October 2020 Group Watch: Mercedes Alabama Plant Producing Maybachs

Automaker Mercedes-Benz continues to make major investments in Alabama, and the first customer-ready Mercedes-Maybach GLS 600 built in in the state rolled off the assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz facility in Tuscaloosa County in September. Mercedes unveiled the vehicle late last year, saying it represents a new form of luxury in the SUV segment, as the Maybach badge is reserved for the highest quality equipment and appointments. Starting prices have been estimated at $200,000 by industry trade reports. Mercedes parent Daimler has invested more that $6 billion in the Alabama auto assembly plant, which has produced more than three million vehicles since 1997.

October 2020 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Oct 12
Congratulations to my son Hannon and new daughter in law Hannah. Mr. and Mrs. Hannon Sanderson.

September 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Prison progress, positive press for the state and more rounds of CARES Act funding top the political and economic development news in Alabama this month.
  • Alabama Department of Corrections Negotiating with Developer Teams: Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced the developer teams chosen from submissions in response to the ADOC’s Request for Proposals to improve the state’s prison infrastructure. The ADOC intends to enter into negotiations for three facilities: facility one has a proposed site in Bibb County to be developed Alabama Prison Transformation Partners comprised of Star America, Harbert International, Butler-Cohen, Arrington Watkins Architects and Johnson Controls, Inc.; facility two is proposed to be developed in Elmore County by CoreCivic, Caddell Construction, DLR Group and R&N Systems Design; facility three is proposed to be developed in Escambia County by CoreCivic, Caddell Construction, DLR Group and R&N Systems Design. The procurement process will include a confidential negotiation period to secure the best possible value for the state with construction anticipated to begin in early 2021.
  • Alabama Paying $300 A Week in Extra Unemployment: Alabama recently started paying the state’s unemployed workers $300 a week in extra unemployment benefits under a federal program that replaces the $600 a week in supplemental benefits that expired under the federal stimulus package in July. The lost wages assistance program provides $300 a week in addition to Alabama’s maximum $275-a-week benefit for unemployed workers. Alabama so far has been approved for four weeks of program benefits, from the week ending August 1 through the week ending August 22. The state will apply for future weeks and will be subject to approval from the federal program administered by FEMA.
  • Alabama Ranked a Top State for Biz in Area Development Survey: Site selection professionals surveyed by Area Development, a national publication, ranked Alabama among the top states for doing business, citing a range of factors that underpin a business-friendly environment. The state ranks No.6 overall and earned top-10 rankings in 10 of 13 different categories. The individual ranks are as follows: speed of permitting, No. 2; workforce development programs, No. 3; business incentives, No. 4; favorable regulatory environment, No. 5; available real estate, No. 5; competitive labor environment, No. 6; site readiness programs, No. 6; energy availability and costs, No. 6; cooperative and responsive state government, No. 6; and overall cost of doing business, No. 7.

September 2020 Group Watch: Internet Vouchers for Education in the Mail 

Alabama families waiting for vouchers to cover internet service should find them in their mailboxes no later than week’s end. The Alabama Broadband Connectivity for Students voucher program is being administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). Agency representatives say 250,000 vouchers have been mailed since August 24. The staggered mailing was designed to avoid overloading internet service providers. The vouchers are good for internet service through December 30 and are being made available through a $100 million allocation from the CARES Act funding. The voucher can be used to pay for existing service or to connect to new internet service. Every school district in Alabama is offering remote learning as an option for families worried about returning to in-person school.

September 2020 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Sept 16
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our charitable foundation is finding innovative ways to support neighborhood revitalization efforts across the U.S. through its National Neighborhood Promise program. Check out our impact to date: https://bit.ly/2FEbWpX #NeighborhoodPromise

September 2020 Group Watch: CARES Act Update

Governor Ivey has awarded $26 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds to assist Alabama agriculture impacted by COVID-19. These funds will be distributed seven programs: the Meat processing Plant Reimbursement Program, Catfish Processor Reimbursement Program, Fruit and Vegetable Processor Reimbursement Program, Direct Payment Business Stabilization Grants to Cattle Producers, State Supplemental CFAP Grant Program, Nursery Grower Reimbursement Program, and the Poultry Farmer Stabilization Grant Program. No funds may be used for salaries, building projects or capital improvement. The governor also awarded $10 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds for a statewide program to assist Alabama timber owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This grant program will be administered through the Alabama Forestry Commission and will include grants of up to $10,000 on a first-come, first-serve basis to qualifying timber owners who harvested timber in Alabama during the months March through July. Higher education institutions were awarded $72.34 million to support the purchase of technology and infrastructure related to remote instruction and distant learning. The Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund was allocated $300 million to be used to offset costs that are equally distributed to all tax-paying employers.

September 2020 Group Watch: Special Election Dates Set for Senate District 26

Governor Ivey has set the special election dates for Alabama Senate District 26 after the resignation of Senator David Burkette. The special primary election is set for Tuesday, November 17;  the special primary runoff, if necessary, for Tuesday, December 15; and the special general election for Tuesday, March 2, 2021. The deadline for qualifying with major political parties is Tuesday, September 15 at 5 p.m. The deadline for all independent candidate and/or minor parties is Tuesday, November 17 at 5 p.m.

September 2020 Group Watch: ASU Using New Screening Tech

Alabama State University announced it is using new technology to help students stay safe during the pandemic. The university partnered with Alabama Company Dragonfly to put 10 screening devices around the campus: five temperature-scanning devices and five social-distancing devices. A student walks up to the device, it takes their temperature and then provides a green light if the temp is appropriate. ASU President Dr. Quentin Ross says the university is the first college in Alabama to use the new equipment. The technology cost about $100,000, and the university is using CARES Act money to pay for it. ASU said it is considering using the devices at football games when its season begins.

August 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Innovation, economic development wins and additional COVID-19 relief are among the #alpolitics headlines this month.
  • CARES Act Update: Governor Kay Ivey has announced additional awards in CARES funding. Fifty million dollars is available for grants of up to $15,000 to nonprofit organizations and faith-based programs to help mitigate operational costs resulting from COVID-19. Hospitals and nursing home were awarded $100 million to cover operating costs that are COVID-19 related, such as PPE, cleaning, personnel costs and other pandemic-related expenses; the specific amounts awarded to these facilities are listed on the state website, al.gov. The Department of Mental Health was awarded $7 million for its Crisis and Recovery Services program and the Community Provider Reimbursement program. These programs provide toll-free hotline services for persons in crisis and services to individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders and developmental disabilities. The Alabama Agriculture Stabilization Program received $26 million, which will be administered by the Department of Agriculture and Industries. Funds from all grants must be expended by December 31, 2020.
  • Toyota Alabama installing 3.3-acre Solar Array: The Toyota engine plant in Huntsville is playing a key role in the automaker’s new solar energy plan, as part of a $9.3 million investment designed to cut the need for outside energy in its operations across three states. The company is adding almost 11 acres of new solar arrays in Alabama, Missouri and West Virginia, a setup that will offset 6,480,000 kWh of energy, or the equivalent of powering nearly 800 homes per year. In Huntsville, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s 3.3- acre solar array will be the largest built to date in Madison County. The $2.7 million project, expected to be complete by the end of the year, will generate 1.6 megawatts of solar-generated energy and reduce CO2 emissions at the plant by 1,732 metric tons annually.
  • FedEx Ground to Build $40 Million Facility in Jefferson County: The Birmingham Business Alliance recently announced that FedEx Ground plans to build a $40.6 million facility in Jefferson County that would create 285 full and part-time jobs within three years of the project’s completion. The 300,000-square-foot facility will occupy a 46-acre site off Lakeshore Parkway, a growing logistics and distribution corridor that would place the new building next to a Dollar General distribution center. Construction on the facility is expected to begin around September 1, with completion scheduled for June 2021. The cities of Bessemer and Birmingham and the Jefferson County Commission have been close collaborators on what is being called one of the largest economic development projects this year for the region. 

August 2020 Group Watch: New Leadership for National Gov Association

The National Governors Association announced its new Executive Committee leadership for 2020-21 as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo became chair of the association. At the summer meeting, Governor Cuomo became chair and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, vice chair. Joining them on the Executive Committee are Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Governor Gary Herbert of Utah. The Executive Committee has general authority over all policy issues and primary jurisdiction over issues involving federalism, homeland security, the federal budget and federal tax policy. Members of the committee are elected annually.

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