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, April 15, 2020 witnessed a 145 percent spike in the average daily traffic for mobile banking platforms, 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.”

 

 

 

C-Store Master Breaks Ground on State-of-the-Art Robotic Distribution Warehouse

C-Store Master broke ground Tuesday for the company’s 120,000-square-foot automated warehouse.

But it’s not just another warehouse. This $12 million facility will feature state-of-the-art robot technology.

The warehouse is scheduled to open early next year on Mastin Lake Road, just off North Memorial Parkway. It will be the only one of its kind in the country and will employ about 40 people.

COO Sharan Kalva

“Huntsville is the perfect place for our work because of its booming business environment and central location to the entire Southeast,” said Sharan Kalva, C-Store Master chief operating officer. “We believe this cutting edge warehouse paired with our innovative software will continue to set us apart from our competitors.”

C-Store Master has partnered with Geek+ to incorporate three robot technologies in the new warehouse, improving accuracy to 99.99 percent. The multi-level shuttle system is the first of its kind in the Southeast.

“C-Store Master’s robots will increase their productivity by three to four times,” said Rick DeFiesta, Geek+ director of business development and partnership. “We’re proud to partner with their team on this efficiency to help provide even quicker service for their customers.”

Specializing in the tobacco and beverages, C-Store Master services more than 2,000 independent c-stores and some 4,000 chain stores throughout the Southeast, including more than 3,000 Circle K locations.

 

To Get a Loan or Not Get a Loan – That is the Question in the Age of COVID-19

If you talk to a commercial real estate developer, they will say there is plenty of money out there for the lending and, believe it or not, it is cheap money.

If you talk to a Realtor or homebuilder, they will tell you there is no better time to sell, buy or build a home because interest rates are low, and lenders are lending.

But, by all economic measures, the worldwide pandemic has had an enormously negative impact on the overall economy and employment numbers. It is not a secret that the very existence of thousands of restaurants, hair salons, fitness centers, hotels, airlines, personal services, and tourism businesses have been threatened.

And yet, since the effects of the pandemic began in March, dozens of restaurants have either opened or are moving forward with plans to open in Madison County including Outback at Town Madison, Culvers in Madison, Bark & Barrel Barbecue at Stovehouse, and Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint in downtown Huntsville.

The pandemic hasn’t stopped government contractors and manufacturing plants from expanding. Look at Redline Steel, Moog, Mazda Toyota and Booz Allen Hamilton.

So, what is the truth about banking, lending, and the financial fallout on businesses, small and large across the Tennessee Valley?

Is it, or is it not a good time to start or expand a business right now, especially if you need a bank loan to do so?

“Banks are always lending money for good projects – any kind of project where the owner or borrower has their own money in it and are taking some of the risk, and the bank is taking acceptable risk,” said David Nast, president and CEO of Progress Bank.

“If you have an owner who is a good operator, has been in the business for some time, and have their own money in the bank in support for their company so the bank is not loaning all the money and taking all the risk, then banks are willing to lend money.”

He said there are always certain economic cycles where certain industries are considered higher risk than others and restaurants are already high risk, even during normal times.

“Banks look, in general, at what is going on in the economy and, with the fallout from COVID-19, any new start-up with limited experience and limited equity in the project is going to be tougher to do right now,” Nast said. “On the other hand, a business owner who has been in business a while and has good money in a new project like building a larger company building to expand their business, employees and product/service offerings is always going to offer opportunities more interesting to a bank.”

But it isn’t necessarily just because a customer wants to open a restaurant that puts them under more scrutiny right now.

“Restaurants are clearly struggling, but if you are a big well-known chain that planned three years ago to open in Huntsville, most of those companies are continuing with those plans,” Nast said. “Those companies have the capital, the brand recognition, and the capability to open successfully.

“However, if you are a small Mom and Pop shop whose dream has always been to open a restaurant, I’m not sure this is the ideal time to do that.”

He said other businesses such as hair salons and health spas may find the same resistance from lending institutions because they have so many restrictions on them, including questions about whether clients will be willing to go patron those businesses.

“It doesn’t feel like the right time to put your life savings into a business like that right now,” Nast said.

Sean Kelly, Huntsville market executive for Regions Bank, said the capital is there but there is no one-size-fits-all approach to providing financing.

“Regardless of industry, whether a client is in the commercial office or retail space, the manufacturing space, or other industries, we believe the key to a successful banking relationship is to work collaboratively with clients on ways we can offer insights on cash flow, financial management and other needs to help them through whatever need they are facing,” he said. “At Regions, we take the time to get to know our clients. We talk about their business model, how they are adapting during the pandemic, and what needs and opportunities are ahead for them.

“From there, we work to develop financial solutions that meet their individual needs. We work with clients to determine where the opportunities are and how can we best meet individual needs and work to provide customized solutions where prudent.”

Penny Billings, BancorpSouth president for the Huntsville market, said their business lending practices have changed very little since the pandemic and she is optimistic about starting a new business.

“As always, our lending practices are relative to the type of business, the proposed collateral, and the guarantor strength,” she said. “This has not changed. We are fortunate to be in a community where the economy has continued to be strong and supportive of those businesses that have been adversely impacted.

“Starting a business at any time can be tough, but there are probably some opportunities depending on the type of business you’re interested in starting. With our current environment, it’s the perfect time for savvy entrepreneurs to think outside the box for solutions to fix trending problems they see or maybe even add digital elements to their existing business plans.”

Perhaps one of the points of confusion is that today’s pandemic crisis is too closely compared to the 2008 financial crisis.

“While similar in their disruption of the economy, the two situations are entirely different,” said Nast. “The mood is different. 2008 was an enormous financial crisis and at the time, the mood was terrible because we knew we were in for a protracted recession like we had never seen before, and there was no end in sight.

“Not to minimize the negative impact of today’s crisis on many small businesses, the 2008 crisis prepared us in many ways to be more proactive in helping clients get through it this time. We have been able to react quickly and put strong measures in place locally, and at the state and federal level, to prevent a total collapse like what we saw in 2008.

“When you are in the banking business, you are here to help people live their dreams and be successful, so you hate seeing any business fail, but banks have been much more accommodating than they were then.”

Kelly said Regions set aside a credit provision of $700 million in the second quarter of this year for loan loss reserves.

“We did this as a precaution amid the uncertainty the pandemic has caused. It is important to remember, though, that Regions and banks across the industry remain very well capitalized,” he said. “We have diversified our business, we have lessened risk in our loan book, and we have streamlined our operations and efficiencies, and we are operating from a position of strength.

“We are prepared to serve and support our clients and communities through the pandemic.”

Billings said Payroll Protection Program loans are an extremely important accommodation that eased the pain for a lot of commercial customers.

“BancorpSouth generated more than 15,000 PPP loans with total funding of more than $1.23 billion,” Billings said. “Everyone felt a great sense of pride as our company started funding these loans. Many of our customers said the PPP loans provided the necessary financial relief to help them meet their payroll, preserve jobs, and keep their doors open.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities; therefore, we’ve been doing everything we can to provide resources and financial relief to help them navigate these challenging times.

Nast agreed PPP helped a lot of businesses.

“At Progress Bank, we are now beginning the forgiveness phase and those loans are being forgiven, so they are not having to pay that money back. It was a nice stimulus that helped a lot of businesses stay open,” he said.

The initial days of the PPP program were challenging for Regions as well, Kelly said.

“Those initial days included a lot of long nights and weekends as we worked through a wave of applications from clients who had never been in need of Small Business Administration financial resources before,” he said. “We cross-trained a significant portion of our workforce from various departments to process applications for this type of financing. In the end, we were able to help 45,000 customers receive $5 billion in loans that saved or supported 600,000 jobs.”

On the residential front, Billings said the right time to buy a home is different for everyone and in every market.

“But the housing market is thriving due to record low mortgage rates and more people working from home during the pandemic,” she said. “A lot of customers are refinancing, buying new homes, or doing home improvements. New home construction is booming right now, and homebuilders are working hard to keep up with demand in our market.”

Furthermore, she said BankcorpSouth has seen an increase in consumer equity lines of credit as people renovate and update their existing homes.

“People have been spending more time at home and working at home to support the control of the virus, and as a result, sales for specific items such as computers, household appliances, and gardening supplies, have risen,” she said.

“Across the nation, commercial construction was impacted by the shelter-in-place orders implemented in the early months of the pandemic, causing many builders to halt their construction plans. However, the industry is forecasted to recover as the economy improves. In Huntsville, we haven’t seen a significant impact. As you can see in our community, large commercial projects are underway.”

Kelly provides some good local context on commercial real estate.

“It is true that commercial real estate, on a national level, is facing a challenge during the pandemic,” he said. “But here in Huntsville, our office-space market is in a good position, even during COVID-19. We’re seeing occupancy rates around 90 to 95 percent. Our business sector here includes a lot of government contractors that lease space in the area. Even with many people working remotely, the leasing activity remains strong. That’s an outlier from much of the rest of the country.

“Our nation was, and still is, facing a tremendous challenge. But the banking industry is well capitalized, and we can serve as part of the solution.”

It’s the Beginning of the End for Zierdt Road Construction

A recent social media post from a resident of the Edgewater community off Zierdt Road at Lady Anne Lake said, “Things That Have No End: The Universe, numbers, Pi, and Zierdt Road construction.”

Without a doubt, for those living in the midst of the “mess,” it must seem like a black hole.

But the good news is that with the lane shift from the southbound lanes to the northbound lanes on Zierdt in early September, motorists are now traversing the new Zierdt Road – marking Phase IV and the beginning of the end of the $25 million road project.

There has been a lot of frustration about the project because in 2010, it began as a $7 million widening project at the intersection of Madison Boulevard and Zierdt Road.

Construction continues at the Zierdt Road-Edgewater Drive intersection. (Marty Sellers Photo)

Because there wasn’t a lot of funding at the time and Town Madison and Toyota Field were not on anyone’s radar, the original plan consisted of a four-phased approach to widening the 3.5-mile stretch from Madison Boulevard to Martin Road outside Redstone Arsenal Gate 7 from two lanes to four.

Each of the four phases were estimated to take two to four years to complete.

Then, in April 2017, public input sessions resulted in the addition of a pedestrian and bike path. The 12-foot-wide multiuse path was added on the west side, changing the scope of work significantly and increasing the budget to $25 million.

As messy as it may seem, this current phase of Zierdt Road includes new drainage, curb, subgrade, paving and the multiuse path for the remainder of the project duration.

The final phase (IV) of improvements will also consist of two southbound lanes, seven lanes at the intersection of Martin and Zierdt roads, and six lanes at the intersection of Madison Boulevard and Zierdt Road.

While the project has had its share of hiccups due to fluctuations in funding, according to the City of Huntsville, they have been able to make up some time during the pandemic due to the significantly decreased traffic flow.

For residents. the hindrance has been complete but, for the construction crews, residential traffic has been a hindrance.

Although it is only 3 1/2 miles long, Zierdt could not be shut down entirely because of the significant residential population along that stretch of road.

As Kelly Schrimsher, Communications Director at the City of Huntsville, points out, it is significantly more difficult to reconstruct a road when it is in use.

“When you build a new road, you keep it closed until it is finished and passable,” she said. “Or if you look at the road construction off Research Park Boulevard, that work seems to move along without much traffic disruption because they are widening it from the center median and traffic is unaffected.

“Zierdt was always a heavily traveled two-lane road with access to Redstone Arsenal Gate 7, access to the airport, a lot of residential communities, and now Town Madison with the new Toyota Field  – which was not a consideration when the project was initiated.”

All residents of the neighborhoods on Mountainbrook, Edgewater and Nature’s Way can see, however, is the demolition and reconstruction of the original southbound lanes that were the main access into those apartment complexes and communities.

But regardless of how it looks, city engineers promise the end is coming soon and it will be great.

Dynetics Unveils Lunar Lander Module Mockup

Dynetics recently unveiled a test version of its full-scale lunar lander that the company hopes will take people to the moon.

The Dynetics test article will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program,, Dynetics said in a statement. The Dynetics team will use the test article for analysis, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

The mockup includes the crew module, autonomous logistics platform for all-moon cargo access, ascent and descent propellant tanks and deployable solar arrays. This low-slung design could allow for easier and safer access to the lunar surface.

The full-scale lunar landing system mockup will be used for testing for NASA’s Artemis program. (Dynetics Photo)

“Our team is pleased to bring this system to life,” Kim Doering, Dynetics Vice President of Space Systems, said in a statement. “Our reusable, sustainable approach is ready to support a safe and successful hardware delivery for NASA’s mission.”

The focus of the test article rests on crew interfaces, enabling the team to test crew activities within the module. The flexible design is readily reconfigurable, allowing the human systems integration team and flight crew to review and provide feedback on early concept designs and execute quick-turn iterations.

The test article was constructed just three months after the start of the contract and was built and delivered in collaboration with LSINC, a Huntsville-based subcontractor.

Huntsville-based Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is competing with  is one of three prime contractors selected to design a lander for the NASA’s Artemis Human Landing System Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Dynetics; SpaceX; and The National Team, led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, were awarded contracts in April totalling $967 million to build the landing systems.

 

Masks and More Masks: “Celebrating” Halloween in the Time of COVID

Witches, goblins, and ghouls.

Costumes, candy, and yard décor.

It is evident that Halloween is a popular holiday here in America.

What other time of the year can adults and children alike freely dress up, disguised as their favorite superhero or movie icon, and legitimately beg for candy?

But will this year’s Halloween be different from years past and if so, how?

In the time of COVID, if one thing has proved to be certain, it is uncertainty.

2020 has already proven to be vastly different than any other year. After six months living under the dark cloud of a global pandemic, it is possible that some of the many large gatherings that normally take place here in the Rocket City might take a back seat.

As far trick-or-treating or home-based Halloween parties, it is hard to say.

While no one has directly come out and said, don’t go trick-or-treating, it has been implied.

“Local hospital representatives have advised against any close contact activity,” said Kelly Schrimsher, communications director for the City of Huntsville.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) advises that all preventive measures and extreme caution be exercised in any instance where groups of people congregate.

“Congregate settings increase the potential for transmission of respiratory droplets,” said Dr. Karen Landers of the Huntsville’s COVID-19 team.

Despite the cautionary statements and recommendations, the natives are getting restless and, after many months of curtailed social encounters combined with a blisteringly hot summer, everyone is eager for the arrival of fall and the sense of merriment that Halloween brings.

Halloween falls on a Saturday this year, which is ideal for families and especially good for local entertainment venues.

But how will it play out here?

“We have several events going on this year and are hoping to add a few more,” said River Reed, event coordinator for Straight to Ale. “October’s Drag Brunch on the 25th is Halloween-themed and we (released) our Old Town Pumpkin Ale as a tribute both to the holiday and Huntsville History Month. Homegrown Comedy and Rocket City Art Hops, which are on the ninth and 15th respectively, also have a Halloween theme and we are encouraging attendees to come in costume.”

As far as hosting an event on Halloween, Straight to Ale hasn’t confirmed.

The state mandate limits eight people to a table and hosting a large group event, such as a Halloween party, presents a unique challenge.

“We do hope to have a costume contest and a few other Halloween-themed events, but we are working out the safest way to do so,” said Reed.

“Our events are all following all of our current safety protocols in the taproom,” said Kimberly Casey, marketing director at Straight to Ale. “This means all venue spaces are at half capacity, tables are spaced six feet apart, and masks must be worn when not seated at your table. Patrons can check out a detailed description of our policies before they visit at straighttoale.com/updates.”

In addition to the social gathering aspect, Halloween is a big deal for retail.

Since the National Retail Federation began keeping track in 2005, Halloween spending has almost doubled. In 2019, close to $9 billion was spent on costumes, candy, and decorations alone.

These figures do not factor in the additional revenue generated at bars, clubs, and other entertainment venues such as haunted houses, corn mazes, and hayrides. Without this substantial boost of holiday-inspired spending, it could mean another massive blow to the nation’s economy.

While nothing has been set in stone locally, it remains to be seen whether any mandates will come into play regarding Halloween activities and events.

In major cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, decisions have already been made and revised, or at least modified, in response to community push-back. In L.A., large-scale Halloween events at the big theme parks, such as Universal Studios and Disney have been canceled. At the city level, although the smaller neighborhood events and the door-to-door candy hustles are “not recommended,” city ordinances will not be enforced.

In the meantime, local retail establishments remain hopeful. Stores that specialize in Halloween décor and apparel are well-stocked with an assortment of costumes, just in case.

Houston Firm Plans Luxury Apartments at Hays Farm

A Houston development group announced plans for a 330-unit apartment project at Hays Farm in South Huntsville.

In a news release Friday, Bomasada Group said it has acquired a 15acre site in the Hays Farm masterplan development to develop Liam at Hays Farm Apartments, a 330unit, Class A” apartment project. The company is in the design phase of Liam with construction scheduled to begin in the spring.

Bomasada specializes in developing luxury multifamily properties in secondary and tertiary markets throughout the Southeast and Southwest

We have been looking in the Huntsville market for several years as it perfectly fits our development strategy,said Bomasada President John Gilbert. We continue to be amazed by the energy of the city, the exponential job growth and the highly educated and skilled workforce. We are especially pleased to be part of the revival of South Huntsville and part of the future of Hays Farm that also includes a Publixanchored shopping center, 450 new homes, offices, restaurants, Grissom High School, and hundreds of acres of greenways, open space and water features.” 

Bomasada Chairman and CEO Stuart Fred, a board member of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, echoed Gilberts comments.

Huntsville is one of the most dynamic cities in the country,” he said. “The research and development conducted by the military and aerospace industry is remarkable. We appreciate the citys varied businesses, entrepreneurship and Southern hospitality.” 

After looking at numerous sites throughout the areaBomasada focused on Hays Farm in resurging South Huntsville.

We are thrilled to welcome Bomasada to South Huntsville,” said Huntsville City Councilwoman Jennie Robinson, who represents South Huntsville. The Liam will bring a new multifamily housing product to our area to help meet exploding market demand. It will be an important part of the Hays Farm development and play an important role in revitalizing the South Parkway.” 

Gilbert said the company learned of the Hays Farm plan last year.

We were introduced to Hays Farm late last year and immediately decided we wanted to be part of this exciting development,” he said. “The entire Hays Farm team John Hays, Jim Hays, Jeff Enfinger and Mecca Musick have been a pleasure to work with. They are creating a wonderful place to live, work and play that will leave a legacy for the city of Huntsville.” 

Bomasada also has spent the last year coordinating with City of Huntsville Business Relations Officer Harrison Diamond as well as Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association.

We have developed all over the country and Ive never seen a more open, accessible and helpful city government,Gilbert said

HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Bioscience Companies Headline BIO Alabama Conference

With the biotechnology industry leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BIO Alabama will host industry leaders, entrepreneurs, and academics at the organization’s first conference in five years.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and a number of resident associate companies will be “center-stage” during the four-day virtual conference, Oct. 5-9.

BIO Alabama – Alabama’s affiliate of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), the pre-eminent national association for biotechnology companies – has assembled a lineup from Alabama and across the country to address the industry’s most challenging issues and how the state can play pivotal roles in solutions and advancements.

Among the topics are: Operation Warp Speed; COVID-19 related legislation; the strategic roadmap for the state’s biotechnology ecosystem; collaborative efforts to strengthen the state’s agricultural economy; diversity, equity and inclusion in the bioscience industry; and discoveries by researchers at Alabama’s leading academic centers.

“HudsonAlpha has been a longtime partner and leader for BIO Alabama and the biotechnology ecosystem in North Alabama continues to bloom with innovative companies,” said BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson. “Our virtual conference is a great opportunity to connect with life science thought-leaders from around our state who are strengthening our industry for the future.”

The speakers are leaders in academic research, education and business. HudsonAlpha and Huntsville contribute greatly to the state’s work in the biosciences and are well-represented in the BIO Alabama agenda.

HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Jeremy Schmutz will lead a panel discussion that includes Dr. Josh Clevinger, also of HudsonAlpha; Brian Hardin with Alabama Farmers Federation; Kyle Bridgeforth of Bridgeforth Farms; and Dr. Kira Bowen from Auburn University.

The group will discuss its efforts in developing next generation crops for diversifying and strengthening Alabama’s agricultural economy. The panel will provide an early view into the way people from across the state and across industries are leveraging HudsonAlpha’s expertise in genomics research to improve crops for Alabama farmers and ultimately benefit businesses and consumers in the state.

Carter Wells, HudsonAlpha’s Vice President for Economic Development and past Chairman of BIO Alabama, will lead a “fireside chat” with Andrew Burnett, health legislative assistant for Sen. Richard Shelby. Burnett is Shelby’s aide for federal appropriations and policy on a variety of health-related topics, including coronavirus relief, clinical trials, diagnostic testing and the development of new medications and therapies. Burnett also works with biotech entrepreneurs and veterans of bioscience businesses.

HudsonAlpha Director of Recruitment Amy Sturdivant, BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson and Chairman Blair King will deliver the BIO Alabama’s strategic plan. The address concludes a multi-year listening tour and focus-group exercises to develop a strategic roadmap for the industry. Sturdivant will join BIO Alabama Executive Director Sonia Robinson and Chairman Blair King in delivering the report to BIO Alabama constituents.

“Growing and supporting entrepreneurial efforts in the biotech industry have translated to success stories and expanding jobs in the sector,” said Sturdivant, who also serves as BIO Alabama vice chairwoman. “Organizations across the state are contributing and collaborating; providing resources for capital, mentoring, workforce training, and more.

“The BIO Alabama strategic plan lays out lessons learned and opportunities we will seek together.”

Alex Cate, Business Retention and Expansion Specialist for HudsonAlpha, will join panelists from the state’s top incubators and accelerators to discuss business growth and technology commercialization.

Additionally, several North Alabama-based and HudsonAlpha resident companies will be featured at the conference.

To register, visit https://www.bioalabama.com/event-3976946

 

Boeing Awarded $249M Modified Contract for Huntsville-Managed Missile Program

Boeing of Huntsville has been awarded a $249 million contract modification for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System.

Huntsville is the headquarters for Boeing’s Missile and Weapon Systems division and the company employs more than 3,000 people across the state. As prime contractor, Boeing designs, produces, integrates, tests and sustains all GMD components deployed across 15 time zones.

The contract modification work includes development, fielding, test, systems engineering, integration and configuration management, equipment manufacturing and refurbishment, training and operations and sustainment for the system and its support facilities. Work will be performed in Huntsville; Tucson and Chandler, Ariz.

The GMD system is the nation’s only operationally deployed missile defense program capable of defending the entire United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) against long-range ballistic missile attacks.

 

 

We Like It! Facebook’s Huntsville Data Center is a Boost to the Local Economy

Facebook’s Huntsville Data Center has helped foster economic growth locally since breaking ground in 2018.

The data center, which is scheduled to go online next year, represents more than a $750 million investment, employed hundreds of construction jobs and supports more than 200 jobs. The 970,000 square-foot facility is in the North Huntsville Industrial Park.

Facebook released a study Thursday on the economic contributions of Facebook data centers in the U.S. from 2017-2019. The study, in partnership with RTI International, finds Facebook’s investments through capital expenditures, operating expenses and direct wages in data centers totaled $11.5 billion, contributed a cumulative $18.6 billion to the U.S. GDP and supported more than 178,000 jobs nationwide.

“We are proud to invest $750 million into Huntsville, but even prouder to see how our investments spur further economic benefits for the area especially during this tough economic climate,” said Katie Comer, Facebook Community Development Manager. “Our data center investments go beyond economic growth to benefit the local environment and community.”

Facebook has eight operating data centers across the U.S. with five more under construction. The data centers host videos, photos, and news articles found on Facebook news feeds.

The study does not include that in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and mass layoffs, Facebook announced more than 4.8 million square feet of new data center construction in the U.S.

Results of the study show that for every $1 million in data center capital expenditures, there were 14 jobs supported in the area, and for every $1 million in data center operating expenditures, 18 jobs were supported.

Facebook also made more than 300 charitable investments from 2017-2019 that focused on putting the power of technology for community benefit and improving local Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

As part of its COVID-19 relief efforts, Facebook supported Madison County Schools to help provide access to remote learning including laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, Wi-Fi buses, and support for continued food programs for students.

The study also estimates that Facebook data centers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 3 million tons since 2011, the equivalent of taking over 660,000 cars off the road.

The company partnered with the Tennessee Valley Authority to create an energy tariff that will let qualifying customers, not just Facebook, buy renewable resources. Solar energy projects will be developed to support the Huntsville Data Center.