2 months ago

Raytheon engineers in Huntsville are tackling some of the world’s toughest problems while keeping Americans safe, free

Some of our nation’s most important — and most complex — problems are being addressed by innovators in Huntsville, which U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) called the “Silicon Valley of the South” in a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing this week.

A lot of that groundbreaking work is done or otherwise made possible by engineers, with the Rocket City having one of the highest per capita concentrations of engineers in the country.

Friday marks the end of National Engineers Week, which recognizes the profession’s integral contributions while ensuring a diverse and well-educated engineering workforce through the future by increasing understanding of and interest in STEM careers.

To mark the annual occasion, Yellowhammer News conducted a Q&A with Dr. Patti Dare, Ph.D., who was named a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact for her leadership in North Alabama’s booming aerospace and defense industry.

Dare is now the Huntsville site executive for Raytheon Technologies, one of America’s top defense contractors. She outlined the incredible work the local engineers and other professionals employed by the company are conducting in Madison County.

Perhaps the gem of Raytheon’s Huntsville footprint is its highly automated Missile Integration Facility on Redstone Arsenal, which Dare underscored is the only company-operated, company-owned facility on the U.S. Army base. Hailed as “a marvel of technological design,” the facility opened in late 2012 and within months had delivered its first Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), a defensive weapon used to destroy short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.

Overall, the facility manufactures and tests some of the company’s “largest and most complex systems that service the U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency,” Dare advised. This includes both the SM-3 and SM-6, “as well as the multiple variants and recertification of those missiles.”

She highlighted that the SM-3 interceptor recently “destroyed an ICBM representative target in a historic test off the coast of Hawaii.”

“[W]e demonstrated that an Aegis BMD ship equipped with the SM-3 IIA missile can defeat an ICBM-class target which shows a robust regional defense capability against long range threats,” Dare stated.

“Additionally, we are continuing to upgrade our manufacturing and test capabilities to add to its capacity, safety and automation,” she noted of the Missile Integration Facility. “With our goal of continually improving, we are able to complete, test and deliver these systems at high rates while injecting new technology to meet our customer needs.”

The facility is staffed by a total of 80 people, including technicians, engineers, production control, safety, operations, quality, logistics, program management and cybersecurity professionals.

“We do expect that number to grow as we build capability, add capacity and leverage these products for upcoming programs,” Dare added. “We anticipate facility expansion coming in the 2025/2026 timeframe bringing 10-20 additional positions into the facility.”

‘Continuing to embrace all that Huntsville has to offer’

However, that world-class facility is far from Raytheon’s only presence in Huntsville.

“For years, Huntsville offered Raytheon Company the critical intersection of opportunity, technology, community involvement and customer interaction,” Dare said. “Now, nearly a year since the merger with United Technologies, the Huntsville area, in fact, is the only place in the world where all four Raytheon Technologies businesses – Raytheon Missiles and Defense, Raytheon Intelligence & Space, Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney – and the company’s corporate functions have a physical footprint. That footprint includes more than 54,000 square feet of space for automated and advanced manufacturing.”

“This makes Huntsville an ideal place for growth since we have the synergies with the merger, proximity to the customer, and talent base,” she continued.

Raytheon’s “growing workforce” in the Huntsville area reportedly includes approximately 1,200 employees, including more than 500 engineers.

Dare remarked that the company’s workforce “is continuing to embrace all that Huntsville has to offer – the history, the robust supply chain partnerships, the information sharing, the talent of skilled workers, the growing emphasis on automation and additive manufacturing, and the future of aerospace and defense that spans the whole kill-chain.”

She then emphasized some of the specific programs and challenges Raytheon’s Huntsville employees are working on.

Perhaps topping this list is the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI), which is slated to eventually become the program to defend the American homeland against potential intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attacks from nations like North Korea and Iran.

The NGI would take over the interceptor responsibility currently assigned to the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program. Boeing manages the GMD program out of Huntsville as the prime contractor for the Department of Defense. The company has led the industry team since the inception of the program in 1998 with engineers and experts who work in Alabama.

Three teams are competing in the NGI program. Boeing leads one team, while Lockheed Martin leads another. The third team is led by a partnership between Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.

This Northrop-Raytheon NGI program work will be based in Huntsville at a colocation site for the two defense juggernauts.

Northrop this week stated that the “NGI team is steadily recruiting in Huntsville and recently held a Leadership Forum and Job Fair with more than 300 candidates attending virtually.”

Dare commented, “Huntsville is the nation’s home for missile defense, hosting not only the preponderance of the Missile Defense Agency but also each of the interceptor contractor providers. This community knows the criticality of the mission–to defend our nation and its deployed forces, and that support helps attract and retain the critical expertise needed. This is, absolutely, the right place for our new home. The talent pool within that community is one of the best in the industry.”

Other programs being worked on by Raytheon Huntsville’s workforce include Future Vertical Lift (a plan to develop new helicopters for the U.S. Armed Services); Design, modeling, simulation and testing work on multiple ballistic missile defense radars including AN/TPY-2, the Upgraded Early Warning Radar and the sea-based X-band radar; and the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor (LTAMDS), the U.S. Army’s new radar for its Integrated Air and Missile Defense System.

At the end of the day, the totality of Raytheon’s work in the Rocket City is centered on safeguarding our national security.

“[S]imply put, we share our customers’ vision for the future of missile defense, with a focus defeating the threats of the future from countering hypersonic to homeland cruise missile defense,” Dare said. “Our engineering expertise, strong partnerships and commitment will make that a reality.”

She also spoke to the strength of the local community in Huntsville and how Raytheon strives to be a great corporate citizen and partner.

“We work with a diverse network of suppliers who are committed to ensuring we meet the critical demands of our customers, making a difference for the citizens, countries and warfighters who depend on us,” Dare affirmed. “Huntsville is a tight-knit community.”

“Through strategic investments in organizations serving veterans, military families and an array of social welfare needs, we’re improving the communities where we live and work,” she continued. “Our company focuses on developing the workforce of the future by helping students unlock their potential passion for math and sciences. By investing in education programs that cultivate STEM skills, diverse thinking, and leadership abilities, we are giving students an insight and understanding of the advanced technology we work on and hopefully inspire them to take up a STEM career.”

Dare pointed to Raytheon’s recent donation of $4 million to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) as a key example of its support of the future STEM workforce in the area. This was one of Raytheon’s “largest single investments in talent development and community relations in recent years, contributing to the school’s curriculum and acting as mentors for the students.”

“Inspiring interest in math and science at a young age is critical to nurturing a lifelong interest,” she advised.

Another example came on Thursday, in celebration of National Engineers Week’s “Girl Day.” Read more about that here.

“Additionally, we embrace our responsibility to give back to the brave men and women who have served our country — and to advocate for the families who have sacrificed to sustain them,” Dare added.

Organizations Raytheon supports to that end include Still Serving Veterans and Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

“We host a series of networking and career workshops with Still Serving Veterans (five to date). At the events, Veteran employees share their stories, their successes and their struggles, in a highly personal, candid, and effective way,” Dare explained.

For DAV, Raytheon supports the organization during the holidays to donate meals and holiday gifts to local families in need. Employees come together to wrap and package these items for the DAV to share with these families.

“This past December we provided 160 gifts to 10 military families in need, marking items off the wish lists of 26 kids,” Dare noted.

Read more about Raytheon here.

RELATED: Alabama’s federal delegation confident Space Command HQ belongs in Huntsville

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

6 hours ago

Gov. Kay Ivey signs bill into law allowing alcohol delivery in Alabama effective later this year

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Monday signed into law SB 126, which will legalize the home delivery of alcohol in the state of Alabama effective October 1, 2021.

Sponsored by Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) and Rep. Gil Isbell (R-Gadsden) in the respective chambers, SB 126 will create a licensing process that ultimately allows liquor, beer and wine sold at retailers to be delivered to residences, including by services such as Shipt, Instacart or DoorDash.

The new law contains limits on the amounts of each beverage that can be delivered, and deliveries can not be made to dry counties and dry cities.

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Deliveries of sealed alcoholic beverages under the law may occur from grocery stores, restaurants, breweries and other retail establishments licensed by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Any alcohol delivered from a restaurant under the provisions of SB 126 must accompany a meal.

All delivery drivers carrying alcohol will be required to undergo a background check and must be at least 21 years old. The bill requires that a person age-21 or older must receive all deliveries of alcohol.

SB 126 received final passage by the legislature last week.

“Our legislation allows for alcohol delivery with strict, multiple layers of checks and balances in place. The legislation explicitly regulates that alcohol deliveries are made only to adults of legal drinking age,” Waggoner has said in a statement.

Isbell added, “Passing common sense rules for safe alcohol delivery in Alabama is smart all around – giving more options to consumers relying on delivery services while providing a boost to delivery workers and local retail businesses during a pivotal time.”

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

7 hours ago

The Frontier Industrial Innovation Conference set for April 13-14

The past decade has brought tremendous changes to businesses in industrial and energy sectors. Taking advantage of those changes to uniquely position and empower each sector to shape the future industrial economy is the objective of The Frontier Conference. The two-day event is being held virtually this year from The Frontier‘s home in Birmingham.

The Frontier is the only conference of its kind to focus on emerging technologies for all key industrial subsectors. Its goal is to forge connections and collaboration among industrial innovation stakeholders. The conference will include an exciting mix of innovators, executives, entrepreneurs, investors and up-and-coming leaders of the industrial world to think, talk and hear about ideas and technologies that are shaping the future of industry.

“The Frontier Conference is about solution-seekers who are shaping the future of industrial innovation,” said The Frontier founder Hank Torbert. “Our goal is to contribute to that process and help companies succeed by sharing ideas and innovations across sectors. That also helps us stay focused on emerging development and trends and ensure that we continue to provide all who attend with valuable information, access and opportunities.”

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More than 200 people have registered for the conference, representing 130 organizations and 17 major industries from more than 20 states and five foreign countries. Attendees include business leaders seeking capital, partners, customers, new lines of business and innovative solutions for specific functions, such as economic development.

The 2021 conference is the first for The Frontier since its move from New Orleans to Birmingham in 2019. Torbert called Birmingham “the ideal home for The Frontier,” given the city’s industrial history and its emerging status as an epicenter for development of future industries.

“Throughout its history, Birmingham has been a city of pioneers, builders, innovators and entrepreneurs,” Torbert noted. “Today, it is a major epicenter of industrials, as is Alabama as a whole, whether you’re talking about automotive, chemicals, transportation, aerospace or manufacturing in general. That energy fits with our goal of building an industrial innovation community across all sectors that allows for the collaboration and expansion of emerging ideas and technologies.”

Torbert said Birmingham benefits from both private and public leadership that understands the economic evolution underway worldwide and is committed to an approach to economic growth that is diversified, innovative, strategic and collaborative. That’s a key factor in Birmingham’s emergence as a national leader in creating and attracting jobs of the future, he added – an assessment that is endorsed by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

“We understand that the industrial world is undergoing rapid transformation,” Woodfin said. “Birmingham’s commitment to innovation is part of our vision for helping our industrial sector remain competitive by transforming the ways they operate, compete and do business. We’re pleased to have The Frontier as a partner and a resource in our efforts.”

The growing energy for innovation in Birmingham extends to the rest of the state. Alabama continues to position itself for sustained success in the economy of the 21st century.

The state ranks third nationally in auto exports and has a strong presence in the chemical industry, where over 200 companies employ a total of more than 10,000 people, with annual exports exceeding $2 billion. Alabama also ranks among the top 10 states in the growth of biotech research funding, led by major research facilities in Birmingham and Huntsville.

In just the past five years, Alabama’s biotech startups have attracted well over $100 million in venture capital. At both the state and local levels, public and private entities are investing in workforce development initiatives to ensure a well-educated labor pool for new and expanding industries.

“Increasingly, Alabama’s innovation community demonstrates its commitment to the idea that we are here to work, learn and grow together,” said Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA). “Collaboration is an essential ingredient in our overall success, and we’ve seen that The Frontier is committed to helping those partnerships flourish.”

Along with EDPA and 30 other corporate and organizational partners, Alabama Power is a sponsor of The Frontier Conference. The conference will provide benefits from connections made and information shared, in addition to promoting the benefits of doing business in Alabama.

“We are constantly identifying new initiatives, products and services to meet our customers’ evolving needs,” said John Smola, director of Business Transformation and Administration for Alabama Power. “The Frontier conference provides an opportunity for us to learn from, engage with and gain best practices from other industry peers focused on innovation and customer offerings.”

To learn more about The Frontier, or to register for The Frontier Conference, visit thefrontier.co.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Seven-ton elephant statue takes its place outside Bryant-Denny Stadium

Tuska, a 19-foot-tall, seven-ton bronze elephant statue, was installed Monday in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium at the University of Alabama.

The newly named Tuska Plaza is at the southeast corner of Tuscaloosa’s University Boulevard and Wallace Wade Avenue. The project includes new landscaping, a large pedestal for Tuska to stand on, sidewalks surrounding the statue and lighting elements for nighttime viewing, UA announced.

The statue was recently donated to UA by the Tuscaloosa-headquartered Westervelt Company, along with a generous gift from Bill and Mary Battle.

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The statue was sculpted by English artist Terry Mathews and has resided at nearby NorthRiver Yacht Club for the past 20 years.

Tuska’s installation comes just in time for Alabama football’s annual A-Day scrimmage, which will kick off at noon on Saturday, April 17.

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

8 hours ago

Regions lighting up Birmingham headquarters building for annual Regions Tradition golf tournament

Regions Bank, title sponsor of the Regions Tradition, will light up the Regions Center in downtown Birmingham with the image of a golfer in preparation for the upcoming golf tournament.

Starting on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. CT, all four sides of the Regions Center will be lit with images of a golfer, allowing a 360-degree view from anywhere near the building. The 20-story light display will be lit daily from 8:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. and again from 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. through May 9.

This year’s Regions Tradition will be held May 5-9 at Greystone Golf and County Club. Enhanced protocols will be in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The tournament – even last year when it was canceled due to coronavirus – continues to be a major generator of charitable support and donations. In fact, the total amount raised in 2020 represented the largest amount raised in one year in the history of the tournament. Children’s of Alabama is the primary beneficiary, and other area nonprofit organizations also significantly benefit.

Overall, the event generates an estimated annual economic impact of $25 million statewide.

The Regions Tradition remains one of the premier stops of the PGA TOUR Champions, which is the men’s professional senior golf tour for those aged 50 and older. In fact, it is one of five majors on the tour.

The event will once again feature Hall of Fame-caliber golfers, as well as a celebrity pro-am with some of the biggest names around.

On the professional side, this year’s lineup is slated to include the likes of Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Bernhard Langer, John Daly and Vijay Singh.

Celebrities set to participate include Nick Saban, Bo Jackson and Kirby Smart.

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

9 hours ago

Allowing lottery purchases through a cellphone is a terrible idea but the Alabama Legislature might do it

Another week is here, and that means we are into another week of gambling conversation.

Many discussions have already been had about what type of gambling we will have in the state of Alabama and who will benefit.

Will it just be a lottery and nothing more? Will it be casino gaming? Will there be sports betting? Will I be able to bet on WrestleMania? Will the Poarch Band of Creek Indians be happy? Will illegal casino owners across the state be happy? Will out-of-state investors want to come to the state and build casinos? Will the money go to the General Fund? Will the money go to education? Will the money go to ISIS?

Most people of the state of Alabama don’t really care about the particulars here. They don’t know that the Alabama Senate is about to substitute a “simple” lottery bill by Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) while Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has a more complicated and comprehensive bill that would open up gambling in the state of Alabama.

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Personally, I don’t think the votes are there for any of this. There are too many competing factions that will not allow gambling legislation to move forward unless their side benefits, but at the same time they don’t want the other sides to benefit. This is why we are in a never-ending stalemate.

But missing in all of this is a very bad idea wrapped in a very vanilla idea.

No one is really concerned about the lottery. Over 70% of the people in the state appear to want a lottery of some kind, and support for other types of gaming is less but still there.

Most people view the lottery as a relatively benign thing. They want to be able to buy lottery tickets at their local grocery store and gas station while picking up other items. The average person will buy whatever they need at the store and then plop down a couple of one-dollar bills on chances to win a couple million in return. It’s a long shot, but it is simple fun and generally harmless.

Unless it is not.

The Alabama legislation, as currently proposed, would allow Alabama residents to purchase lottery tickets through their phones. While this seems generally harmless, I will remind you that to purchase lottery tickets this way you will need a credit card, a debit card or a direct link to your bank account.

So what?

What is the difference if I buy a lottery ticket with a $5 bill at the grocery store or if I do it via a smartphone app?

Good question with a simple answer.

If you allow people to buy lottery tickets on credit, people will buy lottery tickets on credit.

If you make it easy for people to drain their bank accounts to buy lottery tickets, people will drain their bank account to buy lottery tickets.

It is just human nature. No one in their right mind would go down to their local convenience store to buy $1,500 worth of lottery tickets, but if you allow them to do that by entering a passcode on their phone, they will do it.

Use of the transaction, the lack of the shame that is created by bringing in hundreds of dollars to risk on a pick 6 and the ability to do it all in the dark, make it far more likely.

This is a terrible feature of all the lottery legislation that has been proposed.

And conversations with McClendon and others make it clear that this feature — it is a feature and not a bug — will stay in the bills.

McClendon laid this out during a recent radio interview on WVNN in Huntsville.

Partial transcript as follows:

We have an entire generation that does life on their phone. They order lunch on their phone, they get their plane ticket on their phone, they call their Uber on their phone, they meet their girlfriend or boyfriend on the phone. This generation of people, they’re not going to stand in line at the “handy mart” to buy a ticket. And this business of buying an iPhone like lottery ticket is very common throughout the rest of the country, that is no big deal and it’s pretty sophisticated too…You download your charge card.

So simple, so easy, so … bad.

Our neighboring states, which we love to talk about because they already have the lottery, ban this practice.

In fact, of the 45 lottery states in the United States, only 21 allow this stuff to be done over the phone. This means that 24 states understand this to be an issue.

To make this even more clear, some merchants won’t allow this practice at their locations even if the state does.

It is because this is such a bad idea. Think about it — faceless corporations heard they could make money off of lottery tickets by accepting credit cards for them and said, “No, that’s a little sketchy and not good for the customer.”

There is a message here.

The lottery has been called “a tax on stupid people,” but that doesn’t mean we should allow the state to take advantage of them.

I know, I know, personal responsibility and all that. If someone wants to get a new credit card and max it out on Mega Millions, let him. After all, it is his money and his problem, right?

Kinda. But we should do all we can to help people make less disastrous decisions.

Look at it this way: We build roads on mountains and tell people that they need to go slower and be cautious because the risk is greater as we drive near the edge. The risk is yours if you head up there, so be careful.

But, we also put guardrails on the more treacherous parts of the path.

They operate as protection for both the dummies who want to whip around the roads for a thrill and for the Johnson family of five out for a weekend drive whose dad takes his eyes off the road to tell Timmy to stop hitting his sister. We don’t just shrug our shoulders and say, “Sorry, Timmy, you’re dead.”

For that reason, part of the bill needs to be tweaked in whatever form gambling takes in Alabama to put those guardrails up.

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.