In Historic Move, Drake State President Named to State Port Authority Board

MONTGOMERY – Dr. Patricia Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College, has been appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to the Alabama State Port Authority Board of Directors.

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims (Drake State Photo)

She is the first African-American woman to be appointed to the Port Authority Board. Sims will represent the Northern District, succeeding Al Stanley, whose term expired July 31.

“… It’s an honor to have received this appointment and I intend to execute my role with commitment and integrity,” said Sims. “The Port Authority is an anchor to Alabama’s economy and I look forward to being able to contribute to its continued success.”

Established by the Legislature in 2000, the nine-member Port Authority board holds fiscal and policy oversight for the public seaport. The Port Authority owns and operates Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile, one of the nation’s largest seaports.

“I’ve appointed individuals that have consistently demonstrated the necessary knowledge and leadership skills critical to economic expansion in Alabama,” said Ivey. “The success of our port is fundamental to Alabama businesses and jobs …”

The authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities handle more than 26 million tons of cargo annual and have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterways.

The cargo and vessel activity associated with the Port Authority employs more than 150,400 Alabamians and generates some $25.4 billion in economic value for the state.

Publix to Anchor The Market at Hays Farm

One of the most prominent vacant retail developments in the Huntsville metro area is getting a $23.5 million investment, it was announced Friday.

Publix Super Market will serve as the grocery anchor for the Market at Hays Farm (formerly Haysland Square) development, according to developer Branch Properties.

“This is an exciting development for South Huntsville and a welcome announcement for all those residents who have eagerly hoped for a revival of the Haysland Square property,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This is also what happens when the city invests wisely in infrastructure that promotes planned growth and development such as the $60 million spent on the South Parkway ‘Restore Our Roads’ project, the new Grissom High School, and the new Haysland Road Extension and greenway.

“We applaud the Hays family for seeing the promise of South Huntsville and for their investment in its success.”

The Market at Hays Farm boasts more than 150,000 square feet of small shops and junior anchor space available in addition to multiple outparcels to serve the needs of the growing South Huntsville community. 

Branch Properties has developed and owned more than 45 Publix-anchored shopping centers around the Southeast and worked in collaboration with Tailwinds Development, which has built more than 15 Publix-anchored centers over the last 20 years.

“Publix has always been a pleasure to work with, and we value our relationship with them,” said James Genderau of Tailwinds. “John Hays and his family, who have owned the property for over 50 years, were truly the reason we made this deal happen. John is a gentleman and man of his word”

Branch Properties Executive Vice President said, “The city’s development staff of Shane Davis (director of Urban and Economic Development), Kathy Martin (city engineer) and Jim McGuffey (manager Planning Service), were rock solid and always had their doors open for us. This team was led by Mayor Tommy Battle who really had a vision for South Huntsville  … We appreciate what (he) has helped us accomplish here”

Since June 2018, South Huntsville has seen $75 million of private investment. The Hays Farm development will include single-family homes, apartments and townhouses to complement retail businesses and a nine-acre city park.

“The much-anticipated Market at Hays Farm is the first of many great things coming to Hays Farm and the South Parkway,” said South Huntsville Main Business Association Executive Director Bekah Schmidt. “We welcome the new Publix to the South Huntsville community and look forward to small businesses and additional anchors coming to the Market at Hays Farm.”

Demolition will begin immediately with the center scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

Mission and Vision: Region’s Largest Spec Industrial Facility Breaks Ground

All it takes is a mission and a vision for Huntsville’s long-term strategic plan to build a multicounty regional economy in North Alabama to take shape.

One of the components of that vision dropped into place recently as the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the Limestone County Economic Development Authority joined the Hollingsworth Cos. in breaking ground on the largest speculative industrial facility in North Alabama.

It is the 11th facility Hollingsworth has built in the SouthPoint Business Park, which has already provided hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investments. When finished, the new building will be home to more than 1.9 million square feet of industrial space.

Located off Interstates 65 and 565 and five miles from the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, the park is suitable for high-growth manufacturing and distribution companies who benefit from a location along the I-65 corridor in North Alabama.

SouthPoint Business Park is already home to HDT Global, Custom Assembly, Redline Steel, Woodbridge, Supreme Beverage and Aldez.

While shovels moved dirt for the sprawling new building, local and state officials and members of the business community toured two industrial buildings now available in the park. The two buildings provide 173,888 and 109,080 square feet for companies looking to expand or relocate their manufacturing and distribution facilities.

“In spite of the economic pressure of COVID-19 and this being an election year, we are very bullish on the North Alabama market,” said Joe Hollingsworth, CEO of The Hollingsworth Cos., the largest nonurban industrial real estate developer and construction firm in the Southeast. “We have grown our business on the belief that American manufacturing will continue to prosper, and the Southeastern United States will lead this growth. I would like to thank the community for being willing to invest time, effort, and money into being a true partner in making this park successful.

“It is my belief that the next eight years will be the best economic period of our lives.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the park will help ensure job creation and business development for the Rocket City.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve been able to announce new and expanding companies in our community that have created 30,000 jobs,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “To do that requires many assets. You need a workforce, you need access to markets, and you need sites and buildings. Today’s groundbreaking gives us another tool to help us in our continuing efforts to diversify our economy and to make sure that anyone in Huntsville who wants a job can get a job. 

“We thank the Hollingsworth Companies for its continued investment and belief in our community,” 

Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly said, “The groundbreaking of the largest speculative industrial building in North Alabama, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, is positive news for our county. We look forward to this new location assisting with the demand for industrial facilities needed for the continued growth in our county.”

Brooks Kracke, president and CEO of the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, said, “This latest Hollingsworth building in Southpoint Industrial Park is much needed and is very timely in order to meet the demands of our regional growth.” 

 

Huntsville No. 2 for Career Opportunities in COVID-19 Recession

We’re not No. 1, but No. 2 is pretty good.

In a recent study, Huntsville ranked No. 2 among the best places for career opportunities in the COVID-19 recession . SmartAsset analyzed 200 of the largest metro areas across seven metrics related to employment, income and access to professional development through higher education or career counseling.

Huntsville placed in the top 10 of the study for two different categories: It had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in May 2020, at 7.6 percent, and the eighth-highest income growth over a career, at 30.47 percent.

While the metro area finishes in the bottom half of the study for its low number of career counselors and post-secondary teachers per 1,000 workers, it ranks within the top 50 for its relatively small drop in total employment over the past year (-7.26 percent) and its relatively high 2019 median income (almost $42,000).

The top 10 according to SmartAsset are: College Station-Bryan, Texas; Huntsville; Gainesville, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Provo-Orem, Utah; Tallahassee, Fla.; Boulder, Colo; Tucson, Ariz.; and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.

SmartAsset is a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice on the web. The company offers free and personalized tools for personal finance decisions around homebuying, retirement, taxes and more.

 

Drake State Unveils Initiatives to Enhance Learning Process

The fall semester at Drake State Community & Technical College begins Aug. 17 and will include online classes, hands-on training and two new quality initiatives to maintain effective learning. 

Hands-on training and in-person instruction will be limited to labs and assessments that cannot be done online, and courses in which students significantly benefit from the classroom setting. All in-person instruction will be in small groups of five or less and will adhere to COVID-19 state requirements and CDC guidelines. 

“With programs like nursing, HVAC and advanced manufacturing it was necessary for us to find a way to conduct hands-on course requirements,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, dean of instruction. “We had to be innovative and flexible so we could continue to serve those students.” 

It was equally important for the college to look at ways to make its online classes and virtual student services as effective as in-person. Over the summer, administrators, faculty and staff implemented two significant quality initiatives to help ensure their students’ educational experience is not diminished in the hybrid model – e-certification for online classes and Caring Campus designation. 

“Our students expect quality instruction and a meaningful college experience,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “With our e-certification initiative and Caring Campus designation, we plan to not only meet those expectations, but to exceed them.” 

Full-time faculty have completed online course delivery training modeled after the nationally recognized Quality Matters standards. Quality Matters is a faculty-driven review process that ensures the quality of courses offered in an online or blended format. Instructors will use strategies learned during their training to strengthen the remote learning experience. Once completed, courses can be submitted through a peer-review process for official certification. 

“Aligning with Quality Matters standards will make our online course offerings the highest possible quality,” said Alice Raymond, Office of Innovation and Program Success director and Health Sciences Division chair. “I am wowed by the enthusiasm of the faculty in taking on this very demanding course.” 

Drake State is one of 10 community colleges across the U.S. selected for the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) Caring Campus Initiative. The program’s objective is to increase student retention and success by helping students over- come non-academic barriers to success and building a strong connection between students and the College. 

Staff are participating in training sessions with IEBC coaches to learn how to use process mapping, student engagement strategies and other intentional practices to strengthen student support services and advance the College’s student success agenda resulting in positive outcomes for students. 

“We’re thrilled to have been selected by the IEBC to participate in this innovative and intentional approach to student engagement,” said Dr. Nicole Bell, interim dean of Student Services. “It’s exciting to see the impact it can have on our students and their academic success.” 

$67 Million Multi-Family Development Planned near Research Park Boulevard

Plans for a $67 million multifamily development including apartment buildings and cottages in west Huntsville have been announced by Birmingham-based Capstone Building Corp.

According to Capstone, Anthem Apartments and Cottages is a 406-unit luxury rental community that will include 14 apartment buildings with 312 units and 48 garages along with 94 single-family cottages with standalone garages. The development will feature front porches facing onto community greens along with park-like design elements throughout to create more community engagement. 

The units will feature 10-foot ceiling, gas appliances, quartz countertops, LED lighting, and luxury vinyl flooring. 

The property is at the intersection of Plummer and Johns roads and spans 40 acres. It will include the following amenities:

  • Clubhouse 
  • Pavilion 
  • Two Saltwater Pools 
  • Firepit Terraces 
  • Manicured Lawn Games Area 
  • Dog Park 
  • Playground 
  • Herb Garden 

“We appreciate EYC Companies and The Kalikow Group for selecting Capstone Building Corp. as the builder on this important project,” said Jay Chapman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Capstone Building Corp. “We look forward to another great experience in Huntsville.” 

Anthem Apartments and Cottages will be just west of Research Park Boulevard and minutes north of Cummings Research Park and Redstone Arsenal. 

Capstone Building Corp. serves as the general contractor, EYC Cos. and The Kalikow Group as the developers.

SAIC Adds Innovation Factory Hub in Huntsville

SAIC is adding an Innovation Factory Hub to its Huntsville site, expanding its presence and support to local customers. This marks the latest expansion of SAIC’s Innovation Factory network where the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies can evaluate new technologies and accelerate delivery of new and modernized systems.

SAIC’s Innovation Factory is a nationwide network of physical and virtual environments using a highly automated, cloud-hosted toolset; agile practices; and DevSecOps production chains to rapidly build, test, and deploy first iterations of solutions quickly and then enhance them quickly through close customer collaboration. Innovation Factory hubs connect SAIC’s innovators and toolsets, startups/tech companies, and the customer. 

The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will be integrated into SAIC’s Innovation Factory network and showcase uniquely focused technologies enabling end-to-end analysis, experimentation and engineering focused on digital engineering with modeling and simulation and rapid prototyping capabilities.

 

“As we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement for true digital transformation has never been greater. This expansion to SAIC’s longstanding presence in Huntsville with a new Innovation Factory Hub allows us to support emerging needs, while also leveraging our solutions and company-wide expertise – developed over four decades supporting local customers,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC executive vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Group. “With all sectors rapidly implementing technology to meet and conduct business virtually, our new Innovation Factory Hub will enable our Huntsville-area customers to accelerate solutions to meet their mission requirements.”

With more than 2,800 employees, SAIC’s Huntsville office is the company’s largest single location outside of its Reston, Va., headquarters and the Washington, D.C., region.

In addition to supporting local customers, the Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will advance innovation for the entire community and be able to integrate solutions from SAIC’s local small and large business partners.

“The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub is focused on driving Defense modernization initiatives while addressing the technical challenges associated with DOD multi-domain operations and force modernization initiatives,” said SAIC Chief Technology Officer Charles Onstott. “Our researchers and engineers will leverage digital engineering and agile software development to enable the DOD to rapidly explore and implement innovative technologies, such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and modeling and simulation, focused on improving mission outcomes.” 

The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will open in a phased approach. Phase 1 is an immediate fielding of Innovation Factory cloud-based process and tools focused on app and IT modernization, and teams will use existing conference spaces until hub spaces are ready.  Follow-on phases will leverage “workplace of the future” renovations in SAIC’s Odyssey Drive facility, and incorporate digital engineering, data analytics and modeling and simulation cloud-based tools. Completion of hub spaces is targeted for next spring.

The Innovation Factory relies on robust ecosystems of advanced technology partner companies, including startups and commercial partners, and federal government customers seeking new technologies.

NitNeil Partners Announces Self-Storage Project on South Parkway

NitNeil Partners has announced plans for a 100,000 square-foot self-storage facility on South Memorial Parkway, between Office Depot and Lee’s Magic Tunnel Car Wash.

This month, NitNeil, a Southeast development partnership, purchased the two-plus acre property at 2312 Memorial Parkway to build the four-story, climate-controlled facility. The development will also feature a one-acre outparcel along the Parkway for a restaurant or retail store.

The site, which is in an opportunity zone, is close to downtown Huntsville, the Medical District, and the burgeoning West Huntsville neighborhood.

“Huntsville continues to experience tremendous population and job growth which has created a strong demand for best-in-class products and services,” said Neil Sapra, managing principal for NitNeil Partners.  “We are wrapping up similar projects in Austin and Tampa, and believe this project will add a much needed amenity to support future density to Huntsville’s urban core.”

The project is expected to break ground in August with an anticipated completion next summer.

 

Downtown Construction Continues Despite Pandemic

Despite “shelter-at-home’’ orders followed by “safer-at-home’’ and, most recently, mandatory masking guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction downtown appears to have proceeded as expected.

Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson said he’s unaware of any plans being altered as far as building in the middle of the city is concerned.

“I’m not aware of any projects that have been canceled because of the pandemic,’’ Emerson said.

He also said he’s not sure whether or not the pandemic has slowed any construction.

“That I don’t know because, well, there are some projects that aren’t moving as fast as others but that happens all the time,” Emerson said. “So I don’t know and I haven’t heard directly from any of the developers whether the pandemic is the reason or it could be something like financing or construction materials.’’

DHI has played a major role in revitalizing the downtown district.

Current construction projects underway are the new Huntsville Hospital Orthopedic and Spine Tower, Eclipse lofts at CityCentre, the Redstone Federal Credit Union building, the Curio Hotel, and the parking deck at Green Street and Holmes Avenue.

“Those are the ones that have gone vertical,’’ Emerson said. “There are other smaller projects — the new restaurants on the North Side Square and other things like that. So there are those on a larger scale. There’s a new dessert location going into The Avenue and there’s a new lounge going into 127 Holmes. So, you have a mix of smaller or larger projects.’’

The Avenue has added Cookie Dough Magic, an edible cookie dough parlor, next to Melt restaurant on Holmes Avenue.

The 127 Holmes site also houses Moe’s Original Bar B Que.

Robins & Morton, Huntsville Hospital Announce Topping Out of Orthopedic & Spine Tower

 Robins & Morton and Huntsville Hospital recently announced that the hospital’s Orthopedic & Spine Tower officially reached its structural completion. 

The facility will feature 24 operating rooms, 14 observation rooms, post-anesthesia care units, pre-operational spaces and 72 patient rooms. (Photo/Marty Sellers)

The milestone, often called the “topping out,” also signifies that the 375,000-square-foot tower now stands at its ultimate height – 150 feet – at the corner of downtown Huntsville’s Gallatin Street and St. Clair Avenue, occupying the entire city block. Once it is complete next summer, the tower will be the largest project on the campus in nearly four decades. 

“As a longtime partner and friend of HH Health System, we are humbled to be a part of the HH Orthopedic and Spine Tower project,” Robins & Morton Huntsville Division Manager Mitch Coley said. “The facility will lead healthcare in the rapidly growing North Alabama area into the future and improve the quality of life for everyone in the region.

“The impact on the community where we live and work will be great, and we can’t think of a better way to give back than to be a part of this milestone project.” 

The facility will feature 24 operating rooms, 14 observation rooms, post-anesthesia care units, pre- operational spaces, 72 patient rooms, and shell space for future expansion. Additionally, it will house a kitchen, restaurant space, and a physician’s parking garage. 

Robins & Morton is serving as the construction manager and Chapman Sisson Architects designed the facility.