Alabama’s Economy On The Rise

Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier (L) shakes hands with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley during a news conference in Mobile, Alabama July 2, 2012.

When news broke on July 3, 2012, that Airbus, the France-based aircraft producer, would build a $600 million assembly facility in Mobile – its first manufacturing location in America – the economic outlook for Alabama’s economy improved by an estimated $409 million. The addition of Airbus in south Alabama adds a new layer to the depth of Alabama Department of Commerce projects that have placed the state on the international radar of organizations looking to establish operations in North America.

For many reasons, Alabama is a prime spot for industrial development. It offers surface and rail infrastructure, an easily navigable river system that leads to an active shipping port, as well as a year-round temperate climate and abundant natural resources.

From the Alabama Department of Commerce website:

“A study by Auburn University economics professor Keivan Deravi projected that the plant will have an annual economic impact of $409 million on the state economy. The vast majority of that money will benefit Mobile County, which is projected to see an additional $348 million in annual economic activity when the plant reaches full employment. The project should generate an additional $43 million in annual retail sales, 500 new housing units and boost property tax revenue by $126,000 annually, Deravi said.

Deravi said the project has the potential to transform Alabama in the same way that the automotive industry has remade the state economy. Alabama, which never produced an automobile prior to 1997, has seen a wave of new automotive assembly plants following the 1993 decision by Mercedes-Benz to build vehicles in Vance, Ala.”

Decisions such as those made by Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, to establish operations in Alabama are the result of intense collaboration and planning by state and local government, business, and private individuals. In 1993, nearly 70 years after arriving in Alabama, The Westervelt Company sold 773 acres to the Alabama Department of Commerce to accommodate the Mercedes-Benz site. Today we are excited by the prospect of our state’s improved economy and business climate, and continue to work economic development boards and offices to identify whether or not we can provide land for eventual project sites.

It is a great honor to participate on teams dedicated to improving our state’s economy and quality of life for Alabamians.

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Tuscaloosa Conservation Efforts

This is the time of year when natures beauty is completely apparent. There’s no hiding from it, or ignoring it. Our county is absolutely gorgeous. We are completely surrounded by the Black Warrior River watershed, which covers approximately 6,276 square miles of land.

It’s a big deal.

And it’s important to ensure that this watershed is properly maintained and guarded. This way we can pass it’s beauty on to the next generation of Alabamians. So how do we protect this natural wonder?

Obviously the first and most important element in conservation is self-conduct. How do we, as individuals, protect and defend our natural resources? Think twice before you throw your trash on the side of the road, or sink that can to the bottom of the lake. Focusing on what we can do as individuals brings the problems closer to home and allows us to assume a higher degree of ownership in the well being of the Black Warrior River watershed. As we take on that higher level of ownership, we are more likely to take care of our waterways.

Another way to get involved is by supporting the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. This non-profit is solely devoted to protecting the BWR watershed. Below is a video they produced to highlight some of the positives and negatives of our wonderful waterways.

Conservation is something that is easy to shrug off to someone else. We can easily assume away a problem. That’s fine until no one steps up and leads by example. Let’s be that example and properly steward our land.

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A City with Character

Today an article ran on The Atlantic’s website that really got me thinking.

What is the single most important element to urban planning and sustainable city growth?

In The Atlantic’s article, Edward T. McMahon claims that the character is key to an economically vibrant city. This is true from the architecture all the way to the general culture of a place. Tuscaloosa is primarily unique because it is a place that has grown out of being a college town. But don’t think for a second that Tuscaloosa is just some two stop light town with an adjacent college campus. So what are some specific examples that point to Tuscaloosa being a vibrant, unique city?

1. Food: There are few places that have as unique a food culture as Tuscaloosa. Whether you’re in the mood for southern barbecue (Archibalds, Dreamland, Moes, among others), Japanese Hibachi (Bento, Kobe, the soon returning Hokkaido), or Asian Fusion (Tacogi), there is something in Tuscaloosa that will fulfill any craving. Looking for fine dining? Evangelines, Chuck’s, and 5 are all ready and willing to serve high end fare.

Dreamland BBQ: A Tuscaloosa Masterpiece

2. Art: Whether it’s seeing some up and coming independent band at a bar on The Strip or going to the Ampitheater for a sold out show, there’s no shortage of entertainment in Tuscaloosa. Each year the Kentuck Art Festival showcases some of the best regional folk art in the South. The Druid City Art Festival just had it’s second annual showing and was a major success. The University of Alabama is a hub for art students from not only around the state, but from the region and the entire country.

3. Architecture: Take a leisurely stroll on campus and you’ll quickly realize that the University of Alabama is one of the most beautiful college campuses and settings in America (but I’m a biased alum!). The Antebellum architecture really is gorgeous. The University has also done a great job in terms of making the aesthetics on campus as pleasing as possible, they are truly committed to stewarding a wonderful legacy for future UA students. But the architecture isn’t limited to on campus. Downtown Tuscaloosa is rife with interesting buildings, historic and modern. All of which have their own unique stories.

The Battle-Friedman House is one of the finest pieces of architectural design in Tuscaloosa County. Located off of Greensboro Avenue in downtown Tuscaloosa. In the Spring you can often drive by and see wedding parties in procession.

“Keep Austin Weird” is the rallying cry for folks from that part of Texas. And it’s a nice slogan that has served their city well. Most people have heard it before and it certainly embodies the culture of that burgeoning town. But Tuscaloosa is different. Certainly no one can claim that Tuscaloosa isn’t “weird”, but there’s more to her than that. Tuscaloosa is timeless.

“Keep Tuscaloosa Timeless”.

Yeah, that fits well.

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The Masters

This week in sports is arguably one of the best of the entire year.

You start with the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, followed by MLB Opening Day, and topped off with The Masters. I think it’s safe to say that Spring has arrived.

While basketball and baseball are great, there’s something truly special about The Masters. To me it’s special because it’s history that gets played out every single year. It’s as though the players and the years change, but the course and the club stay the same.

There’s something reassuring in the fact that the time honored traditions at The Masters will be there, year after year. We love the green jackets, Amen Corner, the Par 3 challenge and pimento cheese sandwiches.

Even people who don’t follow golf appreciate this weekend. Truly, this weekend marks the beginning of Spring and Augusta is absolutely radiant every year. This year is no exception. Below is a great home video of golf pro Martin Kaymer skimming the ball across the water hazard on 16 for a hole in one:

As usual the course is visually stunning. Augusta should inspire us as home owners and get us incredibly excited for Spring. Spring means life and growth, and that characteristic is something we should strive to capture and display in our homes.

One parting image as we head into the weekend:

View of the clubhouse as you enter from Magnolia Lane.

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Warm Weather Round Up

The warm weather seems to be here to stay, and I know I speak for a lot of Tuscaloosians when I say that it is very much appreciated. Now, we had a pretty mild winter this year, so don’t think for a second I’m complaining. Tuscaloosa seems to really come to life when it’s warm out. Trees are in full bloom, campus is swarming, and Lake Tuscaloosa is calling (screaming!) your name.

Lake Tuscaloosa in all of it's glory. Truly one of the most beautiful areas in Alabama.

I think my favorite thing that accompanies warm weather is grilling and smoking BBQ outside. There are few things better than sitting outside with friends and family enjoying the weather and some home cooked BBQ. Personally, I’m a sucker for brisket. That’s why this video really inspired me. It seems as though folks from Texas also have a strange affinity for brisket. My hope is that this video inspires you to get up off the computer and fire up the smoker:

Get outside and enjoy this gorgeous weather y’all!


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I’m a music nerd.

There, I admitted it. I love music. I’ll pretty much give anything a listen or two. Recently I came across a trailer for a movie that screened at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas last week.

That video got me thinking. You have three immensely talented groups dropping what they’re doing to travel together just for the sake of the adventure. That’s inspiring. How often do we appreciate the journey? The excitement? The adventure?

It also made me think about Thomas Jefferson and his home, Monticello. When old Tommy was building his masterpiece he was told by all the builders and architects that what he wanted was impossible. But he persevered and continued building. Now it is one of the most iconic American homes in our country’s history. And I bet that Mr. Jefferson wouldn’t have traded the memories from building that house for anything, because those tough times and wild memories are what we treasure. The finished product is great, but we love and live for the journey.

Everything we do is a journey, some of those journeys are mundane and are part of the daily grind. But some of those journeys are incredible and exciting. Our lives as a collective whole are incredible journeys. It’s easy to get into grooves where we feel like this isn’t true. Maybe you feel unfulfilled at work, or you feel like you’re just stuck in a rut. This is all a part of this insanely mystic journey that we are all traveling on.

Neighborhoods are also on journeys. Meandering their way through generation after generation. It reminds me of a river, making it’s way across the landscape. I love seeing the way that neighborhoods change over time. Looking back into their history and seeing how the previous generations experienced and lived in different areas. Driving through Northriver is like taking a tour through Tuscaloosa history. Spend a day at the Yacht Club chatting up residents and you’ll find no shortage of stories from years gone by.

When I sit back and consider this it dawns on me that we are all a part of this story. Our individual lives inter-tangling, creating a web that as we macro out forms a tapestry of life. There’s something comforting and disorienting about that realization.

I guess the point of this rambling is that we need to take a step back from time to time and appreciate the journey.

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Outdoor Kitchens

Your home is an extension of your personality and taste. If you’re constantly entertaining people at your home it makes sense to maximize your available space for entertainment. One of the most interesting ways I have seen this accomplished is through the addition of an outdoor kitchen. An outdoor kitchen not only allows for more space to entertain friends and family when the weather is nice, it is an ideal place to unwind after a long day.

This design concept is even more impressive when paired with an amazing view. If you’re considering building a second home near the beach, or on a lake, this is an idea that you should strongly consider. Not only will this additional “room” add livability to the property, it will also add value to your home. More so than ever people are demanding more living space in home purchases, and this will certainly set your property apart if and when it comes time to sell.

Some of the lakefront home sites in our communities would make great backdrops for an evening of outdoor cooking. Few lakes have the same natural beauty as ours, and wouldn’t it me nice to be able to sit out on your porch for dinner and take in that splendor on a late summer night? This is nature’s way of saying “well done” after a long day or week.

If this idea is something you’re interested in you need to look at the Southern Living photo gallery that gives a great idea of how an outdoor kitchen should look and operate. If you live in a Westervelt Community and are interested in an addition, you need to make sure any and all design plans are approved by your neighborhood’s ARB.

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Concrete Counter Tops


Are you looking for a renovation project that doesn’t include tearing down walls? Concrete counter tops are all the rage right now, and look great.

This is a great video that gives step-by-step instructions on how to make your own concrete counter tops.

At first glance this may seem like a daunting task, but with a little effort you can create this extremely trendy look on your own. This makes for a great weekend, early spring project.

This video comes from Fine Homebuilding which is one of our favorite resources for home design inspiration.

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Something old, made new again or: How PB&Js are still relevant

Ever have an old memory come rushing back to the forefront of your mind? Sometimes it’s a dusty old thing from when you were a kid, maybe of a vacation from years ago. Maybe it’s a smell of something being made by a loving mother or wife. These old things sometimes feel as though they are gone forever, never to re-enter our lives. And this is true to a certain extent. There’s even something relieving about past memories, we can remember what we want, highlight the good parts, and create some closure to an old chapter in our lives.

Sometimes I drive around the historic districts in Tuscaloosa, and just think about the memories that have been made and shared in those antebellum beauties. Families being made, grown, and dispersed over the course of a lifetime. The winding one way streets that ungraciously intersect with overgrown college housing brings a whole new feel to the area. College glory days, seemingly impossible adventures, and a limitless future. The world full of potential.

You know houses, and homes, are funny things. They are material possessions, but they represent so much more than a figure at the bottom of an expense budget. Therefore we can assume that renovating, and restoring is not so much an act of investment protection as much as it is a part of the proper stewarding of our lives. No one designs and builds a home that is totally efficient and lifeless, we build them in a way that reminds us of our favorite pair of blue jeans. Comfortable, dependable, and timeless.

I was reading Garden and Gun today and ran across this article. It’s all about the re-invention of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. In an instant I was taken back to when I was a child, and mom would cut the edges off before sending me to school. What really stuck with me in the story was that things that seem old, and out of reach, can be reclaimed and made new. This is true about PB&J’s and it’s true about our homes. Don’t let the trappings of life detract from your joy in home ownership and the memories that come from it.

*Photo from Garden and Gun

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Nick Offerman: An unlikely folk hero

You may read this title and say to yourself, who is Nick Offerman? And that would be a valid question. However, if you know who he is, bravo, you are culturally up to date.

Nick Offerman, better known as Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit show Parks and Recreation, is an actor. But incredibly, this might only be his day job.

Mr. Offerman is also the owner of Offerman Wood Shop, which he operates out of his home wood working shop. After looking through his inventory, and seeing his work it’s safe to say that he is an extremely skilled craftsman.

So what can we take away from this? We aren’t Emmy-nominated actors with huge budgets for home decor and wood working. The biggest lesson that we can take away from this is that hobbies don’t need to be frivolous and unproductive. One of the greatest testaments to the American tradition is the ability to craft and forge things with our bare hands. To take ideas that only exist in our mind and create a tangible witness to our own intelligence and creativity.

Allow me to sprinkle that last statement with a dash of humility. One does not arrive at this skill set on day one. It takes years of learning and practice to hone any talent. A dollar and raw talent will still only buy you a cup of coffee.

What talents are we neglecting? What ambitions are we squandering? Don’t allow the hustle and bustle of your everyday life to deride your passions. It doesn’t need to be wood working, or anything to do with home decor. Find something that sparks your imagination and run with it, you won’t regret it.

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