February 8, 2021 Group Watch: New Majority Leader Elected

With Senator Greg Reed elected to the Senate president pro tem position, his previous role of majority leader for the Republicans has been filled by Senator Clay Scofield of Guntersville. He was unanimously elected to the position, and in a statement, Scofield said he’s, “honored to serve as the Republican leader in the Alabama State Senate, and I am thankful for the trust my colleagues have placed in me to lead the Caucus in this new capacity.”

January 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The new year is upon us, and there’s already been a lot of activity. Vaccinations are moving ahead statewide. Preparations are being made and plans and agendas are being formed for the coming 2021 legislative session. And more positive economic development news keeps rolling in. So far, so good, 2021!
  • 2021 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature Begins Feb 2: The pandemic won’t stop the legislature this year: Representatives and senators will soon reconvene in Montgomery for the 2021 session, thanks to extensive COVID-19 protocols designed to keep legislators and all those involved in session activities safe. Despite some initial thoughts on moving locations, session will take place where it always has, at the State House. But there will be limited public access (and no gallery access), as well as mandatory mask-wearing, temperature scanners and social distancing measures for all meetings and gatherings, though in-person meetings will be limited too. Website and video streaming upgrades are in progress to facilitate more virtual work and virtual accessibility for the public.
  • AL Lawmakers Lay Out Priorities: Things will look different during this year’s legislative session, but the work of our elected representatives will go on. Some lawmakers have already announced their priorities and goals for the session. Gambling is back on the table and will likely draw plenty of debate, while issues like rural broadband access will also be at the top of the list and should enjoy bipartisan support. And COVID-related bills will also be high priority, things like tax protections for stimulus money, liability protection for businesses and additional economic incentives to aid in recovery.
  • COVID-19 Vaccines Being Distributed: Demand for the COVID-19 vaccines remains high in Alabama, and while that demand currently exceeds supply, the state recently opened up vaccines for the next group: individuals over 75 years old and first responders. This group follows frontline healthcare workers and those in nursing homes. The second group can begin receiving vaccines by appointment on January 18. State health officer Dr. Scott Harris also noted that communities are making decisions about moving on to other priority groups at the community level as they feel their reach in prior groups is adequate.

January 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Jan 13
Great news for Huntsville and the Redstone Region today as
@usairforce selects to move the U.S. Space Command to Redstone Arsenal. My full statement is below.

January 2021 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Gets Second Vaccine Shot

While it seems clear many Alabamians are ready to get the vaccine, when Governor Ivey got the second dose of her COVID-19 vaccination earlier this week at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery, she made a point to encourage all citizens to prepare to receive theirs when they can. She told reporters the shots were painless and that she had no side effects from the first shot she took in December.

January 2021 Group Watch: “Rocket City” Living Up to the Name

The Secretary of the U.S. Air Force announced that Huntsville has been selected as the preferred location for the headquarters of the new U.S. Space Command, a move that is natural fit for Alabama’s “Rocket City” and its longtime support of space and defense programs. Goals of the new command are to better organize and advance the military’s extensive operations in space and to seek more effective ways to protect U.S. assets such as satellites that are crucial for communications, navigation and surveillance. Huntsville is home to Redstone Arsenal, which has been the center of the U.S. Army’s missile and rocket programs for more that 50 years. Also located at Redstone is NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which designed the Saturn V rockets that powered the Apollo program moon landings and continues to lead the nation’s space program.

January 2021 Group Watch: Report Shows Airports Drive Economic Progress

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) Aeronautics Bureau recently released the summary findings of the 2020 Statewide Airport Economic Import Study. It reports that Alabama’s 80 public airports are economic engines for their local communities and significant contributors to the overall state economy. Airports in the state generate more than $4.9 billion in state economic activity each year, support 44,399 jobs and $1.9 billion in payroll. The study shows that flights to and from Alabama’s public airports reach each state in the United States, as well as 23 countries abroad. Learn more here.

January 2021 Group Watch: Veronica Crock Joins Commerce Team

Veronica Crock, an experienced economic developer and former educator who focuses on workforce preparedness, has joined the business development team at the Alabama Department of Commerce. Crock, who holds the title of senior project manager, will concentrate her efforts on advanced manufacturing projects statewide. She will also have an initial focus on Southeast Alabama, where she previously worked as an economic developer. Crock previously served as the president of the Ozark-Dale County Economic Development Corp. and as president of Grow Southeast Alabama, an 11-county organization that promotes industrial growth and job creation across the region. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree from Troy University and completed doctoral research at Alabama State University.

January 2021 Group Watch: Expansion at Jasper Lumber Facility

Jasper Lumber Co. and Canada’s Tolko Industries Ltd. have formed a partnership that will expand lumber production at a Walker County facility through a $45 million project creating at least 60 new jobs. The investment will triple capacity at Jasper Lumber’s existing sawmill and create additional activity for its other subsidiary companies, which will operate under the parent company Jasper Forest Products LLC, a Jasper-Tolko Partnership. Plans call for the construction of new facilities, the installation of new machinery and increased shifting at the mill. The construction work at the Jasper sawmill will begin in early 2021 and culminates the efforts of the Walker County Development Authority, the Jasper Industrial Development Board and the City of Jasper who have been working on this project for about a year.

January 2021 Group Watch: Briggs & Stratton $9.4M Expansion

Briggs & Stratton announced a $9.4 million expansion at its Auburn facility, which is expected to create 35 new jobs over the next year. The facility is located in the Auburn Technology Park South and remains one of the largest manufacturing employers in East Alabama. Based in Wisconsin, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest producer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment, as well as commercial lithium-ion batteries, power generation, pressure washers, lawn and garden and job site products. The City of Auburn’s economic development department said the announcement is not only a good sign for the local economy, but an important indicator that the area has successfully weathered the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 2021 Group Watch: Law Enforcement Forms Alliance to Fight Human Trafficking

Federal, state and tribal authorities, and nonprofits have joined to form a task force aimed at improving prosecutions of human traffickers and aiding victims. The Alabama Anti Human Trafficking Alliance, funded by a $2.9 million grant from the Department of Justice, will coordinate response and resources. The Alabama Attorney General’s office will also designate an assistant attorney general and special agent to assist with human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. There were at least 200 cases of human trafficking in Alabama between 2015 and 2019, though authorities believe that number, taken from hotline calls, does not reflect the full scope of the problem. The majority of the victims were women exploited for sex; 30 percent were children. Alabama’s proximity to trafficking hot spots such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis and New Orleans means traffickers regularly travel the state.

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