HudsonAlpha’s Dr. Lamb Warns: Misinformation Spreading Like the Virus

Drinking hot water; using a hair dryer to blow hot air down your throat; and gargling with bleach are just a few of the outrageous preventatives against the COVID-19 disease that can be found on the Internet these days.

Some of them may even quote an expert with the Center for Disease Control or a research scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

Dr. Neil Lamb: “Please, please, please don’t try any of the things you read on the internet.” (Photo/HudsonAlpha)

Dr. Neil Lamb of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology recently answered questions from local business owners in a teleconference with the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and warned against trusting the Internet for valid information.

“Please, please, please don’t try any of the things you read on the internet,” he said. “During an epidemic, the virus isn’t the only thing that spreads – so does misinformation.”

While these specific questions were not among those asked by Chamber members, Lamb answered numerous highly intelligent and often-asked questions during the call.

For instance, can people build up their immunity system for fighting the COVID-19 virus by eating healthier and using vitamins and supplements such as vitamin C, A, D, E and zinc?

“You can build up your resilience,” said Lamb. “For instance, if you smoke or vape – stop now! You want your lungs to be in the best shape possible.

“If your diabetes or hypertension is not controlled by medication – get it under control with medication.

“Get enough sleep, because your immune system is weakened when you are under stress and not getting enough sleep.

“Absolutely think about your diet. We often reach for comfort food during stressful times like a milkshake or ice cream with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,” he said to laughter. “Instead, help your body control immune and inflammatory responses with healthier foods like extra fruits and vegetables.”

There is nothing that scientists and doctor know of right now that will stop the spread of the virus once a person has developed symptoms, he said.

“The best thing you can do is make it really hard for the virus to find you, and you do through social distancing, limiting contact and interaction with others, and practicing good handwashing and hygiene rituals,” Lamb said.

In regards to Vitamin C, he said the levels of vitamins doctors are using to treat people in the hospital, are many, many, times the levels of Vitamin C purchased over the counter or in a multivitamin.

“The Vitamin C hospitals are using is given intravenously too, so you cannot eat enough Vitamin C pills to reach the level they are giving,” he said. “And if you eat a bottle of Vitamin C tablets, it is going to pass right through your system in your urine, so it is not going to do you any good.

“Taking a normal routine of a multivitamin or antioxidant is beneficial all the time; eating more green vegetables is good all the time; but the real way to increase disease resilience is by taking good care of our body.”

Another question pertained to handling he return of employees back to work in the weeks ahead. If a company wants to implement taking employee’s temperature upon entering the building, would that be appropriate?

“The CDC is recommending self-monitoring and part of self-monitoring is taking your temperature,” Lamb said. “As we begin to tiptoe back towards normal, the challenge is that you can be completely asymptomatic and still be actively spreading the virus. You can be infectious with no fever.

“I think we’re beginning to see what’s called a serological test coming to market, that uses swabs to look for the presence of the virus’ genetic material in your nose or throat,” he said. “These tests look to see whether you have developed SARS-CoV-2 antibodies due to exposure to the virus. That is very different from molecular testing we’re seeing offered at hospitals now.

“I think we will soon begin to see these tests come to market as they begin opening drive-in clinics, specifically for finding out whether you’re actively infected.”

Face masks are creating the most conversation right now and there were many questions regarding the effectiveness of wearing them in public.

“The World Health Organization has maintained that you should only wear a face mask if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick or working in a health care setting,” said Lamb. “Other countries around the world have freely handed them out and made them mandatory. There is a lot of ground between those two and we don’t have any firm guidance yet, but I think in the next few days, we’re going to see some guidance from the CDC and the White House about wearing face masks.

“Remember, wearing face masks out in public is not to protect you from somebody else, but to protect other people from you. The face mask keeps any respiratory particles you might be spreading, contained.

“If you’re sick, you need to be wearing a face mask. If you’re caring for someone who’s sick, you need to be wearing a face mask.”

However, there is not enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for the medical professionals right now so people do not need to be going to the grocery store wearing an N95 mask. Those need to be in the hands of health care workers, the people on the front lines of this pandemic who desperately need every possible protection.

“The kind of face coverings we’re going to be encouraged to wear out in public can be homemade face coverings,’ Lamb said.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle suggested face masks are a psychological reminder that people still need to practice social distancing, but that they should not give a false sense of security.

Lamb agrees.

“The thing to remember is that most of us don’t wear a face mask every day, so it’s going to feel different on your face, causing people to be constantly adjusting it,” he said. “If I am constantly touching the outside of my face mask, I’m potentially taking any contamination I have come into contact with on my fingers, and moving it all over my face. That may inevitably increase the risk!”

Are there hot spots around town we should all avoid, like going to one store and not another, or are some stores cleaner and safer than others?

“I think you should just assume everything is potentially contaminated and you need to be hypervigilant about that,” Lamb answered. “I don’t want to freak anyone out, but we should realize any surface can have virus on it.”

He went on to explain how he approaches surfaces.

“When I enter our building, I use a folded handkerchief to reach for a place on the handle I doubt a lot of other people have grasped,” he said. “Then I fold it inward and try to be conscious of not touching that part of the handkerchief again.

“Keep plastic grocery bags in your vehicle so when you get gas, you can put your hand inside the bag and grab the gas pump with it. Then put it into the trash can right by the pump.

“When you go to the grocery store, before you grab a cart, if someone isn’t there sanitizing the carts, go grab the wipes first or use your own wipes to clean the cart.

“Think about the way you touch groceries. Don’t pick up multiple cans or boxes to read the ingredients like you usually do. Pick up the can or box you want and put it in the cart. When you get home, consider having a dirty space and clean space on your countertop. Wipe off the containers and put them in a clean space.

Many people are intrigued by the bright colorful pictures they have seen of COVID-19 virus. How does the virus behave?

“The SARS-Co-V2, which causes COVID-19 disease, has a fatty membrane around it,” said Lamb. “A lot of viruses are encapsulated and protected by proteins, but this one does not have that, which means it is a relatively fragile virus. All the things that break up fat like soap, tear open the membranes of the virus. That’s why washing your hands for 20 seconds and building up the suds and foam will destroy it.”

How about the weather? Do cold temperatures help the virus maintain stability, and will warmer weather break that down?

“Certainly the influenza virus drops off during the summer, and we know from research that the flu spreads better in drier, colder air, which means the hot moisture and humidity in the South during the summer does not benefit the spread of the flu,” Lamb said. “But we don’t know if the coronavirus behaves the same way as influenza.

“We don’t have a lot of data, and I’ve seen a lot of people suggest we’re going to see a summer dip; but there is also evidence from warmer parts of the world still having rapidly spreading coronavirus that might argue against that. We can’t really be sure. We are just going to have to wait and see.”

There is a lot of information on the Internet about stopping the virus from moving from the upper respiratory to the lower respiratory system if a person starts showing mild symptoms. Is this true?

“I know it may be incredibly frustrating to watch this virus spread around the globe and not think, ‘What can I do and what can’t I do. I’m just one person trying to take care of my household and coworkers,'” Lamb said. “However, every action has consequences,” Lamb said. “The choices we make today, the decisions we make about not hanging out in large groups and about minimizing the number of trips we take outside of home, will shape the next three weeks.

“What you do today, every day, over the next three weeks is a gift to yourself and our city three weeks from now.”

And finally, once this virus passes, how long will it be before life gets completely back to normal?

“I’m going to say this up front and I know no one wants to hear it, but it is likely this is not the last time we’re going to be talking about social distancing,” Lamb said. “The goal of social distancing is to make it harder for the virus to spread so we don’t overwhelm the health care system, but the flip side of that is that many of us will still not have been exposed to the virus so we will not have immunity.

“So it’s likely when we come back together and lax social distancing in different regions of the country, we will see spikes in some regions and we will have to undergo social distancing again. How many of those bumps will we see on the tail end of that curve?

“It shouldn’t be as widespread and require a total shutdown like we are seeing now, but I don’t think it’s going to be a nice, smooth curve at the end when we all go back to everyday life.”

Sit Down with Success: Ellen Didier – ‘Love, Love, Love What You Do’

This month’s installment of the Huntsville Business Journal’s series “Sitdown with Success” features Ellen Didier, President & Creative Director of Red Sage Communications. “Sitdown with Success” spotlights local entrepreneurs who describe their successes and failures, with tips for upcoming business owners.

What about your company, Red Sage Communications, are you most proud?

I think our ability to survive in the midst of such disruptive change in the advertising and marketing industry since I started Red Sage in 2006 is what makes me most proud.

Ellen Didier: You have to have a love for marketing and the whole idea of branding. (Photo/Steve Babin)

I’m completely self-taught. When I started Red Sage, we didn’t have smartphones or social media. I didn’t know how to use Photoshop, InDesign or Quark. We had websites, but WordPress and open source software wasn’t around; content management systems were just starting to come out, but they were still evolving. My biggest startup-cost was a $28,000 piece of software I had to throw away three years later.

Just look at how much marketing has changed, and it is a huge change. In that conversation you have social media. I started using social media in 2008-09 and I was on the earlier end of adoption. I had both a MySpace and Facebook account, but at the time, there was no way of determining which one would win out. It wound up being Facebook.

It took me forever to figure out how to monetize social media and make it an additional revenue stream. It kept getting more complex and for a long time, we just trained clients how to use it. Because it changes all the time – Linked-In for instance just completely revamped all their tools – it’s really crazy.

Also, in that conversation are online rankings and customer reviews. People are able to post and say things about your brand. That means marketing is no longer a push, but a two-way conversation.

When you’re trying to manage in the face of that much change you must watch what’s going on all the time and really balance how much time are you spending in training and learning. You’re putting in three or four hours a week just learning and keeping up with what’s going on. It was hard to figure out how to be profitable.

We got through it and I think we’ve found a good balance of not necessarily staying on the bleeding edge, but of at least knowing what’s coming and being able to help our clients understand it.

There are a lot more marketing “tools” out there now, aren’t there?

If you look at the marketing toolbox when I started, it was traditional advertising: printed materials, a billboard, radio or TV and that was about it.

Now, we’re running campaigns for people that include media relations, social media, digital marketing, traditional marketing, print campaigns, direct mail – huge toolboxes – the traditional stuff plus the new stuff.

You still find a place for traditional marketing?

Yes, because there is so much saturation online that sometimes traditional works. I think a lot of the newer, all-digital agencies miss the idea that there’s still some traditional tools that are very appropriate in some cases and do better than digital, depending on who you’re trying to reach.

It’s just really been fascinating the amount of change that we’ve navigated through and most importantly, stayed profitable while continuing to grow.

Why did you start an ad agency?

I love, love, love marketing! The challenge of understanding who you are and establishing your brand; exhibiting how you’re different from the competition; telling your story so it aligns with your business needs – I like everything I do, but there are some parts of business that will do a lot better if I focus on the parts that are easier to sell or that generate the most revenue.

I was with another marketing company when I made my first pitch. It was to a hospital and we went in and talked about ways they could promote their services both in traditional media and in cross-marketing within the facility. It was the first time I was able to bring ideas to a client using a multi-pronged strategy that would help them tell their story in a variety of ways. We came away with just about everything we pitched and that was exciting.

You have to have a love for marketing and the whole idea of branding to convey different messages and to align those different messages to different audiences. You have to understand the business and set goals and objectives, and then integrate your overall marketing strategy to reach those goals and objectives.

You have this super big toolbox that is much bigger and more complex than it has been in the past and I love that complexity. I love being able to look at all of that.

I’m also a process fanatic so I can go back and forth from 30,000 feet to minute details and not a lot of people can do that. It’s worked for my business because I can dream the big dreams but then also build the infrastructure to take me where I want to go.

Do you specialize in certain types of clients?

We do a lot of business-to-business marketing in North Alabama. We have some nonprofit clients like Cyber Huntsville, the National Cyber Summit and SMD (Space and Missile Defense Symposium), so we help with some corporate marketing events. We have a client in Fort Payne who has a radiation shielding technology business built on nanotechnology and not lead. They are a very innovative product poised for a lot of national growth. It’s going to be fun building lead generation and tracking and how much of that converts to actual business.

We look at it as, how can we help you grow your business, and how to be smart about it in the face of the many challenges.

What are your biggest challenges, overall?

Our biggest challenge is the pace of change always, and like everyone else, growth and workforce.

How do we find the right people?

It’s painful to have business knocking on your door and having to turn some of it away because I don’t have the staff to deal with it. I need three people right now and it’s hard to find them, plus it is time-consuming when you’re busy to do the hiring, so right now staffing is my biggest challenge and finding the right fit. This is a difficult industry in that I need people who are good critical thinkers and used to a fast pace.

What do you think is the answer to that?

Short term, we’re looking at how we can extend our team with contractors, and how we can build and grow our team in very specific places. My current employees have been with me a while and they are very good. If I can take some of the work off them that can be outsourced, they can manage a contractor to do that part of the job.

What would you tell somebody who wants to start an ad agency today?

It will be the most challenging and the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. What’s amazing about the advertising and marketing agency business is you can be working with a company that retrofits Blackhawk helicopters with Garmin electronics one day and figure out how to sell eye care products and services the next.

You will build relationships with your clients because you grow to understand their business and their challenges, and that requires communication that often leads to good friendships too. That’s where the reward is.

The challenge is that it is extremely hard to grow. The first couple of years is always fairly easy because people are excited about a new strategy, but scaling this business is really hard.

The first hard jump is when you start adding employees. With that comes health care and employment taxes and other things; and there are also a lot of freelancers and small specialty agencies that don’t offer employee benefits, so we have to justify charging more for our services.

 

Strong Coffee, Strong Women Series: Sonia Robinson Shares her Journey

“Strong Coffee, Strong Women,” The Catalyst’s widely popular breakfast and networking event, features inspirational stories from successful businesswomen that focus on professional growth and successfully overcoming challenges along the way.

Sonia Robinson: “The most selfless decision you can make is to put yourself first. Try it. It will change you.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

This particular event was no exception as Sonia Robinson, a breast cancer survivor and the executive director at BIO Alabama, spoke to a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd.

Robinson was very candid about sharing her breast cancer survivor journey.

“I do not miss a chance to talk about my boobs,” she said.

In 2017, Robinson was at the peak of her high-intensity career: 36 years old, divorced and raising two boys, then 4 and 8. To Robinson, going for her routine gynecological exam was just that, routine; another self-care box to check off between meetings and an otherwise busy workday.

As the nurse did the manual breast exam, she suggested that Robinson get a baseline mammogram.

Robinson initially declined, thinking to herself, “My career was on fire. I was 36 years old and never had had a baseline mammogram. I don’t have time; I’ll do it when I’m 40. Had I waited until I was 40, my story would have been very very different.”

The nurse practitioner felt a palpable lump in Robinson’s breast and asked her, “Have you ever felt this?”

For Robinson, monthly self-exams were not on her radar, so the answer was “no.”

Even after the nurse practitioner sent her for a diagnostic mammogram, Robinson saw it as another item to check off the to-do list. She assumed that the lump would be benign and she would be back to work without skipping a beat.

When the mammogram was complete, the technician told Robinson the radiologist wanted to speak with her on her way out.

“I thought my radiologist just had really good bedside manner and stopped to chat with all the patients afterwards; she’s good, but not THAT good,” said Robinson.

The radiologist told Robinson, “It looks suspicious. I’ve already spoken with your gynecologist.”

The next step was a surgical biopsy. When her surgeon called Robinson to discuss the results, he said the words she never expected to hear: “Sonia, we have a little cancer.”

As she processed the news and discussed the treatment options, Robinson slowly walked to her bedroom and lay down on the bed.

Sensing the news was bad, her mother lay down beside her as the conversation with the surgeon continued.

The cancer was likely Stage 1. A double mastectomy or a lumpectomy with radiation would be the options given.

Before making a decision, Robinson wanted a better understanding of what she was dealing with. Her surgeon gave her four weeks to research, gathering as much information she could.

A sold-out, standing-room-only crowd hears Sonia Robinson share her incredible journey. (Photo/Steve Rabin)

“What does life look like on the other side of this?” Robinson wanted to know.

Robinson opted for a double mastectomy. During surgery, it was discovered the cancer had spread to one of the lymph nodes, which immediately put her into Stage 2, which became a game-changer.

When the oncologist told Robinson that chemotherapy was to be scheduled, “I told him, “No,” said Robinson.

She advised the audience, “We are to question; we are to ask, to research. Y’all have to fight for your health.”

Robinson still believed that everything would be ok without chemotherapy.

“I felt that maybe I should have Dr. Harriman just ‘clear the margin’ and I do nothing, no chemo,” said Robinson. “As the words left my mouth, I thought how irresponsible that was.

“I had an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old. I wanted to be their mommy for a long time. When you’re given a diagnosis like this, it’s not just you, it’s we.”

After four weeks of research and consulting the medical community and breast cancer survivors, “I was told, ‘Sonia, you’re in a gray area’,” said Robinson. “You have to be happy with the decision that you make. Ultimately, I made the decision to move forward with chemo.”

Once the decision was made, Robinson threw a “Shave Party,” inviting forty of her closest friends and family members. The event included a champagne toast and a bouncy house for the kids.

After her head was shaved, she reveled in the new look.

“Try it, shave your head,” said Robinson. “It changed my life.”

Then, there were reconstruction decisions, such whether to keep one’s nipples or get tattoos. Robinson decided to keep hers. “Nipple tattoos, it’s a real thing, y’all,” said Robinson. “I want y’all to look at these,” as she sent images to friends, male and female, to get honest feedback. “Our boobs are so important to us as women,” said Robinson. “I really needed that feedback. I was 36 years old and single.

“Had I been older, I may not have made the same decision.”

Robinson’s fourth and final round of chemo came just 6 days after her 37th birthday. That came with the expectation that life would return to what it was, pre-cancer.

“Chemo is over, Sonia is well,” said Robinson. “That’s when the real work started.

“In order to be your ultimate self, guess what you have to do? Put yourself first. The most selfless decision you can make is to put yourself first. Try it. It will change you.”

 

 

 

Robins & Morton Building on Relationships for a Growing Huntsville

The first building constructed by Robins & Morton was a Shell gas station in 1946.

The Birmingham-based company now has offices in Huntsville, Nashville, Charlotte, Dallas, Orlando, and Miami.

Huntsville Hospital’s seven-story, 382,000-square foot Orthopedic & Spine Tower is expected to be completed in 2021. (Photo/Robins & Morton-Marty Sellers)

“We’ve grown quite a bit since then, obviously,’’ said Mitch Coley, operations manager for the Huntsville office.

Robins & Morton is no stranger to the Rocket City. The firm began a relationship with Huntsville Hospital 31 years ago, and Coley said that partnership is “the backbone’’ of its business in the city.

Two towering cranes just off Gallatin Street are part of the construction for Huntsville Hospital’s seven-story, 382,000 square-foot Orthopedic & Spine Tower. It’s expected to be completed in 2021.

But while hospital construction is Robins & Morton’s calling card, Coley said diversity, particularly in Huntsville, is part of its footprint.

Next to the hospital tower, the finishing touches are being put on Redstone Federal Credit Union’s five-story, Class-A office building with an adjoining four-story parking deck.

“The exterior of the office building is close to complete and it’s a very striking structure,’’ Coley said. “That project will wrap up at the end of this year.”

Robins & Morton recently placed a tower crane downtown for the upscale 106 Jefferson, Curio by Hilton.

“As you can see from the cranes rising above downtown,’’ Coley said, “We have three major projects transforming the Huntsville skyline.”

Robins & Morton is working with Redstone Gateway and Sanmina, and counts Times Plaza on South Memorial Parkway among its projects.

Other local Robins & Morton projects are:

  • Intergraph/Hexagon headquarters
  • Calhoun Community College Huntsville Campus Science Lab
  • Parsons Research Park
  • Huntsville Hospital Madison Hospital
  • Governors Medical Tower
  • Huntsville Hospital Athens Surgery Centers
  • Clearview Cancer Institute
  • Rockwell Collins at Research Park
  • Medical Park Station Retail Center
  • Huntsville Hospice Family Came Inpatient Facility

The company’s projects around the state include the Auburn Arena, the Auburn University Recreation and Wellness Center, Regions Field and the Embassy Suites hotel in Tuscaloosa.

Robins & Morton opened a full-service office in Huntsville in 2007 to further take advantage of the city’s exploding growth.

“We knew the best way to serve the business community was to become an ongoing part of the community,’’ Coley said. “And that’s worked well for us. We have more than 223 projects valued at $1.3 billion completed or in progress throughout Huntsville and the surrounding area.

“Even more important to us: 80 percent of that work is from repeat clients.”

Redstone Federal Credit Union’s five-story office building has an adjoining four-story parking deck. (Rendering courtesy of Robins & Morton)

Another company strength is that Robins & Morton, which employs around 170 salaried employees and craft workers, uses its own workforce.

“We self-employee a lot of the work,’’ Coley said. “For instance, the concrete structure (on the tower), we’re doing that with our own men, our own forces. The reason we do that is it helps with cost, schedules, and quality.’’

Robins & Morton’s economic impact in the Tennessee Valley is substantial. The company reports it is responsible for more than 800,000-square feet of new construction with a projected construction value in excess of $225 million; is working with more than 150 trade partners; and expects to create between 800 and 900 full-time equivalent jobs throughout construction.

While Robins & Morton is involved throughout North Alabama, its local presence has been seen and felt mostly in Huntsville’s downtown and hospital district, both of which have undergone a facelift.

A Notasulga native, Coley met his wife Elaine while both were students at Auburn. They have two sons, Miles (6) and Cameron (4).

When he moved here 13 years ago, Coley said he remembers walking downtown on a weekend and finding a “ghost town.’’

“Now, you go down there and there are food truck rallies, laser light shows, people everywhere,’’ he said. “It’s really neat to see.

“We’re glad to be part of that growth.’’

In late spring or summer, Robins & Morton will announce plans for another downtown project.

“We want people to know that we’re not here just for the duration of a project,’’ Coley said. “We’re an established part of the Huntsville business community, and we look forward to continuing to be part of the region’s growth and economic development.

“We’ll continue the strong relationships we’ve maintained over the past 31 years while building new ones.”

 

Joanne Randolph Cited as Champion at Annual Entrepreneur Awards

Joanne Randolph has been known to champion entrepreneurs in this area.

Joanne Randolph is honored with Champion Award now named after her. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Now, she can officially be known as the champion after receiving the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year Award at the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards ceremony and luncheon.

Randolph, the founder and CEO of The Catalyst Center, has been at the forefront of entrepreneurship and small business ownership while leading the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama and The Catalyst Center.

“I have loved working with entrepreneurs over the last 25 or so years,” said Randolph. “Many of you are in this room. I’ve celebrated with you when good things happened and I was saddened when they didn’t.

“We learn so much more from our failures; which is why many very successful entrepreneurs have a failure or two under their belt.”

Randolph planned to retire in 2019 but The Catalyst board appealed to her to stay on, for just one more year.

“Joanne has been with The Catalyst, formerly the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama, when we were just an idea,” said Leigh Christian, project manager for TechRich at the Catalyst. “She has led our organization for 20 years and has coached, counseled, and championed hundreds – maybe thousands – of entrepreneurs through the years. The Catalyst staff and Board of Directors chose this year to honor Joanne as not only the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year for 2020, but of all time.

“In honor of this, we are renaming the award the Joanne Randolph Entrepreneur Champion Award.”

The award was the grand finale to the event at The Stone Center and wrapped up this year’s Innovate Huntsville Week.

Kevin Hoey, Chairman of the Board of the Catalyst, provided opening remarks and Kenny Anderson, the Multicultural Affairs Officer for the City of Huntsville, served as the emcee.

Here are the 2020 winners of the Entrepreneurial Awards:

YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Caleb Wortham, owner of Caleb’s Cookie Cutters.

This award is given to a school-aged entrepreneur who started their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and is working toward their dream.

When Caleb was in the first grade, he became fascinated with design and technology after listening to a TED Talk on 3-D printing. He was so inspired, he asked his parents for a 3-D printer for Christmas, along with saving up his own money to help them purchase the printer. Enrolling in Mindgear Lab and Endeavor Learning Lab, Caleb learned everything he could about 3-D printing technology.

Caleb’s older brother Joshua started Peaceful Pastries when Caleb was 10. Helping out with the bakery, Caleb soon realized that cookie cutters can be costly. Additionally, Joshua often received unique cookie orders that often required special shapes. To meet the needs of his brother’s successful business venture, Caleb collaborated with Joshua to become Peaceful Pastries and Sweets Bakery largest custom cookie cutter supplier.

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Chanda Davis, founder and owner of Chanda Davis Real Estate and Superior School of Real Estate by Chanda.

The Catalyst Entrepreneurs of the Year. (Photo/Steve Babin)

This award is given to an entrepreneur that’s been in business for less than 3 years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.

After leaving a successful career as an educator, Davis entered the world of real estate. After 3 years of being a full-time agent and two years of teaching real estate classes, Davis decided to establish her own company. Along with Chanda Davis Real Estate, a flourishing real estate company with over 60 agents, Davis’ Superior School of Real Estate by Chanda boasts one of the highest passing rates in the state.

CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lady Vowell Smith, owner and founder of The Snail on the Wall bookstore.

This award goes to an entrepreneurial venture that focuses on the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.

As a book aficionado with a Ph.D. in literature, Smith is no stranger to books. Smith felt there was a lack of small independent bookstores North Alabama —a place where readers and authors could meet and share ideas.

Beginning with a pop-up store at Randolph’s Under the Christmas Tree market in 2017, she has formed a large, loyal customer base by recommending books through social media. Her store has hosted pop-up bookstores at local businesses and has brought bestselling authors to Huntsville for events. Says Smith, “The spirit of entrepreneurship is embracing experiments and new ideas, and when local businesses brainstorm together, it benefits the community as a whole.”

NONPROFIT ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Anne Caldwell, CEO of Greater Huntsville Humane Society.

The Nonprofit Entrepreneur of the year is a new category for 2020. Although different than for-profit ventures, nonprofit leaders still require an entrepreneurial spirit to grow and develop their organizations.

Caldwell’s life and career path changed forever six years ago, when she adopted Randy, a terrified little Chihuahua from Huntsville Animal Services. Caldwell said she was astonished by the problem of overcrowding at the shelters and became involved with several animal welfare organizations before taking on her role as CEO at the Greater Huntsville Humane Society last year.

Through a variety of innovative programming, Caldwell has increased the number of adoptions, lowered length of stays and return rates, in addition to cutting costs and raising donations.

FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Amber Yerkey James, founder and CEO of New Beginnings Family Law.

This award is given to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.

In 2012, almost six years after starting her own law practice James realized that she wanted to do something more than just process divorce and custody cases, she wanted to make a difference in the lives of her clients and in her community.

New Beginnings Family Law works with clients  to plan for life following divorce and other family law situations. The goal is for clients to have the knowledge, skills, and insight to truly have a new beginning.

VETERAN ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Kris McGuire, founder and CEO of Victory Solutions.

This award is given to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region.

A packed house at the Stone Center was on hand for the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards. (Photo/Steve Babin)

As one of the first women assigned to the Air Force Special Weapons Center’s maintenance squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, McGuire understood the importance of supplying the military with effective systems and supplying troops with the right tools. In 2006, with this experience in mind, McGuire started Victory Solutions to help save the lives of soldiers.

McGuire’s success has resulted in having some 130 employees and subcontractors working on projects ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to missile defense to missions to the moon. She attributes this success to a continued focus on supporting fellow veterans, women, and other small businesses.

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Sandra Brazelton, president and CEO of Advanced Innovative Management Solutions

Awarded to an entrepreneur who has been in business for over three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.

Brazelton’s journey has been one of overcoming obstacles, including gender and racial barriers. While working as an engineer, Brazelton started a real estate business. When buying her first two houses, she was steered to low-income areas. This experience fueled her mission to build a business that would educate, empower, and help others while building generational wealth.

Her goal is to leave a legacy in business and in character that would make her children proud. Her daughter, Alex, is also her business partner, helping to create a legacy.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Jerry “JD” White, owner and president of JD Productions, Inc.

Al.com hosted a link on social media for this award. The winner was selected by voters.

After reading books on the topic, coupled with hands-on experience by working the audio/visuals at a variety of events, White finely honed his skills. White said collaboration has been lost in the entertainment industry; he believes that JD Productions will revitalize the entertainment industry, making it a better place to do business.

Coming from a variety of backgrounds and business ventures, there were 68 finalists competing for the nine categories. These entrepreneurs represented 11 communities and 21 ZIP codes in North Alabama. 46 were women, 22 were men.

Combined, they provide jobs for 2,269 employees; in 2019, they accounted for more than $270 million in economic development dollars across North Alabama.

Sitdown with Success: Lisa Williams – Know if You Will Need a Pair of Cushy Shoes, or a Parachute

This month’s installment of the Huntsville Business Journal’s series “Sitdown with Success” features Lisa Williams. “Sitdown with Success” spotlights local entrepreneurs who describe their successes and failures, with tips for upcoming business owners.

 

The business world is her passion, driven by a need to honor the American soldier and veterans who have and still are, fighting in many unsavory parts of the world. Lisa Williams’ business consulting company, the Soldier 1 Corporation, is all about paying tribute to veterans, and especially to her late father, who brought her and her mother to the United States after the Vietnam War.

Lisa Williams: True entrepreneurs take calculated risks. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“I vowed never to squander the unique opportunities I have as a result of my father, who was my hero, making the sacrifices he and so many others make, so I can live free and be successful,” she said.

Lisa and her husband, former State Rep. Phil Williams, started 3D Research, a defense engineering company during the mid-1990s from the back bedroom of their home. They sold it 10 years later so Lisa could spend more time with their son.

But because business is in her DNA, she still wanted to stay in the game, and today she is helping to build a culture where she can work with veterans to help them build their businesses, so they can hire more veterans within their company.

Tell us about Soldier 1 and your current consulting work.

I am a kind of CEO/president-for-hire. When companies face hard issues like whether to expand, whether to sell, whether to buy or merge with another business; or if they face unforeseen problems like suddenly losing their CEO with no succession plan; those companies can bring in someone like me who has the mentality of what a president or CEO should be doing in terms of running the company.

The president is the face of the company and sometimes while they are out there shaking hands, kissing babies, planning and strategizing for future growth, someone still needs to run the company.

I have built a business from the beginning when there are only one or two people doing everything. I have worked 24/7 to grow it into a lucrative business. And I have been there in the later stage of a business where I had to make decisions about selling, and about what comes after that.

I know how hard it is to run a company; what kind of sacrifices business owners make: the financial risks; the family risks; the health risks. If I see that an entrepreneur has what it takes to be successful, but they need some guidance along the way, I can help because I am somebody who has been there and done that through the entire lifecycle of a company.

What does it take to be an entrepreneur? Do successful entrepreneurs have a set of innate traits or qualities?

It’s always risky to start a business but true entrepreneurs take calculated risks. Meaning if you are going to jump off a cliff, you need to know whether the drop is five feet and you will need a good new pair of cushiony shoes, or is the drop five miles and you’re going to need a parachute.

In working with entrepreneurs, I find that the successful ones know what needs to be done, but they don’t necessarily know how to do it because they haven’t done it.

An entrepreneur knows they must save money. They know they must have funding, but they don’t know how to get it. They know they need a business plan, but they aren’t sure what should be in it. They know they must go out and get business, but they aren’t sure how to get out there and go after it.

Entrepreneurs risk everything, but they prepare. They know they need a business plan. They usually know their own strengths and weaknesses, but in writing the business plan, everywhere they leave it blank, that’s where their weaknesses lie, and they aren’t always sure how to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

An innate entrepreneur will sense they need to do certain things, for instance they know they need to lease a building or office space, but they don’t know what to look for in a contract.

When I mentor businesses, I am very blunt. I will hurt your feelings, I will call your baby ugly, but the important thing is you aren’t going to have time to try something just to see what happens.

You have to feel so strongly about what you are doing that you are either open to advice from someone who has been there, or know with all your body, your heart, your soul and your mind that what you are doing is right.

And entrepreneurs surround themselves with honest people who will pick them up if they fall.

What do you need to start a small business?

You need to do your research. I was a test engineer and knew I wanted to own my own business right out of UAH, but I had to uncover what it was I was going to sell. I spent two years just researching.

Know what kind of financing you will need.

Understand that you will need an accountant and a lawyer. These are mistakes people make because they think, like I did, accounting makes me want to slash my wrists – right, but that’s even more reason why I needed one.

I thought, why do I need a lawyer? I’m going to do business the right way, I won’t get sued. But in business, you can and will get sued, so you need lawyers.

Here in Huntsville, you may need security clearances, and even if you have a personal clearance, you have to get one for your company and that requires a company sponsor, and that takes time.

What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?

Build up a reserve of money to live on before you start your own business. It would be great if you can save a year’s salary, or if you can’t do that, have enough for the rent, a car payment and food several months in advance.

Keep your overhead as low as possible. If you are pursuing a service business, you are selling brain power, so you don’t need a luxurious office to show off. Take your brains to their office and work out of your home for as long as you can until you hire enough people to need and can afford an office.

If you are starting up a product-based company building a widget, then you will need money up front and may need a line of credit. Many commercial companies bring in investors, which is whole other process.

Look for opportunities to team up with other companies. It’s safer when you are getting started. It’s important to be on a growth trajectory but you don’t want to go into debt and partnerships can help with that.

Do you recommend collaborative workspace, which is less expensive than office space and usually more flexible?

I would love to see the numbers on how many successful companies really come out of a collaborative work environment.

An entrepreneur is going to make it whether they are in a collaborative environment or whether they are in their garage because it’s all about the persistence, the passion, the perspiration, and how badly do you want it.

It’s nice to have a collaborative environment, but at the end of the day, you have a plan in place; you still have to make those phone calls to potential clients; you still have to get out there and meet the people you need to meet. I always say, it is not really as much about who you know, but about who knows you.

And you have to do all of those things no matter where you are.

What is the one piece of advice you would give a young entrepreneur opening a small business?

It’s a simple, but tough question – how will you make money? You need a very clear plan and full understanding of how you will make money.

If you are going to build and sell widgets, how will you make money selling them?

People say, “I want to do this because I feel strongly about it. I want to help kids or help people.”

And I say, “Okay. We all want to help people and fill a need, but if you don’t have a plan for making money, you will go out of business.”

At the same time, if you want to open a coffee shop that sells pastries – okay. But if there are 15 pastry shops in the area, how will you be different enough from the others to make money selling coffee and pastries?

I don’t mean making money is the only thing in life, but money is what drives a business and, if you fail, you can lose everything.

Q&A with Sen. Jones: On Military Spending, Families and the Widows’ Tax

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal at Huntsville West and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the final installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is the military and military families.

HBJ: Huntsville is a military town, nicknamed “Pentagon South.” Tell us what is going on with military spending and families.

 

Sen. Doug Jones met with the Huntsville Business Journal in the Huntsville West co-working collaborative community. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Sen. Jones: I’m on the Armed Services Committee. Alabama is extremely important to the nation’s security and our military forces. One of the things that we are trying to do, working with the administration, is to upgrade our military forces across the board.

We’ve got to spend money to upgrade what they call the “nuclear triad” of missiles for protection. We’ve got to upgrade submarines, planes, you name it. It’s all aging and we’re going to have to spend some money.

What we’re looking at now, is a whole new area of potential war and conflict. It’s not just in the air or sea or land anymore; it’s in space. This year, in the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), we’ve created the Space Force. I’m hoping the Space Command will come here to Huntsville. That decision is going to come relatively soon.

The other thing I’ve focused was families, our servicemen and women. There’s a 3.1 percent increase this year in the salaries for service members, which is the first one they’ve had in a while.

We’ve also done things to put extra money into education, trying to help the kids of service members that move around a lot, and also for kids with disabilities.

We’ve done things for military spouses. Military spouses often have professional certifications that are hard to transfer when they move. We’re trying to do things to make that certification transfer easier.

HBJ: What piece of military legislation stands out for you?

Sen. Jones: The biggest thing that I’m proudest of, after a 30-year fight, is the work that I did in the Senate this year to get the military widows’ tax eliminated for good. It was a really, really big deal.

Sen. Jones on widows’ tax: “Getting this tax eliminated was more than just a job for us, it was a mission; it was a cause.”

Although it only affects some 2,000 people in Alabama, it’s 2,000 people that are now going to get $1,200-$1,500 a month more.

There was a statutory set of money that the VA has administered for a long time.

Those funds were to be distributed to widows when a service member dies in combat or of a service-related injury. In many cases, service members buy additional insurance to provide additional benefits for their families. That money is administered by the Department of Defense and it’s something that service members pay for – out of their own pockets.

About 35  years ago, Congress passed legislation allowing the Department of Defense and the VA to offset the two.

If a widow was entitled to both pots of money, they’d only get 55 percent. This means money that service members have paid into – was going to the Department of Defense and staying there.

I didn’t know about it, never heard about it and then some of the Gold Star widows came to us and talked about it.

I just about blew a gasket. How can that be?

They showed me that it has been tried for 20 years to overturn and I told them, “This year, we’re going to do something different.”

It’s a commitment that was made to our service members that the federal government and Congress has fallen down on. Getting this tax eliminated was more than just a job for us, it was a mission; it was a cause. Everyone in the office chipped in; we ended up getting close to 80 co-sponsors in a very partisan senate.

I got Susan Collins (R-Maine) to co-sponsor it with me in the Senate. Together, we got so many co-sponsors, we organized it like a political campaign.

Every recess, every town hall, there was somebody there, asking about the military widows’ tax.

It got to the point that when it went up to Congress, the negotiators for the NDAA said, “We’ve just got do this.”

When it passed, there were about 25 to 30 of those Gold Star widows up in the gallery.

It was awesome. It was really, really awesome.

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never been with a group of people so appreciative of an act of Congress as those military widows, it has been remarkable.

 

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Of Ships, the Wall and Budget Redirection

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones  (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the fourth installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is defense spending and border security.

HBJ: Mobile is a key player in shipbuilding, especially with Austal and the U.S. Navy. What can you tell us about the shipbuilding industry there?

Sen. Jones: Austal, down in Mobile, I think is the leading shipbuilding company for the Navy right now. They’ve built the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) ships, they built the EPF (expeditionary fast transport) ships, they’re such a good company; they’ve come in pretty much on time and on budget.

The Mobile-built EPF can transport military units and vehicles, or can be reconfigured to become a troop transport for an infantry battalion. The EPF has a flight deck for helicopters and a load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive on and off the ship.

The Navy is really high on them; I am hopeful that they will get the frigate contract that is going to be let relatively soon.

The problem we’ve got with Austal right now is the number of LCS and EPF ships are winding down and there’s going to be a lag time and a transition period, even if they get the frigate contract. I’m going to assume for a moment that they are.

There will still be a transition where all the workers aren’t going to be utilized. So, one of the things that we’ve done in this year’s budget was to contract an extra EPF ship to be built for this year, to help stabilize the workforce down there.

HBJ: Did President Trump say he is moving money from there to help pay for the wall?

Sen. Jones: Recently, the president has announced that he’s going to do away with that and take the money from the Department of Defense’s budget to fund the border wall.

At the State of the Union address, the President bragged about – and he should have – the number of immigrants and refugees seeking asylum are down. The number of people crossing the borders without their correct documentation; those numbers are down.

This wall is a political issue that is trying shore up some drug smuggling lanes. And I can tell you as a former U.S. Attorney, building a concrete bollard wall that you can stick your arm through is not going to be the way to stop that. There are so many ways that we can do it more cost efficiently.

Sen. Jones: “Mexico is not paying for our wall; Mobile is paying for our wall.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

People may think maybe it’s related to immigration, it’s not. It’s just purely a political issue and the president has taken $261 million out of Austal and that EPF ship that was put in the budget and he’s line-iteming and moving that $261 million over to help build 17 miles of new wall and refortifying about 160 miles of wall.

So, the bottom line is this: Mexico is not paying for our wall; Mobile is paying for our wall.

We went through hours and hours of what they call “posture hearings” on the Armed Services Committee. And Congress, in a very bipartisan way, worked with the budget and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to appropriate money so that we could modernize our military, give our men and women in uniform everything that they need to protect the United States of America and here we’ve got money being taken out of that budget, $3.8 billion to build a concrete bollard wall.

Yes, I shook my head, too, as did everybody.

Again, make no mistake; I’ve supported stronger border security. We need to find out who’s been coming across our borders and try to do the best we can to secure those borders.

There’s just a better way to do it. The wall has become more of a symbol now, than it is an effective reality.

(Tomorrow: Sen. Jones discusses the military and military families)

 

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Tariffs and Global Trade

 

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the third installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is international trade and tariffs.

HBJ: Let’s talk about Alabama and where it fits in global trade.

Sen. Jones: Alabama is an exporting state. You know, after NAFTA came into being, Alabama got hurt pretty bad. But, we’ve done such an amazing job of adapting and a part of that was with the automobile manufacturers that started coming into the state.

Sen. Jones: “Twenty-five percent tariffs on automobiles would be devastating and just not functional.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

But, Alabama really has got partners all over the world. It’s amazing what we export now.

It’s an exporting state. We need to make sure that with our trading partners, that we have good agreements with them … That’s been a challenge, I think, over the last couple of years.

HBJ: Tell me about the tariffs and what industries are affected.

Sen. Jones: You know, there are two different things.

First of all, you’ve got tariffs that are proposed for automobiles. Fortunately, we’ve got a trade agreement with Japan now. So, Toyota and Honda are fairly safe. But, Mercedes has still got a potential issue out there; Hyundai still has potential issues out there.

Twenty-five percent tariffs on automobiles would be devastating and just not functional. The president has done this under some guise of national security but yet he won’t release the report that the Commerce Department did to determine whether or not they’re a national security threat.

Throughout this, several senators in a bipartisan way have been working with me: Sen. (Lamar) Alexander (R) from Tennessee, Sen. (Rob) Portman (R) from Ohio.

We’ve had different bills pending to try to get at the bottom of these automobile tariffs. In fact, this past year, Sen. (Pat) Toomey (R-Pa.) and I had an amendment in the budget process, the appropriations process, whereby the administration was required to release that to us by the middle of January.

Of course, they have not done that. So, we still don’t know what that is.

What we’ve seen is steel and aluminum imports have caused the cost of goods and services to go up. That was a boom for Alabama steelmakers for a little bit, but now with prices that way, everybody’s feeling some pain.

The other thing: the retaliatory tariffs have been what’s been devastating to farmers. When China started cutting off soybeans and other products, it really has affected so many farmers in this state.

Now, we have a first step agreement with China. I think the jury is still out as to whether or not that’s really going to be a favorable deal, or one that keeps the status quo, which is not that good.

I’d like to think it’s going to be a good deal ultimately for folks, but there’s still another deal yet to be had.

What I’m seeing right now is that we are now getting into the political dynamics with trade and everything is just kind of on hold until after the election.

The president has quit beating the trade “drums” as loud as he gets closer and closer to November.

HBJ: So, the tariffs affect not only steel, but agricultural exports, as well?

Sen. Jones: Yep, absolutely. They’ve had serious issues with soybeans, but it’s affected agriculture across the board.

Sen. Jones: “My biggest problem with the way the administration has handled trade is that we’ve gone it alone.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

If you talk to the folks down in the Port of Mobile, they will tell you the exports are down so much in agricultural goods. And hopefully, that’s going to come back.

And we’ve got issues down in Mobile, too with Airbus. The president is still talking about tariffs on exports, imports from Europe which could affect the Airbus and the airplane industry down there.

We’ve had to go through and seek exemptions for – I can’t tell you know how many companies. And we’ve been pretty successful at it in the office, where we’ve been able to carve out exemptions, but that’s just not the way to run trade.

When you announce these big policies and then you start chipping away, what that means is that the administration is picking winners and losers in the industry. And that’s just not good.

We need to try to break down some barriers and try to make sure we’ve got good trade, deal with countries like China, but do it in a fair way.

My biggest problem with the way the administration has handled trade is that we’ve gone it alone.

We started kicking all of our friends in the shins, we started going after Canada, we started going after Europe, we started going after China. We ended up going at China alone when we could have done some deals with our allies and then all gone in there together, because now they’re all getting separate deals.

I think we could have gotten a better deal had we all worked together.

Now having said all that, I voted for the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) deal. I think that’s a pretty good deal for Alabama. The automobile dealers had a little bit of question about it all, but overall I think updating NAFTA was a good thing. And it was something that needed to be done.

What I think is really good about that though, that this deal is that once it got to the House of Representatives, the House made it better than what it was.

They made it better in the form of labor protections and in environmental protections. Much better than what the president sent over there; that’s what got it across the finish line, was the House of Representatives making it better.

(Monday: Sen. Jones discusses defense spending and border security)

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Health Care

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed issues important to our state and nation. This is the second installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is health care.

HBJ: What can you tell us about health care in Alabama?

Sen. Jones: Health care has been one of the priorities in our office for a lot of reasons.

Sen. Jones: “I have been a strong proponent of Medicaid expansion in Alabama. We made a huge mistake by not doing it.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

Alabama is still a poor state and we’re an unhealthy state. We need better health care outcomes and we’ve got to keep health care in rural parts of Alabama.

We’ve lost 13 or so hospitals in the last seven to eight years, and about seven or eight of those hospitals have been in rural areas. And you’re not going to keep a community if you don’t have health care in that area.

We’ve done a number of things.

First of all, I’ve worked with Sen. (Richard) Shelby (R-Ala.) and Congresswoman (Terri) Sewell (D-Ala.) to get the Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS) folks to meet with us to try to change the Medicare Wage Index (MWI). The Wage Index is how reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid services are paid.

Alabama’s had the lowest reimbursement rate in the country. The index formula was such that you stayed at the bottom; once you got there, you couldn’t pull back up.

We brought the CMS director in and talked to her about that.

For years, people would write letters and talk about it a little bit, but we actually put it into action. The director changed that and now Alabama’s wage index has been increased significantly; it will bring about $40 million to $50 million in for health care in Alabama.

HBJ: What about Medicaid Expansion?

Sen. Jones: I have been a strong proponent of Medicaid expansion in Alabama. We made a huge mistake by not doing it.

We didn’t do it in Alabama for two reasons, one reason was purely political. There was also a concern at the time about how we would pay for it.

The Affordable Care Act had the name “ObamaCare” attached to it. Everybody in Montgomery would run around saying that “we can’t do anything, that’s got President Obama’s name on it.”

The people who suffered most were the people who needed the Medicaid insurance. Anecdotally, we have seen all the states that did the Medicaid expansion bring in billions of dollars to the states’ economies.

So, the people of Alabama also suffered because they didn’t have billions of dollars coming in.

Health care outcomes have gone up which also helps the states’ economy. It helps businesses, it helps education and you name it, across the board.

I’ve got a bill pending called the States Achieving Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act that would give the 16 states who have not expanded an opportunity to get a “second bite of the apple.”

I think the House of Representatives will likely pass it this year, whether it will be part of (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell’s “graveyard,” I don’t know. We’ve got close to 400 bills that the House has passed that are stacking up on Mitch’s desk.

He relishes in being called the “Grim Reaper,” and that’s unfortunate.

HBJ: What about prescription drugs?

Sen. Jones: The other thing that we’ve been looking at with the administration in a bipartisan way, is to lower prescription drug prices.

It’s a big deal. Drug prices are an issue for us.

There are several other things that are out there, such as more transparency in drug pricing; getting generics to market faster.

The thing that’s not in the president’s budget is giving Medicare an opportunity to negotiate drug prices. I’m not sure why the president is opposed to that, but he is.

HBJ: Let’s talk about maternal and infant health.

Sen. Jones: We’ve got a number of bills pending that will try to address maternal health and infant health.

It’s a huge problem in this state. We’ve gotten a little bit better on infant mortality, but we’re still one of the highest in infant mortality in the country; we’re one of the highest in maternal mortality.

A state that prides itself on family values, a pro-life state, we have high rates of that, and that’s unconscionable.

(Tomorrow: Sen. Jones discusses international trade and tariffs)