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)

HTSI, DC Capital Form Strategic Partnership

Hill Technical Solutions has formed a strategic partnership with DC Capital Partners to enhance HTSI’s ability to expand its capabilities and customer base.

Huntsville-based HTSI is a provider of systems engineering and integration, advanced technology development, systems architecture design and analysis, and hypersonic design and testing solutions for the Missile Defense Agency, Army, Navy and Air Force.

HTSI is a two-time “Best Places to Work” employer in Huntsville and a four-time Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company.  

“This is an exciting time for HTSI as we join the DC Capital family of businesses,” Stacey Hill, HTSI’s CEO, and Brad Hill, HTSI president, said in a news release. “Our company and our employees have always been focused on our customers’ missions and our partnership with DC Capital will allow us to continue to grow and provide exceptional service to our growing list of customers across U.S. government agencies.

“This partnership will also provide our employees with more personal and professional development opportunities as we continue to expand our business and our capabilities.”

Founded in 2010, HTSI’s expertise includes engineering support to the Army mission dating back to the mid-1980s. HTSI supports the Missile Defense Agency, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, Army CCDC Aviation and Missile Center,  Army COE (Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers), and the Air Force in system assessment, hypersonics, cybersecurity, information technology, modeling and simulation, and test.

“HTSI is an exceptional company with an extremely talented management team and a highly skilled and experienced eam of subject matter experts,” said Thomas J. Campbell, founder and managing partner of DC Capital. “We look forward to our partnership with Stacey and Brad Hill and their team as we all work to support our customers in the development of the next generation of defense systems. Our goal is to continue to grow the company and expand existing capabilities to provide even more advanced solutions to our customers.”

DC Capital Partners is a private equity investment firm headquartered in Alexandria, Va., focused on making control investments in middle market, U.S.-based government services and engineering and consulting services businesses. 

“DC Capital looks forward to partnering with Stacey and Brad and the HTSI management team to execute the strategic plan that we have developed and to continue the growth of HTSI that this management has begun,” said Jeffrey C. Weber, a partner at DC Capital. “HTSI plays a critical role in the defense of our country and our goal is to continue to attract world class employees who can broaden the role that HTSI plays in providing solutions to its existing customers and help the company expand to other U.S. government customers.”

City Leaders Discuss Smart Growth Strategy For Huntsville

A city leadership panel of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Huntsville City Administrator John Hamilton, Director of Urban and Economic Development Shane Davis and City Engineer Kathy Martin took an in-depth look into the vigorous activity and relentless growth Battle discussed in his State of the City Address.

Huntsville’s smart growth strategy seems to underlie every aspect of the city’s regional approach to economic growth. Infrastructure, high quality of life, good jobs, and its strategic placement at all points of the city are significant components of that strategy.

Moderator Chip Cherry, president/CEO of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, asked Battle about the role regional cooperation plays in the success of the local economy, and in advocating for Redstone Arsenal.

“Teamwork, but not your typical community teamwork. Cross jurisdictional teamwork and collaboration,” Battle said. “None of us are an island. We work together.

“Mazda Toyota came about because Huntsville was working with Limestone County and the City of Athens on utilities, and that had us working with the state Department of Transportation and the state Department of Commerce.

“We have a lot of servant leaders in our communities who learned how to put aside egos and work together to make good things happen without worry about who is getting the credit or the fame for it.”

He cited the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce, Huntsville Utilities, Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

“We have great leadership across the board at upper levels, but that can’t sustain us,” Battle said. “You have to have leadership on the director’s level, and we have been developing leadership at that level for the past 15 years.

“Leadership is executing a plan.”

Infrastructure

“Restore Roads was a vision back in 2014 to help sustain the growth we knew was coming,” Martin said. “Three of those projects are complete. Cecil Ashburn is the latest, and the Land Trust just opened their parking lot there – and by the way, the sunsets off Cecil Ashburn are quite amazing.”

Kathy Martin: “Restore Roads was a vision back in 2014 to help sustain the growth we knew was coming.”

She said Research Park Boulevard, Mastin Lake Road, and the northern bypass are all under construction or starting construction. Greenbriar Parkway adds seven miles of infrastructure to connect to I-565; and the reconstruction of old Highway 20 adds another five miles to the Mazda Toyota corridor.

Good weather has permitted a lot of progress on Martin Road just outside the arsenal’s Gate 7. Martin said now that the traffic has shifted lanes, the progress will be more noticeable as the City wants it completed by next fall.

Haysland Road on the south end of town is on schedule to open the end of this year, with the Edinburgh connector starting next spring.

“The south connector, previously called the Southern Bypass project, has been around for quite a while,” said Martin. “Currently, it is called the Arsenal East Connector and has been revived to get a direct interstate connection down to the Patton Road gate as quickly as possible. There’s been some federal funding that’s allowed Huntsville to do a corridor study and get the first phase of that East Arsenal Connector in the beginning design process.”

She said the city is working closely with the federal government, the state, and Redstone Arsenal to come up with an alignment that works for everyone.

“Currently, our staff is managing approximately 70 roadway projects,” Martin said. “That is about 300 lane miles of improvements in our city, equating to about $800 million in federal, state, and local funding infrastructure to accommodate the growth we see.”

Quality of Life

“When we talk about infrastructure, we think roads, sidewalks, utility expansion, and resiliency,” Hamilton said. “Those things are all extremely important, but there are other pieces of public infrastructure necessary to be part of workforce development.

“Companies work hard to make their businesses places where people want to work. The City has to make Huntsville a place where people want to live.”

John Hunt Park is part of Huntsville’s Central Park, which is laid out as a complex of parks at Huntsville’s heart. Building a wide diversity of recreational and athletic opportunities around it is a large part of improving Huntsville’s quality of life.

Quality of life to city leaders is hosting college-level sand volleyball tournaments such as the Junior National Championships this year, in a complex built so that the college tournaments are using the same facilities as the youths.

Hamilton said the same thing is happening in soccer, lacrosse, and cross-country infrastructure where the former municipal golf course was converted into a cross-country course.

“Local high schools hosted a cross-country meet that attracted teams from all over the state,” said Hamilton. “Next year we’re hosting one of the NCAA regionals on the same course. It reflects our strategy of making sure we’re meeting and identifying the daily demands of our community and for all their family’s recreational pursuits, but doing it in a way that really can attract business into our community and bring sports tourism in.”

But Huntsville isn’t just investing in big venues. The city is making investments in every neighborhood as well.

John Hamilton: “We are investing in a way that’s high quality and meets the rolling demand.”

“The Sandra Moon Complex is a great example of what will be a little town center in southeast Huntsville providing arts, a library for academic pursuits and reading, but also athletic events right there on that same location, so it becomes a hub, almost a little village down there,” said Hamilton. “Same thing across the mountain at the Mark Russell Recreation Center north of the Johnson Legacy Center with rock climbing and fitness facilities and nature preserve.

“We disperse it geographically across the city and … really expand the diversity of those opportunities. We all love football, baseball, basketball, and continue investing in that; we also have a rapidly growing lacrosse community and running and biking communities.”

He said by introducing sports such as skateboarding into Huntsville, it helps attract people from different parts of the country.

“We are investing in a way that’s high quality and meets the rolling demand,” he said.

Other quality of life projects include the Benton H. Wilcoxon Municipal Ice Complex. Hamilton said many people who move to Huntsville from up north are surprised at how robust the hockey, figure skating and curling community is here, and has been for decades. As a result, the aging Ice Complex got an $11 million renovation that will be finished in the middle of November with higher quality ice, better seating, and more amenities.

Davis joined the conversation to discuss the many revitalization projects and new investments projects ranging from multihousing to commercial space and retail development.

“Joe Davis stadium was designed to be a baseball stadium and, in its current configuration, that is all it can be, but we have the ability to transform it into a venue for high school football, soccer, lacrosse, and basically any sport that uses a rectangular field,” said Davis. “We will leverage the value that park brings in in hotels, restaurants, and whatever makes sense from a commercial perspective.”

There will be additional infrastructure through the middle of Brahan Spring Park to connect it to Lowe Mill as an arts center, and on into the downtown area. That project starts in 2021.

The Johnson Legacy Center project is in its first phase as part of the quality of life infrastructure. Davis said when the public safety training facility relocates to the former Johnson High School site, there’s a great of potential for large green spaces that will allow for festivals and events.

“And we continue to see a lot of desire for investment in the downtown area, so parking infrastructure will ultimately help drive the expansion of the Von Braun Center. Those improvements will provide more arts and entertainment to the area.”

There is always more to come, so they work in phases he said but for the next couple of years, they are focused on making sure Huntsville’s new corporate citizens are successful.

“We want to make sure our existing companies are expanding and staying focused on reinvestment in downtown, Research Park, workforce development, and making sure our communities are prepared for the opportunities we see coming.”

Strategic Placement

“Our ability to execute the plan is what we’re seeing today … being very deliberate in the placement of jobs, and it’s not just chasing the western corridor, putting companies in the right locations for them to be successful, but also brings leverage into our communities,” said Davis.

Shane Davis: “We sat down and came up with a vision, a plan; but your plan is only as good as its execution.”

“I think you have to go back 10 to 12 years ago during what people call the Great Recession or a decade in the rearview mirror,” Davis said. “You’re trying to meet budget and provide community services. We sat down and came up with a vision, a plan; but your plan is only as good as its execution.

What we see throughout Huntsville, he said, is the placement of those jobs and major investments in areas where neighborhoods can come back and revitalize. Existing neighborhoods and commercial corridors usher in new neighborhoods, creating a new commercial lane that is not in any one part or section of the community but abroad. No part of the city is left out of the growth strategy.

“We looked at about 67 non-industrial projects that are active in the middle of COVID-19,” said Davis. “Huntsville is not only punching above their weight class as a secondary tier metro competing with major metros across the USA, but that is no longer the challenge. Huntsville has become a totally different market, and that’s good not only for the bottom line to provide more services and quality of life attributes to our communities, but to be able to pay for them, is good for our community, our citizens and our businesses.”

He said bringing more people into a community is the best way to help small business. “It is the placement of industrial growth at Research Park and in and around the Arsenal, but also placing it in the northeast and southeast part of town, and you can see the impact caused by it in the community,” Davis said.

The Secret to Huntsville’s Success

Cherry said Huntsville is the most optimistic community he has ever been around and that no one should be surprised leadership has executed the plan so well.

“This is a community that not that long ago said, ‘Sure, we can put a man on the moon and bring him home alive, no problem,” said Cherry. “It took a whole lot of local teamwork to do it, but when you’re in a place that is now saying, “No problem. We will go to Mars and we will make sure they stay alive and come back alive”. That’s a community that doesn’t see obstacles. It’s a community that wins every competition it enters, and I think that just permeates who we are as a community and drives that success.”

Mayor Tommy Battle: “I think we can look at every section of the city, every part of town and it is growing right now.”

Battle said while people talk about Huntsville being number one, number one isn’t important  – being the best, is.

“Many years ago we were updating our strategy, talking about where the voids were and whether things had to be able to realize our full potential, because Toyota at the time was advertising for 200 jobs and they had 10,000 people apply,” he said. “It showed us we had an under-employment issue.

“This led community leadership to focus on diversification and picking up more advanced manufacturing jobs. It was really kind of pulling people up from the bottom and a lot of people were questioning it, but we designed a mechanism to make sure investment is protected. Every one of the projects we’ve done, we look very closely at return on investment, at how much we’re going to invest, what the returns will be, how many jobs we are getting, and what is it going to do to our economy? What is the capital expenditure going to be coming back into it?”

Redstone Gateway is an example.

“We were going to invest a certain amount into infrastructure, but we wanted to make sure we would get paid back. So, we worked in a unique fashion, different than anybody had ever done before,” said Battle. “The company actually borrowed the money to come in, and they were paid back by the buildings they built and the property tax as it came back to them.

“As a city, we did not have exposure. There was no risk as long as they built the building. We felt very comfortable that the value of that building would continue to make money and continue to bring in property taxes that could pay off that infrastructure.”

He said the city always expects Huntsville to get a return on the investment with every project and that the citizens and people engaged in the community should know the appointment of resources is very strategic, designed to yield secondary impacts throughout the market like parking decks that allow for denser developments.

“I think we can look at every section of the city, every part of town and it is growing right now,” said Battle. “In Hampton Cove we’ve got a new community center and the Sandra Moon Complex and Hays Farm project are going to be magnificent developments,” said Battle.

“And don’t forget out to the west and all the property surrounding the Mazda Toyota plant and Polaris. It is going to have growth factors, as well as Research Park and the Arsenal. Research Park still has over 300 acres of undeveloped land and it is growing very fast.

“We still have about 2.5 million to 3 million square feet of land to be developed at Redstone Gateway, and on the Arsenal, the growth we are seeing out of the FBI and from internal or organic growth coming out of all the other agencies, makes it a great time to be in Huntsville.”

Can we get an “Amen?”