RFCU Reaches Out to the Community with Financial Education Programming

Today, financial education is a must for just about everyone.

And, Redstone Federal Credit Union is stepping up with a series of financial education seminars.

 Based on the variety of offerings, “financial” may seem like a misnomer, but that good things – such as buying a home or launching a business – or bad things – such as natural disasters – all have direct or indirect financial consequences.

“Over time, the seminar offerings have evolved, there’s more of a mix now,” said Briana Cousins, financial education coordinator/communications. “Programming  focuses on four main tenets: Save, spend, borrow, plan. These areas effect overall financial fitness. We have developed our own in-house programming to give back to the community.”

Other resources include Balance.com which RFCU uses for the “Drive Away Happy” and “Financial First Aid” seminars, providing a “canned” curriculum that can be used for some of the online financial programming,

Over the past year, RFCU has developed a partnership with local small business incubator, The Catalyst Center to expand on seminar offerings. The collaboration has a small business development focus featuring programming such as “Finding Your Target Market,” and “Developing an Elevator Pitch.”

Cousins is focusing on the next steps and beyond.

“How can we expand outside of Madison County?” she asked. “How can we reach specific audiences, expand our market? Get the word out to the community, in general?”

Regarding one of the bigger challenges she faces, Cousins said, “There’s a massively growing segment of the population who need the messages we are providing. We are trying to find ways to reach this population that is least likely to attend seminars. Unless you can reach them where they are, they don’t participate. So, we need to find a way to get out into the community instead of them coming to us.”

“For 2019, RFCU will keep some of the same programming. In thefuture, we see more partnering with the Catalyst, focusing on providing business assistance for startups and entrepreneurs.”

RFCUseminars are free and open to members and non-members. There are morning, lunchtime, late afternoon, and early evening programs. There are no sales pitches for any of the products presented. However, presenters do provide attendees with printed materials and contact information to follow up, one-to-one.

For schedule and registration info, go to: www.redfcu.org/seminars

Cecil Ashburn Drive project to begin Jan. 7

 

The City of Huntsville is set to begin critical roadwork in early January to improve safety and increase capacity on Cecil Ashburn Drive, one of the city’s most heavily trafficked corridors.

Listed as a priority improvement project in Huntsville’s “Restore Our Roads” agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation, contractors will widen Cecil Ashburn Drive from two to four lanes over an 18-month period.

To expedite construction and shorten the project’s timeline, Cecil Ashburn Drive will close Jan. 7, and the contractor will be incentivized to reopen two lanes of traffic within 10 months. Remaining work is expected to be complete six to eight months later with all lanes open by May 2020.

To keep the project on track or ahead of schedule, the contractor may earn up to $2 million in performance bonuses. Conversely, the builder will be financially penalized up to $2 million for schedule delays. This is the same model the City and State used to fast-track overpass construction on South Memorial Parkway, another Restore Our Roads project.

“We changed the scope of the project to save time and money and to minimize the impact on our residents and businesses,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This schedule provides the least disruption and gets motorists safely back on the road before the 2019 holiday season.”

The base bid on the revised project came in at just under $18 million, nearly $7 million less than a previous round of bidding last May. At that time, the city was working on a construction plan to keep one lane of traffic partially open during peak weekday hours. The plan proved to be a costly, 32-month ordeal that posed additional safety concerns. City engineers went back to the drawing board and believe the new schedule best addresses the needs and concerns of the community.

“We’re saving taxpayers millions of dollars and cutting two years of public pain in the construction process,” said Shane Davis, director of Economic and Urban Development.

To further minimize disruptions for commuters impacted by the road closure, City departments have been working closely with community organizations and businesses to address needs and concerns related to increased traffic and speeders on alternate routes, ride-sharing options, moving wrecks, accident alerts, and public safety.

“It will take everyone a few weeks to adjust to new routes and schedules, and we’ve found many businesses are pwilling to offer flex time to help their employees through the transition,” said Dennis Madsen, long-range planner. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about carpools and ride-sharing programs, and the road closure presents an opportunity to explore these options and create some new healthy habits.”

A landmark groundbreaking for Madison, Duluth Trading Co.

Duluth Trading Co. will open its first Alabama retail store in Town Madison next year.

 

MADISON — It was a “less than perfect weather day but a perfect day for a groundbreaking.”

With those remarks, Madison Chamber of Commerce Board President Carmelita Palmer opened a landmark groundbreaking ceremony Friday.

The Duluth Trading Co., an innovative apparel retailer noted for its unique TV commercials (the store has a link to the commercials on is website – https://www.duluthtrading.com/TV+Ads.html) will open a 15,000-square-foot retail store in the city’s Town Madison development.

“We are so excited,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “To have Duluth come here … when people heard Duluth Trading was coming here, there is so much excitement.”

The store, Duluth Trading’s first in the state, will join Home2 Suites Hilton, convenience store Twice Daily and other offices and retailers in West End at Town Madison, which adjoins the Intergraph/Hexagon campus along Interstate-565. Duluth Trading is slated to open around the middle of next year.

“This is an exciting day for Town Madison,” said Joey Ceci, representing developer Louis Breland. “You couldn’t pick a better retailer” to join the project’s lineup.

Town Madison is a 563-acre modern, walkable, urban community which will also be the home of the minor league baseball Rocket City Trash Pandas and a Margaritaville Hotel.

Minnesota-based Oppidan Investment Co., a national property development firm, is the project developer.

Like everyone else at the ceremony, the 40-degree, rainy weather was on the mind of Oppidan’s Jay Moore – but in a different way.

“This is nice weather; it’s a switch for us,” he said.

Moore said Duluth was looking around the area for its first Alabama retail store before deciding on Madison.

“We approached Breland about a year ago,” he said. “We are super proud to be one of the first retailers in this fine development.”

From left, Chamber Board President Carmelita Palmer, Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and Oppidan’s Jay Moore take part in the groundbreaking ceremony.

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said the store will enable the development to become an economic engine and a destination.

“This is the start of a destination location,” he said. “To Duluth, this is a great investment. You’ll never regret it.”

Despite the grey skies and gloomy weather, Finley reflected the optimism of the big event and the future it beckons.

“This is a sun shiny day for the city of Madison.”

Huntsville to Launch Mobile and Credit Card Downtown Parking Payments

The city has plans to make it easier to pay for parking in downtown Huntsville. (USNews.com)

Huntsville’s high-tech expertise takes a leap into downtown parking.

The city is adopting new technologies to make it easier for patrons to pay for parking with a smartphone and credit card. Early next year, about 400 parking spaces, including those with coin-operated meters, will be updated for easy pay by smartphone and credit card options.

This will enable users to:

  • Monitor their parking sessions
  • Extend time remotely
  • View payment history
  • Receive email receipts

“We want to make it easier for customers to pay for parking and to extend their time without the hassle of returning to a meter,” said Tommy Brown, director of Parking and Public Transit. “You can be in a meeting that is running late and add more time to your parking meter using your cell phone.”

While a coin/bill pay option will still be available when paying to park downtown, Mayor Tommy Battle said the new meter system will make it more convenient for residents and guests to enjoy Huntsville’s downtown.

“People expect to have the ease of mobile apps and credit card options when they purchase a good or service, and parking meters are no exception,” he said. “This is just one more step in the City’s effort to modernize our business practices and make us user friendly.”

Parking and Public Transit plans to begin installing the new meters around Big Spring Park and Lot H, which adjoins The Avenue.

IOS, Android and mobile web apps allow motorists to park at traditional meters without needing coins. Parkers establish a minimum $5 wallet on the app with their credit card and pay for parking from that wallet. They will enter their license plate when they park and enforcement will use the license plate to determine who has paid to park.

Drivers will receive reminder notifications, email receipts and remote session extensions that allow them to extend their parking without going back to the meter.

A single multispace meter will service parking spaces so there are fewer meters to maintain. Drivers will enter their license plate when they park and enforcement will use the license plate to determine who has paid to park. The meters allow for more flexible forms of payment such as coins, bills and credit cards.

Drivers will be able to receive parking expiry reminders and to extend time via mobile phone using the integrated Extend-by-Phone service. PassportParking is free to download through the App Store or Google Play. Users can also manage their parking at ppprk.com. The app is also available in many cities nationwide.

Make holiday shopping a local adventure

Don’t dread holiday shopping this year. Make it an adventure by seeing what you can find from handcrafted to carefully curated designer merchandise at locally owned businesses.

With gifts ranging in cost from 10 cents to more than $12,000, local shops have it all.

Why not start out at the historic Harrison Brothers Hardware in downtown Huntsville? It’s the city’s oldest operating business, since 1897.  If you’ve never been there, this time of year the brightly colored holiday decorations in the storefront windows will draw you inside just to look around. And if it’s been a while since you’ve visited the store, take the time to go.

Why?

A trip to Harrison Brothers is about more than just shopping. It’s an experience. The store is also a museum, capturing an important piece of history. You won’t find any self-service kiosk here. They still use a 1907 National Cash Register to ring up sales if you find something you want.

If you buy something, it will be made in the USA with many products handcrafted by Huntsville area or North Alabama residents.  The most popular item sold in the store are 10-cent marbles.

“People buy them by the hundreds,” says Fran McFall, who has volunteered and worked at the store for eight years. She also points out larger, hand blown marbles, which sell for $3.75 a piece.

The first table you come to upon entering is filled with “Gifts Made Locally.”

There and throughout the store you’ll find old-fashioned candy and treats like Hammond’s chocolate bars, including a popular Pigs N’ Taters chocolate bar with bacon flavored bits and potato chips.

There are angel ornaments made of cotton, specialty soy candles, paintings by local artists and pottery, greeting cards, and books by local authors, classic toys – even an astronaut suit. There’s jewelry, knitting gift sets, dog food bowls, novelty socks, lotions and soaps, a large selection of gourmet foods and so much more.

The nonprofit Historic Huntsville Foundation keeps the store open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Sales support the store’s operation, with employees and volunteers, as well as other community events.

After you’ve perused Harrison Brothers, you’re bound to be ready to seek out what else local shop owners have to offer for holiday gift giving. Here’s a small sampling of what’s available in the area.

Greene Street Market

Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Just a short walk from the downtown square, on the same side of the street, you’ll find the Greene Street Market at Nativity, a shop that offers limited produce and farm fresh eggs. You’ll also find a variety of gifts, mostly from local artists and crafters at a variety of prices.

Marilyn Evans, the shop manager, says a sidewalk holiday market will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 with locally grown produce, farm fresh foods, fresh baked goods, and offerings by local artisans.

Clinton Row

Jefferson Street and Clinton Avenue, hours vary

From the historic to the new and trendy, a few streets away one of the area’s most unique shopping areas awaits at Clinton Row.  This is the place where ground level storage units have been turned into a downtown shopping destination.

Dee Dee Crawford, manager of the Downtown Storage Huntsville, says you can spend anywhere between  $10 and $500 or more at one of the featured shops like The Little Green Store, Clinton Row Gifts, Maxwell Music, the Carole Foray Art studio, In Bloom gift shop, SassyFrazz Boutique, Clachic Boutique and 81 Home Gifts and Glam.

At the shops you’ll find photographs, frames, candles, personalized monogramming, old and new music, unique and trendy clothes, jewelry, handbags, cotton towels with fun sayings and much more.

“There are many nice and fun gifts to be found here,” Crawford says.

Railroad Station Antiques, Gifts & More

315 N. Jefferson St., Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.

A few blocks away from Clinton Row you’ll find another treasure trove.

From $1 to $12,000, Railroad Station has an eclectic mix of old, vintage and new.

“We have everything from fashion accessories to fine antique furniture,” says Suzanne Conway. “It’s really an emporium, unlike any other shop in our area. Our historic building and diverse merchandise make us a destination shop unlike any other.”

You’ll find gifts for everyone from kids to seniors. Vintage toys, fabulous jewelry, furs, candles, a book shop, and even local honey and cheese straws from the Shoals.

“With 24,000 square feet and a limited word count, I can only touch the surface of what we have!”

Lewter’s Hardware

222 Washington Street, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Another downtown fixture for 90 years, Lewter’s is a true hardware store with hand and power tools and any manner of home building or repair supplies.

This time of year, you will find a variety of Flexible Flyer red wagons and other vintage toys like cap guns, model airplanes and whirly gigs. Other gift ideas for this time of year include the collection of Lodge cast iron skillets.

Shoe Fly

974 Airport Road, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8213 U.S. 72, Madison, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What started 11 years ago primarily as an overstock shoe store has transitioned into two area trendy clothing boutiques for teens to women in their 70s.

“Many think we’re just for high school and college age and while we do sell a lot to that age group, we have customers of all ages,” says owner Amy Word. “Our idea is to have trendy clothes at a reasonable price so 90 percent of what we offer is $49 or less.”

The stores get new shipments every week so the inventory is always fresh.

“We carry a lot of unique pieces, and sometimes you’ll find the same looks here that you’ll find in larger department stores, at lower pricing,” Word says. “I know people are spending more time shopping online but there is something to be said about the experience of going into a store and trying something on, whether it’s a mother and daughter or friends.”

Mint Julep Market

7540 S. Memorial Parkway (next to Rosie’s Cantina), Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If you have a person on your gift list who has everything or is hard to buy for, then Hillary Dunham says she’ll help you find the perfect present at Mint Julep Market.

“We have become the place to go to for something different. We have everything from paint supplies and classes, local artists who create pieces special for our shop, custom-made pottery from local and Alabama potters, clothing, luggage, custom embroidery, candles, jewelry, just all kinds of things,” Dunham says. “And if you find something we have in pink and you need it in another color, we’ll find it for you.”

Dunham says keeping collections easy to browse and a wide variety keeps customers coming back.

Topiary Tree 

1801 University Drive, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Dec. 22.

This little shop is packed with gift ideas. Their best selling item this season is the PJ Harlow Pajamas. There are more than 15 styles in eight colors. The shop is known for its embossed graphics stationary, raised ink and embossed stationary, which is made in house.

You’ll also find everyday and holiday collections of handmade pottery from Etta, Miss. With many serving pieces to choose from, they are dishwasher, microwave and oven safe. The store also features Earthborn pottery from Birmingham, jewelry at every price point, fur capes and jackets, leather goods for men and luxurious lotions and soaps for women.

 

 

Something Delicious is Cooking at Stovehouse

 

In case you haven’t noticed, there is something moving around over at the century-old Martin Stove Factory, and we are sure it is not the ghosts of Charles and W.H. Martin, transitioning wood-burning stoves into electric ranges and cast-iron skillets.

However, there is definitely something cooking in the old stove plant at 3414 Governors Drive in west Huntsville that promises to satisfy that itch you often get – you know, the one where you are craving something out of the ordinary to eat and a unique atmosphere in which to enjoy it?

Danny and Patti Yancey purchased the old Martin Brother’s stove plant facility in 2016 to preserve its rich history. Danny is a Huntsville history buff and 30-year veteran of construction and finance. Together with Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Group, they are developing the 200,000 square foot building situated on a 10-acre property into a thriving large-scale food, office, events, and entertainment complex surrounding a hub of eclectic cuisine that showcases the talents of local restaurateurs and chefs.

“Stovehouse will blur the line between modern and historical, work and play, and small-town culture and high-tech urban energy,” said Yancey. “The food garden is the heart of Stovehouse. It’s where the city can mingle, enjoy live music, play games, and experience some of the best food Huntsville has to offer.”

Several local restaurateurs and chefs will be opening unique dining concepts in the food garden, beginning with Kamado Ramen, Oh Crêpe, Pourhouse, and Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen.

Kamado Ramen and Oh Crêpe are Japanese-inspired eateries, both members of Huntsville and Madison’s I Love Sushi restaurant team.

 

Coincidentally, Kamado means “stove” in Japanese and they will feature several bowl options that include various noodles, sauces, vegetables and meats. All sauces will be made in-house and patrons can enjoy dishes that showcase pork belly, chicken breast, kimchi, deep fried pork, and Japanese soft-boiled eggs.

General manager Chao Fang said, “Kamado will be hyper-focused on creating the highest quality ramen dishes in the area. A lot goes into creating exceptional ramen and our goal is to be the place everyone immediately thinks of when someone mentions ramen in Huntsville.”

Jim Xue, partner at Kamado Ramen and Oh Crêpe, said, “Huntsville is very progressive when it comes to accepting new and exciting restaurants to the area. When it came to selecting a site, Stovehouse fit our needs on every level. We are very excited to be a part of it.”

Oh Crêpe will offer a fun spin on traditional crêpes using Japanese flavors and ingredients like banana, green tea ice cream and chocolate, or savory selections like lobster, chicken and spinach. The crêperie will also offer Taiwanese-style shaved ice cream along with several toppings.

General manager Yituan Wang said, “You can completely change the look and taste of crêpes depending on what flour you use. Oh Crêpe will use Japanese rice flour, and pay special attention to the presentation. We can’t wait for people to see how beautiful our crêpes look and discover how wonderful they taste.”

The creators of Church Street Wine Shoppe and Purveyor have committed to opening Pourhouse, an eclectic upscale bar; and Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen at the Stovehouse Food Garden next year as well.

“We like to think that if Purveyor had a little sister, Pourhouse would be in her place,” said Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, the pub’s co-owner and creator. “Pourhouse will be a bohemian, laid-back, upscale and ‘comfortably swanky’ bar with unique touches not yet seen in Huntsville. Customers can grab a drink and enjoy the rooftop deck or one of our heated outdoor patios, complete with fireplace. It will be at the center of everything at Stovehouse.”

Pourhouse will serve a wide selection of wines; domestic, international and local craft beers; spirits; and handcrafted cocktails. Although no food will be served at the bar, guests are welcome to bring food from the eateries over to the Pourhouse area and enjoy their meal with their favorite Pourhouse selection.

Serving fresh, made-in-house pasta, sauces, and other traditional Italian fare, Mazzara’s Italian Kitchen will feature primarily Mazzara family recipes. They have been passed down for generations to owner Stephanie Kennedy-Mell, from her great-grandparents, Stefano and Carmela Mazzara, who were Italian cooks from Sicily.

“Mazzara is my family name and our menu may feature favorites like chicken parmigiana and lasagna as staples, but my great-grandmother’s eggplant rollatini will be something everyone will be watching for,” she said. “Service and quality are our trademarks at the Church Street Family and this will be fast, casual service with the high-quality food our customers have come to expect from us.”

Managed by Chef Rene Boyzo of Purveyor, Mazzara’s will also feature Guistino’s Gelato, a made-from-scratch gelateria created by Huntsville local, Justin Rosoff.

Rosoff took classes in Bologna, Italy, to craft artisanal hard and soft-serve gelato, pastries, and gelato pops. All gelato will be made in small batches on premise, so guests can watch Justin create the desserts in person. Patrons can also enjoy seasonal sorbets, biscotti, rainbow cookies, almond cookies and Italian coffee. Dairy- and gluten-free options will be available.

All four eateries are scheduled to open in March 2019.

“Stovehouse is the perfect backdrop for these new concepts from Matt and Stephanie,” said Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate Principal Wesley Crunkleton. “The Food Garden will allow guests to experience delicious authentic food from different destinations around the world, and the Church Street team has a proven track record of success when it comes to creating concepts that Huntsville embraces.”

Downtown Huntsville honored by international group

Downtown Huntsville was awarded a Certificate of Merit Award for the Spragins Street Greenway and Cycle Track Connector.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Downtown Huntsville Inc. was awarded a Certificate of Merit Award for the Spragins Street Greenway and Cycle Track Connector by the International Downtown Association.

The project was awarded a Certificate of Merit in the category of Planning during the IDA’s 64th annual conference and trade show.

This category features planning efforts that have established a strategic position for downtown, and that include elements of the plan that have already been approved, ratified, and implemented.

“The Spragins Connector creates an important bicycle link between two popular downtown parks – Big Spring Park East and Depot Park.  By making this connection, over 3 miles of pedestrian and bike infrastructure are linked,” said Chad Emerson, president/CEO of Downtown Huntsville Inc. “We’re grateful that our partners at the city of Huntsville implemented this key first step of the Downtown Master Plan Update.”

Washington, D.C.-based IDA is the premier organization for urban place professionals who are shaping and activating dynamic city center districts. Downtown Huntsville, Inc is the urban place management organization representing the interests of property owners in Huntsville. 

“Downtown Huntsville’s project received the IDA Certificate of Merit for successfully employing best practice in urban place management,” said David Downey, IDA president/CEO. “The Spragins Greenway and Track Connector is a shining example of downtown management delivering real value to the city.”

HudsonAlpha’s Brewer named IAAP Foundation board chair

Stacey Brewer, executive coordinator for Dr. Neil Lamb at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, was recently appointed as board chair for the International Association of Administrative Professionals Foundation. Brewer will serve a two-year term.

“Successful organizations depend on top-tier administrative professionals like Stacey Brewer,” said Lamb. “Admins are arguably the critical ‘connective tissue’ that keep a group informed and on track. Stacey is key to our educational outreach program’s success and I’m appreciative that IAAP has equipped him with relevant and timely professional development tools.

“We’re proud of his work with the Foundation and excited about his appointment as board chair.”

Mayor: ‘No better time to live in Huntsville’

 

Calling it a “day of celebration,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle reeled off a list of successes the city accomplished over the last few years.

“What started 10 years ago began as a vision,” he said. “Then a plan.”

“You are the reason we are stronger then ever,” he told the audience of some 1,200 people at Tuesday’s annual State of the City Address in the Von Braun Center North Hall. It was the largest crowd at a Huntsville Chamber event.

The mayor cited the city’s population growth, which is twice the national rate; and some 25,000 jobs created since 2010 – “We lead the state in job creation.”

Not to mention, the domestic GDP is up 15 percent, fueled by major economic development. Included in the development are major companies moving here: Mazda-Toyota; Google; Facebook; General Electric; Blue Origin, among others.

“There’s no better time to live in Huntsville, Alabama,” Battle said.

Huntsville has had a Triple-A bond rating for 10 straight years; 91 percent of the children attend Huntsville City Schools; Cummings Research Park – “a shining example of public-private partnership”- has a 91 percent occupancy rate; Redstone Arsenal is continuing to grow as it adds more agencies and provides some $50 billion in spending.

“We’re not just growing as an economy,” Battle said. “We’re growing opportunity.”

And the city is not resting on the laurels of those successes.

Tapped to be the largest city in the state within the next decade, Huntsville needs to stay at the economic forefront to “stay relevant to the future,” Battle said.

“The next five to 10 years are taken care of,” he said. “Our job is to take care of the next 15, 20, 30 years.

“We are making sure we’re not the community left behind.”

The mayor said the city’s task is to find the new, emerging markets.

“Pushing the edge is what Huntsville does … we’ve always been the innovators and creators.”

And he closed on an optimistic note that was greeted with a standing ovation:

“Huntsville’s future as the ‘Star of Alabama’ is brighter than ever.”

 

FBI to expand presence on Redstone Arsenal

Pictured is the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School on Redstone Arsenal

 

Huntsville’s moniker as “the Federal City of the South” was further bolstered Thursday with the announcement of a planned FBI expansion.

The FBI, which has about 300 personnel stationed at Redstone Arsenal, will add another 1,350 employees, according to the agency’s senior executive at Redstone, Robert Hamilton. The personnel will come from the Washington area.

Hamilton made the announcement at the annual Redstone Update, hosted by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber.

“The FBI is extremely excited to announce today that we are moving forward with our first large-scale operations support building,” Hamilton said. “We expect that to be ready for occupancy in early 2021. This will move approximately 1,350 personnel and contractors from the national capital region.”
Hamilton said the personnel will include special agents and intelligence analysts.
“This is not a relocation of resources but rather a transformation of mission sets to one extremely powerful campus,” Hamilton said.