Huntsville is one of the fastest-growing local economies in our nation.

Boosted by federal and private sector investments, our region is on a strong economic trajectory. In fact, a recent population boom has put the Rocket City on track to potentially be the largest city in Alabama in the next six years. Our airport represents a key component to continuing this trend because current and new industry considering locating to our region depend on passenger and air cargo operations that support their own operating needs. The local economy depends on our ability to connect with other communities across the globe, so Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is vital to maintain those bonds as the region’s gateway to the world.

But similar to other airports around the country, HSV needs infrastructure investments in order to continue to be able to meet the expected flow of passengers and goods in the future. Projected growth in the area and HSV’s desire to continue to propel this region forward is why in 2012 the airport completed a major $92 million dollar terminal and landside project that included creation of a public waiting area, a new security screening checkpoint, a new baggage claim and a second parking deck. Those necessary upgrades that were a part of the 2002 Master Plan update, have improved the passenger experience and the efficiency of the airport.

Although HSV has seen many improvements and aesthetically offers visitors a very warm welcome to our community, other portions of our terminal are between 30 and 50 years old and in immediate need of improvement. As determined by HSV’s current Master Plan update, the parts of the airport’s facility that passengers use every day like our elevators, escalators, restrooms and concessions need redevelopment and expansion to keep up with demand. In addition, these anticipated terminal improvement projects are imperative to adhere to new federal standards and provide our passengers with facilities that meet their expectations like nursing rooms and pet relief areas. The aforementioned terminal improvement projects would reinvigorate HSV and set the stage for continued growth for our region for years to come.

We are grateful to Senator Shelby and our Alabama congressional delegation for recently securing significant FAA discretionary grants, however, these funds are designated for specific federal government high priority airfield projects. The previously mentioned terminal improvement projects are considered a lower priority for federal discretionary grants. Therefore, our challenge is to find funding for these necessary terminal improvement projects that are currently on hold.

The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require taxpayers to foot the bill. If Congress would lift the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — a small user fee paid only by air travelers on which airports depend to fund their infrastructure – HSV could begin this project immediately. The PFC is federally capped at a maximum of $4.50 and it hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making it ineffective and inadequate to serve 21st-century airports that have experienced inflation just like everyone else. For example, HSV’s current PFC dollars are already committed through 2030. By modernizing the PFC for the first time since 2001, Congress would allow our airport to generate funding from only the people using the airport, for the project referenced above – all without a dime of taxpayer dollars.

Starting these terminal improvement projects would have a major impact on our region’s economy. On top of the tens of thousands of jobs that Alabama’s airports already support, it’s estimated that these projects would create 608 construction jobs and inject $19.1 million into the Huntsville economy via construction labor wages alone.

Some will say that we should leave the PFC alone. However, those voices fail to acknowledge that maintaining the current PFC could result in stalled growth in Huntsville. The airport has a major footprint on the local economy, with a total regional economic direct impact of 7,692 jobs equating to a payroll of $474,327,000 and a total multiplied impact of 24,293 jobs equating to a payroll of $942,828,000. Failing to upgrade our airport infrastructure could harm our economy and job growth. We have recently experienced lower fares at HSV due to the addition of two new carriers and the competition that those carriers created in the market. The improved and expanded infrastructure projects will further encourage the airlines to grow and expand, therefore modernizing the PFC can have a positive and direct impact on passenger fares.

HSV is not alone, America’s airports need nearly $130 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to match the demand. It sounds like a staggering number, but the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports has doubled since 2000 to approximately one billion annually. Conversely, the PFC that pays for critical infrastructure of those airports has not increased in nearly two decades. These airports in their current state were designed for half of that traffic so it is clear that something must be done to modernize airports.

Airports across the country and organizations like Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stand alongside numerous conservative organizations asking Congress to consider eliminating the PFC cap entirely or, raising the cap and adjusting it periodically for construction cost inflation.

There’s no doubt that Huntsville is a city on the rise. With a strong economy and a growing population, we are poised to continue to enjoy this success. HSV has always worked to provide the community with an airport that acts as an economic engine by taking proactive measures that allow for immediate and long-term growth. However, to stay on this path we must ensure that our airport is able to meet the vital needs of the growing population and business community. Modernizing the PFC isn’t just important for HSV – it’s critical for the future of our region.

Rick Tucker is the executive director at Huntsville International Airport

10 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Brad Mendheim for state Supreme Court

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Monday announced its endorsement of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Brad Mendheim in the Republican primary for place two on the court.

Mendheim was first appointed to the state’s highest court by Governor Kay Ivey in 2018. He lost election to a full term to that office in the 2018 election cycle but was appointed to a different vacancy, place two, on the Supreme Court by Ivey earlier this year.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to support Justice Mendheim in his race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court.”

“His conservative judicial philosophy along with a proven track record earned over 20 years make him the right person for the job,” he concluded.

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Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court by Ivey, Mendheim was a circuit judge for Houston and Henry counties from 2009- 2018.

Before his election to that office, he served as district judge of Houston County from 2001-2008 and as an assistant district attorney, making him uniquely qualified as a former prosecutor and trial judge.

“I am honored to receive the support of Forest PAC, a group which has a long reputation of supporting conservative leaders in the state of Alabama,” Mendheim emphasized.

He advised, “My judicial philosophy is simple: to follow the Constitution and rule with impartiality, and I pledge to continue that as long as I am privileged to serve. It is not our role on the Alabama Supreme Court to bring a political agenda to work, and I strongly believe that groups such as the Forestry Association recognize that all who come before our court deserve two things: a fair review of the facts and ultimately, for the rule of law to be upheld.”

During his judicial career, Mendheim has presided over more than 300 jury trials.

He graduated with a BA from Auburn University and went on to receive his JD from Cumberland School of Law. Mendheim and his wife, Michelle, have been married for over 24 years. They are the proud parents of three sons: Connor, Ryan and Carson. They are long time members of First Baptist Church of Dothan, where Brad is a Sunday school teacher and deacon.

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

10 hours ago

Alabama’s Tony Cochran launches new initiative to help grow small businesses

After 40 years of business advising, Alabama-based businessman Tony Cochran is excited to announce the creation of Team Delta3, LLC.

Team Delta3 will essentially offer a premier business boot camp, taking on the task of educating business owners on best practices for success with a focus on the three key ways to grow their businesses.

In a statement, Cochran explained, “For over four decades I have watched business owners who are very good at their respective craft, struggle to be successful.”

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He is the president of CK Business Solutions, PC, a consulting and accounting firm headquartered in Albertville.

Roughly 20 years ago, Cochran changed his focus from delivering traditional business, tax and accounting advice to one of helping business owners find solutions to everyday problems. His passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, develop repeatable processes and face the modern-day challenges in an increasingly competitive world has led him to be a part of an elite group of business advisors.

“Many universities, small business incubators and consultants have tried various ways to help businesses grow,” Cochran outlined. “Our approach at Team Delta3 is to take proven techniques and present them in a concentrated, focused ‘Boot Camp’ style environment so that each participant leaves with the tangible game plan needed to grow their business into a thriving enterprise.”

Beyond his own successful advisory businesses, Cochran has been recognized by a number of organizations for his leadership and civic contributions.

He is a board member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and previously served on its executive committee. Currently, Cochran is a member of the 30th (XXX) class of Leadership Alabama, chairman of the board of the Albertville Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the board of his church, founding chairman of the Albertville City Schools Foundation, board member of the North Central Alabama Girl Scouts and in 2002 received the Citizen of the Year Award the highest award given for community service in his hometown. He also holds the designations of CPA and CMGA.

However, the impressive involvement does not end at the Alabama state line for Cochran.

Later this month, he will be a VIP at the Living Legends event in New York City.

Living Legends brings together the top business consultants in the United States to exchange ideas and develop a nationwide network of renowned consultants in marketing, internet sales, branding, growth and general business. These include people such as Martha Stewart, Michael Gerber and Clint Arthur.

As a VIP, Cochran will be internationally recognized for his skills and contribution to business clients throughout the course of his career.

“For someone who calls Sand Mountain home, having the opportunity to be a part of an event as large in scope as Living Legends is an incredible honor. I look forward to integrating concepts and collaborators from Living Legends into the new venture of Team Delta3 and our BootCamp experience,” Cochran concluded.

“BootCamp” participants can expect intensive training during the course of the three-day event. Concepts related to market growth, key performance indicators and applied metrics will be developed for each business. These indicators will be the drivers that provide owners measurable results.

Find out more here.

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

13 hours ago

Bradley Byrne previews attacks that are sure to come against Tommy Tuberville

Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville is the frontrunner in the GOP primary race for the right to take on United States Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) but eventually, the attacks will come.

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) may have been showing how Tuberville’s opponents are going to take him on in the near future at a meeting of the Tennessee Valley Republican Club on Saturday morning.

Byrne touched on the carpetbagger allegation without mention Tuberville, saying, “I’m from here, not from wherever else. I love Alabama and know what we need to get done.”

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Later he added, “I didn’t come back here to run because it’s convenient. I love this state and I love fighting for Alabama. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with me – a fighter.”

This is hardly a new tact for Tuberville’s detractors, and it may be effective because Alabama is a very proud state that loves its homegrown products.

Byrne further questioned Tuberville’s reason for running.

I’m not running for this seat because I got bored and needed something to do,” he said while touting his service to Alabama. “I’ve spent most of my life serving. I want to help the people of this great state.”

But it wasn’t all attacks for Byrne on Saturday morning. The congressman also touted his experience in Washington as the most important for Alabamians to support his candidacy.

“It’s more about being able to sit in a room and get things done for your state. I know how to do that, and I’ll be able to keep getting things done for Alabama,” he explained.

Byrne would mention the Space Force command and praise North Alabama as the perfect place for it while adding, “There is nowhere in the country better equipped for it, and as your senator, I’ll continue to fight every day to see that we get things like this done.”

How an argument about experience and effectiveness works in 2020, and in the era of Trump, remains to be seen.

What is clear, is that the issues Byrne is talking about on the campaign trail now will continue to be heard as long as Tommy Tuberville is an untraditional and inexperienced candidate with an apparent lead in the polls.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

13 hours ago

Tuberville: Alabamians ‘trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians’

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the Yellowhammer State, on Monday appeared on Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.” to discuss his support of President Donald Trump and the state of the race to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Tuberville reiterated his belief that “President Trump has saved this country.”

He said he was unsure who the president will support in Alabama’s GOP senatorial primary, if anyone, but emphasized Trump’s support “goes a long way in the state.”

Tuberville also reaffirmed that he will not take his salary if elected to the U.S. Senate.

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“[W]e’ve got to get away from the career politicians,” Tuberville remarked. “I’m not an establishment [candidate], I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m not taking a salary. I want to do it for the right reasons.”

The guest host then asked the former college football coach if his ties to Auburn might dissuade some Crimson Tide fans from voting for him.

“You know, before I decided to run, I did my due diligence,” Tuberville responded. “I went across the state talking to people about this.”

“And you know, at the end of the day, the people of Alabama — they trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians,” he continued. “So, I’m going to get as many (University of) Alabama votes. I’m going to get Auburn votes.”

“We need something strong, you know. We need people who make decisions for the right reasons. And they trust football coaches in this state, I promise you that,” Tuberville concluded.

Watch:

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

14 hours ago

Mondays for Moms: Let them be little

Let them be little

I was rocking my littlest one to sleep this weekend when out-of-the-blue stressful thoughts began savagely invading my somewhat peaceful brain …

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What about those dishes, Erin? You forgot to clean the kitchen table after lunch.

When are you ever gonna get to all those baskets of laundry that are piling up like garbage piles on trash day? 

And how about those windows that have prehistoric fingerprints on them from when the babies were just that … babies … ahhh!

Then, my little girl’s hand gently stroked my arm. She had no clue that her simple gesture soothed her over-stressed momma instantly.

Today, I am rocking my little girl comfortably in our glider tucked away from the crazies of the real world. But, one day I’ll be rocking nervously back and forth in my bed waiting to see the lights from her car pour onto my comforter signaling she has made it home safely once again.

Today, I am cutting the edges off of my toddler’s toast to make sure she enjoys every bite. But, one day, I’ll be desperately avoiding cutting the “helicopter mommy” cord on her wedding day wishing more than anything to be “slaving away” on the heart-shaped PB&Js in the kitchen again.

Today, I am hoping she doesn’t scream “mommy” one more time while I hide under the dining room table searching for any amount of sanity that might be miraculously hidden under there. But, tomorrow, I will be giving any amount of money to hear her say my name each time a need arises in her precious adult life.

Today, I am folding her sheets and towels only to discover her playing hide and seek tucked deep in the laundry basket among all the dryer sheets and warmth. But, one day, I’ll be reluctantly walking the aisles at Target with her shopping for dorm linens, shower shoes and bath caddies.

Today, I am reading her bedtime stories and singing soft little tunes as I have the privilege of tucking her in. But, one day, I’ll be reading her name on a graduation pamphlet and fighting back tears as I sing hymns of congratulatory praise for her accomplishments.

So the laundry, the dishes and the tidying can take a seat. All those chores can be done when I get around to it … whenever that may be.

Because right now, I’m gonna let her be little. And soak up every last minute of it.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.