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3 months ago

The ‘Southern Silicon Valley’: Another national business publication names Birmingham as a growing tech hub

Three weeks after Forbes published a deep-dive about the Magic City’s strides to become a tech hub, entitled “Inside Birmingham’s Bid To Become The Southern Silicon Valley,” Barron’s hailed the city in an article with the title “Add Birmingham To Tech’s Growing List of Hubs.”

Written by Jon Swartz, the new piece discusses “the economic renaissance of The Magic City” from “the Pittsburgh of the South” to the “Southern Silicon Valley.”

“There’s an intersection in downtown Birmingham, Ala., they call the ‘heaviest corner on Earth’ as a symbol of its status as a steel and iron town nearly a century ago,” Swartz began.

He continued, “Today, one of its pillars – a converted bank in the John A. Hand Building – is home to Shipt, the city’s big tech success story. It employs 400 here, with plans to add another 880 jobs in the next few years.”

Shipt, which sold to Target last year for a whopping $550 million, is Birmingham’s most well-known tech company, as Todd Stacy pointed out in Monday’s Daily News Digest for the Alabama Daily News. However, the company is one of many stories of entrepreneurial achievement incubated by a tech and business-friendly environment in Alabama.

Like the Forbes article, Swartz’s piece for Barron’s lauds the Innovation Depot’s role in Birmingham’s growing success.

The Innovation Depot, he noted, is “a shuttered 140,000-square-foot Sears store from the 1980s has been converted into a thriving center for more than 100 tech companies and entrepreneurs in the region.”

Swartz then names some lesser-known but very impressive Birmingham-based tech companies:

  • XpertDox, “a 3-year-old company at the depot that has compiled a comprehensive database of the highest-rated doctors specializing in disease treatments.”
  • Helplightning, “is the fifth startup of Gary York, a Huntsville, Ala., native who spent time in Silicon Valley. He’s returned home to raise a family and help lead a generation of new companies like his own—which has developed a virtual reality tool for customer-service agents to install or fix equipment.”
  • Planet Fundraiser, “a mobile app for cash-back programs for fundraising located nearby. It has partnered with 500 merchants and 25 major retailers such as Home Depot (HD) and Walmart (WMT).”

He later recognizes Amazon’s decision to build an 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Bessemer that will employ 1,500 as another clear sign “of tech’s emergence.”

But it is the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) that often flies under the radar in Birmingham’s tech eruption, Swartz notes.

Swartz calls UAB the “sleeping giant in all this” and praises its $7 billion annual economic impact on the city.

The just-opened Bill Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hopes to further build a culture that “fosters innovation and entrepreneurship” that works within the framework of the community, its executive director, Kathy Nugent told Swartz.

“We want UAB to be a pipeline to the city’s developing tech hub,” she said.

Per Barron’s, “Nugent wants to make UAB a launching pad for the city’s next generation of tech startups.”

Shipt founder and CEO Bill Smith has similarly lofty expectations for the “Southern Silicon Valley.”

“Tech is the fastest-growing industry here,” Smith emphasized. “You will soon find names of that industry on the top of buildings downtown besides those of banks and insurance companies.”

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

6 hours ago

Ivey announces staff changes

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced important changes to her staff as she transitions to a full term.

As the governor moves forward in implementing her vision for the state, a press release from her office explained that she believes these changes to her staff will be crucial to most effectively serve the people of Alabama.

Adam Thompson is being promoted to deputy chief of staff for policy. He joins Liz Filmore, who is serving as deputy chief of staff for administration. Having two deputy chiefs of staff is expected to help to improve organization, structure and focus in the office of the governor.

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Thompson currently serves as the governor’s appointments director. In Thompson’s new capacity, his experience will be beneficial to the governor in executing her policy and legislative agendas. Both deputies will report to the chief of staff, Steve Pelham.

“Alabama is experiencing great momentum, and in my full term as governor, I plan to be ambitious in growing on our successes and tackling our challenges. My recent appointment of Jo Bonner to Senior Advisor, in addition to these staff changes, will be instrumental to best execute my vision for Alabama,” Ivey said.

She added, “Everything we do in the Ivey Administration is a team effort, and I am very proud of that.”

Additionally, Catherine Gayle Thrash is being promoted to serve as director of appointments. Thrash currently serves as the governor’s confidential assistant. She has also managed judicial appointments since joining Ivey’s staff and will continue to do so along with managing all appoints on behalf of the governor in her new role.

William Filmore, who currently serves as Legislative liaison, will now take the role of Legislative Liaison and director of Local Government Relations. In addition to his current responsibilities, Filmore will serve as Ivey’s liaison for city and county governments.

“Adam, Liz, Catherine Gayle and William are valuable assets to my staff, and I look forward to continue working alongside them to better serve the state of Alabama,” Ivey concluded.

All of these staff announcements are effective on Sunday, December 16.

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

6 hours ago

Del Marsh congratulates Bobby Singleton on election as minority leader

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) congratulated State Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) on being elected as the Senate minority leader by his seven Democratic colleagues on Wednesday.

In a statement, Marsh said, “I would like to congratulate Senator Singleton on his election as Senate Minority Leader. There are many tough issues facing the Alabama Senate in the year to come and I look forward to working with Senator Singleton as we develop legislation that improves the lives of all Alabamians.”

“Senator Singleton and I have worked well together for several years and I have no doubt that will continue as we strive to ensure that the Senate runs smoothly and that all Senators are represented equally,” Marsh concluded.

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State Senator Greg Reed (R-Jasper) was re-elected as Senate majority leader last month.

State Senator Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), who served as Senate Minority Leader the past 14 months, on Wednesday was selected as the Deputy Minority Leader moving forward. He had previously served in that role until then-State Senator Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) became president of Alabama State University.

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

7 hours ago

Alabama lawmakers celebrate passage of 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill passed the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday by a bipartisan final vote of 369-47 and now heads to the White House for President Donald Trump’s signature.

The bill, which passed from conference and then the Senate on Tuesday, has been celebrated as a major win for Alabama farmers and the state in general.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) have already applauded its passage, with most of Alabama’s House delegation now joining in the plaudits after all of them voted to pass the bill. 

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“Our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country,” Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) said in a release.

He continued, “The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers.”

“I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century,” Byrne concluded.

Congresswoman Martha Roby (AL-2) added her high praise for the bill’s passage, commenting on the importance of agriculture to Alabama’s economy and way of life.

“In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer. It is imperative that Congress honor our commitments to the hardworking farmers and producers across the country,” Roby outlined in a statement.

“The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we depend on. I was proud to support this legislation on behalf of the farmers I represent, and I am eager to see President Trump sign it into law,” she added.

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3) was on the conference committee of Representatives and Senators that agreed to this final version of the bill.

“I am proud to vote for the Farm Bill,” Rogers explained in a statement. “As a Conferee on the bill, I know firsthand just how important this bill is to our nation.”

“This Farm Bill strengthens the farm safety net for Alabama’s farmers and producers and it provides five years of certainty. America’s farm economy is still struggling, and this bill will be a much-needed shot in the arm,” he continued.

Rogers concluded, “The bill also improves the SNAP (food stamp) program integrity while incentivizing work for those who are on government benefits. The rural development programs in the bill will be great for folks across Alabama who need rural broadband, and the research funding in the Farm Bill is great news for universities like Tuskegee and Auburn. Finally, I am pleased to say language I introduced with Rep. Terri Sewell was included in the bill. This important language helps provide grants for folks with failing wastewater infrastructure.”

The Farm Bill is expected to improve agriculture policy by:

  • Providing a nationwide yield update for Price Loss Coverage (PLC), beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions;
  • Making several key improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments;
  • Protecting and improving crop insurance;
  • Investing in research, extension, and education projects;
  • Protecting farmers from additional costly and burdensome red tape;
  • Strengthening the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) capacity to combat the opioid crisis;
  • Refocusing efforts to expand quality broadband to rural America;
  • Including critical funding for feral swine control;
  • Improving existing programs to maximize efficiency, reducing waste and maintaining fiscally responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars;
  • Restoring funding for trade promotion efforts in an attempt to keep pace with trading competitors around the world;
  • Boosting anti-hunger programs and incentivizes work for federal beneficiaries;
  • Helping equip and train the next generation of farmers.

 

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

7 hours ago

Scouts to participate in ‘Wreaths Across America’ Saturday at the State Veterans Cemetery

Thousands of wreaths will be placed on the graves of military veterans across the nation on Saturday to honor their service and sacrifice.

Local Boy and Girl Scouts, as well as family members, will place wreaths on the graves of America’s fallen heroes beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort. The public is invited to attend.

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Margaret Cooley, a volunteer who works with the Alabama State Veterans Memorial Cemetery at Spanish Fort Foundation, Inc., will speak about the importance of honoring our veterans.

Friends of the cemetery provide the flag wreaths, which will remain in place throughout the Christmas season. The wreaths are collected after the first of the year and reused.

“We place wreath flags to honor all those who have served us and our country, especially those who found their resting place here,” Joe Buschell, the cemetery assistant director, explained. “It’s so important to recognize the service of our veterans and to come and lay a wreath on their grave.”

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

8 hours ago

Auburn University groundskeeping student headed to Super Bowl to train with legends

After submitting the winning application and essay in the 2019 Toro Super Bowl Sports Turf Training competition, Auburn University and turf management student Wilson Morgan is headed to the Super Bowl, the university announced.

Morgan, who is the first student from Auburn to receive the honor in the 16-year history of the contest, will venture to Atlanta January 27 and experience the week leading up to the Super Bowl, which is scheduled for February 3, as a part of the NFL’s Super Bowl grounds crew at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Morgan will be working alongside some of the best in the realm of athletic field management. NFL Super Bowl field director Ed Mangan, who also serves as chief groundskeeper for the Atlanta Braves, and George Toma, who has been on the grounds crew for the last 52 Super Bowls and turns 90 in February, will be two of the legends Morgan will have the opportunity to work alongside.

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“This is an amazing opportunity to learn from the best of the best,” Morgan said, per an Auburn University release.

Throughout his experience, Morgan will get hands-on experience in turf maintenance, field lining, logo painting, irrigation maintenance, field preparation for media day, halftime preparation and clean-up.

“Mercedes-Benz Stadium has artificial turf, so I’m looking forward to learning what’s involved in managing a synthetic playing surface,” Morgan said. “It will be great to have experience in that.”

In order to receive this special honor, Morgan and other applicants had to submit a 500-word essay detailing their goals for the future.

“It was basically asking where you saw yourself professionally five years from now,” he stated. “I tried to make mine as little about myself as possible.

Morgan added, “I’ve had some excellent mentors in my life who helped me discover my dream of one day becoming a football field manager, and I want to be that kind of person for others.”

Morgan, who is now a junior at Auburn University, attended East Limestone High School in Athens where he was unsure about his goals for a professional career before attending college. He flipped through a copy of SportsTurf magazine that he found in his greenhouse management classroom.

“I picked it up just out of curiosity, but when I started looking through it, I couldn’t believe it,” Morgan said. “I mean, I was a football player, but I had no idea there were people who took care of sports fields for a living.”

After he found out Auburn offered a degree in the program from his ag teacher, John Wilson, Morgan was enthusiastic, yet nervous about beginning his college career.

“I remember kind of worrying because I kept hearing that the average college student changes their major four times before they graduate, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no! I don’t want that to happen to me!’,” Morgan said.

Once he arrived at Auburn University, Morgan was welcomed by other students on the same career path. Austin Brown, one of Morgan’s classmates, welcomed him to a group of students preparing for a win in the National Collegiate Turf Bowl competition.

“Then I met another student who had a job with the Auburn Athletics grounds crew, and I knew I really wanted to get involved with that, so he told me to talk to Richard Wilt,” Morgan recalled.

Wilt, the grounds manager for Auburn Athletics at the time of Morgan’s interest, hired Morgan and later connected him to the Miami Dolphins head groundskeeper Tom Wilson. Morgan ended up spending the summer of 2018 as an intern at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

“I started there the day after they’d had a huge concert and left the week after the first preseason game,” Morgan explained. “One thing I learned there was that managing the playing field is a full-time, year-round job.”

For summer 2019, Morgan will be interning with the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Morgan shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the trip.

“That will give me experience in college sports, the NFL and Major League Baseball,” Morgan said of the trip. “Plus, I’ve only worked with warm-season turf, but the Phillies play on Kentucky bluegrass, so then I’d have experience managing a cool-season grass.

“I’m a big believer in planning ahead, and when I graduate [in May 2020], I plan to have a job,” he explained. “So I’m doing every single thing I can do now to be sure that happens.”

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