Raytheon, United Technologies ‘Merger of Equals’ Creates Defense-Aerospace Giant

Raytheon and United Technologies have announced an all-stock agreement the two companies call a merger of equals.

It will also create the defense-aerospace giant Raytheon Technologies with an expected $74 billion in annual sales, second only to Boeing’s $101 billion. The transaction website is www.futureofaerospacedefense.com.

Both companies have a significant presence in Huntsville. 

“Today is an exciting and transformational day for our companies, and one that brings with it tremendous opportunity for our future success,” said Tom Kennedy, Raytheon chairman/CEO. “Raytheon Technologies will continue a legacy of innovation with an expanded aerospace and defense portfolio supported by the world’s most dedicated workforce.

“With our enhanced capabilities, we will deliver value to our customers by anticipating and addressing their most complex challenges, while delivering significant value to shareowners.”

The merger of Raytheon, a leading defense company, and United Technologies, a leading aerospace company, comprised of Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, will offer a complementary portfolio of platform-agnostic aerospace and defense technologies.

“The combination of United Technologies and Raytheon will define the future of aerospace and defense,” said Greg Hayes, United Technologies chairman/CEO. “Our two companies have iconic brands that share a long history of innovation, customer focus and proven execution. By joining forces, we will have unsurpassed technology and expanded R&D capabilities that will allow us to invest through business cycles and address our customers’ highest priorities. Merging our portfolios will also deliver cost and revenue synergies that will create long-term value for our customers and shareowners.”

Raytheon plans to consolidate its four businesses into two businesses: Intelligence, Space & Airborne Systems and Integrated Defense & Missile Systems. The new businesses will join Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney to form the four businesses of Raytheon Technologies.

Hayes will be named CEO of Raytheon Technologies and Kennedy will be appointed executive chairman. Hayes will assume the role of chairman and CEO two years after closing. 

Lumberjacks, Flannel Ribbon-Cutting Mark Rainy Opening of Duluth Trading Co.

MADISON — Duluth Trading Co., known for its durable, high-quality apparel and iconic TV commercials, opened its first Alabama store in weather befitting the company’s products.

Despite the rain, local dignitaries and excited patrons gathered in front of the store for the cutting of a flannel ribbon, followed by Timberworks traveling Lumberjack Show.

Duluth Trading Co. is famous for its apparel and TV commercials. (Photo by Tina Simon)

“We had a lot of people ask us whether the rain put a damper on our grand opening, but actually, bad weather fits our brand for practical, functional clothing,” said store manager Christopher Sailor. “Our customers will tell you a little rain never slows us down or affects the enthusiasm our customers have for our merchandise.

“In spite of the intermittent drizzle, we had a steady flow of customers throughout the day and we had a lot of people telling us how excited they were to have a Duluth Trading Company store here in the Valley.”

The Minnesota-based company was founded in 1989 as a catalog and, later, successful Internet-only retailer. They began selectively opening stores in 2016 and today have 54 stores across the U.S.

Though the store at Town Madison is the first in the state, Sailor said Duluth Trading already has a large concentration of customers in the area.

“Customer demand brought us to the Madison area,” he said “Madison is an expanding research, technology and high-tech manufacturing center, which fits Duluth’s solution-based culture and products.

Wood chips fly during the lumberjack show.

“We’re very excited to bring our unique retail experience, apparel and accessories to the loyal and hard-working Duluth customers in the area.”

Perched on a side street carved out of Graphics Drive and appropriately named Angry Beaver Way, the Duluth Trading Co. store is the first of many retail tenants to open on the old Intergraph campus section of Town Madison.

In addition to the large and enthusiastic customer base Duluth has here, Sailor said the location near the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium is part of a broader regional draw for the store.

“Our new neighbors and visitors [across North Alabama and Tennessee] can depend on quality, unique products and a retail experience that puts customer service first,” he said. “Duluth is known for its high-quality, solution-based casual wear and workwear for men and women, but in addition to apparel, we also carry travel bags, dog gear, apothecary and more.

“We bring humor to every day universal truths and offer an outstanding customer experience, which really sets us apart.”

Successful Business Family Brings Hand & Stone Massage to Huntsville

Ayesha Patel may be one of Huntsville’s youngest new business owners but, at 26, she comes from a long line of successful Huntsville franchise owners who have built multiple restaurant concepts that were new to Huntsville when they opened.

Now the owner of Alabama’s first Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa is introducing Huntsville to a new pampering and relaxation concept.

Just opened in the Shops at Merchant Square next door to Chuy’s Tex-Mex, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa offers a membership-based massage and facial experience that is affordable and convenient.

Ayesha Patel, right, is the latest member of a Huntsville family to join the franchise industry. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“For $60 a month, Ayesha and her Stone & Massage staff are going to pay a lot of attention to you for the hour you are there, for not a lot of money,” said Bob McQuillan, vice president of franchise development for the chain. “A massage and facial are luxury items but, with us, not expensive ones. When you think about it, you can’t get a plumber to come to your home for less than $90 an hour, so this is really a great value.”

“We were thinking about getting involved in a health and wellness concept and, when I saw this, I thought, everybody loves massages and facials and the two seem to really complement each other,” said Ayesha Patel. “I think Huntsville is ready for an experience like this. We have our membership, which is unique and a great value, but we’ve also had so many calls already looking to book last minute appointments.

“When you’re looking around the area for a massage, you typically have to book a week in advance. At Hand & Stone, you know you can call same-day and we can try to get you in right away.”

Ayesha’s father, Kumar Patel, started out with Huntsville’s first Subway shops but sold them several years ago to pursue other restaurant brands in Huntsville: Five Guys, Nothing But Noodles, and Schlotzsky’s Deli, all of which are among Huntsville favorites.

Ayesha’s uncle, Dr. Rajesh Patel, is in partnership with Kumar at the Nothing Bundt Cakes in Jones Valley where Ayesha has worked herself up to operating partner, overseeing a staff of 18 employees.

“I’ve grown up in business, working throughout both middle school and high school in our family businesses,” said Patel. “When I graduated from Birmingham Southern, I told myself I wasn’t going to pursue the family business, but then I came home and found myself working in the bakery. As an adult, I was allowed a more hands-on experience, and really enjoyed it.

“I did some research and found that Hand & Stone was growing like crazy with over 400 spas across the nation, but none in Alabama. I put in my information and waited to see how it would go.”

“Let’s put it this way,” said McQuillan. “If our company was looking for a football team, Ayesha and the team surrounding her including her father, aunt and uncle who have owned multiple businesses in the franchise world for years, made Ayesha a 5-star prospect for what we want to accomplish with our stores in Alabama.”

The Hand & Stone Massage in the Shops at Merchants Square is the first in Alabama. (Photo by Steve Babin)

McQuillan said Hand & Stone has tried to set itself apart in the marketplace and in the industry by offering complementary services across the board.

“Many of the concepts in our industry offer just massages, but we offer facials, hair removal, and two full skin care lines,” he said. “It isn’t just about the body, it’s about skin care, it’s about a regimen – a routine – to protect yourself from the sun and honestly, I think we have knocked the cover off the ball when it comes to the aesthetic side of the business.

“That new store in Huntsville is a rocket ship about to really take off!”

“We have a very spa-like atmosphere with 10-rooms, seven masseuses and we’re about to hire two more; and four estheticians for facials,” said Patel.

“We carry two brands of skin care and anti-aging products. One of them is Dermalogica and the other is Clarity Skin. Dermalogica is more widely known but Clarity is an all-natural brand out of California. It is a little more expensive, but both are excellent choices.

“Furthermore, those are the only products we use in-house, so if you have a facial, you can follow up by purchasing the same products we used on you.”

Havoc Owner Keith Jeffries Credits Golden Rule for Team’s Success

The man behind the hottest ticket in town last month entered professional minor league sports with no experience in the field and no grand plans on how to make his venture a success.

But Keith Jeffries, owner of the back-to-back and three-time Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc, also didn’t jump in with eyes closed and without a guiding light.

Havoc owner Keith Jeffries, surrounded by players, addresses the crowd during the presentation of the Southern Professional Hockey League championship President’s Cup outside Propst Arena.

He leaned on a principle that can be found in the name of his former business — Golden Rule Printing.

“It goes back to when I went into business early in life, when I was in my early 20s,’’ Jeffries said. “My dad told me the key has always been good customer service. The name we had was Golden Rule and it came from the idea of how to treat people, whether they were customers or employees, to try to treat people the way you’d want to be treated as a customer or employee.

“We try to do the same thing here. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better. If I was a fan or season ticket holder — how would I want to be treated? Some things are out of our control, but we still do the best with what we have.’’

That best resulted in four straight seasons where the Havoc set SPHL attendance records. Sellouts are common, and the team defeated the Birmingham Bulls at a packed, raucous VBC Propst Arena on April 27 to add to previous titles in 2010 and 2018.

Winning certainly helps drive attendance. So does cozy relations with the VBC’s Steve Maples and Mike Vojticek. Concession sales have soared at the renovated Propst Arena.

But a major part of the Havoc’s successful formula is Jeffries.

Ashley Balch, the team president, would know. He’s been with the franchise since its inception 15 years ago when the team played for one year as the Channel Cats. And he was there when the Havoc won 11 games in 2014-15, then set its first attendance record the following season.

Havoc President Ashley Balch welcomes fans to celebration.

“(The key) is commitment from ownership, the commitment from Keith and Becky Jeffries,’’ Balch said. “Keith doesn’t own any other business. They’re not doing this just for fun. This has become their life.

“They’ve made my family part of their family. The way they treat their employees makes you want to make them proud. You want to do a good job for them.’’

It certainly doesn’t hurt the Havoc’s bottom line that the city and area has transplants from hockey-crazed regions and an ever-growing population. And the team returns the favor by giving the city yet another reason for the growth.

“Keith does a great show and it’s been a great year for the team,’’ said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “It’s something most people don’t expect when they come here. The interesting thing is people come here and you’ve got to have something to draw people to downtown and keep people downtown.

“It’s just part of your draw for the VBC and the downtown area. It all blends together into something that makes a community.’’

Before the puck dropped on the inaugural 2004-05 season Jeffries did some homework. He talked to Ron Evans, the former VBC director, and others. He listened and heard what worked and what didn’t as minor league professional teams from hockey, basketball and, eventually, indoor football came and went.

“A lot of the business models of the past were maybe — flawed a little?’’ Jeffries said. “The thing that helped us from the very beginning and continues to help us is the partnership we have with the (VBC). How many owners and buildings have a love-hate relationship and compete? By co-promoting this (team) with the building, we both make money when we put people in the building.’’

Jeffries’ game plan for business success has evolved over 15 years. He said he “obviously’’ spends no money on newspaper advertising since there is no daily newspaper in Huntsville and spends “very little’’ on television and radio spots. The Havoc focus is on social media and reaching out to those who already know the team.

“We spend more time interacting with people who come to our games,’’ he said. “We know they like it and might bring somebody with them.’’

It should be noted that in the SPHL, unlike minor league baseball clubs affiliated with Major League teams, coaches and players are not paid by the big league club.

Jeffries said he doesn’t have a lot of money to open his pockets for charity, since the Havoc is a mom-and-pop operation, but is proud the franchise can give back to the community and charities in different ways because of its profile.

“It’s what keeps me going,’’ he said.

AAA Credit Ratings Prove Huntsville an Economic Engine for North Alabama

For the 11th consecutive year, Huntsville has received the highest possible “AAA” credit ratings from the two major credit rating agencies Standard & Poors and Moody’s Investors Services.

The agencies cited several factors as the driving force behind the ratings including financial stability, a strong regional tax base, substantial reserve funds, and Huntsville’s strong economy as a steady economic engine for all North Alabama.

Out of 22,250 U.S. cities and counties, less than 1 percent receive this top rating.

“The city has also been reinvesting in its community with deliberate and effective urban planning and design efforts. With a combination of pay-as-you-go financing from excess revenues, tax increment revenues and debt proceeds, the city has been able to undertake multiple projects,” S&P said in a statement.

“The tremendous growth in Huntsville, our ability to work together strategically, efficiently and collaboratively has made this success possible,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “We’ll use these high credit marks to borrow money at exceptionally low interest rates to fund projects in the city’s capital improvement plan.”

Budgetary management and a low debt-to-citizen/debt-to-GDP ratio also played a large role, the reports said. The ratings give Huntsville a lot of financial leverage including the ability to borrow close to $85 million for city and countywide projects.

Among them is $25 million to complete the Greenbrier Parkway in rural Limestone County, which was annexed to Huntsville as part of the infrastructure needed to support the Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing USA auto plant.

Another $50 million has been earmarked for capital building and improvement projects at John Hunt, Merrimack, and Brahan Spring Parks; for recreation centers; libraries; greenways; and a public safety training center and police firing range. An additional $10 million has been put aside for downtown parking garages.

Hays Farm Development: ‘It’s Time; the Community Needs It’

Six to 10 years, that’s how long the Hays family expects the 850-acre, multifaceted development of Hays Farm to take.

Jim Hays, John Hays and Jeff Enfinger, the owners of the property, were on hand Thursday night to highlight the details of the project to a packed house in the Martha deFord Hays Auditorium at Grissom High School.

“For 49 years we’ve been developing communities for people in North Alabama, this is the first time we’ve ever put our name on one,” John Hays said.

John Hays talks about the importance
of the Hays Farm Development.

The development will eventually consist of about 1,000 residential units, three parks and see of new commercial spaces along with the redevelopment of Haysland Square, according to Enfinger.

The first part of the commercial aspect of the development is to raze Haysland Square and develop 175,000 to 200,000 square feet of new commercial space.

“It’s under contract now with a Florida developer who has developed here and we hope to have an announcement this Fall where that center would be redone next year and it would be upscale, walkable and pretty,” Enfinger said.

Enfinger added that they were working with Staples, the only retail store left in the current development.

“We’re providing space for Staples,” Enfinger said. “We have to cut a deal and they have to agree to it, but we’re going to make every effort to keep Staples.”

Jeff Enfinger gives an overview of the master plan for the Hays Farm development

It is expected to take five years before developers get back to the center housing Home Depot and a development north of Mike’s Merchandise, according to Enfinger.

“We’ve got three opportunities to develop and redevelop the high-volume, high-traffic commercial areas,” he said.

The first 500 units of residential development will consist of single-family detached units such as estate homes, patio homes and traditional housing sizes, which will span the $300,000 to $700,000 price points, according to Enfinger. Some of those are being developed now.

The next 500 units will consist of condominiums, townhouses, some lofts over the new retail establishments and possibly some age-restricted housing, according to Enfinger.

“The 1,000 units we’re going to build doesn’t do much for the commercial activity except create sort of a foundation,” Enfinger said. “The commercial activity is part of all of south Huntsville.

“So, if south Huntsville doesn’t become part of the commercial activity then it won’t be as successful.”

The development will have three parks: a 500-acre natural park, similar to the Hays Nature Preserve; a new ballpark with soccer and baseball/softball fields; and a city park, like Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville.

“We have a park system that I believe will be unrivaled by any park system that I know of in my lifetime,” Enfinger said.

There are also plans to have an entertainment district set up in the new development, possibly around the city park, but Enfinger said most of the specifics were still yet to be determined.

“It was really a difficult decision for the family to decide to let the farm go,” Jim Hays said.

“…But, it’s time. The community needs it; so it was time.”

Jim Hays talks about the history behind the land
that will be used as greenspaces in the Hays Farm Development.

Dynetics Opens State-of-the-art Manufacturing Facility

Dynetics expanded its footprint in Cumming Research Park Thursday with the opening of the Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility.

The 78,000 square-foot manufacturing and assembly facility is named for one of the company’s co-founders. 

The state-of-the-art Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility joins a Solutions Complex and the Dynetics Technical Solutions headquarters as the sixth building on the sprawling Dynetics campus. The new high mix/low volume production area is expected to hire more than 200 employees.

“We kept hearing that there was not a one-stop-shop where a project could be designed, prototyped and manufactured,” said Dynetics CEO David King. “We decided to put our mark on this ability … we are now able to accept the challenge from concept analysis and development through testing and production.”

The new facility offers five major production areas.

The first is a family of reconfigurable, short and long-range surveillance sensors for real-time situational awareness of critical infrastructure known as GroundAware.

In the automotive configuration and test equipment area, customers can develop vehicle testers and ship them to vehicle plants where they can be configured to test the electronics in a variety of vehicular models as they progress down the assembly lines.

New electronics manufacturingcapabilities will improve efficiency and cut by weeks, the production time a suite of avionics products and printed circuit boards can be built.

Additionally, skilled technicians and engineers can provide and test cable harness solutionsfor aerospace and defense partners; and in the final product assembly of large and small systems area, Dynetics can now bring together electrical and mechanical components, and build complete systems in a single production area. 

The expanded manufacturing capabilities will increase current production volume while also offering classified manufacturing; and government and industry customers can now complete final assembly and test for a wide variety of Dynetics products from small system components to full weapon systems. 

“I am incredibly proud of our team for having the foresight to create a facility that will be unique and adaptable to our customers’ needs,” said King. “For years, we have wanted to fill a manufacturing niche where we can provide a smaller quantity of products while getting them into market in an efficient manner.

“Once we knew that we could provide a different level of service, we seized the opportunity. Our customers have been seeking this capability and Dynetics is glad to offer it.”

Tourism/Travel Creates Record-Setting $1.4B Economic Impact Here

The Huntsville-Madison County area continues to be a major tourism and travel attraction with 2018 setting another record.

According to figures released by the Huntsville/Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Alabama Tourism Department, the economic impact of travel and tourism to Madison County reached its highest levels ever.

About 3.4 million people visited Madison County last year, supporting more than 17,200 jobs and creating an economic impact of $1.4 billion – a 7.6 percent increase in spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.

“Travel and tourism in Madison County is thriving,” said CVB President/CEO Judy Ryals. “More people
than ever are coming to see all the amazing things we have to offer as a community; they’re experiencing our arts scene and our incredible dining options, they’re witnessing first-hand how Huntsville built the U.S. space program and sent man to the moon. One
thing is for sure – once people visit Huntsville, we know they’ll be back. We are proud of how the travel and tourism industry supports local jobs, and we are honored to create a better quality of life for locals and our visitors.”

This year is also expected to be record-setting with celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing and the state bicentennial on tap.

The moon landing anniversary has garnered international media attention for Huntsville, landing the city a spot in The New York Times’ coveted “52 Places to Go in 2019” list.

A Food Hall of Kitchens, Breweries and Food Trucks Coming to Town Madison

MADISON — At his State of the City Address in March, Madison Mayor Paul Finley told the audience to buckle up for some big announcements coming out of the new Town Madison development this spring. Today, the Breland Companies delivered a big one!

Rendering shows layout of Town Madison around the baseball stadium and Food Hall

The latest addition is a sprawling Food Hall of 18 kitchens curated by local and regional chefs, two breweries, and several stationary food trucks in an outdoor dining area. A central bar with indoor/outdoor seating will serve as an anchor, and developers are talking to several local and regional restaurants about joining the unique dining lineup. 

The Food Hall can be seen to the right in this rendering.

Designed by Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, an international design firm based in Atlanta, the Food Hall will feature a large outdoor event space and covered stage area for a variety of events including a showcase for songwriters, concerts and big screen showings of various sporting events.

“Town Madison is taking another step toward our goal to provide a new experience in North Alabama living,” said Louis Breland. “We toured some of the finest food halls in the country looking for the right concept. A great food hall becomes a central gathering spot and brings unique energy to a community.

“Along with the (Rocket City) Trash Pandas stadium, the Food Hall and plaza area will become the place to be before a game or any time people want to meet with friends and share new experiences.”

The Food Hall, a partnership between Breland and Fuqua Development of Atlanta, joins the growing roster of tenants at Town Madison including the baseball stadium; several hotels including the avid Hotel, Home2 Suites and Margaritaville Resort Hotel; restaurants; national retailers such as Duluth Trading Co.; luxury apartments and residential communities.

Construction on the Food Hall begins this summer and tenants will be announced by the end of the year.

It is slated to open next spring – in time for the first pitch.

Million-Dollar Mark: Trash Pandas Do Minor League in a Big League Way

MADISON — When the Rocket City Trash Pandas announced their team name, several hundred people packed a local microbrewery.

When the team held a logo unveiling with fireworks and a band, Madison’s Dublin Park was jammed.

So, why should it surprise anyone that the team – which will not play a game for another 11 months – is setting all sorts of records?

What kind of records? Sales of merchandise.

Shirts, caps, hoodies, sweatshirts bearing one or all of the team’s logos have been seen and photographed around the world.

The team shattered Minor League Baseball records for online and overall merchandise sales and now are about to hit another milestone: $1 million in sales. The Trash Pandas have a store in Bridge Street Town Centre, next to the Apple store, and also sell online at trashpandasbaseball.com.

“I don’t know of any team that has sold $1 million of merchandise 10 months before the first pitch,” Ralph Nelson, the team’s CEO and managing partner, said Tuesday.

Nelson and the team had another big league move Tuesday when they announced that Josh Caray would be the team’s play-by-play broadcaster.

Yes, Caray. As in Chip, Skip and, of course, Harry.

“He has got a lineage radio announcers dream of,” said Nelson. “He’s as talented as I have heard …”

So, what’s next?

Well, the Trash Pandas’ next big play will be in June when they unveil the team uniforms in a big ceremony in Big Spring Park.