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Economy

First summit on rural workforce development held in Livingston

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, November 1 Alabama Power and Alabama Commission on Higher Education collaborated for first Alabama Summit on Rural Workforce Development, which was held on the campus of the University of West Alabama,

Organizers hoped that the event will advance economic, workforce and rural development across Alabama. Hundreds of economic and workforce development professionals packed the Bell Conference Center at UWA. The event featured a broad slate of experts with unique perspectives to address rural Alabama’s need for building a workforce pipeline and economic development system.

“Following the impact and success of the recent Alabama Summit on Rural Technology earlier this year, we decided to continue to expand our efforts in rural workforce development,” said Dr. Tina Jones, Vice President of UWA’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development. “UWA has grown into one of the state’s leading institutions of higher learning in fostering rural development. This is a natural next step in our strategic efforts.”

Alabama Department of Commerce’s Ed Castile said, “The year 2018 was a banner year for economy development, business development, and growth…. Workforce development is hard work and is a priority for many people. Many in our country and in other counties are struggling to find workforce. It takes creativity, innovation, and getting out of the box to do this work. The question is – how do you mine for the gold?”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Rural Alabama needs hope and folks to reach out and show them success stories that have occurred in other rural areas. When members of a community have the opportunity to collaborate, cities and towns are built. It takes a team of residents, businesses, government, schools, churches, and nonprofits with a community mindset of pride, optimism, and innovation to help an area do well.”

West Alabama Works and West Alabama Chamber COO Donny Jones said, “We need to look at education and training – not just a ‘college or bust’ mentality. Teachers haven’t been prepared to teach like a business, so we helped bridge the gap between education and industry by creating Educator Works Academy. It allows teachers to get experience in business and industry (through professional development and facility tours) so they can better help their students.”

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Mercedes, Nucor Steel, and others participate in this program.

Alabama Works Region 5 Chair Aubrey Carter said, “Some rural counties do not see the need of what is happening and do not know about companies and their suppliers. It is about exposure – knowing what is there and the available opportunities. The Career Discovery Expo, for example, held twice a year, helps kids get introduced to career paths.”

Alabama Works Region 7 Chair Josh Duplantis said, “There is a direct correlation between access to broadband and access to information. I see kids crowded in the McDonald’s parking lot trying to get WiFi for homework.”

“We need to see more of our industry and community,” Donny Jones said. “It is still the parents’ job and the community’s job to raise our children. Teachers are part of the equation, but we have to stop putting all of the weight on our educators.” “We are the biggest barrier to getting things done. Generation after generation of mistrust and not working together. There is not always a hidden motive for wat we do. Some rural communities have a hesitancy to work with others – then we cannot serve others properly. Communities that work together are the communities that get it – the jobs and the quality of life There is not a guy with a PowerPoint and a grant that can come in and fix everything.”

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Nick Moore, Education Policy Advisor & Coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Education & Workforce Transformation, said, “Stackable credentials provide progressive wage increases and a path to self-sufficiency. Right now we have the highest labor participation rate in Alabama history. The challenge is that there is a still group of people with barriers and who need to be trained. Find people where they are and what their barriers are [so we can see if we can help them]. Transportation, child care, etc. are all barriers.”

Nick Moore mentioned the Wee Cats program in Enterprise, Alabama, where 3 and 4 years old run a business. Governor Ivey plans toured the facility on Wednesday.

Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said, “When I was appointed, I noticed there was a disconnect between the Alabama Department of Labor resources and how we could get them to the people. Most people did not know the resources existed. We needed to meet people where the were at. The Job Fair initiative, for example, helped take some counties in double digits into single digits or the first time in history. For example, 40 employers went to Wilcox County for job fairs in high school gymnasiums, which knocked down the barrier of nervousness for attendees. In August 2015, Wilcox County had 16.1% unemployment. In September 2019 that number was 6.2%, the lowest in this history of the county. That is progress.”

Dr. Nicole Jones said, “Strong local economies are built upon strong local communities. Exposure and cultivating relationships help win projects. Let’s leave the politics and egos aside and start working together to benefit Alabamians and rural communities.”

“Our purpose is to help equip employers, economic development leaders, public and governmental officials, educators, and community leaders with the skills, knowledge and practical tools for addressing the unique talent and workforce development opportunities in our rural areas,” emphasized Dr. Tina Jones.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

State unemployment rate dropped to 5.8 percent last month

Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.7 in September to 5.8 percent in October, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. October’s seasonally adjusted rate represents 130,329 unemployed persons, down from 153,338 in September. That compares to 61,210 in October 2019.

“We’re glad to see a drop of almost an entire percentage point in our unemployment rate this month,” said ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “We will continue to see fluctuations in these economic indicators as pandemic concerns remain, but this month showed growth in both the number of jobs we are supporting and the number of people who are working.”

The number of people counted as employed in October was 2,121,505, up from 2,119,297 in September, but down from the 2,186,771 measured in October 2019.

There were 9,262 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, up from 8,764 the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

Of the claims filed between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, there were 3,001, or 32 percent, that were related to COVID-19, down from 38 percent the previous week.

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Economy

Governor announces $200 million “Revive Plus” small business grant program

Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses.

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (VIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible. As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”

Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” said Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.

“This second round of funding for Alabama entities will provide much needed resources for our state’s economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I appreciate the governor and the Finance Department’s work to ensure we utilize these funds to the benefit of our citizens.”

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Entities may access grant information and the grant application through the Coronavirus Relief Fund website. The application period for the Revive Plus Grant Program will open at noon, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through noon, Dec. 4, 2020.

“This is welcome news for small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are continuing to feel the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. “Time is of the essence and I urge all qualified entities to apply as soon as possible beginning Monday, November 23rd.”

A coalition of the Business Council of Alabama, the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB Alabama) and the Alabama Restaurant Association worked closely with the governor’s office to revisit the grant program after the initial round of Revive Alabama reached the $100 million cap.

“Businesses throughout the state are working diligently to keep their employees and customers safe, all while ensuring commerce throughout Alabama continues to move,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt. “Revive Plus will be essential in giving Alabama businesses access to the necessary and needed funding to keep their doors open and keep hard working Alabamians employed. Our broad coalition of businesses, associations and chambers commend Governor Ivey and her administration for putting these critical funds into the hands of businesses who need it most.”

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Qualifying entities must have been in business March 1, 2020, are currently in business and have a valid W-9 to apply for a Revive Plus Grant.

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Economy

Applications open the Livestock Auction Market Direct Payment Program, Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program

Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate announced that both the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program and the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program applications are open.

The applications are available at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov. The deadline to submit applications is Dec. 1, 2020. Each program will assist Alabama’s agriculture with costs associated with disruptions experienced due to COVID-19.

Pate and agricultural stakeholders developed a broad-based relief plan to support agribusiness in the state of Alabama, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and the resulting supply chain interruptions.

In August, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that $26 million of CARES Act Funds could be used to assist Alabama agriculture impacted by COVID-19. These funds were used to establish the Alabama Agricultural Stabilization Program (AASP).

Pate said on Monday that the Livestock Market Direct Payment Program is a $500,000 program to provide direct payments to stockyards affected by the crisis. Payments cannot exceed $25,000. Only licensed Alabama cattle auction markets are eligible.

Pate said the Poultry Processor Reimbursement Program is a $1.2 million program to reimburse Alabama poultry processing facilities for purchases of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), disinfectants, workstation dividers and COVID-19 testing kits to protect their employees from COVID-19.

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Reimbursements for these expenses would be capped at a maximum of $40,000 per facility. Additional eligibility requirements will be posted at agi.alabama.gov or crf.alabama.gov.

The state has until the end of the year to spend nearly $1 billion in CARES Act money or it goes back to the federal government.

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Economy

Sewell’s annual job fair will be virtual this year

Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries.

Brandon Moseley

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(VIA OFFICE OF TERRI SEWELL)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s annual job fair is open for registration. This year, the job fair will be virtual, hosted via Zoom.

Sewell announced the opening of registration for Alabama’s 7th District 9th Annual Job Fair. Job Fair 2020 will be a two-day event held virtually on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 18 and 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. central time.

Job seekers will have the opportunity to connect with employers from 10 different industries. Registration is required via Eventbrite. Participation in the job fair is free and open to the public.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I know so many jobs have been lost, and now more than ever our annual Job Fair is needed,” Sewell said. “For the past 8 years, the Job Fair has been a space for job seekers in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District to connect directly with employers. We are very excited to continue our tradition with a robust 2020 virtual program! Over the course of two days, job seekers can learn about jobs available right NOW in Alabama.”

This year’s virtual event will feature employers from more than 10 types of industries, including automotive, restaurant and food management, transportation and construction, hospitality and retail, health services, utilities and telecommunications, manufacturing and production, staffing agencies, government agencies and law enforcement.

Sewell said she made a commitment to work to improve the lives of people in the 7th Congressional District when she was elected. Getting people jobs and growing the economy of the district has been the goal of the job fair.

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Sewell said that when she was elected, the counties of the district had some of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Coming out of the Great Recession, the district had an unemployment rate about 14 percent.

That rate is now down to 6 percent — still double the national average but a tremendous improvement for the people in the district. Then COVID hit.

Sewell said that the district, like the rest of the country, was hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and many jobs, particularly in the hospitality sector, were lost.

Sewell said that they don’t have as many employers participating in this year’s job fair as in some in the past but it is “still a great opportunity.”

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“We have a pretty good track record,” Sewell said. According to surveys, 25 to 30 percent of participants in past job fairs found jobs through the Job Fair, Sewell’s office said. Since that is dependent on participants responding to the surveys, they suspect the number is higher.

“We do have very strong participation from all the largest employers in the state,” Sewell said. There are opportunities there for people with a variety of skill sets.

Sewell said that she is very proud of all of the investments that have been made by manufacturers in the 7th Congressional District and cited the expansions at Hyundai and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County.

“We have a very good track record,” Sewell said of past job fairs. “Everywhere I go I meet people who tell me how their lives changed because of our job fairs.”

On Nov. 3, Sewell was elected to her sixth term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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