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  • Chamber News: The Latest Buzz and Member FAQ

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    EXPANDED COLLABORATION WITH AIR FORCE
    In May, TechMGM, the Chamber’s initiative to connect and leverage Montgomery’s unique technology assets, announced a partnership with the Air Force Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate Program Executive Office to host a new Air Force software development project that will offer private sector collaboration called BESPIN. Signifying a shift in the way the Air Force approaches software development and acquisition, BESPIN, an acronym for Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation, pairs in-house developers with private sector developers and uses an agile development methodology in a collaborative and innovative environment to turn projects into new solutions to support the Department of Defense.
     
    The Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate based at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base was charged by the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition to stand-up an agile software factory focusing on Business and Enterprise Systems (BES) applications.
     
    The Chamber partnered with BES to provide an initial off-base space at their facility, where work is already underway to create mobile applications for BES, with the first focus being logistics systems used on the flight line, including those at Maxwell Air Force Base and the Alabama Air National Guard.
     
    Through BESPIN, previously slow and costly products can now be met with flexible solutions that allow developers to adapt on the fly – and deliver real results more quickly. By training and encouraging in-house talent to develop software using agile practices, the Air Force is starting to attract top IT talent.
     
    In April of 2019, BES awarded a contract to Fearless, the company responsible for redesigning the SBA.gov site, modernizing Medicare beneficiary API products for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and building software for other federal, nonprofit, city and healthcare clients. It is also a founding member of the national Digital Services Coalition, and its leaders are passionate about assisting the government in making its technology work better for all residents.
     
    “We’re essentially replicating a structure that has proven successful in the commercial sector and applying it to the Air Force and building upon the foundation set by our peers at Kessel Run. What previously worked just isn’t cutting it anymore – we’ve got to be faster and more efficient,” said Richard Aldridge, Program Executive Officer Business and Enterprise Systems. “Launching BESPIN has reimagined our view on software acquisition and the way we solve problems. We’re confident that the brightest minds in the creation of business software and mobile solutions will be attracted to serving our country by solving some of the most pressing issues that the Air Force faces today.”
     
    Not only will BESPIN have significant implications for the Air Force, the connection with TechMGM and Fearless will strengthen the community in several ways. Technology and innovation are important to the Chamber’s economic development strategy, and initiatives like BESPIN that partner with TechMGM and other key area resources within the Montgomery’s unique tech ecosystem, support, strengthen and grow the city’s infrastructure to eventually lead to lasting change in the region.
     
    “Montgomery prioritizes military missions, so we are honored to host this project for the Air Force to advance their efforts in creating solutions for our nation,” said Willie Durham, Chairman of the Chamber. “The Chamber supports any type of partnership that advances the military because it is not only good for our country, but also for our community. Initiatives like BESPIN allow our region to attract and retain talent, spark new businesses and create a cycle of economic development that will have lasting effects.”
     
    THE LATEST TECH NEWS
    MGM EARNS ANOTHER TECH AWARD
    Montgomery continues to rack up accolades, including yet another recent technology honor: winning the Smart Cities Readiness Challenge competition hosted by the Smart Cities Council. Thanks to the collective efforts of the City, County, Montgomery Public Schools, the Chamber, Alabama Power Company and members of the defense community at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and the 187th Alabama Air National Guard, Montgomery came out on top of more than 100 major cities, as large and geographically diverse as Dallas, Texas and Jersey City, New Jersey.
     
    “This is another special moment – a watershed day – for our community, signifying our success in capitalizing on the opportunities for growth and economic development that come through the advancement of technology across our city,” Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said. “But what’s even more important is our resolve to adopt practical high-tech solutions that better serve residents, add to our quality of life and expand access to the tools and technology needed for future success. We are grateful to our partners who raised their hands to join us in this venture.”
     
    Montgomery’s application provided an overview of up-and-running projects, like the Smart City Living Lab, Star Watch, Rubicon and Open Data Montgomery, as well as future plans to use technology to impact residents – including providing free Wi-Fi access to all Montgomery students by upgrading infrastructure at local community centers.
     
    “This award underscores recent technology and data-driven initiatives advancing Montgomery as a major player in the Smart City movement,” City IT Manager and Smart City Committee Coordinator Savio Dias said. “It also builds on our current momentum in the Smart City space, carrying it forward into the future through strategic planning.”
     
    Montgomery impressed the Council by demonstrating a concise vision for incorporating innovative data-driven approaches in multiple projects, as well as shoring up efforts to enhance communication and collaboration with its team of regional stakeholders and community partners. Along with four other winners including Baltimore, Maryland; Edmonton, Canada; Racine, Wisconsin and Cleantech San Diego, Montgomery’s submission will bring new resources to help further Montgomery’s high-tech ambitions.
     
    Montgomery will host a Smart Cities Readiness Workshop, which will bring like-minded municipal leaders and private sector innovators to the capital city to share ideas and solutions in building the future of cities. The City will also gain free access to the Project Activator Tool, an online platform that lowers risks associated with new technology investments by offering guidelines, reviews and best practices on similar projects. Intangible benefits include higher visibility and credibility as a leader among smart cities. Officials see this as essential to attracting potential job creators and expanding our high-tech workforce. 
     
    “Montgomery is maximizing and refining the region’s existing infrastructure and physical and intellectual resources to establish innovation strategies that continue to drive demand for the city as a long-
    term sustainable location for investment,” Executive Director of TechMGM Charisse Stokes said. “Receiving this honor reinforces our strategy to make Montgomery a smarter place to live and work.”
     
    MGMWERX PITCH NIGHT GETS $1.5M COMMITMENT
    Maj. Alexander Criss, a student at the U.S. Air Force’s Air University School of Advanced Air and Space Studies earned first place in academic research for 2019 during the inaugural Top Flight Pitch Night hosted by MGMWERX on May 21.
     
    In addition to the distinction, Criss’ pitch for “Tired of Flying: The Unmitigated Risk of Aircrew Fatigue,” caught the attention of one judge, David Shahady, the Director of the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Program, who in a stunning move, teamed with Air University President and judge, Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, to commit funds for a future SBIR Phase II topic to address Criss’ idea.
     
    Shahady offered a $1.5 million commitment for a direct to Phase II SBIR topic expected in the next Department of Defense broad agency announcement for SBIR/STTR. The topic allows an industry partner the opportunity to develop a solution for the challenges identified in Criss’ student research.
     
    Criss’ work focused on how the Mobility Air Forces are unwittingly accepting and executing routine and low-priority missions with high levels of unidentified fatigue risks because of an inadequate and outdated risk management system. Through his proposed solution, BETTY – Better Effectiveness Through Tracking Yourself, U.S. Air Force air crews would be armed with a monitoring device serviced by the right tools to identify and combat fatigue. Their leaders, in turn, would have the tools necessary to make accurate and informed real-time risk-based decisions.
     
    The judges’ panel of four military and industry experts including Cotton, Shahady, Paavo Hanninen from Alabama Small Business Development Center Network at the University of Alabama, and Likia Hawkins, the President and Chief Executive Officer Steel Point Solutions, LLC, concurred on the winner and were encouraged by the broader commercial application for this idea.
     
    MGMWERX was created under a Partnership Intermediary Agreement to align with
    the education initiatives of Air University. MGMWERX augments ongoing Air University programs, through events like Pitch Night, to enhance production of high-quality, innovative research and ideas that span issues of importance to the Air Force.
     
    MITS SHOWCASES MGM’S MIGHTY IT SECTOR
    Nearly 1,000 IT professionals gathered in Montgomery for the 26th annual Montgomery Information Technology Summit (MITS) on May 21 and 22. These program managers, engineers, software developers, business development professionals, senior executives and field users from internationally known companies like Dell, Amazon and AT&T, as well as local vendors, represent a significant sector of Montgomery’s economy. A growing sector, as a recent Milken Institute report demonstrates, naming the city No. 1 in the nation for hi-tech DGP growth from 2016-17. 
     
    At the conference, Maxwell-Gunter’s Business and Enterprise Systems Program Executive Officer Richard Aldridge announced the launch of BESPIN, a new agile software development program that will allow the Air Force to rapidly develop software solutions through partnering with private sector companies, offering unprecedented opportunities for companies to do business with the Air Force, right outside of the gates of the base in Montgomery. Aldridge also announced the first contract related to this effort with the Baltimore-based firm Fearless.
     
    “What really intrigued us was the focus on the community in Montgomery. The socioeconomic, social justice and tech ecosystem needs closely parallel what we encounter in Baltimore,” Fearless’ founder Delali Dzirasa said in a statement.
     
    MITS is organized by the Montgomery Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), which is one of the strongest chapters globally, thanks to the vibrant community of contractors, academia and government personnel in the area that have supported the DoD missions of Maxwell-Gunter for more than 50 years. The preservation and expansion of such missions is a key priority for the Chamber.
     
    WINNER, WINNER
    On May 23, the Montgomery Young AFCEA Advisory Council (YAAC) and TechMGM hosted their first e-sports competition, Gump Goes Gaming, which hosted 30 students from across the city and Maxwell-Gunter Annex airmen at the MGMWERX facility for a night of video games and tech networking.
     
    NEWS & UPDATES
    HYUNDAI MOTOR MANUFACTURING ALABAMA OPENS NEW CYLINDER HEAD MACHINING PLANT
    Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and other elected officials joined Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC (HMMA), in a celebration of the grand opening of HMMA’s cylinder head machining plant in mid-May.  
     
    The new plant is the third facility at HMMA to support production of more than 650,000 engines per year.  The plant represents a $388 million total investment to manufacturing engine cylinder heads and also to enhance existing operations to support the production of new Sonata and Elantra sedan models. This investment also created 50 new jobs.
     
    “With our latest expansion, HMMA continues to show its strong commitment to the people of Montgomery and the people of Alabama,” Hyundai President and CEO Dong Ryeol Choi said when plans for the new engine plant were announced in 2018. “Hyundai is continuing its track record of investing in new manufacturing technologies to ensure the long-term success of our U.S. assembly plant.”
     
    HMMA’s engine plants will now produce two all-new 4-cylinder engines for the all-new 2020 Sonata sedan: the Smartstream 2.5L Gasoline Direct Injection 4-cylinder engine, and the Smartstream 1.6L Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection 4-cylinder engine. These engines will offer Hyundai customers world-class fuel efficiency and reliability.  They will be built using enhanced technology for high-precision machining and manufacturing.
     
    The new, 260,000-square-foot building was constructed using advanced techniques, such as the inclusion of isolation pads for machining equipment which will lead to more precise machining. The building required more than 7,000 cubic yards of concrete and the movement of 150 football fields worth of dirt.
     
    CHAMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS & CHAIRMAN’S CIRCLE MEET AT EJI MEMORIAL
    On Thursday, May 23, the Chamber’s Board of Directors and Chairman’s Circle held a joint board meeting at the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice. At the meeting, attendees heard from Bryan Stevenson, attorney, social justice activist and EJI’s founder and Executive Director. Since the new EJI attractions opened in 2018, Montgomery has been in the national spotlight, and attendance to both attractions has exceeded 1 million visitors. The resulting boost to the area’s tourism industry has been significant, but equally important are the polish the memorial and its corresponding museum have put on the city’s image, and the powerful message they share. Telling compelling stories of racial injustices that have been carried out all over the world, the museum and memorial show the world a better way forward and encourage hope in a brighter future, in Montgomery, in Alabama and beyond.
     
    THE LATEST BUZZ: MPS ACCOLADES & UPDATES
    MAKING THE GRADE
    When U.S. News and World Report recently released its annual report 2019 Best High Schools, which lists the best performing high schools across the country, three of Montgomery’s magnet
    schools made the cut. Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP) ranked 13th best high school and 7th best magnet school nationally and is the No. 1 high school in Alabama. Brewbaker Tech Magnet ranked 17th best high school in Alabama, and Booker T. Washington Magnet ranked 28th best high school in Alabama.
     
    “I attribute Booker T. Washington (BTW) Magnet High School’s overall success to educators, support staff, families and community stakeholders who work collaboratively to make our school one of the best schools in the nation,” said Dr. Quesha Starks, BTW’s Principal. “We excel because of supportive people who believe in the potential and the unique gifts and talents of each student and who make no excuses in lieu of excellence.”
     
    Trinity Ross, recently graduated BTW student, shared how BTW has set her up for success. “Booker T. Washington Magnet High School has the power to shape its students into young adults who are prepared not only for college but also for life,” she said. “Because of BTW, I have been able to achieve success in the arts and excel in academics.” 
     
    Matthew Monson, Principal at LAMP, echoed Starks, expressing his appreciation for the many who work together to make the school what it is.  “I want to thank LAMP’s faculty, parents, and students for continually putting in the effort to support LAMP, and I am so proud of the work that we have continued at LAMP,” he said. “We want to keep serving Montgomery Public School students and help them earn scholarships to attend college, both in-state and out-of-state.”
     
    MPS 2019 GRADUATES BRING IN RECORD- SETTING SCHOLARSHIPS
    Students from Montgomery Public Schools’ eight high schools have received just shy of $74 million dollars in scholarship offers this year —surpassing last year’s record of $71 million. This year’s total includes five students from LAMP who received offers in excess of $1 million each.
      
    MPS Superintendent Ann Roy Moore sees this as an indication of hard work by administrators, faculty, counselors, parents and students. “The scholarship totals continue to rise,” said Moore.
    “We believe we are working to prepare our students to realize their dreams of success in college and in their careers. This certainly indicates that colleges and universities from around the nation recognize the hard work of our students and the value of our MPS graduates.”
     
    HYUNDAI MOTOR AMERICA DONATES $250,000 TO MPS
    In late May, Hyundai Motor America showed its continuing commitment to education through expanding its signature Hyundai ST Math Initiative with the MIND Research Institute. Hyundai will donate $250,000 to the Montgomery Public School (MPS) system for the program. The Hyundai ST Math Initiative in Montgomery will benefit more than 3,000 students from five public elementary schools in the MPS system, including Catoma, T.S. Morris, Morningview,
    Seth Johnson and Brewbaker Elementary. “Hyundai is committed to helping communities thrive, and one of our core priorities is investing in education,” says Zafar Brooks, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity & Inclusion, Hyundai Motor America. “The Hyundai ST Math program is a longstanding partnership with the MIND Research Institute, which provides foundational instruction in math development skills and STEM education for kids. We believe this initiative can help unlock young minds to help solve tomorrow’s problems and help build the next generation of innovators.”

    CHAMBER FAQ: HOSTING AN EVENT
    Q: How do I host a 60 Minute Coffee or Business After Hours?
     
    A: These popular networking events are sold through the Chamber’s Total Resource Campaign, which is held every year between September and November. Outside of the campaign, Lynn Norton, Senior Manager, Member & Investor Relations, keeps a running list of interested businesses and forwards it to a volunteer once the campaign starts.
     
    Q: Why should I consider hosting one of these events?
     
    A: Because both can grow your brand and increase your business. Learn more about each event to see which is the best fit for your company.
     
    60 Minute Coffee: These allow you to reach an average of 200 potential clients and members before the workday even begins. For one hour, your company will have an opportunity to gain exposure and market to a captive audience. Chamber, business and community leaders attend these private events every month.
     
    Note: The monthly sponsor provides the venue and refreshments, and the location must accommodate at least 200 people and provide ample parking.
     
    Business After Hours: Host one of these popular after-work events to promote your brand to 200 prospective customers. For two hours, you’ll be able to connect face-to-face with local members and showcase your business to potential clients. Chamber, business, and community leaders attend these exclusive Chamber events every month.
     
    Note: The monthly sponsor provides the venue and food. The event will be held from 4 pm-6 pm on the designated date, and the location must accommodate at least 200 people and provide ample parking.
     
    THE BIG KAHUNA
    If the idea of hosting a coffee or BAH sounds appealing, make sure you tune in when the 2019 TOTAL RESOURCE CAMPAIGN kicks off. Each year, TRC offers multiple ways for you to get involved and engage the community, existing customers and potential partners and clients by aligning your brand with the Chamber’s multiple impactful initiatives, while also raising money to help fund the Chamber’s work.
     
    More than 25 volunteers, who work at Chamber-member businesses and organizations, contact other member businesses and offer them unique ways to market and grow their business through Chamber events, programs and communications.
     
    By investing in the Chamber’s TRC, member businesses connect to the vital resources they need to thrive. Sponsorships not only impact the Chamber, they also fuel economic growth for Montgomery and the entire River Region.
     
    GET INTO IT 
    Are you interested in getting involved and volunteering for the program, or looking for unique, creative ways to build your business and your brand? Contact Lynn Norton, Senior Manager, Member & Investor Relations – 334-240-9431 or lnorton@montgomerychamber.com.
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