South Huntsville Library: The Future of Libraries at the Sandra Moon Campus

With more than 20 years of continuous growth and service to South Huntsville, the Bailey Cove Library is bursting at the seams.

Research has shown that over the past year, more than 2,000 library cards were issued; more than 10,000 programs attended; and nearly 7,000 people used the public computers – JUST at Bailey Cove branch alone.

Housed in the converted space of an old hardware store, the library opened its doors in 1997. At a mere 10,000 square feet, the library has long since outgrown its space.

The issue of space resulted in plans being drafted for a 40,000 square-foot, high-tech community library and event space. The new library will be at Huntsville’s new Sandra Moon Community Complex on the old Grissom High School campus. When finished, it will be four times larger than the Bailey Cove Branch Library.

At a recent South Huntsville Business Association meeting, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Capital Campaign Director Caroline Kennedy presented plans for the new library, unveiling the Fuqua and Partners masterful conceptualization.

“It will be a gigantic, state-of-the-art library, with lots of light and glass,” Kennedy said. “This is the future of libraries, what new libraries are going to be. It will be Class-A facility; there will be after-hours special events with separate access, event rental space, areas for classes, private study rooms, and meeting space.

“The library will continue to offer free meeting space for nonprofit groups. There will be a full-service catering kitchen, areas for food trucks, and outdoor events. It will be a real boost for the redevelopment of South Huntsville.”

As part of the state-of-the-art technology, there will be a dedicated “Maker’s Space” which will have a 3D printer, large format printer for sign and banner making, and sewing machines. Planned design features include plenty of natural light, an open/bookstore-style floor plan, art gallery, Friends of Library bookstore, a coffee shop with inside entry and an outside walk-up and outdoor, patio seating, indoor fireplace, and a children’s garden.

“The new library will be more user friendly and accessible to patrons,” said Kennedy. “Books will still be organized by Dewey system, but also by ‘neighborhood,’ sort of like what you would find at (bookstores).”

Construction is scheduled to take about 18 to 24 months with an opening date in early 2021. For more information, visit huntsvillelibraryfoundation.org/south

Auburn Receives $5.2M NASA Contract to Improve Liquid Rocket Engine Performance

AUBURN — NASA has awarded a $5.2 million contract to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, it was announced Monday.

The three-year contract is to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, which focuses on evolving lightweight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” said Paul McConnaughey, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”

NCAME will support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialized manufacturing technology vendors to be utilized by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies.

Auburn and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that are created using additive manufacturing, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the additive manufacturing industry. The center is also one of the founding partners of the newly established ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Auburn.

Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME director. Serving as project manager is Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing,” Ogles said. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”

Port of Huntsville Wins Governor’s Trade Excellence Award

MONTGOMERY — The Port of Huntsville received a 2019 Governor’s Trade Excellence Award Wednesday in a ceremony at the State Capitol with Gov. Kay Ivey. The annual awards recognize companies that fuel Alabama’s robust export business and sell their innovative designs and products in markets worldwide.

The Port of Huntsville was one of eight honorees chosen for the key roles they played in the critical transportation industry, which has sparked new jobs and investments in communities across the state. Also recognized were Huntsville-based RMCI, Aerostar, GKN Aerospace–Alabama, Help Lightning, Polyvance, Trinity Highway Products, and Zorn Molds.

“The Port of Huntsville is honored to be acknowledged by Gov. Kay Ivey and Export Alabama Alliance for trade excellence,” said Rick Tucker, executive director of the Port of Huntsville. “We are grateful to our partners LG Electronics, Toyota, Panalpina and Norfolk Southern for joining us today.

“We also thank (Huntsville) Mayor Tommy Battle, (Madison County) Chairman Dale Strong and representatives from the North Alabama International Trade Association for supporting us not just today at the Capitol as we received this award, but always in our efforts to stimulate the economic growth and development of the Tennessee Valley region.”

Alabama export figures topped $21 billion last year as shipments reached 191 countries according to information from the Alabama Department of Commerce earlier this month. The total, which came during a year marked by global trade tensions, is just 2 percent shy of the record $21.8 billion in exports set in 2017.

Known officially as the Huntsville-Madison County Airport Authority, the Port of Huntsville incorporates Huntsville International Airport, International Intermodal Center and Jetplex Industrial Park. The Port of Huntsville has the only scheduled international cargo flights in the state and ranks 18th among continental U.S. airports in international air cargo volume. The International Intermodal Center ships and receives ocean containers by rail, to and from both East and West Coast seaports. 

“We are especially pleased to recognize the Port of Huntsville this year,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Without this first-class multimodal transportation operation, many of Alabama’s products would not be shipped from our state. 

“This facility is certainly a critical part of our state’s international infrastructure.”

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.)

State DOT Filling Potholes, Investigating Cracks

The torrential rains that brought flood conditions to the area also wreaked havoc with the highways, creating potholes and cracks as wide as a lane.

State Department of Transportation crews began filling potholes that made Interstate-565 resemble a moonscape more than a highway.

Seth Burkett, ALDOT’s North Region public information officer, said “several tons of cold mix went into filling potholes on I-565 in Huntsville” Monday night.

“Some potholes remain, so motorists are advised to continue to use caution,” he said. “District crews will be working again (Tuesday night), and on subsequent nights as weather permits until these are addressed.”

Burkett also cited work that will be ongoing in Limestone and Morgan counties:

Limestone County

  • Alabama 99 north of the Elk River remains closed due to flooding.
  • Crews are working on I-565 today patching potholes. Reed Contracting is handling those at the Greenbrier interchange. State crews are addressing those elsewhere between Interstate 65 and County Line Road.

Morgan County

  • We are still investigating the geotechnical issue (one southbound lane of the four-lane highway is cracked) on U.S. 231. One lane remains open southbound.
  • We are investigating another issue on Alabama 24 eastbound just west of West Morgan Road. This is an area that we have been monitoring for some time, but it showed some movement during or following the rain. Closure of the outside eastbound lane is possible in the near future.

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.” 

History and Future Merge with Blue Origin Engine Plant in the Rocket City

Looking back on history with an eye to the future, elected officials joined the CEOs of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance in a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for a $200 million rocket engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

“We’re here to celebrate history with a vision to the future,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield at the event. Canfield was joined on the speakers’ platform by Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin; Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance; Gov. Kay Ivey; U.S. Sen. Doug Jones; U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The plant, when its doors open in 2020, is a milestone achievement in helping the United States return to space by building America’s next rocket engine.

“It’s a great day here in the Rocket City,” said Smith. “Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”

Blue Origin was selected by ULA last September of last year to supply its next generation Blue Engine 4, or BE-4, for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket

“It is a true marvel of engineering,” Smith said. “We will be able to end our dependence on Russian engines,” Smith said.

Calling it a “day of destiny,” Brooks said Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was inspired to build rockets when he saw the movie “October Sky” in 1999. The movie was based on the book “Rocket Boys” by Huntsville resident Homer Hickam. “Blue Origin is coming to the home of the man who inspired him.”

Smith also linked Huntsville’s history of building the giant engines that took Americans to the moon to building the BE-4 engines.

“We’re in final negotiations with the Marshall Space Flight Center to test the BE-4 on Test Stand 4670, the historic site of engine tests for the Saturn V and the space shuttle,” he said.

A pair of BE-4 engines will lift the new Vulcan rockets, which are made at ULA’s plant in Decatur.

“Our rockets are going to take Americans on American soil into space,” said Bruno. “And it’s about damn time!”

Blue Origin has a launch services agreement partnership with the Air Force to use its commercial, heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle for national security space missions. New Glenn will be powered by seven BE-4 engines.

“This gives us a chance to design, make and test a rocket engine,” said Battle. “We will produce the greatest rocket engine in the world right here in Huntsville.”

Blue Origin’s engine production facility is the latest addition to Cummings Research Park, which is the second largest research park in the United States and fourth largest in the world.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Blue Origin to Cummings Research Park,” said Erin Koshut, the park’s executive director. “As we like to say, the research and development happening here is driven by science and powered by people.”

The plant, which is expected to employ 300 people, is on a 46-acre site at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive.

Citing this area’s importance in U.S. space history, Strong said it’s no coincidence Blue Origin chose Huntsville.

“We have got the right people in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Welcome to the ‘Propulsion Capital of the World.’”

No Wall Divides Huntsville as Neighbor Helps Neighbor During Shutdown

She’s recently divorced and lives in a 1-bedroom apartment.

Her ex-husband has custody of their children – though she sees them every weekend.

Due to our recent political climate, the dad – a government contractor – has been furloughed with a mortgage payment and kids to feed.

Mom reached out to her neighbors and friends via Facebook asking if they had “any extras in their pantry” to help make sure the kids are fed while her ex works – at a temp job – to keep a roof over their heads. And he feels lucky to have the job.

The friends and neighbors have answered with bags and boxes of canned goods, toiletries and other items to help during this stressful time.

This, unfortunately, is happening in all parts of Huntsville and Madison County and affecting all walks of life – supervisors, engineers, production workers, administrative personnel and custodial workers.

If you notice, I didn’t say “federal workers.” These folks work for companies that contract with federal agencies. They are furloughed because there is no money to pay them due to the shutdown. But, unlike federal workers, the contractors don’t receive back pay.

So, not only are some of our families, friends and neighbors in need of some help now, they will be until the shutdown ends and the money starts flowing.

In the meantime, help is coming from other directions.

Several banks and credit unions are offering furlough loans at 0 percent or a low percentage rate and some temp services have short-term employment opportunities.

Huntsville Utilities is asking customers who may have difficulty paying their bills due to the shutdown to give them a call, and they’ll work with customers and explain their options.

In a gesture reflecting its mission, Oakwood University’s farm is giving away fresh fruit, vegetables and grain this Saturday (Jan. 19) 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to federal furloughed workers. It is first come, first served.

The website of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber has a news article on the agencies and businesses that are stepping up at www.hsvchamber.org.

If you are a business owner or know of someone who has services to offer, drop us a line here so we can let everyone know.

Let’s step up Huntsville and not let a wall separate us from our compassion for others.

Senate Confirms Wardynski for Army Post

WASHINGTON — Former Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardynski was confirmed to a top Army post by the U.S. Senate on the final day of the 115th Congress.

Wardynski was confirmed to be assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. His nomination had been approved in September by the Senate Armed Services Committee but a final vote by the full Senate was postponed. They were approved by voice vote on Jan. 2 as part of a group of 77 nominees receiving a confirmation vote.

Wardynski, a retired Army officer with 30 years of service, spent about half his military career as an expert in economic and manpower analysis before being named to head the Huntsville school system. His daughter Jennifer and son Chris are serving in the Army.

Wardynski told the Senate he expects the top issue he’ll face is “manning the total force with high quality people.”

“Recruiting and retaining the very best our nation has to offer is critical to the Army’s efforts to meet its increased end strength goals and promote readiness,” he wrote in his answers to committee questions. “Striking an appropriate balance in the military, civilian, and contractor workforce within a fiscally competitive environment will be critical to effectively meeting mission requirements around the globe.”

Turner Construction Renovating TMDE Lab

Turner Construction recently began renovating the Army’s TMDE Activity’s Primary Standards Lab at Redstone Arsenal. The 76,000 square-foot facility is used for primary-level calibration and repair of Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) that the Army uses for its vehicles, weapons and equipment.

“As the agency responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the Army and its military systems, this renovation is crucial for us,” said George Condoyiannis, chief of construction for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District. “The renovation includes updating laboratory spaces to keep up with state-of-the-art, high-tech army equipment that have significant calibration needs.”

The $27,223,895 renovation takes place while the building remains occupied. Completion is slated for January 2021.

“This project is an extension of an incredibly valued partnership between the U.S. Army Corps and Turner, and we are proud to play a part in the incredible work they do for our community and our country,” said Turner’s Southeast Federal Account Manager Tyce Hudson.