Launch 2035 Initiates 3-County Regional Workforce and Labor Market Assessment Study

Launch 2035 and city leaders from Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties blasted off their first major initiative – a collaborative assessment study of the area’s regional workforce and labor market.

The announcement comes less than 90 days after six mayors from across Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties, formally signed an historic three-county regional agreement of collaboration and cooperation to work together for the future good of the regional economy.

Bill Marks: “Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

From the high-tech boardroom round table at the Huntsville International Airport, Launch 2035 Chair retired Army Col. Bill Marks said Launch 2035 was formed in 2014 to encourage and facilitate a collective 20-year vision of Limestone, Madison, and Morgan counties that would ensure the North Alabama region continues to prosper.

“Launch 2035 has found opportunities whereby coming together, all of our communities throughout the region can work together in a way that has never been done before,” said Marks. “It is a signal to all our communities, our state, and future businesses that we are committed to ensuring our region functions at the highest levels of collaboration for years to come.”

Launch 2035 has three areas of focus: workforce, entrepreneurship, and land use planning.

“That’s where this privately funded assessment looks at our labor talent, presents leading practices in workforce development, and provides a deeper understanding of the opportunities we have in our workforce within our region,” Marks said. “It is a proactive effort to understand the current labor market and our ability to continue to grow for current and future employer needs in the region.”

Among the speakers at the announcement was Harry Schmidt, economic development consultant for the Tennessee Valley Authority Alabama Region.

“We are glad to be teaming up with regional partners, including local power companies and others, to continue to promote business success in the region,” Schmidt said. “We are pleased to support this workforce and labor study because one of TVA’s core principles is to work to improve the quality of life for people in the valley. One of the primary ways we do that is by job growth and identifying quality job opportunities for people.”

John Seymour, president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce, said changes in lifestyle means city leaders can no longer think just about their own communities but must start thinking about the whole region.

“Jobs in Madison County are different sometimes than the jobs in Limestone and Morgan County,” Seymour said. “We have to think about recruiting folks from across those lines to fill the positions that are available in our various communities. As a community and as a region, we have to think regional to be successful. I see this as an opportunity to look forward.”

“This study will help us grow our workforce in our communities and provide us with a great tool as we continue to work together as a region to bring more industry and business to the area,” said Jennifer Williamson, president of the Greater Limestone Chamber of Commerce. “It is also a great tool for us to use to support our existing businesses and industry.”

Other leaders at the announcement included Bethany Shockney, president of Limestone County Economic Development Association; Rick Tucker, executive director of the Huntsville Port Authority; and Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Rick Tucker: “Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring.” (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

“Launch 2035 contracted with Deloitte to do this labor analysis,” said Cape. “This study is looking forward because through the use of confidential interviews with companies, and discussing real time activities with employers, we can gear our workforce development and activities to meet a needed we know is coming. We look forward to getting these results, and we will work with our partners to make sure we have a workforce of the future.”

Rick Tucker has been part of Launch 2035 from its inception.

“Seeing us working closer and closer together as a region has been inspiring,” he said. “It is just another step in the region’s working together in a collaborative way to address the opportunities and issues facing our region. That is what we do here at the Port of Huntsville – serve this region; and we are glad to be a participant in this study, trying to address this important topic of the labor force in our marketplace. We look forward to continuing this collaboration throughout the region.”

Wes Kelley, president and CEO of Huntsville Utilities, was unable to attend but is also a partner in the initiative. Penny Townson, vice president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, stood in for President and CEO Jeremy Nails who could not attend.

Among Launch 2035’s other initiatives are the team’s continuing work on the Singing River Trail – 70 miles of Native American bike, hike, and walking trails that connects the region .

“The Singing River Trail is an example of the continued growth and economic development we see in our region,” Tucker said. “That’s what businesses and community leaders from across the region want to see – a long-term impact of our investments and hard work.”

Annual BIG Marketing & PR Event Slated for Oct. 29

All local marketing and PR rock stars out there: Looking for new tools to sharpen your craft?

Would you like to discover better ways to effectively promote a business venture while enjoying an opportunity to network with others in your wheelhouse?

The seventh annual BIG Marketing & PR Event is where you want to be Oct. 29.

Presented at the Jackson Center, the event is a day-long experience focused on providing strategy-driven marketing and public relations idea and information.

Debra Alfarone, an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and CEO of Debra Alfarone Media, a Washington, D.C.-based video coaching firm, will present the Lunchtime Keynote.

In her presentation, “How to GTFO Your Own Way So You Can Create Anything!”, Alfarone will address the labels and limitations inferred by others and hackneyed storylines people often place on themselves, challenge participants to take inspired action, and create the positive energy needed to attract the right people and opportunities at the right time and place.

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, marketing and PR professionals, nonprofit organizations, and government contractors can benefit from breakout presentations on content management, digital marketing and advertising, modern media myths, creative visual storytelling, how to use video to build brands, and how human resources and marketing can join forces for recruiting.

A networking after-party at Rocket City Tavern will cap off the day’s events.

The BIG Marketing & PR Event is sponsored by Red Sage Communications and co-hosted by The Catalyst and the North Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-big-marketing-pr-event-tickets-70543578743#

 

NASA Extends Boeing’s Contract to Build More Moon Rockets

 

NASA has taken the next steps toward building Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions, including the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

The agency intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade. The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks.

Illustration shows NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission.

Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.

The Space Launch System is the backbone of NASA’s deep space human exploration and is the only rocket capable of sending crew, the Orion capsule and heavy cargo to the Moon on a single mission.

“It is urgent that we meet the president’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars.”

NASA works with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions. Boeing is completing the first SLS core stage with the second well underway. The order leverages labor, materials, and supply chain efficiencies for production savings.

The SLS is managed at the Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, manufactured at the Michoud Assembly Facility outside of New Orleans and will launch from Cape Canaveral.

NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages.

“We greatly appreciate the confidence NASA has placed in Boeing to deliver this deep space rocket and their endorsement of our team’s approach to meeting this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division. “Together with a nationwide network of engaged and innovative suppliers we will deliver the first core stage to NASA this year for Artemis I.

“This team is already implementing lessons learned and innovative practices from the first build to produce a second core stage more efficiently than the first.  We are is committed to continuous improvement as they execute on this new contract.”

The contract allows Boeing to order materials that will be used to produce additional SLS rockets through the next decade: 10 SLS core stages and eight Exploration Upper Stages to support Artemis III through Artemis XII. The full contract is expected to support up to 10 core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).

“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program Manager at Marshall. “SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket.

For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket uses an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The SLS rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS.

The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space. NASA aims to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.

“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” said Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit.”

 

‘Corner Office’ Coming to 125 North Side Square

 

 

On the corner of the historic downtown Huntsville square, a new face for an old building is underway.

Jimmy John’s will remain open while the “Corner Office” is under construction. (Photo/Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate)

To be known as the “Corner Office”, the new Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate project at 125 North Side Square will give a much-needed facelift to a property that has seen many lives and uses over the course of its existence. The development will feature retail and modern offices.

A new attractive lobby will be added on the ground floor where offices can receive visitors. There will also be balconies added to the front of the building so, during a busy workday, tenants can step outside and enjoy a breath of fresh air while surveying the busy downtown street below. .

Inside, the spaces will be updated and improved while still maintaining the building’s original charm, such as exposed brick accents.

Contemporary office space will soon occupy the interior of the building.

The first floor will encompass 1,750 square feet of retail/restaurant/entertainment space.

The second and third floors have a combined 7,000 square feet of office space divided into four 1,750-square-foot suites — two on the second floor and two on the third floor.

These suites can also be combined if needed. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

Visit crunkletonassociates.com.

 

 

Naming of Toyota Field was a Two-Year Drive in the Making

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, TMMAL President David Finch and Trash Pandas President/CEO Ralph Nelson. (Photo/Steve Babin)

MADISON — On a sunny, let’s-play-three day that begged for baseball, even though the calendar had turned mostly toward football and beyond, the Rocket City Trash Pandas got a name for their new home yard hard on the Huntsville-Madison city limit lines.

Toyota Field will usher in the inaugural season of the Double-A Southern League team in April 2020.

Toyota Field is a name for that’s been in the works basically as long as the team, and stadium, have been an idea.

Team President and CEO Ralph Nelson, along with local dignitaries, announced the name on Columbus Day at the stadium that is still under construction.

But the ship of what the stadium would be named, however, set sail about two years ago.

“The day after Thanksgiving in 2017 my wife, Lisa, and I were driving in the hills of Vermont to cut down a Christmas tree,” Nelson said.

The phone rang and it was David Fernandez, then the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“In the first minute, he said, ‘Let ‘s figure out a way to put Toyota’s name on your ballpark.’”

They did, and, after two years of crossing t’s and dotting i’s and other legal discussions, Toyota Field was born and became official with the announcement.

Rendering shows the Toyota Field name on the video board neat the Rock Porch in right field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“It’s incredibly rare for a global corporation to acquire the rights to a minor league stadium,” Nelson said. “But as I’ve said so many times, this is not the minors. This community expects and deserves a major league operation. Toyota Field is very major league.

“In that first call, David told me he wanted Toyota team members to look with pride at their company name on a prominent community landmark. I told him unless he can buy the rights to that rocket ship (at the Space and Rocket Center), he’s come to the right place.’’

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama employs 1,400 workers in Huntsville and is expected to add 400 more in the near future.

Among those speaking at the naming ceremony were Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and David Finch, current president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“Toyota Field is the new centerpiece of the region that showcases economic development, job growth and quality of life,’’ Finch said.

A “fence” of huge concrete baseballs greet visitors to Toyota Field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The field’s entrance on the first base side will feature an area overlooking the park and will be called Bill Penney Toyota Plaza. Below is a grassy berm where fans can sit and watch the game. The stadium is ringed with roughly 5,000 seats with a capacity of 7,500. There’s a picnic area down the left-field line and VIP suites above the general seating.

Toyota is planning a showcase of its local products in center field.

“To see the project come to life has been amazing and the energy from the community is contagious,” Finch said.

 

MartinFederal Awarded $3.5 Million RMDA Contract

MartinFederal Consulting has been awarded a two-year, $3.5 million contract by the Army Records Management and Declassification Agency.

“We are excited about the opportunity to work with the Records Management and Declassification Agency to provide the highest level of service possible,” said Corey Martin, company president and CEO. “We have a tremendous team with vast experience in records management and are thrilled about this opportunity. “

The Records Management and Declassification Agency is responsible for the entire spectrum of the Army’s interrelated records management programs including Army Records Management, Army Freedom of Information, Army Privacy, Civil Liberties, Joint Services Records Research, and Declassification of Army Records.

Headquartered in Huntsville, MartinFederal is an SBA 8(a) and SDVOSB providing high-tech solutions to the federal government. Visit www.martinfed.com.

Trash Pandas Stadium to be Named Toyota Field

MADISON — They have a name, they have a logo, they have a home.

And, now, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have a name for their home.

Toyota Field.

In a press conference today, Ballcorps, the owner of the baseball team; the City of Madison; and Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama announced an agreement for the naming rights to the club’s new $46 million stadium and multi-use venue, now officially called Toyota Field.

“The Rocket City Trash Pandas are thrilled to be a member of this partnership and the myriad of benefits it will bring to the ball club, Toyota, the City of Madison and the entire North Alabama community,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Discussions began more than two years ago, well before stadium plans were finalized, and today’s announcement reflects Toyota’s commitment to our region and the unwavering support they have shown the Trash Pandas since day one.

“I believe this community deserves a major league operation with our minor league team, and this significant partnership with Toyota, a company representing excellence and superior quality on a global scale, demonstrates exactly that.”

The Toyota brand will be prominent throughout the stadium, including the Toyota Outfield Experience, to be located beyond the centerfield fence. Fans will see advanced engines from the Huntsville plant, interact with digital displays, learn what it’s like to work at Toyota, and how to apply for jobs at the Huntsville plant, which currently builds engines for the popular Toyota Camry, RAV4, Corolla, Highlander, Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia.

“North Alabama is a great place to live, work and play,” said David Finch, president of TMMAL. “Toyota Field is the new centerpiece for the region, promoting economic development, job creation and quality of life. The Toyota Outfield Experience will showcase our world-class engine manufacturing plant and   create a touchpoint to connect job seekers to the 400 upcoming available job opportunities at TMMAL. We see this contact with the community as an important step in securing our workforce of the future.”

Revenue from the naming rights will be divided evenly between the City of Madison and the Trash Pandas.

“Toyota continues to be an amazing community partner and we are beyond excited to call the ball park Toyota Field,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “We are extremely appreciative of BallCorps’ diligence in securing such a quality organization.”

Toyota began its Alabama operation in 2003, and its impact continues to be felt throughout the region. The plant’s most recent expansion announcement will increase employment to 1,800 with an investment of $1.2 billion and annual production capacity of 900,000 engines. This solidifies the facility as one of Toyota’s largest engine producers globally.

“To see the project come to life has been amazing and the energy from the community is contagious,” said Finch. “We can’t wait to say, ‘play ball’ at Toyota Field.”

Tying Education to Business, Huntsville Committee of 100 Funds National Board-Certified Teachers

A leading Huntsville business advocacy organization is seeing its investments paying off.

Though, the group did not invest in financial markets, it invested in education.

Last May, the Huntsville Committee of 100 launched an exclusive initiative in May to fund 100 nationally board-certified teachers throughout the Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools and Madison County School systems.

It is the first time an Alabama business community has made an impactful investment in education in order to make Madison County more attractive to employees and employers.

According to John Allen, CEO of the Committee of 100, there are three tenets to its mission: promoting cooperative local government to ensure local business leaders are elected to positions that help make the community better; to advocate for long-term economic development; and to push for higher quality public education.

“We have 55,000 students in our schools every day and about 90 percent of them are in public education, so we know the value of a public education,” said Allen. “We were looking for a way to impact, support and encourage high quality public education.

“I asked former superintendent of Huntsville City Schools Matt Akin what a business organization like ours could do to change the conversation around achievement in our schools. His response was to nationally board-certify 100 teachers.”

In 2014, the Committee of 100 established the Creative Cities Fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville. It focused on conversations around creating high achievement in the local school system and setting a culture of high expectations.

The project was intended to drive innovation, education and economic development by raising funds year after year for that purpose and putting those funds back into community ideas quickly.

“We reached out to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and learned the national board certification process was a very vigorous, performance-based, peer-reviewed and critiqued, one to three year process a teacher has to go through,” said Allen. “One teacher compared it to writing a master’s thesis for each of the four modules of the process.”

“The certification process costs $475 per component with a registration fee, so teachers are looking at $2,000 per teacher to go through the process, money many teachers do not have,” said Michelle Accardi, director of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. “Board certification is one of the levers we use to elevate student outcomes and research shows that all other factors being equal, a kindergarten student with a board-certified teacher is 31 percent more likely to be on grade level at the end of the year. Those are spectacular outcomes.”

When they are certified, teachers receive a $5,000 stipend from the state and, in some schools, they get an additional $5,000.

“Students learn more from board certified teachers,” said Accardi. “Early childhood literacy has ties to efforts and outcomes at high school graduation and beyond.”

The Committee of 100 began collaborating heavily with the schools foundation, a convenient partner because they work with all three school systems and are engaged in the national board certification process.

Allen said, on average, there is a one- to two-month achievement gain in board-certified classroom students and classrooms of board-certified teachers.

Furthermore, a recent study shows that for every $1 invested in national board certified teachers, there is a $31 return on investment.

When the Committee of 100 started the program, Alabama had 2,700 board certified teachers, which is about 6.3 percent of all teachers in Alabama.

To put it into perspective, about 90 percent of physicians are board-certified nationwide but only about 3 percent of teachers nationwide are board certified.

“Our organization, community business leaders, and elected leaders have bought into this process and all the dollars go straight to funding a teacher,” said Allen. “Prior to May, Madison had 58 teachers who are board certified; Huntsville City had about 30; and the county had about 35. In Huntsville, there are currently 70 additional teachers going through process, and in Madison there is another 35 with 25 now participating from Madison County Schools.

“We are now working on conversations surrounding how do we grow the conversation to a statewide level and how do we make it sustainable. We found that having a board-certified teacher in the school, they become a magnet, a mentor and a leader in the school.”

Accardi said student outcomes improve with certification.

“We currently have 25 different certificates a teacher can elect to certify in,” said Accardi. “Across all the certificate areas, every time someone does research on it, you see an increase in student outcomes.”

She also said the Committee of 100 initiative is unique because, as a business community, they understand not just the increase in outcomes, but they see a significant return on investment on board certification when talking purely dollars and cents.

“You see huge savings in teacher retention with a national board-certified teacher almost four times as likely to stay in a school setting than those teachers who are not certified,” said Accardi. “It helps elevate your game as a teacher, and if you have a group of NBCTs working together in a school, it gives you someone to consult with on issues.”

Going through the certification process enables teachers to see improvement in their own practice, as well.

“The National Board Certification process has improved my teaching practice by helping to change the way I interpret and use student data,” said Aimee Thomas Scrivner, a second-grade teacher at Huntsville’s Academy for Academics and Arts. “It has not only helped me gauge (and thus improve) my effectiveness as a teacher through measuring student impact of specific lessons and strategies, but helped me to develop meaningful relationships with students, parents, and colleagues that ultimately benefit student development and learning.”

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Looking for a Few Good Applicants … 40,000 to be Exact

The hands-on assessment features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has to fill 4,000 jobs, with 3,000 of those expected to be hourly production positions, over the next two years, at its vehicle assembly plant in Limestone County.

Normally, a ramp-up of this size would take about three years, according to Jamie Hall, a Toyota advisor for staffing.

To meet its employment goals, MTMUS estimates it needs about 40,000 applicants since the company expects 7 to 10 percent of the applicants to make it all the way through the hiring process and receive an offer, according to Hall.

To make matters more challenging, as Hall puts it: “This work isn’t for everyone.”

But, MTMUS has a clever way of figuring out who will shine on the company’s assembly line thanks to a detailed hiring process and its hands-on skills assessment center.

A successful hire will have to pass three stages before receiving an offer.

Stages one and two take place online.

Step one is a regular job application.

Jill Corbin, a public relations specialist with AIDT, performs a simulation that tests her ability to install wire harnesses. The instructions are given to her on a screen and the car shell is wired to register which harnesses are plugged into which receptors. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

This is the first taste an applicant gets of what the job will be like thanks to questions about working overtime, rotating shifts and weekends. They also learn about the pay, MTMUS’ eye toward safe practices, along with other standard job application questions.

“We want candidates that this type of work is good for,” Hall said. “So, it’s a two-way street, because we can only be happy if both the candidate is happy and we are achieving what we need.”

If an applicant makes it past the initial application stage, then they’ll take an online assessment that’s looking for things like their ability to problem solve, use applied learning and measure their leadership potential.

If a candidate fails to pass this assessment, they have two options: They can wait a year and reapply, or they can take a remedial class and restart the process immediately after completing the course.

“If you don’t make it through that point, one of the things that we recognized … was if there is a way that we could train these candidates who didn’t pass the first go-around, maybe they could come back into the system very quickly if they had some additional coaching or training,” Hall said.

That training comes from  Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and the state’s Ready to Work Program, according to Hall.

If a candidate passes the online assessment, then they are scheduled for MTMUS’ Day of Work Orientation.

This on-site orientation includes the hands-on assessment, an in-person job interview and a job placement interview. Even though this part of the process takes a full day’s commitment from the applicant, it also means a job candidate doesn’t have to take multiple days out of their schedule.

“We want to make sure this is a one-stop-shop because what we learned is, if you get a candidate and you have to pull them multiple times, then you start to lose the candidate,” Hall said.

The hands-on assessment is the star of MTMUS’s hiring process. It features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant.

For example, background noise is piped into the warehouse, the temperature is kept at 75 degrees and applicants are decked out in full safety gear.

Another example of the various simulations. This exercise tests an applicant’s ability to install bolts into corresponding receptors with both their left and right hands at the same time. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Each station takes about an hour, which includes instruction, a practice session and then a timed session preforming the task a candidate was just taught.

The tasks include installing various wire harnesses, tightening bolts, tracing various patterns with your left and right hands.

It sounds simple when it’s written on paper, but in the real-world environment of the assessment center, applicants quickly learn it’s not.

The Day of Work Orientation is the last hurdle before an applicant gets a contingent job offer pending a drug screen, physical and background check.

The center can process 36 candidates per shift or 72 per day.

“That is a big improvement,” Hall said. “Previously we have been able to asses 12 per shift.”

MTMUS plans to ramp up its major hiring effort for team members with a target to start the hands-on assessments in January 2020 and have those first applicants on the job by March or April 2020, according to Hall.

Candidates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED.

The team leader jobs will open up at the end of October.

The plant will assemble a new, yet-to-be named Toyota SUV along with Mazda’s yet-to-be named crossover model.

Hexagon/Intergraph Celebrates 50 Years of Innovative Software, Mapping and Computer Graphics

There were a lot of headlines in 1969.

The Beatles played their last public concert on the roof of Apple Records and 350,000 young people gathered at Woodstock to protest the Vietnam War.

Bob Thurber: “Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

But while Boeing was debuting its 747 “Jumbo Jet” to the American public, NASA engineers had landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon using the Apollo Guidance Computer. It’s laboriously handmade, read-only rope memory was equivalent to 72 KB of storage today.

Also in 1969, while millions of children watched the Utopian lifestyle of a space age cartoon called “The Jetsons” with its clunky robots and home automated conveyor belt, engineers were making it a reality, linking for the first time, several large-scale, general purpose computers into a network known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).

It was against this backdrop that IBM engineer James Meadlock, his wife Nancy, and three young engineers Bob Thurber, Terry Schansman and Keith Schonrock left their jobs at IBM on Feb. 10, 1969 to start M&S Computing on South Memorial Parkway in Huntsville.

With the company that became known worldwide as Intergraph and now known as Hexagon, the now-retired Meadlock and his remaining team returned to the sprawling campus and world headquarters in what is now the new Town Madison, for a 50th anniversary celebration.

Hundreds of current and former employees and their families filled the three-level hexagon-shaped building with its towering glass windows and tiered mezzanine overlooking a private lake to hear Meadlock speak.

Intergraph co-founder James Meadlock left IBM in 1969 to help found M&S Computing, the forerunner to Intergraph. (Photo/Steve Babin)

According to Bob Thurber, co-founder and the original executive vice president of the company, IBM got the contract for the instrument unit on the Saturn launch vehicle because they had built the first digital computer on a missile.

“I came out of college with IBM in Huntsville, so when we finished with the Saturn program, we were the renowned experts on putting digital computers onboard missiles,” said Thurber. “We were able to leave IBM with our heads held high.”

Initially, Thurber said all the Army’s weapons systems needed computers on them, so M&S Computing became a consultant for them.

“One of the things we did in the IBM days was build an interactive graphics interface for the simulation of the Saturn launch vehicle,” he said. “You had to run simulations over and over and over again, but if something went wrong within the first 30 seconds of launch, you didn’t know it until you came in the next day. They needed a quicker interactive system to do it.

“That’s how we got started. By running simulations interactively, you could watch the trajectory on the screen and if it blew up or went off-course, you could just stop it, key in some different parameters, and run it again. You could do in a day what had been taking a month.”

That ability to visualize data led to their graphics mapping capabilities, and M&S Computing was the first company to do that as well.

“Our work in hardware and software wasn’t an industry then – it was just the beginning of stuff,” Thurber said. “There were only four companies in the business when we got into it, but we essentially created the core graphics for AutoCAD.”

Thurber said they sold their first three systems around Christmas 1973: an engineering drafting system for 2D drafting to a company in Houston; a system for municipal mapping to the city of Nashville; and a system to the Army Missile Command (AMC). All three were totally separate industries, but they all needed the same basic graphic capabilities.

“We lost a lot of money when we sold Nashville the mapping system,” Thurber said. “The city said to us, ‘Look, we would love to use this stuff, but we don’t want to build all these maps!’ We said, ‘Okay. We’ll do it for you’.

“We charged them $80 per map. The cost was $500 per map, but it really it forced us to make it a good mapping system and it gave us the experience we wouldn’t have gotten had we held their hand while they did it.”

In the end, Nashville was the first city to map its roadways to understand traffic flow, congestion points, etc. all thanks to M&S Computing’s mapping capabilities.

The company then known as M&S Computing rented office space in Huntsville until the 1974 tornado destroyed the Bendix Building on Alabama 20 in Madison. Using insurance money, they were able to reconfigure it to M&S Computing’s requirements.

“The only eating place near our office back then was a Waffle House,” Thurber said with a laugh.

That would be the first of a sprawling campus with more than 4,000 employees, that is today located amidst the bustling new Town Madison development.

In 1981, M&S Computing went public and changed its name to Intergraph. After Meadlock and Thurber retired from the company, Stockholm-based Hexagon purchased Intergraph in 2010 for $2.125 billion.

Meadlock, who lost his beloved wife and business partner Nancy, is quietly retired.

Thurber is active with Huntsville’s tech incubator BizTech, but he says for a company that was the first to develop intelligent applications on top of graphics, the software and computing industry has now moved way past him.

“I still come over and visit and when I see the demos of the work Hexagon is doing now, fifty years later, the capabilities are so much more than graphics,” he said. “But they tell me that our software, M&S Computing’s software, is so integrated into their design and construction process, it cannot be unseated.”