October 2022 Group Watch: Randolph County to Lead Microsoft Digital Skills Initiative in AL

Microsoft Philanthropies is teaming with the Randolph County Economic Development Authority (RCEDA) on a program that helps job seekers and professionals gain new skills for in-demand roles in the digital economy. The Community Skills Initiative Alabama Region program is a suite of online training and resources, accessed through the Community Skills Initiative Alabama website, and offers access to free online training courses that boost digital skills. In 2020, Microsoft launched a global skills initiative to provide job skills training for unemployed and underemployed workers in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused massive economic disruptions. The RCEDA will be the program lead for CSI Alabama.

September 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

It’s autumn in Alabama, and for many, that means back to school and all its activities, fall festival events and, of course, college football. But the business of politics knows no season, so there’s always news to share.

Some big bucks are flowing to a few of the state’s most challenged schools and millions are also flying to Alabama airports. The journey to accessible medical cannabis for those suffering with a host of conditions continues to move ahead. And state and local economic development efforts keep paying off. Read on to learn more about it all.

September 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

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September 2022 Group Watch: Businesses Apply to Enter AL’s Medical Cannabis Industry

Alabama’s establishment of a medical cannabis program has entered the next phase, with businesses now notifying the state of their intention to participate in the seed-to-sale industry. The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission received 179 requests for applications for business licenses during the first six days after it began taking those requests September 1. Applicants can seek licenses as cultivators, processors, secure transporters, state testing labs and dispensaries. They can also seek licenses as integrated companies performing multiple functions. Jefferson County had the most license application requests with 28. Madison County was next with 19, followed by Montgomery County with 14, and Mobile and Tuscaloosa Counties with 13 each. There were no application requests from more than 25 counties; the application deadline is October 17.

September 2022 Group Watch: Local Communities Showing Support for Medical Cannabis

In news related to the above, cities and counties all over the state are voicing their support of the new medical cannabis industry, voting to approve licenses for dispensaries in their communities and adopting other needed changes like re-zoning. It’s still a longshot than any of these areas will actually get a dispensary. Applications to the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission are already exceeding the number of licenses that state law will allow the Commission to approve for next year. Read more here.

September 2022 Group Watch: Struggling AL Schools Getting Funds for “Turnaround”

Fifteen of Alabama’s most challenged elementary schools are getting a multimillion-dollar infusion of support through a new initiative championed by Governor Kay Ivey. Earlier this year, Ivey added a $10 million line item in the state budget for what is being called the Turnaround Schools Initiative. The state department of education added another $5.4 million initially allocated for a measure that failed to pass the legislature, which means more than $15 million will go to support these 15 schools. State Superintendent Eric Mackey said the communities where the schools are located are dealing with high levels of poverty and “overwhelming “needs. Many of the schools, located primarily in urban and some rural areas, are already receiving support from the Alabama Department of Education. A spokesperson for Governor Ivey said the Departments of Mental Health, Early Childhood Education and Human Resources will all be a part of the turnaround efforts.

September 2022 Group Watch: Grant Dollars Target Small Biz Growth

The Alabama Innovation Corp. announced the awarding of its first round of grants designed to help small businesses expand their operations within the state. The 31 grant awards, which total more than $4.5 million, will be distributed under the Innovate Alabama Supplemental Grant Program. According to the corporation, the funds will enable small business owners to further commercialize modern technology and contribute to the Alabama regional and national economic footprint. The program assists advancing the state’s economy through numerous avenues, including boosting research and commercialization efforts, developing exportable products and services, and generating high-wage job opportunities.

September 2022 Group Watch: Dispute Over AL Transgender Law Continues; Gets Out-of-State Aid

Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department filed suit to block enforcement of Alabama’s Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act, which bans hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgeries for minors. Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s office served Eagle Forum of Alabama, a nonprofit that supports the law, with a subpoena. Multiple elected officials and other groups have called the move an obvious effort by the federal government to “chill speech” with which it disagrees. Earlier this week, another group, the North-Carolina-based John Locke Foundation, joined the cause, filing a federal friend-of-the-court brief challenging the use of the subpoena. Read more here.

September 2022 Group Watch: Former House Dem Leader Is New Gadsden Mayor

Craig Ford was just elected mayor of Gadsden. The Gadsden native and former Alabama House of Representatives Democratic leader won the runoff election handily, defeating Heather New. Read more here.

September 2022 Group Watch: Senator Shelby Secures $17.8 Million in Grants for AL Airports

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $17.8 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to 10 Alabama airports for infrastructure upgrades, according U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. In a statement announcing the grant awards, Shelby, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, spoke to the important role airports play in supporting local communities. The grants will be administered through the 2022 fiscal year Airport Improvement Program. The program was funded in the consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022. The grants were awarded to:

  • Mobile International Airport: $6.7M to reconstruct an apron and $940,000 to improve drainage and erosion control
  • Tuscaloosa National Airport: $4.2M to reconstruct an apron
  • Auburn University Regional Airport: $2.5M to construct, extend and improve a safety area
  • Prattville Airport-Grouby Field: $2.5M to reconstruct an apron
  • Isbell Field Airport (Fort Payne): $829,227 to reconstruct a taxi lane
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport: $456,716 to rehabilitate an apron
  • Chilton County Airport (Clanton): $261,736 to extend a runway
  • Abbeville Municipal Airport: $236,700 to extend a runway
  • Enterprise Municipal Airport: $160,000 to extend a runway

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