Tight Deadline to Pass Prison Construction Bill, New Aerospace Jobs in South Alabama

May 4, 2016

Jet engine for an Airbus A320neo being manufactured by UTC
Credit United Technologies Corporation

Today is the last day of the 2016 legislative session, and the last chance for lawmakers to decide the fate of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's $800 million prison construction proposal.

A conference committee will meet later today to try and reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Bentley is seeking to borrow $800 million to build three new prisons for men — housing up to 4,000 inmates each — and one new women's prison. Most existing state prison facilities would close.

The prison construction proposal is the centerpiece of the governor's legislative agenda this year, lawmakers have scrutinized the project's scope and cost.

Some lawmakers want to build the prisons one at a time. Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says the state needs the savings from consolidating prisons in order to pay for the bond issue.

A new aerospace manufacturing facility is expected to bring 260 jobs to southwest Alabama. APR’s Stan Ingold has more.

UTC Aerospace Systems officials say the company is developing a new 80,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Foley. Construction will likely take a year, and the new plant is expected to open in the second quarter of 2017.

Plant employees will assemble components to support the Airbus A320 and deliver propulsion systems from the facility to the Airbus assembly line in Mobile.

Airbus recently presented its first A320 aircraft assembled in Mobile to JetBlue. Officials say the plant will also provide support for other aircraft including Bombardier, Embraer and Mitsubishi.

Officials say North Carolina-based UTC Aerospace Systems already operates two facilities in Foley that collectively employ about 800 people.

Huntsville’s small business community will have the opportunity to learn about the field of energy tomorrow.

Innovate Energy is part of the week-long Innovate Huntsville initiative. Several business leaders from the energy sector will speak. Small businesses will also have new power technologies on display.

Dr. Bill Carswell is Executive Director of Energy Huntsville. He says his organization hopes to promote their part of a larger movement in Huntsville.

“The mayor has set up three initiatives in Huntsville to diversity our business base. Those three areas are energy, cyber security, and geo-information.”

The event will be held at 8 a.m. tomorrow at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Around 35,000 unemployed Alabamians have lost access to food stamps due to a change in federal requirements.

The decline is because a federal waiver for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, expired. That waiver was issued during the recession and allowed states to grant some exemptions to the work requirements for those receiving food stamps.

Now that the old policy is back in place, able-bodied adults are only eligible for 3 months of food stamps. To maintain their benefits, recipients have to be either working or enrolled in a training program for at least 20 hours a week.

That’s led to a steep drop in the number of Alabamians receiving SNAP benefits. On January 1, nearly 50,000 state residents were receiving food stamps. By the 1st of this month, that number was cut to just over 15,000.

The SNAP work requirement is not in place in 13 of Alabama’s counties (Greene, Hale, Perry, Dallas, Lowndes, Wilcox, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke, Washington, Choctaw, Sumter and Barbour) due to the high unemployment rate in those areas.