Marshall to Lead Lunar Lander Program with Huntsvillian in Charge

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered some welcome news Friday to the Marshall Space Flight Center.

In fact, there were two announcements:

One – he said the Marshall Center, which is in charge of developing the rocket program, will also manage the lunar lander program.

And, two, a Huntsvillian will lead that program.

“We greatly appreciate the support shown here today … for NASA’s Artemis program and America’s return to the moon, where we will prepare for our greatest feat for humankind – putting astronauts on Mars,” Bridenstine said. “We focus on a ‘One NASA’ integrated approach that uses the technical capabilities of many centers. Marshall has the right combination of expertise and experience to accomplish this critical piece of the mission.”

The program will be managed by Huntsville native Dr. Lisa Watson-Morgan.

“Imagine this: We are landing the next man and the first woman,” Bridenstine said. “The program that will be managed here … that landing system is being managed … by one of NASA’s best engineers, right here, and she just so happens to be a woman.”

Watson-Morgan, a 30-year NASA veteran engineer and manager, previously served as deputy director of the Engineering Directorate at Marshall.

“Lisa’s appointment to this key role not only reflects NASA’s confidence in her visionary leadership, but confidence in the proven expertise and world-class capability that define Marshall’s contributions to safely landing humans on the Moon and launching complex spacecraft to the Moon and Mars,” said Marshall Director Jody Singer.

Bridenstine also noted that some members of Texas’ congressional delegation were upset that work was being split between Marshall and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, after lobbying the space agency to get the lander program.

“I understand some of their concerns,” Bridenstine said. “I will say that this is not a decision that was made lightly. A lot of hard work has been done here in Huntsville over, really, well over 10 years now regarding landing systems.”

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks thanked Bridenstine for recognizing the work performed at Marshall.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is the birthplace of America’s space program. It was Marshall scientists and engineers who designed, built, tested, and helped launch the giant Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts on the Apollo missions to the Moon,” Brooks said. “Marshall has unique capabilities and expertise not found at other NASA centers.

“I’m pleased NASA has chosen Marshall to spearhead a key component of America’s return to the moon and usher in the Artemis era. Thanks to Administrator Bridenstine for travelling here to share the great news in person.”

With years of expertise in propulsion systems integration and technology development, engineers at Marshall will work with American companies to rapidly develop, integrate, and demonstrate a human lunar landing system that can launch to the Gateway, pick up astronauts and ferry them between the Gateway and the surface of the moon.

The Johnson Space Center in Houston, which manages major NASA human spaceflight programs including the Gateway, Orion, Commercial Crew and International Space Station, will oversee all aspects related to preparing the landers and astronauts to work together. Johnson also will manage all Artemis missions, beginning with Artemis 1, the first integrated test of NASA’s deep space exploration systems.

 

Airport CEO: Huntsville’s Economic Future is Tied to Airport’s Success

By Rick Tucker

Rick Tucker

Huntsville is one of the fastest growing local economies in our nation. Boosted by federal and private sector investments, our region is on a strong economic trajectory. In fact, a recent population boom has put the Rocket City on track to potentially be the largest city in Alabama in the next six years.

Our airport represents a key component to continuing this trend because current and new industry considering locating to our region depend on passenger and air cargo operations that support their own operating needs. The local economy depends on our ability to connect with other communities across the globe, so Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is vital to maintain those bonds as the region’s gateway to the world.

But similar to other airports around the country, HSV needs infrastructure investments in order to continue to be able to meet the expected flow of passengers and goods in the future. Projected growth in the area and HSV’s desire to continue to propel this region forward is why in 2012 the airport completed a major $92 million terminal and landside project that included creation of a public waiting area, a security screening checkpoint, a baggage claim and a second parking deck. Those necessary upgrades that were a part of the 2002 Master Plan update have improved the passenger experience and the efficiency of the airport.

Although HSV has seen many improvements and aesthetically offers visitors a very warm welcome to our community, other portions of our terminal are between 30 and 50 years old and in immediate need of improvement. As determined by HSV’s current Master Plan update, the parts of the airport’s facility that passengers use every day, such as elevators, escalators, restrooms and concessions, need redevelopment and expansion to keep up with demand.

In addition, these anticipated terminal improvement projects are imperative to adhere to new federal standards and provide our passengers with facilities that meet their expectations like nursing rooms and pet relief areas.  The terminal improvement projects would reinvigorate HSV and set the stage for continued growth for our region for years to come.

We are grateful to Senator Shelby and our Alabama congressional delegation for recently securing significant FAA discretionary grants, however these funds are designated for specific federal government high priority airfield projects. The previously mentioned terminal improvement projects are considered a lower priority for federal discretionary grants. Therefore, our challenge is to find funding for these necessary terminal improvement projects that are currently on hold.

The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require taxpayers to foot the bill.

If Congress would lift the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — a small user fee paid only by air travelers on which airports depend to fund their infrastructure – HSV could begin this project immediately. The PFC is federally capped at a maximum of $4.50 and hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making it ineffective and inadequate to serve 21st century airports that have experienced inflation just like everyone else.

For example, HSV’s current PFC dollars are already committed through 2030. By modernizing the PFC for the first time since 2001, Congress would allow our airport to generate funding from only the people using the airport, for the project referenced above – all without a dime of taxpayer dollars.

Starting these terminal improvement projects would have a major impact on our region’s economy. On top of the tens of thousands of jobs that Alabama’s airports already support, it’s estimated that these projects would create 608 construction jobs and inject $19.1 million into the Huntsville economy via construction labor wages alone.

Some will say that we should leave the PFC alone. However, those voices fail to acknowledge that maintaining the current PFC could result in stalled growth in Huntsville.

The airport has a major footprint on the local economy, with a total regional economic direct impact of 7,692 jobs equating to a payroll of $474,327,000 and a total multiplied impact of 24,293 jobs equating to a payroll of $942,828,000. Failing to upgrade our airport infrastructure could harm our economy and job growth.

We have recently experienced lower fares at HSV due to the addition of two new carriers and the competition that those carriers created in the market. The improved and expanded infrastructure projects will further encourage the airlines to grow and expand, therefore modernizing the PFC can have a positive and direct impact on passenger fares.

HSV is not alone, America’s airports need nearly $130 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to match the demand. It sounds like a staggering number, but the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports has doubled since 2000 to approximately one billion annually. Conversely, the PFC that pays for critical infrastructure of those airports has not increased in nearly two decades. These airports in their current state were designed for half of that traffic so it is clear that something must be done to modernize airports.

Airports across the country and organizations such as Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stand alongside numerous conservative organizations asking Congress to consider eliminating the PFC cap entirely or, raising the cap and adjusting it periodically for construction cost inflation.

There’s no doubt that Huntsville is a city on the rise. With a strong economy and a growing population, we are poised to continue to enjoy this success.

HSV has always worked to provide the community with an airport that acts as an economic engine by taking proactive measures that allow for immediate and long-term growth. However, to stay on this path we must ensure that our airport is able to meet the vital needs of the growing population and business community.

Modernizing the PFC isn’t just important for HSV – it’s critical for the future of our region.

(Rick Tucker is the CEO of Huntsville International Airport)

 

26 Huntsville, Madison Businesses Named to Inc. 5000

More than two dozen local companies have landed on this year’s version of the Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

The list represents the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment — its independent small businesses.

There are 26 businesses from Huntsville and Madison with 17 performing government services. Also included are three engineering firms, two real estate companies, one IT and one human resources business.

The 2019 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2015 to 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2018. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018 is $2 million.

Here are this year’s Huntsville-Madison companies listed by ranking:

617 – Cintel, 711 percent, $2.9 million, government services; 727 – Crossflow Technologies, 603 percent, $2.9 million, engineering; 927 – Kord Technologies, 458 percent, $70.1 million, government services; 942 – Freedom Real Estate, 451 percent, $3.7 million, real estate; 1,179 – Shearer, 352 percent, $6.4 million, engineering; 1,408 – Matt Curtis Real Estate (Madison), 293 percent, $5.2 million, real estate; 1,553 – Cortina Solutions, 267 percent, $2.7 million, government services; 1,591 – Martin Federal, 258 percent, $16.9 million, government services; 1,651 – R2C, 249 percent, $5 million, government services; 1,655 – Corporate Tax Advisors, 248 percent, $3.2 million, financial services;

2,083 – Nou Systems, 194 percent, $23.2 million, government services; 2,106 – Noetic Strategies, 191 percent, $4.6 million, IT management; 2,170 – Hill Technical Solutions, 186 percent, $9.9 million, government services; 2,223 – Pinnacle Solutions, 181 percent, $61.9 million, government services; 2,297 – LSINC, 175 percent, $12.7 million, government services; 2,452 – IronMountain Solutions, 162 percent, $42.1 million, government services; 2,818 – i3, 134 percent, $69.8 million, government services; 2,872 – Mission Driven Research, 130 percent, $3.4, million, government services; 2,927 – nLogic, 128 percent, $48.5 million, government services; 2,961 – Engenius Micro, 126 percent, $2.9 million, government services;

3,242 – Simulation Technologies, 112 percent, $31.6 million, engineering; 4,046 – Bevilacqua Research, 80 percent, $52.6 million, government services; 4,200 – Torch Technologies, 74 percent, $405.4 million, government services; 4,316 – Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, P.C., 71 percent, $4.6 million, financial services; 4,404 – Trideum Corp., 68 percent, $27.7 million, government services; 4,976 – Spur, 53 percent, $34.9 million, human resources.

Pruning Cummings Research Park Infuses Vibrancy, Marketability

Any good gardener knows a first-class park requires long-term planning and seasonal pruning to ensure its vibrancy.

In 1962, Teledyne Brown Engineering (then Brown Engineering) lay deep roots on 100 acres off a dirt road that later became Sparkman Drive.

IBM, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville quickly followed. Since then, Cummings Research Park’s 3,843 acres of prime Huntsville real estate has been a focal point of a 50-year master plan.

Cummings Research Park, with a 92 percent occupancy rate and 240 untouched acres to spare, is the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world.

But to better understand the growth strategy at work in the park, it is best to differentiate between Research Park East and Research Park West.

“When we talk about current growth, we mean business growth from companies within the park, especially on the west side,” said Erin Koshut, the executive director of Cummings Research Park. “On the east side, market studies show we need to redevelop that area to create greater density and to replace 1960s and 1970s buildings with properties that align with today’s economy. That will infuse the older section with new vibrancy.

“By doing that, we won’t have to look at physical land expansion per se for a very long time.”

Within the master plan are five-year work plans. The city is currently working off a plan finalized in 2016; a new plan begins in 2021. The plan acknowledges that some of the original buildings and key properties in the oldest sections of Research Park East are no longer viable in the market.

“Without the revitalization, if a company wants to go in and invest in that part of the park, they wouldn’t get their return on investment,” said Koshut. “That is why the zoning ordinances were changed for Research Park East – to give back some of the land to the park and to reduce economic setbacks.”

Cummings Research Park East

Rendering of Bradford Crossing

One such property is at Bradford and Wynn drives on the former site of the St. John Paul II Catholic High School. Driven Capital Partners in California purchased the four-acre site and plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use site called Bradford Crossing.

“Article 55 of the new zoning ordinance is very specific and says if you have a retail element on the ground floor, there has to be two or more uses,” said Koshut. “We cannot build a standalone gas station or drop a superstore in there, but a multistory building with ground floor retail will create density on a small but efficient parcel of land.

“No decision has been made on what other uses will be included, but it could be office space, multi-family residences, a hotel, or a mixture of all three on upper floors.”

There are four big red circles marking areas of Cummings Research Park East targeted for potential mixed-use redevelopment. Currently, no groundbreaking date is set for Bradford Crossing.

“This is not just the (Huntsville-Madison County) Chamber or the city calling for these changes,” said Koshut. “We have landowners like the Olin King family at Crown Leasing who own property on Bradford Drive. They demolished the building that was on it and now have the land for sale. Business and landowners understand the flavor of changes happening in the older section of the park.”

Other planned redevelopments include converting Executive Plaza off Sparkman Drive into a multi-use facility, including an arena for the UAH hockey team and convocations; and Huntsville’s plans to donate up to $1.8 million in land to Alabama’s third magnet school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. It has a temporary home at the Tom Bevill Center on UAH’s campus, but plans are to build a permanent location in Cummings Research Park East by 2022.

“This will give the whole park along the outskirts of UAH, a big infusion of vibrancy and marketability,” said Koshut.

Cummings Research Park West

The new Radiance Technologies facility will consolidate operations and employees.

Over in Cummings Research Park West, it is not about redevelopment but about taking what is there, making it better, and expanding the footprint. In fact, Cummings Research Park West will see three major projects and numerous moderate but significant business expansions this year.

By the end of the year, Radiance Technologies will be moving into a 100,000-square-foot facility at 310 Bob Heath Drive. The new facility will consolidate operations and employees, but with significant growth, Radiance will keep its 38,000-square-foot facility on Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park East for a while.

The new $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is sprouting from a 20-acre site at Old Madison Pike and Jan Davis Drive. It is scheduled to open in 2020.

The $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is scheduled to open next year.

“BAE Systems has a long history with Huntsville dating back many years when they had only a couple of employees,” said Koshut. “We are proud to see them bringing in 200 employees, many new hires, and some recruited to Huntsville from the Northeast.”

Fifty-four-foot walls are up around the $200 million Blue Origin rocket engine production facility on Explorer Drive. Expected to open its doors in March 2020, Blue Origin is estimated to bring up to 300 jobs to the local economy.

Dynetics just expanded its footprint with the 78,000 square-foot Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility; and IronMountain Solutions found a new home on Voyager Way.

“We have the first apartments, Watermark at Bridge Street Town Centre, built in Research Park,” said Koshut. “They consist of two four-story buildings and 240 apartments. Over half already leased before they open and of course a majority of those people work in Research Park.”

She said they would like to see an extension of Bridge Street Town Centre or at least retail that is congruent to Bridge Street grow into the commercial retail corridor between Bridge Street’s outdoor shopping promenade and Lake 4.

It’s All for the Employees

“There is a key component of all this expansion and redevelopment,” said Koshut. “It is driven by the wants and needs of employees.

“These companies want to recruit top talent to Huntsville, and they want to retain them. They require conveniences, activities, and amenities that have been available to them in cities where they are recruited from, many bigger than Huntsville.”

This includes access luxury apartments and single-family homes in or surrounding the park; creating a sense of vibrancy and community with activities such as the Food Truck Fest that draws some 300 people a month; free monthly happy hours in the park; and free Suzy’s Pops or Steel City Pops during the summer.

Later this summer or early fall, Koshut said the city will launch a pilot Bike Share project in Cummings Research Park West with three bike-share stations.

“As the city continues to invest in that program, we hope to connect many bike-share systems across the city so, at any time, an employee can hop on a bike and ride out to lunch,” said Koshut. “Young people enjoy being outside and easily get tired of being stuck in an office all day. Huntsville companies are recruiting people from cities that offer a quality lifestyle amenity.”

So, as new buildings are sprouting up all over Cumming Research Park, it always helps to keep the park neatly clipped and pruned to inspire growth and opportunities among the older, well-established buildings alongside the new and flourishing.

Teledyne Brown Engineering receives 4-Star Award from Raytheon IDS

Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems business unit recently presented a 4-Star Supplier Excellence Award to Teledyne Brown Engineering.

The award was presented at the annual Raytheon supplier conference. at a ceremony held during their supplier conference in Boston. The annual event allows Raytheon to acknowledge superior performance and service received by their suppliers and partners.

“We are a proud partner with Raytheon IDS on multiple programs.  It is an honor to be a part of their unparalleled supply chain, providing hardware for programs that require the highest standards and quality,” said Jan Hess, president of Teledyne Brown Engineering.  “This award recognizes our company’s emphasis on exceptional work and our many employees who are supplying quality deliverables to our valued customers.”

Award candidates are judged on certain criteria, including overall quality and on-time delivery.

MSFC Director Singer Named Humanities Fellow

MSFC Director Jody Singer

Alabama Humanities Foundation will honor Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, as one of four fellows inducted into its 2019 class at The Colloquium. The event is Oct. 7 at Birmingham’s The Club.

Singer will be honored with three other people with Alabama ties who have made significant contributions in the humanities in their lives and careers: Dr. Marquita Davis, deputy director, Early Learning, Pacific Northwest for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Fred Gray, attorney and civil rights activist; Howell Raines, retired executive editor of The New York Times.

“This is our third year of The Colloquium, and each year brings us new inspiration as we hear from such distinguished people who have had such an impact, not just in our state but around the world,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “To think that they all have Alabama ties makes us proud and makes this event so special.”

All four fellows will be featured in a live conversation moderated by National Public Radio’s Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Singer is the first female director of the Marshall Space Flight Center and is a former deputy director of MSFC. The center has nearly 6,000 on- and near-site civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.

She also served as deputy program manager for the Space Launch System program – the only rocket designed and tested from the ground up to return humans to deep space.

Singer spent a number of years supporting the Shuttle program. It was Singer, who was responsible for safety during the ground test program that led the agency back to flight after the Columbia accident.

She has been recognized with numerous awards during her NASA career, including NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals and two Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive Awards, the highest honor for career federal employees. She received the Space Flight Awareness Leadership Award in 2005 for inspiring the Shuttle Propulsion Office to strive for excellence and continuous improvement; and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1993 while managing the External Tank project’s business office.

A native of Hartselle, she earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama in 1983. She has completed two NASA Fellowships – one at Penn State University and another at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management in Boston.

Singer and her husband, Chris, live in Huntsville. They have three children and two grandchildren.

The ‘Final Frontier’ is a ‘Warfighting Domain’

Science fiction met science reality Monday in the Rocket City.

And no punches were pulled when it came to discussing national defense at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium. The symposium runs through Thursday at the Von Braun Center downtown.

“It’s a very crowded environment,” said Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. It is the mission of the SMDC to “defeat, penetrate and disintegrate” our adversaries’ levels of defense and “operate and dominate a combative” space environment.

Dickinson said the Army is the largest user of space of the military branches and has some 3,000 soldiers trained. The Army’s involvement dates to the 1950s with the Redstone rocket and the launch of the Explorer I satellite in 1958 began its space involvement.

And, as we know, technology has traveled at warp speed over the last 60 years.

Maj. Gen. Rick Evans addresses the 22nd Missile & Space Defense Symposium. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“We have become increasingly reliable on space and cyber,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Evans, assistant to the commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “Space and cyber are vital to our defense.

“We must adapt to new threats and stay ahead of our adversaries.”

To counter those threats, President Trump directed the U.S. Space Command be re-established as a full military branch. But, Evans said, that doesn’t mean “SAC will be out of the space business.”

And, the Army and Air Force still have their own space commands.

The Army’s 1st Space Brigade with headquarters in Colorado Springs supports joint forces and their critical dependence on space capabilities. The Air Force Space Command is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“Space is a warfighting domain,” he said. “We need those commands. Almost everything we do is tied to space in some way.”

The “crowded environment” in space includes threats from Russia and China, as well as “new threats” from the likes of North Korea and Iran through missiles, satellites and directed-energy (laser) weapons.

Evans said the U.S. must be prepared to answer the challenge by focusing on agility and speed.

“We need resilient, redundant capability,” he said. “We need a rapid, reconstituting capability.

“We can’t wait five years to replace a satellite.”

Burgeoning Regional Economy Ensures Everyone a More Valuable Slice of the Pie

Envision Huntsville as an average size pie.

Standing at city center, look outward in all directions toward the far edges of the pie crust – north toward the state line where visitors from Tennessee get their first glimpse of the city. South where many Huntsville businesses draw daily commuters. East across the mountain, west from neighboring communities and all points in between.

For Huntsville and Madison city leaders, this vision of the pie’s edge does not represent boundaries but, instead, corridors of growth.

“That’s always been our vision for Huntsville’s future and the basis for our regional economic strategy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The first part of revitalizing your city is to take the center point, known as the living room of your city, and revitalize it to make it economically viable. Get one area going and stretch it out to other areas.

“Year after year, we have pinpointed growth corridors that help us grow both economically and residentially. The result is an economic revival like what you have been seeing in Huntsville and Madison the past 10 years.”

Private investment land developers have that vision too. During the 1990s, brothers Jim and John Hays and their nephew Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development opened a growth corridor to the southeast in Hampton Cove and the Hays Nature Preserve.

In 2000, that development led to the expansion of a residential growth corridor along Taylor Lane in Big Cove, and, by 2010, it had extended into the Goldsmith-Schiffman community.

Also during the 1990s, Huntsville opened a residential growth corridor off Zierdt Road in the Edgewater and Mountain Brook communities southwest of the city. In 2010, it expanded into the Williams community further south.

Battle said that by looking at the local economy like a pie, you will see their strategy unfolding.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The Western Corridor

The Town Madison development along I-565 between Zierdt Road and Wall-Triana Highway in Madison will open a gateway to the city.

Anchored by the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium, the development is surrounded by residential, retail, commercial, and entertainment components that have thrown open a west side growth corridor that never existed.

“The location off I-565 is perfect catchment for a broad audience across the Southeast,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “As the interchanges off the highway are completed, you can expect ease of traffic getting to and from the area.

“If people come for a game or event, we hope they stay and experience all that Madison has to offer, including our historic downtown that offers livability with local boutique shopping and dining.”

Finley also believes Madison’s central geography in North Alabama positions it perfectly to feel the positive impact from economic development in the whole state as well as southern Tennessee.

“Madison benefits from Huntsville’s growth with the FBI and other tech development workforce to our east, as well as from the Mazda-Toyota plant to our west. We look to collaborate with Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties,” said Finley.

The development is envisioned to become a regional destination.

“Right on the interstate, convenient if you are coming from Cullman or Decatur, and where everybody who passes by can see it,” said Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison. “We are creating a regional destination with baseball, a food hall, and resort style hotels, similar to, but more diverse than Chattanooga.”

Open Southern Border

Recently, Enfinger and his uncles who are also developing McMullen Cove, announced the development of a multi-use Hays Farm development in South Huntsville that will replace the old Haysland Square and turn a 500-plus acre swath of undeveloped land into a new growth corridor to the south that will draw retailers and residents from Airport Road south to the river and beyond.

“There will be a commercial center all the way up to the Enfinger Building on South Parkway with a Village of Providence-type entertainment district surrounded by a city park, a ballfield, and 500-acre Hays Green with a passive walking park,” said Enfinger. “We’d like to maintain the natural green spaces. The Hays Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove has been a regional draw for a lot of people.”

In many ways, Ceci believes that with population growth and so many people commuting here to work every day from other counties, we already have an active regional economy at work.

“You see workers buying groceries, going out to eat and shopping during the workweek, even if they live outside the city,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand for some of the development that is occurring.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who has developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre and developing MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, has been watching those employee migration patterns into Huntsville for more than a decade.

“We see the regional trade area as about 50 miles and incorporates the 14-county commuter hubs from which Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park draw its employment,” said Grelier. “As a result, Huntsville has become the region’s primary center for healthcare, civic, cultural, shopping, and dining activity.”

Annexation of Morgan & Limestone counties

Add to all this, the annexation of a small portion of Morgan County to the southwest and a huge chunk of Limestone County due west of city center, and you can see the pie expanding!

“Yes, this annexation is a game-changer because it results in the ability to get infrastructure to certain areas and thus create major employment opportunities,” said Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty. His company has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue in downtown Huntsville, and is building a sister community, The Avenue Madison. “These new jobs will be an economic driver for the economy and create an incredible multiplier effect.”

The annexation is a precursor to the economic development that follows it, said Grelier.

“Annexing was necessary for the economic development of the Mazda-Toyota plant and other larger manufacturers,” he said. “It’s also helpful in attracting investment into commercial real estate projects across the metro area.”

“We’ve only made a foray into Morgan County,” said Battle, “The annexation of Limestone County where Mazda Toyota made a $2 billion land investment has seriously expanded our metro and opened an industrial growth corridor that is a win-win for both parties.”

City funds, thanks to Huntsville’s AAA credit rating from the S&P and Moody’s Investment Services, have pulled their share of the weight. With the power to borrow $85 million for city and countywide projects, of that, Huntsville will allot $25 million for the Mazda Toyota project infrastructure; and another $55 million for capital plans and schools.

Northern Exposure

Included is the revitalization of North Memorial Parkway. Since widening the well-worn highway into a viable parkway traffic corridor, it has encroached on many properties there, making them less viable.

“They don’t have enough depth to sustain retail, so we’ve taken them out and we’re turning that area into a park with greenways and walking trails,” said Battle. “Perception becomes reality.

“Instead of seeing boarded-up buildings when you enter from the north, you see it more as an entryway into North Huntsville – an economically viable area to move into and to be a part of.”

Among the projects is the upgrading of parks that will be instrumental in bringing in sports teams from all over the Southeast, including recreational rugby fields and soccer fields that can also be used for lacrosse.

“We are putting money into the tennis center and into the golf course, which now has cross-country running and mountain bike trails. All of these things tie back to what we call ‘quality of life’ for our residents and activities for our guests,” said Battle. “Travel sports bring people and their families to our area from all over, where they compete, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in our stores.”

Quality of Life

Town Madison’s $12 million Pro Player Park project with 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields, the $22 million Huntsville Aquatic Center, and the expanding Huntsville Tennis Center are already national attractions for travel sports competitions and events.

“To have a viable and growing economy, we have to offer a ‘quality-of-life’ that attracts people to the area, and quite frankly, we have a lot of jobs on the table too,” Battle said. “To recruit highly-skilled, higher income workers requires a quality of life that is equal to or higher than where they are moving from.”

Battle said “quality-of-life” is found in Lowe Mill, in craft beer, in a vast array of recreation facilities, disc golf, pickleball, art museums and public parks.

“But we still have work to do because people are coming from around the world to work for companies like Blue Origin, Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Mazda Toyotas,” said Battle.

Finley is ready for whatever challenges lay ahead for Madison.

“As Madison grows our focus is making sure we are responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars by improving infrastructure and providing a good quality of life in every district of our community,” said Finley. “While areas to the West are experiencing booming growth and increased traffic, we need to not only keep pace with growth but foresee areas that will need improvements down the line.”

Huntsville is also adding hotels, apartments, and homesites as more people move into the city. With a goal of adding 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, Battle said it will help draw larger conventions and business meetings.

“Part of the strategy for building smaller hotels instead of one big convention center hotel is to prevent people from living inside the hotel the whole time they are here,” said the mayor. “We want people to experience our city, eat in our restaurants, visit our museums, and shop in our stores.”

Enfinger believes that as we become a more affluent society, people’s wants, and expectations become more demanding.

“It looks like we are evolving in unison with the rest of the country as far as the type shopping we do and the kind of developments we build,” said Enfinger. “Our growth rate is higher than most cities, but I think we follow a national trend in the type developments we can sustain.”

Private Investment is Leading the Way

Private investment must still lead the way and developers such as Breland, RCP, Sealy, and Enfinger are leading the charge.

“When the City can support infrastructure needs or improvements, private investment can take those dollars further,” said Mayor Finley. “This is a win/win for both the City and for the investors. Ultimately, our citizens also reap the benefits of this growth and development.”

“Buy-in is good so far, but much harder than it may seem,” said Grelier. “Huntsville has a great story to tell, but many larger institutional investors are not aware of it or view the market as too small.

“Our team spends most of our time discussing and selling the regional market rather than the immediate project. A big part of Huntsville’s growth moving forward will be how the region is branded to compete for private investment and workforce internationally. It’s a regional story that should include our sister communities.”

He would also like to see the Gen Y & Z workforce move to the area because it’s a cool, fun place to live, and then find a job once they get here rather than moving here for the great job.

“Once this trend reverses, larger private investment and more economic development will follow quickly,” Grelier said.

From the city’s perspective though, Huntsville’s first mixed-use/multi-purpose development at Twickenham Square in 2014 has been a driver in enlarging the pie.

Join us for Part 2 of our series on Huntsville’s growing regional economy in the September issue of the Huntsville Business Journal as we investigate how multi-purpose/mixed-use developments are helping build Huntsville’s regional economy.

 

New Manufacturing Technologies Helping Create the ‘Smart’ Factory

Manufacturing innovations such as Blockchain, Additive Manufacturing, and Augmented Reality are a few of the hot new technologies that were discussed at the recent Society of Manufacturing Engineers-National Defense Industrial Association Technology Interchange Symposium.

Blockchain and Digital Thread

According to Forbes, Blockchain offers manufacturing great potential to deliver business value through increasing operational transparency across every area of manufacturing. From shop floor operations to the suppliers, manufacturers will be able to meet delivery dates, improve product quality, and boost sales by improving supplier order accuracy, product quality, and effective track-and-tracing technology.

“Companies generally lose $500 milllion a year in the counterfeit parts market,” said Chris Adkins, CSO at Identify 3D. “With cybersecurity, there’s always a level of vulnerability you’re going to have to live with.”

Adkins said although risks cannot be fully eliminated, there are ways to minimize risk.  Blockchain technology promises to tighten those gaps while delivering operational transparency.

However, not all supply chain partners are open to adopting blockchain technology.

“Think of this as recording data, sharing data across the supply chain,” Adkins said. “Information sharing poses one of the biggest obstacles. How do you convince suppliers to share core data?”

“Every process step should have traceable data, which allows you to have analytics. Although you might not be able to stop hacking, the information will allow you to find who stole it.”

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is the official industry standard term for all applications of the technology. It is defined as the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data.

Essentially, it is printing 3D copies of replacement parts. The ability to produce manufacturing aids, such as jigs or fixtures increases efficiencies and reduces costly traditional machining.

When properly implemented, additive manufacturing can significantly reduce material waste, streamline production steps, and reduce the amount of inventory and specific parts needed for an assembly.

Augmented Reality

According to the Franklin Institute, augmented reality is one of the biggest technology trends and it’s only going to get bigger as AR-ready smartphones and other devices become more accessible. A popular example of AR technology is the “Pokémon Go” mobile phone app.

All fun and games aside, there are many everyday applications for AR. Enhanced navigation systems use AR to superimpose a route over the live view of the road. A helmet visor AR that projects altitude, speed, and other data allows fighter pilots to keep their focus without the need to glance down at the instrument panel.

Smart glasses are a great example of Augmented Reality technology. Lightweight and durable, smart glasses fit easily over regular prescription glasses, or they can be worn alone.

Tech support calls can be made directly from the glasses using a voice command feature, which keeps both hands-on equipment repair or calibration, without taking one’s hands off the machinery.

For the factory floor, the peer-to-peer calling features enables the repair tech to see exactly what the shop floor specialist is seeing. Precise, effective repairs and shorter equipment downtime easily translates into dollars and cents.

Enhancements in the manufacturing technology landscape promise to deliver first time quality, the kind of quality that’s crucial for the warfighter.

Dynetics Teams with Maxar, NASA for Lunar Gateway

The United States is formulating plans to return to the moon by 2024 within the framework of the Artemis program — 55 years after NASA landed a man on the lunar surface during the Apollo days — but this time the mission is much different.

This time, NASA plans to put the first woman on the moon upon the return. This time, the country doesn’t plan to explore the Earth’s satellite and its mysteries and simply return home. This time, the goal is to establish a lunar presence with an eye already cast toward flights to Mars.

David King, CEO of Dynetics, and Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Maxar Technologies, sign “Powering Lunar Exploration”‘ teaming agreement. (Eric Schultz/Huntsville Business Journal)

“NASA is going back to the moon and is committed to doing so by 2024,” said Mike Gold, vice president of civil space at Colorado-based Maxar Technologies. “The program is aptly called Artemis, because we are going to make history by this small step being a giant leap by putting the first woman on the surface moon.”

In Greek mythology, Artemis is the daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. She is the goddess of the hunt and the moon.

“… this time we’re going back to the surface of the moon to stay,” said Gold. “Which is why NASA is building the Gateway.”

The Gateway project is an arm of Artemis. Gateway is a space station that will orbit the moon.

Gold recently joined political representatives and administrators from Maxar, NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center and Huntsville’s Dynetics at the latter’s campus on the western edge of the city for a press conference celebrating a “teaming agreement”’ between Maxar, Dynetics and NASA to develop Gateway.

NASA awarded Maxar a contract to spearhead the development of power and propulsion elements (PPE), which is the foundation of Gateway and spacecraft that will carry Americans back to the moon and beyond. While Maxar is a leading company in space technology, the company needed experienced partners in space travel and Dynetics was a fit to help get Americans eventually to Mars.

In a press release, Dynetics billed itself a responsive, cost-effective engineering and scientific firm with 2,000 employees providing IT solutions to national security, cybersecurity, space and critical infrastructure sections.

The Artemis/Gateway playbook calls for the country to put astronauts back on the moon in 2024, to establish a sustained human presence on and around the moon by 2028 and then prepare for missions to Mars.

Dynetics will provide support for the power and propulsion element and will aid establishment of a sustainable presence on the moon.

Huntsville, long conjoined with space exploration, will once again take on a large role in the process.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle relayed a message through Harrison Diamond, business relations officer for the city, in honor of the “teaming agreement” signing between Gold and Dynetics CEO David King.

“He said it’s a wonderful thing to say you can’t get to the moon without going through Huntsville first,” Diamond said. “And eventually to Mars.”