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Top News Links: Thursday, Sept. 10

Mercedes spending $30M to up brand culture

Mercedes-Benz USA and its dealers are spending about $30 million over the next four years to train 26,000 employees and immerse them in the brand's culture. Later this year, the first wave of employees will go through a two-day program called the Brand Immersion Experience at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Vance near Tuscaloosa. The investment includes a $6 million revamp of the visitor center at the factory for classroom training, including digital interactive displays. – Auto News

Behold: The Saban Signature Sprinter

The Crimson Tide is rolling in style this season. University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has collaborated with the Mercedes-Benz of Birmingham dealership and specialty vehicle manufacturer McSweeney Designs to create the Nick Saban Signature Series Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. – AL.com

Lockheed Martin has 500 layoffs on table

Lockheed Martin will cut 500 jobs from its Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) workforce by mid-November. The global security and aerospace company said the voluntary and involuntary layoffs are the result of "shifting government priorities, changing industry dynamics and efforts to improve IS&GS' competitiveness." The impact on Alabama isn’t yet known. – AL.com

The amazing $20K house, in Atlanta no less

Everyone knows Serenbe as a bucolic wonderland grown from farm acreage south of Atlanta and filled with expensive ultra-green homes, celebrity rumors and faux old buildings "converted" into lofts. But beyond the flash, there's something remarkable going on down there — the rise of $20,000 houses. The 20K home project results from years of work by students at Auburn University's Rural Studio. – Curbed

House committee makes budget progress

An Alabama budget committee on Wednesday approved a 25-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase and other revenue bills as lawmakers try to fill a budget hole before the fiscal year begins in three weeks. The House Ways and Means Committee action was the first sign of budding agreement among lawmakers after months of stalemate over a projected $200 million general fund shortfall. However, the proposals still face difficult floor and Senate votes ahead. – AP/Times Free Press

Not so fast on raising minimum wage

A bill in the Statehouse would keep Alabama’s counties and municipalities from setting a minimum wage that is higher than the current federal minimum. More than 40 House members, mostly Republicans, have co-signed the House Bill 27. A public hearing on it was to be held Wednesday in the House General Fund budget committee. – Decatur Daily

Aerojet bids $2B for United Launch Alliance

Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. bid about $2 billion for United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. that is the premier supplier of rockets to the Pentagon, according to people familiar with the matter. The two sides are in advanced talks about what one of these people described as an all-cash offer. – Denver Post

Legislature working on hefty porn tax

Pornographic material and adult entertainment might be getting a lot more expensive in the state of Alabama. The Alabama House Ways and Means Committee passed the proposed “porn tax” in a 10-4 vote on Wednesday as lawmakers rush to fill a massive budget shortfall. In addition to any other applicable taxes, a 40% state excise tax will be levied on gross receipts from the sale, rental or admission charges of pornographic material. – WKRG

McDonald’s back to using real butter

McDonald's is making a number of major changes to its menu, the most recent of which would make Paula Deen proud. According to CNBC, the chain is now using real, actual butter to cook breakfast items on the grill and to spread on toasted items like English muffins, biscuits, and bagels. A number of locations across the country have already started using the dairy product and two sources tell CNBC that a full rollout "would occur once locations deplete the supply of liquid margarine." – Eater

ITAC expanding to Atlanta

ITAC Solutions, one of the Southeast’s leading recruiting and staffing firms specializing in the temporary, contract, and direct placement of accounting, information technology, corporate and administrative professionals, announces its expansion into Atlanta. The expansion will happen by the end of 2015 and will be the fifth office location for the company. – News release

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