6 months ago

‘Transformative’ logistics park launching in Mobile, bringing jobs and future growth potential

The Alabama Department of Commerce on Wednesday announced that Canadian National Railway (CN) is collaborating with Alabama Export Railroad and Ray-Mont Logistics to launch the first phase of a new, state-of-the-art logistics park in Mobile.

Expected to open in late 2021, phase one of the facility will be utilized to bag plastic pellets for containerized shipping around the world. According to a release, the terminal will include two bagging lines with a capacity of 300 Forty-Foot Equivalent Units per week.

“This logistics park is another exciting development that will add new capabilities at the state’s gateway for international commerce, the Port of Mobile,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement. “We welcome this collaboration and look forward to seeing the future growth of this facility.”

The total initial investment in the facility is reportedly more than $16 million, and the project is anticipated to create up to 50 jobs.

Strategically located in Mobile, the facility will provide customers with unobstructed, extensive export capacity to access Asian, Latin American and European markets without warehousing costs or requiring double handling. This collaboration between CN, Alabama Export Railroad (a wholly owned subsidiary of Mississippi Export Railroad) and Ray-Mont Logistics will offer shippers an enhanced alternative solution to maintain a steady supply chain and to get their products to global markets from the Port of Mobile.

Additionally, the partnership brings to bear CN’s Class 1 freight railway network, which stretches for more than 20,000 miles across Canada and through the U.S. Midwest and South. James Cairns, senior vice president for Rail Centric Supply Chain at CN, stated that he is excited by the collaborative project.

“CN is once again using the strength of its unique tri-coastal network to help customers win in their markets,” Cairns advised. “This logistics park will service customers across our network and the first phase will specifically serve the demand for bagging and stuffing plastic resin containers, which is on the rise in the U.S.”

Mississippi Export Railroad has been a family business since its founding in 1922. Its subsidiary, Alabama Export Railroad, is a relatively new venture, providing freight rail service in Mobile and providing access to the Mississippi Export Railroad connections and alliances that link the Gulf of Mexico to all points on the continent.

Kate Luce, president and CEO of both Alabama Export Railroad and Mississippi Export Railroad, explained that this project has major growth potential in addition to a large immediate impact: “Along with our core partners Canadian National and Ray-Mont Logistics, we believe this project represents the first step toward the establishment of a multicommodity logistics hub which will serve producers and global markets for decades to come.”

She also said that the project was made possible “in part” due to ongoing investments made in the Alabama’s seaport. The Port of Mobile is currently undergoing a historic harbor channel deepening and widening project largely made possible by U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) as well as the Rebuild Alabama Act on the state level.

“Our interest in pursuing this intermodal opportunity is due in part to the continued federal and state investments at the Port of Mobile, as well as the recent announcement of additional container capacity at APM Terminals,” Luce remarked.

Luce, 33, appears to be a potential rising star in Alabama’s business community, having just recently been named to the 2021 board of directors for the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). Another new BCA board of directors member, Alabama State Port Authority director and CEO John Driscoll, also had high praise for the project.

“Ray-Mont’s new investment positions Alabama’s seaport into the fast growth resin market, while providing shippers a near-port gateway equipped with new ocean carriage services into key export markets,” stated Driscoll.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, BCA president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt reacted to Wednesday’s project announcement.

“This exciting announcement today exemplifies the type of innovation, forward-thinking vision and collaboration that our members pride themselves on,” said Britt. “BCA is firmly committed to building a 21st century Alabama economy that fosters increased prosperity and opportunity for hardworking families in every corner of our state, and this project certainly aligns with that mission. We are thankful to leaders within our membership, such as Kate Luce of Alabama Export Railroad and John Driscoll of the Alabama State Port Authority, who are working every day to create jobs and cultivate growth. The Port of Mobile is a cornerstone of Alabama’s present and future, and BCA continues to proudly support efforts to strategically expand its positive statewide impact.”

BCA director of regional affairs Kellie Hope added, “We applaud one of BCA’s newest board members, Kate Luce, president and CEO of Alabama Export Railroad, for her proactive leadership in this transformative project. We look forward to her continued contributions to the region and our state. This accomplishment is a tipping point opportunity for additional capital investment related to the Port, as well as a further demonstration of this region’s identity as a future epicenter for multimodal transportation and logistical support.”

The announcement was met with further plaudits from Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who commented, “Today’s announcement is a huge step for the future growth of container traffic in Mobile. This logistics hub will put previously vacant property into production to create jobs, add product diversity, and turn the intermodal flywheel at the Port of Mobile.”

“Additionally, we are excited to welcome Ray-Mont Logistics to town and look forward to the continued success of this partnership,” the mayor concluded.

The plastic pellets shipped from the facility’s first phase will reportedly be used in various applications, including plastic packaging for fresh and frozen food.

“With our nearly 30 years of transloading & logistics expertise, Ray-Mont Logistics is proud to partner with Alabama Export Railroad and CN to establish this multi-commodity intermodal logistic platform. Mobile is emerging as a key gateway in the Gulf of Mexico, which will complement our existing, strategically located, facilities throughout North America. Thanks to the collaboration of our industry partners and stakeholders, this facility offers exporters innovated logistics solutions to accommodate the growing demands of the global marketplace,” said Stephen Paul, vice president of Supply Chain Logistics at Ray-Mont Logistics.

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

9 hours ago

Jim Zeigler considering ‘exploratory’ effort for Alabama governor in 2022

After much speculation, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her intentions to seek another term as governor in 2022 earlier this month.

Despite what were perceived to be controversial positions on pushing the Rebuild Alabama Act that raised the gasoline tax, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in determining what could remain open and closed and a failed Mobile Bay/I-10 toll bridge proposal, Ivey is still riding high in polling with strong approve-disapprove numbers.

However, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, whose term as auditor will be over after 2022 and is ineligible to run again because of term limits, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he was considering a run for governor in 2022.

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“I believe it’s very important for Alabama taxpayers, for the state government, for our future to have a viable opponent who has been raising issues and trying to hold the Ivey administration accountable,” he said. “And that is why I am considering myself setting up an exploratory campaign to test the waters for a gubernatorial run. Who else is there — who else took the lead in blocking the toll bridge over Mobile Bay? Who else took the lead in blocking Amendment One that would have taken away your right to vote for school board members and have them all appointed by the Governor? Who else took the lead in blocking this prison rental plan that would have had us paying over $3 billion over 30 years and then owning zero equity in the prisons, a terrible business plan?”

“I don’t know,” Zeigler continued. “If not me, then who?”

If Zeigler runs against Ivey in 2022, it would not be the first time the two of their names appeared on a ballot in a race against one another. In Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary, Zeigler took on Ivey in a race for state delegate for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Ivey prevailed with 7,182 votes to Zeigler’s 1,729 votes — a margin of 80.6% to 19.4%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

13 hours ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”

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“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

14 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.

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“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

14 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.

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The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

15 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.