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.

Entrepreneur Awards Cap Innovate Huntsville Week

Every March, Innovate Huntsville Week is a weeklong, jam-packed event filled with networking, support, collaboration, and the celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s alive and well in the area.

Innovate Huntsville connects entrepreneurs and innovators with local resources to build solid networks and opportunities around Huntsville’s small business economy.

Innovate Huntsville 2019 kicked off with Ignite, the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber-sponsored mixer, providing an opportunity for participants to get acquainted. The week continued with the HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge, Engineer-to-Entrepreneur Tech Roadshow, Small Business Microloan Clinic, Entrepreneur’s Roundtable, the Angels of North Alabama Investment Forum, Urban Engine’s Co-Working Night, a Boost Pitch Competition and R.I.S.E. networking.

Capping off the celebration was the fourth annual Entrepreneur Awards luncheon, presented by the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, at the Campus 805 Stone Event Center.

This year’s winners are:

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lee Marshall, founder/CEO of Kids to Love. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for more than three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.

“There’s an incredible pool of talent in Huntsville,” she said. “And I’m honored to be selected among so many great people doing amazing things in our city!”

CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Rachel Lackey, owner and founder of Green Pea Press. Awarded to a non-technical entrepreneur whose focus is in
the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.

“I am excited and honored,” Lackey said. “Winning this award feels like a validation of all the hard work that I’ve put in and all the challenges I’ve faced up to this point.

“I appreciate the Catalyst including the creative sector among their honorees; so often we get overlooked in favor of tech entrepreneurism, but I think it’s important to recognize that creatives are the ones on the ground, so to speak, engaging and changing the culture of our community.”

VETERAN ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – LaBerrick Williams, owner of Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ. Awarded to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama region.

“My ‘why’ stems from my late grandparents, Jell and Ever Scruggs, hence, my restaurant’s name – Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ – to carry on their legacy,” Williams said. “Their selfless service and delicious food brought the community together for years. Our intertwined logo J4E is a symbol of their union of 75 years and stands for family, love, togetherness and happiness. This is our ideology for the world.”

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Dr. Morgan L. Goss, Dove Family Health. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for one to three years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.

“I do what I do because there is an insatiable desire to see my own people thrive in health,” Goss said. “I desire for my own people have access to affordable, accessible and compassionate health care experiences.”

FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Edwina Musante, founder/CEO/president, Cortina Solutions. Awarded to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North
Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.

Their mission is to serve God by serving the country, customers, coworkers, and community with excellence and integrity.

YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Joshua Wortham, general manager of Peaceful Pastries & Sweets. Awarded to a school-age entrepreneur, in K-12, who has
started their entrepreneurial journey and business at a young age and is working toward their dream.
“I am a 14-year-old chef who enjoys baking people happy,” Wortham said. “As my bakery continues to grow, I’m even more convinced that entrepreneurs should continue to learn new skills, but also stretch their minds and hearts through collaboration and immersion in the community.”

ENTREPRENEUR CHAMPION OF THE YEAR – Joe Newberry, president/CEO of Redstone Federal Credit Union. Awarded to an individual who has a proven track record of championing for the entrepreneurial journey. This can be through volunteering, mentoring, investing, or collaborating.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Mel Bowers, Mel B Enterprises. This award was determined by social media and overall community popularity.

“Being an entrepreneur has been a great adventure for me,” Bowers said. “Knowing that I set my own pace, create my own path, and that my future is extraordinary. I won’t make excuses, and never will I shun my hard days, they are what made me who I am.  There are no limits to what I can achieve.”

‘Tis Time for the Wearin’ o’ the Green and the Spendin’ of It …

If all you know about St. Patrick’s Day is shamrocks, leprechauns, and Lucky Charms breakfast cereal, you might be surprised to learn there is an economic message wrapped up in all that ádh mór coming your way March 17.

This year, the 42nd annual Ellen McAnelly Memorial St. Patrick’s Day Parade will draw 1,500 participants and more than 40,000 onlookers along the downtown Huntsville route, bringing a lot of “green” to merchants in its path!

May your pockets be heavy, and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night – Irish Proverb

Luck is an integral part of life and prosperity in the Irish tradition but the phrase “Luck of the Irish” is an American expression and not an Irish one.

According to Edward T. O’Donnell, an author and professor of history at Holy Cross College, the phrase took hold during the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th century when many of the most successful and famous gold and silver miners were of Irish and American Irish descent.

There is little doubt that at least a little bit of luck has been involved in growing St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Huntsville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade into one of the city’s most popular holiday celebrations over the years.

Ellen McAnelly moved to Huntsville in 1977 from Galway, Ireland. Wanting to introduce authentic Irish tradition, culture, food, and hospitality to North Alabama, she opened Huntsville’s first Irish restaurant – Finnegan’s Pub – at 3310 South Memorial Parkway and the following year, she started what was known for many years as the Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The short route followed a southerly path along the west side frontage road of Memorial Parkway, ending at Finnegan’s.

McAnelly died in 2009 and, shortly thereafter, the parade moved to downtown where it was renamed in her honor.

“The Huntsville community really lost a landmark when Finnegan’s closed in 2013,” said Anya Douglas, president of the Irish Society of North Alabama and the parade director. “A lot of people met their spouses there, accepted marriage proposals, and conceived children after a night of fun at Finnegan’s.

“The original patrons recall many special occasions and events occurring at the original Finnegan’s Pub.”

May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be always at your back Irish Blessing

“That first year, there were 18 people in the parade and almost no audience,” said Sonnie Hereford, one of the first and only remaining parade coordinators from 1978. “There are only 17 people in the picture taken for the newspaper that day because one of the participants had skipped work and he was afraid if he showed up in a picture in the paper, he would get fired!

 “The funny thing about the history of the parade is that it grew in popularity and size almost exclusively because it had been mocked as the smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade ever.”

The parade took another big hit just days before the 1997 event when then-Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer denied the group a permit because of a series of fender benders in 1996 allegedly caused by drivers on the Parkway gazing down on the parade marching along the frontage road.

At the last minute, they received an invitation to move the parade to downtown Madison where it had its largest participation and audience yet. For that one year, it was called the Madison County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day Anonymous Irish Saying

“The parade is community inclusive even if you are not Irish,” said Douglas. “It is free to participate and free to attend but it brings a tremendous amount of business to the downtown area including shopping, dining, and entertainment.”

The most anticipated parade event is the Blessing of the Flags at St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church on Jefferson Street. 

“When Father Bill (William M. Kelly, S.D.S.) performs the blessing ceremony over the Irish and American flags, it really has special meaning for the American Irish community and leaves everyone, Irish or not, with a ‘Wow’ feeling,” said Douglas.

Another popular attraction at the parade is the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ float.

Father Jeremiah F. Trecy moved to Huntsville in 1860 because of health problems and established a parish here. The church was built of native stone from Monte Sano Mountain, but construction was halted during the Civil War while the Hibernians prepared hospital facilities and tended to the wounded on both sides of the conflict.

‘Tis better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!Anonymous

Since it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day without some libation and food, many pubs and shops along the parade route will be offering St. Patrick’s Day specials.

The parade’s main sponsor Straight to Ale, Keegan’s Public House (who bought Finnegan’s and moved it downtown), and the Jefferson Street Pub are all opening at 6 a.m. serving an authentic Kegs & Eggs Irish Breakfast prior to the parade, which starts at 11:30. Green Bluff’s Brewery, Pints & Pixels, and The Marini Bar & Bistro will offer all-day live Irish music and $1 green beer along the parade route.

While you’re there, be sure and lift a glass in a famous Irish toast: Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold pint and another one!

Urban Engine Salutes Women in Technology, Female Entrepreneurs

Urban Engine, a local nonprofit organization aimed at accelerating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)-focused innovation and entrepreneurship through education, announced a series of free events that will celebrate women in technology and showcase female entrepreneurs in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

The series of events includes:

  • Wednesday, March 6: Women in Tech-themed Co-Working Night at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – A schedule of one-hour technical workshops ranging from software and web development to digital marketing will be led by women in partnership with Women Who Code Huntsville.
  • March 14: 32/10 Speaker Series at The Camp at MidCity, 5901 University Drive, 5:30 p.m. – Amanda Latifi co-founder/CEO of the Los Angeles-based shopping application, HaftaHave.
  • March 20: Google “I am Remarkable” Women’s Empowerment Workshop at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Led by Lauren Johannesmeyer, city manager of Google Fiber Huntsville.
  • March 27: “Her-story” Panel at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Featuring Joanna White, Governmental Affairs liaison for the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors; Emilie Dover, co-founder/president of Rocket City Digital; and Jessica Barker, president of the Huntsville/Madison County chapter of Alabama New South Coalition.

Urban Engine is celebrating women in technology and female startup founders to bring awareness to equity in STEAM careers and startup opportunities.

National data indicates women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs while owning about 40 percent of all businesses. But, for those working on technology businesses, only 17 percent of venture-backed capital is invested in women-led startups.

For more information, visit https://www.urbanengine.org/events/wemonth.

A Brand New Time in South Huntsville or, Rather, a New Brand

In the next couple of months, south Huntsville will enter a new era. In fact, a “brand’ new era.

South Huntsville business owners, community members and government officials are coming together to create a vibrant and thriving district.

Extending from, essentially, Martin Road south to the Tennessee River, South Huntsville Main Street will be a corridor reflecting a diverse lifestyle of work and play.

Just imagine, driving south on the parkway through the Martin Road “tunnel.” On the “ceiling” and the sides are row upon row of colored lights.

Talk about a grand entrance!

And as you exit the “tunnel,” laid out in front of you are banners on the light poles welcoming visitors.

There are local businesses along the road, each touting their wares and inviting customers inside.

The South Huntsville Business Association, with Executive Director Bekah Schmidt and President Jerry Cargile, has been the impetus to improving this part of the city.

A major step was being accepted into Main Street Alabama, a nonprofit organization that uses a national model with a 40-year track record of revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods.

The process concentrates in four areas: organization, design, promotion and economic vitality. Each one is guided by Main Street’s transformation strategy to remain focused on a specific market-based outcome.

With a solid and active SHBA, the organization stage is answered. The design aspect concerns itself with aesthetics and function, such as the tunnel lights, improved landscaping and redesigned parking areas.

Promotion will incorporate some of the design aspects as well as sharing information and marketing the district. Economic vitality is key in that there must be room and desire for businesses to grow and prosper.

To help in the process, SHBA has launched a South Huntsville Community Survey. It is anonymous and the feedback will help provide direction for businesses to grow in South Huntsville. The findings will be shared with the public at a community meeting June 6. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sohunt. For information, visit http://shba.biz/

Also at the meeting, the Main Street Alabama officials will revisit south Huntsville to launch a branding presentation, which includes a logo for the district and several variations of it; a marketing strategy; and other information to help south Huntsville soar to new heights.

(Bud McLaughlin is editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. He can be heard every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. with Fred Holland on WTKI-FM 105.3 and 1450 AM.)

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez! Celebration Means Big Business

Any celebration that includes parades, costumes, beads, masks, King Cakes, and adult beverages can’t be all bad.

And, like just about every other holiday or celebration in the United States, it’s big business.

Mardi Gras, aka Fat Tuesday, has gone well beyond its Gulf Coast start and is spreading its bead-laden roots throughout the United States. 

The annual celebration seems to have grown exponentially over the past decade. Universal Studios Orlando touts its 2019 Mardi Gras as “Florida’s biggest party,” complete with specialty neon cocktails.

Tracing its origins from 17th and 18th century Europe and France, this traditional revelry of “Boeuf Gras,” or fatted calf, got its start in the United States at the tiny settlement of Fort Louis de la Mobile, aka Mobile, Alabama, in 1703. 

But, by 1718, soon after New Orleans was founded, Mardi Gras, as we know it, took off.

The combination of southern coastal regions, cities situated along the Mississippi River, and the French ancestry of many of those working near these areas helped to expand Mardi Gras.

Mardi Gras is the last night of Carnival season, which begins with the 12th night after Christmas. It’s also the night before Lent.

Depending on where it falls on the calendar, Mardi Gras can occur anywhere from early February to as late as Mid-March.

Celebrated mainly in areas with large Catholic populations, Carnival is the big “blowout” leading up to Lent.  

Huntsville’s local community and city visitors participate in the celebration Mardi Gras, which provides a little boost to the city’s economy.

King Cakes

Available only during Carnival, King Cake is typically made with braided brioche dough, laced with cinnamon. The dough is then glazed with icing and topped with purple, green, and gold sugar. From plain to fruit and cream cheese filling, King Cakes of all varieties are available for purchase at the local grocery stores, specialty bakeries, or ordered online from regional bakeries. What sets a King Cake apart from other kinds of cakes is the small plastic Baby Jesus inside. Tradition has it that whoever finds the baby in their slice is obliged to buy the next King Cake.

Beads

During the late 1800s, glass beads were tossed into the crowds by the parade Krewes, thus becoming an instant hit among the New Orleans revelers. Beads still are the most popular parade “throw” passed out in parades, only now, those beloved tossed beads are usually made of plastic.

Everyone Loves A Parade

Aside from the random smatterings of celebrations at many of the local bars, Huntsville’s present version of Mardi Gras didn’t fully get on the radar until 2014, the year of its first parade. The inaugural Mardi Gras parade and festivities drew about 500 costumed participants, with thousands more watching from the sidewalks.

As in New Orleans, Fat Tuesday in Huntsville will be quiet by comparison, but local eateries, such as Cajun Steamer and PoBoy Factory, and a few others will celebrate March 5.

Strong Field of Small Business Owners Highlight 4th Annual Entrepreneur Awards

North Alabama entrepreneurs generate major business in the region while also creating jobs and opportunities for residents.

To salute their efforts and work, the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship is hosting the fourth annual Entrepreneur Awards on March 1. The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Campus 805, 2620 Clinton Avenue.

The awards luncheon is the grand finale to Innovate Huntsville Week. Voting continues through Friday, Feb. 15. Visit www.innovatehsv.com/entrepreneur-awards.

“This event honors the skill, courage, and determination it takes to create a business from an idea,” said Katie Williams, Women’s Business Center Program Director for The Catalyst. “The awards focus on celebrating the talented entrepreneurs right here in our community and highlight their importance to our region’s economy.”

The top entrepreneurs were chosen by a panel of business leaders and entrepreneurs. There are eight awards to be presented: Entrepreneur of the Year; Emerging – Creative – Female – Veteran – and Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year, along with Entrepreneur Champion of the Year and People’s Choice.

“The Entrepreneur Awards aren’t just for aspiring business owners,” said Michelle Stark, a member of The Catalyst’s Board of Directors. “This event is for the community – those looking to invigorate their entrepreneurial spirit or connect with up-and-comers in our area.”

For tickets and information, visit http://www.innovatehsv.com/entrepreneur-awards/

Chamber Announces Contenders for 2019 Best Places to Work

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber has released the contenders for the 2019 Best Places to Work competition.

The Chamber will honor “best of the best” member businesses in the Tennessee Valley at its annual luncheon on April 30.

Here are the categories and the contenders:

MICRO: 10-24 employees

5-D Systems; Alabama Colon & Gastro; Aleta Technologies; Amanda Howard/Sotheby’s International Realty; Applied Technologies Group; Bedzzz Express; Black Hall Aerospace; Cortina Solutions; Crossflow Technologies; Davis Strategic Innovations; Dental Professionals on Whitesburg; Eikon Research; EngeniusMicro; Flint River Dental; General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems; H2L Solutions; JHNA; Kids to Love Foundation; Mb Solutions; Mission Driven Research; Mission Multiplier; New Beginnings Family Law; Nobletech Solutions; On-Line Applications Research; Resolution; Summit Information Solutions; Total Solutions; Whitespace Innovations.

SMALL: 25-50 employees

BancorpSouth – Huntsville; CALIBRE Systems; Cintel; Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison; Hill Technical Solutions; Invariant; Matt Curtis Real Estate; MTA; Nesin Therapy Services; Project XYZ; R2C-Support Services; Roto-Rooter; Troy 7; Yellowhammer Brewery.

MEDIUM: 51-100 employees

Bevilacqua Research; Brockwell Technologies; Canvas; Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis; deciBel Research; GaN; Geocent; Line-X; LSINC; Monte Sano Research Corp.; National Children’s Advocacy Center; nou Systems; QTEC Aerospace; Thrive Alabama; TriVector Services; Willbrook Solutions.

LARGE: 101-250 employees

Avion Solutions; CFD Research; Davidson Technologies; DESE Research; IERUS Technologies; Ignite; Intrepid; IronMountain Solutions; nLogic; NTA; PeopleTec; Simulation Technologies; Technology Service Corp.A

X-LARGE: 251+ employees

Clearview Cancer Institute; Integration Innovation Inc.; Intuitive Research and Technology; Modern Technology Solutions Inc.; Parsons; Radiance Technologies; Torch Technologies.

Baseball complex, 2 more hotels coming to Town Madison

MADISON — Mayor Paul Finley made some major announcements and shared some astounding economic data Friday night at his annual State of the City Address.

Two new hotel chains, the Avid Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn, will join Home2 Suites and Margaritaville at Town Madison. Why the need for more lodging?

Because among his big announcements is the development of Pro Player Park, a 12-field baseball complex on the west side of Town Madison that is projected to generate 35,000 room nights a year!

Finley said Madison is strong and getting stronger thanks to efforts in public safety, in education, in healthcare, and in job growth.

While Finley acknowledges that the area relies heavily on the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce to drive economic growth at the highest level, Madison, which shares both Madison and Limestone counties, is a big piece of the Tennessee Valley puzzle.

“Based on statistics compiled by UAH, in the past three years, we have created 30,000 jobs in those two counties alone!” Finley said to thunderous applause from the audience at the Davidson Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. “That is a $2.6 billion economic expansion in Madison County and $6.6 billion in Limestone County, and that does not include Redstone Arsenal, which provides just under 10 percent of the state of Alabama’s gross domestic product”.

While the city itself is operating more efficiently, doing more with less expense to the taxpayer, Finley said that out of the $46 million for the Trash Pandas’ baseball stadium and $20 million for capital improvements for roads and infrastructure, the city currently has a surplus of $10 million in the bank “just in case”.

He also touted the success of Madison Hospital, which saw 55,000 visits to the emergency room last year and is on track to deliver an average of 200 babies per month in 2019. The Madison hospital has grown from 60 to 90 beds in just a couple of years.

He also called out Madison City Schools who ranked as the second-best district in the state in test scores – up from third last year.

“Every school in Madison received an ‘A’ on their report card,” said Finley. “There are only six out of 137 districts in the state who can say that, and ours is the largest to do it.”

He said the district has grown by 538 students since last year and, to put that into perspective, it equates to Madison itself becoming a 5A high school if the growth continues. They have also added two school resource officers to enhance safety and security in the schools, and the City Council budgeted more than $500,000 from the general fund to support both academics and school safety.

“Now comes the hard part,” said Finley. “We are the dog who caught the car. Now what are we going to do?”

He looks to the Launch 2035 initiative established by Huntsville’s Committee of 100 known as the Regional Collaboration of North Alabama “to ensure the successes we have had, continue for the next 10 and 15 years.”

“As leaders in this community, we have to come together to take the successes we have had, and make sure we support them with the things that are required: education, workforce development, and infrastructure.”