May 2022 Group Watch: Alabama To Add 96 New Pre-K Classrooms In The Fall

Alabama’s First-Class Pre-K program was recognized for the 16th consecutive year for meeting 10 out of 10 quality benchmarks recommended by the National Institute for Early Education Research. The state is adding 96 new pre-k classrooms in 35 counties in the fall. The new classrooms, which will open the program up to 26,658 children and bring the state’s total to more than 1,481 classrooms, are made possible by the first round of funding released by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. Additional classrooms will be funded based on further evaluation of high-needs areas prior to the commencement of the 2022-2023 school year. The Alabama School Readiness Alliance’s Pre-K Task Force, formed in 2006, first proposed expanding voluntary pre-k access to all families in 2012, and since then, the state’s investment in Alabama’s First-Class Pre-K program increased 694 percent, from $19 million to $151 million. The program has also grown from enrolling six percent of the state’s four-year-olds in 2012 to 42 percent during the 2021-22 school year.

May 2022 Group Watch: Airbus Alabama Expansion Project Adding 1,000 Jobs in Mobile

Governor Kay Ivey joined Airbus officials, Mobile leaders and education professionals to celebrate the aerospace company’s new growth plans at its Alabama manufacturing facility. Airbus’ latest expansion project calls for the addition of a third Final Assembly Line at the Mobile factory to support increased production of its A320 family of single-aisle passenger aircraft. Airbus outlined plans to add 1,000 new jobs over the next several years to its workforce at the Mobile manufacturing facility, which today numbers around 1,200. To facilitate Airbus’ hiring plans, Alabama workforce development and education organizations are collaborating on new recruitment and training initiatives to build out the jobs pipeline. AIDT plans to expand its Aviation Training Center at the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley to help Airbus get production up and running.

May 2022 Group Watch: AL Republicans Pick Mike Shaw to Run for House District 47

Mike Shaw, a councilman in Hoover, will be the Republican on the ballot for House District 47 in the general election this fall. He’ll run against whichever Democrat wins that primary; two are vying for the chance to face Shaw. The seat was left vacant when David Wheeler died in March. The timing of Wheeler’s passing meant a primary was out, so the state Republican Party chose Shaw from three finalists. Read more about why, here.

May 2022 Group Watch: Shelby Secures $12.5M in Grants for Alabama Airport Infrastructure

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded $12.5 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to 25 local Alabama airports for infrastructure upgrades. Shelby, who serves as vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, advised that the funding would serve to enhance local economies. The grants were administered through the fiscal year 2022 Airport Improvement Program. The program was funded in the annual appropriations package that was signed into law in March.

Here are the grant details:

  • Huntsville Executive Airport-Tom Sharp Jr. Field — Huntsville: $1,575,000 to construct, extend and improve a safety area
  • Greensboro Municipal Airport — Greensboro: $1,063,373 to rehabilitate a runway
  • Dothan Regional Airport — Dothan: $1,022,974 to reconstruct a taxi lane
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport — Birmingham: $1,003,180 to construct, extend, and improve a safety area
  • Florala Municipal Airport — Florala: $850,000 to construct an apron and taxiway
  • Montgomery Regional Airport-Dannelly Field — Montgomery: $800,720 to conduct a study and rehabilitate runway and taxiway lighting
  • Southwest Alabama Regional Airport — Thomasville: $716,400 to construct a new airport
  • Gulf Shores International Airport-Jack Edwards Field — Gulf Shores: $670,000 to conduct a study and reconstruct taxiway lighting
  • Wetumpka Municipal Airport — Wetumpka: $560,285 to reconstruct a taxi lane
  • Carl Folsom Airport — Elba: $540,263 to reconstruct a taxi lane
  • Marion County-Rankin Fite Airport — Hamilton: $461,827 to install perimeter fencing
  • Thomas C Russell Field Airport — Alexander City: $461,238 to expand an apron and reconstruct a taxi lane
  • South Alabama Regional Airport-Bill Benton Field — Andalusia: $457,163 to seal runway and taxiway pavement surface and pavement joints
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport — Birmingham: $360,000 to acquire an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle
  • Sylacauga Municipal Airport-Merkel Field — Sylacauga: $300,000 to acquire land for development
  • Craig Field Airport — Selma: $263,584 to strengthen a taxiway
  • Jackson Municipal Airport — Jackson: $210,000 to rehabilitate a taxiway
  • Ozark Airport-Blackwell Field — Ozark: $185,571 to seal apron pavement surface and pavement joints
  • Talladega Municipal Airport — Talladega: $166,053 to rehabilitate a taxiway
  • L. Sonny Callahan Airport — Fairhope: $150,000 to acquire land for development
  • Monroe County Aeroplex Airport — Monroeville: $150,000 to update the airport master plan
  • Roanoke Municipal Enloe Airport — Roanoke: $150,000 to install an airport beacon
  • Cullman Regional Airport-Folsom Field — Cullman: $148,500 to update the airport master plan
  • Anniston Regional Airport — Anniston: $108,000 to improve airport drainage and erosion control
  • Foley Municipal Airport — Foley: $72,000 to update the airport master plan
  • Bay Minette Municipal Airport — Bay Minette: $62,000 to install perimeter fencing

May 2022 Group Watch: Katie Britt Leading In New AL Senate Poll, Brooks Rising, Durant Slipping

A new poll in the Alabama U.S. Senate race shows a shift among the three contenders for the Republican nomination, with Katie Britt moving to the lead, Mike Durant slipping, and Mo Brooks gaining. The poll by Cygnal surveyed 600 likely Republican voters May 6-7. It showed Britt with 32 percent, Brooks 22.5 percent and Durant at 21.4 percent. There were 8.5 percent of respondents who favored someone else, and 15.5 percent who were undecided. The margin of error for the poll was plus or minus 3.99 percent. The race is for the seat Senator Richard Shelby is leaving after this term. Britt is Shelby’s former chief of staff and former president of the Business Council of Alabama. Durant is a former U.S. aviator and founder of a defense contracting firm in Huntsville. Brooks is in his sixth term representing Alabama’s District 5 in Congress.

May 2022 Group Watch: Macon County Logistics Park Preps For Initial Construction

Construction is scheduled to begin soon on the first building in a logistics park along Interstate 85 in Macon County that backers say could have a massive economic impact when its three phases are developed. The project, called the Regional East Alabama Logistics Park, stems from a partnership between the Macon County Economic Development Authority, Farpoint Development and local businessmen Jimmy and Wayne Bassett. The park will encompass 683 acres at the site of Beck’s Turf Farm off Exit 42 on I-85. The project envisions around 13 buildings offering a combined 5 million square feet of space once the three phases are completed in seven to 10 years. Construction is expected to begin this summer on the first building, a 169,000-square-foot expandable industrial commercial structure. The park is located two miles north of Tuskegee and 15 miles from Auburn. The location is less than 35 miles from the Kia auto assembly plant in West Point, Georgia, and around 50 miles from the Hyundai manufacturing plant in Montgomery.

May 2022 Group Watch: Novelis Plans $2.5 Billion Alabama Aluminum Mill with 1,000 Jobs

Novelis Inc., a world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, plans to invest more than $2.5 billion to build a new low-carbon recycling and rolling plant in Baldwin County. The facility at the 3,000-acre South Alabama Mega Site, located in Bay Minette, will create approximately 1,000 jobs, which Novelis projects will pay an average annual salary of $65,000. Atlanta-based Novelis said the Alabama facility, the first integrated aluminum mill built in the U.S. in 40 years, will leverage the company’s long-term relationships with leading beverage, packaging and automotive brands seeking sustainable aluminum solutions. The facility will be powered with renewable energy, use recycled water and be a zero-waste facility. Novelis is committed to being a carbon-neutral company by 2050 and plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2026. The Baldwin County plant will make use of advanced automation and digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, augmented reality and robotics. The facility will have an initial 600 kilotonnes of finished aluminum goods capacity per year.

May 2022 Group Watch: Governor Announces Two Additional Mental Health Centers

Governor Kay Ivey recently announced the funding of two additional Mental Health Crisis Centers, further expanding the Alabama Crisis System of Care. The two centers add to the four existing centers in Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile, currently serving individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders at staged levels of care. The fiscal year 2023 awarded Community Mental Health Centers are Indian Rivers Behavioral Health in Tuscaloosa County and SpectraCare Health Systems in Houston County. Mental Health Crisis Centers are designated places for community members, law enforcement and first responders to take an individual who is in mental health crisis. Services include critical crisis intervention and stabilization services, discharge planning and connections to ongoing behavioral health care services.

May 2022 Group Watch: Caddell Construction To Build Specialized Care Prison

Alabama has hired Caddell Construction Co. to build a specialized men’s prison facility in Elmore County. The contract with Caddell, which is based in Montgomery, was effective in mid-April. The contract is the latest step in a process the Ivey administration has pursued for several years to overhaul Alabama’s prison system. Alabama has not built a prison since the mid-1990s. During a legislative special session in October, 2021, a plan was approved to build two 4,000-bed men’s prisons, one in Elmore County and one in Escambia County. The two new prisons will be much larger than any of Alabama’s 13 existing men’s prisons. The two prisons are the first of several phases of construction, renovations and prison closings planned. B. L. Harbert International, based in Birmingham, is expected to be the main contractor for the Escambia County prison.

May 2022 Group Watch: AL Innovation Corporation Approves Budget, Creates Exec Director Position

The Alabama Innovation Corporation, a statewide public-private partnership tasked with promoting the state’s innovation economy, recently held its second board meeting. At the meeting, the corporation’s board of directors approved the creation of an executive director position and its associated job description. The executive director position will be charged with overseeing strategic operations, staff management and program implementation for the corporation. The position will also assist in advancing the corporation’s mission through partnership, developing core programs and managing the innovation-oriented directive of the entity. The board also adopted a budget and bylaws and updated the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program. Included in the $10 million budget is funding for the Innovate Alabama Matching Grant Program, the addition of administrative and professional staff and executive director, and strategic communications partners for marketing purposes. Alabama State Finance Director Bill Poole is chair of the corporation board.

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