New Tower is Hospital’s Largest Project in Nearly 40 Years

Huntsville Hospital has broken ground on the biggest medical construction project in the downtown area in almost four decades.

The new Orthopedic & Spine Tower will feature 375,000 square feet of surgical, patient care and specialized physical rehabilitation space in the heart of the hospital campus. The tower will house the hospital’s orthopedic and spine surgery programs.

Scheduled to open in 2021, the seven-story building is across Gallatin Street from the main entrance of Huntsville Hospital; a walking bridge will connect the buildings.

“As our community and region continue to grow, our hospital is keeping pace with the need for advanced health care services and facilities,” said David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital Health System.

Jeff Samz, the system’s COO, said the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will have 72 private patient rooms, as well as 24 state-of-the-art operating rooms. It will also have a restaurant on the ground floor.

“With the new tower, we will also eliminate most of the semi-private accommodations in our main hospital,” Samz said.

Designed by Chapman Sisson Architects, the Orthopedic & Spine Tower will fill a city block at the corner of Gallatin Street and St. Clair Avenue. It is the largest medical construction project in downtown Huntsville since the hospital opened its north tower in 1980. Robins & Morton is the general contractor.

Super Chix to Open Its First Alabama Store in Times Plaza

Why did the Super Chix cross the road?

Well, that may not be the right question but the Dallas-based chicken and frozen custard restaurant is coming to Huntsville.

Super Chix is slated to open this summer in Times Plaza, the retail-office-dining development on South Parkway, adjacent to Arby’s, Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate announced.

“Super Chix is a premium, fast-casual dining experience that is devoted to quality offerings and great customer service,” said Nick Ouimet, the restaurant’s founder and CEO. “This will be our first location outside of the Dallas market and we are very excited to partner with local restaurateurs Kumar Patel and Rajesh Patel to bring the concept to Huntsville.

“The Times Plaza location will serve our delicious never-frozen tenders and fillets, hand-breaded or grilled chicken sandwiches, salads, fresh hand-cut fries and daily-churned frozen custard to a whole new market that appreciates high-quality fare in a fun and lively environment.”

All menu items are made-to-order and feature gourmet toppings free from MSG and GMOs. The fresh, never-frozen chicken is marinated in-store, grilled or hand-breaded and cooked in peanut oil free from additives. Even the toppings come from whole vegetables that are delivered daily and sliced by hand.

“This isn’t fast-food chicken—there are only six ingredients in our breading on our lightly breaded, high-quality tenders and fillets, and we believe simple is best,” Ouimet said. “We have no drive-thrus and our interiors have a cool, modern vibe that’s perfect for a casual lunch or dinner.”

In addition to its first-rate chicken, Super Chix also specializes in frozen custard, which is served as hand-dipped in cones or cups, or in milkshakes and fusions (concretes). Chocolate and vanilla are churned each morning and are always on the menu, but Super Chix also offers a special flavor of the day.

“Times Plaza is the perfect location for the new-to-market Super Chix thanks to its easy accessibility and prominent visibility from the parkway,” said Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate leasing agent Anusha Davis. “Nearby professionals will have another great option for a fast-casual lunch with both healthy and indulgent options and dinner crowds will discover a new excellent eatery they can enjoy with family and friends.”

4 area shopping centers purchased

Reflecting investors’ confidence in the Huntsville area economy, four shopping centers were recently purchased, according to Newmark Knight Frank, a commercial real estate advisory firm.

The four deals – Highway 53 Centre in Huntsville, Hazel Green Shoppes, Hazel Green Centre and Hartselle 31 Centre – are valued at more than $13 million and encompass 84,616 square feet of premium retail space.

NKF Senior Managing Directors Drew Fleming and Mark Joines, and Associate Henry Kushner represented Athens-based Ming Enterprises in all four transactions. Ming Enterprises, a commercial real estate development and brokerage company, is operated by father and son team, Bill and William Ming.

In the last year alone, several economic development projects were unveiled across the region that represent more than 6,000 new jobs and $4.1 billion in growth. Major employers expanding or relocating in metro Huntsville include Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing, Facebook, Google, GE Aviation and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“The successful disposition of these four properties exemplifies the investor appetite for e-commerce resistant, un-anchored strip shopping centers located within markets that exhibit strong demographics and job growth,” said Fleming. “Strip centers have become a top choice for private capital seeking both yield and stability, and we anticipate healthy growth across this entire retail portfolio as North Alabama’s economy continues to expand and flourish.”

Ming Enterprises sold the 43,000-square-foot Highway 53 Centre at the intersection of Alabama 53 and Research Park Boulevard to a private buyer. The center is 100 percent leased to tenants Edward Jones, ALFA Insurance, ABC Liquor and other service-oriented uses.

The area boasts a combined traffic count totaling more than 40,000 cars per day, and is a major thoroughfare for commuters who work at Redstone Arsenal and Research Park.

In Hazel Green, Ming Enterprises sold the 30,500 square-foot Hazel Green Shoppes and the 6,212-square-foot Hazel Green Centre.

Hazel Green Shoppes on U.S. 231 was completed in 2017 and is 100 percent leased to anchor tenants Dollar Tree, Hibbett Sports and Verizon Wireless.

Hazel Green Centre, across the highway from Hazel Green Shoppes and in the same parcel as the Walmart Supercenter, was completed in 2015 and is 100 percent leased to tenants Arby’s, AT&T, Great Clips and Papa Murphy’s pizza.

In Hartselle, Ming Enterprises sold the 4,904-square-foot Hartselle 31 Centre, which was built in 2017. It is 100 percent leased to Arby’s, Great Clips and Papa Murphy’s pizza.

Strong Economic Numbers, Distinguished Service Highlighted at Chamber Meeting

Someone said that looking back, 2018 was a year for the record books for Huntsville and Madison County …. “off the charts” and “epic”.

That someone was Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. His remarks came Wednesday at the 83rd Annual Chamber Membership Meeting.

According to real numbers, his proclamation was not overstated.

Huntsville finished 2018 ranked sixth in the nation for job growth according to 24/7 Wall Street. In all, five new companies broke ground, bringing more than 4,200 jobs to Madison County. They made capital investments of $2.3 billion while 13 current companies made capital investments of just under $350 million and nearly 1,000 jobs.

The groundbreaking of the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant at Greenbrier Road and Old Highway 20 was the biggest economic story of 2018. The plant is expected to create 4,000 jobs by 2021 when it opens.

Cummings Research Park, the second-largest research park in the nation, is at 91 percent occupancy, marking three groundbreakings and 10 ribbon-cuttings in 2018.

To provide some perspective, the Economic Growth Index, which reflects combined employment, GDP, and wages, shows Huntsville with a 38 percent growth rate in 2018. Compare that to 23 percent nationally and 15 percent growth for the state of Alabama, and Huntsville more than doubles statewide economic growth!

Keynote speaker Chris Voss, author and founder/CEO of the Black Swan Group and a former international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI, used humor and intrigue in speaking to the membership about the art of business negotiation.

Before passing the gavel to 2019 Chamber Board Chair Kim Lewis, outgoing Chair Gary Bolton honored Alicia Ryan of LSINC with the Distinguished Service Award for her volunteer work serving as the vice chair of the Board of Directors for the Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering, a statewide magnet school created by the Legislature in 2018. She also serves as the chair of the Board of the Foundation supporting the school, which will be the first of its kind in the nation to address the growing demand for cyber and engineering professionals in the workforce.

Huntsville received several significant media recognitions recently. According to The New York Times, Huntsville is one of 52 Places to Go in 2019; Huntsville ranks No. 7 in the Best Places to Live in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report; and the city is No. 3 on the Wall Street Journal‘s Where You Should Move to Make the Most Money list.

Bolton, vice president of Global Marketing at Adtran, presented a $10,000 donation on behalf of his company to the Alabama School for Cyber Technology and Engineering.

Love by The Numbers: This Business of Valentine’s Day

If you were shopping for Christmas swag in hopes of scoring big post-season discounts, you might have taken notice.

In almost a blink of an eye, retailers moved quickly in preparation for Valentine’s Day. By the end of the first week of the new year, inventory on the shelves had magically transformed from tinsel and tree lights to pink and red hearts.

Valentine’s Day is a BIG deal in the United States. From all walks of retail, customers are faced with an endless array of love-inspired offerings to suit every taste and budget.

Each year, Valentine’s Day spending in the U.S. for sweethearts, kids, friends, coworkers, and even the family pet translates into billions of dollars. BILLIONS.

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s Valentine’s Day spending contributed roughly $19.6 billion to the U.S. economy. Those numbers were the second-highest since 2013; topped only by a record $19.7 billion spent in 2016.  Given a stable economy, Valentine’s Day 2019 spending could easily match or exceed $20 billion.

Who’s Buying?

There’s nothing like the blush of young love. Whether it’s to impress a mate or to woo a potential one, 60 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 and 67 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 celebrate Valentine’s Day with gusto, spending more than the older folks. In fact, just half of those between ages 55 and 64 and only 44.7 percent of those 65 and older celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Most Valentine’s Day gift purchases are for a spouse or significant other. The other top gifting categories include family members, kids’ classmates and teachers, coworkers, and pets.

The $19.6 billion spent in 2018 translated into an average of $143.56 per person.  All Valentine’s Day gifting is not created equal, however. Men spend almost twice as much as women do. On average, guys spend $196.39 on their beloved, while the ladies spend only $99.87.

Where Are They Buying it?

As the first gift-centric holiday of the new year, big spending on Valentine’s Day provides a hefty boost to the economy. Despite the ease and convenience of the Internet, only 29 percent of shoppers order Valentine’s Day gifts online.

For Valentine’s Day in particular, shoppers seem to prefer the in-store “brick and mortar” approach to gift buying: 35 percent visit department stores, 32 percent shop at discount stores, 19 percent prefer browsing specialty stores, and 17 percent will stop by the florist’s shop on their way home from work. Even if it means waiting in a line that circles the building.

What Are They Buying?

The top five categories of Valentine’s Day gifts are candy, greeting cards, dining out, flowers, and jewelry.

Candy

More than 80 percent of consumers love their chocolate and it’s not surprising that candy is the No. 1 Valentine’s Day gift of choice.

The great thing about candy is that it can be purchased practically anywhere, at any price point – from grocery stores to high quality confectioneries – yet it’s still inexpensive when compared to flowers, fine dining, or jewelry.

For the past six years, sisters Caitlin Lyon and Michelle Novosel Pennell have owned and operated Pizzelle’s Confections at Lowe Mill.

“Valentine’s Day is literally a line of guys, lined up at the door,” said Lyon. “It’s also the one time of year where we can pre-box a variety of candy and it will sell.”

Pennell said, “Valentine’s Day is one week of craziness! We hope that people will come out and enjoy.”

Cards

Valentine’s Day cards are still popular and represent close to 45 percent of sales. Greeting card purchases include fancy romantic cards for one’s sweetie, as well as those packs of cards parents often buy for their kids’ teachers and classmates.

Despite being a high-volume item, Valentine’s Day cards are very inexpensive, thus generating a mere $1 billion in revenue.

A Night on the Town

Valentine’s Day dining translates into 35 percent of purchases and approximately $4 billion in generated revenue.

Tastes and budgets may vary, but most couples will spend a romantic evening out on Valentine’s Day, whether it be savoring fine wine and a fancy meal at an upscale restaurant or a sit-down meal without the kids at a fast food establishment.

Flowers

With close to $2 billion in revenue generated from domestically cut flowers, bouquets represent 38 percent of Valentine’s Day sales in the U.S.

“Valentine’s day is probably the busiest single day of the year for us. Men buying for their wives or girlfriends; if there’s a child, they buy a valentine for them, too,” said Karen Bowers, longtime sales clerk at Albert’s Florist in Huntsville. “People often wait until the last minute, so it gets pretty hectic.”

Co-worker Carol Moore said, “The phones ring off the hook, there’s a line out to the street. If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, it’s even busier.”

Jewelry

Despite representing only 19 percent of Valentine’s Day purchases, jewelry generated nearly $5 billion in revenue in 2018.

“Valentine’s Day is a big day for us,” says Karen Boehme, co-owner of Meyer and Lee Fine Jewelry. “But it’s not an anniversary gift purchase, where thousands might be spent on a special piece of jewelry, like a diamond necklace or ring. It’s usually less expensive, like a pair of earrings, a bracelet, or a necklace.”

Jewelry remains mostly a traditional, gender-based purchase –a man buying jewelry for his lady love.

“Men will often tell us that their wife doesn’t like jewelry,” Boehme said. “This is where we might suggest more traditional ‘staples,’ pieces that have timeless appeal and can be worn as part of an everyday look or for special occasions, such as a strand of pearls or diamond studs.”

To dispel the bad rap of husbands being last minute shoppers, she said there is a strategy to their purchase habits.

“Wives often manage the household budget so, to avoid suspicion, men will come in beforehand to place the order, then make the actual purchase closer to the date.”

Don’t Forget Fifi or Fido

In 2018, Valentine’s Day statistics show that man’s best friend is getting even more love over the past decade. According to a recent NRF survey, about 20 percent of US consumers plan to give their pets a Valentine’s Day gift.

It’s no secret that pets are already a big business 364 days of the year. Add $6 million in heart-shaped squeakies and dog treat sales on Feb. 14 and that’s a significant heart-shaped boost to the economy.

Chamber Announces Contenders for 2019 Best Places to Work

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber has released the contenders for the 2019 Best Places to Work competition.

The Chamber will honor “best of the best” member businesses in the Tennessee Valley at its annual luncheon on April 30.

Here are the categories and the contenders:

MICRO: 10-24 employees

5-D Systems; Alabama Colon & Gastro; Aleta Technologies; Amanda Howard/Sotheby’s International Realty; Applied Technologies Group; Bedzzz Express; Black Hall Aerospace; Cortina Solutions; Crossflow Technologies; Davis Strategic Innovations; Dental Professionals on Whitesburg; Eikon Research; EngeniusMicro; Flint River Dental; General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems; H2L Solutions; JHNA; Kids to Love Foundation; Mb Solutions; Mission Driven Research; Mission Multiplier; New Beginnings Family Law; Nobletech Solutions; On-Line Applications Research; Resolution; Summit Information Solutions; Total Solutions; Whitespace Innovations.

SMALL: 25-50 employees

BancorpSouth – Huntsville; CALIBRE Systems; Cintel; Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison; Hill Technical Solutions; Invariant; Matt Curtis Real Estate; MTA; Nesin Therapy Services; Project XYZ; R2C-Support Services; Roto-Rooter; Troy 7; Yellowhammer Brewery.

MEDIUM: 51-100 employees

Bevilacqua Research; Brockwell Technologies; Canvas; Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis; deciBel Research; GaN; Geocent; Line-X; LSINC; Monte Sano Research Corp.; National Children’s Advocacy Center; nou Systems; QTEC Aerospace; Thrive Alabama; TriVector Services; Willbrook Solutions.

LARGE: 101-250 employees

Avion Solutions; CFD Research; Davidson Technologies; DESE Research; IERUS Technologies; Ignite; Intrepid; IronMountain Solutions; nLogic; NTA; PeopleTec; Simulation Technologies; Technology Service Corp.A

X-LARGE: 251+ employees

Clearview Cancer Institute; Integration Innovation Inc.; Intuitive Research and Technology; Modern Technology Solutions Inc.; Parsons; Radiance Technologies; Torch Technologies.

It’s a Seller’s Market in Area Real Estate

Everywhere you look, there’s well-plowed red clay, the evidence of cleared land. Huntsville-Madison County is bursting at the seams with growth.

With the new Mazda Toyota plant, along with a host of other companies setting up shop in the area, coupled with the projected growth on Redstone Arsenal, it’s no surprise that that developers and the real estate community are busier than ever, just to keep pace with the rapid expansion.

Along with those jobs that are coming to town, people are following. Those people will need a place to live.

With low inventory coupled with high demand, it’s clearly a seller’s market.

“There are lots of new developments, the new home market is going well,” said Barry Oxley, executive officer of the Huntsville-Madison County Builders Association. “However, it takes time for homes to be available – from developing the infrastructure – sewer, utilities, flood plains. It’s a good six to nine  months after the infrastructure is set before the homes are built.”

But, he did say, remodeling and rehabbing homes is growing.

“The remodeling marketing is also doing well,” Oxley said. “The older generation is staying in their current homes and are remodeling instead of moving. Usually X number of homes become available for sale, but the remodeling market has changed that.”

Adding to that is the “tear down” movement, he said. Older homes in established neighborhoods such as Blossomwood, Five Points and the Lowe Mill area are being leveled and new homes are being built on the sites.

For the home owner, this is a good time to consider selling. With a low inventory of available houses, sellers control the market.

“Last month (December) has been indicative of the entire year of 2018,” said Cindi Peters Tanner, president of the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors. “What we have seen has been a reduction in inventory. With fewer homes available on the market, what this means is that it tightens up the market for buyers.

“Low inventory means there are qualified buyers making multiple offers, which is a great thing for sellers.”

And buyers must act quickly because houses are on the market for just a few weeks.

“There’s been a reduction in average days on the market,” Tanner said. “Currently, houses are now on the market an average of 49 days. This is a great market to be in with all the economic enhancements; the city is funding the growth.”

But, she cautions that sellers also need to be realistic.

“When it comes to home selling, listen to your Realtor and they’ll work with you to create an effective marketing plan,” Tanner said. “By doing that, you will be more successful in selling your home.”

Baseball complex, 2 more hotels coming to Town Madison

MADISON — Mayor Paul Finley made some major announcements and shared some astounding economic data Friday night at his annual State of the City Address.

Two new hotel chains, the Avid Hotel and Hilton Garden Inn, will join Home2 Suites and Margaritaville at Town Madison. Why the need for more lodging?

Because among his big announcements is the development of Pro Player Park, a 12-field baseball complex on the west side of Town Madison that is projected to generate 35,000 room nights a year!

Finley said Madison is strong and getting stronger thanks to efforts in public safety, in education, in healthcare, and in job growth.

While Finley acknowledges that the area relies heavily on the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce to drive economic growth at the highest level, Madison, which shares both Madison and Limestone counties, is a big piece of the Tennessee Valley puzzle.

“Based on statistics compiled by UAH, in the past three years, we have created 30,000 jobs in those two counties alone!” Finley said to thunderous applause from the audience at the Davidson Center at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. “That is a $2.6 billion economic expansion in Madison County and $6.6 billion in Limestone County, and that does not include Redstone Arsenal, which provides just under 10 percent of the state of Alabama’s gross domestic product”.

While the city itself is operating more efficiently, doing more with less expense to the taxpayer, Finley said that out of the $46 million for the Trash Pandas’ baseball stadium and $20 million for capital improvements for roads and infrastructure, the city currently has a surplus of $10 million in the bank “just in case”.

He also touted the success of Madison Hospital, which saw 55,000 visits to the emergency room last year and is on track to deliver an average of 200 babies per month in 2019. The Madison hospital has grown from 60 to 90 beds in just a couple of years.

He also called out Madison City Schools who ranked as the second-best district in the state in test scores – up from third last year.

“Every school in Madison received an ‘A’ on their report card,” said Finley. “There are only six out of 137 districts in the state who can say that, and ours is the largest to do it.”

He said the district has grown by 538 students since last year and, to put that into perspective, it equates to Madison itself becoming a 5A high school if the growth continues. They have also added two school resource officers to enhance safety and security in the schools, and the City Council budgeted more than $500,000 from the general fund to support both academics and school safety.

“Now comes the hard part,” said Finley. “We are the dog who caught the car. Now what are we going to do?”

He looks to the Launch 2035 initiative established by Huntsville’s Committee of 100 known as the Regional Collaboration of North Alabama “to ensure the successes we have had, continue for the next 10 and 15 years.”

“As leaders in this community, we have to come together to take the successes we have had, and make sure we support them with the things that are required: education, workforce development, and infrastructure.” 

History and Future Merge with Blue Origin Engine Plant in the Rocket City

Looking back on history with an eye to the future, elected officials joined the CEOs of Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance in a ground-breaking ceremony Friday for a $200 million rocket engine manufacturing facility in Huntsville.

“We’re here to celebrate history with a vision to the future,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield at the event. Canfield was joined on the speakers’ platform by Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin; Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance; Gov. Kay Ivey; U.S. Sen. Doug Jones; U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks; Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

The plant, when its doors open in 2020, is a milestone achievement in helping the United States return to space by building America’s next rocket engine.

“It’s a great day here in the Rocket City,” said Smith. “Thanks to the votes of confidence from United Launch Alliance, from the Air Force for national security missions, and from Huntsville and the state of Alabama, we are breaking ground on a facility to produce our world-class engines and power the next generation of spaceflight.”

Blue Origin was selected by ULA last September of last year to supply its next generation Blue Engine 4, or BE-4, for the first stage of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket

“It is a true marvel of engineering,” Smith said. “We will be able to end our dependence on Russian engines,” Smith said.

Calling it a “day of destiny,” Brooks said Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was inspired to build rockets when he saw the movie “October Sky” in 1999. The movie was based on the book “Rocket Boys” by Huntsville resident Homer Hickam. “Blue Origin is coming to the home of the man who inspired him.”

Smith also linked Huntsville’s history of building the giant engines that took Americans to the moon to building the BE-4 engines.

“We’re in final negotiations with the Marshall Space Flight Center to test the BE-4 on Test Stand 4670, the historic site of engine tests for the Saturn V and the space shuttle,” he said.

A pair of BE-4 engines will lift the new Vulcan rockets, which are made at ULA’s plant in Decatur.

“Our rockets are going to take Americans on American soil into space,” said Bruno. “And it’s about damn time!”

Blue Origin has a launch services agreement partnership with the Air Force to use its commercial, heavy-lift New Glenn launch vehicle for national security space missions. New Glenn will be powered by seven BE-4 engines.

“This gives us a chance to design, make and test a rocket engine,” said Battle. “We will produce the greatest rocket engine in the world right here in Huntsville.”

Blue Origin’s engine production facility is the latest addition to Cummings Research Park, which is the second largest research park in the United States and fourth largest in the world.

“We are thrilled to officially welcome Blue Origin to Cummings Research Park,” said Erin Koshut, the park’s executive director. “As we like to say, the research and development happening here is driven by science and powered by people.”

The plant, which is expected to employ 300 people, is on a 46-acre site at the corner of Explorer Boulevard and Pegasus Drive.

Citing this area’s importance in U.S. space history, Strong said it’s no coincidence Blue Origin chose Huntsville.

“We have got the right people in the right place at the right time,” he said. “Welcome to the ‘Propulsion Capital of the World.’”

Geeks and Nerds Acquires Q-Track

Geeks and Nerds has acquired the assets of Q-Track in a purchase between two Huntsville high-tech businesses.

“We are excited about incorporating the technology and management team of Q-Track into Geeks and Nerds,” said GaN CEO/CTO Dr. Jonn Kim. “Our combined knowledge and experience position us well for advanced research and technology in the areas of electromagnetics, wireless communications, position and location, cyber electromagnetic activity, and radar.

“The talent and tenacity of Q-Track’s management and employees have created innovative product lines and unique intellectual property. Their success as a R&D company will complement GaN. I can’t wait to make magic happen.”

Q-Track CEO Stephen Werner said the two companies will make a perfect match. The company provides indoor location, safety, and RF solutions.

“I’m delighted by the enthusiasm with which GaN has embraced the opportunities offered by Q-Track’s capabilities and technology,” he said. “GaN’s culture of ethics, innovation, and creativity mirrors our own.”  

Q-Track co-founder and CTO Dr. Hans Schantz will serve as principal scientist of GaN and will help in the transition process.

“We’ve always been geeks and nerds at Q-Track,” Schantz said. “This just makes it official.”