Remington Furloughs 200 Huntsville Workers

Monday marked the first day of about a two-month furlough for some 200 workers at the Remington plant in Huntsville.

Workers are expected to return in early to mid-August, according to reports. Calls to Remington were not returned. Huntsville city officials were not available for comment.

The Alabama Department of Commerce said it provided Remington with information to help the affected workers.

According to reports, the furloughs were part of companywide layoffs across the company’s plants in Ilion, N.Y.; Lonoke, Ark.; and Huntsville.

It’s been almost a year since the nation’s oldest firearms manufacturer emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy saw $775 million in debt converted to equity and the company received $193 million in a new lending package funded by seven banks, including Bank of America.

Following the company’s bankruptcy, the City of Huntsville renegotiated the original incentive package that was put in place when Remington decided to locate in Huntsville.

The city council approved the new deal in November that gave Remington an extra three years
to meet its objective of employing 1,868 employees or the company forfeits its $12.5 million
incentive package provided by Huntsville, the Madison County Commission and the
Industrial Development Board.

The company has also lost $3 million from a withheld cash incentive payment from the state and repaid more than $500,000 for failing to meet various job and payroll targets, which was part of an overall $70 million incentive package, according to reports.

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.

Limestone, Madison Counties Lead State in Capital Investment, Job Creation

Limestone and Madison counties topped all other counties in Alabama for new capital investment (CAPEX) and job creation, according to the 2018 New & Expanding Industry Report just released by the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Limestone County led the state with CAPEX of $1.7 billion, followed by Madison County with $1.1 billion in new capital investment. The Limestone County figures are heavily driven by the $1.6 billion Mazda  Toyota Manufacturing USA plant under construction in Huntsville-Limestone County.

Furthermore, according to the report, Limestone County ranked first in job creation at 4,172 jobs. Madison County ranked No. 3 at 1,043 jobs.

However, Harrison Diamond, Business Relations officer for the City of Huntsville, said the report contains a caveat.

“The numbers for our area are even better when you realize that Huntsville is now comprised of Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties,” said Diamond, “Limestone’s numbers included some investment not in Huntsville, but when you pull it all together, Huntsville’s CAPEX is $2.7 billion with 5,189 jobs created in 2018.”

Growth in automotive and aerospace remained strong in 2018, boding well for North Alabama, which has momentum for the rest of 2019.

The report outlines 357 economic development projects totaling a record-breaking $8.7 billion in CAPEX statewide with 17,062 jobs from new and expanding industries. That is the highest increase since 2015 at $7.1 billion.

“This success solidifies my belief that we are building a more dynamic economy in Alabama and creating a pathway to greater prosperity for its citizens,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Projects in the City of Huntsville

Company                                                                  Year     Jobs                 Investment ($)

BAE Systems Inc. 2018 200 45,500,000
BWXT 2018 5 0
Custom Assembly inc. 2018 75 0
DC Blox 2018 5 10,867,600
Dynetics 2018 130 24,455,643
EOS 2018 100 2,500,000
Facebook 2018 100 750,000,000
Kohler 2018 149 175,470,698
LG Electronics 2018 159 28,100,000
Mitchell Plastics 2018 95 18,315,000
Mynaric USA 2018 2 0
Novocol Healthcare 2018 7 1,000,000
Radiance Technologies, Inc. 2018 60 18,990,000
Redline Steel 2018 50 11,111,454
St. Gobain 2018 2 13,000,000
Torch Technologies 2018 40 6,325,000
Toyota/Mazda JV 2018 4000 1,600,000,000
VT Miltope 2018 10 0

Total                                                                                                5,189               2,700,000,000

Huntsville, Sierra Nevada Chasing the Dream of Space-based Business

Since the launch of the International Space Station some 20 years ago, the idea of space, especially low-Earth orbit, has been as one big start-up business.

With Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser spacecraft jumping into the commercial resupply mission lane, the whole commercialization of space concept got very interesting for Huntsville.

If all goes as planned, the busy little Dream Chaser spacecraft will make its maiden landing at the Huntsville International Airport in 2023. It will be the first and only commercial airport licensed by the FAA for a spaceplane landing. The only other designated landing site will be Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“There is a whole new business going on up there and people who create NASA policy like the idea of the commercialization of space,” said Lee Jankowski, senior director of Business Development for Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville. He is also the program manager for the $1 million project to obtain two special FAA licenses so the Dream Chaser spacecraft can land at Huntsville International Airport.

If this sounds far-fetched, that’s what Jankowski thought too, five years ago.

While known for the business of rocketry and propulsion. Huntsville also contributes to other areas of space exploration, such as payload science analysis, operations, and integration.

Sierra Nevada rendering shows Dream Chaser docked with International Space Station

Teledyne Brown Engineering  in Huntsville has handled all science payload operations for the Space Shuttle missions for nearly 20 years. The company has a Payload Operations Control Center at Marshall Space Flight Center and the contract was renewed to manage resupply efforts and payloads to the International Space Station.

“TBE and our subcontractors understand how to plan out the science while it’s onboard; how to train for it; how to execute it; and how to get it back down to Earth to maximize its scientific return,” said Jankowski. “With the shuttle program, Teledyne Brown planned one- or two-week missions that occurred three or four times a year.

“With the space station, we are up there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That’s a lot of science.”

Huntsville’s Story

Jankowski believes there is a compelling story to be told for why landing the Dream Chaser in Huntsville makes sense.

“There are two different mission sets or two different orbits for Huntsville to consider,” he said. “Let’s say we have a mission that goes up from Kennedy, resupplies the space station and, when it comes down, lands in Huntsville.”

This is not an implausible scenario, he said, because the Marshall Space Flight Center has a lot of hardware flying around up there that needs to be returned.

The second mission set would be going back to Spacelab-type payload missions. Many Huntsville entities such as Marshall and HudsonAlpha already have payloads. Why not plan a return mission that is more North Alabama-centric?

Sierra Nevada rendering shows projects being offloaded from Dream Chaser on the runway.

A standalone Huntsville payload mission landing here carrying specimens, hardware, or other science can be immediately offloaded from the space vehicle and delivered pronto to the scientists, universities, and companies in this area.

So Many Possibilities

Most of the early missions will be unmanned and flown autonomously but the Dream Chaser was originally designed for a crew of at least six. The interior has been modified to better accommodate supply runs to the space station, but Sierra Nevada is still focused on getting a U.S. astronaut back to the space station on a U.S. vehicle.

“A Dream Chaser landing capability here opens up so many possibilities,” Jankowski said. “Exposure to cutting-edge concepts and, let’s say we only get one landing. We are looking at job growth. We will need processing facilities and manpower to build, operate and integrate payloads.”

For the third straight year, the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has sponsored a  European Space Agency competition, seeking applications for the Dream Chaser that would land in Huntsville.

“The Space Exploration Masters competition with the European Space Agency and our partner, Astrosat, a Scottish space services company, has given us a world stage for promoting our space, science and technology ecosystem,” said Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s senior vice president for economic development. “The competition has helped us raise the international profile of Huntsville not only as the home of the Saturn V and the space shuttle, but also as the space science operations center for the International Space Station and the ongoing rocket and propulsion capital for SLS and Blue Origin.”

Five years ago, Jankowski approached Madison County Commissioner Steve Haraway on how to acquire study money to determine if such a pursuit was feasible and if the airport could handle the unique spacecraft’s landing.

Haraway; County Commission Chairman Dale Strong; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; then-Madison Mayor Troy Trulock; Cape; and the Port of Huntsville leadership, all pulled together $200,000 in public funds to conduct a six-month feasibility study.

“The Chamber’s role in economic development includes working with local leaders and companies to position ourselves for optimal growth,” said Cape. “We’ve identified Huntsville’s space science and payload expertise as a key asset in the emerging space economy.

“Landing the Dream Chaser at Huntsville International Airport would create new opportunities for local companies as well as new capabilities for our research and development community.”

HSV Runway Testing

“In 2015, Huntsville International Airport did a landing site study (to determine) the feasibility and compatibility of landing future space vehicles (specifically the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser),” said Kevin Vandeberg, director of operations at Huntsville International Airport. 

The main issue was whether the skid plate on the front of Dream Chaser would seriously damage the asphalt runway. Dream Chaser lands on its back two wheels but does not have a front landing tire. Instead, the nose drops down on a skid plate to bring the vehicle to a halt. 

Using heavy equipment travelling at a high rate of speed, Morell Engineering tests showed a vehicle the size of Dream Chaser would be going so fast, it would do only minimal damage to the runway, never digging into the asphalt or rutting. Sierra Nevada shipped in a real skid plate for the test and it passed with flying colors.

They also conducted preliminary environmental assessments to measure the effects of the mild sonic boom the landing will trigger, and whether it will impact nearby explosive materials.

“In January 2016, the Airport Authority received the report on the findings of the study from Morell Engineering,” said Vandeberg. “It confirmed that little structural damage is expected to occur during the landing of Dream Chaser on the airport’s asphalt runway. Upon review of this report, Huntsville International Airport determined that we would move forward with the FAA license application process.”

The $1 Million Phase II Engineering Analysis

There are two applications required by the FAA to be considered a landing designation for Dream Chaser. Huntsville International must apply for a license to operate a re-entry site. Sierra Nevada must submit an application for a license for “Re-entry of a Re-entry Vehicle Other Than a Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV).”

“We are currently in the middle of a 2½-year engineering analysis in which we have subcontractors based at Kennedy Space Center doing most of the analyses,” said Jankowski. “Huntsville is taking a backseat to Kennedy because NASA is paying the Kennedy Space Center to do most of the required analyses. If you look at the launch schedule, Kennedy is one to two months ahead of Huntsville. Sierra Nevada gave us a heads-up to be patient and let Kennedy go first so a lot of the generic analysis needed is paid for, keeping our $1 million investment intact.”

The airport is scheduled to submit the first application to the FAA in December and the second application next January. However, the NASA buzz is that it will likely slip four or five months, and the Chamber has warned about recent proposed changes to space launch and landing permits at the federal level that could impact plans.

Altogether, it puts them a year away from final submission.

Community Engagement & Legislative Support

“We have engaged some amazing people like Congressman Mo Brooks, Senators Richard Shelby and Doug Jones, and Gov. Kay Ivey,” said Jankowski. “NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; past-NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden; William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations for NASA; and Kirk Shireman, manager of the ISS Program, are all familiar with Huntsville’s FAA status.”

“The Chamber has been actively marketing Huntsville as a landing site through local partner workshops, presentations to local industry groups and the Alabama Space Authority,” said Cape. “We also have the sponsorship of an international competition seeking ideas for using the Dream Chaser to further space exploration and economic development.

The United Nations Factor

There is an even bigger business storyline in the making – Sierra Nevada is in negotiations with the United Nations.

A couple of years ago, the company sent out a Call For Interest among U.N. members, asking if they have any potential payloads or science to fly on a two-week Dream Chaser mission.

Expecting 40 or 50 responses, Sierra Nevada received close to 175. The United Nations is working with Sierra Nevada to potentially launch missions that help Third World nations.

And Jankowski said everything is on schedule so far.

“From the day Huntsville International Airport submits the application, the FAA reserves up to 180 days to approve the license,” he said. “Once they get their license, there will be 1½-year lead-time before NASA says, ‘Huntsville has both of their FAA licenses in hand. They want a mission.’

“After that, the soonest we could get on the manifest is, I think, about 20 months, so we are probably still looking at being about 3½ years out.”

But, as everyone knows, in the realm of the business of space, that day will be here before we know it.

Madison Chamber Holds Ribbon-Cutting … for Itself

MADISON — The role was reversed for the Madison Chamber of Commerce when it held a ribbon-cutting and open house – for itself.

The Chamber moved to 103 Spenryn Drive near downtown from its former location inside the Hogan Family YMCA on Hughes Road. The new space is about double of what the Chamber had at the Y.

Inside the new Madison Chamber of Commerce.

It has already been a huge economic year for the city with the continuing development of Town Madison with its plans for dozens of retail businesses, hotels, the baseball stadium, housing and Pro Player Park.

And the explosion does not show any signs of slowing as road improvement and widening projects can be found throughout the city and with the upcoming development of Avenue Madison, which will change the overall atmosphere of the historic downtown area.

According to Executive Director Pam Honeycutt, the Madison Chamber of Commerce plays a huge pro-business role in advancing that economic development while furthering the business interests of the Madison community overall.

“All of us at the Madison Chamber, along with our ambassadors and Board, work as a team to build and promote local businesses with the expectation they will be successful and spread that prosperity throughout the community,” said Honeycutt. “It’s absolutely amazing and we couldn’t do it without all this support.

“We feel very, very Madison, and very, very loved by Madison.”

Mayor Paul Finley cited the Chamber and the staff for their messaging and business development.

“One of the things we rely on the Chamber for is messaging,” said Finley. “To make sure that as many people as possible know about what we are doing in the community, the events they can get involved with, the things that make our City great.

“The Chamber helps businesses grow and prosper in every way they can. Pam understands the team orientation that Madison needs to be a strong Chamber and strong advocate for economic growth.”

Abaco Expanding to Redstone Gateway

Abaco Systems, a manufacturer of embedded computing solutions, is the latest company to join the ranks of Redstone Gateway.

The company, which provides military, defense, aerospace and industrial applications, plans to relocate in the fall. Abaco has leased 37,400 square feet in 8800 Redstone Gateway, a 76,000 square-foot building under construction at Redstone Gateway, the mixed-use, class-A office park.

“We’re delighted to have identified Redstone Gateway as the location of our new headquarters,” said Rich Sorelle, president and CEO of Abaco Systems. “This new facility will provide us with much- needed additional space, and will be vital in ensuring that we can fulfill our commitments to our customers as our business continues to grow.

“I’d like to thank COPT (Corporate Office Properties Trust) for their part in making it happen.”

Redstone Gateway is being developed by COPT and Jim Wilson & Associates. As a result of this transaction, the building is 100 percent preleased.

“Abaco Systems has had a strong presence in Huntsville for over thirty years,” said COPT Chief Operating Officer Paul Adkins. “We’re thrilled that they have decided to make Redstone Gateway their home to be closer to their U.S. government contracting customers, to have access to walkable amenities, and to use new facilities as a recruiting tool.

“Their lease, along with other recent leases, highlights the value proposition of Redstone Gateway.”

Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Wins Prestigious Award from Site Selection Magazine

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber has been honored with a Mac Conway Award, which was revealed in the May 2019 issue of Site Selection magazine.

The magazine’s Mac Conway Awards for Excellence in Economic Development recognize the top local and regional economic development agencies in the US for their roles in helping to deliver prosperity to their communities.

This year’s winners were determined by an index that examines corporate facility investment projects in US metro areas as tracked by Site Selection’s proprietary Conway Projects database in 2018. Scores are awarded based on six criteria: total projects, total investment associated with those projects and jobs associated with those projects; and those same three numbers calculated per capita for the metro area.


Lucia Cape, Senior VP of Economic Development, Industry Relations and Workforce for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber; and Chamber President/CEO Chip Cherry with Mac Conway Award. (Photo: Claire Aiello)

The Huntsville/Madison County area saw record growth in 2018, with five new companies adding 4,207 jobs and $2,363,367,600 in capital investment. The largest of these was landing Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, which includes 4,000 jobs and $1.6 billion in investment. Facebook also announced a $750 million data center. In addition, 13 companies added 982 jobs and $346,653,096 in capital investments.

“The foundation that led to the game-changing economic development wins in 2018 are the result of the foundation laid by many partners over a long period of time,” said Chip Cherry, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “The Chamber is proud to be part of an amazing team comprised of elected leaders, volunteers, partners, and a talented staff. The team has a common mission – to develop a world class economy that supports innovation and provides employment opportunities for our citizens, while ensuring that our quality of life is second to none.

“We are honored to accept the award on behalf of our partners and the community.”

The chamber cited support from many partners, including the state, cities of Huntsville and Madison, Madison County and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

“The number of game-changing projects landing in Huntsville in recent years, capped by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, reflects the hard work of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The chamber team is highly professional, energetic, and willing to put in long hours to bring jobs and investment to the community. This is a well-deserved honor.”

“This economic development team has mastered the art of collaboration and partnership through a strategic vision that has been designed and executed by the Chamber, local government, and business,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The city of Huntsville is proud to be part of this partnership.”

“Our chamber gets it, and they have for a long, long time. Leaders from NASA, Redstone Arsenal, city and county governments, education, and health care take the lead from our chamber and partner with our community business leaders to help define our direction, build on our strengths, and look forward toward opportunity,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “Individual viewpoints are synced, the steps to make those opportunities reality are defined, and our incredibly talented chamber team goes to work.

“We have accomplished this year after year, decade after decade, turning opportunity into jobs for our community.”

“Madison County is pleased to celebrate the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber for this much-deserved award,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong. “The Chamber has always played a pivotal role in positioning our region as an economic development leader as demonstrated by the 2018 growth and expansions throughout our region. In Madison County, Alabama we’re grateful for the collaborative approach by our chamber team to bring new and innovative opportunities to Madison County.”

“TVA congratulates the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber on its recognition as a Top Economic Development Group. We are proud to partner with the chamber as we work to foster job creation and economic growth in the region,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of economic development. “The results the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber have had speak for themselves, and we look forward to a continued partnership for years to come.”

While Residents are Goin’ ‘Round Huntsville Mountain, Businesses are Assessing the Fallout

Huntsville residents are used to going around things.

Most people have skirted around Redstone Arsenal for 65 years to get where they are going.

And, after all, when you live in a valley, there are going to be some mountains to traverse, but the priority $18 million Cecil Ashburn Drive road improvement project has been challenging for a lot of people since it was closed in January for a widening project.

Cecil Ashburn connects commuters from east Huntsville, Marshall and Jackson counties to downtown Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park and beyond.

While the through pass is closed, there are three routes connecting Big Cove/Hampton Cove to Huntsville and destinations to the west and all three require going around Huntsville. U.S. 431 via Governors Drive; South Memorial Parkway via Hobbs Island Road; and U.S. 72 via Eastern Bypass/Rock Cut Road are all viable, if not the shortest, routes.

Construction on Cecil Ashburn Drive is progressing. (Photo by City of Huntsville)

Almost since it opened in 2000, the winding two-lane shortcut through Huntsville Mountain from Jones Valley to Hampton Cove has been over-capacity. More than 17,000 vehicles travel it every day and, in the past 11 years, there have been 782 vehicle wrecks and 11 fatalities recorded along that 3.4-mile stretch of road.

The City of Huntsville knew it was going to be a bitter pill, but officials tried to alleviate as much pain as possible to improve traffic flow, increase capacity, and improve safety. The project will widen the road from two to four lanes between Old Big Cove Road and Four Mile Post Road, and safety improvements include eight-foot shoulders along each side of the roadway.

“We changed the scope of the project to save time and money and to minimize the impact on our residents and businesses,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

The Effects on Local Business

“The closure occurred just after the first of the year and, for us in the health and exercise business, January and February are our busiest months,” said Kim Edmunds, manager of Hot Yoga of Huntsville, at 326 Sutton Road on the east side of the construction. “We were outwardly worried people would have difficulty getting here for their appointments, but we have been surprised it is not any worse than it is.”

She said there has been a fall-off in attendance at the popular late-afternoon class, the one that attracts people on their way home from work between 4 and 6 p.m.

“We also see what we believe is a hesitation from our short term and trial members to make a long-term commitment while travel is limited,” she said. “We believe this will change when at least a couple of lanes are reopened this fall.”

Carl Stanfield, interim store manager for Alabama Outdoors, said during the week foot traffic to his store at 2030 Cecil Ashburn Drive in Jones Valley, seems to have slowed down, but weekends are still very busy.

“Checking with our corporate headquarters, we have seen a 25 percent drop in headcounts since the first of the year, so we think there may be some negative effects from the construction,” he said. “But the closure came the second week of January just as the holidays came to an end and school started back. That could also account for a natural drop-off after the holidays.”

Tropical Smoothie Café manager Tyisha Burt said her business at 2075 Cecil Ashburn Drive opened in September, so there isn’t any history to compare.

“We have been very busy the past few months I think because of the warmer weather,” she said. “But we believe, once the pass is opened again, things will be even better than they are now.”

Donna Denson, patient concierge at Austin Physical Therapy, drives in to the Jones Valley location from Scottsboro every day.

“The day before the road closed, I decided to try the Green Mountain route using Old Big Cove Road,” she said. “But it was foggy that day and it was too unfamiliar, so I started taking Hobbs Island Road to Bailey Cove. It is an hour drive, but not a bad drive at all.

“It takes a little extra time, but they say 17,000 cars travel Cecil Ashburn every day. That means a lot of people are taking some extra time and I see it as only a temporary lapse.

Denson said there has been a “significant” in appointments between 4 and 6 p.m. and 7 a.m..

“Lucky for us though, we have another location at the foot of Monte Sano when you come on Governors Drive,” she said. “So, rather than losing patients, they seem to just be booking the other location.”

Business seems to be more negatively affected on the Jones Valley side than the Hampton Cove side and the restaurant business seems to be the most negatively affected.

Heavy equipment breaks through the rocks to create extra lanes on Cecil Ashburn Drive. (Photo by City of Huntsville)

Moe’s Barbecue closed its doors due to a lack of business, according to neighboring tenants, but will be opening a location downtown.

Ben Patterson, manager of the Jones Valley Mellow Mushroom, said there is no escaping the reality that dinner has fallen off since the closing. But his customers are so loyal, they have expressed their commitment to making it in whenever they can.

“It was sort of like ripping off the Band-aid,” he said. “We had hoped they would not have to close down Cecil Ashburn completely, but we also know that the improvements will lead to a smoother, safer thoroughfare that will hopefully, when it opens again in October, lead to more traffic coming across from Hampton Cove.”

For Anaheim Chili, the lunch crowd still shows up but the dinner crowd has dwindled.

“People are certainly not comin’ ‘round the mountain’ as far as we can tell,” said manager Scott Harriman. “We have definitely seen a fall-off in dinner customers, but lunch is pretty steady.

“Where we see the biggest drop-off is Monday through Wednesday for dinner. A lot of people stop to eat on their way home or to grab take out, but they are not doing that right now, probably because it takes people off their route and it takes longer to get home.”

Tough Decisions

While no one likes to hear that the main access from one side of the mountain to the other side of the mountain is closing down for 10 months, the City of Huntsville and the contractor, Carcel & G Construction, have taken steps to ease some of the pain.

Originally, the project came in at $25 million with a timeline of nearly three years. The proposal had a caveat – one lane would stay open open during peak traffic times, something that sounded good to retailers and businesses in Jones Valley and Hampton Cove.

However, city planners said that plan would have been a costly, 32-month ordeal that posed additional safety concerns. City engineers came back with a new schedule and an adjusted $18 million budget they felt best addressed the needs and concerns of the community.

Crews work on the drainage system for the Cecil Ashburn Drive project. (Photo by City of Huntsville)

Those adjustments called for a complete shutdown of the roadway for 10 months beginning in January. In order to keep the project on track, the contractor has been offered financial performance bonuses of up to $2 million for each day work is ahead of schedule or meets the abbreviated construction timeline. Alternately, the contractor will be penalized up to $2 million for scheduled delays.

They are also incentivized to make sure at least two lanes of traffic will reopen within the first 10-month period, which takes us into October.

“We’re saving taxpayers millions of dollars and cutting two years of public pain in the construction process,” said Shane Davis, the city’s director of economic and urban development.

Currently …

Clearing operations are complete and the highly unpopular blasting operations that have disturbed residents of the area are approximately 80 percent complete. The storm drainage installation is close to 70 percent complete. The contractor is coordinating with utility companies to begin relocation efforts.

Huntsville Utilities has completed the electrical relocation and others are scheduled to begin their work. The contractor will also begin installing water lines soon to complete the utility work.

They will begin to construct the roadway subgrade shortly thereafter.

“This schedule provides the least disruption course and gets motorists safely back on the road before the 2019 holiday season,” Battle said.

Aerial photo provides and overview of the construction work on Cecil Ashburn Drive. (Photo by EQB)

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.”