Thursday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) attended the groundbreaking of the Grand River Technology Park adjacent to the Barber Motorsports Park along the vital I-20 corridor connecting Birmingham with Atlanta.
“This is an exciting day and thank you all for coming here to celebrate the groundbreaking of Grand River Technology Park,” Gov. Ivey said. “Many of you know that building our workforce development is one of the top priorities of my administration so when I was made aware of the grant that U.S. Steel got from the Alabama Department of Labor of $6 million I was extremely excited.”
“This investment will not only develop this park; but will also relocate Southern Museum of Flight,” Gov. Ivey added. “This will be a huge addition to our state’s economy. This project is estimated to bring in 1,200 new opportunities for employment and generate some $85 million in economic impact to the Birmingham metropolitan area.”
“One of my administration’s proudest accomplishments is our low unemployment rate,” Ivey added. “We recently announced a new record low of three percent. While many initiatives went into making this possible; it never would have become a reality without community leaders working with companies like U.S. Steel to make projects like this possible. So thank you for hosting me here today and may God continue to bless the great state of Alabama.”
Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington were both on hand for the groundbreaking.
“It is great to collaborate with so many wonderful agencies and partners: U.S. Steel, the City of Birmingham, the Southern Museum of Flight, Jefferson County, the City of Leeds, the Office of Surface Mining, and the Governor’s office,” Sec. Washington said. “We know that this project has potential to really affect and change this area. The grant awarded by ADL AMF program will allow for hundreds of jobs in the Birmingham area. Conservative estimates allow for 1,200 jobs and an estimated $85 million investment.”
“The Technology Park will bring wonderful improvements,” Washington added. “There will be research and development, tourism and light manufacturing. Not only are we excited about the progress that is coming, but we are also happy about this project. A lot of dangerous abandoned mine land was removed. Our AML team does a great job with monitoring these dangerous areas and cleaning them up so that businesses and families that live there can be safe. So I would like to thank them for their hard work that helped make this groundbreaking ceremony possible. It is a great day for all of us here and I am proud to be part of it.”
The property, which is owned by U.S. Steel, was mined in the first half of the twentieth century so there were hazardous conditions that had to be cleaned up before the site could be developed. The Alabama Department of Labor awarded a grant of $6 million to U.S. Steel to clean up the site. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) was thanked by the company for providing assisted with getting federal funding for the grant program to make this possible.
“Today on this site; through this partnership with all levels of government: federal, state, county, and city; we are providing more than just trees over rough topography for a new company or an expanded company. We are providing these technology based companies a prepared site with roads and utilities,” U.S. Steel real estate Director Jammie Cowden said. “And Soon these prospect companies will work towards their own grand vision for an advanced manufacturing facility or research and development enterprise or drawing on the synergies of a world class motorsports park. This opportunity for growth in Birmingham unites both private companies and public entities.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Grand River Technology Park is an excellent redevelopment opportunity that will transform the east side of Birmingham. A six million dollar grant by the Alabama Department of Labor’s Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program will help fund the park located on approximately 105 acres of undeveloped land, which includes several pre-1977 abandoned coal mines. The technology park status and proximity to I-20 can help attract Lessees in a variety of industries such as aerospace, automotive, various types of light manufacturers, and R & D.”
Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons (R) told reporters that the Technology Park was “a giant step forward” for eastern Jefferson County.
Commissioner Ammons credited George Barber and the Barber Motorsports Park and Museum for being “transformative for the area.”
The Barber Motorsports Park and Museum is already the largest tourist attraction in the state, outside of the beach.
Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmy Stevens (R) said that adding the Southern Museum of Flight to the same site will draw even more tourists.
Stevens estimated that the new Southern Museum of Flight “will be three or four times” as large as the existing museum next to the Birmingham International Airport.
Com. Ammons said that transportation: the I-20 corridor, the proximity of I-459 and I-59, and that the airport is close by means that this site will be attractive to companies.
The site is in the City Limits of Birmingham and adjoins the City of Leeds.
Birmingham City Councilman Hunter Williams, who represents the area said that, “Many groups have come together to make this a reality.”
Williams said that the Grand River Technology Park fills a need for, “Sites that are prepped and site ready.”
Dr. Jones told APR, “During the site selection process, companies look to locate within technology parks, also called “tech” parks or research parks, because of the close proximity to complimentary organizations. Collaboration allows innovation and discovery to take place. When researchers, academia, and industry colleagues interact within technology parks, the shared knowledge and support they receive often allows them to progress through hurdles more easily than if isolated. Grand River Technology Park will be a tremendous economic boost for the Birmingham/Leeds/Jefferson County area.”
U.S. Steel has a long history in the Birmingham area.
“For decades U.S. Steel used its land in the Birmingham metro area for mining and minerals to support the local steel industry; but as the Birmingham metro area grew and the mining and minerals were mined out of the ground, like the coal that is deep under our feet today, the best use of our property moved from mining and minerals to real estate development and thus U.S.S. Real Estate was born,” Cowden explained. “Our charge was and still is today to put that property to work to find value added use that build our communities that surround the land. In this area has several planned communities Trace Crossings, the Preserve, Oxmoor, Ross Bridge, and of course Grand River. All of these communities are carefully planned to maximize green space and to be livable and really lovable places.”
ADECA names Elaine J. Fincannon as new deputy director
Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell announced on Thursday that Elaine J. Fincannon has been appointed as the agency’s deputy director.
Fincannon most recently served as Senior Vice President for Investor Relations for the Business Council of Alabama. She worked with BCA for over 25 years as part of its senior team, working with a diverse range of business leaders and CEOs of Alabama’s largest employers. During that time, she also served as BCA’s liaison to Alabama’s trade associations and to the more than 100 chambers of commerce throughout the state. She also served on the President’s Committee and Corporate Partners Committee for the Alabama Automotive Manufacturer’s Association and was a part of the Alabama Aerospace Industry Association’s membership committee.
“Elaine Fincannon’s extensive knowledge and experience with the public and private sector in our state made her an ideal choice to be ADECA’s new deputy director, and I am pleased that she has decided to bring those talents to the agency,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “Elaine is mission-focused, forward-thinking and detailed-oriented, which are the exact skills needed to serve as deputy director of ADECA. She and I will work closely together to continue supporting Gov. Ivey’s mission of improving the lives of all Alabamians.”
Fincannon is an active member of the community, serving as a member of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Montgomery, the Montgomery Humane Society, Auburn University Montgomery Alumni Association and other volunteer efforts. She also served as a member of the American Society of Association Executives and was an officer of the Association of State Chamber Professionals. She has a bachelor’s degree of science from AUM and was honored with a Distinguished Chamber Professional Award in 2019 by the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama.
Fincannon joins ADECA with a focus on working with Boswell to meet the agency’s mission to strengthen and support local communities.
“It is an honor to join ADECA during this time, and I am grateful to Director Boswell and Gov. Ivey for this appointment,” Fincannon said. “I plan to work diligently to serve the people of Alabama to the absolute best of my ability.”
Alabama Workforce Council delivers annual report touting improved career pathways
The Alabama Workforce Council (AWC) recently delivered its Annual Report to Gov. Kay Ivey and members of the legislature. The report highlights the many and varied workforce successes from 2019. It also outlines policy recommendations to further solidify Alabama as a leader in workforce development and push the state closer to Ivey’s goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to the state’s workforce by 2025.
Gov. Ivey acknowledged the recent progress stating, “the continued efforts of the AWC and the various state agency partners in transforming our workforce are substantial. Significant work has been accomplished to ensure all Alabamians have a strong start and strong finish. We will continue to bolster our state’s economy through dynamic workforce development solutions to help us reach our ambitious goal.”
The AWC, formed in 2015, was created as an employer-led, statewide effort to understand the structure, function, organization and perception of the Alabama workforce system. The goal of the AWC is to facilitate collaboration between government and industry to help Alabama develop a sustainable workforce that is competitive on a global scale.
“This report details the tremendous efforts of the dedicated AWC members and their partners who have greatly contributed to the progress of building a highly-skilled workforce.” noted Tim McCartney, Chairman of the AWC. “To meet ever-growing job needs of an expanding economy, we have put forth recommendations to bring working-age Alabamians sitting on the sidelines back into the workforce to address our low workforce participation rate.”
Included among the many highlights from the report are:
- Created the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to support apprenticeships and work-based learning statewide.
- Established the Alabama Committee on Credentialing & Career Pathways (ACCCP) to identify credentials of value that align with in-demand career pathways across Alabama.
- Furthered foundational work toward cross-agency outcome sharing through the Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS).
- Commissioned statewide surveys to better understand the characteristics, and potential barriers, of the priority population groups (during record-low unemployment) identified as likely to enter or re-enter the state’s workforce.
- Provided technical assistance, support staff and grant writing services to a cohort of over 30 nonprofits from across the state enabling them to expand services and directly connect more Alabamians to training and economic opportunity. Services helped cohort members secure over $6.4 million in grant money through various out-of-state grant programs.
- Identified and evaluated 17 population segments of potential workers and determined the likelihood of adding members of those respective population segments into the workforce. Within this process, issues affecting the state’s labor participation rate were also detailed.
Vice-Chair of the AWC Sandra Koblas of Austal USA commented, “the energy around workforce development in Alabama right now is incredibly exciting. We are working together with businesses, nonprofits and agency partners to reduce barriers, increase opportunities and grow the state’s overall economy.”
The full report can be viewed here.
To learn more about the Alabama Workforce Council please visit: www.alabamaworks.com/alabama-workforce-council
Shelby announces $733,150 ARC POWER Grant for Opportunity Alabama
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Wednesday announced that Opportunity Alabama, Inc., a nonprofit initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, is the recipient of a $733,150 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) POWER grant. This grant will fund the Creating Opportunity for Alabama (COAL) Initiative.
“ARC’s decision to award this funding to Opportunity Alabama will help significantly boost private investment and business development throughout our state’s coal-impacted communities,” said Senator Shelby. “I am proud this nonprofit initiative is working to help our local communities understand and capitalize on Opportunity Zones. These federal funds will facilitate an improved quality of life in Appalachian Alabama, creating hundreds of jobs and dozens of new businesses.”
“Opportunity Zones, and the private investment they incentivize, are helping uplift communities throughout the Appalachian Region,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas. “Opportunity Alabama is working to ensure communities understand and are able to capitalize on this program to improve Appalachian Alabama, and this POWER investment will have a big impact on that mission.”
The project will create an investment funding and business development ecosystem targeted to the federally designated Opportunity Zones in 36 coal-impacted counties in Alabama. As a result of the ARC grant, Opportunity Alabama will work with a team of local, state, and national partners in a three-phased approach. The first phase will work on building a local capacity to effectively prepare for and attract Opportunity Zone investments, focusing particularly on rural communities. The second phase will create a pipeline of investment opportunities to attract substantial private investment by facilitating demand studies, environmental assessments, and construction cost estimates. The third and final phase will focus on developing and implementing an impact-investment data collection and analysis process to make it easier for investors to deploy their capital.
This project will yield 250 new jobs, create 25 new businesses, and leverage $100 million in private investment. In addition to the federal grant provided for the project, Alabama Power and the Alabama Power Foundation are expected to provide private financial support.
Opportunity Alabama is a nonprofit initiative dedicated to connecting investors with investable assets in Alabama’s Opportunity Zones.
State Sen. Andrew Jones files bill to eliminate grocery tax
State Sen. Andrew Jones, R-Centre, has introduced a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries.
Jones’ bill, Senate Bill 144, is different from other recent efforts to eliminate the grocery tax in that his proposal would be revenue neutral and also neutral to the State Education Trust Fund. In other words, the State of Alabama and the Education Trust Fund would neither gain money nor lose money if SB144 passes.
“The grocery tax is a regressive tax which penalizes hardworking families in Alabama,” Jones said. “At least 38 states and the District of Columbia have full or partial sales tax exemptions for groceries. It is important to me that we eliminate this out-dated tax which disproportionately affects lower income Alabamians.”
Jones’ bill pays for the loss of sales tax revenue by capping the federal income tax deduction on Alabama state income taxes. Alabama is one of only 6 states that allow such a deduction.
“It was important to me to have a revenue-neutral proposal that did not result in a loss to our education budget,” Jones continued. “Grocery sales taxes fund our education budget, as does state income tax. By implementing an FIT deduction cap, funding for our education budget remains unchanged.”
Under Jones’ proposal, individuals would still be able to take a FIT deduction of up to $6000 and Married Couples filing jointly would still be able to deduct up to $12,000.
“In layman’s terms,” Jones continued, “a family of 4 making under $134,800 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction. An individual filing as head of family making less that $70,700 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction. Finally, a person filing as single or married filing separately making less than $58,300 would still be able to take their full FIT deduction.”
While everyone would benefit from no grocery tax, Jones noted that working families would benefit two-fold.
“Our blue-collar Alabamians will not only get to avoid paying taxes on groceries,” said Jones, “they will also not pay a dime more in income taxes. SB144 will result in more money staying in their pocketbooks. I encourage everyone who supports this effort to contact your local legislator and ask them to support SB144.”
Constitutional amendments require a 3/5ths vote of both the House and Senate and must then be approved by a majority of Alabama voters.
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