2 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)

4 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes lottery bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate passed Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Range) lottery bill as amended after hours of debate on Thursday, advancing the legislation to the House.

SB 220 was passed by the upper chamber on a 21-12 vote.

As a constitutional amendment, the bill needed 21 votes exactly for passage. The margins were as tight as could be, with one state senator appearing to rush up to the Senate secretary at the last moment to change his vote to “aye” in order to get over the threshold.

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Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville), who sponsored dueling lottery legislation, spoke after the vote to express that he now supports Albritton’s bill because it ultimately will allow his constituents to not need to drive to Georgia to get a lottery ticket.

McClendon urged the House not to amend the bill but instead let it move on to a referendum of the people.

Senator Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), who wanted a version of the bill which would have allowed further gaming and revenue and voted against the bill in committee on Tuesday, expressed his agreement with McClendon’s remarks, saying the legislation the Senate passed was not perfect but good enough. He also asked the House to advance the bill to a vote of the people.

Follow a live tweet thread here.

This is a breaking news story and may be updated.

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

5 hours ago

Cindy Griner is a 2019 Woman of Impact

Huntsville’s high-tech explosion has done wonders for the state of Alabama.

While this continuing economic boon gets much fanfare when new project announcements, groundbreakings and ribbon ceremonies happen, the many individuals who serve as the backbone of north Alabama’s technology sector often get overlooked.

Cindy Griner, vice president of the Engineering Services and Solutions Division at Dynetics, is one of these people that garners little outside attention but is, in fact, a giant of the industry.

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A 36-year veteran of Dynetics, Griner also serves as the president of Dynetics’ wholly owned subsidiary, Aviation and Missile Solutions. Her division is responsible for electro-optical/infrared and acoustic sensor systems; lethal mechanisms; platform integration; Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) ground programming and trainers; and CMMI Level 3 computer applications.

She oversees major contract activities, with a primary focus on engineering services and development activities for the U.S. military and defense community. This is a big money business, where the stakes of getting it wrong are the highest – we are, after all, talking about modern, highly complicated national defense mechanisms here.

While Griner is now one of the most powerful and influential members of Huntsville’s high-tech industry, her journey to get there was not easy. As she explained, this was not an industry when she got started that was particularly friendly to women.

“In the 80’s when I began work, there were only two women on the technical staff of my company,” Griner told Yellowhammer News. “I was very young and admittedly ‘green.’ There was largely the perception that women are not technical, are too emotional, and don’t think strategically.”

“Women were sometimes overtly harassed,” she said, adding that sexual harassment training was not yet a norm.

However, joining Dynetics in 1982, she found a culture where she could strive on her merit – and a mentor that supported her along the way.

“I had the tremendous benefit of working for Tom Baumbach in an ethical company founded on excellence,” Griner explained. “Tom was very open-minded and encouraging. He never looked at my limitations, he looked at my potential. He mentored and believed in me and helped me to believe in myself.”

This is not to say there were not unique challenges of being a woman in a traditionally male field.

Griner outlined, “The ‘challenges’ of questioned credibility, men assuming I was hired because I was female, and the occasional overt harassment sparked a defiance and strength that fueled my desire to achieve. I worked harder, double checked my work, went above and beyond in my preparation largely to prove to both myself and those who would believe otherwise that I brought real value to my employer and my customers.”

She advised that with every challenge came an opportunity to overcome that obstacle.

Griner mentioned her educational attainment as a way to address some doubts, both internal and external. She earned her master’s in electrical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1992.

“At the urging of my mentor, I became a life-long learner. I continued my technical education, obtaining my MSEE, which added to both my credibility and my confidence,” Griner said.

She also offered some wisdom, gleaned from personal experience, on being able to take a step back and gain perspective.

“Over time I learned self-awareness,” Griner noted. “I learned to use my strengths, but just as importantly, to rely on others for their strengths.”

She added, “I occasionally experienced setbacks, but over time I learned perspective and I learned perseverance. Better days will come. No one stays on the peak. We all experience peaks and valleys; the valleys give you the perspective to recognize the sweetness of the peaks. For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

And for Griner, the peaks have indeed been sweet. She has supported a number of huge customers and programs during her tenure with Dynetics, including most recently the U.S. Army Futures Command; Aviation and Missile Center in UAS interoperability; architectures; MBSE, prototyping and integration of emerging technologies; and AO/PO trainer development for Army Air Force programs such as Shadow, Gray Eagle, Hunter, Reaper and Global Hawk.

She named the the Javelin missile system and Army UAS program development as perhaps her crowning jewel, the projects she is most proud of.

In a true sign of leadership, Griner also explained how what makes her proud has evolved over time.

“Early in my career it was about what ‘I’ did… in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom… systems that I personally supported in development and training have been used to make our soldiers and airmen safer and more effective. In fact I have a GI Joe in my office that was one of the first 50 produced in honor of one of those programs,” she advised.

More recently, Griner’s duties and responsibilities have grown to become more about her Dynetics family.

This included her leading the 2011 Dynetics ESOP Transaction.

“I worked with a small employee committee to transition Dynetics to 100% Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP) ensuring our employees reap the benefits of their dedication and excellence,” Griner highlighted.

“This was a huge undertaking that gave me the rare opportunity to work closely with outstanding female professionals from nationally recognized law and retirement firms on something that would make a huge impact on our company and our employees,” she added. “A few years later, I led the design and implementation of an internal market for our ESOP, creating increased investment opportunity for employees and underpinning the health of the ESOP.”

Just as she had the support of a key mentor, Griner now takes tremendous pride in being a mentor to others. That is one of the defining aspects of leadership, she said, as well as the most rewarding part of her career journey.

Griner shared, “On 1 January of 2017, I was named the president of a Dynetics wholly owned subsidiary and later that same year, I was named a Dynetics vice president. While the titles are very nice and sometimes help open doors for strategic conversations, at this point, my proudest and most humbling moments are witnessing the accomplishments of others, especially those I’ve mentored – in FY18, five employees in my organization won annual corporate awards for engineering and business excellence, product innovation, customer service, ethics or safety which are typically only given to one employee each year.”

A mentor through-and-through, Griner also offered some inspirational words of advice to all the girls who want to be a leader in their own right one day.

“Work hard on yourself FIRST; become credible, and always keep learning. Don’t be afraid. ASK QUESTIONS,” Griner emphasized.

She named finding “good mentors and role models” as a key to success.

“Great leaders are generally good communicators,” Griner said. “Girls have a natural advantage here. From birth, girl babies spend more time studying the people that are holding them, looking into their eyes and learning their emotions. Girls see things that boys don’t see.”

She named four core components of being a strong communicator.

I. Listen, not just for a pause to talk, but for true understanding (If you are “writing your speech” while someone else talks, you are not truly listening).

II. Realize when you’re talking to others, especially leaders, that they are listening for the point, not the experience.

III. Ask questions, don’t be afraid of looking uninformed/uneducated, sometimes asking questions shows what you really do know.

IV. Breathe….. Try to think about everything from an objective perspective, not from your emotional side. Give others the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s NOT PERSONAL when they disagree with your view. Perhaps they know things you don’t.

Even though she works in a sector focused on cutting-edge technology (literally robots), Griner concluded her thoughts by stressing how crucial it is to see and understand others as the individual human beings they all are.

“Look outside yourself, if you are going to LEAD, someone has to follow. If you want people to follow you, you have to care about them and appreciate them,” Griner said. “Not just whether they do something that serves you and your bottom line, but are they fulfilled, are they healthy, do they have obstacles that you can remove to help them succeed, how can you help them grow in their career and life.”

“Say THANK YOU to your subordinates, co-workers, bosses, customers and creator. None of us do this alone. If you think you do, you are delusional,” she continued.

And, through it all, “BE OPTIMISTIC,” she concluded.

That she has certainly been, and the results are there for all to see.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Cindy Griner a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

5 hours ago

ALGOP chair Lathan: Doug Jones, Biden ‘two of a kind’

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan has commented on Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) announcing his support for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on Thursday, with Lathan saying, “Both support bigger government, ObamaCare and abortion.”

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In a statement, she said, “Senator Jones and Vice President Biden are ‘two of a kind’. Both support bigger government, ObamaCare and abortion – all issues the majority of Alabamians oppose.”

“The endorsement is really no surprise coming on the heels of the Senator’s interview yesterday with the liberal Mother Jones podcast,” Lathan added.

Read more about that interview here, which Lathan continued to discuss.

“Senator Jones clearly sidesteps the sexual harassment allegations against the former Vice President saying people should ‘not be so judgemental’. This coming from the man who refused to vote for Brett Kavanaugh for Supreme Court Justice because of unproven allegations against him,” Lathan remarked.

She concluded, “As long as the Democrats embrace their liberal propaganda and platform, Alabama will continue to reject their candidates. It’s just not Alabama.”

Jones is up for re-election in 2020.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville are the only announced Republican candidates against Jones thus far.

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

7 hours ago

Watch live: Alabama Senate debates clean lottery bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate is set to debate and consider State Sen. Greg Albritton’s lottery bill, SB 220, on Thursday.

The bill was favorably recommended on a 6-5 vote by the Senate Tourism Committee on Tuesday.

Watch the debate live:

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Ahead of the Senate gaveling in for the day, Albritton spoke with reporters outside of the chamber.

He explained his bill would be alone on a one-bill special order calendar on the day, even though there is a back-up special order calendar if something unexpected occurs.

Albritton said he was unsure if he has enough votes to pass SB 220 on Thursday, saying, “I’m optimistic but it is certainly not in the bag.”

The sponsor expects “heated, open debate” on the floor.

Albritton also decried the “regionalism” that occurs when trying to make statewide gaming changes in Alabama, due to previous “piecemeal” approaches with certain counties and types of gaming.

“When you start getting into video gambling, there’s still a lot we don’t understand,” Albritton said. He added that sports gambling will become a part of that complication, too.

Albritton advised that video gaming “opens the wound.” His legislation would not legalize any video gaming or alter any existing parimutuel gaming in the state.

“This paper lottery is a simple matter that most of us understand, comprehend, and I believe it has the greatest opportunity for passing,” he remarked. “The people of Alabama want to make the decision on this principle … most of them I believe want to have a lottery.”

Albritton concluded that attempting passage of the lottery bill in the legislature should be tougher than getting it passed in by a referendum of the people, which would occur if the legislature advances it.

“We’ve been working it but so has everyone else,” Albritton said, speaking of the opponents of the bill.

He explained that the greatest challenge to the bill is “misunderstanding” fueled by misinformation efforts by the “opposite side.” Albritton further mentioned floor amendments as a challenge to passage and keeping the legislation clean.

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

7 hours ago

Poll: Ivey approval ratings unchanged by gas tax push in first quarter of 2019

According to newly released polling from Morning Consult, Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval ratings were completely unchanged from the final quarter of 2018 through the first quarter of this year.

The new survey polled registered voters from January 1 through March 31, 2019. The margin of error was one percent.

Ivey’s signature Rebuild Alabama Act was signed into law on March 12.

Morning Consult’s polling showed that 63 percent of Alabamians approve of her job performance, while 19 percent disapprove. This currently makes her the fourth most popular governor in the nation.

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The final quarter of 2018 showed Ivey holding the same topline polling numbers.

The most recent survey breaks down to Ivey having a positive net approval with all political subgroups: 73 percent with Republicans, 8 percent with Democrats and 36 percent with independents.

Another recent poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, showed that 60 percent of Alabamians approved versus 28 percent who disapproved of Ivey.

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