Trash Pandas to Reveal Jerseys, Offer an Experience for Fans

MADISON — When it comes to baseball, particularly the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Ralph Nelson believes in going big.

In fact, there’s nothing minor about the baseball team that set all sorts of Minor League Baseball merchandise records and recently passed the $1 million mark in sales.

And the Trash Pandas don’t even play until next April.

In the meantime, the team will unveil its five – yes, five – inaugural season uniforms and offer fans the chance to take the field in official, personalized jerseys.

The uniform reveal will be Thursday night in a big bash at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. It all starts at 6 p.m. and local television personalities will model the full official uniforms, including the Salute to Military Sunday/Holiday uniform, modeled by Redstone Arsenal Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts.

“We are going to tip our hats to the military every Sunday,” said Nelson, the team’s CEO and managing partner. “If we have games on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, we’ll wear them then, too.”

Replica jerseys will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at the Trash Pandas Emporium in the Bridge Street Town Centre, next to the Apple Store.

Also in Thursday’s lineup are food trucks, music, “bouncy houses,” T-shirt giveaways …  and more, as Nelson hits another home run.

Nelson and his staff engineered a ground-breaking ceremony last year that drew hundreds of people, a team name release party that packed a local craft brewery and a logo/team colors celebration-fireworks gala that packed Madison’s Dublin Park.

So, naturally, this isn’t going to be your standard uniform unveiling – if there is such a thing.

“We decided to turn it into an ‘experience,’” he said. “It’s also another chance for us to integrate with the community.”

So, continuing its mission of fan involvement, the team is offering fans a chance to purchase authentic inaugural season jerseys and take part in the Authentic Jersey Experience.

“We are really excited about the Authentic Jersey Experience,” Nelson said. “The fans who take part will get their jerseys (next March) in the team locker room and go out onto the field before the players do.

“If you’re a baseball fan, this is what it’s all about.”

The package includes a Rawlings authentic Trash Pandas jersey and a ballpark/locker room experience featuring the use of a player’s locker, batting practice on the field, and a post-game “spread” in the players’ lounge, all courtesy of the Trash Pandas clubhouse manager. The jerseys will be custom made for each fan, including size, name and number.

The Experience will be available for purchase for $199 Thursday night through June 30. It can be purchased online or at the Trash Pandas Emporium after Thursday’s event. On July 1, the cost goes up to $249 and wraps up at the end of the year.

“Rather than just box up the jerseys (for the fans who bought them), we decided to offer them this experience,” Nelson said.

Yep, imagine that, Nelson thinking outside the box.

Navistar to make $125M expansion here; add 145 jobs

Navistar, which has an engine plant in Huntsville, will expand its operations here with the addition of a gear box and engine manufacturing facility.

The Huntsville City Council approved an agreement with the company for the $125 million plant that will create some 145 jobs. Navistar employs 126 workers at its diesel engine plant near Huntsville International Airport. The new facility will be adjacent to the engine plant.

Navistar’s International A26 engine built in Huntsville.
(Navistar Photo)

“The Huntsville facility is an important part of Navistar’s manufacturing footprint, and we look forward to the new opportunities this investment allows,” said Lyndi McMillan, Navistar’s director of business communications. “This proposed expansion would increase the company’s capacity to continue to build its International A26 engine as well as produce its next-generation big-bore diesel engines in Alabama.”

Construction is expected to start next year with completion scheduled for December 2021. It will begin operations by the end of September 2022, according to the agreement.

White Bison Coffee-Twice Daily Opening in Town Madison

MADISON – Combining convenience and coffee, the state’s first Twice Daily-White Bison Coffee store will open in Town Madison this fall.

The new concept store from Nashville-based Tri Star Energy merges Twice Daily’s convenience store and White Bison Coffee’s artisan coffee beverages and fresh, handcrafted café menu.

This will be the first brand-in-brand retail location for Tri Star Energy outside of Tennessee.

“We are thrilled to bring White Bison Coffee and Twice Daily to the people of Alabama,” said Steve Hostetter, CEO of Tri Star Energy. “Whether it’s enjoying coffee with friends, grabbing food on-the-go or fueling up, we’ve got you covered. We pair convenience with quality to accommodate our guests and their busy lives.”

The White Bison Coffee concept offers expertly roasted, handcrafted specialty coffee drinks –– featuring single origin pour-over coffees, cold brew, nitro coffee, espresso beverages and more. Guests can also enjoy freshly baked pastries and handmade breakfast and lunch items including sandwiches, salads and Bistro snack boxes.

In addition to traditional convenience items, Twice Daily’s premium offerings range from grab-and-go snacks, including organic brands, to a selection of staple groceries. There is also a fresh deli case with handmade and healthy options featuring fruits, sandwiches, salads and snacks. Additional offerings include donuts and pastries, freshly prepared breakfast & lunch sandwiches and an extensive beer cave featuring local and craft beers.

For information, visit whitebisonTN.com and twicedaily.com. They can also be followed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Turner Construction Completes Work on Torch Technologies Integration and Prototyping Center

Turner Construction has completed work on Torch Technologies’ Technology Integration and Prototyping Center.

The $10 million facility at 4050 Chris Drive in Huntsville is part of Torch Technologies’ growing campus in South Huntsville and consists of a 35,000-square-foot, two-story office space with an attached 10,000-square-foot high-bay facility. It incorporates offices, labs and open vertical spaces where large pieces of equipment can be installed and tested.

Torch Technologies continues to invest in its South Huntsville campus, supporting the City of Huntsville’s efforts to redevelop South Huntsville, a once vibrant area of town that is seeing an increase in development.

The new Technology Integration and Prototyping Center is located across the street from the Freedom Center, a project Turner completed in 2017 that included the renovation of a 40,000-square-foot, four-story building at 4090 South Memorial Parkway to create Torch Technologies’ current headquarters.

“Our previous experience building defense and aerospace facilities in Huntsville and elsewhere made us ideally suited for this project,” said project executive Lee Holland of Turner’s Huntsville office. “We’re very pleased to continue our partnership with Freedom Real Estate & Capital and Torch Technologies and to help in the continued revival of South Huntsville.”

Collaborating with Turner on the project were Matheny Goldmon Architects AIA; 4Site (civil engineering and landscape architecture); SSOE (mechanical and electrical engineers); and PEC Structural Engineering.

“Having worked with Turner in the past on the construction of the Freedom Center, we knew the outstanding quality of work that the company is capable of delivering,” said Bill Roark of Torch Technologies and Freedom Real Estate. “Our Technology Integration and Prototyping Center will enable Torch to take on more complex projects than before, including developing instruments to advance warhead testing.”

Raytheon, United Technologies ‘Merger of Equals’ Creates Defense-Aerospace Giant

Raytheon and United Technologies have announced an all-stock agreement the two companies call a merger of equals.

It will also create the defense-aerospace giant Raytheon Technologies with an expected $74 billion in annual sales, second only to Boeing’s $101 billion. The transaction website is www.futureofaerospacedefense.com.

Both companies have a significant presence in Huntsville. 

“Today is an exciting and transformational day for our companies, and one that brings with it tremendous opportunity for our future success,” said Tom Kennedy, Raytheon chairman/CEO. “Raytheon Technologies will continue a legacy of innovation with an expanded aerospace and defense portfolio supported by the world’s most dedicated workforce.

“With our enhanced capabilities, we will deliver value to our customers by anticipating and addressing their most complex challenges, while delivering significant value to shareowners.”

The merger of Raytheon, a leading defense company, and United Technologies, a leading aerospace company, comprised of Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, will offer a complementary portfolio of platform-agnostic aerospace and defense technologies.

“The combination of United Technologies and Raytheon will define the future of aerospace and defense,” said Greg Hayes, United Technologies chairman/CEO. “Our two companies have iconic brands that share a long history of innovation, customer focus and proven execution. By joining forces, we will have unsurpassed technology and expanded R&D capabilities that will allow us to invest through business cycles and address our customers’ highest priorities. Merging our portfolios will also deliver cost and revenue synergies that will create long-term value for our customers and shareowners.”

Raytheon plans to consolidate its four businesses into two businesses: Intelligence, Space & Airborne Systems and Integrated Defense & Missile Systems. The new businesses will join Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney to form the four businesses of Raytheon Technologies.

Hayes will be named CEO of Raytheon Technologies and Kennedy will be appointed executive chairman. Hayes will assume the role of chairman and CEO two years after closing. 

Mazda Toyota Pays Tribute to Huntsville’s Space History

As a tribute to Huntsville’s leadership role with the U.S. space program, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A., will name its two assembly lines Apollo and Discovery.

“Thanks to our team members’ creativity and innovative thinking, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to name our two future assembly lines Apollo and Discovery in a nod to our city’s heritage as the birthplace of our nation’s space program,” said Mark Brazeal, vice president for administration at MTM. “The scores of brilliant men and women who worked tirelessly to further mankind’s progress and exploration into the unknown gives our team motivation to add to the Rocket City’s history as a producer of world-class vehicles.”

Apollo was NASA’s program that resulted in 12 American astronauts walking on the moon. The Space Shuttle Discovery completed 39 missions, surpassing the number of flights made by any other orbiter in NASA’s fleet. Discovery also launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit and was the first American spacecraft piloted by a woman, Eileen Collins.

Construction of the MTM plant remains on schedule, with the start of production expected to begin in 2021. Up to 4,000 new jobs will be created and hiring is underway.

In August 2017, Toyota and Mazda announced a collaboration to establish MTM, a $1.6 billion joint venture that will assemble up to 300,000 vehicles annually. The plant is in the Greenbrier area of Huntsville-Limestone County.

New Salon is Right in The Avenue’s Wheelhouse

The Rocket City’s bustling downtown will soon get a hip, new business addition.

“It’s a cool story and there’s a methodology to our madness,” said Johnny Grimes II, owner of the Wheelhouse Salon soon to open at The Avenue.

“We always wanted to open multiple locations. The Huntsville location will be our fourth salon.”

Five-and-a half years ago, the Wheelhouse Salon opened in Homewood with only two stylists and a front desk receptionist. The salon later expanded operations to downtown Birmingham to meet the needs of the medical district and other businesses.

“We now have three locations, 44 employees, and it’s grown pretty quickly,” said Grimes.

Their secret to success?

“We have the administrative component and an incredibly talented staff – all the qualities that it takes to run a successful salon,” Grimes said. “Our business plan is based around people.”

This extends beyond their clients, it’s how they treat their staff, as well. 

When one of their senior stylists moved to Austin, Texas, Wheelhouse took the geographic leap. It was an easy decision to make.

“We had the core components already in place, we already had one of our top stylists there, and Austin was an ideal market for our services,” said Grimes.

The move to Huntsville came into play when senior stylist Jessica Wass and her husband relocated here.

“About a year ago, Jessica came to us and said that her husband was transferred to Huntsville,” said Grimes. “Jessica loved working with us and at the Wheelhouse and planned to make the commute to Birmingham 3 times a week. I told her that she could do it, but it wouldn’t be sustainable over time.

“(His wife and co-owner) Courtney and I started talking about opening a Huntsville location. Huntsville is an exciting, growing market. We have dear friends who live there, and we already had everything in place.”

The targeted opening date is in July.

“The lease has already been signed,” Grimes said. “So, it’s full steam ahead and we’re really excited.”

A Driving Force for Local Entrepreneurs, Urban Engine Turns 4

Called a “driving force” for entrepreneurs, Urban Engine is at the forefront of innovation in the area.

Known for hosting its weekly co-working nights, Urban Engine is more than a social platform, it is a springboard for ideas and a cultural movement that resonates with our growing community of innovators, founders, and leaders.

Housed in Huntsville West, the former West Huntsville Elementary School and now a home to start-up businesses, Urban Engine helps to develop high-growth potential businesses and generate the workforce needed to support these endeavors.

And Urban Engine has a lot to celebrate: Four years of a solid upward growth trajectory.

And what better way to celebrate than to host a catered party in the “lunchroom” at Huntsville West and to invite hundreds of sponsors, startup success stories, the local community, and of course, the Mayor.

The fourth anniversary event highlighted Urban Engine’s success story.

Starting off small, Urban Engine began with programs and resources for those who are interested in technological innovation. Since then, there have been more 200 Co-Working Nights, 37 Founder Stories have been shared, more than 1,000 collaborative learning workshops have been presented, and nearly 100 new business ideas have been propelled forward.

Since 2016, more than 20 startups have been supported by Urban Engine and close to 10,000 people have benefited from its programming and services.

“It’s been great, celebrating four years at Huntsville West,” said Urban Engine founder Brendon Malone. “In 2015, I had a dream to give back to the city, to give businesses the best possible start, and to offer classes. We hit the ground running.

“There are now 175 people working in this building that are partners with Urban Engine, in support of the business ecosystem.”

Ashley Ryals, Demetrius Malone, Mayor Tommy Battle, Toni Eberhart, Sameer Singhal. (Photo by Steve Babin)

When introducing Urban Engine Director Toni Eberhart, Demetrius Malone, Huntsville West’s community manager, said, “Always in the best possible mood, one of the most supportive and encouraging people, Toni is our dreamer, a cheerleader, and a good friend to many.”

As she took the stage, Eberhart laughed and said, “I didn’t know how great I was until Demetrius spoke.”

Eberhart saluted the sponsors of the not-for-profit organization, saying “it would not be possible without our partners.”

“Our sponsors are in front of the Urban Engine community saying that they believe in doing business with startups, that they invest in professional development and growth opportunities for our workplace to keep them on the edge of innovation and that they value the Urban Engine as a critical partner in cultivating a desirable culture and climate for startups to launch and grow. How it’s made an impact would not be possible without the support of sponsors, Intuitive Research Technology, Brandon Kruse, and the team.”

She said Huntsville’s environment is conducive to businesses flourishing.

“People ask me, ‘Why Huntsville?’ I believe it’s because anything is possible here,” Eberhart said. “The landscape is totally open to incredible things. Businesses can launch and grow and do things in our local market that would be so difficult to break into on the coasts.

“Investment opportunities are possible. Educational opportunities are possible; career changes are possible, and everyone here is Ultra-supportive. Urban Engine is a cheerleader for these possibilities, and it is how we propel ideas forward at the core.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle delivered the keynote address to a packed audience.

“We have seen the vision, the driving force, making it a reality,” said Battle. “We need to make sure our city thinks outside the box. We are a city on the move, with 25,000 jobs added over the last year. 15,000 of those have been in high tech.

“The end result is that you’ve made this count. We’re more competitive, there’s more jobs, thank you for the job you are doing. Huntsville is a place that’s made for the future. The job we do today sets us up for the next 10 years. What you’re doing today will be the technology of tomorrow.”

For more information, visit www.UrbanEngine.org

All the Bells and Whistles: $38.2 Million Luxury Apartment Development Planned for Balch Road

MADISON — Madison is about to see a $38.2 million, 258-unit luxury apartment development.

Florence-based Bobo Development Group plans to break ground in July on the project, which will be across Balch Road from the Huntsville Hospital Heart Center.

Construction is expected to take about 19 months and is being handled by Birmingham-based Capstone Building Corp., according to James Bobo II, chief executive officer of Bobo Development Group.

According to Bobo, the median household income for this particular area is $115,000 and those families didn’t have a lot of options when it came to high-end apartments with tech-based, future-forward, upscale amenities.

“One of the things I noticed was there was a lot of class C and class B products, and some older products that didn’t have the amenities that, number one, this area can support and, number two, that this area is looking for,” Bobo said. “That’s one of the gaps (the development) is going to be filling.”

The apartments will feature electric charging stations for cars and Dormakaba electronic entry systems for each unit, which will allow residents to enter their homes or gain access to the clubhouse by using their phone or a keycard.

“We are trying to get away from physical keys,” Bobo said.

For professionals on the go, the complex will also have a Parcel Pending electronic locker system at the clubhouse. There will be cold-storage capabilities so residents can have their groceries delivered and not have to worry about them spoiling under the unforgiving Alabama sun. Residents will simply have a QR code sent to their phone when an item arrives and all they have to do is stop by the locker and scan the code to collect their item.

Inside the apartments, residents can expect to see granite countertops, tile backsplashes, high-end floors, and tile showers.

“Huntsville is what I call a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) metro and I feel like they are not getting what they want, as far as some of these tech pieces at where they are living,” Bobo said. “So, I feel like some of the amenities that I mentioned earlier are going to fill a gap in what that particular type of demographic is looking for.”

Lumberjacks, Flannel Ribbon-Cutting Mark Rainy Opening of Duluth Trading Co.

MADISON — Duluth Trading Co., known for its durable, high-quality apparel and iconic TV commercials, opened its first Alabama store in weather befitting the company’s products.

Despite the rain, local dignitaries and excited patrons gathered in front of the store for the cutting of a flannel ribbon, followed by Timberworks traveling Lumberjack Show.

Duluth Trading Co. is famous for its apparel and TV commercials. (Photo by Tina Simon)

“We had a lot of people ask us whether the rain put a damper on our grand opening, but actually, bad weather fits our brand for practical, functional clothing,” said store manager Christopher Sailor. “Our customers will tell you a little rain never slows us down or affects the enthusiasm our customers have for our merchandise.

“In spite of the intermittent drizzle, we had a steady flow of customers throughout the day and we had a lot of people telling us how excited they were to have a Duluth Trading Company store here in the Valley.”

The Minnesota-based company was founded in 1989 as a catalog and, later, successful Internet-only retailer. They began selectively opening stores in 2016 and today have 54 stores across the U.S.

Though the store at Town Madison is the first in the state, Sailor said Duluth Trading already has a large concentration of customers in the area.

“Customer demand brought us to the Madison area,” he said “Madison is an expanding research, technology and high-tech manufacturing center, which fits Duluth’s solution-based culture and products.

Wood chips fly during the lumberjack show.

“We’re very excited to bring our unique retail experience, apparel and accessories to the loyal and hard-working Duluth customers in the area.”

Perched on a side street carved out of Graphics Drive and appropriately named Angry Beaver Way, the Duluth Trading Co. store is the first of many retail tenants to open on the old Intergraph campus section of Town Madison.

In addition to the large and enthusiastic customer base Duluth has here, Sailor said the location near the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium is part of a broader regional draw for the store.

“Our new neighbors and visitors [across North Alabama and Tennessee] can depend on quality, unique products and a retail experience that puts customer service first,” he said. “Duluth is known for its high-quality, solution-based casual wear and workwear for men and women, but in addition to apparel, we also carry travel bags, dog gear, apothecary and more.

“We bring humor to every day universal truths and offer an outstanding customer experience, which really sets us apart.”