Home Tags February 2015

February 2015

Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association

Click here to download and view the Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association section featured in February 2015.

Top News Links: Friday, Feb. 27


Tax plan spat halts road projects in North Alabama

After State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw hired a billboard to express his opposition to Gov. Bentley’s proposed tax hike, ALDOT has halted road projects in Holtzclaw’s Limestone County district. ALDOT’s John Cooper told news blogger Yellowhammer that “If Sen. Holtzclaw feels that strongly about taxes, we felt certain he would not like a lot of tax money being spent in his District.” — Yellowhammer

Brooks among Republicans saying DHS shutdown wouldn’t matter much

A temporary shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security wouldn’t be such a big deal, says U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican representing North Alabama. Funding for the agency is tangled in wrangling over President Obama’s immigration policy, which Brooks opposes. “There was hardly any effect whatsoever on the Department of Homeland Security from the last shutdown, and I would anticipate a similar effect this time, ” Brooks said.— AP/AL.com

DHS training site keeps going despite budget threat

As Republican Congressmen fight immigration actions in a measure that could cut off funding to the Department of Homeland Security, the agency’s training facility in Anniston continues to prepare for new trainees who are expected to arrive next week, though agency funding could stop Saturday. — Anniston Star

Huntsville air cargo service extends to Brazil

International freight forwarded Panalpina, with major operations in Huntsville, has added scheduled cargo service to Sao Paulo, Brazil, slated to mesh easily with the firm’s service to Hong Kong. — Panalpina PR/Freightweek

UA plans online degree in marketing analytics

Marketing analytics — the process of garnering useful information from big data — will be the focus of a new online master’s degree offered by the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce. — UA PR

Nolan to lead Camber Corporation

Philip Nolan has been named CEO of Camber Corporation, succeeding company co-founder Walter Batson, who will continue to serve as board chairman. The Huntsville firm provides services in engineering, intelligence, cyber security, unmanned systems, modeling and simulation and related fields. — Camber PR

Alabama housing market improving

Freddie Mac reports that the Alabama housing market, while still weak, is improving. – Birmingham Business Journal

Three attorneys barred from BP claims process

Two Louisiana attorneys and another from Nevada have been barred from the BP oil spills claims process by federal Judge Carl Barbier over allegations of unethical behavior. — Associated Press/AL.com

Federal funds available for specialty crop projects

Grants to help agriculture organization develop specialty crops — fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, horticulture, maple syrup, honey and nursery crops — for the overseas market are available on a competitive basis. The Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries is handling disbursement of the federal USDA funds. — ADAI PR

compiled by business alabama staff

Flashback: Mississippi Breaks Past Alabama into Automaking

Big stakes sour grapes were the subject of “Why Not Drop the Big One?” — a feature in the February 2001 issue of Business Alabama. 

Alabama was chaffing over the recently announced loss to Mississippi in the final round of the contest to land a $930 million Nissan plant that went to Madison County, Mississippi rather than a site in Opelika. 

Unfair and unprecedented, said some, were Mississippi U.S. Senator Trent Lott’ s last minute efforts to have the Mississippi site designated a “renewal community, ” qualifying it for a 15 percent payroll tax credit and 10-year deduction for construction costs.

“It is wrong to utilize federal tax policy to favor one state over another in an industrial development competition, ” said Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, the loudest critic of Lott’s proposal.

Mississippi was last up in the South’s race to be the home of U.S. auto manufacturing. Alabama already had three plants — Mercedes and Honda assembly plants and an engine plant for Toyota — and would land the Hyundai assembly plant later in 2001.

Although Lott’s proposal did not pass in the Senate, prospects that it might be successfully revived, said some, could have contributed to the Nissan decision. 

More decisive, certainly, was the size of the wad of cash Mississippi offered on its own. Mississippi won Nissan with $295 million in state and local incentives, a package that legislators approved in a one-day special session called by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove. Details of the bid were not available in February 2001 but were reluctantly revealed by Mississippi officials in the following months. Alabama’s bid — the way with those unsuccessful — was never disclosed.

At $295 million, Mississippi’s official reckoning of the total did not include jobs tax credits, fees in lieu of franchise taxes, tax exemptions on machinery and construction materials or a generous “Advantage Jobs” program offering up to 90 percent rebates on state payroll tax withholdings.  

Two years later, while the plant was still under construction, the Mississippi Legislature added another $68 million in state incentives to Nissan.

The watchdog group Good Jobs First, in a May 2013 study titled “A Good Deal for Misssissippi?” estimates that incentives going to Nissan totaled $1.3 billion.

text by Chris McFadyen

Top News Links: Thursday, Feb. 26


Snow days hit North Alabama

A blanket of white is closing roads, schools and businesses across northern Alabama – some love it, some not so much. — Florence Times Daily, Gadsden Times

Affordable Care enrollment jumps but many more eligible

More than 168, 000 Alabamians have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act online marketplace — a major jump tied for 10th in the nation — but more than half of those eligible are not yet enrolled, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. — AL.com

Boeing announces plans for new engineering training center in Huntsville

Building toward its 100th anniversary next year, the Boeing Co. is planning a dozen new training centers, the first two geared toward engineering development. Huntsville and Long Beach, California, will be the sites of the first two. — Boeing PR

Tuscaloosa firm developing online law classes for here and abroad

Tuscaloosa’s iLaw-Ventures LLC, which creates online law classes for U.S. students, has created a new specialty firm, iLawGlobal, to help lawyers abroad learn about American law. Former UA law dean Ken Randall heads the company. — Tuscaloosa News

SPOC Automation acquires Canadian firm

Trussville-based SPOC Automation Inc., which provides engineering, software and automation technology for the oil and gas industry, has acquired the Canadian firm, KJ Controls Canada, based in Alberta. — SPOC Automation PR

Montgomery working to broaden city-business base

Montgomery is drafting a plan to mentor small business and minority-owned businesses to help them win business with the city. The plan is expected to go to city officials next week. — Montgomery Advertiser

Looking to Sterne Agee’s future after purchase

Experts explore likely scenarios for Birmingham’s 113-year-old financial firm Sterne Agee after its purchase by St. Louis-based Stifel Financial. — Birmingham Business Journal

Daimler union leader questions wisdom of further U.S. expansion

Citing a weak Euro versus a stronger dollar, Daimler union leader Michael Brecht questioned the wisdom of the firm’s plans to expand further in the U.S. and the decision to move C-Class production from Germany to the firm’s Tuscaloosa County plant. — Reuters

ABA Economist to address United Bank event

Jim Chessen, chief economist with the American Bankers Association, will be the featured speaker March 5, when United Bank hosts an Economic Outlook Forum and Dinner in Bay Minette. United Bank has offices in 13 south Alabama communities, most in Baldwin County, and in the Florida panhandle. — United Bank PR

HealthSouth reports “solid” fourth quarter

Rehab hospital firm HealthSouth, based in Birmingham, announced fourth quarter 2014 results showing revenues up 7.2 percent and number of patients treated up 4.7 percent. — HealthSouth PR

ProAssurance reports “strong” fourth quarter

Gross premiums written were up 28 percent from the previous year — including premiums in a new workers compensation division — leading to a 13 percent increase in revenues, company officials reported. — ProAssurance PR

compiled by business alabama staff

Top News Links: Wednesday, Feb. 25


Protective Life donates another $700, 000 to zoo, art museum

The day after announcing major gifts to University of Alabama and UAB, Protective Life and its new parent, Dai-ichi Life, announced gifts totaling $700, 000 to the Birmingham Zoo, Art Museum, Negro Southern League Museum and the 50th anniversary celebration of the Selma bridge crossing. The Zoo is the big recipient, with $500, 000.  — AL.com

Greenwood Global to open recycling facility in Tuskegee

Alabama firm Greenwood Global has announced plans to open a recycling and manufacturing facility in Tuskegee and plans to hire nearly 200 for jobs in its call center, as sales representatives, managers, drivers, warehouse personnel and energy auditors. — AL.com

Doster breaks ground for HealthSouth addition in Arkansas

Birmingham-based Doster Construction broke ground recently for a $6.1 million addition to a HealthSouth rehab hospital in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The 11, 000-square-foot addition will provide space for 20 more beds. — Doster PR

Stevens to leave Motion Industries

Bill Stevens, chairman of Birmingham-based Motion Industries, has announced his retirement after 37 years with the company. When Stevens leave at the beginning of March, President and CEO Tim Breen will take over the role of chairman. — Motion Industries PR

Mine plans draw call for public hearing

Wolf Springs-based MS Industries’ plans for a surface mine to extract crude oil from oil-bearing shale in Lawrence County have prompted area citizens to ask for a public hearing before the state Department of Environmental Management. — Florence Times Daily

Two teens arrested for stealing data from Florence-area ATM machines

Police in Killen have arrested two Georgia teens for allegedly attaching a card reader to a Sun Trust ATM machine in Killen.  Authorities in Florence found a similar device on the ATM at a Florence branch. — Florence Times Daily

Ground broken for new Albertville shopping center

City, store and developer officials broke ground Tuesday for a new 135, 000-square-foot shopping center in Albertville. The  $18 million center developed by Tennessee-based GBT Realty Corp.  is expected to open in about a year and has commitments from T.J. Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, Hibbett Sports, Pet Smart and Hobby Lobby. — Gadsden Times

compiled by business alabama staff

Growing Up with the Job


In many ways, economic development work is all about the numbers — tax rates, property prices, wage averages, financial incentives. At some point in the bottom-line world of big business, the figures simply have to add up.

Still, Brian Hilson learned early in his career that economic development is ultimately about the people. Not only in terms of the relationships built with government officials and corporate executives but also in the way such work affects members of the local community.

“It’s the satisfaction of accomplishing something that directly improves the quality of life for people and the well-being of a family, ” Hilson says. “There’s something about being part of that — even if it’s just a small part — that has always appealed to me.”

That attitude has served Hilson well over the past 35 years. In fact, it is one of the reasons he has gone from being an intern with the old Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board to serving in his current position as the president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, with a 19-year stint at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce in between. Through it all, it has been the people — not the numbers — that have mattered most to Hilson.

“There is a common thread in all of this, and that’s the teamwork aspect of what we do, ” Hilson says. “That always has to exist, and it has to involve both the public and private sectors at both the local and state level. There have to be good relationships that run really deep. We not only work together but we also know one another personally.

“Each community is unique. Every project is different. The circumstances always change. There is no cookie-cutter approach to what we do. So you have to get to know the people. That always helps whenever you’re doing business.”

While growing up in Huntsville in the early ’70s, Hilson says he used to watch television detective shows such as Mannix with his father. He eventually became intrigued about following in the gumshoe steps of these fictional private investigators. During his senior year of high school, Hilson worked occasionally for the Allied Detective Bureau, earning $3.50 an hour going on stakeouts for divorce and child-custody cases.

“It was nice to make a little spending money, but I quickly realized that I didn’t want to do this for a living, ” Hilson says, smiling at the memory of how his career path could have been drastically different.

Instead, Hilson developed an interest in city planning. He graduated from Auburn University in 1978 with a degree in public administration, when few colleges offered majors in economic development. He then took several graduate-level courses at UAB. He interned at the Birmingham MDB in 1980 before being hired full time in 1981.

In this pre-computer age, Hilson started out doing the pencil-and-paper grunt work in the research department. This was not the involvement with people that Hilson came to enjoy most about economic development, but he says it was an important first step in establishing a base of knowledge for his career.

“Starting on the research side was a blessing, because I was learning the business from a factual perspective, ” Hilson says. “I was taking really solid information and facts and creating an objective approach to what we were doing.

“I began developing databases and trying to put things in perspective. How do we use this information? What’s important to a company? How do we anticipate what the next business prospect is going to need? What differentiates one community from another, or one state from another? Things that companies use to make decisions about where they’re going to grow.”

Hilson discovered he was entering the field during a time of transition. He says the backgrounds of many people in the business were geared more toward marketing than true economics, and, as a result, he says they “were more about style than substance.”

That began to change in the ’80s, as the country shifted from a manufacturing-based industrial economy — the field previously had been called “industrial development” — to one more focused on technology. Suddenly, through his research work, Hilson had become knowledgeable about aspects of the economy that others had ignored.

“As that was happening and I started developing and managing a lot of information — and understanding it — I started getting called into meetings, ” Hilson says. “All of a sudden I found myself being asked to answer questions that people who were much senior to me should have known. There were a lot of people who got into the profession mid-career, and they just didn’t know that facet of economic development.”

Before long, Hilson was organizing trips to meet and recruit prospective companies and managing projects to entice businesses to come to Alabama. He eventually returned home to join the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. He served as the chamber’s senior vice president of economic development, from 1992-97, and then was named chamber president in 1997. Hilson took over at the BBA in 2011.

Over the years, Hilson has worked on economic development projects with a wide variety of national and international companies, including Lockheed Martin, Toyota, LG Electronics, Sterilite Corp., UPS and Delta Air Lines. And behind each of those well-known names there were people and a relationship to be developed.

Once, Hilson was told to meet a private plane at the Birmingham airport for a visit from a company that demanded strict confidentiality, to the point that even Hilson did not know who was coming. When the plane arrived, however, the Owens Corning logo was clearly visibly on the side of the plane. Hilson pointed that out to the executive who had made the trip, and they both laughed at this distinct lack of secrecy.

On another occasion, during Huntsville’s successful bid to land a Toyota manufacturing plant, Hilson toured the prospective site with the company president. Soon after arriving at the 500-acre, overgrown former cotton field, the president expressed interest in a 5-foot-tall plant with a purple bloom on top. He sniffed it and, through an interpreter, asked Hilson, “What is this beautiful Alabama flower?” To which Hilson replied, “Actually, that’s an Alabama weed.”

“He laughed, and we got things off to a good start, ” Hilson says. “I think that might have been the clincher for us.

“You meet a lot of people from all over the world in this job. Government officials at all levels, business leaders, community leaders. There are just a lot of stakeholders involved in the process. And what I’ve learned is, ultimately, you don’t have success in an economic-development project unless eventually you meet face-to-face. There’s just no substitute for that.”

Cary Estes and Art Meripol are freelancers for Business Alabama. Both are based in Birmingham.

text by cary estes • photo by art meripol

Top News Links: Tuesday, Feb. 24


Six Alabama businesses tabbed for prestigious national Chamber award

American Weatherstar LLC of Mobile, Back Forty Beer Company of Gadsden, Diamond Studios of Birmingham, GaN Corporation of Huntsville, Home Instead Senior Care of Birmingham and LEAN Frog Business Solutions Inc. of Huntsville have all been named 2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business Award Winners by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Regional winners will be announced March 18 and the overall winner in June. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce PR

Sanders Trust launches construction on Ohio hospital

The Sanders Trust, based in Birmingham, has announced the start of construction of Reliant Norwood Rehabilitation Hospital near Cincinnati, a 40-bed, $17 million rehab hospital to be leased to Dallas-based Reliant Hospital Partners. Robins & Morton, also based in Birmingham will be general contractor for the project. — Sanders Trust PR

Birmingham still struggling to pay for Regions Field

Two years after Birmingham’s Regions Field opened, the city is working to devise a plan to pay off the $4 million it still owes in construction costs. — AL.com

Alabama tribes $2 million in federal housing funds

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians and the MOWA Choctaws were each awarded funds to provide affordable housing from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Poarch group received $1.5 million and the MOWA group $519 thousand. — AL.com

Insurance firm announced major gifts to schools, gardens

Birmingham’s Protective Life and its new parent Dai-Ichi Life of Japan announced gifts totaling $4.1 million yesterday. Beneficiaries include the Culverhouse College of Commerce at the University of Alabama, receiving $2 million for an endowed chair in actuarial sciences and an Insurance Hall of Fame; University of Alabama at Birmingham receiving $2 for its Drug Discovery Alliance in partnership with Southern Research, and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens receiving $100, 000 for a Japanese Garden. The insurance firm plans additional grants over the new five years. — Tuscaloosa News

Stifel confirms plan to buy Sterne Agee

St. Louis-based Stifel Financial Corp. confirmed its plans to purchase Birmingham-based Sterne Agee for $150. – AP/Montgomery Advertiser

Wiregrass residents turn out to protect Fort Rucker — from budget cuts

More than 1, 600 people turned out to make sure the federal government knows the ill effects that sequestration — planned holdbacks of funding — could deal to the Wiregrass economy, in a community gathering sponsored by Friends of Fort Rucker. — Dothan Eagle

compiled by business alabama staff

Keeping Seniors Home and Healthy

The Alabama Department of Senior Services coordinates a variety of programs for senior citizens and people with disabilities that reach thousands of individuals across the state. For example, during the first 10 months of 2014, the state agency oversaw the serving of more than 1.5 million meals in more than 350 senior centers around the state. Nearly 2.6 million meals were delivered to seniors at home. Almost 20, 000 seniors received help through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program. 

In addition, programs are offered providing caregiver support, legal assistance and work skills training. Prescription drugs are provided for free to qualified individuals. And more than 9, 200 individuals are benefiting from waiver programs that help them maintain their independence instead of moving into long-term care.

Help for Staying at Home

In the 1980s, Congress authorized the waiver of certain federal requirements that would enable states to provide home and community-based services for individuals who would otherwise require services in an institutional setting. Over the years, several state agencies in Alabama administered waiver programs. In 2012, during Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration, the majority of these programs were consolidated under the Alabama Department of Senior Services. 

Commissioner Neal Morrison says that the department’s infrastructure — which includes 13 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) across the state — made it the logical choice for managing the waiver programs, thereby reducing administrative costs. “In doing so, we saved approximately $4 million in taxpayer dollars, ” Morrison says. “It’s one of those unique situations that everybody agreed that it needed to happen.”

The Elderly and Disabled Waiver Program is one of those being administered by Senior Services. “The intent of this program is to allow the individual to stay in their home as long as possible, ” Morrison says.

“We took a huge program that was underneath multiple departments and put it under one, ” Morrison says. As a result, the department is able to provide more services at more reasonable costs. “We set the rates that we provide the direct service providers, ” Morrison says. Before the waiver programs were consolidated, any of the agencies administering them would set the rates, he adds.

Individuals apply for waivers through the local AAAs. Once approved, the funds are distributed to a direct service provider who then delivers the services to the individual. These direct service providers range from large companies to small mom-and-pop operations, and all have to meet certain requirements from Medicaid. Once the provider assessment is completed, clients have a choice about which providers they want to use. Services include case management, personal care services, skilled and unskilled respite care, companion services and meals — but do not include 24-hour-a-day care. 

“We have a lot of checks and balances that we’ve created at the Department of Senior Services to make sure quality is there, ” Morrison says. 

Oxford Healthcare is one of the direct service providers working with waiver programs statewide. “Some patients may get services every day for three or four hours a day. Some may get services three or four times a week. It’s just according to their needs, ” says Deb Chambers, Oxford Healthcare’s state director. Case managers will evaluate the client and discuss the care needs with the physician. “They’ll do their plan of care, and that’s the services we provide.”

These services will go on indefinitely until a status or health change occurs. 

“Our main focus is keeping them at home, ” Chambers says. 

Help with Prescription Drug Costs

The Department of Senior Services also offers other programs to help reduce costs for seniors and keep care more affordable. For example, during FY 2014, which ended September 30, seniors were able to save $30, 635, 897 on prescription drug costs through the Alabama SenioRx Program. In fact, the SenioRx program has saved $348, 549, 307 in prescription drug costs and served 82, 490 clients since its creation by the Alabama Legislature in 2002.  

Former State Sen. Roger Bedford of Russellville, who was author of the original Senate bill, points to a pilot program in Northwest Alabama as one of the early efforts in the creation of the program. 

In the late 1990s, Bedford partnered with the Northwest Council of Local Governments to create a pilot program called The Elderly Medication Program, or TEMP, which served Lauderdale, Colbert, Franklin, Marion and Winston counties. As a result, seniors who met age and income criteria and had no prescription drug coverage could qualify to receive free prescriptions donated by drug companies. “That program was working in rural Northwest Alabama, ” Bedford says.

Bedford was chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee at the time, and he approached Rep. John Knight (D-Montgomery), who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. “I showed John how it was working in rural areas, ” Bedford says. “We expanded into urban areas to see if it worked. It did.” They then worked to create the legislation for a statewide rollout.

The current guidelines state that seniors must be 55 years or older, have a chronic medical condition that requires daily medication, have an income less than twice the poverty level, and have no or inadequate prescription drug coverage. Medicare Part D works in conjunction with the program. “Just because you qualified for Medicare Part D did not disqualify you from SenioRx, ” Bedford says. 

“SenioRx obviously does not solve all the healthcare needs, but Alabama has become a leader in the nation, ” Bedford says, noting that other states are copying the program. “I think this is another good example of using common sense while thinking outside the box. We can come up with real solutions that make a difference in people’s lives. It’s working.” 

This program also is conducted through the 13 Area Agencies on Aging located across the state and serving all counties. Seniors apply through the local agencies, and a coordinator there contacts their physicians. Physicians send the prescription to the coordinator, who then writes to a pharmaceutical company that dispenses that type of medicine and makes the request for the drug. The company will often provide the drug at no cost or low cost and send it to either the client’s home or to the physician’s office. 

Michael Malandro, who works in the Alabama Department of Senior Service Programs Division, points to a number of success stories since the program’s inception. In one case, a client with cancer was on disability but with an employed spouse had a household income of $50, 000. The cancer medication was so expensive that his health needs were consuming their resources. “The gentleman’s cancer drug was costing him $9, 000 a month, ” Malandro says. “We were able to get it for him at no cost.” 

As another example, Malandro says, “One guy was charging $2, 000 a month on his credit card.” But once the client was successfully enrolled in the SenioRx program, he can now receive anti-rejection drugs for a liver transplant at no cost. 

Information on either of these programs for seniors, as well as people with disabilities, is available online at alabamaageline.gov or by phone at 1-800-AGELINE.

Minnie Lamberth and Art Meripol are freelancers for Business Alabama. Lamberth is based in Montgomery and Meripol in Birmingham. 

text by Minnie Lamberth • photos by art meripol

Top News Links: Monday, Feb. 23


AEA moves toward dismissing Mabry

The Alabama Education Association, which represents about 95, 000 Alabama teachers, took steps this weekend toward letting executive secretary Henry Mabry go. Mabry took over leadership of the organization from long-time leader Paul Hubbert. — AP/Tuscaloosa News

Walmart wage increase boosts hopes for other low-pay workers

Walmart’s announcement Thursday that it will boost wages to at least $9 an hour for all its workers is raising hopes that other low-pay jobs may see an increase. — AP/Tuscaloosa News

No vote planned on tax increases

Gov. Robert Bentley says his $700 million tax plan does not need voter approval. He plans to outline the plan in his State of the State address March 3. — Montgomery Advertiser

Gambling in Alabama

Political intrigue is as much a part of Alabama’s gambling story as the questions about electronic bingo machines. — Montgomery Advertiser

Appalachia still lags, commission reports

Fifty years after the advent of the Appalachian Regional Commission, the region it serves — including Alabama — still trails other parts of the nation in education, health and economic standards, the commission reports. — AP/AL.com

Stifel considering Sterne Agee purchase

Reuters reports that St. Louis-based Stifel Financial Corp. is in talks to purchase Birmingham-based Sterne Agee, but neither firm confirmed the news. — Reuters

State Republicans chastise Bentley over proposed tax increase

Gov. Bentley's own party members passed a resolution this weekend criticizing the governor's call for a $700 million tax increase, which website Yellowhammer calls “a rare public rebuke of a party's own sitting governor.”  — Yellowhammer News

compiled by business alabama staff

Movers & Shapers, February 2015

Mark Crosswhite 

Crosswhite is chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Co. Before being appointed, he served as executive vice president and COO for Southern Company, Alabama Power’s parent company, where he also was responsible for Southern Power. He started his career at Southern Company in 2004 as senior vice president and general counsel for Southern Company Generation. Prior to that he was a partner in the law firm of Balch & Bingham LLP, where he practiced in the energy section for 17 years before joining Alabama Power in 2006 as senior vice president and counsel. He is chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama and is the 2015 chairman of the Birmingham Business Alliance. A Leadership Alabama graduate, he serves on several corporate, civic and nonprofit boards, including Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. and the Virginia Samford Theatre. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Alabama School of Law. 

Ann D. Florie 

Florie is executive director of Leadership Birmingham, a program that brings civic and business leaders together annually to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the Birmingham area. She was previously the founding executive director of Region 2020 Inc., that led efforts to promote regional cooperation and citizen involvement in the areas of affordable housing, education, arts and culture, transportation and land use in a 12-county area in central Alabama. She is on the board of trustees for Brookwood Medical Center and serves on the Jefferson County Personnel Board and the Birmingham Water Works Board. She is on the executive committee of the BBA and is on the board of PARCA, Leadership Alabama, the Freshwater Land Trust, the Addiction Coalition and UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. She served on the Mountain Brook Board of Education for 10 years and is a past president of the Junior League of Birmingham. She was a founding board member of the Children First Foundation, First Look Inc., Leading Edge Institute and the Women’s Fund and many others. She has received many awards for her community service. She is a graduate of the Newcomb College of Tulane University. 

George T. French Jr. 

French is president of Miles College. He recently completed a $30 million “Miles Ahead” campaign, with gifts and pledges exceeding $42.4 million, as well as the acquisition of the former Lloyd Noland campus, which more than doubled the land size of the college. French has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville and attended the University of Richmond Law School before being recruited to Miles as director of development. He earned his law degree from Miles School of Law. He is working toward his Ph.D. at Jackson State University. He has been a pastor with CME churches around the country. French participated in the 2013 class of The Harvard Seminar for Experienced Presidents.  

L. Keith Granger


L. Keith Granger

Granger serves as president and CEO of Trinity Medical Center. He came to Trinity in 2009 after serving as CEO of Flowers Hospital in Dothan. Granger has led Trinity to achieve top quality scores. He has served as chairman of the Alabama Hospital Association’s Board of Trustees and received its highest honor for hospital leadership. He has chaired the Association’s Quality Task Force since its inception in 2004. He serves on the board of governors for the Federation of American Hospitals and is a former delegate to the American Hospital Association’s Regional Policy Board, along with many other state and national boards and agencies. He is a graduate of UAB and will oversee Trinity’s relocation to a new hospital currently under construction. 

Jay Grinney 

Grinney was named president and CEO of HealthSouth Corp. in May 2004, after 14 years in senior management with Hospital Corporation of America Inc. and its predecessor companies. Earlier, he worked in executive roles at the Methodist Hospital System in Houston. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College, Grinney earned both a master’s in business administration and a master’s in health care administration from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Brian Hilson 

Hilson is president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance and is responsible for all areas of the BBA, including economic development, public policy, communications and other programs designed to grow and diversify the Birmingham regional economy and enhance the quality of life for its citizens. He has been involved in economic development in Alabama since 1980. Prior to his joining the BBA in 2011, he was president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County and has held several leadership positions in other chambers as well as the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board. Over the years he has worked with a wide variety of national and international companies’ economic development projects, such as Lockheed Martin, Toyota, LG Electronics, Sterilite Corp., UPS, Delta Air Lines and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. He is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of Oklahoma’s Economic Development Institute. He is active in state and national economic development organizations and has received awards for that work. He also serves on other state and local organizations. 

Gen. Charles C. Krulak

Gen. Charles C. Krulak


Krulak, retired commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is president of Birmingham-Southern College, though he has announced plans to retire this year. He has had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Marine Corps, being appointed the 31st commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps in 1995, a post he held until his retirement in 1999. As the senior leader of the Marine Corps, he was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with overall responsibility for recruiting, training, operational readiness and welfare of more than 220, 000 active and reserve forces and 20, 000 civilian employees. Following his retirement, he worked in international banking. He is a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy and holds a master’s degree from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. 

T. Devon Laney

Laney is president and CEO of Innovation Depot Inc., the high-tech/biotech business incubator located in downtown Birmingham that was honored as the 2011 Technology Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association. Prior to joining Innovation Depot in 2005, he worked on a broad range of marketing, IT and strategic organizational projects with various Fortune 500 companies as an analyst with Accenture LLP in Atlanta. He serves on the executive committee of the Birmingham Venture Club and the executive committees of TechBirmingham and BioAlabama. He also serves on the local advisory board of BBVA Compass Bank and the Alys Stephens Young Patrons Board. He is a member of Leadership UAB and Leadership Birmingham, along with the Rotary Club of Birmingham. 

Don Logan 

Logan and his two sons, Jeff and Stan, own the Birmingham Barons LLC baseball team. They purchased the franchise from the Elmore Sports Group Ltd. in 2005. The Barons now play in a new baseball complex, Regions Field, in downtown Birmingham. Logan had a 22-year career with Southern Progress Corp., moving to New York in 1992 where he became CEO of Time Inc. In 2006, he stepped down from day-to-day responsibilities as the chairman of Time Warner’s Media and Communications Group. He continues to serve as chairman of the board for Time Warner Cable. Since his return to Birmingham, he has joined the boards of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Auburn University Foundation and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. 

Fred McCallum

Fred McCallum


McCallum is president of AT&T Alabama, a position he has held since 2008. Prior to joining AT&T (then South Central Bell) in 1987, he began his career with the Birmingham law firm of Lange, Simpson, Robinson and Somerville. At AT&T, he has served in various leadership positions, both in Birmingham and Atlanta, including general counsel and vice president. He received the 2014 A.G. Gaston Award by the A.G. Gaston Conference for community service, and was awarded the Significant Sig Award in 2014 from Sigma Chi fraternity, which recognizes alumni members whose achievements have brought honor and prestige to the fraternity. He is chairman of the Business Council of Alabama, the Birmingham Business Alliance, the Birmingham Education Foundation and United Way of Central Alabama. McCallum is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of Alabama School of Law. 

Craft O’Neal 

O’Neal is chairman and CEO of O’Neal Industries. Based in Birmingham, O’Neal Industries is the parent company of the USA’s largest family-owned group of metals service centers including O’Neal Steel, also headquartered in Birmingham. He is the grandson of O’Neal Steel founder Kirkman O’Neal and was born and raised in the steel business. He is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College. In 1984, he began his career at O’Neal Steel as a member of the Birmingham district’s inside sales department and worked in several O’Neal departments in locations from Atlanta to Houston. In 2003, he became senior vice president of sales, purchasing and product development. In December 2004, O’Neal succeeded his father Emmet O’Neal as chairman of O’Neal Steel, and now O’Neal Industries. He serves on the board of directors of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital, Emmet O’Neal Library Foundation and is a member of the Birmingham Business Alliance executive committee.

Yolanda Sullivan 

Sullivan was appointed CEO of YMCA Central Alabama in December 2014. A former YMCA board president, she had served as interim CEO since January 2014. Sullivan had a 30-year career with Vulcan Materials before taking the interim position. Sullivan, who worked in the areas of finance and corporate human resources at Vulcan, has been a volunteer with the YWCA for 20 years. She served as board president during a successful $15 million capital campaign. She also was treasurer, vice president of finance and president of the Junior Board. She also serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and is a member of the Women’s Network and Zonta International. She also has served on the boards of the United Way, Birmingham Museum of Art, St. Vincent’s Health System and the Bell Center. She is a graduate of Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, Momentum and Project Corporate Leadership. 

Betsy Postlethwait


Betsy Postlethwait

Postlethwait is president of Princeton Baptist Medical Center. She joined Baptist Health System as chief operating officer of Princeton BMC in 2004. During her 25-year health care career she has held numerous senior leadership positions, serving in the roles of chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief executive officer. Prior to joining BHS,  Postlethwait served as chief operating officer/chief financial officer of Christus St. John Hospital in Nassau Bay, Texas. Postlethwait earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina and completed a master’s level executive development program with American Medical International Hospital Corp.

Arthur J. Tipton

Tipton is president and CEO of Southern Research Institute. He has worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry for 25 years, participating in the growth of three start-up companies. The company he founded in 2005, Brookwood Pharmaceuticals, was acquired by SurModics in 2007 and then by Evonik in November 2011. At Evonik, he served as senior vice president for the Birmingham division and also led the company’s global drug delivery program. He also worked in several positions at Durect Corporation, as well as Atrix Laboratories (now part of QLT Inc.) He serves on multiple boards including the Birmingham Venture Club, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation, the Biotech Association of Alabama and the Southeastern Medical Device Association. In 2013, he was inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Spring Hill College and a Ph.D. in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. 

Andrew Westmoreland 

Westmoreland is president of Samford University. During his tenure, Samford raised $200 million by 2014 advancing the mission of Christ-centered higher education among the nation’s most respected universities. Prior to his selection as president, he served eight years as president of Ouachita Baptist University, and prior to that, on the school’s administrative staff for more than 19 years in various positions, including vice president for development and executive vice president. He is a graduate of Ouachita, with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and an Ed.D. in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. 

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