TVA Offers STEM Grants for K-12 Tennessee Valley Educators

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority’s STEM Classroom Grant Program is taking applications with $800,000 in funding available for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning projects in classrooms and schools across the Tennessee Valley.

The education program is sponsored by TVA in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization, with TVA contributing $500,000 and BVI contributing $300,000 to the effort.

The 2020-2021 STEM grant application is open through Oct. 16. Grants may be requested in amounts up to $5,000 each. Eligible applicants are teachers or school administrators in public or private schools, grades K-12. Schools must be in the TVA service area and receive power from a local power company served by TVA.

Grant application submission and review will be managed by the independent Tennessee STEM Innovation Network.

“TVA recognizes that excellence in education is the key to developing our future workforce in the Valley and helping communities attract great jobs for the next generation,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer. “This program directly supports teachers in advancing STEM activities in their classrooms to develop a talent pipeline for TVA, its customers, and the region.”

Last year’s program awarded $600,000 in grants to schools across the Tennessee Valley. The competitive grant program gives preference to applications that explore TVA’s primary areas of focus: energy, environment, economic and career development, and community problem solving. In addition, this year educators can also apply for a grant to support pandemic response or virtual learning materials to assist in STEM education.

For information and to apply, visit www.tvastem.com.

 

Moog Expands Huntsville Footprint with Regional Support Center

Another innovative technology company is expanding its presence in Huntsville. 

Moog – the name rhymes with vogue – has opened a regional support center at 360F Quality Circle in Cummings Research Park West.

The company cites the proximity to Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center as key to its long-term growth strategy to better support its aerospace, defense, and industrial customers. 

Martin Bobak, Moog’s vice president defense sustainment, said, “The Regional Support Center will also support growing defense sustainment activities in support of the warfighter.”

The New York-based company specializes in the design and manufacture of advanced motion control products for aerospace, defense, industrial and medical applications. 

The new facility consists of a large laboratory to support local research, development, and testing activities. It also offers abundant office space and essential collaboration space.

Huntsville native Mary Occhipinti takes on the role of Moog’s Huntsville operations’ site manager. She has supported a variety of Moog business groups for more than a decade.

“Huntsville is recognized as a thriving metropolitan area for both business and living,” she said. “With this opening, we have already doubled our local presence and plan to add additional technical positions in the days ahead.” 

For job opportunities, visit www.moog.com/careers.

Moog held a “soft opening” in late August but plans a more formal grand opening based on COVID-19 regulations.

Mayor Introduces $236M Balanced Budget for FY 2021

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle introduced his Fiscal Year 2021 budget which includes $236 million in general fund operations and $140 million in capital spending.

The budget represents the continuing commitment of city government to provide quality services and investments to a growing community while meeting the challenges of current economic events.

“We’ve taken a cautious, conservative approach to next year’s spending while still keeping up with growth and demand for services,” said Battle. “I am grateful to our department heads for their ability to keep this city moving forward while keeping a watchful eye on every penny spent.”

The general fund represents an $8.1 million increase over FY-20 and provides basic level funding for municipal departments. The bulk of any increase supports personnel needs to accommodate growth and staffing at new facilities. Support to the Huntsville City School system remains fully funded and capital projects will proceed as planned.

Finance Director Penny Smith said she is cautiously optimistic about revenue in the coming year. The city is still growing, housing sales are up, and the income base remains steady thanks to Redstone Arsenal, numerous large corporate employers, growth in the construction market and the abundance of new jobs being filled in the community.

“Sales and use taxes are holding steady, but we recognize we will still have COVID impacts and we’ve taken that into consideration,” said Smith. “Revenues from the hospitality sector and some retail are expected to remain down and the budget reflects those projections.”

Half of the FY-20 Fiscal Year was under the pandemic, forcing “normal” out the window and costing the city about $15 million in lost revenues. Thanks to mid-year cuts and adjustments, the city is ending the fiscal year on an even note.

“I am proud of how our departments adapted to meet these everyday challenges,” said Battle. “We placed a limited freeze on hiring and cut operating budgets 5 percent, forcing everyone to do more with less.”

The City did not cut the budgets of outside agencies during the pandemic but asked them to consider reducing their annual appropriation by 5 percent for FY-21. Nearly every agency cooperated with the request, an indication of the community’s shared commitment to get through this pandemic together.

“The proposed budget is structured to meet the goals and objectives demanded by our growing city, to keep our reserves healthy and uphold the conservative fiscal spending principles that have made Huntsville a leader in municipal fiscal management,” said Battle.

Highlights of the FY-21 Budget

  • New fire station for Huntsville’s western area
  • New fire ladder truck for Station 18
  • 2 new buses for Huntsville Transit
  • $10.2 million in street resurfacing
  • $14 million in roads maintenance, sidewalks and drainage
  • $26 million in new street construction
  • $46.7 million for municipal facilities (includes new City Hall)
  • $8.9 million for recreation projects
  • $24.3 million for outside agency appropriations
  • 1 percent cost of living increase for employees

The City Council will hold a work session Tuesday at 5 p.m. to review the budget and is expected to vote on the spending plan Sept. 24.

 

Huntsville International Airport Flying High After FAA Approves New Master Plan

After months of consulting with and gaining input from community leaders, business owners, and residents on the future of the Huntsville International Airport, a new master plan has been accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration, laying out a new blueprint for the long-term development of the region’s busiest airport.

The new master plan has several goals. Among them:

  • Provide a graphic representation of  airport features, and use anticipated land-use models to lay out any future development.
  • Establish a realistic schedule for the implementation of that proposed development along with a realistic financial plan to support it.
  • Establish a framework for a continuous planning process while taking technical, economic and environmental issues into consideration in that process.

The plan will be presented to the public while addressing relevant issues and satisfying local, state and federal regulations.

According to the FAA, a key objective of the future airport plan is to assure the effective use of airport resources to satisfy aviation demand in a financially feasible manner. The new plan is centrally focused but uses local, state and national guidelines and goals to be efficient in its development.

The project team was led by Michael Baker International, a provider of engineering and consulting services that specializes in municipal governments.

“Huntsville International Airport team members, regional leaders, local business owners, and residents in our community worked in tandem discussing and developing this long-range vision for the airport,” said Rick Tucker, Huntsville International Airport CEO. “This was a collective effort from many individuals that both care about the airport and understand that Huntsville’s economic future is tied to our airport’s success.”

Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is operated by the Port of Huntsville. It was recently named by USA Today as the No. 1 Small Airport in the U.S., and is the largest commercial airport in North Alabama, serving more than 1 million passengers annually.

SAIC Adding Innovation Factory Hub

SAIC is adding an Innovation Factory Hub to its Huntsville site, expanding its presence and support to local customers.

This marks the latest expansion of SAIC’s Innovation Factory network where the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies can evaluate new technologies and accelerate delivery of modernized systems.

SAIC’s Innovation Factory is a nationwide network of physical and virtual environments to quickly build, test, and deploy solutions and then enhance them through customer collaboration. Innovation Factory hubs connect SAIC’s innovators and toolsets, startups/tech companies, and the customer.

The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will be integrated into SAIC’s Innovation Factory network and showcase uniquely focused technologies enabling end-to-end analysis, experimentation and engineering focused on digital engineering with modeling and simulation and rapid prototyping capabilities.

“As we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement for true digital transformation has never been greater. This expansion to SAIC’s longstanding presence in Huntsville with a new Innovation Factory Hub allows us to support emerging needs, while also leveraging our solutions and company-wide expertise – developed over four decades supporting local customers,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC executive vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Group. “With all sectors rapidly implementing technology to meet and conduct business virtually, our new Innovation Factory Hub will enable our Huntsville-area customers to accelerate solutions to meet their mission requirements.”

 

In Historic Move, Drake State President Named to State Port Authority Board

MONTGOMERY – Dr. Patricia Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College, has been appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey to the Alabama State Port Authority Board of Directors.

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims (Drake State Photo)

She is the first African-American woman to be appointed to the Port Authority Board. Sims will represent the Northern District, succeeding Al Stanley, whose term expired July 31.

“… It’s an honor to have received this appointment and I intend to execute my role with commitment and integrity,” said Sims. “The Port Authority is an anchor to Alabama’s economy and I look forward to being able to contribute to its continued success.”

Established by the Legislature in 2000, the nine-member Port Authority board holds fiscal and policy oversight for the public seaport. The Port Authority owns and operates Alabama’s deep-water port facilities at the Port of Mobile, one of the nation’s largest seaports.

“I’ve appointed individuals that have consistently demonstrated the necessary knowledge and leadership skills critical to economic expansion in Alabama,” said Ivey. “The success of our port is fundamental to Alabama businesses and jobs …”

The authority’s container, general cargo and bulk facilities handle more than 26 million tons of cargo annual and have immediate access to two interstate systems, five Class 1 railroads, and nearly 15,000 miles of inland waterways.

The cargo and vessel activity associated with the Port Authority employs more than 150,400 Alabamians and generates some $25.4 billion in economic value for the state.

Coronavirus Numbers Trending Downward but Flu Season Looms on the Horizon

Positive news has been the constant for recent COVID-19 press conferences at the Huntsville City Council chambers.

Nothing changed Friday as Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health and Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong produced statistics that suggest the novel coronavirus is trending downward, not just in the county but throughout the state..

But there was also a caveat: Regular ol’ flu season lurks in the near future, something that could throw a wrench in designs on getting back to normalcy if proper precautions aren’t taken.

“Flu season is going to be upon us relatively shortly and this year we must make sure that persons eligible for the flu vaccine — that’s persons six months or older who do not have a medical reason not to take the vaccine — get one,’’ she said.

“Flu vaccine is very safe and not something most people cannot take. Everyone needs to take a flu shot this year. That is very, very important.’’

The infectious disease specialist also debunked a common myth that is circulated every year.

“You cannot get influenza from a flu vaccine,’’ she said.

As for the current status of COVID-19 in Madison County, the total number of confirmed cases as of Saturday was 5,661 with 35 confirmed deaths. Statewide, the numbers are 103, 357 and 1,828.

The ADPH reports the positive testing rate for COVID-19 has declined. Landers said Friday’s preliminary positivity rate was 11.1 percent, down from Thursday’s 12.3 percent.

She also sa9d it was important to continue practicing the now-familiar safeguards: wearing face coverings, social distancing, sanitizing and hand-washing to slow the spread.

“What I believe, as the indicator shows, is that the multiple activities that we are taking to reduce the spread of this disease, such as the social distancing, the respiratory hygiene and the use of the cloth face covering, is having an impact,” she said. “We do appear to be having a flattening, a minimal decline, but nevertheless a decline in our numbers of hospitalization.

“So, I do believe we’re going in the right direction with this, and I think it will be very important that we continue to move in this direction over the next several weeks.”

Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County schools returned Aug. 12 with virtual learning. Other school systems in the Tennessee Valley returned to classrooms, and subsequently hundreds of students were placed in quarantine.

Landers said those students had not tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 but had compatible symptoms. She added the ASHP would review its guidelines on returning to campus.

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said new cases of coronavirus in Madison County have “slowed to levels we haven’t experienced since late June’’ with cases down 25 percent since last week and down almost 30 percent in the last 14 days.

According to Strong, Huntsville Hospital has 97 coronavirus inpatients with 31 in the ICU and 21 on ventilators.

Huntsville Awarded $12.5M Federal Grant for Multimodal Transit Station

Just a couple weeks after rebranding the city’s transit system, Huntsville has been awarded a $12.5 million grant to build another transfer station and renovate the current station off Church Street.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced today the Federal Transit Administration will make the award. Some $464 million in infrastructure grants to 96 projects in 49 states and territories were awarded to improve the safety and reliability of America’s bus systems. Huntsville was the only Alabama city to receive a grant.

Huntsville will receive $12.5 million to construct a multimodal transfer station and renovate its existing operating facility. The project will improve safety and reliability, and accommodate growing ridership for Huntsville Transit.

“This grant will provide a major upgrade in our transportation system,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “When complete, we’ll be able to provide more services for those who want and need alternative methods of transit.”

Transportation Director Tommy Brown said the new transfer station will be able to accommodate additional buses, taxis, Greyhound, and ride-share programs such as Uber and Lyft.

“As we look to add more routes and options to our transportation network, we’ll need an expanded facility for our central hub,” said Brown. “Our population and demand for service is growing and this puts us in a great position for the next 20 years to accommodate ridership and improve our reliability and efficiency.”

The multimodal transit facility will be built on the site of the old Sherman Concrete plant just off of Church Street and Pratt Avenue. The city acquired the property to make room for the University Drive/Church Street roadway improvement project, now under construction.

“Moving the transfer station will give us more room for waiting areas and public amenities like charging stations for cell phones, laptops and even electric vehicles,” said Brown. “Following this project, we’ll add a new building at our existing location with services for bus drivers such as a lunch room, break rooms, locker facilities, automated bus wash and employee parking.”

Phase 1 of the project is expected to cost approximately $15.7 million. Phase II renovations on Cleveland are estimated at about $3.4 million.

“We can’t start tomorrow because of the Church Street road project, but hopefully we’ll get started in 2021 and be open by 2022,” said Brown.

The funding is from the FTA’s Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Program. 

Huntsville No. 2 for Career Opportunities in COVID-19 Recession

We’re not No. 1, but No. 2 is pretty good.

In a recent study, Huntsville ranked No. 2 among the best places for career opportunities in the COVID-19 recession . SmartAsset analyzed 200 of the largest metro areas across seven metrics related to employment, income and access to professional development through higher education or career counseling.

Huntsville placed in the top 10 of the study for two different categories: It had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in May 2020, at 7.6 percent, and the eighth-highest income growth over a career, at 30.47 percent.

While the metro area finishes in the bottom half of the study for its low number of career counselors and post-secondary teachers per 1,000 workers, it ranks within the top 50 for its relatively small drop in total employment over the past year (-7.26 percent) and its relatively high 2019 median income (almost $42,000).

The top 10 according to SmartAsset are: College Station-Bryan, Texas; Huntsville; Gainesville, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Provo-Orem, Utah; Tallahassee, Fla.; Boulder, Colo; Tucson, Ariz.; and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.

SmartAsset is a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice on the web. The company offers free and personalized tools for personal finance decisions around homebuying, retirement, taxes and more.

 

STRATCOM Commander: No Time for Delay to Modernize

 The commander of the United States Strategic Command stressed that time is of the essence in modernizing U.S. defense capabilities.

Adm. Charles Richard highlighted the nation’s preparedness in the most recent session of the Tennessee Valley Corridor Virtual Summit Series.

Some 400 government, industry, and education professionals from across the Tennessee Valley Corridor attended the session which focused on America’s new national security challenges, highlighting the role the Tennessee Valley plays in defending against cyber, nuclear, and other combatant threats.

In his keynote address, Richard, a Decatur native, described how the post-Cold War strategies of the past few decades are no longer sufficient in this changing world. He also drew attention to the deteriorating materiel across all branches of the military, as the federal government is now working alongside industry partners to rapidly address these modernization needs.

“I – and we – must have the capabilities necessary to deliver a decisive response and do it with a combat ready force,” said Richard. “Looking forward, there is no margin left for delay with our recapitalization and modernization timelines.”

The session also included an overview of current threats to our nation’s security from Sean Williams, president/CEO of Protection Strategies Inc. PSI is an East Tennessee-based firm engaged in contract security services nationally and internationally.

Ted Sherry, Vice President of CNS (operator of the Texas-based Pantex Plant and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.), led a discussion on how regional partners are working to meet these security challenges. Panelists included: Blake Scott, Director of Lithium Transformation at Y-12; John Stewart, President of Nuclear Fuel Services; Dr. Skip Bartol, Associate Dean of Research at Auburn University; and Jason Coker, Vice Director at U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

View the full session of the TVC Virtual Summit Series on the TVC YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uecxhKKIlhM.

The next virtual session is noon (Central) Thursday when Tennessee Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn will deliver the keynote as a panel discusses workforce development challenges in the TVC. Visit TennValleyCorridor.org.