Riley Receives Russell G. Brown Leadership Award

“Fire and Ice” was the theme of the 34th annual Small Business Awards Celebration. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Randy Riley won the prestigious Russell G. Brown Leadership Award at the 34th annual Small Business Awards Celebration presented by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Amid the theme “Fire and Ice” and Von Braun Center North Hall decorations, more than 1,000 people attended to recognize the outstanding work businesses and individuals are doing in the community.

Riley is the CEO of Archarithms, a small, high-tech HUBZone company providing innovative products, solutions and services to the government and commercial customers.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the annual Small Business Awards Celebration. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We are so proud of our contenders and winners, and we are thrilled to celebrate with each of them,” said Pammie Jimmar, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s vice president of Small Business & Events. “It is no easy task to start and grow a small business, but our community is blessed with individuals who aren’t afraid to tackle tough challenges, and Huntsville continues to grow because of their dedication.”

This year’s judging was completed by the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. The winners are:

  • Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award: Randy Riley, Archarithms, Inc.
  • Young Professional of the Year: Lauren Johannesmeyer, Google Fiber
  • Nonprofit of the Year – (tie): Greater Huntsville Humane Society, Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG)
  • Professional Services Business of the Year: Palco
  • Culinary Business of the Year: Cyn Shea’s Café & Catering
  • Emerging Business of the Year: Outpost Technologies, Inc.
  • Government Contracting – Professional Services Business of the Year: HigherEchelon, Inc.
  • Government Contracting – Technology Business of the Year: Mission Multiplier
  • Service Business of the Year: Armstrong Relocation Company, Huntsville, LLC
  • Retailer of the Year: Haley’s Flooring & Interiors
  • Local “Creative” of the Year: Church Street Wine Shoppe
  • Medical Practice of the Year: Dunagan Yates & Alison Plastic Surgery Center
  • Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Nesin Therapy Services, PC

Governor’s Conference on Tourism Coming to Huntsville

Elected officials and tourism leaders throughout the state will gather in Huntsville for the 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference, which is Aug. 17-20 at the Von Braun Center, brings the state’s travel and tourism industry together for professional development, networking, and collaboration on strategies to promote Alabama as a premier travel destination.

Approximately 200-250 guests, including representatives from statewide attractions, hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, marketing firms, and other hospitality workers, are expected to be in attendance.

“The conference not only gives Alabama travel professionals the opportunity to learn from experts in tourism and marketing, but to also raise money for in-state college scholarships and reward hard work through industry awards,” said Patti Culp, CEO for the Alabama Travel Council.

Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city is excited about the conference.

“2019 is such a hallmark year for our city as we celebrate the state bicentennial, the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, new dining, retail, and entertainment developments, and so much more; this is perfect timing to welcome our tourism partners to see the growth happening in Huntsville and experience everything we have to offer as a destination,” Ryals said. “We look forward to the opportunity to showcase our community’s progress to industry leaders and highlight why Huntsville/Madison County is a key asset in the state’s tourism offerings.”

In 2018, the travel and tourism industry, which includes leisure and meeting visitors, was responsible for more than 17,000 jobs in Madison County. The 3.4 million visitors also pumped a record-breaking $1.4 billion into the local economy.

While in Huntsville, the visitors will attend receptions at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Campus No. 805 and , Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum; play a round of golf at Robert Trent Jones – Hampton Cove; and tour the Huntsville Botanical Garden and downtown.

 

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.

When Rubber Chickens Fly, You Know the Madison Business Expo & Kids Day Was a Success

MADISON — Madison celebrated its 150th anniversary mixing business with food, history, kids and rubber chickens on parachutes.

The calendar was turned back to 1869 for the annual Madison Business Expo & Kids Day.

Kids scramble to scoop up the rubber chickens. (Photo by Kimberly Ballard)

The Hogan YMCA was transformed into the Madison Station Depot as 65 Madison businesses demonstrated products, provided information and, of course, had treats for the kids.

Food trucks served up anything from barbecue to ice cream, coffee and pizza. A moving garden train choo-chooed its way along the tracks … all in preparation for the great “Chicken Caper.”

According to the Madison Chamber of Commerce’s version of the legend, business would get slow for shopkeepers in Madison Station during the dog days of summer.

To stimulate business, shopkeepers would tie coupons around the feet of dozens of chickens and toss the live chickens off the roof to the shoppers below. Those who caught the chickens to retrieve the coupon, got to keep the chicken, too – sort of a free chicken dinner!

“Chickens are birds and can fly a little, so no chickens were hurt while throwing them off the roof in 1869,” said Pam Honeycutt, the Chamber’s executive director. “It was a very innovative and effective advertising tactic back then but, probably not a good idea today.”

After putting their collective heads together, event organizers decided a more contemporary re-enactment was needed.

With cooperation from the Madison Fire Department, businesses attached coupons to the spindly legs of five dozen rubber chickens. Firefighters then dropped them from their aerial ladder to the crowd.

“We still managed to have fun, give away thousands of dollars in products and services, while creating a contemporary ‘Chicken Caper’ of our own,” said Honeycutt. “All the feedback, so far, has been very positive and the participation and support from our Chamber members is outstanding.

“That is what makes the Madison Business Expo & Kids Day so popular every year – we have a growing and thriving business community in Madison and we are here to celebrate it!”

Governor: ‘State of Opportunity’ is Competitive and Thriving

Gov. Kay Ivey was in Huntsville Wednesday to tout her administration’s accomplishments over the past year and work to garner support for an upcoming amendment to the state’s constitution that will replace the Alabama Board of Education.

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Alabama Update.

A packed North Hall audience hears Gov. Kay Ivey during the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber’s annual Alabama Update. (Steve Babin/Huntsville Business Journal)

The governor kicked things off by commenting on Alabama’s addition of 34,000 jobs and more than $14 billion in business-related investments during her time in office.

The state has an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, which is the second-lowest in the Southeast, but slightly higher than the nation’s rate of 3.6 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

“In May, we also announced that every county in the state dropped their unemployment rate,” Ivey said. “Not only is Alabama open for business, but we are competitive and thriving and a state of opportunity.”

Also in May, Ivey signed two bills designed to boost broadband access for rural and underserved communities and commented, Wednesday, on why those were important.  She said there are currently more than 480,000 Alabamians without access to broadband services.

One bill, Ivey said, allows the use of electrical easements for broadband purposes and the other creates grants for various broadband projects.

“Delivering high-speed broadband access is critical to the education that we provide our students, to our economy, it’s essential to our health care and overall quality of life,” she said.

Then the governor spoke about the recent 10 cents per gallon increase in Alabama’s gas tax, referring to it only as “an investment in Alabama’s infrastructure.”

“About three decades have gone by without making an investment in our infrastructure – until now,” Ivey said. “This investment will translate into projects that will tackle the problems of roadway congestion, aging roads and bridges, and unsafe conditions for drivers on their way to work and school.”

Specifically related to Huntsville, the governor highlighted the first project of the “Rebuild Alabama Plan,” which was the widening of I-565 to eventually allow the expansion of the I-65 interchange.

Ivey then transitioned from talking about roads and bridges to the state’s prison system. She said the first step in bettering the prison system was to better recruit and retain the prison’s correction officers.

“Earlier this year I proposed adding $31 million to the general fund to hire 500 new correctional officers to ensure the safety of our personnel and the general public,” she said. “Today, I’m happy to announce… that we signed HB 468 into law that provides a two-step pay raise for the department of correction employees and extends an incentive program to include bonuses.”

Ivey also addressed the state’s education system and her education initiative called Strong Start, Strong Finish.

This initiative included adding $26.8 million to Alabama’s Pre-K budget, improving the computer science curriculum throughout the state and putting programs in place to help students get a job through various apprenticeships and certifications.

Citing Alabama’s current position at the bottom of “almost every ranking that measures education in our states,” Ivy asked for the support a constitutional amendment that would replace the state’s board of education with a governor-appointed commission called the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education.

 The amendment is expected to be on the March 2020 ballot.

“It’s simply time for Alabama to take the lead.  That’s the name of my new effort,” Ivey said. “Our current system simply is not working. And, if the system is not working then we can’t continue to operate with the system that we have and expect different results.

“We must have leadership that sets high, but obtainable, goals that prepare our students for 21st century jobs.”

Alana Parker of Rocket City Drywall Wears Many Hats

A wearer of many hats, Rocket City Drywall owner Alana Parker shared her triumphs as well as her challenges to a packed house for a recent Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship series “Strong Coffee, Strong Women” breakfast at the Stovehouse.

“I’m the president, but I’d like to say that I’m also the vice president, secretary, and janitor on demand,” she said.

Alana Parker, owner of Rocket City Drywall. (Steve Babin/Huntsville Business Journal)

Parker is also a recipient of three small business awards – the 2018 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, the 2019 Alabama State Small Business of the Year, and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Person of the Year.

Rocket City Drywall is one of two Drywall companies in Alabama and the only locally owned and operated supplier in North Alabama. Currently, there are six drywall suppliers in the marketplace in the U.S.

“A lot of people think my competitors are Home Depot and Lowe’s,” said Parker. “They are my customers. The big competitors are much scarier.”

Not only is Parker the youngest owner of a drywall supplier in the United States, she is the only woman in a male-dominated industry. Parker was born in 1985, around the same time her grandfather started  Rocket City Drywall. Originally, the company was on Church Street, where the city’s transportation hub currently sits.

“I learned how to drive a forklift at age 8, this was before OSHA,” laughed Parker.  “We were right on a rail line. I used to climb the stacks of drywall in the train cars.

“Drywall is separated by smaller pieces, called dunnage. My job was to collect the dunnage and throw it off from the train car. As for gender role division of labor, my grandfather never let me know anything different.”

Parker was raised by a single mom in Raleigh, N.C. , but spent her holidays and summers with her grandfather here in Huntsville.

“As soon as school was letting out, my granddad would be there to pick me up for the summer,” said Parker. “My visits to Huntsville slowed down a bit in high school, when I got a car and a boyfriend.”

Parker graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in English writing, but went to work for her grandfather.

Then, in 2008, the reality of working at a small business in the building industry hit … hard.

“In 2008, Huntsville was the first market to get hit with by the recession, but it was also one of the first to recover,” she said. “Rocket City Drywall took a $600,000 loss in 2010. People say that I was born with a silver spoon, but I was given a silver spoon with a $600,000 price tag on it.”

This setback forced Parker to reach out into the community.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m smart enough to figure it out with help,” said Parker. “The first thing I did was reduce the company from a $6 million company to a $3 million company. This raised a lot of eyebrows.”

Now, she owns the company.

“I bought the company from my grandfather in 2016,” said Parker. “I got an SBA loan. It’s a lot of paperwork, but it provides access to capital when there are limited options.”

Rocket City Drywall had always been a residential construction supplier, but Parker had decided to expand the business to include a commercial division.  Parker spent five years developing the commercial line when tariff restrictions created a volatile market atmosphere, which made supplies often inaccessible.

“I was ready to roll out the commercial product line, but I had to sit back a year and watch and see how people reacted to the tariffs, to see how suppliers were treating customers,” said Parker. “There was no pricing security, how were suppliers going to react? Taking that year to evaluate the market was the best thing I’ve done for the company.”

As the presentation came to a close, Parker added personal bits of insight.

“I am optimistic to a fault,” said Parker. “I’ve never seen a problem that doesn’t have an answer. Stay motivated with faith and family, believe in what you’re doing. Know that sometimes, it’s going to come out of sheer stubbornness.

“The next step is just around the corner.”

breakfast at the Stovehouse.

“I’m the president, but I’d like to say that I’m also the vice president, secretary, and janitor on demand,” she said.

Parker was a speaker for the The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurshipseries “Strong Coffee, Strong Women.” She is also a recipient of three small business awards – the 2018 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, the 2019 Alabama State Small Business of the Year, and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Person of the Year.

Rocket City Drywall is one of two Drywall companies in Alabama and the only locally owned and operated supplier in North Alabama. Currently, there are six drywall suppliers in the marketplace in the U.S.

“A lot of people think my competitors are Home Depot and Lowe’s,” says Parker “They are my customers. The big competitors are much scarier.”

Not only is Parker the youngest owner of a drywall supplier in the United States, she is the only woman in a male-dominated industry. Parker was born in 1985, around the same time her grandfather started  Rocket City Drywall. Originally, the company was on Church Street, where the city’s transportation hub currently sits.

“I learned how to drive a forklift at age 8, this was before OSHA,” laughed Parker.  “We were right on a rail line. I used to climb the stacks of drywall in the train cars.

“Drywall is separated by smaller pieces, called dunnage. My job was to collect the dunnage and throw it off from the train car. As for gender role division of labor, my grandfather never let me know anything different.”

Parker was raised by a single mom in Raleigh, N.C. , but spent her holidays and summers with her grandfather here in Huntsville.

“As soon as school was letting out, my granddad would be there to pick me up for the summer,” said Parker. “My visits to Huntsville slowed down a bit in high school, when I got a car and a boyfriend.”

Parker graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in English writing, but went to work for her grandfather.

Then, in 2008, the reality of working at a small business in the building industry hit … hard.

“In 2008, Huntsville was the first market to get hit with by the recession, but it was also one of the first to recover,” she said. “Rocket City Drywall took a $600,000 loss in 2010. People say that I was born with a silver spoon, but I was given a silver spoon with a $600,000 price tag on it.”

This setback forced Parker to reach out into the community.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m smart enough to figure it out with help,” said Parker. “The first thing I did was reduce the company from a $6 million company to a $3 million company. This raised a lot of eyebrows.”

Now, she owns the company.

“I bought the company from my grandfather in 2016,” said Parker. “I got an SBA loan. It’s a lot of paperwork, but it provides access to capital when there are limited options.”

Rocket City Drywall had always been a residential construction supplier, but Parker had decided to expand the business to include a commercial division.  Parker spent five years developing the commercial line when tariff restrictions created a volatile market atmosphere, which made supplies often inaccessible.

“I was ready to roll out the commercial product line, but I had to sit back a year and watch and see how people reacted to the tariffs, to see how suppliers were treating customers,” said Parker. “There was no pricing security, how were suppliers going to react? Taking that year to evaluate the market was the best thing I’ve done for the company.”

As the presentation came to a close, Parker added personal bits of insight.

“I am optimistic to a fault,” said Parker. “I’ve never seen a problem that doesn’t have an answer. Stay motivated with faith and family, believe in what you’re doing. Know that sometimes, it’s going to come out of sheer stubbornness.

“The next step is just around the corner.”

Stovehouse Grand Opening Set for May 24

What do Huntsville neighborhood pools and the Stovehouse have in common?

On May 24, they will be open to the public, garnering much fanfare; kicking off the Memorial Day weekend and all that comes with endless summer evenings.

The Martin Stovehouse, circa 1929, has been totally reconfigured and reimagined to create an enticing and eclectic variety of restaurants, cocktail bars, coffee houses, boutique and unique retailing, collaborative workspaces, event and entertainment venues, courtyards, play spaces, greenspaces, and more.

The assortment of restaurants offers something for just about every taste.

Built on the foundational bricks of a bygone era, the Stovehouse is Huntsville’s largest “work-play-eat-drink” and events space. The lines are decidedly blurred between worktime and playtime here, as well as the merging of the modern with historic.

The Stovehouse delivers the charm of small-town culture fused with high-tech urban energy.

With ample parking on both sides of the building, there’ll be plenty of room for everyone. There’s a street and a footpath in development that will connect the Stovehouse with Campus 805, thus enhancing the potential for jointly hosted conferencing and special event bookings.

In any case, the convenient location will allow for people to participate in several events on the same evening, without having to move their car.

Recently at the Stovehouse’s recent “soft opening,” guests had the opportunity to “dip their toes into the water.” – quite literally, as it was pouring down rain for the entire event.

Despite the deluge, the place was packed with the crowd checking out the newly configured property, to experience the Pourhouse and check out the rooftop bar while listening to the sounds of Spectrum Jazz.

The funky and very eclectic Company Store was also open for the event, complete with unique offerings of craft sodas, lemonade, and candy.

The store is truly a paradise for kids and nostalgic adults.

Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Announces 2019 Best Places to Work

The employees have spoken. Well, they voted, actually, on the best places to work in Madison County.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber announced the winners of its annual Best Places to Work Awards at a recent luncheon held in the Von Braun Center.

Businesses of all sizes are represented in five categories ranging from fewer than 25 up to large businesses with over 250 employees. The results are based on employee surveys with gold, silver and bronze awards presented.

In the Micro Business category of 10 to 24 employees, Crossflow Technologies won the gold; Summit Information Solutions won the silver; and the bronze went to New Beginnings Family Law.

In the Small Business category of 25 to 50 employees, Matt Curtis Real Estate was the gold winner; followed by Invariant Corp.; and Nesin Therapy Services.

The Medium Business category (51-100 employees) saw Brockwell Technologies win the gold. The National Children’s Advocacy Center and Monte Sano Research Corp. were the silver and bronze winners.

IERUS Technologies was the gold winner for Large Business (101-250 employees) while Avion Solutions and IronMountain Solutions took the silver and bronze recognitions.

Intuitive Research Technology was the best place to work in the X-large Business category (more than 251 employees). Integration Innovation Inc. (i3) won the silver and Modern Technology Solutions took the bronze.

What’s Hot in Huntsville? #LinkedInLocalHSV, That’s What!

For those of us using LinkedIn, how many actually meet contacts face-to-face and have a discussion over coffee? In most cases, only a handful, and it’s likely that those are people we already know. What if we could meet up with those local contacts that we only know at the virtual level?

A group of local businesspeople hope to make those in-person connections a reality: Enter LinkedIn Local.

Getting its start in Australia, LinkedIn Local has quickly grown into a global movement. LinkedIn Local wants to put the “social” back into social media by hosting events where people could meet their online connections – offline. What began as a hashtag movement in 2017, LinkedIn Local has grown exponentially and is currently hosted in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Last fall, Huntsville joined the global community of LinkedIn users taking online relationships offline. #LinkedInLocalHSV came about after a Friday morning networking event.  A handful of local influencers met to brainstorm and came up with a way to make #LinkedInLocalHSV a reality, right here in the Rocket City.

After the initial brainstorming session, Mike Bean, Gary Choukse, Jared Wasdin, Angela Graham, Brad Wallace, Pam Marmon, and Carla Stiles soon formed a board and quickly got to work in developing #LinkedinLocalHSV.

Built on the concept of authenticity, respect, and collaboration, #LinkedInLocalHSV is a great opportunity to connect in an informal business context, to build strong, long-lasting relationships, all in your local community.

Presented quarterly, the second LinkedInLocalHSV event was recently held in the UAH Student Services Building.

“Thus far, we have sold out both events and we are in the planning stages of our next event,” said board member Carla Stiles. “It’s a great event for our growing community to get people to meet. We have over 100 people attend the events.

“This is great way for those that are new in the community to come and meet other businesses in the area.”

Now, There are Two Days to Experience the Best of Madison Shopping, Food and Music

MADISON — Two of Madison’s most popular spring events will be on separate days this year to accommodate the participation of more restaurants, pubs and breweries, according to the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

The events – Madison Market and Bites & Brews Food & Beer Tasting – are known as Taste the Spirit of Madison and have been an all-day shopping experience followed by an evening of food, beverage and music.

This year, however, Madison Market will be this Saturday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Insanity Complex on Hughes Road.

Bites & Brews will be Tuesday, April 9, from 6-9 at Insanity.

“It is difficult for local restaurants to juggle staff and food preparation on one of their busiest nights of the week, Saturday, with a separate offsite event,” said Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “In order to increase participation, we decided to move the Bites & Brews event to Tuesday night.

“If the uptick in food and beverage participation this year is any indication, we expect it to be a successful change for everyone.”

Hosted by the Madison Chamber and sponsored by Madison Hospital, more than 60 local retail businesses will set up booths at Madison Market, offering shoppers a wide variety of goods and services from martial arts to custom teas.

Madison Market is free and will feature health and wellness screenings, compliments of Madison Hospital; discounts on skating, mini-golf, and climbing; and karate, dance and futbol demonstrations. A New Leash on Life will be onsite with shelter dogs looking for forever homes. The LifeSouth Bloodmobile will be available for blood donors.

And, of course, there will be plenty of food trucks offering choices from ice cream to barbecue.

On Tuesday night, more than 25 restaurants and breweries are on display at Bites & Brews, sponsored by Mangia Italian Restaurant.

Attendees can sample coffee and beignets to local craft beer and scrumptious desserts. There will be Greek, Italian, Asian, and pure Americana including popular New Orleans, Texan, urban, and good ol’ Southern cuisine.

Local band, Groove will provide music and there will also be a silent auction.

Tickets for Bites & Brews Food and Beer Tasting are $20 per person in advance and $25 at the door. You must be 21 years or older to sample the brews and an ID and wristband will be required.

“The Spirit of the Taste of Madison offers residents and visitors two days and two ways to experience our amazing City,” said Honeycutt. “We consider it a celebration of everything Madison!”

For tickets, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce or call Honeycutt at 256-325-8317 ext. 1; or email pam@madisonalchamber.com.