10 months ago

UAH’s Lance Fulks playing a key management role in Mazda-Toyota plant

At one point, engineering major Lance Fulks (’02, BSE, ISE) decided to “step away” from his university classes and pursue a different path. Today, the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) alumnus is the general manager of assembly at Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A.

The only thing that stopped Fulks from withdrawing from UAH’s College of Engineering was a chance meeting with Jerrod K. Young.

At the time, Young served as Assistant Dean for Students at the College of Engineering. After his talk with Young, Fulks continued in the UAH Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISE) program. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Engineering in 2002.

Fulks and Nicolas Loyd (’17, PhD, ISE, ’06, MEM, ’98, BSE) were undergraduate students together in the ISE program at UAH.

“Lance and I got along well because he was working toward a career in manufacturing and I was looking to do the same. Even before he graduated, Lance obtained an engineering job at Navistar,” said Loyd, UAH Clinical Assistant Professor, Engineering Management.

“Over the years, his work ethic and skill drove him up all the way to a corporate leadership position at that company; meanwhile, I spent the next 20 years in industry researching and learning Lean Manufacturing Management, which was born from the Toyota Production System,” said Loyd, who also directs the university’s Center for Management and Economic Research and the Alabama Technology Network Center. “So, it’s fun after two decades, to have those careers cross each other again. I’m proud of Lance and hope that Mazda-Toyota and UAH can create a strong relationship that is beneficial to both our students’ and Lance’s success,” Loyd added.

“My time at UAH and the experience gained through those opportunities prepared me for my current role as general manager of assembly for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. (MTMUS),” Fulks said.

The engineering course most memorable to Fulks was the Industrial Systems Engineering senior design class taught by Dr. Bernard Schroer (UAH Professor Emeritus of Engineering). “Professor Schroer did an incredible job of tying the concepts we learned in class to real-world applications.

“I consider joining the MTMUS team to be a once in a career opportunity,” said Fulks. “A project this large and with the level of impact it will have on the North Alabama community is unique.”

While the MTMUS plant is under development, Fulks day-to-day activities center around hiring and project management. As the automobile plant moves into production Fulks will have the responsibility for all vehicle assembly for MTMUS. The company plans to have an annual capacity of 300,000 cars.

Fulks caused an international buzz around the business world when he honored Huntsville’s legacy of space exploration by naming MTMUS production lines after Discovery and Apollo.

“Growing up in the Huntsville area the U.S. Space and Rocket Center was a place I visited multiple times throughout my childhood. I still enjoy visiting and I’ve attended Family Space Camp with my son,” said Fulks. “While the region has diversified economically in recent years it is still best known for the Marshall Space Flight Center and its contribution to space exploration. This inspired me to suggest we honor that legacy by naming MTMUS production lines Discovery and Apollo.”

Fulks said one of the key components of the MTMUS culture is to “Go See.” Making a condition of employment for some team members to spend two to four weeks in Japan learning from Mazda and Toyota at their corporate headquarters.

Not all jobs at MTMUS will require international travel, but for some employees, it will be necessary to train in Japan for three months. “As someone who has devoted their career to manufacturing, this is a tremendous opportunity to learn from two of the best in the industry,” said Fulks.

Gauging the economic impact of the MTMUS plant in North Alabama will be hard according to Fulks. “When the plant begins assembling Mazda and Toyota vehicles in 2021, we will employ up to 4,000 team members. The team I oversee will include about 1,900 of those employees.

“Our suppliers in the area will employ between 1,500 to 2,000 workers,” Fulks added. “Studies have shown that there are six indirect jobs created for every direct job created at MTMUS. Given the location of the site, the economic impact will not only have an effect on Huntsville and Madison County but also Limestone, Morgan and surrounding counties. MTMUS is truly a game-changer for North Alabama and the Huntsville area.”

Fulks sums up his advice for young people considering a career in the field of engineering in one word, “rewarding.”

“You will have the opportunity to work on projects that make a difference and make a positive impact. I also recommend that students, regardless of their major, take advantage of the cooperative education and internship opportunities to get real-world experience before graduating from college,” said Fulks.

(Courtesy University of Alabama in Huntsville)

10 mins ago

Michael Jordan speaks to Univ. of Alabama football team — ‘Winning has a price’

Basketball legend Michael Jordan on Tuesday spoke via video conference to the University of Alabama football team.

The program, led by head coach Nick Saban, routinely has some of the most successful, well-known athletes and leaders from across the nation address the team each summer in preparation for the fall season.

Previous examples reported by Yellowhammer News include the late Kobe Bryant, as well as speakers from the business and political sectors such as world-famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Alabama Athletics shared a one-minute video clip from Jordan’s virtual visit. Players seen in the video were socially distanced and wearing masks at the team facility.

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“This guy — I have the most respect for, of anybody, as a competitor. This guy is a great competitor,” Saban said introducing Jordan to the team.

The Crimson Tide coach also praised Jordan in recent months during the premier of the popular 10-part documentary “The Last Dance.”

Jordan spoke to the team on Tuesday about what it takes to be a champion.

“Winning has a price,” the six-time NBA champion said. “You have to put forth the effort every single day.”

“Coaching can only give you the motivation — they can give you plays and they can give you all that — but at the end of the day, you’ve got to have self-determination. You have to want to be the best,” Jordan advised.

He added, “If you’re all on the same page and everybody wants to win, that’s the whole process. If you guys are sitting there putting on that Alabama uniform, your attitude is about winning. Winning is a part of me. I will do anything to win. Your energy should be towards winning.”

Watch:

Alabama Football also shared this famous quote from Jordan in a tweet: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

The program, led by its players with support from the staff and administration, are currently trying to save the 2020 fall college football season.

RELATED: Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

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

44 mins ago

Alabama’s small business community needs Congress’ support

Affordable health care has long been a cause of concern for small business across our country with the cost of coverage has consistently ranked at the top of small business owners’ concerns. And now, amid a global health crisis, health coverage is more important than ever. As someone with years of experience working in the healthcare industry and alongside businesses, I have seen firsthand how the small business community faces unique challenges when it comes to employer-sponsored benefits.

There is no doubt that each employer wants to give employees the best benefits possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes small businesses competitive, attracting a more skilled workforce and helping to keep employees healthy. However, the large majority of small business owners run on extremely small margins, and as health care costs continue to rise, it is even more difficult to provide employees with quality health care coverage.

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Alabama is known for our friendly small business community, inviting many small employers to plant their roots in the Yellowhammer State. This is why we’re proud to have over 380,000 small businesses that employ over 765,000 of our state’s residents. Small businesses are, and always have been, the backbone of our economy. Alabama laws historically promote competition and small business growth but despite this, we still need our federal lawmakers to support us, especially at a time when businesses are struggling.

Today, with the pandemic continuing to spread across our state, small business owners are struggling to stay in business, and they are bracing for the full financial impacts of COVID-19. It is a devastating situation to be in and our small business community cannot survive on its own.

Fortunately, we have very dedicated small business champions in Washington, D.C. who have been working tirelessly to ensure any federal COVID-19 relief includes small businesses.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell supported bipartisan legislation that in 2019 repealed an Obamacare tax known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This erroneous tax increased the price of health insurance for small business owners. Now we need them to further continue that work and work to implement policies that will continue to lower the cost of health care for small business owners, their employees, and their families, especially at a time when having health care is so crucial. A healthy workforce that is ready, and able, to get back to work is vital to our state, and country’s economic recovery.

Small business owners want to continue to provide health care for their employees, but they need Congress’ help to do so. I ask that our elected officials continue to come together to support Alabama’s small business community, especially when it comes to lowering health care costs and making health care more affordable — both as we continue to overcome COVID-19 and long beyond.

Curtis Cannon is a Managing Partner at Axis Recovery and has over 15 years of experience working with health insurance companies, brokers and consulting firms.

1 hour ago

Doug Jones: Kamala Harris ‘exactly what we need’

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Wednesday sent out a fundraising email to his supporters celebrating that his “friend” U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has been selected as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Harris joins former Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. Jones is a longtime ally of Biden and was one of the first major elected officials in the country to endorse his presidential bid this cycle. It was also announced on Tuesday shortly before Harris was named as the VP nominee that Jones will be a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention next week.

Reacting to Harris’ selection on Wednesday, Jones wrote, “First of all, I’m proud of my friend and colleague. Her tenacity and dedication are exactly what we need to take on so many of the challenges we face, from helping save lives and livelihoods during this pandemic to finally ending systemic racism.”

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Harris has previously announced support for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, decriminalizing illegal immigration, gun confiscation and other policy proposals championed by the far-left. She even once compared ICE agents to the Ku Klux Klan.

“This election is going to come down to the contrast between unity and division, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know how to bring people together. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to what we saw in 2017. Everything we’re seeing shows that not only do we have to make sure everyone hears about our message of unity, but we also have to energize traditionally underrepresented communities like Black and Latinx voters,” Alabama’s junior senator added in his email. “We sure did that in 2017 – I know the power and energy of Black women and the difference their hard work made in my race.”

“Now, we can do it again, and we’ll make history by electing our first Black and South Asian woman Vice President. I’m so proud that person will be my friend and colleague,” he concluded, with the email ending with a link to a fundraising page for Jones’ campaign.

This is not the first time Jones has used Harris to solicit support for his campaign. She sent out a fundraising email for Jones last year.

The junior senator from California earlier this year also traveled to Birmingham in support of Jones’ reelection bid.

Harris during that appearance said that she and Jones “are always cuttin’ up and sending each other notes” in the Senate.

She added, “We were cuttin’ up in the impeachment hearings. Some of those words would not be spoken in church.”

Harris and Jones each voted twice to remove President Donald Trump from office at the conclusion of those impeachment hearings.

Her running mate on the Democratic ticket to unseat Trump has actively supported Jones’ campaign, as well. Biden campaigned in Alabama for Jones during the 2017 election.

Paige Lindgren, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, on Wednesday noted, “Despite his claims of bipartisanship, Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has hitched his wagon to a potential Biden-Harris administration.”

“By doing this in a state that overwhelming supports the President, Jones has given up on representing the conservative values that Alabamians hold true,” she concluded.

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

1 hour ago

Boeing submits Next Generation Interceptor proposal that would create Alabama jobs, continue to protect American homeland

Boeing on Wednesday submitted its proposal to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency for the Next Generation Interceptor (NGI) competition, with the stakes being high for Alabama.

The company is proposing a design that leverages Boeing’s more than 60-year track record and unparalleled expertise in strategic missile and weapon systems.

The NGI will be the interceptor successor for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system, currently the nation’s only defense program capable of protecting the entire United States homeland, including Alaska and Hawaii, against long-range ballistic missiles from threats such as North Korea and Iran. The GMD currently uses Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles launched by Ground-Based Interceptors to track long-range ballistic missile threats and use collision force to destroy the target.

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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.

The Missile Defense Agency put out a request for proposal on the NGI in April, saying that two companies will be selected to compete to build the final interceptor. That contract award is expected later this year.

If selected, Boeing will utilize its proven capabilities and a best-of-industry team, based primarily out of Huntsville alongside its Missile and Weapon Systems division headquarters, to ensure a unique, state-of-the-art offering is delivered on time.

“Boeing’s NGI proposal delivers unmatched performance, affordability and reliability for the nation and the warfighter,” stated Norm Tew, Missile and Weapon Systems vice president and general manager, and Huntsville site senior executive for Boeing. “Building upon our prior investments and proven technologies, our innovative proposal offers a creative, compelling and game-changing technical approach to outpace, out-innovate, deter and defeat rapidly evolving advanced threats.”

Boeing already directly employs more than 3,000 people in the Yellowhammer State, with approximately 5,400 employees and retirees being residents of the state. However, the company’s economic impact is much larger than those impressive numbers alone.

As of 2018, Boeing generated an estimated $2.3 billion of economic activity in the state annually. The company spent $606 million with nearly 200 suppliers, supporting about 18,000 direct and indirect jobs as of the latest available data.

The company’s NGI proposal could be key to continued job growth in Alabama.

“This program will create 1,000 new Boeing, supplier and other local jobs across the regional economy,” concluded Tew. “Boeing looks forward to continuing its strong relationship with Alabama, which spans nearly 60 years.”

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

2 hours ago

Navy considering Mobile as location to dismantle retired nuclear aircraft carrier

The U.S. Navy has added the city of Mobile to the list of possible locations for where it will dismantle the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise.

The Navy has commenced a “scoping period” during which the feasibility of using Mobile will be considered, and public comments are being welcomed. The period for the public to comment will last from August 12 until September 11.

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Navy will not be able to hold in-person meetings, so any citizen with comments or questions on the proposed dismantling will have to submit their thoughts online or through the postal service.

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As noted on the Navy’s website on the dismantling, “The removal of the nuclear fuel from the decommissioned ex-Enterprise (CVN 65) reactor plants has already taken place and is not part of the proposed action.”

If the Navy decides to undertake the method of dismantlement that facilities at the Port of Mobile are capable of providing, then Alabama’s port city would be competing with facilities in Brownsville, Texas, and Newport News, Virginia.

The Navy is also considering three other alternatives for dealing with the ex-Enterprise that, if chosen, would mean Mobile is out of the running.

According to the Navy, the Enterprise was first commissioned in 1961 and sailed over one million miles during its more than 50 years of service. The ship was decommissioned in 2017.

More information on the project can be accessed here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95