Cybersecurity Certification and Intellectual Property: ‘Only Information is Misinformation, Right Now’

Intellectual property is a company’s most valued asset.

Unfortunately, it is also what cybercriminals are hoping to catch on their on their next phishing trip in Hacker’s Pond.

Simple Helix CEO Tracy Collins: “Consultants, suppliers, they all have great opinions, but do your homework.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

It’s a business’s biggest nightmare at worst; a major inconvenience at best. When dealing with government agencies, the risk is even greater.

To that end, the Department of Defense rolled out its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification which surpasses compliance initiatives currently in place. Once implemented, CMMC will be a mandatory certification for all contractors and subcontractors doing business with the government.

To clarify misconceptions and answer questions regarding CMMC, Simple Helix and H2L Solutions teamed up to present, “CMMC: Where Assessment Meets Implementation.”

“We appreciate you meeting with us today,” said Tracy Collins, CEO of Simple Helix. “We’re really excited to discuss a topic that’s top of mind for many of us.

“The only information is misinformation, right now.”

Collins empathized that each business has its own needs and budget; he recommended that companies do their research, keeping those factors in mind.

“Base your decisions on your business. You have choices, despite what you’re told by others, said Collins. “Consultants, suppliers, they all have great opinions, but do your homework.”

“The government will never tell you one way or another,” said Stan Lozovsky, vice president/chief operations officer of H2L Solutions. “They provide the requirement and it’s up to the company to meet those requirements.”

H2L Solutions VP/COO Stan Lozovsky: CMMC “is here to protect your business …” (Photo/Steve Babin)

As CMMC is implemented, companies may not be able to do business with the government without the proper security procedures in place.

“CMMC is not here to hinder your business,” said Lozovsky. “It is here to protect your business and to force businesses to take a posture to protect information, your intellectual property, and how you do business.”

The government is taking a staggered approach to implementation, he said.

“The government has a five-year plan for roll-out,” said Lozovsky. “Whenever there’s a mod (modification), there’s a cost to the government, as well. There’s also a learning curve.

“You can’t really just flip a switch and expect everyone to just start doing everything, right off the bat.”

Self-certification will also be a thing of the past – third-party auditors must verify the certification criteria.

And history has demonstrated that self-certification isn’t always effective.

“It will force people into taking an active role in cybersecurity,” said Lozovsky.

“The CMMC implementation doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Scott McDaniel, vice president of Technology for Simple Helix. “Do your homework; you have choices with the vendors, tools, and the solutions that you choose to implement.”

 

 

 

Q&A with Sen. Jones: On Military Spending, Families and the Widows’ Tax

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal at Huntsville West and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the final installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is the military and military families.

HBJ: Huntsville is a military town, nicknamed “Pentagon South.” Tell us what is going on with military spending and families.

 

Sen. Doug Jones met with the Huntsville Business Journal in the Huntsville West co-working collaborative community. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Sen. Jones: I’m on the Armed Services Committee. Alabama is extremely important to the nation’s security and our military forces. One of the things that we are trying to do, working with the administration, is to upgrade our military forces across the board.

We’ve got to spend money to upgrade what they call the “nuclear triad” of missiles for protection. We’ve got to upgrade submarines, planes, you name it. It’s all aging and we’re going to have to spend some money.

What we’re looking at now, is a whole new area of potential war and conflict. It’s not just in the air or sea or land anymore; it’s in space. This year, in the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), we’ve created the Space Force. I’m hoping the Space Command will come here to Huntsville. That decision is going to come relatively soon.

The other thing I’ve focused was families, our servicemen and women. There’s a 3.1 percent increase this year in the salaries for service members, which is the first one they’ve had in a while.

We’ve also done things to put extra money into education, trying to help the kids of service members that move around a lot, and also for kids with disabilities.

We’ve done things for military spouses. Military spouses often have professional certifications that are hard to transfer when they move. We’re trying to do things to make that certification transfer easier.

HBJ: What piece of military legislation stands out for you?

Sen. Jones: The biggest thing that I’m proudest of, after a 30-year fight, is the work that I did in the Senate this year to get the military widows’ tax eliminated for good. It was a really, really big deal.

Sen. Jones on widows’ tax: “Getting this tax eliminated was more than just a job for us, it was a mission; it was a cause.”

Although it only affects some 2,000 people in Alabama, it’s 2,000 people that are now going to get $1,200-$1,500 a month more.

There was a statutory set of money that the VA has administered for a long time.

Those funds were to be distributed to widows when a service member dies in combat or of a service-related injury. In many cases, service members buy additional insurance to provide additional benefits for their families. That money is administered by the Department of Defense and it’s something that service members pay for – out of their own pockets.

About 35  years ago, Congress passed legislation allowing the Department of Defense and the VA to offset the two.

If a widow was entitled to both pots of money, they’d only get 55 percent. This means money that service members have paid into – was going to the Department of Defense and staying there.

I didn’t know about it, never heard about it and then some of the Gold Star widows came to us and talked about it.

I just about blew a gasket. How can that be?

They showed me that it has been tried for 20 years to overturn and I told them, “This year, we’re going to do something different.”

It’s a commitment that was made to our service members that the federal government and Congress has fallen down on. Getting this tax eliminated was more than just a job for us, it was a mission; it was a cause. Everyone in the office chipped in; we ended up getting close to 80 co-sponsors in a very partisan senate.

I got Susan Collins (R-Maine) to co-sponsor it with me in the Senate. Together, we got so many co-sponsors, we organized it like a political campaign.

Every recess, every town hall, there was somebody there, asking about the military widows’ tax.

It got to the point that when it went up to Congress, the negotiators for the NDAA said, “We’ve just got do this.”

When it passed, there were about 25 to 30 of those Gold Star widows up in the gallery.

It was awesome. It was really, really awesome.

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve never been with a group of people so appreciative of an act of Congress as those military widows, it has been remarkable.

 

Q&A with Sen. Doug Jones: Of Ships, the Wall and Budget Redirection

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones  (D-Ala.) recently sat down with the Huntsville Business Journal and discussed several issues important to our state and nation. This is the fourth installment of five reports from the interview. Today’s topic is defense spending and border security.

HBJ: Mobile is a key player in shipbuilding, especially with Austal and the U.S. Navy. What can you tell us about the shipbuilding industry there?

Sen. Jones: Austal, down in Mobile, I think is the leading shipbuilding company for the Navy right now. They’ve built the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) ships, they built the EPF (expeditionary fast transport) ships, they’re such a good company; they’ve come in pretty much on time and on budget.

The Mobile-built EPF can transport military units and vehicles, or can be reconfigured to become a troop transport for an infantry battalion. The EPF has a flight deck for helicopters and a load ramp that will allow vehicles to quickly drive on and off the ship.

The Navy is really high on them; I am hopeful that they will get the frigate contract that is going to be let relatively soon.

The problem we’ve got with Austal right now is the number of LCS and EPF ships are winding down and there’s going to be a lag time and a transition period, even if they get the frigate contract. I’m going to assume for a moment that they are.

There will still be a transition where all the workers aren’t going to be utilized. So, one of the things that we’ve done in this year’s budget was to contract an extra EPF ship to be built for this year, to help stabilize the workforce down there.

HBJ: Did President Trump say he is moving money from there to help pay for the wall?

Sen. Jones: Recently, the president has announced that he’s going to do away with that and take the money from the Department of Defense’s budget to fund the border wall.

At the State of the Union address, the President bragged about – and he should have – the number of immigrants and refugees seeking asylum are down. The number of people crossing the borders without their correct documentation; those numbers are down.

This wall is a political issue that is trying shore up some drug smuggling lanes. And I can tell you as a former U.S. Attorney, building a concrete bollard wall that you can stick your arm through is not going to be the way to stop that. There are so many ways that we can do it more cost efficiently.

Sen. Jones: “Mexico is not paying for our wall; Mobile is paying for our wall.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

People may think maybe it’s related to immigration, it’s not. It’s just purely a political issue and the president has taken $261 million out of Austal and that EPF ship that was put in the budget and he’s line-iteming and moving that $261 million over to help build 17 miles of new wall and refortifying about 160 miles of wall.

So, the bottom line is this: Mexico is not paying for our wall; Mobile is paying for our wall.

We went through hours and hours of what they call “posture hearings” on the Armed Services Committee. And Congress, in a very bipartisan way, worked with the budget and National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to appropriate money so that we could modernize our military, give our men and women in uniform everything that they need to protect the United States of America and here we’ve got money being taken out of that budget, $3.8 billion to build a concrete bollard wall.

Yes, I shook my head, too, as did everybody.

Again, make no mistake; I’ve supported stronger border security. We need to find out who’s been coming across our borders and try to do the best we can to secure those borders.

There’s just a better way to do it. The wall has become more of a symbol now, than it is an effective reality.

(Tomorrow: Sen. Jones discusses the military and military families)

 

BAE Systems to Purchase Collins Aerospace’s Military GPS, Raytheon’s Radio Businesses

BAE Systems said it intends to buy Collins Aerospace’s military Global Positioning System business  and Raytheon’s Airborne Tactical Radios business for a combined $2.2 billion.

The two high-performing businesses are being sold in connection with obtaining the required antitrust clearances for the previously announced pending merger between Raytheon and United Technologies Corp, BAE Systems said in a news release.

According to BAE, the asset purchase agreement for the Collins military GPS business calls for cash of $1.925 billion, with an expected tax benefit of approximately $365 million. For Raytheon’s ATR business, the purchase agreement calls for cash of $275 million, with an expected tax benefit of approximately $50 million.

“As militaries around the world increasingly operate in contested environments, the industry-leading, battle-tested products of these two businesses will complement and extend our existing portfolio of solutions we offer our customers,” said Jerry DeMuro, CEO of BAE Systems. “This unique opportunity to acquire critical radio and GPS capabilities strengthens our position as a leading provider of defense electronics and communications systems, and further supports our alignment with the modernization priorities of the U.S. military and its partners.”

These proposed acquisitions are subject to the successful closure of the Raytheon-UTC transaction and other customary closing conditions. Upon closure, both business lines would be integrated into the company’s Electronic Systems sector.

BAE Systems, Collins Aerospace and Raytheon have facilities in Huntsville.

“These are strong businesses with talented employees who share our focus on quality and technology innovation,” said Tom Arseneault, President and COO of BAE Systems. “We are confident of a smooth transition that will accelerate our future together and look forward to welcoming these new employees to the BAE Systems team once the transactions are approved.”

Qualis Acquires Bonham Technologies

Qualis, an integrator of technical and engineering services to the Department of Defense and NASA, has acquired Bonham Technologies, a diversified Service Disabled, Veteran-Owned, Small Business.

Bonham, which like Qualis is Huntsville-based, provides technical, programmatic and logistical support services for combat weapon systems and associated support equipment.

Founded in 2004 by retired Army Col. Louis Bonham, BTI has provided a wide-array of UH-60 fleet support and systems integration, test and evaluation, and training support for ground vehicles.

“The acquisition of such a reputable company as BTI will significantly enhance Qualis’ unmanned and rotary wing aviation capabilities in the competitive Huntsville market,” said Qualis President Roderick Duke.

“We wholeheartedly welcome Lou and team,” said Qualis Founder and CEO Elizabeth Morard. The acquisition “marks a meaningful growth milestone in Qualis’ history to add this capable group of people to the Qualis family.

“I appreciate the initiative and dedication of Rod and team to make this happen.”

BTI has become a proven aviation contractor throughout its history providing aviation and missile weapons systems support to organizations such as the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center, formerly known as the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center at Redstone Arsenal. Over the past decade, BTI has provided innovative solutions to the rotary wing industry with both integrity and a commitment to excellence.

“This acquisition will be advantageous for Qualis’ strategic direction as we continue to expand our aviation service offerings,” said Duke.

Booz Allen Digital Soldier Program Aims to Make Soldier ‘Unbeatable’

In a conference room at Booz Allen’s fifth-floor Bridge Street office, anyone wearing virtual reality headgear can instantly be standing in the open door of a military plane flying above a training facility on the United States base of the instructor’s choosing.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield. (Photo/Booz Allen)

A first-timer wearing the contraption looks around the inside of the plane, steps to the edge of the door and is gripped by an uneasy sensation after looking down. Minutes later, the same first-timer shoots “bad guys’’ in an urban environment resembling those seen on battle footage from the Middle East, a realistic M4 that is surprisingly light providing the firepower.

There’s more, and it’s all part of Booz Allen’s Digital Soldier initiative the company displayed to media members. Company site leader and Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson, a veteran with defense department expertise, said Vice President of Global Defense Joel Dillon and Principal of Global Defense Stephanie Boone-Shaw were on a “road show’’ of sorts.

“Joel and Stephanie are demonstrating some of the capabilities Booz Allen has invested in,’’ Hudson said. “They’re demonstrating these technologies and showing everybody what Booz Allen has to offer.’’

Simulation — which Dillon said could be a big money saver for defense — is just part of Digital Soldier.

A primary talking point is “open architecture,’’ which is intended to make adding, upgrading and swapping components easy. For example, Dillon, a jumpmaster and highly decorated Army officer (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster are on an impressive resume that includes a master’s from Stanford and bachelor’s from West Point) talks about the “Christmas tree’’ effect.

“Soldiers have all of these great pieces of equipment,’’ he said, “but they’re hanging off them like an ornament.’’

With body armor and all the trappings, a soldier carries an added 130 pounds. That’s more than the bulky equipment soldiers had in World War II.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing that weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield.

“The Army has got to modernize, got to really transform how they do business,’’ Boone-Shaw said. “The acquisition process takes too long, is way too slow. Our enemies and Near Peers have watched how the military fights and the tactics while we’ve been at war for a couple of decades.

“They also have access to technology that allowed them to catch up with their capability to the U.S. The U.S. has to maintain the advantage.’’

Speed, integration using open architecture and combining fast-improving technology such as GPS and satellites, mission adaptability and maintaining military superiority are some of the buzz words and phrases involved in Digital Soldier.

But, Dillon said, Booz Allen sets itself apart from other firms by taking a “holistic’’ approach to consider the individual. He compared the approach to the way an NFL team maintains assets such as a valuable player through everything from nutrition and condition to the best equipment and devices. These allow for better and faster decision making on the battlefield.

“I don’t know if there’s anything more valuable than the sons and daughters of our citizens,’’ he said.

Digital Soldier, Dillion said, has been initiated to give those sons and daughters their best chance at readiness, lethality, and survivability. Combining technology and making it work “synergistically’’ can produce a soldier who will be “unbeatable on the battlefield.’’

“We want to give them the best training and best equipment to get them home safely.”

Air Force Tests Boeing-built Minuteman III

The Air Force Global Strike Command held a flight test today of the Boeing-built Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile.

The unarmed ICBM was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., by an Air Force launch crew at Malmstrom AFB, Mont. The ICBM’s re-entry vehicle traveled approximately 4,200 miles to the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

“The flight test program demonstrates one part of the operational capability of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Omar Colbert, 576th Flight Test Squadron commander. “The Minuteman III is nearly 50 years old, and continued test launches are essential in ensuring its reliability until the mid-2030s when the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent is fully in place.

“Most importantly, this visible message of national security serves to assure our partners and dissuade potential aggressors.”

Boeing and the Air Force finalized a $122.9 million contract to upgrade the Minuteman III ICBM coding system, bringing more work to Huntsville.

Some development and assembly work will be performed here at Boeing’s Electronics Center of Excellence, which recently underwent a 28,000 square-foot expansion. The upgrade will provide remote, over-the-air rekey and code change capability for the missile system.

The contract will provide the government with the components needed to support the deployment of the ICU II hardware through 2022 — sustaining the Huntsville-based Minuteman III ICBM weapon system until 2036.

Boeing has supported every Minuteman flight test in the last 58 years. Boeing built the nation’s Minuteman missile for theAir Force in the early 1960s and continues to sustain the program to keep it safe, secure and reliable.

The Minuteman III is as fast as a seismic wave, traveling up to four miles per second and up to 15,000 mph.

The test demonstrates that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is robust, flexible, ready and appropriately tailored to deter twenty-first century threats and reassure our allies, the Air Force said in a release.  Test launches are not a response or reaction to world events or regional tensions.

Link to video:

https://www.dvidshub.net/video/712576/minuteman-iii-launches-vandenberg-afb-non-narrated

Leidos Consolidates MDA Support in Cummings Research Park

After supporting the Missile Defense Agency in Huntsville for more than 15 years, Leidos spent $3 million to retrofit its first physical systems and support center in Huntsville.

Leidos Defense Group President Gerry Fasano. (Leidos Photo/Shileshia Milligan)

The 63,000-square-foot building at 915 Explorer Boulevard in Cummings Research Park consolidates the defense division of the company into one Huntsville location. Defense Group President Gerry Fasano headlined the ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday along with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and several foreign military delegations.

“This new facility signifies our continued growth in Huntsville, but it also supports our customers in helping them solve problems from a city and a region known for its innovation,” said Fasano. “We help our customers in the defense industry achieve effective, sustained military advantage … from support for C4 (command, control, communications, and computers/cyber) to cyberspace.

“We are doing that from right here in Huntsville. Let’s keep it local.”

In 2016, Lockheed Services Group took $5 billion and merged it with another $5 billion from Leidos to create a $10 billion organization carrying the Leidos name. The move gave Leidos a much bigger footprint in each of the company’s four major areas of expertise: defense, civil, health and intelligence.

Three of those four groups have roots in Huntsville.

The Leidos team has been part of the Patriot and THAAD missile programs and supports MDA requirements and critical services to the warfighter. The new location features automated test equipment that helps provide those systems to Leidos customers at home and abroad.

“Leidos’ civil division has been contracted to NASA here in Huntsville for several years, providing logistics for all the different materials made for the International Space Station,” said Barry McDaniel, vice president of Maritime for Leidos, overseeing support for all branches of the military including the Army.

“Intelligence is also coming to Huntsville soon because the FBI is here; but our missile defense teams have been scattered. This building is an opportunity to consolidate everything related to the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency counter unmanned air systems. That includes supporting customers all over the world including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and all of Europe.”

Military delegations from Germany and the Netherlands were in attendance.

“It’s not just about what is happening in this building, but we have five other locations and we are about to put more customers in Huntsville,” said Fasano. “That includes technical field support for U.S. Army RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aircraft systems right here at Redstone Arsenal; end-user IT services for ten NASA centers; and end-user IT services for 37,000 Army Corps of Engineers from our corridors right here in Huntsville.”

The RQ-7 Shadow is the Army’s unmanned aerial vehicle, also used by the Australian and Swedish armies for reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and battle damage assessment.

Fasano also announced the arrival of Leidos Live – the company’s Innovation Virtual Experience coming to Huntsville in November. Leidos Live is an immersive technology lab and showcase on wheels where visitors will find some of Leidos’ top innovations brought to life. Fasano said it is a must-see.

Leidos, the name comes from the word kaleidoscope – the centerpiece of the instrument from which complex problems are seen from every different angle, is an IT and engineering services company. Leidos employs 235 people in Huntsville out of 34,000 in every state and more than 30 countries.

“To the Leidos team, we are so delighted to see the growth and the expansion and all the things that have happened here that make our economy move forward,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Five years ago, we started with a very small Leidos group. Today you are threefold, and it’s a story told about Huntsville time and time again – companies throughout Research Park and throughout this city who are growing organically, growing where they are, getting bigger and bigger. Leidos has grown so much they needed a new building.

“We are so glad to be able to help them build it.”

Dynetics Technical Solutions Wins Army Priority Strategic Hypersonics Program

Dynetics Technical Solutions has been awarded a $351.6 million contract to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body prototypes. DTS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huntsville-based Dynetics,

Under an Other Transaction Agreement contract, over a three-year agreement period, DTS will produce 20 glide body assemblies for use by the Army, Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, with an option for additional quantities.   DTS will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories for development and production of the glide body.

The glide body will be a part of an integrated Army hypersonic weapon system prototype that will deliver residual combat capability to soldiers by 2023.

“We are honored to be selected for this high priority national security program,” said DTS President Steve Cook. “Dynetics has been developing enabling technologies for many years. The common hypersonic glide body is a vital component in the National Defense Strategy that includes weapons with increased power.

“Our team is pleased the Army saw that our highly-skilled engineers and technicians can bring this technology rapidly and affordably to the warfighter.”

As the prime contractor for the C-HGB, DTS will provide program and supplier management; procurement; assembly, integration and testing; electrical and mechanical manufacturing; and systems engineering for the C-HGB.

DTS will lead that includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raythe0n. They will complete the assembly, integration and test at their North Alabama locations.

“We have selected a strong team with varying skillsets to help the U.S. counter the threat from Russian and Chinese advances in hypersonic weapons,” Cook said. “Each of these companies will bring decades of experience and will join science and technological capabilities to make a modern prototype and eventually become a program of record.”

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems will provide cable, electrical and mechanical manufacturing.  The company will provide engineering, program management, and production support from their Huntsville, San Diego and Tupelo, Miss., locations.

“We’re excited to be part of the Dynetics team, as C-HGB begins its transition from laboratory to production, and ultimately into field operations,” stated Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.  “We look forward to applying our extensive experience in manufacturing complex systems and leveraging our longstanding relationship with the national laboratories to expedite the delivery of this strategically important capability.”

Lockheed Martin will support in manufacturing, assembly, integration, test, systems engineering and analysis.  Lockheed Martin will conduct this work at their Alabama, Colorado and California facilities, respectively.

“Lockheed Martin is privileged to team with Dynetics to collaboratively build the nation’s next hypersonic glide body prototype,” said Eric Scherff, vice president for Hypersonic Strike Programs for Lockheed Martin Space. “We are proud to partner on this incredible team working toward transforming research and technology into the next generation weapon system for the warfighter.”

As a principal subcontractor on this program, Raytheon will use its extensive experience in advanced hypersonic technology to build and deliver the control, actuation and power-conditioning subassemblies that control flight of the new common hypersonic glide body. The company will also help assemble and test the new glide body.

“Raytheon is working closely with Dynetics and its industry partners to quickly field the hypersonic weapon and provide our nation’s military with the tools it needs to stay ahead of the escalating threat,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “The development of hypersonic weapons is a priority for our country, and we are aggressively working to produce offensive and defensive solutions.”

Separately, DTS has been selected by Lockheed Martin to be a part of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LHRW) systems integration contract also led by the U.S. Army’s RCCTO. The LHRW program will introduce a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles that can launch from ground platforms. The LRHW prototype includes the new C-HGB, an existing, refurbished trailer and truck to be modified as a new launcher, and an existing Army command and control system.

DTS will develop launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform. The company will also provide flight test and training support.

DTS will now support both hypersonic efforts and, collectively, these awards will total $407.6 million for the corporation.

Huntsville’s Burgeoning Regional Economy Part 2: Right-sizing Lifestyle with Quality of Life

(This is the second and final installment of a two-part story on the area’s growing economy.)

Recently, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle shared his vision for Huntsville in terms of an average sized pie. He, along with business owners and civic officials, stood at city center – what Battle calls Huntsville’s “living room” – and looked out in every direction to the edges of the pie’s crust.

What they see are active growth corridors ushering in a significant expansion of the original Huntsville pie, which is accelerating economic growth throughout the North Alabama region.

“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 success of Twickenham Square, a multi-use development built right in the heart of downtown Huntsville’s medical district and anchored by The Artisan luxury apartments and a Publix, has spurred the development of four more multi-use (multi-purpose or mixed-use) sites in the downtown area.

These developments require the right balance of residential, retail, and commercial space, usually surrounded by a pedestrian-friendly traffic pattern, walking trails and/or parks, and plenty of amenities and activities.

Sealy Realty’s Avenue Huntsville (and the new Avenue Madison); CityCentre at Big Spring with the new AC Hotel by Marriott; the long-awaited Constellation, breaking ground this fall on the old Heart of Huntsville site at Clinton Avenue; and a new development by Rocket Development Partners on the former site of the Coca-Cola plant on Clinton Avenue across from the VBC are either already established or coming soon to downtown Huntsville.

“People ask whether mixed-use/multi-use developments are replacing traditional malls and shopping centers,” said Battle. “But I think you have to look at each one individually. People are looking for more live, work, play types of environments, but I think what we are seeing today is a shift. Is it permanent? Probably some of it is, but I won’t be surprised to see it shift back.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre, as well as MidCity District on the old Madison Square Mall property, agrees.

“Retail centers are not dead. They’re just changing based on consumer behavior,” he said. “Old-style retail centers still play a role in our communities. A good ‘convenience’ style retail center is needed to support suburban neighborhoods.

“However, retailers across most retail center formats are shrinking their footprints and using technology and distribution to keep up with the trends and competition.”

But Battle points out that many online retailers, such as Duluth Trading Company who have been online-only retailers, are building mortar-and-brick stores like the one they opened at Town Madison in June.

And even online behemoth Amazon is now putting stores throughout the U.S.

“I just got back from Nagoya, Japan where they still have huge department stores that are very active because people want to look at what they’re going to buy, touch it, experience the kind of cloth it’s made of and see how it fits,” Battle said.

“When you look at Parkway Place, they are doing very well, and we recently added an apartment component to Bridge Street Town Centre to add a ‘live’ component to it and Research Park’s work and play.

“But when you look at the old Madison Square Mall, it could be found on a site called DeadMalls.com,” Battle said. “We built a lot of malls back in the 1960s and 1970s – probably too many. I think we are now right-sizing back to what we need. There’s still a place for pure shopping like Parkway Place, but I say you need both to succeed.”

Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue Huntsville, which also has a retail component in downtown Huntsville.

Sealy is also building Avenue Madison that will have a retail and parking component in downtown Madison. He said the trend for new developments will be weighted more towards multi-use developments in the future.

“However, the older style shopping centers and malls won’t be replaced anytime soon unless they are old, obsolete, and really in need of replacement anyway,” said Sealy. “These [mixed-use] developments are definitely what residents and consumers prefer now because of the experience they produce.”

Grelier said the mixed-use developments come in a variety of styles.

“These developments are a type of urban development strategy that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and/or entertainment uses to initiate more consumer interactions by creating walkable, livable, and experiential communities,” said Grelier. “Mixed-use developments can take the form of a single building, a city block, or entire districts.

“Traditionally, human settlements have developed in mixed-use patterns; however, with industrialization of the U.S., as well as the invention of the skyscraper, governmental zoning regulations were introduced to separate different functions, such as manufacturing, from residential areas.”

Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison, sees it differently.

“I think we are seeing the death of the supercenter more than malls,” said Ceci. “Those centers with huge parking lots and a row of big box stores lined up next to each other – for one thing people just don’t like that huge parking field and, two, from a developer’s standpoint, if something happens and a business closes or moves out, it is very difficult to repurpose that huge space left behind by a store the size of Target or TJ Maxx. You can use a big box space for a trampoline center or an entertainment center, but you can’t put a restaurant in there.

“Multi-purpose developments are making that space work better by integrating residential into it via restaurants and everyday neighborhood retail like a dry cleaner or hair salon. The idea is to take the new urbanist movement that everyone is following and make smaller blocks of space so that if, in 20 years, that block is no longer viable, knock it down and put something else there. It’s a matter of making it more sustainable over time.”

Sustainability is the focus at Town Madison where Madison Mayor Paul Finley is looking to more than the casual Rocket City Trash Pandas fan to help build out that development.

He’s getting some help from travel sports and softball/baseball recruiters and scouts who will enjoy the regional draw of the new Pro Player Park, just off Wall-Triana Highway.

“The new Pro Player Park and everything Town Madison offers will definitely get foot traffic to our hotels; however, workforce development secures regional success which will also help us locally in aspects of infrastructure and schools,” said Finley.

Finley also points to the success of the Village at Providence, one of the area’s very first mixed-use developments built in 2003, as an example of how popular pedestrian-friendly mixed-use communities have become.

“A mixed-use development offers a live-work-play experience right outside of your front door,” said Finley. “This is appealing to young professionals, established mid-lifers, and retirees alike. These developments are multigenerational that attract businesses to the area.”

“Mixed-use developments are replacing declining malls because they are often well-located within a region that affords them premium access and site metrics,” said RCP’s Grelier who is striving to make the old mall property economically viable again. “When this is the case, there is typically strong demand for several multiple property types such as hospitality, residential, office, restaurants, and retail.

“Single-use commercial centers are becoming more difficult to sustain given changing consumer behavior related to online shopping, and demographic trends focusing on experiences rather than traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.”

However, Grelier said when they purchased the old mall property in 2015, they had a strategy ready for MidCity.

“We began working with the city and Urban Design Associates (UDA) to create a mixed-use project that would meet market demand and help reverse the decline of the West Huntsville commercial corridor,” he said. “We also had a broader, more aspirational strategy in collaboration with the city to use the MidCity District as regional economic growth tool by addressing the ‘next-generation’ workforce demand in Cummings Research Park.”

Grelier said they engaged nationally known market research consultants to perform third-party market studies to guide them in developing programming for a proper balance of uses.

“We used the information from the studies to collaborate with the City and UDA to produce a complete district business plan that would maximize regional draw by creating diverse layers of use and programming at the property,” Grelier said.

“Much of the emphasis is on highlighting our local cultural assets and identifying destination venues like TopGolf, public parks, and an amphitheater to establish a foundation around art and culture.”

He said this is now happening through connections with Huntsville’s and Muscle Shoals’ regional music legacy to bring a world-class 8,500-capacity amphitheater to the development.

“We believe the amphitheatre will be very successful and play a vital role in the elevation of the region as a place you want to live,” Grelier said. “There’s a strong demand for weekend entertainment so the music initiative happening in North Alabama will not only keep locals from traveling to spend in nearby markets, it will attract more weekend tourism to our region.”

Sealy said there is a strategy involved in where they build these mixed-use developments as well.

“These developments are really a long-term strategy in the sense that consumer preferences are shifting this way, so we are building for what is more popular now and appears will be more popular in the future,” he said. “… We are trying to draw certain people and jobs from other cities.  These developments are a recruiting tool and regional draw when we are competing against bigger cities for the same talent.

“Some people, particularly millennials, desire this type of environment for living or work, so we need them to attract that population …. They will spread through the regional area, but they need a certain density of people to work, so they will be concentrated in the growth corridors where the population and jobs are the largest.”

And, now, there is something for just about everyone.

“You hear people say, ‘Huntsville has some pretty cool breweries downtown, I can have some fun on Friday night, go see a baseball game, spend the night, go shop at Bridge Street, play some TopGolf, and get brunch at Stovehouse on Sunday’,” said Ceci. “It makes us a lot like Chattanooga – a kind of weekend destination where people say, ‘Wow! Huntsville is a great place to go for the weekend. There is always something to do.’”

Sealy said the mixed-use strategy is rewarding.

“I enjoy working on mixed-use projects because there is a huge emphasis on architecture, walk-ability, streetscape,” said Sealy. “The multi-use developments are a bigger challenge, but it is a rewarding creative process.”

Battle said the revitalization of one area pays benefits to the entire city.

“The Live, Work, Play strategy has always been our city plan,” said Battle. “Revitalize one area using the profits of another area we have revitalized and watch the spread of that revitalization until eventually the whole city is revitalized from one end to the other in every direction.”