Governor Announces ‘Revive Plus’ $200M Small Business Grant Program

The state has launched Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19, Gov. Kay Ivey announced.

Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible.

“As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”

Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama.

The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant.

Information and applications are available at the Coronavirus Relief Fund website – https://crf.alabama.gov/. The application period is noon Nov. 23 through noon Dec. 4. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) said. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.

Huntsville Officially 1 of 6 contenders for Space Command Headquarters

What are the chances of Huntsville being selected by the Air Force to host the U.S. Space Command Headquarters? Well the odds just got a lot better.

The Redstone Region has been selected as one of six final contenders for the honor and with Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal’s distinguished space and military legacy, state and local leaders think we are in a strong position to make it happen!

The other five sites are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado and Port San Antonio in Texas.

We are the Rocket City!

“The Redstone region provides an unparalleled workforce for the U.S. Space Command with capabilities that include missile defense, aerospace, and intelligence,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We have the infrastructure capacity, community support, low cost of doing business and high-quality expertise to serve as the headquarters for USSPACECOM. When you analyze all the variables, Huntsville is the clear choice for this vitally important unified combatant command.”

Air Force officials have said previously it could take some six years to build the facilities necessary to house U.S. Space Command, once a location is chosen.

Redstone Arsenal already provides all the assets necessary such as military housing, health care, child care, commissary, and personnel and logistics support to assure the U.S. Space Command. 

The region boasts a well-established business, government, and community support ecosystem with a proven record of success in the space industry.

Redstone Arsenal isn’t simply a military installation. It is a federal R&D campus with more than 70 entities including NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center; the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command headquarters; the Army Materiel Command; the Program Executive Offices for Army Aviation and Missiles & Space; Foreign Military Sales; the majority of the Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency operations; and a wide portfolio of specialized R&D capabilities addressing all aspects of space, missile and missile defense endeavors.

Not to mention, the FBI will have a 4,000-agent presence at a massive campus on the arsenal. This area received a ringing endorsement from David Schlendorf, the FBI’s associate executive assistant director.

“The northern Alabama area and Redstone Arsenal, in particular, offer numerous advantages to the FBI: Secure locations to conduct investigative and administrative operations, lower overall business costs, ample opportunities to leverage existing science and technology expertise and capabilities, proximity to leading universities and colleges and a favorable quality of life for our employees,” he said in the annual Redstone Update presentation recently.

The “Redstone Region” boasts the highest per capita concentration of engineering workforce in the nation. The universities offer research resources specifically tailored to address the most challenging problems facing both our military and other technology-centric agencies. 

Huntsville’s world-class aerospace/defense cluster consists of 400 aerospace/defense companies; 80,000 employees in aerospace/defense; the nation’s second largest research park in Cummings Research Park; and more than 30 of the top 40 U.S. defense companies. 

Local governments are investing in our success, including $360 million for roads and greenways, plus fiber to the home, retail and dining growth, residential and commercial development, and strategic investments in cyber, geospatial, energy, and biotech.

Furthermore, a cohesive congressional delegation of representatives in the greater North Alabama and South Central Tennessee is well-positioned to support growth, especially on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees.

And as if we need more compelling reasons to take the mantle, we have energy costs nine percent lower than the U.S. average thanks to TVA, and state and local taxes that are 33 percent lower than the U.S. average. Overall, Huntsville’s metro is a low-cost, high-value leader in the space industry with a cost of living 6.6 percent below the U.S. average. 

Battle put it simply: “When you analyze all the variables, Huntsville is the clear choice for this vitally important unified combatant command.”

The Bell Still Rings for Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main

MADISON — Yes, the bell still rings for any organization wanting to decorate a Christmas tree for the seventh annual Madison Station Polar Express Christmas on Main, but Friday is the final day to register.

Hosted by the City of Madison and the Madison Station Historic Preservation Society, the event kicks off the holiday season with decorated Christmas trees displayed along Main Street in historic downtown and sponsored by the Madison business community.

Part of the Polar Express Christmas on Main, the trees will be on display Nov. 28-Jan. 2. Trees will be selected for the Mayor’s Choice, Most Creative and Honorable Mention awards to be announced at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting.

Trees are $100 for for-profit organizations and $50 for nonprofit organizations and can be decorated Nov. 20-27.

An official tree lighting will take place virtually Nov.29.

The number of Christmas trees available is limited so register by Friday to ensure your company is part of this annual holiday celebration.

For more information, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce at 256-325-8317.

Fantasy Playhouse Takes Center Stage in West Huntsville Corridor

At the southeast corner of Holmes Avenue and Triana Boulevard sits a 5.5-acre plot of dry grass. Don’t be fooled by its barren appearance for something big is coming soon.

Here lies the future intersection of where culture meets community.

As part of the “Spotlight on the Future” capital campaign kickoff, the board and staff of Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater & Academy and city officials announced the development of the Fantasy Playhouse Theatre’s $10 million campus.

The 35,500 square-foot theatre is part of Huntsville’s master plan for West Huntsville, serving as the anchor for the Holmes Avenue pedestrian expansion. The new theatre will have 355 seats and the campus will include retail space and a café. But, most importantly, the new facility will have adequate capacity to teach tech theatre, which also includes lighting and set design.

As part of the city’s economic development plan, Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theatre is growing. Along with other local businesses making an early commitment to the endeavor, Huntsville has dedicated $2 million to bring the new theatre to life. Thus, setting the stage for the Hillandale-Terry Heights corridor; with Research Park on the west end, Five Points at the east, and UAH and Fantasy Playhouse Theatre serving as the two main anchor points in between.

“It offers an investment in the arts, attracting people to our city and making Huntsville a better place,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “The arts bring that creativity to us, making it necessary for us to grow.”

A new theatre and educational facility are long overdue.

“This building, strategically set on the corner of Holmes Avenue and Triana Boulevard, will be a community asset to the Terry Heights neighborhood, prioritizing theatre arts access for all by engaging local underserved communities,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “It is proven that an appreciation of theater arts builds in children self-confidence, academic success, creative-thinking processes, and future investment in their  communities as adults. Arts appreciation lasts a lifetime.

“The Madison County Commission heartily endorses this project.”

Now in its 60th year, Fantasy Playhouse Theatre has introduced more than 500,000 people to the magic of theatre. Fantasy has been in its present location on Long Avenue since 1997 and, for the past six years, it has been on a major growth trajectory. As a result, they have been bursting at the seams.

“Our community is the most important part of why we do what we do,” said Karen Mockensturm, Fantasy’s CEO. “The new Fantasy Playhouse campus will be a high-profile, accessible arts and culture destination for families, building on our organization’s legacy and providing the exact theatre arts education programming opportunities that families relocating to our area expect for their children.”

Monday’s event was the kickoff for the organization’s fundraising campaign, titled “Spotlight on the Future”. While final numbers have yet to be determined, Fantasy’s officials said recent estimates for construction costs range between $11 million and $12 million. Torch Technologies, The Daniel Foundation, Alabama State Council on the Arts, Facebook, Kiwanis Club of Huntsville Foundation, PPG, several private donors and the City of Huntsville have already pledged support.

To enable a free community space where ARTS and STEM education combine to create STE(A)M, Facebook is donating $150,000 to a technical suite.

“We’ve been absolutely inspired by the vision of the Fantasy Playhouse and its innovative new arts campus,” said Katie Comer, Facebook’s Community Development Regional Manager. “Its impact on Huntsville will be profound, reimagining the opportunities beyond children’s theater, extending into technical education, workforce development and community building, which aligns perfectly with Facebook’s mission to build community.

“We’ve been so proud to be part of the Huntsville community since we broke ground on the Huntsville Data Center in 2018 and can’t wait for this new arts campus to open.”

 

 

NHBA Taking Care of Business on Huntsville’s North Side

North Huntsville is open for business.

And the North Huntsville Business Association has opened an office and business center to help entrepreneurs and small business owners find success.

The NHBA Wall of Fame recognizes supporters of North Huntsville businesses.

The new office is at 2007 North Memorial Parkway, adjacent to HC Blake in the remodeled shopping center at the intersection with Oakwood Avenue. Among those joining NHBA President Reggie McKenzie and other officers at the office’s “soft opening” Thursday were State Rep. Laura Hall, City Councilman Devyn Keith and Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Vice President Small Business & Events Pammie Jimmar.

“It’s important we not only identify businesses we can help, but it’s also about redevelopment and what businesses’ needs are,” said NHBA Executive Director Judy Hardin. With some 30 years of experience working with small businesses, Hardin recently retired from Raytheon as manager of Small Business Partnering. “We are here to support them, finding the means for them and collaborating.

“As businesses grow, the community will grow.”

One of the means is a Google Fiber-supported Promote the Parkway Initiative. The program aims to assist the city in attracting business along the North Memorial Parkway corridor. It includes one year of free rent to a start-up small business in North Huntsville.

Keith, who is opening the North Side Dark coffee shop in the shopping center, has been working to get needed help – financial and advisory – for the North Memorial Parkway corridor.

“This is the first example of seed money from the city,” he said. “We have to keep the public and private partnerships.

“You can’t get the location and right of way the way North Huntsville has it.”

Hall, whose district includes North Huntsville, said the redevelopment of the area is vital and that inclusion is a primary aspect of the redevelopment.

“We want to see that the inclusion is a reality,” she said. “The importance of inclusion and diversity is a benefit to all.”

Jimmar echoed Hall’s remarks on diversity and inclusion … and added another aspect.

“As a Chamber, we’re here for you,” she said. “It’s about diversity, inclusion and equity.”

Keith credited NHBA President Reggie McKenzie with being instrumental in promoting North Memorial Parkway and the need for redevelopment and opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The NHBA also unveiled its Wall of Fame recognizing Google Fiber, Redstone Federal Credit Union and the City of Huntsville as keep supporters and Walk of Fame Stars honoring Keith and former District 1 City Councilman Richard Showers Sr. for their work for North Huntsville.

“This has been a real inspiration for the community to see there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs,” said NHBA Vice President Alex Adams. “This is a star for Huntsville, particularly the north side of town.”

For more information on the North Huntsville Business Association and the Promote the Parkway Initiative, visit http://northhuntsvillebusiness.com/

City Opens Haysland Road from Grissom High School to Redstone Road

Things are moving along in South Huntsville and they will be moving along a lot easier now.

On Tuesday, “Phase II” of Haysland Road through the Hays Farm development was opened from Grissom High School to Redstone Road.

Mayor Tommy Battle, City Council President Jennie Robinson, and Director of Engineering Kathy Martin cut the ribbon for the two-mile roadway.

The two-mile roadway includes a 12-foot-wide multiuse path through approximately 250 acres of preserved open space. (Photos/Steve Babin)

Haysland Road provides a parallel road in the city’s growing southern corridor to ease congestion on Memorial Parkway as well as provide direct access to Grissom High School and Redstone Arsenal.

The $8 million project includes a 12-foot-wide multiuse path through approximately 250 acres of preserved open space.

The Hays Farm development will include single-family homes, apartments and townhouses to complement retail businesses and a nine-acre city park.

City of Huntsville Housing Expo Goes Virtual to Help First-Time Homeowners

Owning a home is a central pillar to financial security, and the City of Huntsville’s Community Development Department hopes to make the process easier with its upcoming 2020 Virtual Housing Expo.

Aimed at assisting potential and first-time homeowners in demystifying the home-buying process, the Virtual Housing Expo will take place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.  During this all-virtual event, local and national subject matter experts will conduct a series of live and pre-recorded workshops on topics ranging from aging-friendly housing to addressing the barriers to Fair Housing.

Free to the public, the Virtual Housing Expo will also feature a virtual exhibit hall offering resources for homeowners, renters, residents facing foreclosure, residents seeking credit counseling, small business owners, seniors, youth and veterans.

“Home ownership is often the most significant financial investment a person can make,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “Learning how to successfully navigate the purchasing process can seem overwhelming – particularly for first-time buyers and those living in lower income neighborhoods.

“The 2020 Virtual Housing Expo has the resources to help Huntsville residents realize their dream.”

The Housing Expo is designed to provide a “one stop shop” for critical resources related to housing. Residents will find answers to important questions – Is it better to rent or own? Can I receive assistance with a down payment or closing costs? Once I purchase a home, what will it cost to maintain?

“The 2020 Virtual Housing Expo is a great opportunity to learn firsthand from industry leaders who are ready to assist you with your housing needs,” said Community Development Interim Director Scott Erwin.

Turkessa Coleman, the event’s primary planner and a member of the Community Development team, explained how this year’s digital format will help more people attain that all-important firsthand knowledge.

“Because of the public health pandemic, we had to reimagine the format of this important resource,” Coleman said. “With a new, user-friendly website and the ability to rewatch sessions and interact virtually with panelists, we have a safe way for Huntsville residents to get the information they need to make their housing dreams a reality.”

Participants are encouraged to pre-register by visiting Huntsvilleal.gov/HousingExpo. Attendees who pre-register by 5 p.m. Friday will also be eligible for door prizes.

Interested businesses who would like to be included in the virtual exhibit hall may apply until 5 p.m. this Friday.

Who should attend?

Anyone interested in learning more about the following:

  • Home purchasing assistance
  • Tenant & landlord resources
  • Affordable housing showcase
  • Aging in place planning
  • Small business strategies
  • Remodeling & repair demos
  • Financial literacy training
  • Veteran’s resources
  • Millennials and new housing trends
  • Credit and foreclosure counseling
  • Access to affordable rentals

TVA, Origis Energy to Power Google Data Centers with 100% Renewable Energy

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed Monday that the new 100-megawatt solar facility in Obion County, Tenn., will supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers in Clarksville, Tenn., and Hollywood, Ala., in Jackson County.

Florida-based solar developer Origis Energy is using TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program to develop the solar farm.

The Green Invest program helps customers like Google meet their long-term sustainability goals with new renewable energy projects. In the past two years, Green Invest has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in TVA’s service area.

“TVA’s Green Invest can deliver clean, reliable renewable energy at a competitive price – stimulating growth across our seven-state region and giving our region a competitive advantage through public power,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables.

Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Origis Energy will own and operate the plant, using industry leading land stewardship techniques. The project will create more than 300 construction jobs, with additional employment for 8-10 fulltime operations and maintenance staff. Origis plans to have the solar facility operational by the end of 2022, pending environmental reviews.

“This Tennessee solar milestone is another demonstration of the success of TVA’s Green Invest partnership,” said Johan Vanhee, Origis Energy chief commercial officer and chief procurement officer. “Such utility innovations are helping Google reach its aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030. We are very pleased to add 100 megawatts to this goal while contributing to the economic development of Obion County.”

To power the data centers, Google had already purchased a total of 266 megawatts of power generated by multiple solar farms linked into the TVA electric grid.

“Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and our goal is to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030,” said Reid Spolek, with Data Center Energy Strategy at Google. “Working with TVA and Origis through Green Invest will help move us closer to this goal.”

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of four other major Green Invest deals TVA completed this year: General MotorsVanderbilt UniversityKnoxville Utilities Board and Facebook.

“TVA is a job creator, and we are looking for creative ways to use our solar programs to bring high-paying jobs to the communities we serve,” said Hansen. “By integrating public-private partnerships with clean energy, we can make our region the premier destination for businesses that want to achieve their sustainability goals.”

City Unveils Rendering of New City Hall

You may not be able to beat City Hall, but you can sure build one.

Rendering shows the new Huntsville City Hall on Gates and Fountain Circle, across from the current municipal complex. (Rendering by Goodwyn Mills Cawood)

And the City of Huntsville will be doing just that.

The city unveiled architect renderings of its new City Hall planned for downtown.

The building is expected to cost between $60 million and $70 million and the city is hoping for a ground-breaking next spring. Construction is expected to last about 18 months.

The architectural firm Goodwyn Mills Cawood is overseeing the project and unveiled the renderings at Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The new City Hall will house all of the city’s departments. Currently, some departments, such as engineering, community development and inspections, are leasing office space outside of City Hall.

A birds-eye view of the proposed Huntsville City Hall (Rendering by Goodwyn Mills Cawood)

City officials have said moving all departments under one new roof will save money and be more energy-efficient.

The building will occupy the site of the municipal parking garage at Gates Avenue and Fountain Circle, across the street from the current building. The city had said plans call for six office levels and an adjacent five-level parking garage.

The city approved plans for the new municipal building last year because the current City Hall, which was built in 1963, does not meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, building or fire standards.

Also, citing the building’s failing structural integrity, facade issues and mechanical systems (elevators, HVAC and the like) that are “at the end of their useful life,” city officials agreed renovations would cause a financial burden.

 

 

Ready. Set. Read! New Library Van Connects Communities to Literacy

It’s not just retailers and restaurants that are providing curbside service during the pandemic.

The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Ready Reader program has been providing curbside delivery of its services, as well.

And now, thanks to a funding gift from Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, the library’s outreach services have a new van to make deliveries easier. It will join the Bookmobile in the library’s fleet of vehicles that brings library services to the community.

The new van will be used to support the Ready Reader program, a monthly literacy program the library provides for all three area school systems. It serves about 100 Title 1 Pre-K and Head Start classrooms monthly in Madison County with books, teachers’ kits, and story time; and focuses on pre-literacy skills that help lay the groundwork for  academic success and help foster a lifelong love of learning. 

“The Ready Reader vehicle is a valuable tool to the children and students of our three public school systems to encourage a love of reading, imagination, and creativity,” said Strong. “In today’s unique learning environment at both the school and home, expanding the reach of important educational tools to our children is another way we can invest in their future.”

“In addition to our 11 locations throughout Madison County, the Outreach Department provides crucial library services to many in our community, including seniors and preschoolers,” said Mandy Pinyan, the library’s Outreach Manager. “This program is one of the most important things the Library does because we are reaching children who may not otherwise come into one of our locations. We are essentially a library on wheels, reaching children at an age when they are beginning to develop the literacy skills they need.” 

The new vehicle replaces its 1996 model, which will be used for other library needs. 

The vehicle will also be used to support other programs once the pandemic has ended to include puppet shows, STEM programs and summer reading. 

(Pictured: Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong, HMCPL Interim Executive Director Cindy Hewitt, HMCPL Board Member Carla Clift and students from Blossomwood Elementary)