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Here is today's summary of economic development news, a free service of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, representing Alabama's private sector investment in economic development.  If you enjoy NewsFlash, thank an EDPA Partner



in this issue:
Huntsville looks to Greenville, S.C., for tips on remaking downtown
Alabama school Superintendent Tommy Bice wants overhaul of state's testing regimen
Tax incentives bill fails


Huntsville looks to Greenville, S.C., for tips on remaking downtown

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2012, 6:00 AM


By Steve Doyle, The Huntsville TimesThe Huntsville Times

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- While most of Huntsville is still asleep this morning, Mayor Tommy Battle and about 40 other civic leaders will climb aboard a bus bound for Greenville, S.C.

Their mission: Find out how the former textile manufacturing hub managed to create one of the nation's livelier downtown shopping, dining and entertainment scenes.

Big Spring Partners, the nonprofit agency spearheading Huntsville's downtown revitalization efforts, organized the three-day Greenville trip as a sort of case study in how to remake a center city.

"We don't want to replicate any city -- that's not our intention," Big Spring Partners Executive Director Mary Jane Caylor said Wednesday. "We just want to take their best practices and successes and see how they can be applied to Huntsville."

In the 1970s, downtown Greenville was like a lot of other Southern towns: listless, creaky, dead after 5 p.m.

When Battle and the others step off the bus this afternoon, they'll find a downtown brimming with restaurants -- 99 at last count -- and people.



Huntsville Times





Alabama school Superintendent Tommy Bice wants overhaul of state's testing regimen

Published: Sunday, May 06, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Sunday, May 06, 2012, 11:43 AM




By Marie Leech -- The Birmingham NewsThe Birmingham News


Leta Head knew her daughter was struggling in school.


Year after year, she said, at Pizitz Middle in Vestavia Hills, she warned her child's teachers of the girl's math and reading struggles. And year after year, her daughter performed well enough on the Alabama Reading and Math Test to allay all her teachers' fears.

She was meeting expectations. She was, that is, meeting Alabama's expectations, under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

A law that does not, state school Superintendent Tommy Bice contends, always translate into success. Bice believes it is time to raise those standards, and is recommending a complete overhaul of the state's high-stakes testing regimen.

His proposed changes include requiring higher cut scores -- the minimum score necessary for a student to pass -- for the tests already being given, and adding more components to the assessments that take more into consideration than just bubble-in multiple choice questions.

Head found out the hard way just how low the standards were. When her daughter reached eighth grade, she took the ACT-prep test Explore, and reality finally set in for her teachers. She needed help. She needed attention. She needed remediation.

"I get a letter saying they want to put her in a remedial English course in ninth grade, and I had been trying to get them to do something for years," Head said. "They finally want to start in ninth grade? It's too late."


Detect weaknesses

Bice believes the state should never allow students to reach eighth grade before their weaknesses are highlighted and addressed. And with students tested by the state in grades three through eight and 11, there is only one reason for the failure. The state of Alabama accepts too little.




Birmingham News




Tax incentives bill fails
6:45 AM, May. 10, 2012 |


A bill that would have allowed employers to withhold employees' income taxes for new and expanding projects failed a procedural hurdle in the Senate on Wednesday.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, would allow qualifying companies to withhold between 50 and 90 percent of their employees' income taxes to pay capital costs on their projects. The legislation would give the governor tremendous power in determining whether a project qualified for the credits.

Mask's bill failed to clear a procedural hurdle known as a budget isolation resolution, which requires that three-fifths of the legislators present agree to allow a bill to proceed to a vote.

"They just set economic development back in the state, dealt it a severe blow," Mask said after the vote.

The legislation drew strong opposition from the Alabama Education Association, which said the proposal would divert money away from the state's Educational Trust Fund.

"You don't take educational income taxes and give it to big businesses, when that money now is going to fund the public schools," said Henry Mabry, executive secretary of the AEA.

The bill was revised significantly as it went through the legislative process. Most notably, a section that would have allowed businesses to retain up to 75 percent of workers' income taxes for "retention" projects was eliminated from the bill.

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Wendy Wallace Johnson
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