Taste of Huntsville Holding ‘Dine on 9/29,’ an All-Day Eating-Out Celebration

For 40 years, hundreds of Huntsville-area restaurants and pubs have gathered at the Von Braun Center on a Tuesday evening in late September to enjoy The Taste of Huntsville, an event that has become known as “a spectacle for your taste buds.”

The Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association is calling for an all-day “Dine on 9/29” celebration this year. The event is a show of community support for the area’s restaurant and hospitality businesses, which have taken the COVID-19 pandemic like a pie in the face over the past few months. 

“Dine on 9/29” calls on residents to enjoy socially distanced indoor dining, patio dining, take out, or delivery from restaurants across the Tennessee Valley. Folks are urged to enjoy breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and even before-and-after cocktails from area restaurants.

“In my more than 15 years in the hospitality industry, I never could have imagined a pandemic that would devastate our industry like COVID-19 has,” said Desirea Stewart, president of Huntsville-Madison County Hospitality Association. “Our industry may be hurting, but we are strong and open for business. It is important now more than ever, to show our support for our local restaurants, hotels, attractions, and venues. 

“We look forward to our entire region dining on September 29th to support our hospitality family.”

Taste of Huntsville 2020 Chair Lindsey Pattillo Keane said local restaurants are a joyful respite during a stressful and challenging 2020. 

“Canceling our Taste of Huntsville 2020 on September 29th was for the best; however, we are thrilled to support our hospitality industry in an impactful and different way,” she said. “We invite all of the Tennessee Valley to ‘Dine on 9/29’, to offer a surge of support for our restaurant community.”

Rather than including only those venues able to cater food into the VBC, “Dine 9/29” will include every restaurant in North Alabama, and patrons are encouraged to tag the restaurant location and share photos from their dining experience utilizing the #dineon929 hashtag on the Facebook Event Link

The HMCHA will award nine gift cards for $29 each to participants who tag #dineon929 throughout the day on their Facebook page.

With more than 50 restaurants and beverage vendors participating every year, Taste of Huntsville draws more than 1,000 attendees to the fall event where they feature food, desserts, beverages, and novelty snacks from across the Tennessee Valley. 

 

Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

Construction of Mixed-Use Development on Governors Drive Set for Early 2021

Developers of a mixed-use “I-565 gateway” to Huntsville’s Westside have released a preliminary rendering of the project and anticipate a “first quarter 2021” construction start.

Preliminary rendering of the planned mixed-use development on Governors Drive in Huntsville’s Westside. (The Beach Company)

The property, some 13 acres of land on Governors Drive near the intersections with 13th and 14th streets, will be developed by The Beach Company, a Charleston, S.C.-based development company.

The multibuilding community will feature 342 multifamily units, including 14 townhomes; 9,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space; and 48,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Residential amenities will include a pool, a fitness area, a clubhouse and ample green space with a dog park.

The planned project will complement the neighboring Stovehouse complex and will feature pedestrian walkways between the two developments.

“This community addition will help continue the momentum of growth along Governors Drive through increased walkability and connectivity,” said Ned Miller, development manager with The Beach Company. “The project was thoughtfully designed to enhance the experience of the growing number of residents and businesses expanding to Huntsville’s flourishing Westside.”

Little Richard Mural Unveiled at MidCity – A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom!

Good Golly, Miss Molly!

Hoping to avoid “slippin’ and slidin’,” friends, officials and family gathered Tuesday night in MidCity District for a special unveiling.

The crowd braved the threat of rain to celebrate the colorful tribute that will serve to forever immortalize the life and music of Richard Wayne Penniman, famously known to the world as “Little Richard.”

Hosted by the MidCity Development team and with the blessing of the Penniman family, the unveiling of artist Logan Tanner’s vibrant mural in a formal presentation will allow Little Richard’s story to live on in the form of a visual masterpiece.

“It is a special moment for the Penniman family,” said David Person, the family’s representative. “On behalf of the family, I would like to thank all of you for being here tonight.”

Oakwood University President Dr. Les Pollard and Dr. Carlton Byrd, senior pastor of Oakwood University Church, spoke of Richard, his faith, and his strong connection to the college and to Huntsville.

“Richard had a special place in this city” said Dr. Byrd. “He was a person you would never ever forget. And if he knew you, he never forgot you.”

In 1957, Little Richard answered a higher calling. A calling which brought him to Huntsville.

A larger-than-life mural at Wahlburgers in Huntsville’s MidCity District celebrates the larger-than-life persona of Little Richard. (Photo/Steve Babin)

It was here Richard enrolled at Oakwood University to study for the ministry. Richard was inspired by E.C. Ward, then pastor of Oakwood. Richard entered to learn, and he departed to serve by becoming a traveling evangelist.

As an ordained minister, he officiated the weddings of Tom Petty, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, and Little Steven Van Zandt.

As an entertainer with his glamorous sequin and rhinestone studded capes and suits, Richard was quite the visual showman as well as an exceptional performer. He was in the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as his career spanned seven decades. He was an inspiration to performers such as James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, and Tina Turner.

Driving in from the east, the 40-foot-wide-by-30-foot-tall mural adorning the side of Wahlburgers at MidCity is impossible to miss.

Capturing the essence of Richard’s high-energy antics, the mural presents Little Richard at the peak of his popularity in the late 1950s. The colors are bold and bright, with contrasting hues of orange, yellow, teal, turquoise, with a touch of purple, all serving to convey the liveliness of Richard’s performances. The projection mapping display by LED Orange at the end of the presentation, brought the mural to life – in synch with his music.

It was said that Richard’s charisma also was the magnet that brought people to the word of God.

He was laid to rest at Oakwood Memorial Gardens Cemetery but his spirit will live on at MidCity.

 

 

 

 

Banking Industry Sees Digital, Mobile Services Increase During Pandemic

With the onset of the global pandemic, businesses rolled up their collective sleeves and grimly faced the arduous task of shifting gears.

And financial institutions quickly found themselves in the spotlight. When it comes to continued access to money, whether it be a loan, savings, or one’s paycheck, everyone feels the effect when that access is hindered.

The banking industry with its customers faced technological hurdles and economic hardships. But banks stepped up with solutions to protect their customers and employees as well as keeping themselves insulated against financial catastrophe – such as the crash of 2008.

“The current COVID pandemic focused a spotlight on the importance of providing uninterrupted services to all customers, including, personal, business and government,” said Tim Singleton, senior commercial lending manager for Bank Independent. “In many ways, the banking industry became hyper-vigilant preparing for multiple unknown economic factors.”

If one thing is certain, COVID-19 has been an accelerant for increased consumer usage of digital banking technologies.

Although most banks were already invested in digitalized and mobile banking services, the pandemic quickly prompted many of non-to-low-end digital users into the age of mobile banking.

Many banks, which had mobile banking tools and were already maintaining digital relationships with customers, had to quickly adjust to a sudden increase in demand for mobile services.

According to data collected by Fidelity National Information Services, there was a 145 percent spike in the average daily traffic for mobile banking platforms April 15, as compared with the March’s numbers. Along with the uptick in traffic, new registrations for mobile banking apps jumped 207 percent.

“Wells Fargo has seen increased digital and mobile logins, mobile deposit volume, checks deposited using mobile devices and online wire transfers since COVID-19 started,” said Stephen Norris, regional bank president for Wells Fargo. “All of this translated into more digital banking access and transactions than ever before.”

For Wells Fargo, those numbers are significant when compared 2019’s second quarter statistics. For April 2020, digital logins were up 21.5 percent, mobile deposit dollar volume was up 108.3 percent, and online wires transactions were up 49.6 percent. There were also 31.7 million checks deposited using mobile devices, which was a 35.9 increase over a year ago.

Naturally, there were learning curves and the need for increased bandwidth capacity.

“Our IT Department ensured an uninterrupted workflow for our team members who suddenly found themselves working remotely,” said Singleton. “The robust features built into Sync Mobile and Online found popularity with our customers.”

Bank Independent’s loan processing teams shifted gears by using the digital signature platform, in lieu of traditional signatures to close documents.

Since the pandemic exploded, customers have significantly changed how they do their banking. According to an FIS survey, 45 percent of consumers said they started using some form of mobile wallet following the pandemic’s onset. Once comfortable with usage, it is seen as another option, in addition to the face-to-face banking.

However, there are customers who prefer the return of “brick and mortar” banking.

“I think the industry will scramble to find the balance between digital and personal,” said Singleton. “Our customers have voiced their desire for things to return to ‘normal.’

“We have a plan in place that will accommodate our customers in a manner that is safe and secure for both the customer and our team members.”

 

 

 

On your marks. Get Set. Finish! Athleticism Not Required for Annual .12K Microthon

Butler Green, that .12 kilometer stretch of greenspace at Campus 805 between Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer Brewing, is the site of a most unusual “race.”

The annual Rocket City .12K Microthon steps off Oct. 18. The event is a benefit for the special needs arts program at Merrimack Hall.

And you do not have to be in athletic shape to compete!

In fact, if you can run huffing and puffing, walk upright, crawl on hands and knees, skip like the day is young, or roll triumphantly across the finish line, then you will receive a t-shirt; a finisher’s medal (bottle opener); a Golden Ticket to food and beverage at any participating Campus 805 brewery or restaurant; and a “0.12K” bragging rights sticker that says, “Hey I’m better than you.”

Run in waves, the races and overall festive atmosphere begins runs from 2-4 p.m. Registration cut off is 4 p.m. Oct. 15. To register, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/Huntsville/RocketCityMicrothon)

Three years ago, Lesley and Darryl Burnette started the Rocket City Microthon in honor of their daughter Kate, who was a fan of Merrimack’s programs during her short life.

Merrimack provides visual and performing arts education and cultural activities to children and adults with special needs. In its first two years, the .12K has raised $40,000 for the center and is coordinated completely by volunteers.

There is a $15 Race Fee for the .12K race and other packages include:

  • The Golden Ticket Stand-Alone Package for $15
  • The Runners Package for $25
  • The Slackers Package for $50 does not require any physical effort whatsoever, and yet you get all the swag of crossing the finish line
  • You may add on a Beer Drinker’s Package with two extra Golden Tickets for $15

All county and state COVID-19 guidelines will be in place, including the starting line which is marked with six-foot spacing. The Campus 805 businesses will also observe social distancing in the food and drink lines.

 

Flu Season Could Impact Health Care Resources in Wake of Pandemic

The impending flu season could strain an already stretched health care system.

At last week’s COVID-19 update, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said the flu season could impact the pressures put on the area’s healthcare system.

“I do want to encourage everybody to start thinking about getting your flu shot,’’ he said. “Those will be available soon. It’s going to be very hard if people don’t get the flu shot and do get the flu.

“When they show up at any health care facility, we’re going to assume you have COVID until we know you don’t have COVID. So it will use up a lot of tests, take up a lot of your time, you’ll have to be quarantined, et cetera. My best advice is to get the flu shot.”

Meanwhile, the federal government reported it’s close to developing a vaccine for COVID-19 to be widely available in 2021. State officials are starting preparations for providing vaccines when they become available.

“We’ve got a large number of people from Madison County on a call (Tuesday),” Spillers said. “We’re going to be working with the state and probably over the next, I’d say within two weeks we’ll have a good plan. Long before the vaccine’s here, we’ll have a good plan not only for how we’re going to distribute, who we’re going to test, some idea of how many we think we might get, those types of things.”

As of Monday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 131,405 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 2,292 deaths. Those totals for Madison County were 7,267 and 67.

 

COVID-19 Causes Two High School Football Teams to Forfeit Games

Madison County officials announced last Wednesday a two-week trendline for the coronavirus had remained flat for the past month with around 40 new positive tests per week. The announcement was made at the latest COVID-19 news briefing.

Two days later, the coronavirus splashed back into local headlines with Madison City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols announcing Bob Jones would forfeit two football games because nine players had tested positive.

The Patriots forfeited a region game to Florence and will also forfeit this week’s non-region game against Auburn while the team shuts down activities. The second forfeit will leave Bob Jones with records of 2-3 overall and 0-2 in Class 7A, Region 4.

The school system also delayed Monday’s expected reopening of on-campus learning for one week. There were reportedly 15 positive cases and 170 students and staff quarantined across the system.

However, Bob Jones isn’t the only football team sidelined by COVID-19.

Monday, days after Madison County Schools students returned to campus, system spokesman Tim Hall said Hazel Green would shut down its football season for 14 days after three players tested positive and 15 other Trojans are in quarantine. Hazel Green is off this week, but will forfeit a region game to Muscle Shoals Sept. 25 and will have records of 2-4 overall and 0-4 in Class 6A, Region 8.

Huntsville City Schools, which reported nine positive cases with 114 quarantined among its students and staff, also reopened campuses Monday to many of the system’s students.

 

Regions Grant Gives KTECH’s Virtual Reality Workforce Initiative Real-Life Implications

Virtual reality goes real-time at KTECH thanks to a $42,000 grant from the Regions Foundation, the nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank. The money will fund virtual reality equipment for KTECH’s new Virtual Reality Workforce Development Training initiative.

Founder and CEO Lee Marshall formed KTECH as the workforce training and development arm of her Kids to Love Foundation. Because workforce readiness is a top priority for Regions Bank, its initiatives naturally align with KTECH.

“It has never been more important to connect with people wherever they are,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “That’s exactly what VR does, and what KTECH is doing. This is about empowering students with new tools to help them prepare for successful and rewarding careers.”

The grant is an extension of Region’s work to prepare people in Huntsville and Madison County for advanced manufacturing and high-tech jobs.

KTECH introduced the use of virtual reality technology this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a 3D Virtual Tour recruitment tool. Students were able to explore KTECH’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) facilities while living under stay-at-home orders.

It introduced a new way of seeing what KTECH is about and gave virtual viewers an up-close look at instructors demonstrating how the equipment works. It also shows the instructors conducting KTECH training, so it puts the student right there in the workplace and classroom.

KTECH has been on the edge of innovation. It targets foster kids who have aged out of the foster care system, and also is a training vehicle for anyone in the community who can use the skills, including veterans.

They offer hands-on, interactive, one-on-one instruction and certification training in mechatronics, robotics, soldering and solid edge modeling. All four skills are in high demand in the advanced manufacturing industry.

After students receive their certification, KTECH connects its graduates with good-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Now VR is incorporated into the Mechatronics classes, further enhancing the student’s classroom experience in preparation for future careers.

VR technology creates a 3D simulated environment that prepares students for a range of vocational and tech-based careers. Students can both learn a STEAM skill and experience the job environment in which they will find themselves upon completion. It supplements in-person training with remote learning from anywhere.

“Students use VR headsets to experience face-to-face interactions with realistic avatars for a more immersive experience in learning than workers have ever been able to do before,” said Marshall. “During COVID-19, we knew we had to pivot to propel our students forward, and Virtual Reality was the obvious choice.

“Cutting-edge virtual reality technology is used throughout KTECH and helps students pursue self-guided discovery in areas such as mechatronics, hands-on skills development, and more.”

According to several career-oriented websites, VR is ranked in the top five fastest growing technology careers, alongside cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

“We are thankful the Regions Foundation sees how this Virtual Reality technology will advance our KTECH students,” said Marshall. “Putting state-of-the-art technology into the palm of a student’s hand, no matter where they are, is critical to the learning and workforce training process. Adapting and expanding digital offerings allows KTECH to grow in a ‘post-COVID’ world, preparing the workforce of the future.”

Sean Kelly, Huntsville market executive for Regions Bank. said, as the local economy recovers from COVID-19, more companies will discover the positive workforce climate available in Huntsville.

“KTECH and the Virtual Reality program will serve as important components to the success of the Tennessee Valley,” said Kelly. “We all benefit – individuals, businesses and communities – when we ensure the workforce is trained, prepared and ready to succeed.”

 

TVA Offers STEM Grants for K-12 Tennessee Valley Educators

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority’s STEM Classroom Grant Program is taking applications with $800,000 in funding available for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics learning projects in classrooms and schools across the Tennessee Valley.

The education program is sponsored by TVA in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers Inc., a TVA retiree organization, with TVA contributing $500,000 and BVI contributing $300,000 to the effort.

The 2020-2021 STEM grant application is open through Oct. 16. Grants may be requested in amounts up to $5,000 each. Eligible applicants are teachers or school administrators in public or private schools, grades K-12. Schools must be in the TVA service area and receive power from a local power company served by TVA.

Grant application submission and review will be managed by the independent Tennessee STEM Innovation Network.

“TVA recognizes that excellence in education is the key to developing our future workforce in the Valley and helping communities attract great jobs for the next generation,” said Jeannette Mills, TVA executive vice president and chief external relations officer. “This program directly supports teachers in advancing STEM activities in their classrooms to develop a talent pipeline for TVA, its customers, and the region.”

Last year’s program awarded $600,000 in grants to schools across the Tennessee Valley. The competitive grant program gives preference to applications that explore TVA’s primary areas of focus: energy, environment, economic and career development, and community problem solving. In addition, this year educators can also apply for a grant to support pandemic response or virtual learning materials to assist in STEM education.

For information and to apply, visit www.tvastem.com.