October 2022 Group Watch: High-Speed Internet in Alabama

In January of this year, the Alabama Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey approved a plan to spend $276 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act federal funds on the expansion of access to high-speed internet. Recently, the governor and legislative leaders announced that $82 million of that would be used for a grant to help fund a “middle-mile” broadband network that officials said would have statewide impact. Fiber Utility Network, a corporation formed by eight rural electric cooperatives, will create the network to connect more than 3,000 miles of new and existing fiber infrastructure over the next three years. The “middle-mile” network will be the next step in an initiative Gov. Ivey and lawmakers have said is a priority for several years. The governor said more than 300 Alabama cities and towns will benefit from the network.

October 2022 Group Watch: Birmingham Moving Ahead With Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

The Birmingham City Council took a first step toward allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, with a first reading of an ordinance to allow them in Birmingham. Under state guidelines, Jefferson County could end up with as many as nine dispensaries. Birmingham Major Randall Woodfin noted that municipalities have to pass legislation allowing dispensaries before they can locate in a city. Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, Dothan, Daphne and Foley have also taken this step. Under Alabama’s law, medical marijuana can be sold in the form of tablets, capsules, tinctures or gel cubes for oral use. They could be gels, oils or creams for topical use. They could be suppositories, transdermal patches, nebulizers, or liquids or oils for use as an inhaler. Raw plant material, products that could be smoked or vaped, or food products such as cookies or candies will not be allowed.

October 2022 Group Watch: The State Race to Watch

A lot of attention will be paid to national elections on November 8, as there’s a chance for the balance of power to shift in both chambers of Congress. But here at home, there is a race that’s garnering headlines too. Being called the “hottest race in the state” by some, the battle for the District seat 33 in South Alabama between longtime Democratic Senator Vivian Figures and Republican challenger Pete Riehm is one the GOP thinks it can win. Read more here.

October 2022 Group Watch: Germany Trade Mission Brings Opportunities to AL

Alabama’s first overseas trade mission in more than three years successfully connected a diverse group of growth-minded state companies with counterparts in Germany, potentially setting the stage for new opportunities and partnerships. According to Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, the five companies on the mission operate in fields including the life sciences sector, microgrid power systems, next generation EV charging strategies and international project management services. The Germany business development trip was the first Commerce-led trade mission since September 2019, when an Alabama group traveled to the United Arab Emirates. Alabama companies represented on the trade mission included Adah, Gene Capture, BLOC Global Group, Domestique and ASHIPA Electric Limited.

October 2022 Group Watch: Amazon Teams Up with Tuskegee University for Training Program

Tuskegee University has a new partnership with Amazon that will establish advanced training programs in mechatronics, robotics, supply chain management and logistics operations for students at the Macon County institution. Amazon donated $1.2 million to fund the program, which also includes scholarships and setting up a pipeline for leadership roles at the tech giant. This collaboration is the latest example of innovation in rural Alabama, where universities and companies are engaged in developments that are shaping the future in various research areas and industries. The Amazon-Tuskegee alliance will provide training in design, distribution, risk assessment and other topics through classroom and lab instruction. The college of Business and Information Science will lead the supply chain initiative, and the College of Engineering will lead the mechatronics and robotics program.

October 2022 Group Watch: Changes to AL Constitution on November Ballot

Come election day November 8, there will be more than names on the ballot: Multiple proposed changes to Alabama’s 121-year-old state constitution will also be there, waiting for voters to either approve and ratify them or reject the revisions. State legislators unanimously gave Alabama voters the opportunity to make their voices heard on a reworked constitution last legislative session. Before you head to your polling place, learn more about the proposed changes here.

October 2022 Group Watch: $2.5 Billion Aluminum Mill Coming to AL

Site work has begun on one of Alabama’s most prominent construction projects, a $2.5 billion aluminum mill being built by Atlanta-based Novelis in Baldwin County that is the first facility of its kind constructed in the United States for 40 years. Crews are engaged in earthwork, excavation and piling at the site in the 3,000-acre South Alabama Mega Site in Bay Minette. Over the next three months, Novelis will construct two new roadways on the site and expand the utility infrastructure necessary to begin building construction. The facility is expected to employ 1,000 people at full production, scheduled for mid-2025. Novelis said it has hired the core leadership team for the multi-year effort to build the Alabama facility. AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency and part of the Alabama Department of Commerce, is assisting Norvelis in assembling and training of its workforce.

October 2022 Group Watch: Tax Rebate a Topic in Upcoming Session

Republican leaders in the legislature have already been hinting at a potential tax rebate, and Governor Kay Ivey has expressed her support as Alabama enjoys a temporary surplus of federal funding. The governor voiced her commitment to work closely with the legislature to provide direct relief to the people of Alabama. Ivey said she will present a plan to lawmakers to allocate these funds in a manner that helps our citizens with the issues facing them today. The state’s Education Trust Fund ended FY22 with a historic $10.4 billion in revenue, more than 20 percent higher than 2021. The bulk of that surplus is due to an inundation of federal funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the revenue levels are historic, they are unsustainable, so the state must plan and operate responsibly.

October 2022 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Declares October HBCU Month in AL

Governor Kay Ivey signed a proclamation on October 3 declaring the month HBCU Month. According to Dr. Quentin Ross, President of Alabama State University in Montgomery, the signing was significant, making Alabama the first state in the country to dedicate an entire month in recognition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This speaks to the governor’s understanding of the value of these institutions to the state and nation. Alabama has the largest number of HBCUs in the country; they make up more than a quarter of the state’s four-year institutions and enroll 40 percent of all Black undergraduates.

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.

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