Toyota Engine Plant Has 150 Job Openings in Production and Maintenance

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama is recruiting for 150 positions to meet immediate production and skilled maintenance needs.

The job openings are part of the Huntsville engine plant’s $830 million expansion, originally announced in 2019. In a news release, the company said assembly lines will increase annual engine production to 900,000 with 1,800 total employees by the end of 2021.

“Toyota is looking for outstanding individuals who like to problem solve and work as part of a team,” said April
Mason, TMMAL general manager. “Manufacturing experience for production positions is not required because we train employees on our processes using Toyota Way principles. Skilled maintenance jobs require experience or an associate’s degree in industrial maintenance.”

Starting wages are $17.38 an hour for production employees and $26.31 for skilled maintenance, with an additional premium for 2nd shift. All positions include health insurance and paid time off.

To apply online visit (for production) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-production and (for skilled maintenance) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-skilled-maintenance.

Toyota employees represent various backgrounds and previous job experience.

“Our focus on diversity stimulates creative solutions for continuously improving our operations,” said Mason. “We need more people to join our incredible team.”

TMMAL was recently named Supplier of the Year by the Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association and is Toyota’s only facility globally to produce 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines under one roof.

Virtuoso Living to Build Three-story Clubhouse

A west Huntsville development is stepping up its game in the housing industry.

JCF Living, developers of Virtuoso Living, will build a three-story clubhouse – the first of  its kind in the Southeast. This state of the art building will be in addition to its current clubhouse. 

The clubhouse will feature an entertainment area, rooftop lounge, beautiful city views, a resort-style pool, a luxury fitness center, and a coffee bar.

The unique community considers its apartment units as “Housements” – the patented concept features one-story buildings with private driveways, curbside mailboxes and front and back yards, among others. The community includes a resort style pool, community activity center, and on-site maintenance. There are some 400 Housements planned for Virtuoso.

The community is on Rockcrest Drive, just off Capshaw Road near Providence Main Street and Research Park Boulevard.

“We are excited to work with Huntsville on this elaborate project,” said John Fitzmaurice, CEO of JCF Living. “Coming  into this, I knew Housements would be a game changer for the rental  industry, but I never could have anticipated the demand for more Housements at such a rapid rate.

“We want to build a rental community unlike any other, and I believe this is the catapult to move us forward.”

The new clubhouse will include three floors of activities. It will feature an entertainment  area, rooftop lounge, beautiful city views, a resort-style pool, a luxury  fitness center, and a coffee bar close to the leasing office. 

“Huntsville is an innovative city, and we’re honored to bring such an  innovative concept here,” Fitzmaurice said. “If we are going to make a long-term impact on  the rental industry as a whole, we need to keep moving forward. This is  just the beginning for us.”

Huntsville Lands No. 15 Spot in ‘US News’ 150 Best Places to Live List

Buoyed by its U.S. News ranking as the most affordable place to live in the country and the best place to live in Alabama, Huntsville has been named one of the best places to live in the country in the news magazine’s latest issue.

The Rocket City landed at No. 15 in U.S. News150 Best Places to Live list.  You can read Huntsville’s entry at https://realestate.usnews.com/places/alabama/huntsville

U.S. News analyzed 150 metro areas in the United States to find the best places to live based on quality of life and the job market in each metro area, as well as the value of living there and people’s desire to live there.

Huntsville is ranked No. 15 in best places to live; No. 78 in best places to retire; No. 1 in cheapest places to live and best places to live in Alabama and No. 23 in most dangerous places.

 

 

 

Huntsville Rent Increase Among Highest in the Country

Huntsville’s growth is putting a strain on the housing market with a limited number of properties in its inventory.

Now, a new analysis shows rental prices are rising above the national average during the global pandemic. In fact, Huntsville had the seventh-highest increase at 10.5 percent, according to the analysis by AdvisorSmith.

The numbers showed:

  • The rent increase in Huntsville is 11 times higher than the average increase nationally.

  • The weighted average rent in Huntsville jumped from $1,004 in 2019 to $1,068 in September 2020.

  • Huntsville had a higher percentage rent increase than Hoover (6 percent for No. 69) and Mobile (5.9 percent for 75th).

The pandemic has created major changes for Americans in personal and professional lives. One place where the pandemic has caused waves is in the residential rental market, with dramatic increases and decreases in rents in certain communities in the country.

For its analysis, AdvisorSmith examined the trends in rental prices in more than 500 U.S. cities to determine where rents are rising and falling the most.

Rent prices for studios, one-,two-, three-, and four-bedroom rental units in September 2020 were examined and compared to average rents in 2019. For each city, AdvisorSmith determined the weighted average increase or decrease in rents based upon each city’s composition of rental housing units. They then ranked the top 100 cities where rents are rising and falling the most.

The analysis showed rents increased an average of 0.9 percent during the study period. However, the range of rent changes was very wide, with the largest decrease being -34.7 percent, and the largest increase being 12.5 percent, as Americans made new choices about where to live based on shifts in the economy.

The cities where rents rose the most in the past nine months include cities on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas, as well as some midsize cities.

The top 10 cities are: Stockbridge, Ga., 12.5 percent; Avondale, Ariz., 11.6 percent; Spokane Valley, Wash., 11.3 percent; Chino, Calif., 10.8 percent; East Point, Ga., 10.7 percent; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 10.7 percent; HUNTSVILLE, 10.5 percent; Ridgeland, Miss., 10.4 percent; Goodyear, Ariz., 10 percent; Augusta, Ga., 9.6 percent.

Rents fell dramatically in some of the nation’s most expensive cities for renters. The top three spots were taken by cities in Texas and North Dakota with economies focused on oil and energy. With the price of oil plunging due to a reduction in driving during the coronavirus pandemic, demand for housing in these communities has fallen substantially.

Also highly represented in the top 25 were cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, the Boston metropolitan area, and a few suburbs of Washington, D.C. Many of these cities, which have some of the highest rents in the country, contain professional and technical workers, many of who have been working from home for much of the year.

Loan Forgiveness FAQs by SBA Answer Some Questions, but Others Remain

The Small Business Administration and the Department of Treasury recently issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions about Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.

Below is a summary of the key information from the released FAQs:

  • The FAQs clarified that C-corporation owner-employee health and retirement benefits are eligible PPP expenses in addition to their $100,000 salary cap. Eligible owner-employee retirement is capped at 2.5 months of the 2019 amount.
  • The FAQs also clarified that S-corporation owner-employee retirement benefits are allowed; however, no health benefits are eligible in addition to the $100,000 salary cap.
  • Retirement and health benefits for non-owners are eligible if “paid or incurred.” There is no cap on retirement benefits for non-owners like there is for owners.
  • Retirement and health benefits cannot be prepaid unless they are “incurred” during the covered period.
  • Dental and vision insurance is included under health insurance and is an eligible payroll cost.
  • For self-employed borrowers, no owner-employee health or retirement benefits are allowed in addition to the $100,000 salary cap.

The FAQs clarified several questions for borrowers about PPP; however, there are still many questions to be answered. Below, we discuss some of the outstanding questions surrounding PPP and key considerations for those waiting to apply for loan forgiveness.

Will pending legislation be approved?

There is pending legislation that could change the loan forgiveness process. Two senators introduced the “Continuing Small Business Recovery and PPP Act” on July 27, 2020. The bill, which reportedly has bipartisan support, includes several key features; it would:

  • Allow a potential automatic forgiveness feature for loans of $150,000 or less, along with a simplified process for loans up to $2 million;
  • Allow borrowers to choose any covered period ending by Dec. 31, 2020 of at least eight weeks;
  • Allow borrowers to include new qualified expenses; and
  • Provide a second round of PPP loan draws for borrowers with a 50 percent or more decrease in revenues.

Are borrowers’ eligible expenses limited to their PPP loan proceeds?

Why is this important? If the loan forgiveness application does not limit the eligible expenses to the borrowers’ PPP loan proceeds, borrowers would be able to include additional eligible expenses on their loan forgiveness application, which could significantly reduce any “penalties” associated with the full-time employee equivalent (FTE) reduction limitation.

For example, a borrower receives a PPP loan of $1,000,000. The borrower incurs $2,000,000 of eligible PPP expenses during the covered period; however, the borrower has reduced FTE employees by 50 percent. Under this scenario, if the borrower can include $2,000,000 in eligible expenses, there would theoretically be no reduction in loan forgiveness. Alternatively, if the borrower’s eligible expenses are limited to the loan proceeds of $1,000,000, there could potentially be a reduction in loan forgiveness of $500,000. Additional guidance is needed from the SBA to address this issue.

Will a tax deduction be allowed for expenses paid with PPP funds that were forgiven?

The IRS initially issued notice 2020-32 that stated a tax deduction would not be allowed for the expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds that are forgiven. Congress has mentioned an intent to change this with legislation, but it has not happened to date.

If Congress doesn’t pass legislation to make these expenses deductible, borrowers are presented with a timing issue on their tax returns. What happens when a borrower applies for loan forgiveness before Dec. 31, 2020, but receives a decision approving loan forgiveness in 2021? Presumably, the expenses would be deductible on the borrower’s 2020 and would become nondeductible in 2021. Guidance is needed from the IRS on this timing issue and whether an amended 2020 income tax return would need to be filed.

What will the SBA audit process look like for PPP loans over $2,000,000?

This has easily been one of the biggest questions since the SBA issued FAQ 31 in April. We still don’t know what this review process will look like. The SBA is expected to release their audit policies and procedures for loans over $2,000,000. It would be advantageous for borrowers to have an understanding of the SBA’s audit process before they submit their loan forgiveness applications.

(From Warren Averett)

 

 

Huntsville-based Toyota Alabama Named Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association Supplier of the Year

The Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association recently named Toyota Alabama as a 2020 Supplier of the Year. The award recognizes manufacturing suppliers for outstanding achievements in areas such as innovation, quality, safety and commitment to the community.  

“Toyota’s incredible response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has gone above and beyond to address the  situation, develop plans and quickly adapt to changes,” said Ron Davis, president of AAMA. “They engaged  with their peers from across the globe to develop creative solutions to ensure a safe work environment for  employees. Toyota then shared this knowledge across the state to help schools and businesses also prepare  for return.”  

Additionally, to support local healthcare facilities and first responders with personal protective equipment, the Huntsville plant produced and distributed 10,000 commercial grade face shields.  

“Our ability to produce face shields in mass quantities is a testament to our incredibly skilled workforce and passion for sharing knowledge to meet community needs,” said Larry Deutscher, Toyota Alabama general manager of Manufacturing Support.  

The Huntsville plant produces approximately 700,000 (4-cylinder, V6 and V8) engines per year to Toyota vehicle assembly plants across North America; it is the only Toyota plant to make all three engines. In 2021, production will increase to more than 900,000 engines per year upon completion of the plant’s  latest expansion, bringing its total investment to $1.2 billion.  

To help inspire the next generation for a career in STEM-based fields, Toyota also recently launched a virtual  education hub at www.TourToyota.com with an immersive experience and chance to visit U.S. manufacturing facilities. The hub includes a series of free STEM-based lessons and curriculum through Toyota USA Foundation partners, virtual field trips and more.  

South Huntsville Main Wins Main Street Alabama Awards of Excellence

For its work in helping improve the business environment of south Huntsville, the South Huntsville Main Business Association received five Awards of Excellence for 2019-2020 projects from Main Street Alabama.

Main Street Alabama celebrates local program successes with the  announcement of the seventh Annual Awards of Excellence. The awards honor projects and individuals that  make tremendous impacts in their respective communities.  

“The Main Street Alabama model of community reviltization has been an enormous success in the South Huntsville district,” said South Huntsville Main Executive Director Bekah Schmidt. “For the past two years, our volunteers, businesses and supporters have worked diligently to execute our mission of creating a vibrant South Huntsville.
“Receiving five Awards of Excellence is an incredible honor. We are proud of all of our award winners, and grateful for their contribution to the South Huntsville Main Program.”
Main Street Alabama focuses on bringing jobs, dollars and people back to Alabama’s historic  communities. Economic development is at the heart of our efforts to revitalize downtowns and  neighborhood commercial districts.

“It’s an honor to recognize outstanding community projects, leaders and volunteers,” said Mary  Helmer, president of Main Street of Alabama. “The awards represent the good work being done in  Main Street Alabama communities, including those that were initiated after the pandemic, sparking  creative ways to promote and help struggling businesses.” 

The awards were: 

Main Street Hero Award: Redstone Federal Credit Union 

Redstone Federal Credit Union has been instrumental in the South Huntsville Main program as one of the first organizations to step up and support revitalization efforts.

In 2019, RFCU announced a joint program with South Huntsville Main to provide $20,000 in  matching grant funds through the newly created Façade Improvement Grant Program, having a total  economic impact of $184,000 on South Huntsville, and assisting small businesses in improving their  store fronts.  

Excellence in Placemaking, COVID-19 Related: Graduation Mural 

COVID-19 delayed and altered graduation for seniors and the demolition of Haysland Square and owners John and Jimmy Hays wanted to do something special to celebrate the class  of 2020.

The family donated money for South Huntsville Main to commission local south Huntsville artist Sarah Finlen to paint a temporary graduation mural on the south side of Haysland Square. John also paid for photographer Jeff White to take graduation pictures of every senior at Grissom High  School. The temporary mural went viral and has been a popular site for visitors. 

Excellence in Business Development: Possibilities Tour 

To capitalize on the interest in opening a business in South Huntsville, the Economic Vitality Committee created a Possibilities Tour. The Possibilities Tour was designed to connect potential business owners with available spaces. On March 5, some 35 potential business owners and city leaders rode the Huntsville trolley to visit nearly a dozen locations. 

Excellence in Business Promotion: The Cookie Crunch 

Instead of hosting a traditional holiday open house, South Huntsville business owners Jennifer Mullins and Pam Burkholz of Interiors by Consign, rallied the businesses to do something outside the box. The idea emerged to create a Holiday “Cookie Crunch.”

Each participating business kicked off its holiday sales last Nov. 13 and made homemade Christmas cookies. The public was invited to sample the cookies at each participating location and vote for their favorite cookie. In addition, there was a drawing from each business for participating customers. There will be a socially distant cookie crunch this year on Nov. 14. 

Excellence in Marketing: South Huntsville Brand Launch 

South Huntsville Main hosted a brand reveal on June 6, 2019 with more than 150 community members attending. The organization offered  ice cream in branded cups, swag bags for guests, and a photo booth. There was more than $1,500 in merchandise sales. South Huntsville Main also redesigned its website – southhuntsvillemain.org – and saw an increase in traffic.

Urgent Care for Children Opens Doors to Huntsville Clinic

The wait is over for Huntsville residents seeking access to pediatric care in the after-hours.

Urgent Care for Children, a Birmingham-based pediatric urgent care provider, opened its doors Thursday for patients ages 21 and under with minor illnesses and injuries.

The newest clinic, at 2785 Carl T. Jones Drive across from Valley Bend Shopping Center, operates  2-10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

“At Urgent Care for Children, our job is to complement your primary care pediatrician and offer an
affordable, convenient alternative to the emergency room,” said CEO Bannon Thorpe. “I believe we have one of the best medical teams in our field, who are consistently recognized and receive some of the highest patient ratings in the industry.

“It can mean a lot to have a pediatric specialist when you have a child not feeling well, and we are excited to bring convenient access to quality pediatric medical care to a new area of Huntsville.”

While the location will be new for the rapidly-growing company, it is not a stranger to Madison County.

“After opening our Madison clinic in September 2019, it quickly became apparent that there was a demand for us to expand our quality care services to (southeast) Huntsville,” said Neal Owens, vice president of real estate. “We selected Jones Valley based on its proximity to the growing community of families and schools.”

The after-hours clinic will also be offering coronavirus testing for children and adults. Since March, Urgent Care for Children has made COVID-19 testing available for everyone.

Visit www.childrensurgent.com.

Westward, Ho! Anthem Apartments and Cottages Join Growing Area of Huntsville

Coming soon to growing west Huntsville, a rental community that graciously merges country living with easy access to the best that Huntsville-Madison County has to offer.

Birmingham-based Capstone Building Corp., in partnership with developers EYC Cos. and The Kalikow Group, are developing Anthem Apartments and Cottages, a $67 million, multifamily community in Huntsville.

“It’s a pretty interesting concept,” said Michael Henrickson, vice president of Preconstruction and Estimating for Capstone. “It’s at the corner of Johns Road and Plummer Road. It’s in a great location with a lot of the new growth that’s going on in Huntsville.”

Once completed, the 40-acre property will consist of 406 units: 14 apartment buildings with 312 units, 94 single-family cottages with 48 stand-alone garages. The apartments and cottages are one-, two- and three-bedrooms. The new community will feature front porches that face onto community greens, along with park-like design elements interspersed throughout the property.

“The concept is a little different,” said Ellis Coleman for EYC Companies. “It’s a large site, There’s a lot of open area.

“We’re putting the cottages on one side of the property and the apartments on the other.”

The living space is roomy, too. Apartment sizes range from 757 square feet for the one-bedroom apartments up to 1,300 square feet for the three-bedroom units. The cottage sizes range from 694 square feet to 1,485 square feet.

The finished apartment units and the cottages will have 10-foot ceilings, LED lighting, energy-efficient gas appliances, quartz countertops, and high-quality vinyl flooring. Other amenities will include two saltwater pools, firepit terraces, a dog park, a playground, an herb garden, and more.

“We are building with the end user in mind,” said Coleman. “It will be very park-like when we finish, with lots of open space, sitting areas, and walking trails.”

The groundbreaking took place in July.

“We are a month ahead of schedule and are moving quickly,” said Coleman.

March 2022 is the targeted completion timeframe but some units will be available sooner.

“We have a 21-month schedule from July,” said Henrickson. “We have what we call a ‘phased turnover,’ so, in about 16 months, we’ll have the first apartment building ready to rent.

“We really pay attention to quality of life, so we want the new tenant to have a good experience. It’s going to be a lovely community when it’s done. The developer has really paid attention to ‘How do I make this feel like a home?’”

The Stay-at-Home Blues Are Helping Retailers See Black

It’s funny how when you only spend six out of 15 daylight hours a day at home, you don’t notice that lumpy sofa, weeds growing in the flower pot or how much better that movie would have been on a wide screen TV.

But staying at home 24 hours a day for days, weeks, growing into months on end with no TV sports or outside entertainment, and everyone’s alter ego rises to the occasion … taskmaster, contractor, landscaper, housekeeper … everyone turns into Lucy & Ethel paperhangers! Who knew there was so much to do around the house!

According to Statista, a company that provides insights into some 170 industries worldwide, reported in August that U.S. retail sales saw a sharp rebound in May and continued to recover in June and July from the historic slump brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furniture retailers have seen an uptick in sales during the pandemic, especially home-office furniture.

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show total retail and food services sales amounted to $536 billion in July, up 1.2 percent over June and 2.7 percent over last year’s July figure. That follows an 8.4 percent month-over-month increase in June and that latest increase puts retail sales back on its pre-pandemic trajectory.

According to housewares industry news source Homeworld Business, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the mass-market furniture business and that continues to drive unprecedented sales.

Charlie Swearingen with Lily Flagg Furniture said sales have increased significantly since the store reopened in May after an eight-week closure from mid-March through April.

“Our problem now is getting furniture in from the manufacturers,” he said. “We have our own warehousing so our customers have always known they can buy right off the floor and we can quickly restock from our warehouse.

“But sales have been so good, we have sold and replenished most of what we usually have in the warehouse and manufacturers are telling us it will be three to six months before we will get certain items from them. Customers don’t want to wait that long.”

Miranda Jackson has been with Huntsville’s La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery for 15 years and she said they are facing the same dilemma.

“We were only closed for about four weeks in April, but we have seen a tremendous upsurge in living room and dining room furniture and rockers,” she said. “Now we are low on stock on a lot of popular items and out of stock on rockers, which is one of our best-selling items.”

She said their rocker manufacturer has resumed production, but they are backlogged so they are telling stores to expect a minimum 110-day wait.

Swearingen says during normal times, three factors drive furniture sales: building or buying a new house, downsizing, and the desire for change. But he believes staying at home and stimulus checks have driven some of the pandemic upsurge.

Several Huntsville furniture retailers report surges in home office furniture as well.

According to Homeworld Business, the office furniture market is set to grow by $22.32 billion during the 2019 to 2023 period, progressing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 6 percent during the forecast period.

Electronics Express manager Priestley Thomas said the pandemic put its store in Jones Valley on the map.

“Electronics and appliances were deemed essential, so we did not close, however the big box names did close or had limited hours and access based on blanket corporate decisions,” he said. “That was excellent for us as a small business and a lot of people who did not know we are here have become regular customers.”

Sales of home freezers have been “phenomenal.”

He said computer and home freezer sales have been phenomenal.

“People realized their home computers were not sufficient for what they needed to work at home,” Thomas said. “Between that and kids needing computers for home schooling, we have sold more computers and home freezers in the months since the pandemic than we have sold since we opened.”

Freezers?

“In the early days of the pandemic, people were worried about food shortages, so they were buying up a lot of meat and frozen foods and needing freezers in which to store it,” Thomas said. “We sold freezers to people who has never had a freezer before.”

According to the National Retail Federation, just over half of retail categories saw month-over-month gains and three-quarters saw year-over-year increases with electronics and appliance stores up 22.9 percent month-over-month seasonally adjusted.

The numbers coincide with what Thomas reported locally.

The biggest monthly gain came at electronics and appliance stores, which are selling more computers for home offices and online learning, along with more appliances associated with home improvement spending and higher home sales.

Another area where Huntsville retailers are reporting high pandemic sales is in lawn, gardening, and landscaping.

Home gardens have seen a surge during the pandemic.

Randy Cobbler, store manager for TriGreen Equipment, said home mowers and trimmers have been big sellers during the pandemic but it may be surprising to hear that hand-held tillers are far and away in the greatest demand. So much, Cobbler said, the store has run out its stock and can’t find any available with surrounding dealers, either.

“There is nothing like a pandemic to make people start thinking about the food supply and food shortages,” said Cobbler. “Farm-grown food would be essential in that case and a lot of people started planting vegetable gardens, some for the first time. A tiller is essential to planting vegetables and we have a lot of people, especially ladies, calling us because they discovered they need one.”

The NRF sales figures differ from Census Bureau figures because they exclude automotive, gasoline stations and restaurants to focus more on core retail. Those retail figures showed July up 1 percent seasonally adjusted from June, but the July numbers showed a trend. The numbers were up 7.1 percent unadjusted year-over-year on a three-month moving average and up 4.7 percent for the first seven months of the year.

What are the blues for consumers can be good news for retailers!