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  • January 2020

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    COMMUNITY + COMMERCE NEWS

    Faulkner University Creates Center for Great Books and Human Flourishing
    Faulkner University has opened a Center for Great Books and Human Flourishing.  “Participation in our Great Books Honors Program is a high point of many students’ Faulkner experience,” said President Mike Williams. “This new center will create even more opportunities for all Faulkner students and members of the broader community to take part in this tradition.”
     
    The center will focus on student programming and public events meant to advance understanding of the good life and the good society. “We see a growing need across Alabama and the rest of the country for a renewed appreciation of traditional virtue, civil discourse, good citizenship and the institutions of civil society that have always been so important in shaping American character,” Williams said. “The Center for Great Books and Human Flourishing is part of Faulkner’s effort to spread that message in the River Region and beyond.”
     
    ASU Band Performs at NFL Halftime Show
    Alabama State University’s Mighty Marching Hornets went “pro” on October 20, when the band performed at halftime during the Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams football game at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “The invitation for our marching band to perform is an important tribute to Alabama State University’s excellent band program and to its superb student musicians,” said Dr. James Oliver, Band Director.
     
    Oliver, who has led the band to win countless awards and appear in numerous national television shows and movies and at iconic national events, said that having the band perform during an NFL game is yet another giant step forward for the University band and its students.
     
    HMMA Workers Give $335K to United Way
    Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s employees and plant leadership donated more than $335,000 to United Way of Alabama in mid-November. The plant’s nearly 3,000 workers pledged $265,600, and the company added another $70,000 to aid the United Way’s work in the state.
     
    River Bank & Trust Completes Merger with Trinity Bank 
    River Financial Corporation, parent company of River Bank & Trust, has completed the merger with Trinity Bancorp, Inc., parent company of Trinity Bank. Trinity Bank offices in Dothan and Enterprise will now operate as River Bank & Trust.
     
    There are now 17 River Bank & Trust locations across Alabama. “We are very excited to have completed the merger with Trinity Bank, a committed partner who shares the same vision of what community banking should be,” said Jimmy Stubbs, Chief Executive Officer of River Bank & Trust.
     
    Local Tech Start-Up Announces New Partnerships 
    CodingSolutions has entered into partnerships with two Montgomery technology companies: Propelled Technologies, a veteran-owned cloud compliance and cybersecurity  solutions firm, and Integrated Computer Systems (ICS, Inc), a technology integrator focused on delivering IT solutions.
     
    CodingSolutions is a job accelerator and talent refinery program that recruits and transitions computer science graduates (along with other majors) with programming experience into professional careers with Alabama companies and organizations. The CodingSolutions partnership brings together an innovative recruitment strategy.

     “Our partnerships with established companies, and the relationships we’re building are paramount for growing Alabama’s workforce,” said Jasmine Dickerson, CodingSolutions Community Director.
     
    More MGM Public Art
    The City of Montgomery recently unveiled its latest public art project: two creative bus wraps designed by River Region-based artists to commemorate the City’s history and celebrate its bicentennial. Originally presented to the City’s Public Art Commission by 21 Dreams founder Kalonji Gilchrist as a way to celebrate the bicentennials of both the City of Montgomery and State of Alabama, the artistic wraps were designed by artists Bill Ford and Chris Hardy. Along with the City’s support, this project was made possible through the generous funding of a grant from AL 200.
     
    Ford’s design, titled “A River Runs To It,” commemorates the past 200 years of Montgomery’s history. Hardy’s design, “All Together Now!,” uses the expressive nature of graffiti to communicate the vibrant future of Montgomery and Alabama.

    The bicentennial bus wrap project marks the latest in a line of art installations by the Montgomery Public Art Commission and City and County leaders.
     
    Ag Credit Boosts Alabama-Grown Initiative
    Sweet Grown Alabama, the state’s new agricultural branding initiative, welcomed Alabama Ag Credit as a founding member of the program. Sweet Grown Alabama is a non-profit foundation that enhances marketing opportunities for Alabama farmers by connecting retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products. Funds will be used to encourage purchasing of locally grown products through traditional and digital marketing. Member farmers, restaurants and stores will be listed in an online searchable database coming spring 2020.
     
    Alabama Ag Credit operates in 40 counties in central and south Alabama as a borrower-stockholder financial cooperative that finances the growth of rural Alabama, including the special needs of young and beginning producers. “Our board and team of employees are thrilled to be a part of this new initiative,” said Doug Thiessen, CEO of Alabama Ag Credit.

    City of Montgomery Sees Big Energy Savings
    Even with last fall’s record high temperatures, the City of Montgomery saw record low utility usage and record savings. Thanks to this success, the City received the Energy Pacesetter Award from Cenergistic, an energy optimization company partnering with the City to reduce consumption. Montgomery is the first City to receive this award and was the first City to implement such a program, which dates back to March 2016. With approximately 100 participating City facilities, Cenergistic’s program has resulted in more than $2.5 million saved over three years. Seven facilities are realizing a reduction of 35 percent or more.
     
    Palomar Insurance Corporation Celebrates 65 Years 
    Palomar Insurance Corporation recently celebrated 65 years of service to its customers. Founded in 1954, Palomar has grown from its home and auto insurance roots to become a leader in commercial, agriculture, transportation and employee benefits insurance.

    Baumhower’s Victory Grille Opens in EastChase
    Baumhower’s Victory Grille, the sports-themed restaurant concept known for its commitment to scratch-made cooking and unrivaled gameday experiences, is adding another location to its roster. The chain will unveil a brand-new prototype and its eleventh location in the state in the spring of 2020 at The Shoppes at EastChase.
     
    “It’s an exciting time for us and Montgomery has been so wonderful to us throughout the years. I’m happy to be able to bring this fresh new look and feel to our restaurants for the people in this community,” said founder Bob Baumhower. “It’s not your typical ‘sports bar.’ I think folks are really going to be surprised.”
     
    Wharf Casual Seafood Announces Expansion
    Wharf Hospitality Group, Inc. is doubling the size of its company footprint over the next three to five years, opening five additional company restaurants in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. In addition to company store growth plans, Wharf Hospitality Group, Inc. will immediately begin offering franchise territories throughout the Southeast. 
     
    New Restaurant and Event Space Coming Downtown
    Vintage Hospitality revealed plans for its restoration of 36 and 46 Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery, called City Fed, with a groundbreaking on November 6.  Partnering with renowned architect Tom Blount, the company hired Pfeffer Torode Architecture, R.F. Pruett Construction and Laura Dockery Design to restore the historic structure to its original grandeur, with ornate plaster crown moulding, tall ceilings, and marble floors.
     
    The space is set to open late this year and will house an Italian restaurant, Ravello, plus event space, including two mezzanines, one that overlooks the restaurant, and a courtyard, cellar and ballroom.
     
    “Ravello will feature simple, thoughtful dishes inspired by Italy’s Amalfi Coast,” said Vintage Hospitality Group Executive Chef Eric Rivera. “With an old-world, ingredient-driven approach, Ravello’s authentic Italian dishes will highlight local Southern ingredients.”
     
    TROY Receives $2.7 Million Grant 
    The National Institute of Standards and Technology has awarded Troy University a $2.7 million research grant to be used by the University’s Center for Materials and Manufacturing Sciences to research new methods for recycling plastics. The four-year grant will fund instrumentation, staffing of scientists and research stipends for students.
     
    This grant, which follows a $3.2 million NIST grant in 2018, will fund research into recycling of waste polymers into new hybrid materials; using hemp fiber to reinforce plastics; and the characterization and testing of recycled polyethylene.
     
    TROY Gets Childcare Grant
    For many of Troy University’s working adult students, a significant obstacle to completing their degree is the cost of childcare, but a new grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help ease that burden for some. Troy University has received $246,526 from the Department of Education to form a Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) Program. The program will provide subsidized childcare for student-parents enrolled at all of TROY’s campuses in Alabama (Troy, Dothan, Montgomery and Phenix City). 
     
    CDC Recognizes The Wellness Coalition Diabetes Programs
    The Wellness Coalition has been recognized by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its diabetes prevention and self-management programs. CDC provides recognition for organizations that deliver evidence-based type 2 diabetes prevention programs in communities across the United States. Such programs have agreed to use a CDC-approved curriculum that meets the duration, intensity and reporting requirements described in the CDC Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program Standards and Operating Procedures (DPRP Standards). Full recognition, which was awarded to The Wellness Coalition, means that a program has demonstrated effectiveness by achieving all the performance criteria detailed in the DPRP Standards.
     
    ASU Hosts Town Hall Meeting & U.S. Congressional News Conference 
    On November 1, Alabama State University hosted a U.S. Congressional news conference and a stop on the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Town Hall National Listening Tour. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) was the official host of the event that featured CBC’s Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37) in attendance along with U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (TX-18) and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA-02). 
     
    The meeting highlighted the importance of HBCUs and engaged ASU students, faculty, staff, administrators and the public on a variety of national topics, including student loan debt, inadequate funding for HBCUs, career readiness, workforce development, criminal justice reform, Title IX funding, voter suppression on college campuses and ways to strengthen HBCUs' endowments, facilities and academic offerings.
     
    Faulkner Hosts EagleHack 
    Faulkner University’s Computer Science Department recently hosted a hackathon, calling it EagleHack. EagleHack was done in conjunction with a group called Major League Hacking (MLH). As Faulkner was hosting its EagleHack on October 12, over 150 MLH events were happening on the same day and were designed to be a learning-focused developer conference. Faulkner’s hackathon focused on learning about Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Github.
     
    Students from Faulkner University and Alabama State University participated in the event.
     
    MGM Director Joins Leadership of Aviation Council of Alabama
    Members of the Aviation Council of Alabama (ACA) have elected Montgomery Regional Airport’s (MGM) Executive Director Marshall J. Taggart Jr., C.M. to serve on the prestigious Council’s Board of Directors.

    The ACA held elections during its annual Alabama Airport Conference and Membership Meeting in Birmingham in on October. Taggart brings nearly two decades of industry experience to this new role. He will serve on the ACA’s legislative and membership/public relations/marketing committees.
     
    Nikki Haley Speaks to Sold Out Crowd
    Women and history were recognized at the Faulkner University Annual Benefit Dinner held in early October and featuring keynote speaker, Nikki R. Haley, the former United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
     
     For the first time in many years, the guest speaker for one of the River Region’s largest social events of the year was a female; the evening’s events provided a subtle, yet moving recognition of women, in particular women’s suffrage. Last year marked the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.  
     
    Haley provided a word of encouragement to all the young women in the audience who aspire to be leaders. “Push through the fear,” Haley said. “The truth is if you push through the fear, and you just do it, you will find out that you are so strong on the other side.”
     
    Faulkner also lauded several alumnae, as part of the night’s program. There were nearly 2,000 guests in attendance, and proceeds from the dinner go toward funding student scholarships.
     
    Rheem Elevates Its Partnership With Christopher Bell 
    Rheem will continue its longstanding commitment to NASCAR and its relationship with driver Christopher Bell in 2020. The company will sponsor Bell as he joins Joe Gibbs Racing alliance partner, Leavine Family Racing (LFR) for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season as the driver of the No. 95 Toyota Camry.
     
    Bell is currently competing in his second full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series season for Joe Gibbs Racing, where he’s amassed 15 career-series victories and in 2018, set the record for most wins (seven) by a rookie in the series. He is the winningest driver in Rheem Racing’s 11-year history.
     
    “Christopher is exceptionally talented, and we are thrilled that Rheem will continue to support him as he moves up to the next level in his already impressive career,” said Chris Peel, President and CEO, Rheem. “The Rheem Racing program has been a hallmark of our business for more than a decade.”
     
    The Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law was busy last year, welcoming three new Sir Edward Coke Fellows, young law students who will work with the Center during their three years of law school. The Center also hosted reading groups for both faculty and students throughout the year and hosted its second seminar for state jurists. Dr. Hadley Arkes of the James Wilson Institute, a professor emeritus at Amherst College, directed the seminar. The subject of the seminar was the natural law tradition in the United States of America. 
     
    The Center also recently cohosted, with the Hugh Maddox Inn of Court, a celebration of civil rights icon Fred Gray, the lawyer for Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
     
    Conner Industries Expands 
    Conner Industries, Inc., a leading provider of lumber, industrial wood crates and pallets and packaging solutions, opened a new manufacturing facility in Montgomery in November. Conner expects to employ more than 100 people at the Montgomery plant within the next year.
     
    Baron and Dave Show Has New Home
    The Baron and Dave radio show has moved up the dial to 95.5 WRBZ. Hosts Baron Coleman and David Mowery are heard each weekday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and the podcast is available at wrbzradio.com and Itunes.
     
    New CBD Store Open in Montgomery
    Your CBD Stores are the largest CBD retailer in the country, now with more than 500 locations. The Montgomery store opened last fall and offers natural and organic hemp-derived CBD products.
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