Former record store owner and radio pioneer Arnold Hornbuckle dies (updated)

Arnold Hornbuckle radioView full sizeArnold Hornbuckle at WAHR-FM radio station, which he started in 1959. The station was on top of The Times building downtown and the call letters stood for “Arnold Hornbuckle Radio.” (Courtesy photo)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Former record store owner and radio broadcasting pioneer Arnold Hornbuckle died early this morning. He was 84.

A Huntsville native, Hornbuckle founded WAHR-FM radio station in 1959 and his Hornbuckle ‘s Record Shop was a popular place to pick up the latest records for decades. He was inducted into the Alabama Broadcaster’s Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Visitation will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Laughlin Service Funeral Home. The funeral will be Thursday at 2 p.m. at FIrst Baptist Church of Huntsville.

Hornbuckle was born in Huntsville on March, 18, 1927 to Weston Neal and Lillie Mae Hornbuckle. His childhood was spent farming with his father and brothers in the Owens Cross Roads area, where his parents’ families had lived for generations.

Arnold HornbuckleView full sizeArnold Hornbuckle, who died early this morning, founded WAHR-FM in 1959. The call letters stood for “Arnold Hornbuckle Radio.” (Courtesy photo)

Hornbuckle developed an interest in popular music as a teenager that led him to open Hornbuckle’s Record Shop in downtown Huntsville in 1952. The business quickly expanded to include musical instruments and home entertainment electronics.

His record store business expanded over the years to include four stores in Huntsville and stores in Decatur and Gadsden.

Hornbuckle founded WAHR-FM radio station in 1959. The call letters stand for “Arnold Hornbuckle Radio.” It was the first FM station that was not associated with an existing AM radio station. The station was consistently among the highest rated stations in north Alabama for 40 years.

He was the majority shareholder and president of WAHR-FM until it was sold in 1999.

Hornbuckle was active in several civic organizations and served on the boards of the YMCA, Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Madison County, Boys and Girls Club, Huntsville Rehabilitation Foundation, Burritt on the Mountain and the North Alabama Better Business Bureau.

He was a founding member of the Space City Lions Club and a member of First Baptist Church in Huntsville. He became active in the Mended Hearts organization in recent years.

Arnold Hornbuckle recordsView full sizeArnold Hornbuckle and employees at Hornbuckle’s Record Shop in about 1957. (Courtesy photo)

Survivors include two sons, Ronnie Hornbuckle and Guy Hornbuckle, both of Huntsville, and one brother, Austin Hornbuckle of New Hope.

He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother, Murlen Hornbuckle.

Updated at 2:40 p.m. with funeral arrangements and to add photos.

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UA economist finds immigration law could cost Alabama millions in lost taxes, billions in lost GDP

Alabama Immigration Bill ProtestUniversity of Alabama students protest the Alabama immigration law in the Ferguson Center Promenade on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011.

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama — An economic analysis of Alabama’s immigration law by the director of the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research found that the law will hurt the state’s economy, with the potential loss of tens of millions in tax dollars and billions in lost production.

The report notes that potential benefits to the law can come in reduced state benefits to illegal immigrants and more business, job and education opportunities for legal residents. The study also finds that some of the impact is difficult to measure.

The analysis by Dr. Samuel Addy found that 40,000 to 80,000 workers earning between $15,000 to $35,000 annually have left the state. Those departures, the study found, mean the loss of 70,000 to 140,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The chief problem, the study finds, is that demand in the economy is reduced.

“As a result of this exodus, aggregate demand has been reduced, a negative shock that puts the state’s economy on a lower growth path than would have been the case without the law,” the report argues.

There are also costs associated with implementation, litigation, potential loss of economic development due to negative publicity for the state and inconvenience in obtaining services for residents.

Alabama’s gross domestic product, or GDP, will take a sharp hit according to the analysis. The state’s total goods and services produced will drop between $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion and the state will lose between $56 million to $264 million in state income and sales tax collections, the study predicts.

Read the full study below:

Costs and Benefits Analysis of Alabama Immigration Law

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Spotted after hours at the Leadership Jackson County Class of 2012

Leadership Jackson County Class of 2012 Kick-off Meeting

GAUTIER, Mississippi — The first meeting of the Leadership Jackson County Class of 2012 was held on Friday, January 20, 2012 at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier, Mississippi.

Photographer Cindy McCrory was there and captured these photos. Gulf Coast Business, which covers business news in coastal Alabama and Mississippi, regularly visits business social events for its After Hours photo galleries.

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Spotted after hours at the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce open house

South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Open House

FOLEY, Alabama — The South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce held an open house at the Chamber’s new location, 112 West Laurel, in Foley on Thursday, January 12, 2012.

Photographer Cindy McCrory was there and captured these photos. Gulf Coast Business, which covers business news in coastal Alabama and Mississippi, regularly visits business social events for its After Hours photo galleries.

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Spotted after hours at the Mobile Chamber of Commerce Opportunity 175 Gala

Mobile Chamber of Commerce's Opportunity 175 Gala

MOBILE, Alabama — A celebration dinner commemorating the 175th Anniversary of the Mobile Chamber of Commerce was held at The Mitchell Center on the campus of the University of South Alabama on Thursday, January 26, 2012.

Photographer Cindy McCrory was there and captured these photos. Gulf Coast Business, which covers business news in coastal Alabama and Mississippi, regularly visits business social events for its After Hours photo galleries.

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Alabama immigration law’s price tag? Up to $11 billion, says economist

Sam Addy.JPGUniversity of Alabama economist Sam Addy says the state’s new immigration law could shave as much as $11 billion from Alabama’s gross domestic product.BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Alabama’s tough immigration legislation could cost the state as much as $11 billion in economic output and another $264.5 million in tax revenue, according to a new analysis by an economist at the University of Alabama.

Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, released the results of a cost-benefit analysis concerning the HB56, the controversial immigration law that proponents say helps lower state’s unemployment rate and opponents say hurts its economic well-being and image.

While the study says there are potential benefits to the law, including funds saved by not providing benefits to illegal immigrants and increased opportunities for legal residents, Addy’s analysis outlines significant costs to the state’s economy.

These include direct and indirect job reductions totaling between 70,000 and 140,000, the study says. Also, the law could cause a 1.3 percent to 6.2 percent reduction in the state’s gross domestic product, or between $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion. GDP is the broadest measure of the state’s economic output.

Addy’s study also says there could be state income and sales tax revenue losses between $56.7 million and $264.5 million, along with between $20 million and $93.1 million in losses to local tax collections.

“Economies are demand-driven, so any policy, regulation, law, or action that reduces demand will not contribute to economic development no matter how well-intentioned,” Addy said in a statement.

“Nobody can fault the intent of the immigration law, which targets illegal immigration, but the law itself is costly mainly because it reduces demand in the state economy.”

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Commenters amazed by way auditors lost Regions employee data

Regions Bank-0131.jpgRegions Financial says auditor Ernst Young lost employee 401k data stored on computer flash drive. (The Birmingham News / Joe Songer)

Personal information about Regions Financial Corp. current and former
employees was lost in November when a flash drive with the data came up
missing after being mailed by outside auditor Ernst Young in the
same envelope as the decryption code, Birmingham News writer Russell
Hubbard reported.

Regions informed employees of the missing data
in a letter dated January 23. The company also shared a copy of a letter
sent to its employees by auditor Ernst Young, which mailed the
package with information about 401k retirement plan participants to
another of its offices, with the flash drive and the decryption code
together. When the package arrived, the flash drive was gone, but the
page with the decryption code was still there.

In the online community, the reaction was a mixture of of amazement and disbelief. Read some of what people are saying:

• “Mailing them together? Dumb” — bhamliberal

“I would imagine Ernst and Young has many corporate clients with whom
they exchange confidential data. Surely they have a process in place
that is a little more secure and thought out than this. But, apparently
they do not.

“Maybe state and federal regulators should pay them a
little visit and do a complete top-to-bottom hot-seat audit of their
security practices.

“What other lax processes exist at EY?” — sonofthestranger

• “The bigger crime here is that Regions waited for 2 months to notify employees.

is clearly EYs fault, but Regions will suffer as well. You put
college term papers on thumb drives, not employee sensitive information.
” — hoovereagle

• “Something doesn’t add up here…

“1– the package arrived

“2– the flashdrive was not in the package

“3– the codekey was in the package

so, why on earth would a thief steal the flashdrive but not the codekey
needed to make any use of it, and then, even more puzzling, why would
he send it on it’s way to it’s intended destination? Why not just keep
the whole thing and make everyone think it was just lost in the mail
instead of drawing such attention to the matter in this way?

guess is that the thief intended what happened to happen. EY looks
foolish Regions is in a panic. He might even attempt to blackmail
Regions soon, demanding something in exchange for the missing data.” – Kislath

Join the conversation, add a comment.

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Medical Properties Trust to acquire New Mexico company for $400 million

ed aldag.JPGMedical Properties Trust Inc. CEO Ed Aldag.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Medical Properties Trust Inc., a Birmingham-based real estate investment trust, has agreed to acquire New Mexico-based Ernest Health Inc. in a $400 million deal that will push the Birmingham company’s assets past the $2 billion mark.

The deal will give Medical Properties 16 additional hospitals in 12 new markets, increasing the size of the REIT by 25 percent in a single transaction, President and CEO Edward Aldag, Jr., told analysts in a conference call.

After the deal is approved by regulators and closed, the Birmingham REIT will own 78 medical facilities in 24 states, and it’s preparing for more acquisitions, Aldag said.

“This is just the beginning of 2012 and there is still plenty of time left for making other investments this year,” he said in a prepared statement. “There are many other opportunities to invest with other strong hospital operators like Ernest Health, and we are enthused about the additional growth possibilities in 2012 and beyond.”

Medical Properties stock closed today at $10.72, up 9 cents or 0.85 percent. The acquisition and the company’s fourth-quarter earnings were announced after the close of trading.

Medical Properties announced that it has agreed to acquire 16 Ernest hospitals for $300 million in cash and debt. Separately, a Medical Properties affiliate and Ernest management together will acquire Ernest Health Inc. for $100 million.

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ernest owns eight long-term acute care hospitals and eight rehab hospitals with a total of 606 beds in nine states.

Aldag called the deal “transformative” and “highly accretive” and said it positioned Medical Properties for significant long-term growth.

“We are delighted to welcome Ernest Health to the MPT family of premier healthcare facilities,” he said.

In the conference call with analysts Aldag also said the deal significantly improves the REIT’s level of diversification. After the agreement is executed, no single property will amount to more than 4 percent of Medical Properties’ holdings.

“Just a few years ago, that was about 8 percent,” Aldag told analysts.

The REIT also reported earnings for the quarter and year ended Dec. 31. It reported net income for the quarter of $12.7 million, or 11 cents per share, up from $10.6 million, or 9 cents a share, reported for the same period a year ago. For the year, the company reported $26.5 million in net income, or 23 cents per share, up from $22.9 million in net income, or 22 cents per share, for the previous year.

The fourth-quarter earnings matched expectations of analysts polled by Bloomberg News.

The company reported normalized funds from operations for the fourth quarter of $20.5 million, or 19 cents per share, up from $18.2 million, or 17 cents per share in the same quarter a year earlier. The Ernest deal is expected to result in a 26 percent increase in funds from operations, Aldag said.

“All of this will be accomplished while maintaining our conservative balance sheet,” he told analysts.

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Huntsville International Airport average air fare second most expensive in the nation

Airport passengersView full sizePassengers at Huntsville International Airport paid an average of $473 for a round-trip ticket in the third quarter of 2011. That average has not changed in three quarters. but the airport’s ranking has fluctuated from fourth place in the second quarter to second place in the first quarter. (The Huntsville Times/File photo)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The entrance of low-fare carrier AirTran Airways into the Huntsville market in May 2010 is credited with helping Huntsville International Airport give up its spot as the most expensive average air fare in the country.

It may be too early to know what will happen to the airport’s average air fare once AirTran quits flying in and out of Huntsville in August.

But, the airport has climbed in the rankings to once again claim a spot among the leaders.

The airport’s average fare of $473 in the third quarter of 2011 placed it second in the nation, following only Cincinnati’s average of $488, according to a release Thursday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

It wouldn’t have taken much for Huntsville to fall down the list. Memphis’ average was $1 less than Huntsville’s, Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston was $3 less and Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., was $4 less.

The cheapest average air fare for the quarter was $167 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Huntsville’s average air fare has not budged in nine months, but it’s national ranking by the bureau has.

The airport’s average air fare was $473 in both the second and first quarters of 2011, but its ranking fluctuated from fourth place in the second quarter and second place in the first quarter.

The airport held the dubious distinction of having the most expensive average air fares in the country for 18 months until surrendering the title in the third quarter of 2010 when it fell to No. 3 with a $449 average.

It followed that drop by dropping out of the top five in the fourth quarter of 2010 with a $424 average fare.

The bureau surveys the top 100 airports in the country based on domestic itinerary fares which includes the airline’s fare and taxes and fees charged by government entities. It does not include fees charged by airlines.

The $361 average air fare of the 100 airports surveyed in the third quarter reflected a 6.2 percent increase from the average fare of $340 in the third quarter of 2010.

Huntsville fared better with than more than half of the airports in the survey when you look at the increase in average air fares over 11 years.

The bureau said Huntsville’s average air fare increased 5.2 percent from $449 in the third quarter of 2000 to $473 in the third quarter of 2011. The rate of increase placed the airport 60th out of 100.

To leave a comment or question about traffic or roads, contact Keith Clines at 256-532-4236, email, tweet @KeithClines or fax 256-532-4420.



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Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard to push for HudsonAlpha biotech education effort

Speaker of House Mike Hubbard Speaks to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of CommerceAlabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard speaks to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce at the Jackson Center in Huntsville, Tuesday August 9, 2011.(The Huntsville Times/Glenn Baeske)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama –  Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard is strongly backing a proposal that would help fund the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology’s efforts to provide genetics training for every biology teacher in Alabama.

The proposal crafted by HudsonAlpha Education Outreach Director Neil Lamb would cost about $600,000 annually and provide traveling two-day workshops for teachers and give them classroom-ready materials.

It would also cover the costs of substitutes on the days the teachers are in training, continue an intensive two-week training program at HudsonAlpha, cover teacher housing costs during the sessions and add genetics instruction as part of career training education.

There are more than 1,300 middle school and high school biology teachers in Alabama, Lamb said.

Hubbard said the proposal came out of a remark he made during a visit to HudsonAlpha last summer after he observed the work and training being conducted.

“I said if we could bring every biology teacher in Alabama through this, it would be amazing,” Hubbard said. “Neil then approached me and asked if I was serious. I told him I was and then he crafted the proposal.”

Hubbard, Alabama State School Superintendent Tommy Bice and a group of Alabama House members toured the facility Monday and heard presentations by Lamb and Dr. Rick Myers, HudsonAlpha’s president and director.

Myers talked about the widespread economic impact of the mapping of the human genome. Myers said that total spending on that original multi-lab mapping effort – which began in 1990 and was completed in 2003 – was about $3.8 billion. So far, genomic work and related projects and products have generated $800 billion, Myers said.

Lamb noted that one-third of high school biology class material covers genetics and genome-related work, but even current textbooks stop at the mapping of the genome. All of the advances since then are left out. HudsonAlpha has been working to help teachers gain confidence to teach the subject and to have current information.

To that end, every year Lamb culls journals to gather the latest findings in the field. He and his staff collect that material and put together a book that is readily understandable and can be used by teachers to develop lessons.

A copy of the book is sent to every high school in Alabama, without charge and its also available electronically.

Lamb said the proposal to the Alabama Legislature would dramatically expand the scope and scale of HudsonAlpha’s teacher training efforts, through content development and by providing funds to make it easier for teachers to attend training.

The idea that Alabama can be a national leader in training students and teachers in the burgeoning field of genetics and biotechnology was what drove Hubbard’s interest. He said it can have the same impact as the state’s successful reading and science education initiatives.

“This is a world-class facility,” Hubbard said. “To not use the brainpower and technological ability here for Alabama schools would be a terrible mistake. If this program does what I think it can do, it will mean an outstanding return for taxpayers.”

HudsonAlpha has been doing teacher training for more than three years, including about 30 a year during the two-week intense sessions at the institute. It also gives those teachers about $1,000 worth of genetics-related teaching materials to use in the classroom.

Lamb said the education staff at the institute counts up the interactions it has with teachers, students and community members each year. For 2011, they interacted with 53,000 people, double the previous year and for 2012 they expect that number to grow to more than 100,000 people.

Hubbard said he expects the project will have the support necessary to add it to the next state budget.

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