Make holiday shopping a local adventure

Don’t dread holiday shopping this year. Make it an adventure by seeing what you can find from handcrafted to carefully curated designer merchandise at locally owned businesses.

With gifts ranging in cost from 10 cents to more than $12,000, local shops have it all.

Why not start out at the historic Harrison Brothers Hardware in downtown Huntsville? It’s the city’s oldest operating business, since 1897.  If you’ve never been there, this time of year the brightly colored holiday decorations in the storefront windows will draw you inside just to look around. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited the store, take the time to go.

Why?

A trip to Harrison Brothers is about more than just shopping. It’s an experience. The store is also a museum, capturing an important piece of history. You won’t find any self-service kiosk here. They still use a 1907 National Cash Register to ring up sales if you find something you want.

If you buy something, it will be made in the USA with many products handcrafted by Huntsville area or North Alabama residents.  The most popular item sold in the store are 10-cent marbles.

“People buy them by the hundreds,” says Fran McFall, who has volunteered and worked at the store for eight years. She also points out larger, hand blown marbles, which sell for $3.75 a piece.

The first table you come to upon entering is filled with “Gifts Made Locally.”

There and throughout the store you’ll find old-fashioned candy and treats like Hammond’s chocolate bars, including a popular Pigs N’ Taters chocolate bar with bacon flavored bits and potato chips.

There are angel ornaments made of cotton, specialty soy candles, paintings by local artists and pottery, greeting cards, and books by local authors, classic toys – even an astronaut suit. There’s jewelry, knitting gift sets, dog food bowls, novelty socks, lotions and soaps, a large selection of gourmet foods and so much more.

The nonprofit Historic Huntsville Foundation keeps the store open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sales support the store’s operation, with employees and volunteers, as well as other community events.

After you’ve perused Harrison Brothers, you’re bound to be ready to seek out what else local shop owners have to offer for holiday gift giving. Here’s a small sampling of what’s available in the area.

Greene Street Market

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Just a short walk from the downtown square, on the same side of the street, you’ll find the Greene Street Market at Nativity, a shop that offers limited produce and farm fresh eggs. You’ll also find a variety of gifts, mostly from local artists and crafters at a variety of prices.

Marilyn Evans, the shop manager, says a sidewalk holiday market will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 with locally grown produce, farm fresh foods, fresh baked goods, and offerings by local artisans.

Clinton Row

Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue, hours vary

From the historic to the new and trendy, a few streets away one of the area’s most unique shopping areas awaits at Clinton Row.  This is the place where ground level storage units have been turned into a downtown shopping destination.

Dee Dee Crawford, manager of the Downtown Storage Huntsville, says you can spend anywhere between  $10 and $500 or more at one of the featured shops like The Little Green Store, Clinton Row Gifts, Maxwell Music, the Carole Foray Art studio, In Bloom gift shop, SassyFrazz Boutique, Clachic Boutique and 81 Home Gifts and Glam.

At the shops you’ll find photographs, frames, candles, personalized monogramming, old and new music, unique and trendy clothes, jewelry, handbags, cotton towels with fun sayings and much more.

“There are many nice and fun gifts to be found here,” Crawford says.

Railroad Station Antiques, Gifts & More

315 N. Jefferson St., Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.

A few blocks away from Clinton Row you’ll find another treasure trove.

From $1 to $12,000, Railroad Station has an eclectic mix of old, vintage and new.

“We have everything from fashion accessories to fine antique furniture,” says Suzanne Conway. “It’s really an emporium, unlike any other shop in our area. Our historic building and diverse merchandise make us a destination shop unlike any other.”

You’ll find gifts for everyone from kids to seniors. Vintage toys, fabulous jewelry, furs, candles, a book shop, and even local honey and cheese straws from the Shoals.

“With 24,000 square feet and a limited word count, I can only touch the surface of what we have!”

Lewter’s Hardware

222 Washington Street, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Another downtown fixture for 90 years, Lewter’s is a true hardware store with hand and power tools and any manner of home building or repair supplies.

This time of year, you will find a variety of Flexible Flyer red wagons and other vintage toys like cap guns, model airplanes and whirly gigs. Other gift ideas for this time of year include the collection of Lodge cast iron skillets.

Shoe Fly

974 Airport Road, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8213 U.S. 72, Madison, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What started 11 years ago primarily as an overstock shoe store has transitioned into two area trendy clothing boutiques for teens to women in their 70s.

“Many think we’re just for high school and college age and while we do sell a lot to that age group, we have customers of all ages,” says owner Amy Word. “Our idea is to have trendy clothes at a reasonable price so 90 percent of what we offer is $49 or less.”

The stores get new shipments every week so the inventory is always fresh.

“We carry a lot of unique pieces, and sometimes you’ll find the same looks here that you’ll find in larger department stores, at lower pricing,” Word says. “I know people are spending more time shopping online but there is something to be said about the experience of going into a store and trying something on, whether it’s a mother and daughter or friends.”

Mint Julep Market

7540 S. Memorial Parkway (next to Rosie’s Cantina), Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you have a person on your gift list who has everything or is hard to buy for, then Hillary Dunham says she’ll help you find the perfect present at Mint Julep Market.

“We have become the place to go to for something different. We have everything from paint supplies and classes, local artists who create pieces special for our shop, custom-made pottery from local and Alabama potters, clothing, luggage, custom embroidery, candles, jewelry, just all kinds of things,” Dunham says. “And if you find something we have in pink and you need it in another color, we’ll find it for you.”

Dunham says keeping collections easy to browse and a wide variety keeps customers coming back.

Topiary Tree 

1801 University Drive, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Dec. 22.

This little shop is packed with gift ideas. Their best selling item this season is the PJ Harlow Pajamas. There are more than 15 styles in eight colors. The shop is known for its embossed graphics stationary, raised ink and embossed stationary, which is made in house.

You’ll also find everyday and holiday collections of handmade pottery from Etta, Miss. With many serving pieces to choose from, they are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. The store also features Earthborn pottery from Birmingham, jewelry at every price point, fur capes and jackets, leather goods for men and luxurious lotions and soaps for women.

 

 

FBI to expand presence on Redstone Arsenal

Pictured is the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School on Redstone Arsenal

 

Huntsville’s moniker as “the Federal City of the South” was further bolstered Thursday with the announcement of a planned FBI expansion.

The FBI, which has about 300 personnel stationed at Redstone Arsenal, will add another 1,350 employees, according to the agency’s senior executive at Redstone, Robert Hamilton. The personnel will come from the Washington area.

Hamilton made the announcement at the annual Redstone Update, hosted by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber.

“The FBI is extremely excited to announce today that we are moving forward with our first large-scale operations support building,” Hamilton said. “We expect that to be ready for occupancy in early 2021. This will move approximately 1,350 personnel and contractors from the national capital region.”
Hamilton said the personnel will include special agents and intelligence analysts.
“This is not a relocation of resources but rather a transformation of mission sets to one extremely powerful campus,” Hamilton said.

Rebranded Organization Provides a ‘Catalyst’ to Start a Business

The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship serves as a driver for economic growth and job creation in north Alabama by lending its expertise to small business owners at every stage of business development. By providing quality programming, business coaching, and networking opportunities, The Catalyst offers entrepreneurs and startups the tools they need successfully manage their businesses.

Originally founded in 2003 as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA),  the organization rebranded itself in 2017 as The Catalyst to better represent its services and mission.

“We’ve grown to be more than just a woman’s business center,” said Katie Williams, project manager. “The Catalyst has multiple projects under one umbrella, all with a different focus.”

Those projects include:

WBC: The Women’s Business Center Project serves as a principal source of information and resources; offering in-depth business coaching, entrepreneurial training, small business development and networking opportunities to help women start, expand and successfully manage their businesses.

TechRich: The Technology Regional Innovation Cluster Project provides services to government contractors, innovative, and technology companies. The Catalyst assists in locating, filtering and facilitating business opportunities by encouraging collaboration, innovation, technology transfer, commercialization and contracting opportunities among technology businesses.

HUBZone Accelerator: The HUBZone Accelerator Project serves as a one-stop resource for HUBZone companies to grow, share resources and market their capabilities to prime businesses and government agencies.

HOPE2 for Winston County: The Catalyst’s most recent project initiative. HOPE2 assists with business services in economically disadvantaged communities in west Alabama. Partnered with Valley Innovation Alliance, small business start-ups and entrepreneurs receive much-needed tech assistance and coaching.

BAM:  A business microloan, focuses on giving entrepreneurs and small business start-ups essential financial resources to keep them on track, helping them to take their business to the next level.  This program is a partnership between Redstone Federal Credit Union, Neighborhood Concepts, and The Catalyst. Says Williams, “We’ve seen a big gap between business startups and banks, where there’s a need for financial resources, yet no past performance data available to qualify for business loans.”

The Catalyst offers a variety of business-focused workshops, seminars, and networking events. In partnership with RFCU, they host a series of business seminars in the Atrium on the Wynn Drive campus.

For more information, visit www.catalystcenter.org and www.redfcu.org/seminars

With New Propst Center, HudsonAlpha’s Mission Continues

Carter Wells, executive vice president of economic development, left, and Dr. Rick Myers, president and science director, look over containers filled with more than five million beads representing the number of people who have been touched by HAIB’s education outreach program over the past 10 years. (Photo by Wendy Reeves)

Brightly colored beads in clear containers of various sizes and shapes represent more than 5 million learners who have experienced a HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology (HAIB) educational outreach opportunity.

The display covering the past 10 years sits on the second floor of the new Paul Propst Center, which opened in September.

The education team, headed by Dr. Neil Lamb, has reached students, educators, clinical professionals, patients and members of the public who participated in internships, teacher training workshops, public seminars, clinical training and digital downloads for educational games like iCell and Touching Triton, said Carter Wells, HudsonAlpha vice president of economic development.

The display is more than a creative display of numbers as it represents one of the four missions set forth by founders Jim Hudson and Lonnie McMillian before the HAIB opened its doors 10 years ago. It represents how far HAIB has come with the opening of its fourth facility on the campus.

The pair set out to create a center to conduct genomics-based research to improve human health and well being; implement genomic medicine, spark economic development; and provide educational outreach to nurture the next generation of biotech researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as to create a biotech literate public.

The education outreach team has three new learning labs, office and collaboration space spread across two floors in the new facility. Dr. Rick Myers, president and science director at HudsonAlpha, said the new space will allow the education team to increase its teaching opportunities.

Many learners who have experienced HudsonAlpha’s hands-on classroom activities, or participated in summer camps or internship programs are now a part of the HudsonAlpha workforce, or working in life science research institutes or companies across the country.

The Propst Center consists of 105,000 square feet housing about 150 tenants. The new building was funded by a $20 million state grant, and a donation by Huntsville businessman and philanthropist William “Bill” Propst Jr. The building is named for his father, a North Alabama minister.

On the second floor, those small, colorful beads are just one small example of what has transpired at the growing campus during its first 10 years. Those accomplishments lead to the construction of the new Propst Center, which looks and feels similar to the main building, where companies such as Conversant Bio started growing.

The company, which recently merged with four others to become Discovery Life Sciences, provides researchers around the world with hyper-annotated tissue samples in order to conduct informed, cutting edge investigations into many of today’s most problematic diseases.

“There was a lot more open space here when we started, and we started to take small bites of the apple here and there and we finally ran out of space,” said Marshall Schreeder, co-founder of Conversant Bio and vice president of sales and marketing for DLS. “We feel both fortunate to be a part of HudsonAlpha and the Huntsville community. I’m from here and love it here but we could have started our company anywhere.

“What we didn’t realize is how this community would embrace us … and how well this vision would work out.”

Other HudsonAlpha associate companies in the Propst Center include Microarrays, Alimetrix and iRepertoire, along with HudsonAlpha Software Development and Informatics (SDI), which develops software to analyze and interpret genomic and clinical datasets and works to identify and understand the genetic underpinnings of diseases.

“We’re a lot farther along than I ever expected and I’m a fairly optimistic person,” Myers said. “But this synergy that happens here on our campus … we call it our ecosystem with 800 people on our campus, there’s lots of interaction … and I didn’t anticipate how powerful it would be.”

 

 

 

Retailers Dreaming of a Black Christmas

For years economists have pushed the idea that “Black Friday” is the first day of the year in which retailers operating all year “in the red” and at a loss, use the Christmas buying season to turn a profit putting them “in the black.”

Supposedly on the day after Thanksgiving, shoppers are so full of turkey and dressing, and so weary of nonstop football, they can’t wait to blow some dough on heavily discounted merchandise.

The History Channel, however, says this is a myth.

According to the cable TV channel, Black Friday got its name in the 1950s from the Philadelphia police who used the term “Black Friday” to refer to post-Thanksgiving chaos when thousands of suburban shoppers flooded into the city to shop, causing the police to work extra-long shifts to deal with crowds and traffic. This not-so-holly-jolly story also included battling shoplifters who took advantage of the bedlam.

So much for good tidings.

That Black Friday is the single largest retail sales day of the year, however, rings true.

According to the American Marketing Association based on statistics from Adobe Analytics, U.S. retailers earned a record $7.9 billion on Black Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, an increase of nearly 18 percent from 2016.

“Cyber Monday” 2017 added another $6.6 billion in internet sales, making it the largest online shopping day in history. Those sales figures also pushed Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s net worth past $100 billion on the day after Thanksgiving, 2017.

This bump in Black Friday spending does not, as many people believe, bode poorly for brick and mortar retail shopping.

Retail research firm ShopperTrak says store traffic declined less than 1 percent on Black Friday 2017, a significantly lesser decline than projected. In 2018, the National Retail Federation projects holiday retail sales in November and December — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $720.89 billion.

Here Comes Santa Claus

Janet Brown, manager for Belk at Bridge Street, confirms that Black Friday is the biggest retail sales day of year, but that truth comes with a little enticement.

“We open at 4 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and are open until 1 a.m.,” Brown said. “Then we open again at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. The first 200 people in line Thursday receive a gift card in denominations of anywhere from $5 to one prize of $500 at every Belk store. On Friday, the first 100 customers in line receive gift cards. Belk as a company is giving away $1,000,000 in gift cards to customers who stand in line.”

Belk will hold Santafest in the children’s department Nov. 10 featuring arts and crafts as well as, of course, pictures with Santa.

The retailer will also have a toy store that officials hope will fill the gap left by the departure of Toys ‘R Us; and they welcome choral groups to sing while people shop. The store will offer refreshments and goodies throughout the holidays and during the official tree lighting event on the Bridge Street promenade.

“We are not doing these things to compete with online sales and to bring people into the store,” says Brown. “Belk has always held these special activities to add a festive atmosphere to our stores during the Christmas season.”

All I Want for Christmas

Tiffani Spengler, manager of Alabama Outdoor in Jones Valley, said they notice a big uptick starting on Black Friday, but they see it as the kickoff for the rest of the busy season ahead.

“We sell a lot of gift items, but we have a whole lot of visitors who want to see what we have available, measure their options, and get ideas,” she said. “They may or may not buy on Black Friday, but we see a steady stream of people who return to make purchases all the way up to Christmas.

“Everyone gets the same experience whether you know what you are looking for like a Patagonia sweater or rock-climbing gear; or whether you are looking for a gift for someone who loves hiking and camping, but you aren’t sure what to get them,” said Spengler. “We can show you how to pack a backpack, explain the difference between buying a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad, help you dress in layers, so you stay warm for a three-day camping trip; or help you prepare for a vacation to Iceland.”

Apparel is their most popular holiday items because Alabama Outdoors promotes functionality and fashion. Jackets, pullovers, fleece and down layered clothing that protects against the elements, hats, scarves, neck warmers, blankets, and socks are all gift favorites.

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

“Shoppers are on a mission, especially when looking for gifts for Christmas,” said Dr. Ana Byrne, owner of The Little Green Store on Monte Sano Mountain and the new holiday shop in downtown Huntsville. “They are on a mission to find something interesting, looking for one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces, local artwork, and finely crafted décor. The new store downtown is a challenge because most or our merchandise is individual artistic pieces.”

Chris Gregory of Roosevelt & Co Gentleman’s Supply with Ana Byrne of The Little Green Store. (Photo by Steve Babin)

Will they be doing anything different for Black Friday?

“Our goal is always to make people feel happy, welcome, and comfortable while they are here, and we always work hard at that,” Byrne said. “If it is cold, I have hot chocolate for them to drink; if it is hot, I have cold water for them to drink. We wrap everything you buy as a gift and deliver if you need help getting it home.

“We hold art shows, open houses, and participate in Under the Christmas Tree, activities that keep people seeing what’s new and gives them a chance to meet the artists,” she said. “We carry a lot of holiday items like handmade tree ornaments, ceramics, and Raku Nativities. Our customers are loyal and we have fun with them. We know their taste enough to say, ‘We have something new you are going to love – take a look at this’.”

Santa Baby

Fatemeh Nazarieh and Donny Maleknia of Donny’s Diamond Gallery admits the Christmas holidays are the busiest time of the year for jewelers, but they offer several advantages for people looking for a more relaxing shopping experience on Black Friday.

“Located along the Parkway, no matter how busy we are, there are no problems finding a parking place, no parking garages, we have easy access with no traffic coming in and out, and we have hot drinks, cookies, and candy for you to enjoy while you shop. It is all part of creating a festive atmosphere for shopping,” said Nazarieh.

“The trends in jewelry among younger customers are custom designs, especially in engagement rings. They want something that is theirs alone and of course custom designs is Donny’s specialty.”

Their holiday kickoff came earlier than Black Friday this year with a gem show in late October featuring David Artinian, the Gem Hunter.

“Colored gems and stones are growing in popularity. We specialize in diamonds, but this is the second year David Artinian has done a show with us. People buy the stones and it takes four to six weeks to design a jewelry piece that showcases the stone, just in time for Christmas,” Nazarieh said. “We also have plenty of preset diamonds and gems in our showcases too, so we have something for everyone and in all price ranges.”

O Tannenbaum

Opening at 9 a.m. on Black Friday Pat and Roger Schwerman’s Christmas Tree Plantation in Lacey’s Spring provides the perfect family holiday experience.

Roger grew up on a large farm in Kansas. He and his wife Pat bought the fully operational Christmas Tree farm in 2002, shortly after 9/11. Being in the Pentagon on that day, Roger wanted to get away for some peace and quiet, so he came back and “bought the farm,” so to speak.

“We don’t sell trees, we sell tradition,” said Schwerman.

“I had people stop by and plead with me, sometimes almost threaten me – ‘I’ve been coming to this Christmas tree plantation for 30 years for my Christmas trees and I want that to continue. You cannot get rid of the trees!’” he said with a laugh.

He and Pat had no intention to do so. Their 70-acre Christmas tree plantation has Virginia pine, white pine, leland cypress and deodar cedars and is only open on weekends from Black Friday through Dec. 24.

There are also horses, cows, baby goats, and chickens for the kids to pet and feed. There are antique tractors to enjoy, a country gift shop, a Santa Claus on site, and a train for the little kids to ride.

Pat Schwerman said families carry out an old tradition of cutting their own Christmas trees.

“When you arrive, we provide you with a saw and a measuring stick. You can pick out any tree on the farm you want. We have ‘elves’ to help you if you need any,” she said. “If you cut a live tree on the day after Thanksgiving and put it in a bucket of water when you get home, it will still be fresh after Christmas.

“A previously cut tree is dead and drying out when you buy it. That is why families get together and enjoy the experience of choosing their own tree.”

Delegation from North Alabama meets with international partners in Japan

The delegation from the city, county and state visit Toyota officials. The group later met with Mazda and GE Aviation officials and will take part in the Southeast U.S./Japan Association meeting this week.

 

A delegation from Huntsville, Madison County and the state is visiting Japan this week to further strengthen the area’s ties with its international partners.

The team includes elected officials, Chamber of Commerce leaders and company representatives of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama. On Monday, the team visited Toyota City and met with members of the Executive Team for Toyota USA.

“We have been traveling to Japan for many years, and we are pleased to be able to meet again with our Toyota partners in their home country,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “This provides us with the opportunity to tour their plants and facilities and to visit with our new partners at Mazda.”

The group also toured the Toyota Motomachi Plant and Toyota Kaikan Museum, seeing some of the company’s newest automotive technologies and smart cars.

Tuesday, the delegation met with leaders of Mazda.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of relationships in doing business with our overseas partners,” Battle said. “If we had not already established a long-standing collaborative relationship with Toyota, we would not have landed the new Mazda-Toyota plant.

“These commitments don’t just happen in 15-minute meetings or phone calls. There is a long process of communication, listening, and work toward mutual respect before we develop a trusted business relationship.”

Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. is building an automotive plant in the Huntsville city limits of Limestone County. The two companies will build the facility on 2,400 acres near Interstates 65 and 565. The plant will be able to produce 300,000 cars annually and employ about 4,000 people.

“These meetings in Japan with the Mazda and Toyota corporations have created an even greater sense of understanding of the partnership and commitment that has been created with two of the world’s most renowned automakers, while engineering, road design and site prep continues on more than 2,000 acres locally,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “It is truly exciting to be one of so many working together at so many levels to ensure the success of the largest economic development projects in the history of the state of Alabama. This project will be a redefining moment for North Alabama.”

Production will be divided evenly into two lines for each company to produce Mazda’s crossover and the Toyota Corolla. Operations are expected to begin in 2021.

“The plant will bring thousands of jobs to our area,” said Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “We secured this new plant because of a trusted relationship we have built over many years with our Japanese partners. In fact, much of it goes back to Toyota’s engine plant locating in Huntsville nearly two decades ago and becoming a true community partner.”

Members of the North Alabama delegation will also meet with GE Aviation and NGS Advanced Fibers, their Japanese partner in developing the silicon carbide for ceramic matrix composites. NGS is in Toyama, where the delegation will tour the sister facility to the one being built in Huntsville. These plants are the only two in the world to mass produce silicon carbide and ceramic matrix composite materials.

The delegation will also attend this week’s annual meeting of the Southeast U.S./Japan Association in Tokyo.

The group includes Cherry; Battle; Strong; Greg Canfield, Alabama Department of Commerce; Hollie Pegg, Alabama Department of Commerce; Madison Mayor Paul Finley; Limestone County District 3 Commissioner Jason Black;   Lucia Cape, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber senior vice president of Economic Development, Industry Relations & Workforce; 2018 Chair-Elect Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Kim Lewis; Rick Tucker, executive director, Port of Huntsville; Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama President David Fernandes; Kim Ogle, corporate communications, Toyota Motor North America.

 

HudsonAlpha Receives $1.29M for Digital Storytelling Tool

The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology has received a five-year, $1.29 million grant to develop a story-driven digital learning platform for bioinformatics and infectious disease. The grant comes from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the NIH through the Science Education Partnerships Awards (SEPA).

The program, called “Filtered,” takes students on a journey of discovery as they are charged with researching a pandemic outbreak of a mysterious, fictional infectious disease. They’re asked to use a simulated bioinformatics program to compare genetic sequences of viruses to determine the ancestral origin of this novel and deadly pathogen.

Bioinformatics has been characterized as a “Bright Outlook Occupation” by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected to grow much faster than average over the period 2014-2024, with 100,000 or more projected job openings.

“We start with the need,” said Dr. Neil Lamb, vice president for Educational Outreach at HudsonAlpha. “We found … that it’s already a challenge to hire people in the bioinformatics space. It requires such a unique blend of science and computational backgrounds.”

“It’s a fascinating job field and we knew students would be hooked if they got a chance to experience it for themselves.”

Students can interact on a tablet or mobile device and an online version will also be produced.

Huntsville is Mainstage for Worldwide Hackathon

With a pronouncement of “We are going to be to space travel what the Silicon Valley is to electronics,” Dr. Deborah Barnhart, CEO of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, launched a press conference Tuesday of global proportions.

Huntsville has been named as the “Mainstage” for the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, an annual worldwide hackathon. The Challenge is Oct. 19-21 and will feature coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers and builders who will address NASA-issued challenges on Earth and in space.

“Space Apps is an annual event … (held) at the same time in cities around the world,” said Toni Eberhart, executive director of Urban Engine, a local nonprofit organization aimed at accelerating STEAM-focused initiatives among the millennial startup community.

Last year’s Challenge reached more than 25,000 participants in 187 cities on six continents. The Mainstage sites were New York City and Palo Alto, Calif., but, this year, Huntsville is the only Mainstage and will feature local space and science professionals.

We are honored to be selected as Mainstage and host this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage the community in something that can have massive, global impact,” Eberhart said. Honoring Huntsville’s legacy in aerospace and aviation is something we’re so passionate about.

“To foster education and team collaboration in support of Space Apps, we’ll be providing a wealth of educational workshops at CoWorking Night which is designed to prepare teams and refine skills they’ll be using during the hackathon – and everything is being provided at no cost, thanks to our sponsors.”

Mayor Tommy Battle, who was introduced by Eberhart as Huntsville’s favorite “double millennial,” said the city is the perfect site because “we’re on NASA’s mainstage to get back to the moon and go to Mars.”

“This is a challenge that is made for Huntsville … to see our millennials and ‘double millennials’ working together.”

Hal Brewer, co-founder and chair of Intuitive Research and Technology – one of the event’s presenters, said this is a chance for businesses to take part for team building and “international exposure.”

In fact, he called out some local companies to answer the challenge.

“It’s a great opportunity to foster STEM research,” Brewer said. “If you sponsor this, you’re going to be getting international exposure.”

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is also a presenting sponsor and is launching its new website – asmartplace.com – to tie in with the Challenge while helping with career exploration.

“The brand new asmartplace.com is the Chamber’s workforce development and recruitment initiative, focused on connecting students with a smart career and attracting smart people from around the world to be part of our dynamic and growing workforce,” said Georgina Chapman, workforce director at the Chamber. “We knew the NASA Space Apps Challenge would reach the most talented and motivated coders, creators and problem solvers in the world, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to reach them directly.”

For information on the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, visit www.spaceappshsv.com.

 

25 Area Businesses Ranked Among Inc. 5000

 

Fresh on the heels of the Huntsville Madison County Chamber’s annual Small Business Awards celebration, several local companies received news Wednesday they have joined an elite group.

The annual Inc. 5000 list was unveiled and it included 25 Madison County small businesses.

“If your company is on the Inc. 5000, it’s unparalleled recognition of your years of hard work and sacrifice,” said James Ledbetter, the magazine’s editor in chief. “The lines of business may come and go, or come and stay.

“What doesn’t change is the way entrepreneurs create and accelerate the forces that shape our lives.”

Reflective of Huntsville’s “Federal City” moniker, 21 of the 25 businesses are in government services.

Cintel was the highest-ranked local business, coming in at 252. It was followed by Yorktown Services, 749; Hill Technical Solutions, 797; R2C Support Services, 1263; Pinnacle Solutions, 1558; Mission Driven Research, 1638; Shearer, 1690; IronMountain Solutions, 1741; Matt Curtis Real Estate, 1791; MSB Analytics, 1827; Spur, 2047; Kord Technologies, 2298; nLogic, 2350; MartinFederal, 2575; Sentar, 2853; Venturi, 2860; TriVector Services, 3040; Thompson Gray, 3235; Monte Sano Research, 3338; nouSystems, 3396; Torch Technologies, 3397; Keel Point Partners, 3752; LSINC, 3904; Trideum, 4870; and enVention, 4903.

The complete list can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000/list/2018 and in the September issue of Inc. magazine, which is on newsstands now.

 

 

Small Business Awards celebration honors Huntsville’s best

Lynn Troy of Troy 7 receives the Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award from Chamber Vice Chair Hank Isenberg (Photo by Steve Babin)

Amidst a gala “Masquerade Ball” atmosphere of a masked audience in formal attire, the Huntsville Madison County Chamber celebrated the city’s entrepreneurial community in the 33rd annual Small Business Awards.

Gary Bolton, the Chamber board chair and vice president of global marketing for Adtran, welcomed the crowd to Tuesday night’s affair. Hank Isenberg, Chamber vice president, small business and events, and Haley Baker of WAFF-TV were the emcees.

“We are celebrating the most successful” small businesses, Bolton said.

“We received 650 nominations and there are 155 contenders,” he said. “There are 1,100 people here” … in the soldout event held in the Von Braun Center’s North Hall.

Lynn Troy of Troy 7 received the prestigious Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award, the top honor presented annually.

Canvas was a double-winner, capturing the Woman-owned Business of the Year and the Government Contracting – Technology Business of the Year awards.

Mary Taylor Griffith with Aleta Technologies was named the HASBAT Small Business Advocate for Excellence.

A new category debuted, saluting the area’s booming growth – Local “Creative” of the Year. It was won by Pizzelle’s Confections.

The other winners were: Rocket City Digital, Emerging Business of the Year; Flint River Dental, Medical Practice of the Year; Capstone Realty, Professional Services Business of the Year; Kristina Sexton of NXTSTEP Family Law, Young Professional of the Year; Downtown Rescue Mission, Nonprofit of the Year; MartinFederal, Government Contracting – Professional Services Business of the Year; Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza, Culinary Business of the Year; Matt Curtis Real Estate, Service Business of the Year; and Summit Information Solutions, Technology Business of the Year.