City Receives $1.3M Grant to Renovate Butler Terrace Area

The announcement didn’t come gradually or with the drama that accompanied the rollout of the top four teams participating in the college football playoff, but for the city’s civic leaders the news was just as exciting and filled with suspense for the future.

Huntsville is one of four cities nationwide to receive a Choice Neighborhood Planning grant. The Rocket City joined Rome, Ga.; Trenton, N.J.; and Omaha, Neb.; in receiving the award.

The cities were notified in September and Huntsville officials unveiled plans Thursday on how the $1.3 million grant will be used.

“We’ll renovate west of downtown and around Butler Terrace,’’ said Scott Erwin, the city interim director of community development.

Plans call for new affordable housing, commercial opportunities and entertainment options.

Erwin said the blueprints are designed to renovate “distressed public housing’’ and improve blight in a one-mile radius around Butler Terrace, which was built in the early 1950s. The area is from Bob Wallace and Memorial Parkway west to Triana Boulevard and I-565.

A packed house gathered at First Baptist Church to hear details of the renovations, which are a joint venture between the City of Huntsville and the Housing Authority. Council President Devyn Keith and Councilmembers Frances Akridge, Will Culver and Jennie Robinson, along with Urban and Long Range Planning Manager Dennis Madsen, Real Estate Development for the Housing Authority Quisha Riche and Camiros Planning Coordinator Bill James attended the meeting.

Camiros is a Chicago-based company with experience in planning, zoning, urban design, economic development and landscape architecture. The firm has worked with Choice Neighborhood Planning grant cities, including Mobile.

“Today was about introducing Camiros as partners,’’ Erwin said.

He said community members and not just city authorities will have a voice in the planning of renovations and upgrades.

Residents in areas affected by new construction, he said, won’t be dislocated immediately since the project is only in the planning process. However, residents may have to eventually move for a period of time.

If that happens, Erwin said, the city will relocate residents temporarily and those who were moved will have first options on returning to their community once renovations are complete.

The Choice Neighborhood Planning grant lasts for three years. Once planning goals are met, Huntsville can compete for a $30 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to complete construction.

Erwin said residents in areas including Butler Terrace, Lowe Mill and Terry Heights and Campus 805 are welcomed to voice their opinions.

“They’re engaged in this,’’ he said. “They will have input in this.’’

The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is a program of HUD. Its goal is to transform neighborhoods of extreme poverty into functioning, sustainable mixed-income communities.

The Catalyst Receives Grant for Small Business Training Program

As Huntsville and Madison County continue to grow, there’s been an exponential surge in small business development over the past several years.

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims: “More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.” (Photo/Lori Connors)

Here in North Alabama, small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures have been welcomed with open arms.

Economic development is essential for community growth and stability. To that end, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded The Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship a $350,000 Management & Technical Assistance Program grant.

“I’m delighted to come here and participate,” said SBA Deputy District Director L.D. Ralph at the announcement hosted at Drake State Community and Technical College.

“We are excited about this endeavor,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “The overall, overarching goal is to meet the workforce needs and those needs are growing. We are part of the workforce solution.

“More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.”

Over the past 21 years, Ralph has enjoyed a strong affiliation with the Catalyst Center, then known as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama.

“It’s been a long-term, beneficial relationship,” he said.

The program’s assistance encompasses a wide spectrum of services to include one-to-one customized coaching, business training, and networking/matchmaking opportunities. A key goal of the program is to help firms compete for federal, state and local contracts as a prime contractor or subcontractor.

To participate in the free training program, small businesses must be:

  • Owned and managed by economically and/or socially disadvantaged individuals
  • Located in areas of high unemployment or low-income
  • Certified 8(a) participant or HUBZone small business
  • Economically disadvantaged and woman-owned

Resources are provided through SBA’s network of strategic partners, including The Catalyst, Drake State Community and Technical College, Neighborhood Concepts, Regions Bank, Redstone Federal Credit Union, and Live Oak Bank.

Drake State will provide a certificate program in Entrepreneurship. Neighborhood Concepts and Redstone Federal Credit Union are partnered to provide loans through the Business Assistance Microloan Program.

Live Oak Bank will provide support to 7(j) companies relative to mergers and acquisitions and growth through contract mobilization. Regions Bank will provide facilities, coaches and assistance designed to reach low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs within North Alabama.

For information, visit catalystcenter.org

Huntsville Announces Holiday Closures, Delays; Thursday Garbage Collection Moved to Friday

The City of Huntsville’s municipal offices will be closed for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, Nov. 28-29.

The following services will be affected:

Garbage Collection:  Thursday’s residential curbside collection will be picked up on Friday, Nov. 29.

Public Transit:  Thursday’s Shuttle B​us and Handi-Ride services will be closed. Transit service resumes on Friday, Nov. 29.

Parks & Recreation:  Recreation centers and facilities will be closed on Thursday and Friday and will reopen on Saturday, Nov. 30.

Animal Services:  The Animal Shelter and Animal Services will be closed from Thursday through Sunday.

Municipal Court:  Closed Thursday and Friday.

Public Safety:  Police and Fire will remain on duty throughout the holiday weekend.

Huntsville Prepares for the Future: Parking Problems or Problem with Perception?

Change is hard but it has never stopped Huntsville from rising to a challenge.

In the same way we adjusted to becoming the Rocket City in the 1960s; to becoming a booming defense industry maven in the 1990s; and a five-county regional economy over the past decade; Huntsville is looking yet again to the future and sometimes – just sometimes – we get a whiff of frustration as the construction holds up traffic, a red light seems to be holding longer than it used to, or there does not appear to be enough parking at a popular new shopping venue!

Parking spaces have become precious commodities.

As Huntsville continues to grow and expand, city planners are trying to get ahead of the headaches seen in large, fast-growing metropolitan cities by redesigning it as they go for the future, and a central tenet of this strategy involves Land Use.

Land Use is the management and modification, or “urbanization” of a natural environment into residential, commercial, and public “urban open” sectors.

In the past, especially in the past 50 years, Land Use has been geared toward making room for urban sprawl and commercialization at all costs. Shopping centers have focused on gigantic asphalt parking lots where drivers battle constantly for the closest parking spot. Stores sit back off the main thoroughfare to accommodate it, while anxious holiday drivers follow on the heels of customers exiting the storefront like automotive stalkers until they reach their vehicle, either sniping the spot or deciding to try for one that’s closer.

Most of the time however, these parking fields are more than half empty, always built larger than required, leaving an asphalt eyesore and a tremendous waste of land.

In the past few years, Huntsville city planners have been studying Land Use analyses to help reshape Huntsville’s character and to better manage Huntsville’s land and natural environment to fit a more contemporary view of how people live, work and play.

The Shops at Merchants Walk and Shops at Merchants Square on Bob Wallace Avenue are based on “New Urbanism.” While the tenants and some customers perceive there to be insufficient parking, Merchants Square was designed to sit close to the street with some ground-level parking, backed up by a three-floor parking deck.

Jessica Partington, property manager for RCP Properties which developed both shopping centers, said the overwhelming success of the developments has put the need for additional traffic and parking solutions front and center.

“The Shops at Merchants Square has been wildly popular, which is something we will never be upset about, but perhaps a bit more popular than we anticipated,” she said. “When Chuy’s opened, it was a record-breaking opening for them nationwide and no one anticipated how popular it was going to be.

“Of course, we are not upset by that but with that came some unexpected challenges.”

She said that as of now, the parking ratios required for that venue are not showing they are under-parked in terms of code compliance, but there are a couple of things at play.

“Employees are required to park on the upper level of the deck but because there is not what most people perceive as being much parking at ground level, we find that people don’t always go all the way up the deck,” she said. “And on weekends, we find there are parking spots at that last hook in the parking deck and up top that people miss.”

Partington said there is a lot of construction work during the day and construction vehicles in the deck that take up a lot of room and are taking up some spaces that would normally be available.

“But we are nearing the end of that, so it won’t be a problem much longer,” she said. “Also, Aspen Dental will have their own ground-level parking and when they are finished, people can park there at night and on weekends when the problem seems to be worse.”

According to Kelly Schrimsher, director of communications for Mayor Tommy Battle’s office, Huntsville is experiencing some growing pains that can be easily addressed by changing people’s perception.

“The Shops at Merchants Square and the Shops at Merchants Walk on Bob Wallace Avenue are the perfect example,” Schrimsher said. “There is actually plenty of parking. You just have to look at it from a more efficient Land Use perspective and tie it to where the future will be taking us.

“We are rethinking parking requirements to better fit a model for the not so distant future where people are walking more, are driving more electric cars, where more people are using services like Uber, and where people will walk outside the store or restaurant and ‘dial their car’ to come pick them up. Although it may sound farfetched now, it is not so far away from reality.”

Rendering shows an example of a crosswalk idea for Bob Wallace Avenue.

The city is also working on a couple of solutions they believe will help alleviate the Bob Wallace traffic and parking issues as well.

“We are building a decorative pedestrian crosswalk from the much larger parking lot at the Shops at Merchants Walk that will be visually appealing and substantial enough to slow the traffic down on Bob Wallace so people can safely cross back and forth,” said Shane Davis, director of urban and economic development for Huntsville. “The city is acquiring material quotes for the intersection improvements and expect to have it completed in early January. It will also really dress up the area.”

Made of “stamped thermoplastic material” with a brick, stone and slurry concrete design, Davis said it will provide for improved pedestrian crosswalk safety, more driver awareness at the intersection, and overall improved aesthetics of the area.

Over the next year, visitors to that part of the city will also see sidewalks up and down both sides of Bob Wallace from the Parkway to both shopping centers, and down the road there are plans for an equally decorative crosswalk across Memorial Parkway at the Bob Wallace intersection.

“The city also has a plan to connect Regal Drive on the Parkway Place side next to Belk, to the Shops at Merchant Square,” said Partington. “Those through-roads will alleviate some of the traffic flow and allow people to walk a little bit, which we are doing more of in Huntsville.”

“It is a little bit of educating people and preparing them for what we know is coming in the future,” said Schrimsher. “Downtown Huntsville residents have been going through this same evolution since its revitalization began.

“The days of fighting for a parking spot right in the front door and every individual business having their own asphalt parking lot is being phased out and shared parking is being phased in,  If you live downtown, strangers may park in front of or near your home. And they are using parking decks and Uber rather than driving their car everywhere.

“But people who choose to live downtown in areas like Twickenham Square and Avenue Huntsville, do so for the convenience, the amenities, and the pedestrian-friendly environment. They do not have to jump in the car to drive to the grocery store or a restaurant or to have their hair cut or grab a cup of coffee. If they live in these areas, they adjust to it and even enjoy it.”

According to the city’s statistics, Huntsville is a sprawling city overall, but it has population density pockets such as downtown of more than 5,000 people per square mile, making it comparable to cities such as Pittsburgh, Pa., and St. Paul, Minn.

Interestingly, Five Points is an excellent example, originally developed in the early 1900s as a “streetcar suburb” that was not designed for the automobile and is still, today, easily walkable because of it.

Compare that to Cummings Research Park, which was established in 1962.

Designed for driving, originally, there were no restaurants, retail or residential originally allowed within the park.

That began to change when, 1982, the city purchased land and it evolved into Cummings Research Park West. In 2007, Bridge Street Town Centre was developed and it now includes more than 80 restaurants and stores and two hotels. An apartment building has since opened and a third hotel will open soon.

Some sections of Research Park East are being rezoned for small, very condensed multi-use developments, multistoried and sitting close to streets so as not to waste land. The parking will be enough, but it will not be a sprawling field of asphalt.

Tenants can expect some retail-like coffee shops and cafes, and perhaps even hotel rooms on the upper floors to alleviate having to jump in your vehicle for every errand.

Residents are already seeing bikeshares in Cummings Research Park for quick and emissions-free runs.

There are more pedestrian-friendly multi-use developments such as the Village of Providence, downtown’s Twickenham Square, Town Madison along I-565, and MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, following a popular trend across the U.S. where people are demanding less pollution, less asphalt, less traffic and more outdoor-friendly landscaping, easier accessibility, and more walkability.

“We recognize that our residents need more mobility options, especially when it comes to urban development,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “With each new project, we look to create safe and unusable connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists as well as public transit and motor vehicles.”

Booz Allen Digital Soldier Program Aims to Make Soldier ‘Unbeatable’

In a conference room at Booz Allen’s fifth-floor Bridge Street office, anyone wearing virtual reality headgear can instantly be standing in the open door of a military plane flying above a training facility on the United States base of the instructor’s choosing.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield. (Photo/Booz Allen)

A first-timer wearing the contraption looks around the inside of the plane, steps to the edge of the door and is gripped by an uneasy sensation after looking down. Minutes later, the same first-timer shoots “bad guys’’ in an urban environment resembling those seen on battle footage from the Middle East, a realistic M4 that is surprisingly light providing the firepower.

There’s more, and it’s all part of Booz Allen’s Digital Soldier initiative the company displayed to media members. Company site leader and Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson, a veteran with defense department expertise, said Vice President of Global Defense Joel Dillon and Principal of Global Defense Stephanie Boone-Shaw were on a “road show’’ of sorts.

“Joel and Stephanie are demonstrating some of the capabilities Booz Allen has invested in,’’ Hudson said. “They’re demonstrating these technologies and showing everybody what Booz Allen has to offer.’’

Simulation — which Dillon said could be a big money saver for defense — is just part of Digital Soldier.

A primary talking point is “open architecture,’’ which is intended to make adding, upgrading and swapping components easy. For example, Dillon, a jumpmaster and highly decorated Army officer (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Oak Leaf Cluster are on an impressive resume that includes a master’s from Stanford and bachelor’s from West Point) talks about the “Christmas tree’’ effect.

“Soldiers have all of these great pieces of equipment,’’ he said, “but they’re hanging off them like an ornament.’’

With body armor and all the trappings, a soldier carries an added 130 pounds. That’s more than the bulky equipment soldiers had in World War II.

Open architecture is aimed at reducing that weight and providing faster upgrades to equipment on the battlefield.

“The Army has got to modernize, got to really transform how they do business,’’ Boone-Shaw said. “The acquisition process takes too long, is way too slow. Our enemies and Near Peers have watched how the military fights and the tactics while we’ve been at war for a couple of decades.

“They also have access to technology that allowed them to catch up with their capability to the U.S. The U.S. has to maintain the advantage.’’

Speed, integration using open architecture and combining fast-improving technology such as GPS and satellites, mission adaptability and maintaining military superiority are some of the buzz words and phrases involved in Digital Soldier.

But, Dillon said, Booz Allen sets itself apart from other firms by taking a “holistic’’ approach to consider the individual. He compared the approach to the way an NFL team maintains assets such as a valuable player through everything from nutrition and condition to the best equipment and devices. These allow for better and faster decision making on the battlefield.

“I don’t know if there’s anything more valuable than the sons and daughters of our citizens,’’ he said.

Digital Soldier, Dillion said, has been initiated to give those sons and daughters their best chance at readiness, lethality, and survivability. Combining technology and making it work “synergistically’’ can produce a soldier who will be “unbeatable on the battlefield.’’

“We want to give them the best training and best equipment to get them home safely.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Awards $9.26M for Blake Bottom Road Widening Project

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao today announced that the Trump Administration will award $9.26 million to Madison County for the Blake Bottom Road Widening Project.

The award is part of some $900 million in American infrastructure projects through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Transportation Discretionary Grants program.

“The administration is targeting BUILD Transportation grants to repair, rebuild, and revitalize significant infrastructure projects across the country,” Chao said.

The project in Madison County will widen approximately 2.5 miles of Blake Bottom Road from two lanes to five lanes from Research Park Boulevard to Jeff Road.

By adding a travel lane in each direction, drainage improvements, and sidewalks, the project seeks to reduce crashes and more safely accommodate traffic increases expected from the separate Research Park Boulevard-Blake Bottom Road interchange project currently underway. 

Fiscal Year 2019 BUILD Transportation grants are for investments in surface transportation infrastructure and have been awarded on a competitive basis to projects with a significant impact in their local or regional communities. BUILD funding supports roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation.  

Leidos Live Technology Showcase Rolls into Huntsville

The Leidos Live Technology Showcase rolled into Huntsville this week for a three-day interactive demonstration of the company’s wide-ranging technological capabilities.

The purple 53-foot double-wide semi-truck expanded into a full mobile technology exhibit with augmented reality experiences, virtual reality demonstrations and interactive modules that bring Leidos technology to life.

The Leidos exhibit includes a 3D virtual tour inside the body demonstrating Leidos’ work with peptides in cancer research. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The exhibit arrived Tuesday at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and engineering students experienced Leidos’ IT and cybersecurity solutions.

The tour traveled to the new Leidos headquarters in Cummings Research Park on Wednesday where employees and guests were treated to ice cream and barbeque while touring the interactive exhibits.

On Thursday, it moved to Redstone Arsenal so Leidos customers could also enjoy the experience.

Angela Pounders, the Leidos business development field office manager in Huntsville, said there are some exciting things happening here in Huntsville for the company.

“We work across a broad spectrum and have a lot of business alliances in the areas of healthcare, space, civil intelligence, military, and humanitarian efforts,” Pounders said. “We have employees working in program offices on the Arsenal and we even have people in Anniston supporting FEMA. But one of things I am excited about is that we have the world’s largest supply chain in Antarctica.”

Each exhibit showcases each segment of that spectrum including a 3D virtual tour inside the body demonstrating Leidos’ work with peptides in cancer research.

One of the exhibits consist of augmented reality posters of employees who come to life and start talking to you. The second part of the presentation uses virtual reality goggles to provide a 360-degree virtual look at Leidos’ work in Antarctica. It takes you on a tour of the 100,000 square feet of facilities, some thousands of miles apart in areas that are so desolate, there are no cellphones, hospitals, restaurants or people, except for Leidos workers. Viewers also go under the ice with Antarctic ice swimmers.

Visitors can sit in a simulator for firing machine guns utilizing Leidos software. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Visitors can sit in a simulator for firing machine guns utilizing Leidos software; and participate via big screen in sweeping for and destroying improvised explosive devices on the battlefield anywhere in the world.

Using microwave technology on the front of the vehicle, the exhibit puts you behind the tank or military vehicle so you can identify IEDs on the path ahead and detonate them safely.

A gigantic flat-screen table shows the operational capabilities of robotically designed unmanned surface vessels. Currently in the pilot phase, these USVs can carry a variety of Leidos humanitarian, research, or military sensor packages into treacherous waters and storms where it is too dangerous for the Navy.

“These vessels usually stay out for three months at a time and unlike drones that are controlled remotely by humans, these vessels have no interaction with any humans,” said Dennis Card, Leidos tour manager. “There is only one built right now and it went to Hawaii and back from San Diego. Another one, twice as large is being built and it will go out from Gulfport, Miss.”

One of the interactive demonstrations incorporates a Tetris-like virtualization game that brings the viewer into the conveyor system to store packages bound for the International Space Station.

“We run cargo mission contracts for NASA for all the cargo and resupply efforts going to the International Space Station,” said Suzzanna Martinez, Leidos director of strategic communications. “These resupply orders come from the astronauts and our system packs and stores the cargo for whatever different kind of vessel will be going up.”

A Tetris-like virtualization game brings the viewer into the logistics system of the International Space Station. (Photo/Steve Babin)

In everyday life where no one really knows it, Leidos air traffic control software is used to pick up communications between air traffic towers, to scan luggage, and much more.

Leidos was started by Dr. J. Robert Beyster in 1969. An exact model of his original 1969 Chevrolet Malibu, painted in the famous Leidos purple, is also part of the traveling show and at the end of the tour, will be raffled off to a lucky Leidos employee.

The roadshow also travels with a purple ice cream truck.

“We call it the Leidos Scoop Ice Cream Truck and ice cream socials are a grassroots way of saying thank you to our customers on a nice hot day,” said Martinez. “We take it out to Federal Aviation Administration headquarters for National Aviation Day, and we have taken it to NASA headquarters in Washington, DC for National Space Day and people love it.”

The innovation showcase and its other components are all a part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Welcome to Mars: VBC’s New Out of This World Music Hall

Rendering shows the interior of Mars Music Hall.

Welcome to Huntsville, Rocket City USA and home to all things related to space.

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a grand opening of a music venue with a name to match?

Introducing the Von Braun Center’s newest gem: Mars Music Hall.

It’s been just a little over a year since the August 2018 groundbreaking and progress has been right on target.

Held at the VBC’s Propst Arena, the special name reveal event Tuesday night had a tie in with the season’s introduction of the Huntsville Havoc hockey team.

“We’re getting really close to opening,” VBC Executive Director Steve Maples said of Mars. “It’s an exciting time to be in Huntsville.

A new LED lighting system in Propst Arena was unveiled. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“The City of Huntsville is developing at a rapid pace and is constantly attracting out-of-market visitors and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.  Adding this size and type of music venue to the heart of the city is an important step in continuing that growth.”

VBC Executive Director Steve Maples (Photo/Steve Babin)

Along with meeting the team and viewing a demonstration of the newly installed LED lights; the crowd was shown a video presentation and sampling of the 2020 concert lineup.

The video featured updated renderings by Matheny Goldmon of Rhythm on Monroe – a full-service restaurant and rooftop bar connected to Mars that will open in the spring.

“Rhythm will be the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner, after-show cocktails, or just a great dining spot without attending an event,” said Maples.

Rhythm, aptly named for the different types of musical performances hosted at the VBC on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street, will serve locally sourced ingredients and provide fresh urban fare.

It will feature craft brews, a curated wine list, and handmade cocktails that guests will be able to enjoy while sitting near fire pits at the rooftop bar overlooking Big Spring Park.

Street view rendering shows entrance to Mars and Rhythm. (Matheny Goldmon)

Mars Music Hall will open its doors Jan. 3 with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The event is predicted to be a sellout. With a 1,575-person capacity, this intimate setting will offer great acoustics for a variety of events ranging from concerts to comedy acts and everything in between.

Among the acts announced for the concert lineup will be Black Jacket Symphony, Tig Notaro, Chris Janson, Graham Nash, Jo Dee Messina and many others.  To see the full lineup of announced performances and to learn about purchasing tickets, visit marsmusichall.com.

“I’m excited about this music hall,” said Maples. “Huntsville needs this music hall. The venue is so cool and has an intimate feeling.

“Nashville is excited about the music hall and is sending us a lot of bands.”

 

 

 

 

Launch 2035 Initiates 3-County Regional Workforce and Labor Market Assessment Study

Launch 2035 and city leaders from Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties blasted off their first major initiative – a collaborative assessment study of the area’s regional workforce and labor market.

The announcement comes less than 90 days after six mayors from across Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties, formally signed an historic three-county regional agreement of collaboration and cooperation to work together for the future good of the regional economy.

Bill Marks: “Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

From the high-tech boardroom round table at the Huntsville International Airport, Launch 2035 Chair retired Army Col. Bill Marks said Launch 2035 was formed in 2014 to encourage and facilitate a collective 20-year vision of Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties that would ensure the North Alabama region continues to prosper.

“Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before,” said Marks. “It is a signal to all our communities, our state, and future businesses that we are committed to ensuring our region functions at the highest levels of collaboration for years to come.”

Launch 2035 has three areas of focus: workforce, entrepreneurship, and land use planning.

“That’s where this privately funded assessment looks at our labor talent, presents leading practices in workforce development, and provides a deeper understanding of the opportunities we have in our workforce within our region,” Marks said. “It is a proactive effort to understand the current labor market and our ability to continue to grow for current and future employer needs in the region.”

Among the speakers at the announcement was Harry Schmidt, economic development consultant for the Tennessee Valley Authority Alabama Region.

“We are glad to be teaming up with regional partners, including local power companies and others, to continue to promote business success in the region,” Schmidt said. “We are pleased to support this workforce and labor study because one of TVA’s core principles is to work to improve the quality of life for people in the valley. One of the primary ways we do that is by job growth and identifying quality job opportunities for people.”

John Seymour, president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said changes in lifestyle means city leaders can no longer think just about their own communities but must start thinking about the whole region.

“Jobs in Madison County are different sometimes than the jobs in Limestone and Morgan County,” Seymour said. “We have to think about recruiting folks from across those lines to fill the positions that are available in our various communities. As a community and as a region, we have to think regional to be successful. I see this as an opportunity to look forward.”

“This study will help us grow our workforce in our communities and provide us with a great tool as we continue to work together as a region to bring more industry and business to the area,” said Jennifer Williamson, president of the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce. “It is also a great tool for us to use to support our existing businesses and industry.”

Other leaders at the announcement included Bethany Shockney, president of Limestone County Economic Development Association; Rick Tucker, executive director of the Huntsville Port Authority; and Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Tucker: “Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“Launch 2035 contracted with Deloitte to do this labor analysis,” said Cape. “This study is looking forward because through the use of confidential interviews with companies, and discussing real time activities with employers, we can gear our workforce development and activities to meet a needed we know is coming. We look forward to getting these results, and we will work with our partners to make sure we have a workforce of the future.”

Rick Tucker has been part of Launch 2035 from its inception.

“Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring,” he said. “It is just another step in the region’s working together in a collaborative way to address the opportunities and issues facing our region. That is what we do here at the Port of Huntsville – serve this region; and we are glad to be a participant in this study, trying to address this important topic of the labor force in our marketplace. We look forward to continuing this collaboration throughout the region.”

Wes Kelley, president and CEO of Huntsville Utilities, was unable to attend but is also a partner in the initiative. Penny Townson, vice president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, stood in for President and CEO Jeremy Nails who could not attend.

Among Launch 2035’s other initiatives are the team’s continuing work on the Singing River Trail – 70 miles of Native American bike, hike, and walking trails that connects the region .

“The Singing River Trail is an example of the continued growth and economic development we see in our region,” Tucker said. “That’s what businesses and community leaders from across the region want to see – a long-term impact of our investments and hard work.”

MartinFederal Awarded $3.5 Million RMDA Contract

MartinFederal Consulting has been awarded a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Army Records Management and Declassification Agency.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Records Management and Declassification Agency to provide the highest level of service possible,” said Corey Martin, company president and CEO. “We have a tremendous team with vast experience in records management and are thrilled about this opportunity. “

The Records Management and Declassification Agency is responsible for the entire spectrum of the Army’s interrelated records management programs including Army Records Management, Army Freedom of Information, Army Privacy, Civil Liberties, Joint Services Records Research, and Declassification of Army Records.

Headquartered in Huntsville, MartinFederal is an SBA 8(a) and SDVOSB providing high-tech solutions to the federal government. Visit www.martinfed.com.