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Top News Links: Friday, Dec. 18

Town Madison project grows by 200 acres

The $400 million Town Madison mixed-use project is about to get a lot bigger. Leaders gathered Thursday outside the new Intergraph headquarters in Madison to announce Breland Companies has purchased more than 200 acres at the campus along Interstate 565 and Wall Triana. The addition will make Town Madison one of the largest developments of its kind in the Southeast with more than two miles of Interstate frontage. – AL.com

Navy directed to pick just one LCS manufacturer

The U.S. Navy has been directed by the secretary of defense to reduce its order of littoral combat ship variants to 40 rather than the 52 that were planned and to reduced the suppliers from two shipbuilders to one. Austal in Mobile is one of two shipbuilders that had been tasked with building the littoral combat ships. – Fox News

Huntsville making progress with Dream Chaser

Huntsville is a step closer to landing a spaceship at its international airport. Now, if it can just get a federal blessing for the sonic boom that will be heard in three states when the ship approaches. Officials said today they were "successful" in the first phase of testing whether Sierra Nevada Corp's Dream Chaser could safely and without damage land at the Huntsville International Airport. – AL.com

Regions Bank hikes prime lending to 3.5 percent

Regions Bank Thursday announced it is increasing its prime lending rate to 3.50 percent from 3.25 percent, effective immediately. Regions serves customers in 16 states across the South, Midwest and Texas, and through its subsidiary, Regions Bank, operates approximately 1,630 banking offices. – BusinessWire

Sessions, Cruz partner on “American Jobs First’

Legislation under consideration in the U.S. would put an end to a program that allows thousands of international students to work in America after graduation. The “American Jobs First” bill targets the optional practical training program, or OPT, that gives foreign graduates the right to find jobs in the U.S. for between 12 and 29 months, depending on their degree subject. Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, filed the bill along with Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions. – WSJ

Being a bank lobbyist a tougher job now

Financial firm lobbyists are getting an earful from industry executives all over the country for failing to get much of anything into the omnibus. No big CFPB changes, no SIFI threshold changes, no DOL fiduciary rule slow-down. No nothing really. – Politico

Walter Energy gets OK to drop some health care

Walter Energy has been granted permission to end its health care plans for non-union retirees as part of its bankruptcy proceedings. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Tamara Mitchell granted the order the same week she heard arguments from the company on why it should be able to end its contracts with its two unions, the United Mine Workers of America and the United Steelworkers. – AL.com

Hill becomes new chairman at Vulcan

Vulcan Materials Company has announced the retirement of its chairman, Donald M. James, effective Dec 31. He will also retire from the board of directors. J. Thomas Hill, Vulcan's current president and chief executive officer (CEO), will replace James. He was appointed CEO in 2014. – Zacks.com

Watts named 2016 chairman for BBA

Dr. Ray Watts, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been elected Chairman of the Board of the Birmingham Business Alliance for 2016. Watts succeeds Mark Crosswhite, CEO of Alabama Power Co. Also elected were members of the BBA’s 2016 Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Each serves a one-year term. – News release

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