5 months ago

University of Alabama report: State’s logistics infrastructure unprepared for new economy

Officials have been saying for decades that Alabama needs to better fund improvements to its infrastructure but a report from the University of Alabama adds new urgency to the issue, saying  the state risks losing ground in economic development if it doesn’t address some key areas.

The report, “Logistics Infrastructure: Transformational Opportunities,” from the university’s Culverhouse College of Business, was co-authored by K.C. Conway, director of research and corporate engagement at the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) and Stuart Norton, research coordinator at ACRE.

Conway said there is one inescapable conclusion.

“If we invest in our logistics infrastructure, we will really continue to grow this great economy in Alabama,” he said.

If not, the state will lose ground to competing states that are addressing their logistics infrastructure needs.

Alabama’s logistics infrastructure found lacking in new report from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The report has nine key takeaways:

  1. The logistics infrastructure (LI) needs are compelling, with 4.1 million miles of public roads requiring maintenance, 1.2 billion hours of annual delays for the trucking industry, a 17-fold increase in annual spending required to maintain railroads, and e-commerce warehouse demand growing from less than 5 percent of industrial leasing a decade ago to 20 percent today.
  2. A horseless-carriage supply chain from the 1950s cannot support a modern e-commerce supply chain that is growing 25-30 percent per year because the age and state of Alabama’s existing infrastructure is inhibiting future economic and real estate development, forcing existing industry to relocate toward destinations that have modern LI.
  3. “Build the Logistics Infrastructure and development will come” is not a cliché − it is transformational logistics in action. Retail, distribution and manufacturing businesses are at risk of leaving cities and states that don’t invest in LI and update aging infrastructure.
  4. LI is driving the “why” and “where” decisions for commercial real estate development, such as the new Amazon fulfillment center being built in Bessemer or the Walmart regional distribution center at the state port in Mobile.
  5. The ongoing shift toward online retail will result in fewer physical stores, with the tradeoff being will be many new fulfillment centers and warehouses aligned with new LI. Statistics show e-commerce fulfillment centers will displace one-third of America’s 1,100 malls in a few years.
  6. The development metrics by the major commercial real estate brokerages suggest a boom is ahead for new industrial warehouse development due to e-commerce. Demand still exceeds supply resulting in another 800,000 to 1 billion square feet of new development across the U.S. over the next three years.
  7. Margins for online-shop-and-deliver do not beat shop-and-take-home, but retailers will not reverse course, instead doubling down on technology and LI to get the margins right.
  8. Reliance on the federal government to fund LI for port projects, rail, intermodal or needed supply chain components is too lottery-like a strategy to fund our economy’s circulation system. Of the billions of dollars available annually to fund our ports and inland waterways via the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, only 10 percent of yearly balances are distributed to ports.
  9. The time has come to rank our North American ports based on a more dynamic method than the current single variable of 20-foot equivalent unit (TEU) container count. A model that calibrates factors like port depth, Class I rail connectivity, number of PPMX Gantry Cranes, usage by shipping alliances, and the like should be used.

ACRE is releasing the report as a resource for officials to consider as they will likely take up an infrastructure funding bill in the Legislature in this year’s session, which begins next month.

The report doesn’t go into funding methods or taxation, but only points out the needs that exists. Unlike past reports that focused on road and bridge construction and maintenance, this report looks at overall logistics infrastructure, bringing into account railways, the Alabama State Port Authority and more.

“When we debate this next year about what do we do with logistics infrastructure, there is something in it for everybody,” Conway said. “It’s not just certain locations and certain communities are going to benefit from a new road or a bridge. Everyone has a stake in it.”

Jim Page, president of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure, also sees infrastructure as a key economic development issue for the state.

“This is such a major topic for Alabama for us to maintain our economic competitiveness, but in the future, we’ve got to be competitive with our sister Southeastern states, many of whom have already addressed this issue,” Page told Alabama NewsCenter in August. “We think it’s imperative in the 2019 legislative session that we finally address this issue for the first time since 1992.”

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told the state’s economic developers last month that an infrastructure bill will be a focus in the upcoming legislative session.

“We’ve had great success in bringing great companies into the state,” Canfield told Alabama NewsCenter after addressing the Economic Development Association of Alabama. “That, in turn, means that there’s an awful lot of products and goods and supplies and raw materials that have to flow in and out of our state. We’ve got to be able to accommodate that by having the best roads and bridges we can.”

Jim Searcy, EDAA executive director, took it a step further.

“We’ve been very neglectful in the state for decades and it is starting to impact companies’ consideration of Alabama as a location,” Searcy said. “Until we can show a plan and the resources to execute that plan, then I think we are going to be at a disadvantage in the economic development process.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

46 mins ago

Why college football is so popular in the South

As college football prepares to celebrate its 150th birthday, answer this question: Why is this sport more popular in the southern United States than anywhere else in the country?

Three Southeastern Conference football legends offered their opinions Tuesday during the conference’s annual SEC Football Media Days in Hoover. Archie Manning says the answer to that question begins in high school.

“High school football is fantastic in the South,” Manning said. “We also have high school coaches that stay with it for their career. I admire that fraternity. Those men don’t coach high school football for the money. They do it because they love what they do.”

583

Manning also credits warmer weather, a fact Steve Spurrier says encouraged him to play and coach at Florida.

“I visited in late March when it was 72 in Gainesville and 32 in Johnson City, Tennessee,” Spurrier said. “All I know is I was blessed to go there.”

Herschel Walker says the SEC’s strong football programs help draw fans and players.

“The SEC stands with a lot of power,” Walker said. “People know when you’re going to play a team from the SEC — I don’t care who it is, you better bring more than your lunch because it’s going to be a tough game. Guys are going to play extremely hard.”

Why college football is more popular in the South from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A number of events celebrating 150 years of college football are scheduled this fall at schools throughout the conference and around the country. In addition, ESPN will be airing “Saturdays in the South,” an eight-part documentary series chronicling the birth and growth of college football in the South.

“You will hear stories of greased railroad tracks, an era before the SEC chant was ever heard, and weave tales through the decades of the modern area of success experienced now by the Southeastern Conference,”  SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.

Walker shared his own story of how he used a coin flip to choose between a career in the military or college.

“One Sunday in April, my mom asked me, ‘Don’t you think it’s time for you decide what you’re going to do?’ and before she could say anything, she said, ‘If your mind and your heart is pure of the Lord Jesus, it doesn’t really matter of your decision.’ So I decided to flip a coin. It landed on college. I then flipped a coin between Clemson and Georgia, and it landed on Georgia. I wanted to go to USC out in California, so I flipped a coin between those two schools, and it landed on Georgia again. I then pulled the names out of a bag, and I pulled Georgia, and that’s how I ended up at Georgia.”

“Sometimes when you’re naive and stupid, God will take care of you, because that was the right decision,” Walker added.

Why Herschel Walker used a coin flip to decide his plans after high school from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

He also praised a decision by Georgia to name its football field after Vince Dooley.

“He deserves it because he built men,” Walker said. “To name the field after him, I’m happy to be a part of it.”

All three men say they are honored to remain active in college football activities and discussions about the sport.

“I love the college game,” said Manning, who played quarterback at Ole Miss. “I’ve been involved in the National Football Foundation. I love that involvement. We stay close to the game and try to develop leaders through the game. I’ve certainly enjoyed that.”

“There’s something about football,” Spurrier added. “When you only have one game a year, you have bragging rights for the whole year if you win. There’s always a lot riding on the outcome, and it’s benefited all of us up here.”

“To be a part of anything that’s been around 150 years, you’ve got to be honored,” Walker said. “In today’s world, everyone wants to erase history, (which) I think is a shame. For me to be a part of something that’s 150 years old is incredible.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

7 Things: Abortion ban takes a toll on Ivey, Doug Jones losing support and the feud between Trump and ‘The Squad’ rages on

7. Racial slur spray-painted on Birmingham real estate sign

  • Husband-and-wife real estate team Jeremy and Gina Miller from Birmingham found that one of their “For Sale” signs had a racial slur spray-painted on the sign, but the Millers won’t be pressing charges.
  • While the incident has gained viral attention, the identity of whoever spray painted the sign is still unknown. The Millers have declined to press charges because they don’t think anything good would come from it, and the Millers want to use this situation to spread a positive message to unite people.

6. Ivey taking action on the prison system

501

  • An executive order signed by Governor Kay Ivey will create the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy which will analyze data to help address the serious issues with Alabama’s prison system.
  • Ivey said this study group will lead to more reforms in the system, adding that “we are well on our way to making meaningful progress.”

5. Al Green thinks this impeachment vote was successful

  • After U.S. Representative Al Green’s (D-TX) latest attempt to impeach President Trump, he stated that this attempt wasn’t a complete failure since this time they got almost 100 votes in favor of impeachment, whereas before they had only gotten 58 the first time and 66 the second.
  • Green went on to claim that Trump is causing harm to society, and if he continues to do so “with his inciteful and hateful rhetoric then he will be impeached.”

4. House votes to increase the minimum wage to $15

  • In a brilliant piece of political theater, the House passed a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, setting up a nice battle over the measure in the media, even though it has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate.
  • The bill would increase wages for some but the bill as passed in the House would kill close to 4 million jobs for the lowest earners, speed automation, drive up prices, hurt the economy, shrink family incomes and increase the deficit, inflation and interest rate, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

3. Trump and “The Squad” keep at it

  • According to U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump has moved away from politics, and now “we are in racism…we are in a fascistic government.” They believe criticism against them is violence.
  • Trump is backing away from the “Send her back!” chants at his rally, but continues to point out that he views this as a battle over ideology and love of America. He even tweeted a video that included a Lee Greenwood song and declared America was “ONE ‘SQUAD’ UNDER GOD!”

2. Doug Jones is a one-term Senator

  • Morning Consult released a poll that shows U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) is losing support in the state, with his 2019 first-quarter approval rating 20% lower than the first quarter of 2018.
  • The poll showed that 39% of registered voters approve of Jones, 37% disapprove and 24% are undecided. His overall his approval rating has gone down 3% since the beginning of 2019.

1. Kay Ivey loses far more ground than other governors that signed abortion bans

  • A flurry of one-sided national and local media attention after signing a bill ban most abortions in the state of Alabama, which her constituents supported, Governor Kay Ivey’s approval rating plummeted 17 points, according to a Morning Consult poll of Governor Approval Rankings
  • While Governor Ivey still sits with a +28 point approval rating, her fall was not mirrored by governors in Missouri, Georgia and Louisiana.

 

3 hours ago

Scofield: ‘Broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century’ — Crucial ‘to save some of the best areas of this state’

GUNTERSVILLE — Yellowhammer News on Thursday held the second event in its 2019 “News Shapers” series. Entitled “Connecting Alabama’s Rural Communities,” the forum regarding broadband expansion drew a great crowd and elicited insightful conversation from the four expert panelists: State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Arab), Farmers Telecommunications Cooperative’s Fred Johnson, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s Tom Stackhouse and Maureen Neighbors of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

Tim Howe, Yellowhammer Multimedia co-owner and Yellowhammer News editor-in-chief, moderated the forum, which came days after the second round of grants was awarded under the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund.

1571

This fund was created through legislation sponsored by Scofield and signed into law by Governor Kay Ivey during the Alabama Legislature’s 2018 regular session. The first round of grants was awarded earlier this year. The legislature then passed another bill by Scofield updating the law during the 2019 regular session.

To kick the conversation off on Thursday, Howe noted Scofield’s successful efforts the past two years in passing his broadband expansion legislation, also pointing to HB 400 sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) and State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro).

Howe asked Scofield about this year’s update of the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act and the feedback he heard prior to the 2019 regular session that led to him crafting SB 90.

“We passed the broadband expansion bill last year, and we knew that there would be some changes that needed to occur this year — some fine-tuning and some tweaking,” Scofield explained. “And we know that in the future, there will also need to be some fine-tuning as we look to make the program work better… SB 90 reflected some of those changes, and we heard that (the need for changes) from our providers.”

Scofield explained that it is not profitable in many rural areas for companies to install the necessary broadband infrastructure, which is why the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund is so important. The fund provides state grants for service providers to supply high-speed internet services in unincorporated areas or communities with 25,000 people or less. Under the law, grant awards cannot exceed 20 percent of the total cost of a project, meaning providers must still have significant “skin in the game” financially.

“At the end of the day, our providers are the ones who are going to be installing the infrastructure for the consumers to enjoy,” Scofield outlined. “So, it’s very important to listen to the providers. This whole thing began by listening to the providers. ‘What is it going to take to get you to expand in rural Alabama?’ And folks, it’s cost. It’s a business decision. The market size is just not there, so the cash flow is just more difficult.”

He likened modern government support of broadband expansion to rural electricity and water expansion of old.

“You’re looking out at Lake Guntersville,” Scofield told the crowd at Guntersville Town Hall, “and it’s a product of government being involved in infrastructure. In the 1930s, the government got involved in rural power. Our co-ops took advantage of that and delivered power to rural customers. And in the 1960s-70s, they expanded to rural water. Well, broadband is our infrastructure challenge of the 21st century.”

“Without our providers, and without government providing some incentive to bring their costs down, it simply wouldn’t occur,” he emphasized. “So, the changes that we’ve seen (through SB 90) are to make the job easier on these guys (the providers).”

‘We still live in a capitalist economy’

Asked to speak to the recommended changes from the provider side, Johnson stressed, “Good public policy has to be based on fact.”

“It’s really easy to blame people for why there’s not broadband in certain parts of the state,” he continued. “But we still live in a capitalist economy — for the time being — and it’s a business case. If it’s (broadband) not there, there’s a really good reason for it. What this legislation does, especially in connection with the federal legislation… what it does is give companies that want to step up to the plate the leverage it may take to swing the pendulum to where a business case can be built and you can serve areas where otherwise there’s no public policy support to build.”

Johnson said he personally thinks “the world of Clay Scofield, Steve Livingston and (House Majority Leader) Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville),” who were all in attendance.

“The neatest thing about this (2019 broadband expansion efforts) was you had the leadership in the legislature — and Representative Shedd certainly needs to be included [in that recognition] — they took the time to understand the issue,” he added. “It’s not a Democratic, it’s not a Republican issue. It’s not a partisan issue. It’s an issue that affects all rural Alabamians of every race, color, creed, sex and anything else you want to talk about.”

Of the legislative leaders, Johnson reiterated, “They took the time to understand the issue and ask, ‘What do we need to do to swing the pendulum?’ Quite frankly, I think we’ve got one of the more cohesive public policies in the United States [now]… so I think they’ve done an excellent job.”

Stackhouse affirmed just how important SB 90 and HB 400 were from the perspective of an electric utility provider serving a rural nine-county area in central Alabama.

“80 years ago in November, our [co-op’s] first electric customer was connected… and the area flourished because of getting electricity to an area where a lot said, ‘You can’t make money at that, there’s no use doing that,'” Stackhouse advised. “It was huge.”

Now, in modern times, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative’s board has created a subsidiary to handle communications services, like broadband.

“Communication is now the electricity, and without [the legislation], it just doesn’t happen,” Stackhouse said.

He praised Scofield for his leadership, adding of SB 90 and HB 400, “It has really helped us step up.”

“And we’re not building our [broadband efforts just] on grants, we’ve got a business model we believe we can make work,” Stackhouse continued. “But grants help a lot, though, especially when it’s sparsely populated areas that need it just as much.”

Without broadband expansion, ‘they’re going to die’

Following up on just how much many rural areas in the state really do need broadband access, Howe then recalled an op-ed that Scofield wrote and Yellowhammer News published during the 2019 regular session when Scofield stated the survival of rural Alabama depends on broadband expansion.

Howe asked Scofield to outline the various aspects of modern life that are affected by access to high-speed internet services in his district and others like it across Alabama.

“In about every way you can think of,” Scofield said. “Not just agriculture, but economic development — you’re not going to recruit a company with 21st century jobs to an area without a 21st century infrastructure. You’re not going to train a 21st century workforce without 21st century infrastructure.”

“Telemedicine is the future for our healthcare, which I believe is one of the things that’s going to help bring healthcare costs down for a lot of Americans,” he continued.

Scofield stated that this is especially true, “In rural areas where we see increased levels of diabetes and obesity and a lot of ailments that seem to go up, because the healthcare isn’t easily accessible.”

“So, the thought that a person can connect to MD Anderson for a cancer screening in Greene County, and never leave Greene County, can save that person’s life,” he explained. “It’s a game-changer for a lot of people, and I think that a lot of folks just don’t realize that 830,000 or 840,000 Alabamians still don’t have [broadband] access.”

He then reaffirmed just how crucial these broadband expansion efforts are.

“It’s critical that we get this infrastructure out, that we get people hooked up in our rural areas because they’re going to die — they’re going to be left behind, they’re being left behind right now,” Scofield emphasized. “So, I think the quicker that we do that, the quicker we’re going to save some of the best areas of this state.”

‘This is a legacy’

Later in the forum, Scofield did also caution that broadband expansion to all Alabamians logistically cannot and will not happen instantaneously.

However, success will be achieved only when “we get to a point where, like power … if you want high-speed internet [wherever you live] in the state, you can connect to it,” Scofield believes.

“I think that’s where we’ve got to get,” he said. “And that’s not going to happen overnight… Everyone’s got to be patient. Lake Guntersville didn’t fill up in a day, they didn’t build the dam in a day and they didn’t give power to rural Autauga County in a day — or even here. It’s going to take a long time to build this infrastructure out, but I believe that we are on the right track.”

Scofield wrapped up the forum by lauding the integral support and teamwork of some of his fellow legislators who were in attendance, including Livingston, Ledbetter and State Sen. Andrew Jones (R-Centre), along with Shedd, who was unavailable to make the event.

“I’m really proud of what we came out with,” Scofield said of SB 90 as signed into law. “And I think that whether you’re an elected official or not, if you had something to do with this, I think that this is a legacy that we’re going to be able to leave this state. It’s going to benefit generations. And that’s why I do what I do, and I know that’s why they (the legislators in attendance) do what they do. I think it’s going to be something that’s going to move this state forward in ways that we can’t even envision today.”

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

18 hours ago

On this day in Alabama history: Camp McClellan was established in east Alabama

July 18, 1917

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, the War Department established Camp McClellan as a rapid mobilization base and permanent National Guard facility. More than 27,000 men were training at the east Alabama base by the end of 1917. Camp McClellan was originally named in honor of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, and was renamed Fort McClellan in 1929. During World War II, nearly 500,000 military personnel trained there. After being put in custodial status following the war, it was reactivated during the Korean War and Cold War era. The focus shifted to chemical weapons training during and after the Vietnam War. The fort survived one round of military base closings during the 1990s, but it was finally shut down in 1999. The site has shifted to private use as well as for Alabama National Guard training.

38

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Wednesday, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) presented Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. with the 2019 Thomas R. Hobson Distinguished Aerospace Service Award for a lifetime of exemplary achievement in the aerospace field.

The award presentation came during the Aerospace States Association’s annual dinner, which was held in Huntsville at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Ainsworth is currently chair of the association, which is a national nonpartisan group composed of lieutenant governors, gubernatorial-appointed delegates and associate members from aerospace organizations and academia.

In remarks shared with Yellowhammer News, Ainsworth honored Alabama’s space legacy, recognizing Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this week.

459

“Throughout each of the past six decades, Alabama and the Marshall Space Flight Center have created the engines that rocketed man into the heavens,” he said. “It’s here that Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his committed team of scientists and engineers birthed the Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon and allowed them to place a U.S. flag on the lunar surface.”

“For those reasons, it’s altogether appropriate that we gather in this state and this city for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” he continued. “We are fortunate to have Buzz Aldrin, an original moonwalker and living American legend, join us during this conference.”

The conference is set to last through the rest of the week, with attendees working on publicly policy related to the aerospace industry and advocating for their home states.

“The work we do here this week will bring the stars and planets closer to the earth and ensure that future generations are privy to the same dreams and inspirations that the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, and Space Station eras provid-ed to generations prior,” Ainsworth told the crowd.

Alabama is set to play a big role in ongoing and future space exploration, as Ainsworth emphasized in an interview with WHNT on Wednesday.

“I was just talking with some industry leaders who are here and they are talking about expanding the existing industry,” he the lieutenant governor said. “I think a lot of new industries are looking here. And the reason why is we are the aerospace capital of the world. I think when you look at our tax environment, with the workforce we are training, Alabama is open for business in aerospace, no doubt.”

Speaking with WZDX, Ainsworth referenced the Artemis program, with companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Alabama set to make history in the very near future.

“Today I had an opportunity to tour ULA where they are building rockets that will literally send our next astronauts to the Moon, and when you look at just the president’s commitment to going back to the Moon, and when you look at potentially the future of going to Mars, it’s an exciting and energetic time in the aerospace industry right now,” Ainsworth advised.

RELATED: Aderholt celebrates Apollo 11, calls for SLS to stay on schedule

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