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Top News Links: Wednesday, July 22

Condoleezza Rice to speak in Birmingham

Condoleezza Rice, the 66th U.S. secretary of state, will deliver the keynote address at a November joint meeting of groups that seek to promote trade, investment and cultural exchange between seven Southeastern states and Japan. Rice, a Birmingham native who served as the chief U.S. diplomat from 2005 to 2009, will speak in Birmingham on Nov. 16. – Made In Alabama

Southeastern Automotive Conference to be Oct 18-20

The Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association will host the 2015 Southern Automotive Conference, the region’s premier automotive tradeshow, Oct. 18-20 in the heart of downtown Nashville. The SAC provides a forum for top executives from original automotive manufacturers and major suppliers to showcase new product developments, collaborate on best practices and discuss strategies to strengthen the region’s burgeoning automotive industry. – News release

Southern States Bank acquires Georgia bank

Southern States Bank, the wholly owned subsidiary of Southern States Bancshares, Inc., has announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire Columbus Community Bank headquartered in Columbus, Georgia for cash consideration of approximately $21.4 million. Pending both regulatory and Columbus Community Bank shareholder approval and customary closing conditions, the transaction is expected to close at the end of the third quarter of 2015.  The combined bank will have approximately $500 million in assets. – News release

Trader Joe’s opening at The Summit Oct. 2

Fans of Trader Joe's will be happy to learn the popular boutique grocer has announced an official opening date for its first Alabama store at The Summit. Trader Joe's has scheduled its grand opening for Oct. 2, according to a release from the grocery store. Located at 209 Summit Blvd., Trader Joe's will take the 12,600-square-foot space formerly occupied by Banana Republic. – BizJournals.com

Casinos see mild dip, still on roll

For the first time this year, monthly gross casino revenue in South Mississippi was lower than last year. Coast casinos won $95.5 million in June, 3 percent below June 2014. It's the second best June for Coast casinos since 2008. After five months of increasing revenues, the 11 Coast casinos are still on a roll for the first half of the year. Revenue for the first half of the year is $579.6 million compared to $542.6 million in the first two quarters of 2014, an increase of $37 million. – Sun Herald

Construction jobs increasing in state

Alabama's construction job numbers continue to improve in June, as over two dozen states cut jobs between May and last month. According to new data from the Associated General Contractors of America, Alabama had a 4 percent increase in construction jobs from June 2014 to June 2015. – Birmingham News

State’s job growth slow compared to peers

Alabama is last in job growth among southeastern states over the last year, according to data released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 50 states, 34 experienced statistically significant increases in total jobs from June 2014 to June 2015. Total jobs in Alabama grew by 1.37 percent, BLS estimates, good for 27th out of those 34 states. But Alabama's growth was especially slow compared to its southeastern peers. – AL.com

Efforts ramp up to unionize Airbus workers

With its sights set squarely on the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers opened this week an organizing office in Mobile. "Airbus workers need a location outside of work where they can meet and learn about their collective bargaining rights and the process that leads to a union representation election," IAM Lead Organizer Al Granado said in a prepared statement. – AL.com

Lauderdale County solar farm watched carefully

A northern Alabama county is on its way to cheaper energy. In May of 2015, UA professors Samuel Addy and Ahmad Ijaz wrote the study about the new $150 million solar energy farm that will be created within Lauderdale County, Alabama. The study, titled “Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Solar Energy Project in Lauderdale County, Alabama,” was prepared for Bradley Arant Bould Cummings LLP, a firm out of Birmingham who is a major player in the construction of the plant. Both Addy and Ijaz work in the Culverhouse College of Commerce.  – CrimsonWhite

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