City Receives $1.3M Grant to Renovate Butler Terrace Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New MidCity Theater to Have Largest Screen in Alabama

There are big things going on in Huntsville’s MidCity District.

And the latest is a story right out of Hollywood.

Well, maybe not right out of Hollywood, but it is all about movies.

The new Touchstar Luxury Cinemas MidCity is expected to open in summer 2021.

Touchstar Cinemas has announced plans for a flagship location at MidCity.

A new 50,000 square-foot movie theater will feature the largest screen in Alabama as part of its state-of-the-art premium experience featuring 14 wall-to-wall screens, 4k laser projection with 3D viewing, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTX immersive sound.

Touchstar currently operates the Touchstar Cinemas Madison Square facility that was originally an outparcel to the former Madison Square Mall. That theater will remain open while the new Touchstar Luxury Cinemas MidCity is being built. The closing of the current movie theater will be planned simultaneously with the opening of the new location.

Touchstar Cinemas MidCity will feature in-theater dining and VIP Suites with a private lounge and full-service bar. The seating in the 21+ VIP Suites will consist of movie pods – pairs of luxurious heated reclining seats with a privacy enclosure and push button call service. The VIP Suites will be available for private or corporate events.

“We will still have traditional concessions, an expanded dining menu, and the food delivery service that we currently provide at Madison Square,” said Karishma Dattani, CEO of Touchstar Cinemas. “Established in 2001, Touchstar Cinemas was the first to bring recliners to Alabama, and the comfort of these well-known fully reclining large seats and spacious daybeds will continue in the new theater.

“We are proud to bring the first theater of this caliber to the Huntsville and Madison communities, This opportunity allows us to expand our local presence and continue to be part of the revitalization and growth of North Alabama.”

Located adjacent to the hotels and entertainment core at the terminus of MidCity Drive, the theater plans to open by summer 2021. 

“Touchstar complements the culture-forward entertainment destination we are developing at MidCity,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, the developer of MidCity District, “The new Touchstar theater will offer visitors and residents an elevated cinematic option that fits well with our commitment to create great experiences in every aspect of MidCity.”

Once complete, MidCity will include 350,000 square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment space; approximately 400,000 square feet of high-tech office space; 1,400 residential units; and approximately 650 hotel rooms.

 

 

 

Region’s Job Outlook Demands an Increase in the Supply of Workers

We need more people singing “Sweet Home Alabama!”

That is the overarching conclusion from the North Alabama Region Labor Market Analysis commissioned by Huntsville’s Launch 2035, the strategic regional partnership between business and elected officials in Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties.

How many more people?

How about some 25,000 new jobs to be filled by 2023?

To answer that challenge, Launch 2035 is rethinking and re-imagining North Alabama’s regional economy over the next 20 years.

Conducted by Deloitte, the assessment had six objectives: provide a snapshot of the overall supply and demand of the North Alabama labor market; identify and assess talent and potential talent/skills demand and trends; capture insights from regional employers concerning the skill sets they will need; secure guidance concerning growth projections by worker type and skill sets; provide Launch 2035 with an understanding of the perceived quality of the workforce pipeline supplied by the region’s higher education; and provide examples of strategies to address anticipated labor shortages.

While North Alabama’s unemployment rate stands at 2.6 percent compared to the national rate of 3.7 percent, the study showed that there won’t be enough workers to fill those jobs that are on the horizon.

The region has seen $6.7 billion in capital investment over the past five years and added 14,000 jobs. Huntsville’s Metropolitan Statistical Area has the highest concentration of engineering talent; and the regional GDP increased 4.9 percent versus the national GDP growth of 3.1 percent.

North Alabama is a leader in innovation and has the highest concentration of advanced research and development capabilities in the region. The quality of life and booming economy are among the best in the nation and due to the large federal presence and ecosystem of federal contractors in North Alabama, the area can weather a recession more favorably than other communities.

The key findings of the report however, come down to the basic economic principle of supply and demand.

In fact, according to the findings, jobs will outpace the work force in key skill areas, specifically in the areas of cyber, IT, engineering and production.

The need for talent is rapidly evolving, however, despite such training programs as Toyota’s Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education program, there are not enough of these types of programs to keep up with the need.

The organic job pipeline is slowly improving as graduates from two-year programs are finding alternatives to four-year colleges; but a tight labor market has led to “poaching” the most in-demand talent using the allure of higher wages.

While millennials value non-wage related benefits more than past workers, North Alabama has not yet reached its potential in attracting national talent, and must address housing needs in order to support and stimulate the needed increase in inbound migration to North Alabama.

According to Claire Aiello, vice president of marketing and communications at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, seeing is believing.

Chamber CEO/President Chip Cherry: “Recruitment is an ongoing exercise”

“Once people get here, they are sold,” she said. “They see how affordable it is, how beautiful it is, the warm climate, an easy commute in and out of the city, the people are friendly.

“Companies admit that even if they get resistance from potential recruits who don’t know anything about Alabama, once they get here – they get it. They understand.”

Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Chamber, said leaders from the three counties are working on a long-term strategy to address ways to increase awareness about what a desirable region this is for potential workers from other parts of the country.

“There have been myriad things happening for a while,” Cherry said. “When we did the evaluation and economic impact model for Polaris and some others, we pulled down the area by ZIP code for that particular model and that site, and we were within a half a percent of where our projections were for the number of people from Morgan County who will come over and work at that site.

“So, we have some pretty good models … and recruitment is an ongoing exercise. In Huntsville, about 60 percent of our portfolio is existing companies considering expansion, so we will continue to work with those companies to help them grow.

“The challenge is making sure we secure the labor workforce from other parts of the country, to bring them here so we can continue that growth going forward.”

That challenge – to bring the three counties together to create a strategy for long-term success is being spearheaded by Launch 2035. In the coming weeks and months, they will be coordinating among the Chambers of Commerce, business leaders and city officials from the three-county area to develop an economic and image strategy that addresses these problems.

“We are them. They are us,” said Cherry about Launch 2035. “At the end of the day, we want to create a perception of what can happen in North Alabama, and to find a way to effectively communicate that to people who don’t know anything about how dynamic our region is.”

South Huntsville Businesses Receive Facade Improvement Grants

There will soon be a new look to some South Huntsville businesses.

Nearly a dozen small businesses will be able to improve their storefronts, facades and even landscaping thanks to Façade Improvement Grants, the South Huntsville Main Business Association announced.

Business owners applied for the grants, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union. The businesses demonstrated how the improvements to their storefronts would affect the overall appearance, quality, growth and vitality of the South Huntsville district.

The grants provide up to two-to-one in matching funds for 11 projects ranging from $800 to $4,000. The total economic impact is $184,000 in the South Huntsville community.

“The Façade Improvement Grants are contributing to a positive business environment in South Huntsville,” said Bekah Schmidt, executive director for the South Huntsville Main Business Association. “Through the grant, we are encouraging the revitalization of buildings and supporting business improvement. We look forward to seeing these projects completed over the next six months, and greatly appreciate our presenting sponsor, Redstone Federal Credit Union for making this all possible.”

The grant program is part of South Huntsville’s participation in the Main Street Alabama, a statewide effort to build stronger communities through effective downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization. South Huntsville was designated a Main Street Alabama community in June 2018.

The following businesses and or shopping centers will be utilizing the matching grant funds to complete façade renovations, building enhancements, or landscape improvements.

  • Angel’s Island Coffee Shop
  • Apollo Animal Hospital
  • Bubby’s Diner
  • Das Stahl Bierhaus
  • Earth Touch Garden Center
  • Eleanor Murphy Library
  • 8200 Memorial Parkway
  • Off the Rack Boutique
  • Main Street South
  • Sabghi’s Jewelers
  • Village Center

For information, call 256-701-2290, email bekah@shba.biz or visit southhuntsvillemain.org/façade.

CityCentre to Become City’s Social/Cultural Epicenter

As Huntsville continues to grow and evolve, its downtown is going through a metamorphosis of its own.

And, sometime in the next decade, Huntsville will eclipse other cities in the state economically, culturally and in population.

Speaking of Eclipse, that’s the name of the newest project that will add to the downtown skyline.

We are thrilled to bring the Eclipse – a Spring Bay Residence to our Huntsville community,” said Lindsey
Pattillo Keane, manager of Marketing and Property Activation for RCP Companies. “CityCentre is a destination that strengthens Huntsville’s urban core and complements a growing number of new downtown offerings and existing cultural amenities.

CityCentre will feature a three-part public art commission, artisanal market and social hall across from Big Spring Park. (Rendering/RCP Companies)

“This is the epicenter of downtown Huntsville where important connections are made that will improve pedestrian movement and enhance already-successful city-sponsored activities.”

Eclipse is a 278-unit, multifamily residential project will include studio, one- and two-bedroom units above 18,000-square feet of upscale restaurants and retail.

“This dynamic design highlighting modern luxury and classic charm will offer residents a courtyard pool, gated dog park, and stunning panoramic views of Big Spring Park,” Keane said.

Eclipse will be adjacent to the AC Hotel and will include a unique art walk and market place.

“This site will feature Huntsville’s largest three-part public art commission thanks to partnerships with CityCentre, Arts Huntsville, City of Huntsville, Community Foundation, and Redstone Federal Credit Union,” Keane said. “We are also currently finalizing design on our carefully curated, artisanal market and social hall.”

The project is expected to be finished by the end of 2020.c

The Catalyst Receives Grant for Small Business Training Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For information, visit catalystcenter.org

Huntsville Has A Lot to Offer in Off-the-Wall Christmas Gift Ideas

Deck the halls and walls and fill the stockings while you’re at it. Make the lists, check them twice, and shop local. No disputing it, Huntsville is rife with retail and the local treasures listed below barely scratch a dent into what the Rocket City has to offer.

For those of you who are stumped for gift-giving ideas, here’s a good starting point. From traditional “family and friend” presents to “Dirty Santa” and “White Elephant” gifts, there’s something for everyone.

Lewter’s Hardware

222 Washington St NE, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 539-5777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat: 7:30 a.m.-noon

Lewter’s time-honored motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it” still holds true. The shelves at Lewter’s are filled with an infinite selection of tools, home improvement, and pretty much anything known to mankind to embellish one’s nest. Spoiler alert: Lewter’s also carries toys; a very quirky selection, at that.

Looking for a scatologically inspired stocking stuffer? Lewter’s has a can of Big Foot Scat for only $5.99. It’s a great way to keep the young’uns giggling and entertained for a spell.

What better way to pass the time – or gas for that matter? Windbreaking, as it’s referred to in polite circles, has taken on a life of its own in Toyland. As part of the “Fartist Club,” Ripping Randy and his pals, Farty Flip, Munchy Max, and Windy Wendy are here to show you how it’s done. All that’s required is $10.99 and 2 AAA batteries to get that office Dirty Santa party started.

“This is the first time we’ve had these,” said Dianne Douglas, merchandise buyer for Lewter’s. “Sometimes, the guys tease me when things like this come in.”

Railroad Station Antiques

https://www.railroadstationantiques.com

315 Jefferson St N, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 533-6550

Hours: Mon-Fri: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun: 1-5 p.m.

Railroad Station has a dynamic assortment of merchandise. There are Gurgle Pots and Chirpy Tops for home entertaining. Unique items such as decorative concrete crosses, dragonfly tiffany lamps, and many other one-of-a kind items fill up the three stories of vendor space.

 

Turkish Treasures & Inspired at Cyn Shea’s

https://turkishtreasures.com/

https://cynsheas.com › inspired-gifts

415 Church St NW Suite E-5

Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 527-2488

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am-3pm

Inspired

Located in Cyn Shea’s, Inspired is filled with an enticing collection of unique gifts from local, regional, and global artisans.

Turkish Treasures is a store within a store. A retail version of a nesting doll, if you will. Turkish Treasures features handmade gifts from Turkey and Central Asia.

Both Inspired and Turkish Treasures feature sustainable products made by artisans and companies that “give back” to their local communities.

Little Green Store

https://thelittlegreenstore.net

820 Monte Sano Blvd SE, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 539-9699

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Open Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas

The Little Green Store and Gallery features a dazzling assortment of locally created art, pottery, and handmade jewelry. They also carry products by the socially conscious company Blue Q, makers of quirky socks, potholders, and more.

A solid collection of Houston Ilew’s “Spirtiles” are also available. The glass on copper enameled collectibles are beautifully designed; each “tile” has a theme with an accompanying phrase.

Art & Soul Inspired Home

2313 Whitesburg Drive, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 270-7363

Hours: Mon-Thur: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri-Sat: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Looking for gifts for that special guy? Art & Soul carries Duke Cannon Supply Company men’s products. With eye-catching names like “Mr. Perfect” Grooming Kit, “Bloody Knuckles” hand repair balm, and “Offensively Large” lip balm, the goods are guaranteed to deliver quality, along with a chuckle.

Along with men’s grooming goods, rock the holidays in style! Art & Soul also has a collection of quippy door tags that will ring in the season with a big laugh.

Green Pea Press/The Pea Pod at Lowe Mill

http://greenpeapress.com/

2211 Seminole Dr SW, Huntsville, AL 35805, Studios 111-122

(256) 679-7288

Hours: Wed-Thur: Noon-6 p.m.; Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Green Pea Press embraces the quirky, whimsical side of Huntsville . The group’s collective imagination makes for interestingly designed wearing apparel and products that celebrate our city, our state, and the denizens who inhabit it. Be an ambassador! The apparel makes a great gift for out-of-town family and friends.

 

Vertical House Records

theverticalhouse.com

2211 Seminole Drive, SW, Huntsville, AL 35805

(256) 658-2976

Hours: Weds-Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: Noon-5 p.m.

News Flash! Vinyl has never really disappeared and it’s back with a vengeance. Vertical House offers a wide selection of 33 1/3 playable discs; from Bobby Sherman to Alice Cooper and all points in between. Don’t have anything to play them on? There’s an assortment of turntables in stock, as well.

Located in the Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment Center, Green Pea Press/The Pea Pod and Vertical House Records are two of the many local artisan-retailers in the collective. Be sure to check out the other Lowe Mill artists while checking off your holiday gift list.

Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment

www.lowemill.net

2211 Seminole Drive, SW, Huntsville, AL 35805

(256) 533-0399

Hours: Weds: Noon-6 p.m.; Thurs: Noon-6 p.m.; Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Trash Pandas Emporium

https://www.milb.com/rocket-city

365 The Bridge Street, Huntsville, AL 35806

(256) 325-1413

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun: Noon-6 p.m.

Baseball bling is in, especially when the mascot is a raccoon with an attitude! Haters can hate, but quirky team names are here to stay. Just a thought: it sure beats a name like “Wind Surge.”

All team name grousing aside, the Emporium has an assortment of goodies from the big-ticket jerseys and hats to stocking stuffers like nail files, clippers, and decals. There’s even a stuffed unicorn!

Gifts from the Trash Panda Emporium will delight those rabid baseball fans, who are eagerly counting the days until the season opener.

 

Madison Shoppers Can Follow the Small Business Word Trail to a $250 Grand Prize

MADISON — The Madison Chamber of Commerce is sending shoppers on a word hunt Saturday, in a quest to discover 12 words to complete a secret Small Business Saturday sentence and a chance to win a $250 grand prize.

The Madison Chamber of Commerce is sending shoppers on a word hunt to support Small Business Saturday. (Photo/Madison Chamber of Commerce)

Kick off the Word Trail by downloading the official Madison Small Business Word Trail sheet found here.

Each of 12 participating Madison retail stores have stickers with one secret word from a 12-word sentence. Shop each store and collect all 12 stickers to form the complete secret sentence.

Shoppers whose sheet contains all 12 words must drop their completed sheet into the bucket at the Madison Chamber of Commerce at 103 Spenryn Drive, Suite 100; or take a picture of your completed sheet and email it to felecia@madisonalchamber.com by noon, Dec. 2, to be eligible for a drawing to win the $250 grand prize.

The winner will be drawn at 3 p.m. and will be contacted by phone, email, and/or Facebook Monday afternoon.

The Madison Chamber of Commerce is known for creating fun and quirky promotions such as the Great Chicken Caper at the Madison Business Expo this past spring.

According to Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Word Trail idea was presented to the Chamber by a member business as a way to increase traffic to locally owned businesses on Small Business Saturday.

“We loved the idea, and from there it was just a matter of working out the details and executing it,” said Honeycutt. “We came up with a special 12-word Small Business Saturday sentence, so we needed 12 participating businesses we thought would be fun places to eat or popular with families holiday shopping together.”

All of the participating businesses are home-grown small businesses in Madison or the Madison location of a locally owned franchise with less than 10 full-time employees.

All 12 are members of the Madison Chamber; they are Ace Hardware, Earth & Stone Wood Fired Pizza, Insanity Complex, Interiors by Consign, Madison Station Antiques, Main Street Café, Pet Supplies Plus, Rita’s Italian Ice, South & Pine Home, Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, The Dessert Fork, and Zion Gourmet Popcorn.

“We are excited to offer this new and entertaining way to experience Madison small businesses on Small Business Saturday,” said Honeycutt. “This is a great family fun activity and a wonderful way to shop local for all your holiday gift-giving.

“Supporting all our local businesses, now and throughout the year, enables our community to thrive and grow.”

She said if the Word Trail is successful this year, the Chamber will select different businesses and highlight other Madison shopping areas next year.

Turner Grads Help Fill Void in Construction Labor Shortage

With all the construction in Huntsville and the surrounding counties, the construction industry’s well-publicized skilled labor shortage got a boost from Turner Construction Company’s School of Construction Management.

The company recently graduated 17 students in its first class in Huntsville to help fill that void.

Designed to train students from disadvantaged and minority-owned businesses in a variety of good-paying, construction-related jobs, Turner’s eight-week training program covers everything from construction management and administration, to site safety, bidding, estimating and procurement. It also teaches students how to develop technical skills, learn about field operations, and lean building processes.

The students also learn how to build strategic relationships and partnerships within the wide-ranging building industry.

Turner has built partnerships with businesses across North Alabama to help improve the economic viability of these graduates who might not otherwise have been exposed to these opportunities.

The class of 2019 members are Verrick Green, Project Teamwork & Development; Brenda Perryman, Transit Management Oversite & Solutions; Tamisha Atkins, Atkins Lawn Care; Ben Freeman, Thomas Electric; Leah Taylor, Taylor’s Victory Garden Center; Arthur Terrell Vaughn, MMI Inc.; Jimmy Morris Jr., Morris Builders; Fredrika Atkins, Atkins and Goolsby Inc.; Angela Dunn and Dale Jones, Ultimate Roofing; John Carroll, International Construction Project Management; Marsau Scott, Scholt Industries; Deborah Holt and Barbara Gillum, Always Available Services; Terrence Rudolph and Tamika Randolph, Trinity Construction Group; and Esteban Guadarrama, an Alabama A&M student.

Turner has been offering skills-based training in more than 30 Turner Construction offices nationwide since 1969.

The Time is Right to Start a Small Business in Alabama

What a great time to start a business in Huntsville.

Bolstered by a welcoming atmosphere and supported by a conducive business ecosystem, Northern Alabama is, by far, an entrepreneurial mecca.

The Small Business Development Center at UAH recently presented a “Starting a Business in Alabama” workshop. Hosted at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the workshop presented a comprehensive overview of the steps required for starting a small business in Alabama.

Led by Hilary Claybourne, SBDC director and senior consultant, the two-hour workshop focused on the important things a potential entrepreneur needs to consider before starting that new business venture.

A business often comes into being as a solution to a problem. Would-be entrepreneurs need to make sure that their solution is the right one. And if it is the right solution, will people embrace it? What is the unique value proposition? Are there alternatives? How much are customers willing to pay?

“Who is your customer? Where do your potential customers hang out? Go talk to the customer, don’t just talk to your best friends about your business idea,” said Claybourne. “Just because you think it’s a great idea, doesn’t mean it is.

“Do your primary and secondary market research, evaluate the competition. Find out about things that have failed and why they failed. There’s a plethora of secondary research available; it will arm you to be better at primary research.”

It’s also important for potential entrepreneurs to familiarize themselves with the various legal entities and determine which ones are best for their business.

“I encourage to clients to incorporate,” said Claybourne. “You’re at risk as a small business; you can get sued as a sole proprietor. As a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) or S Corp, you can define your business. You will have to be able to track the finances. If you’re a sole proprietor, your business is more likely to be audited by the IRS. If you incorporate as an S-Corp or an LLC, the IRS expects you to have business expenses.”

“Partnerships aren’t my favorite business form. Partnerships have twice the liability and half the profits. A (LLC) gives you much more flexibility; it’s easier to modify structures.”

For those seeking financial resources to fund their ventures, “You’ve got to start a business first before you can get a loan,” said Claybourne. She also recommends that startups “do it as cheaply as you can using your own resources first.”

“An exception to that would be planning for the unexpected,” said Claybourne. “To set up a line of credit, just in case something happens. Banks will lend money when your credit is good. So, it’s a good idea to have that line of credit when things are good.

“Realize that you can’t be an expert at everything. Get acquainted with your business ‘Core Four’: You will need a good accountant, business lawyer, banker, and business advisors.”