Thursday, DC BLOX, a multi-tenant data center provider delivering the infrastructure and connectivity essential to power today’s digital business, announces the opening of its fourth center facility in Birmingham.
“We live in a digital age, and the world is not standing still. DC BLOX’s new data center is certainly a welcome addition to the Birmingham community,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey. “It will connect the city with high-performance networks to ensure business continuity, and ultimately, it will drive the digital economy. In addition to elevating Birmingham’s technological capabilities, the new data center will bring several high-paying jobs for Alabamians. DC BLOX’s efforts are a much-appreciated investment into Alabama’s future success, and their increased presence in this great state will help propel us forward.”
According to the company, the first phase of the facility, now customer ready, delivers up to 5MW of power, 18,000 square feet of white space and 13,000 square feet of office space, and features conference rooms, demo space, hoteling cubes and workstations.
This location is DC BLOX’s flagship facility and is capable of expanding to over 200,000 square feet with over 60MW of critical IT load to serve as a technology and innovation hub for the surrounding area.
“We are thrilled to be joining the Birmingham community,” adds Jeff Uphues, Chief Executive Officer of DC BLOX. “The State of Alabama and the City of Birmingham care deeply about the prosperity of their citizens and are working to bring in companies like ours to invest in their communities and bring jobs to the region. They understand that a data center is core infrastructure that attracts other technology-dependent companies, and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.”
The company said in a statement, that as data centers move more toward the edge of the network to accommodate a growing number of applications demanding local processing and storage – low-latency, high-capacity connectivity is a key component of this evolving architecture. DC BLOX’s Birmingham data center offers access to the company’s full breadth of solutions including cloud storage, colocation and rich connectivity to support enterprise, government and education customers, as well as managed service providers, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies and content providers that do business in the Southeast. The facility is part of DC BLOX,s private, high-speed network fabric, which provides 100Gb+ bandwidth, low-latency connections to Internet Exchanges, access to numerous carriers across data centers and secure cloud connectivity.
Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Data centers are one of the State of Alabama’s foundational business targets, meaning they intrinsically provide core competencies for a variety of industries. A Birmingham-based data center will help organizations in the area that serve the public and private sector become more efficient by allowing DC Blox to manage their data.”
According to the company, DC BLOX offers the highest data center performance, reliability and connectivity available in the markets it serves. The company is dedicated to meeting the infrastructure needs of businesses and communities in emerging and underserved markets throughout the Southeastern U.S., where robust connectivity and Tier 3 data center availability is limited. This new local data center enables Birmingham-area businesses and government entities to offload the cost and complexity of managing their own data centers and provides the connectivity needed to address an increasingly distributed IT ecosystem.
“Congratulations to DC BLOX on the grand opening of their state-of-the-art data center in the historic Titusville neighborhood,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. “When we broke ground on this project a year ago, I promised the residents of the Titusville neighborhood and our whole city, that strong economic development would lead to neighborhood revitalization. We are keeping that promise. First, the money we made from the sale of this property was the first investment into our Neighborhood Revitalization Fund. Through that investment, streets are being paved, blight is getting removed, and homes are being repaired.”
To learn more about DC BLOX and its portfolio of strategic data center facilities visit their website.
Freelancers, gig workers can begin filing unemployment claims
Employees like freelancers and the self-employed can now file for an unemployment claim in Alabama, the Alabama Department of Labor said Tuesday, under the CARES Act, the coronavirus response bill passed by Congress and signed by the president last week.
The Alabama Department of Labor is encouraging employees who believe they may qualify for programs under the CARES Act to file a claim.
These employees will also need to certify weekly to continue to let the department know that they remain unemployed.
Although ADOL does not yet have technical guidance or a start date regarding the CARES Act programs, benefits may be paid retroactively from the time the employee separated from his or her job or otherwise became eligible under the federal CARES Act, not from the time the application was submitted or approved.
In Alabama, many freelancers, independent contractors and the self-employed are not typically able to file for unemployment insurance.
Last week, more than 70,000 people filed an initial jobless claim. Claims can be filed online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382.
The Department of Labor is asking for patience when trying to file a claim.
ADOL says employees who may be affected include:
- The self-employed
- Church employees
- Non-profit and governmental employees
- Independent contractors
- Gig economy workers
- Those who have exhausted their regular UI benefits.
These employees should also meet one of these conditions:
- The individual has been diagnosed; or
- A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed; or
- The individual is providing care to a household or family member; or
- A child or other person for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility as a result of COVID-19; or
- The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; or
- The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or
- The individual was scheduled to start work and does not have a job as a result of COVID-19; or
- The individual has become “the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19”; or
- The individual has to quit their job because of COVID-19; or
- The individual’s place of employment is closed because of COVID-19.
This list is not exhaustive.
Further details regarding the CARES Act programs will be forthcoming, the department says, including information regarding Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides for an additional $600 a week in unemployment compensation benefits.
The additional $600 weekly benefit will only be available for weeks beginning March 29, 2020
More than 70,000 people filed unemployment claims in Alabama last week
More than 70,000 people filed a jobless claim to receive unemployment compensation last week, the Alabama Department of Labor says. That number is about eight-times the number of claims filed the week before when layoffs began hitting the state.
Alabama Department of Labor spokesperson Tara Hutchison said Monday that some 74,056 people filed an initial jobless claim during the week that ended March 28, according to the department’s preliminary data.
More than 40,000 filed during the first four days of the week last week, with the number jumping past 70,000 by the end of the week.
About 9,500 people filed initial claims during the week ending March 21, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s data published last week. That was also a seven-fold increase compared to the week that ended March 14.
The number of people who filed a jobless claim last week is far more than at any point since at least 1987. The U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly unemployment claims data only goes back to 1987 for Alabama.
The Alabama Hospitality Association has estimated that some 225,000 hotel and restaurant workers will be laid off during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Economic Policy Institute’s conservative projections have estimated that nearly 200,000 people could lose their jobs in Alabama.
The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Friday that more than 3.28 million people across the country filed unemployment claims during the week ending March 21. That shattered the Great Recession’s peak of 665,000 in March of 2009, according to CNBC.
In Alabama, you can apply for unemployment by phone or online. There have been issues with people having trouble getting through on the telephone system.
So many unemployment claims have been filed since businesses began laying off people because of the COVID-19 pandemic that the Department of Labor has been having trouble accepting and processing the filings.
WSFA reported this week that some people have not been able to file.
To help alleviate the strain, the state has waived fees that are typically charged when an employer files for their employees.
To be eligible to file for unemployment insurance related to a COVID-19 layoff or firing, you must meet one of the following requirements:
- Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,
- Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns,
- Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19,
- Or, those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.
Workers can file for benefits online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling 1-866-234-5382. Online filing is encouraged.
UAH researchers and the world’s fastest supercomputer join the fight against the COVID-19 virus
More and more of Alabama’s brainpower is being redirected into fighting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Dr. Jerome Baudry is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Dr. Baudry and his lab are involved in a project that is using the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer to examine compounds to fight the virus that has already killed 34,807 people as of early Monday morning.
The compounds under review include drugs already available with safe profiles, as well as natural products. Compounds identified as possible future drugs will also be studied.
“We are at this point focusing on repurposing existing drugs,” Dr. Baudry said. “That is, to take existing drugs from the shelf and find which ones are active against either the virus itself or can help in treating or mitigating the effects of infection in the severe cases.”
Dr. Baudry said that about 30 researchers are involved in the project, and are working around the clock. The group is studying how the virus ticks, including how it expresses proteins, for clues on how to defeat it.
“We can use high performance computers and supercomputers to look at the entire genome of the virus, see everything the virus’ genome is making and build computational models of all these proteins, and repeat the repurposing process for each of these proteins,” Dr. Baudry said.
Scientists in the group are starting with some proteins on the surface of the virus in an attempt to prevent it from infecting human cells.
“We are also looking at some of the proteins that allow the virus to replicate itself when it is inside the human cell in order to block this process, a bit like for many anti-AIDS drugs,” Dr. Baudry explained. “But we will expand to pretty much everything in the virus’ genome that can be targeted by a drug.”
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 200 petaflop supercomputer allows researchers unprecedented access to solving this and some of the world’s other most pressing challenges.
Researchers have a databases about virtually all existing drugs, natural products or molecules that may not have been tested yet as drugs. There are thousands of them. Then they build virtual models of these compounds using the laws of physics and chemistry to calculate their composition and arrive at a very detailed computational description.
“Then we look at the virus’ genome,” Dr. Baudry said. “We have to build models for all the virus’ proteins, again describing all the atoms, their properties, how they move together, etc.”
The supercomputers then compute how the atoms of a possible drug will interact with the atoms of the virus’ proteins.
“It’s like doing a test tube experiment to see if a possible drug will bind to the protein, except that we perform this in a virtual test tube using our computers,” Baudry explained.
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones explained to the Alabama Political Reporter, “Researchers across Alabama are working around the clock to assess potential treatment for the novel COVID-19. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Dr. Baudry are using technology, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer, to examine compounds from safe, existing drugs as well as natural products. Repurposing existing drugs is a strategy that can expedite the process if a potential cure or treatment is found. The drugs are already on the shelf, why not test them to see if they can be useful? The high performance computers and supercomputers allow researchers to examine the entire genome of the virus and how it reacts. UAH’s latest announcement is another example of the brainpower we have in Alabama and our state’s commitment to combating this pandemic.”
UAB, Southern Research Institute, Hudson Alpha, and Alabama biotech firms are also working on finding drugs that will treat COVID-19 as well as hoping to develop a vaccine to prevent it.
Alabama Credit Unions announce policy on coronavirus
The Alabama Credit Association says that Alabama’s credit unions have been working diligently to meet the financial needs of the states’ families and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
“On behalf of our credit union members, we want to share the following important information with you,” the Alabama Credit Union Association said in a statement.
The association said financial institutions are prepared and able to be a source of strength for the communities they serve, and money is safe in National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured financial institutions.
“Not a penny of deposits insured by NCUA has ever been lost,” the ACUA assured depositors. “The safest place for our money is in an insured depository institution. Up to $250,000 is the basic amount covered by federal insurance for single amounts at any insured institution. Additional coverage may be available depending on the account type and structure.”
Greg McClellan is the administrator of the Alabama Credit Union Administration.
“The Alabama Credit Union Administration is continually communicating with credit unions to offer assistance during this pandemic,” said McClellan. “Credit unions are insured by the NCUA up to $250,000. Credit unions we have been in contact with have been striving to provide excellent service to their members, and we continue to provide assistance to them.”
State Rep. Chris Blackshear, R-Phenix City, is the chairman of the Alabama State Committee on Financial Institutions.
“In these uncertain times, it is great to see the Alabama Credit Union Association and their member credit unions stepping up to ensure Alabamans that their money is safe and secure,” Blackshear said. “I also want to thank all of Alabama’s credit unions for stepping up to help their members and communities as we adjust to the new normal in our great state.”
Patrick La Pine is the CEO of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions.
“Alabama’s credit unions remain open and ready to serve their members during this difficult time,” said CEO La Pine. “Credit unions are integral parts of their communities – and they understand the challenges their members face. During this trying time, Alabama credit unions will continue to do what they’ve always done: help consumers, families, businesses and communities through their challenges. Credit unions are also doing everything possible to make sure their teams are safe while still offering personalized service.”
“As always, in Alabama, we pull together, we do the right things for the right reasons and we come out stronger at the end,” said State Senator Tom Whatley, R-Auburn. “Our credit unions are no exception. They understand what difficulties may lie ahead for their members, our constituents and they’re helping now, not later before it’s too late.”
“Many people across the state of Alabama rely on credit unions to handle their financial needs, and they should continue to feel confident in investing their money in NCAU-insured and backed credit unions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika. “Credit unions across the state are taking every proactive measure they can, in conjunction with the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and the Alabama Credit Union Association, to ensure they can meet the needs of all of their current and new members.”
More information on NCUA insurance coverage is available here.
The ACUA said that consumers and businesses should know “credit unions are working proactively with borrowers experiencing challenges in the current environment.”
“Each credit union is eager to work with you for a solution customized to your situation,” the association said. “Financial institutions have responded positively to all Gov. Kay Ivey’s and President Donald Trump’s directives. Furthermore, business continuity plans were already in place and are being exercised.”
The ACUA added, “Lobby access may be restricted at certain credit unions, but we’re open for business.” For more information about your institution, check your financial institution’s webpage or LSCU’s list of CU changes. “Drive-through service, when available at a branch, is open for transactions.”
Individual appointments for in-person meetings are being scheduled; while technology platforms give ready access to online services like bill pay, remote depositing of checks and ATMs for cash. You can also take advantage of the United States’ world-class payments system and use mobile payment channels and debit cards or credit cards to make purchases.
The Alabama Credit Union Association is an affiliate of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and represents credit unions in Alabama. The LSCU & Affiliates represents 333 credit unions in Alabama, Florida and Georgia, with a combined total assets of more than $120 billion and more than 10.3 million members. The LSCU provides advocacy and regulatory information; education and training; cooperative initiatives (including financial education outreach).
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