Pruning Cummings Research Park Infuses Vibrancy, Marketability

Any good gardener knows a first-class park requires long-term planning and seasonal pruning to ensure its vibrancy.

In 1962, Teledyne Brown Engineering (then Brown Engineering) lay deep roots on 100 acres off a dirt road that later became Sparkman Drive.

IBM, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville quickly followed. Since then, Cummings Research Park’s 3,843 acres of prime Huntsville real estate has been a focal point of a 50-year master plan.

Cummings Research Park, with a 92 percent occupancy rate and 240 untouched acres to spare, is the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world.

But to better understand the growth strategy at work in the park, it is best to differentiate between Research Park East and Research Park West.

“When we talk about current growth, we mean business growth from companies within the park, especially on the west side,” said Erin Koshut, the executive director of Cummings Research Park. “On the east side, market studies show we need to redevelop that area to create greater density and to replace 1960s and 1970s buildings with properties that align with today’s economy. That will infuse the older section with new vibrancy.

“By doing that, we won’t have to look at physical land expansion per se for a very long time.”

Within the master plan are five-year work plans. The city is currently working off a plan finalized in 2016; a new plan begins in 2021. The plan acknowledges that some of the original buildings and key properties in the oldest sections of Research Park East are no longer viable in the market.

“Without the revitalization, if a company wants to go in and invest in that part of the park, they wouldn’t get their return on investment,” said Koshut. “That is why the zoning ordinances were changed for Research Park East – to give back some of the land to the park and to reduce economic setbacks.”

Cummings Research Park East

Rendering of Bradford Crossing

One such property is at Bradford and Wynn drives on the former site of the St. John Paul II Catholic High School. Driven Capital Partners in California purchased the four-acre site and plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use site called Bradford Crossing.

“Article 55 of the new zoning ordinance is very specific and says if you have a retail element on the ground floor, there has to be two or more uses,” said Koshut. “We cannot build a standalone gas station or drop a superstore in there, but a multistory building with ground floor retail will create density on a small but efficient parcel of land.

“No decision has been made on what other uses will be included, but it could be office space, multi-family residences, a hotel, or a mixture of all three on upper floors.”

There are four big red circles marking areas of Cummings Research Park East targeted for potential mixed-use redevelopment. Currently, no groundbreaking date is set for Bradford Crossing.

“This is not just the (Huntsville-Madison County) Chamber or the city calling for these changes,” said Koshut. “We have landowners like the Olin King family at Crown Leasing who own property on Bradford Drive. They demolished the building that was on it and now have the land for sale. Business and landowners understand the flavor of changes happening in the older section of the park.”

Other planned redevelopments include converting Executive Plaza off Sparkman Drive into a multi-use facility, including an arena for the UAH hockey team and convocations; and Huntsville’s plans to donate up to $1.8 million in land to Alabama’s third magnet school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. It has a temporary home at the Tom Bevill Center on UAH’s campus, but plans are to build a permanent location in Cummings Research Park East by 2022.

“This will give the whole park along the outskirts of UAH, a big infusion of vibrancy and marketability,” said Koshut.

Cummings Research Park West

The new Radiance Technologies facility will consolidate operations and employees.

Over in Cummings Research Park West, it is not about redevelopment but about taking what is there, making it better, and expanding the footprint. In fact, Cummings Research Park West will see three major projects and numerous moderate but significant business expansions this year.

By the end of the year, Radiance Technologies will be moving into a 100,000-square-foot facility at 310 Bob Heath Drive. The new facility will consolidate operations and employees, but with significant growth, Radiance will keep its 38,000-square-foot facility on Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park East for a while.

The new $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is sprouting from a 20-acre site at Old Madison Pike and Jan Davis Drive. It is scheduled to open in 2020.

The $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is scheduled to open next year.

“BAE Systems has a long history with Huntsville dating back many years when they had only a couple of employees,” said Koshut. “We are proud to see them bringing in 200 employees, many new hires, and some recruited to Huntsville from the Northeast.”

Fifty-four-foot walls are up around the $200 million Blue Origin rocket engine production facility on Explorer Drive. Expected to open its doors in March 2020, Blue Origin is estimated to bring up to 300 jobs to the local economy.

Dynetics just expanded its footprint with the 78,000 square-foot Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility; and IronMountain Solutions found a new home on Voyager Way.

“We have the first apartments, Watermark at Bridge Street Town Centre, built in Research Park,” said Koshut. “They consist of two four-story buildings and 240 apartments. Over half already leased before they open and of course a majority of those people work in Research Park.”

She said they would like to see an extension of Bridge Street Town Centre or at least retail that is congruent to Bridge Street grow into the commercial retail corridor between Bridge Street’s outdoor shopping promenade and Lake 4.

It’s All for the Employees

“There is a key component of all this expansion and redevelopment,” said Koshut. “It is driven by the wants and needs of employees.

“These companies want to recruit top talent to Huntsville, and they want to retain them. They require conveniences, activities, and amenities that have been available to them in cities where they are recruited from, many bigger than Huntsville.”

This includes access luxury apartments and single-family homes in or surrounding the park; creating a sense of vibrancy and community with activities such as the Food Truck Fest that draws some 300 people a month; free monthly happy hours in the park; and free Suzy’s Pops or Steel City Pops during the summer.

Later this summer or early fall, Koshut said the city will launch a pilot Bike Share project in Cummings Research Park West with three bike-share stations.

“As the city continues to invest in that program, we hope to connect many bike-share systems across the city so, at any time, an employee can hop on a bike and ride out to lunch,” said Koshut. “Young people enjoy being outside and easily get tired of being stuck in an office all day. Huntsville companies are recruiting people from cities that offer a quality lifestyle amenity.”

So, as new buildings are sprouting up all over Cumming Research Park, it always helps to keep the park neatly clipped and pruned to inspire growth and opportunities among the older, well-established buildings alongside the new and flourishing.

Governor’s Conference on Tourism Coming to Huntsville

Elected officials and tourism leaders throughout the state will gather in Huntsville for the 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference, which is Aug. 17-20 at the Von Braun Center, brings the state’s travel and tourism industry together for professional development, networking, and collaboration on strategies to promote Alabama as a premier travel destination.

Approximately 200-250 guests, including representatives from statewide attractions, hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, marketing firms, and other hospitality workers, are expected to be in attendance.

“The conference not only gives Alabama travel professionals the opportunity to learn from experts in tourism and marketing, but to also raise money for in-state college scholarships and reward hard work through industry awards,” said Patti Culp, CEO for the Alabama Travel Council.

Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city is excited about the conference.

“2019 is such a hallmark year for our city as we celebrate the state bicentennial, the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, new dining, retail, and entertainment developments, and so much more; this is perfect timing to welcome our tourism partners to see the growth happening in Huntsville and experience everything we have to offer as a destination,” Ryals said. “We look forward to the opportunity to showcase our community’s progress to industry leaders and highlight why Huntsville/Madison County is a key asset in the state’s tourism offerings.”

In 2018, the travel and tourism industry, which includes leisure and meeting visitors, was responsible for more than 17,000 jobs in Madison County. The 3.4 million visitors also pumped a record-breaking $1.4 billion into the local economy.

While in Huntsville, the visitors will attend receptions at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Campus No. 805 and , Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum; play a round of golf at Robert Trent Jones – Hampton Cove; and tour the Huntsville Botanical Garden and downtown.

 

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Sets Diversity Spending Target for Construction

As construction progresses on the Mazda Toyota vehicle assembly plant in Limestone County, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is poised to make a large investment in minority and women-owned business enterprises.

The company said it plans to spend at least 20 percent of the overall cost of construction with those entities.

“Every aspect of MTMUS’s business must closely reflect our customers’ diverse backgrounds and experiences, including our team members, suppliers and business partners,” Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration of MTMUS, said in a press release. “Together with our general contractors and structural steel supplier, we have set an ambitious target that will set the foundation for MTMUS’s future to compete as a world-class manufacturer of vehicles.”

It’s difficult to put an exact figure on how much Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will spend. The total investment in the project is around $1.6 billion, but that includes non-construction costs like equipment and tooling.

Officials say construction of the plant is on schedule and they expect vehicle production to begin in 2021. (Huntsville Business Journal Photo)

Last year, Toyota alone had about a $3 billion diversity spend across the board, according to Victor Vanov, a spokesman for Toyota.

“That includes direct and indirect suppliers,” Vanov said. “What we mean by that is direct is like the specific car parts or components that go into our vehicles; on the indirect side, it might be things like janitorial services, printing, office supplies or maybe hiring a communications firm or consultant group.”

Construction sourcing has progressed and includes recent awards to diverse companies such as Aristeo Construction, a certified Woman-owned Business Enterprise general contractor; and Indiana Bridge, a Minority Business Enterprise structural steel supplier.

Officials say construction of the plant is on schedule and they expect production to begin in 2021.

The project is expected to bring around 4,000 new jobs to the area and the hiring process for some of those is already underway. Those interested can apply for jobs at MazdaToyota.com.

As far as construction is concerned, the company said there are about 2,500 workers on site building the facility with about 70 percent from Alabama.

When finished, the plant will span nearly 65 football fields or 3.1 million square feet; consist of 26,000 tons of steel with some 1,600 steel beams that, if stacked end to end, would reach a height of 80,000 feet – 15 miles.

MSFC Director Singer Named Humanities Fellow

MSFC Director Jody Singer

Alabama Humanities Foundation will honor Jody Singer, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, as one of four fellows inducted into its 2019 class at The Colloquium. The event is Oct. 7 at Birmingham’s The Club.

Singer will be honored with three other people with Alabama ties who have made significant contributions in the humanities in their lives and careers: Dr. Marquita Davis, deputy director, Early Learning, Pacific Northwest for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Fred Gray, attorney and civil rights activist; Howell Raines, retired executive editor of The New York Times.

“This is our third year of The Colloquium, and each year brings us new inspiration as we hear from such distinguished people who have had such an impact, not just in our state but around the world,” said AHF Executive Director Armand DeKeyser. “To think that they all have Alabama ties makes us proud and makes this event so special.”

All four fellows will be featured in a live conversation moderated by National Public Radio’s Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Singer is the first female director of the Marshall Space Flight Center and is a former deputy director of MSFC. The center has nearly 6,000 on- and near-site civil service and contractor employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.

She also served as deputy program manager for the Space Launch System program – the only rocket designed and tested from the ground up to return humans to deep space.

Singer spent a number of years supporting the Shuttle program. It was Singer, who was responsible for safety during the ground test program that led the agency back to flight after the Columbia accident.

She has been recognized with numerous awards during her NASA career, including NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals and two Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive Awards, the highest honor for career federal employees. She received the Space Flight Awareness Leadership Award in 2005 for inspiring the Shuttle Propulsion Office to strive for excellence and continuous improvement; and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1993 while managing the External Tank project’s business office.

A native of Hartselle, she earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Alabama in 1983. She has completed two NASA Fellowships – one at Penn State University and another at the Simmons College Graduate School of Management in Boston.

Singer and her husband, Chris, live in Huntsville. They have three children and two grandchildren.

MDA Director: We Can Sleep Knowing We are Protected

It was a simple question from a Nevada congressman to the director of the Missile Defense Agency:

“Am I protected?”

“Yes.”

Vice Adm. Jon Hill: “We’re going to continue to make things hard for our adversaries.” (Photo/Eric Schultz)

“I gave that answer because I have the utmost confidence in those soldiers sitting at the console,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said Thursday at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium.

Hill spoke before a packed and attentive Von Braun Center ballroom audience on the final day of the annual event. It was a record-setting event with more than 3,500 people attending the three-day symposium which had nearly 200 exhibits and some 1,400 private exhibitors and 605 government exhibitors.

The director said the a modern-day threats are much more complex than in the past and the United States must be ready for the ever-changing, constant challenges.

“For me, it always starts with the threat,” Hill said. “What’s really changed has been the advancement of the threats.

“Our adversaries are figuring out ways to stress our systems and we’re figuring out ways to stress theirs. We’re going to continue to make things hard for our adversaries.”

While the threats are constant and complex, Hill said he has spoken with Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command; and Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), about developing means to overcome the threats without overburdening the personnel.

“The more complex things become, that you put before the eyes of the soldiers and sailors, it’s harder for them to execute,” he said.

In effect, keeping things simple instead of causing the personnel to spend time learning and relearning, forcing them to divert their attention from the mission.

Hill also touched on our international relationships as key to our security.

With NATO and the U.S. having installations around the world, it provides the United States with something Russia, China, Iran and North Korea don’t have – “partnerships,” he said.

“It’s what our adversaries do not have; they don’t have partnerships. That gives us an advantage.”

Overall, Hill said, the mission of the Missile Defense Agency is “a great mission.”

“I call it a noble mission,” he said. “It’s very motivating to defend our troops, our allies and friends.

“I feel great about where we are today.”

Video below: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, in cooperation with the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Northern Command, and elements of the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s 30th, 50th, and 460th Space Wings, conducted a successful test March 25 against an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) class target.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Eatin’ Ahead as Huntsville Restaurant Week Kicks Off

Some tasty offerings during the Huntsville Restaurant Week press conference at Stovehouse. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Guests were met with the delicious aroma of roasting garlic and were served complimentary spicy veal meatballs and seafood Fritto Misto from Mozzara’s Italian Kitchen at the Stovehouse during the official kickoff for the eighth annual Huntsville Restaurant Week, Aug. 9-18.

Mayor Tommy Battle laughed that Restaurant Week is 52 weeks a year at the Battle house as he and Madison Mayor Paul Finley joined the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau in highlighting the culinary events ahead.

“As Huntsville grows, so does our local dining scene, and we’re excited to have so much to offer to visitors,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, “There are culinary experiences in Huntsville that can’t be found anywhere else: from dining under the National Historic Landmark Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center’s Biergarten, to the one-of-a-kind settings at venues such as Campus No. 805, Stovehouse, MidCity, and so many others.

Judy Ryals

“Huntsville is truly a destination that attracts visitors seeking unique dining and travel experiences.”

More than 50 local eateries and breweries will participate in “ten tasty days of deals” beginning Friday to encourage people to try some of the new cuisine that has come to Huntsville in the past couple of years. Straight to Ale, Old Black Bear, and InnerSpace breweries are also participating with specialty Restaurant Week craft beers.

“As the coordinator of Huntsville Restaurant Week, it has been my pleasure to see this promotion grow,” said Pam Williams, Tourism & Education sales manager for the CVB. “Each year it is surprising to see how many new places have joined the Madison County culinary scene, and 2019 is no different.

Pam Williams

“Ultimately, the CVB’s goal for Restaurant Week is to showcase the Madison County dining scene to visitors, and to remind locals to try something new.”

Patrons will find lunch specials featuring two courses at fixed prices of $10 and $15; with three-course dinner specials in the $10, $20, $30, and $40 range. Restaurants can choose one or any combination of those specials and offer other specials beyond these categories.

The event also features a special “Bonus Bites” category for establishments that do not offer a traditional lunch or dinner, but offer breakfast, desserts, appetizers, or small bites exclusively.

At Stovehouse in Huntsville, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, left, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle encourage visitors to take in the best food the area has to offer during Restaurant Week. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The CVB has partnered with OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation platform and the official online reservations provider for Huntsville Restaurant Week. With just a few clicks, patrons can view all participating restaurants and secure a reservation.

The CVB’s #iHeartHsv blog will feature dedicated food and beverage content throughout the month in hopes of attracting “foodie” visitors from out of town.

For information on the events of Huntsville Restaurant Week, visit huntsville.org/events/restaurant-week/.

Bon appetit Madison County! There’s some good eatin’ ahead!

The ‘Final Frontier’ is a ‘Warfighting Domain’

Science fiction met science reality Monday in the Rocket City.

And no punches were pulled when it came to discussing national defense at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium. The symposium runs through Thursday at the Von Braun Center downtown.

“It’s a very crowded environment,” said Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. It is the mission of the SMDC to “defeat, penetrate and disintegrate” our adversaries’ levels of defense and “operate and dominate a combative” space environment.

Dickinson said the Army is the largest user of space of the military branches and has some 3,000 soldiers trained. The Army’s involvement dates to the 1950s with the Redstone rocket and the launch of the Explorer I satellite in 1958 began its space involvement.

And, as we know, technology has traveled at warp speed over the last 60 years.

Maj. Gen. Rick Evans addresses the 22nd Missile & Space Defense Symposium. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“We have become increasingly reliable on space and cyber,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Evans, assistant to the commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “Space and cyber are vital to our defense.

“We must adapt to new threats and stay ahead of our adversaries.”

To counter those threats, President Trump directed the U.S. Space Command be re-established as a full military branch. But, Evans said, that doesn’t mean “SAC will be out of the space business.”

And, the Army and Air Force still have their own space commands.

The Army’s 1st Space Brigade with headquarters in Colorado Springs supports joint forces and their critical dependence on space capabilities. The Air Force Space Command is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“Space is a warfighting domain,” he said. “We need those commands. Almost everything we do is tied to space in some way.”

The “crowded environment” in space includes threats from Russia and China, as well as “new threats” from the likes of North Korea and Iran through missiles, satellites and directed-energy (laser) weapons.

Evans said the U.S. must be prepared to answer the challenge by focusing on agility and speed.

“We need resilient, redundant capability,” he said. “We need a rapid, reconstituting capability.

“We can’t wait five years to replace a satellite.”

Burgeoning Regional Economy Ensures Everyone a More Valuable Slice of the Pie

Envision Huntsville as an average size pie.

Standing at city center, look outward in all directions toward the far edges of the pie crust – north toward the state line where visitors from Tennessee get their first glimpse of the city. South where many Huntsville businesses draw daily commuters. East across the mountain, west from neighboring communities and all points in between.

For Huntsville and Madison city leaders, this vision of the pie’s edge does not represent boundaries but, instead, corridors of growth.

“That’s always been our vision for Huntsville’s future and the basis for our regional economic strategy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The first part of revitalizing your city is to take the center point, known as the living room of your city, and revitalize it to make it economically viable. Get one area going and stretch it out to other areas.

“Year after year, we have pinpointed growth corridors that help us grow both economically and residentially. The result is an economic revival like what you have been seeing in Huntsville and Madison the past 10 years.”

Private investment land developers have that vision too. During the 1990s, brothers Jim and John Hays and their nephew Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development opened a growth corridor to the southeast in Hampton Cove and the Hays Nature Preserve.

In 2000, that development led to the expansion of a residential growth corridor along Taylor Lane in Big Cove, and, by 2010, it had extended into the Goldsmith-Schiffman community.

Also during the 1990s, Huntsville opened a residential growth corridor off Zierdt Road in the Edgewater and Mountain Brook communities southwest of the city. In 2010, it expanded into the Williams community further south.

Battle said that by looking at the local economy like a pie, you will see their strategy unfolding.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The Western Corridor

The Town Madison development along I-565 between Zierdt Road and Wall-Triana Highway in Madison will open a gateway to the city.

Anchored by the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium, the development is surrounded by residential, retail, commercial, and entertainment components that have thrown open a west side growth corridor that never existed.

“The location off I-565 is perfect catchment for a broad audience across the Southeast,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “As the interchanges off the highway are completed, you can expect ease of traffic getting to and from the area.

“If people come for a game or event, we hope they stay and experience all that Madison has to offer, including our historic downtown that offers livability with local boutique shopping and dining.”

Finley also believes Madison’s central geography in North Alabama positions it perfectly to feel the positive impact from economic development in the whole state as well as southern Tennessee.

“Madison benefits from Huntsville’s growth with the FBI and other tech development workforce to our east, as well as from the Mazda-Toyota plant to our west. We look to collaborate with Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties,” said Finley.

The development is envisioned to become a regional destination.

“Right on the interstate, convenient if you are coming from Cullman or Decatur, and where everybody who passes by can see it,” said Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison. “We are creating a regional destination with baseball, a food hall, and resort style hotels, similar to, but more diverse than Chattanooga.”

Open Southern Border

Recently, Enfinger and his uncles who are also developing McMullen Cove, announced the development of a multi-use Hays Farm development in South Huntsville that will replace the old Haysland Square and turn a 500-plus acre swath of undeveloped land into a new growth corridor to the south that will draw retailers and residents from Airport Road south to the river and beyond.

“There will be a commercial center all the way up to the Enfinger Building on South Parkway with a Village of Providence-type entertainment district surrounded by a city park, a ballfield, and 500-acre Hays Green with a passive walking park,” said Enfinger. “We’d like to maintain the natural green spaces. The Hays Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove has been a regional draw for a lot of people.”

In many ways, Ceci believes that with population growth and so many people commuting here to work every day from other counties, we already have an active regional economy at work.

“You see workers buying groceries, going out to eat and shopping during the workweek, even if they live outside the city,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand for some of the development that is occurring.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who has developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre and developing MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, has been watching those employee migration patterns into Huntsville for more than a decade.

“We see the regional trade area as about 50 miles and incorporates the 14-county commuter hubs from which Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park draw its employment,” said Grelier. “As a result, Huntsville has become the region’s primary center for healthcare, civic, cultural, shopping, and dining activity.”

Annexation of Morgan & Limestone counties

Add to all this, the annexation of a small portion of Morgan County to the southwest and a huge chunk of Limestone County due west of city center, and you can see the pie expanding!

“Yes, this annexation is a game-changer because it results in the ability to get infrastructure to certain areas and thus create major employment opportunities,” said Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty. His company has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue in downtown Huntsville, and is building a sister community, The Avenue Madison. “These new jobs will be an economic driver for the economy and create an incredible multiplier effect.”

The annexation is a precursor to the economic development that follows it, said Grelier.

“Annexing was necessary for the economic development of the Mazda-Toyota plant and other larger manufacturers,” he said. “It’s also helpful in attracting investment into commercial real estate projects across the metro area.”

“We’ve only made a foray into Morgan County,” said Battle, “The annexation of Limestone County where Mazda Toyota made a $2 billion land investment has seriously expanded our metro and opened an industrial growth corridor that is a win-win for both parties.”

City funds, thanks to Huntsville’s AAA credit rating from the S&P and Moody’s Investment Services, have pulled their share of the weight. With the power to borrow $85 million for city and countywide projects, of that, Huntsville will allot $25 million for the Mazda Toyota project infrastructure; and another $55 million for capital plans and schools.

Northern Exposure

Included is the revitalization of North Memorial Parkway. Since widening the well-worn highway into a viable parkway traffic corridor, it has encroached on many properties there, making them less viable.

“They don’t have enough depth to sustain retail, so we’ve taken them out and we’re turning that area into a park with greenways and walking trails,” said Battle. “Perception becomes reality.

“Instead of seeing boarded-up buildings when you enter from the north, you see it more as an entryway into North Huntsville – an economically viable area to move into and to be a part of.”

Among the projects is the upgrading of parks that will be instrumental in bringing in sports teams from all over the Southeast, including recreational rugby fields and soccer fields that can also be used for lacrosse.

“We are putting money into the tennis center and into the golf course, which now has cross-country running and mountain bike trails. All of these things tie back to what we call ‘quality of life’ for our residents and activities for our guests,” said Battle. “Travel sports bring people and their families to our area from all over, where they compete, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in our stores.”

Quality of Life

Town Madison’s $12 million Pro Player Park project with 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields, the $22 million Huntsville Aquatic Center, and the expanding Huntsville Tennis Center are already national attractions for travel sports competitions and events.

“To have a viable and growing economy, we have to offer a ‘quality-of-life’ that attracts people to the area, and quite frankly, we have a lot of jobs on the table too,” Battle said. “To recruit highly-skilled, higher income workers requires a quality of life that is equal to or higher than where they are moving from.”

Battle said “quality-of-life” is found in Lowe Mill, in craft beer, in a vast array of recreation facilities, disc golf, pickleball, art museums and public parks.

“But we still have work to do because people are coming from around the world to work for companies like Blue Origin, Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Mazda Toyotas,” said Battle.

Finley is ready for whatever challenges lay ahead for Madison.

“As Madison grows our focus is making sure we are responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars by improving infrastructure and providing a good quality of life in every district of our community,” said Finley. “While areas to the West are experiencing booming growth and increased traffic, we need to not only keep pace with growth but foresee areas that will need improvements down the line.”

Huntsville is also adding hotels, apartments, and homesites as more people move into the city. With a goal of adding 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, Battle said it will help draw larger conventions and business meetings.

“Part of the strategy for building smaller hotels instead of one big convention center hotel is to prevent people from living inside the hotel the whole time they are here,” said the mayor. “We want people to experience our city, eat in our restaurants, visit our museums, and shop in our stores.”

Enfinger believes that as we become a more affluent society, people’s wants, and expectations become more demanding.

“It looks like we are evolving in unison with the rest of the country as far as the type shopping we do and the kind of developments we build,” said Enfinger. “Our growth rate is higher than most cities, but I think we follow a national trend in the type developments we can sustain.”

Private Investment is Leading the Way

Private investment must still lead the way and developers such as Breland, RCP, Sealy, and Enfinger are leading the charge.

“When the City can support infrastructure needs or improvements, private investment can take those dollars further,” said Mayor Finley. “This is a win/win for both the City and for the investors. Ultimately, our citizens also reap the benefits of this growth and development.”

“Buy-in is good so far, but much harder than it may seem,” said Grelier. “Huntsville has a great story to tell, but many larger institutional investors are not aware of it or view the market as too small.

“Our team spends most of our time discussing and selling the regional market rather than the immediate project. A big part of Huntsville’s growth moving forward will be how the region is branded to compete for private investment and workforce internationally. It’s a regional story that should include our sister communities.”

He would also like to see the Gen Y & Z workforce move to the area because it’s a cool, fun place to live, and then find a job once they get here rather than moving here for the great job.

“Once this trend reverses, larger private investment and more economic development will follow quickly,” Grelier said.

From the city’s perspective though, Huntsville’s first mixed-use/multi-purpose development at Twickenham Square in 2014 has been a driver in enlarging the pie.

Join us for Part 2 of our series on Huntsville’s growing regional economy in the September issue of the Huntsville Business Journal as we investigate how multi-purpose/mixed-use developments are helping build Huntsville’s regional economy.

 

Trash Pandas Release Inaugural Season Schedule

MADISON – The cry of “Play ball!” will return to the area April 15 when the Rocket City Trash Pandas make their debut.

The Trash Pandas will host the Mississippi Braves in a five-game series April 15-19 to open their 70-game home schedule.

They will open their inaugural season April 9 at the Birmingham Barons.

“After so many fantastic events leading to actual baseball – from the naming contest, the logo and uniform reveals, season ticket holder parties, and the great days bonding with fans in our store – it is amazing to think we’ll be playing ball in just over eight months,” said Trash Pandas CEO Ralph Nelson. “I’ve said it repeatedly: no community has ever embraced a team like North Alabama has the Trash Pandas.

“We cannot wait to show our fans what we have planned for them at the ballpark.”

Nelson said the first pitch will be 6:35 p.m.

The regular season Southern League schedule will include Midweek Businessperson/Student Specials on April 29 and July 14 at 12:05 p.m.; a Memorial Day Salute to the Military on May 24; and an Independence Day Fireworks Extravaganza on July 3.

Game times are 6:35 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7:05 p.m. for Friday games; and 6:05 p.m. for Saturday games. Sunday games in April-June start at 2:05 p.m. and, to help avoid the summer heat, the first pitch for Sunday games in July and August is 5:05 p.m.

The Trash Pandas will be in the Southern League North Division, joining the Barons, Jackson Generals, Chattanooga Lookouts and Tennessee Smokies.

The team will announce a full promotional schedule early next year; it will include fireworks shows and giveaways on every homestand.

Uniforms to include “Inaugural Mission” patch and “Inaugural Season” logo

The Inaugural Mission patch will be worn on all player uniforms throughout 2020, as well as authentic jerseys purchased by the public.

Both logos will be featured on merchandise and other ballpark items sold throughout the 2020 season.

 

 

Below is the Trash Pandas 2020 home schedule (game times are subject to change):

April 15 – 6:35 p.m. vs Mississippi; April 16 – 6:35 p.m. vs Mississippi; April 17 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi; April 18 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi; April 19 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi. April 25 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 26 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 27 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 28 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 29 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery.

May 6 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 7 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 8 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 9 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 10 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola. May 16 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 17 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 18 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 19 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 20 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 21 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 22 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 23 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 24 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 25 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi.

June 1 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 2 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 3 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 4 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 5 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee. June 17 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 18 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 19 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 20 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 21 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Jackson.

June 22-24 All-Star Break

June 30 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 1 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 2 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 3 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham. July 10 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 11 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 12– 5:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 13 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 14 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Jackson. July 21 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 22 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 23 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 24 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 25 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 26 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee.

Aug. 6 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 7 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 8 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 9 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 10 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 11 – Off Day; Aug. 12 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 13 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 14 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 15 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 16 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 23 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 24 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 25 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 26 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 27 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola.

Sept. 3 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 4 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 5 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 6 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 7 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga.

For season ticket and other information, visit trashpandasbaseball.com.

 

Huntsville Receives Commerce Dept. Rail Infrastructure Grant

The city has been awarded a $4.1 million grant to help build a bridge to serve the Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing plant.

In a statement, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced the Department’s Economic Development Administration‘s grant to the city will also provide opportunities for further industrial and commercial development adjacent to the site. The grant will be matched with $4.1 million in local funds and is expected to help create 320 jobs and generate $128 million in private investment.

“This bridge will help provide Huntsville’s thriving auto manufacturing industry with the critical infrastructure needed to ensure its future success,” Ross said.

“EDA’s recent announcement is excellent news for Alabama’s automotive industry,” said Sen. Richard Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The $4.1 million grant will continue to boost economic development and improve rail infrastructure throughout North Alabama. I am grateful that the Department of Commerce and EDA continue to invest in our state, bringing jobs and long term economic benefits to the region.”

The bridge is needed to accommodate increased commercial vehicle traffic for the plant, which is slated to go on line in 2021 and employ some 4,000 people to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

This project was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments.

“Reliable infrastructure is crucial to Alabama’s economic success,” said Sen. Doug Jones. “This grant will be welcome news for the Huntsville community as it prepares for the arrival of our state’s newest state-of-the-art auto manufacturing facility. Investments like these are critical to Alabama as we continue to grow and attract new businesses.”