26 Huntsville, Madison Businesses Named to Inc. 5000

More than two dozen local companies have landed on this year’s version of the Inc. 5000 list, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

The list represents the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment — its independent small businesses.

There are 26 businesses from Huntsville and Madison with 17 performing government services. Also included are three engineering firms, two real estate companies, one IT and one human resources business.

The 2019 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth from 2015 to 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2015. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2018. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2015 is $100,000; the minimum for 2018 is $2 million.

Here are this year’s Huntsville-Madison companies listed by ranking:

617 – Cintel, 711 percent, $2.9 million, government services; 727 – Crossflow Technologies, 603 percent, $2.9 million, engineering; 927 – Kord Technologies, 458 percent, $70.1 million, government services; 942 – Freedom Real Estate, 451 percent, $3.7 million, real estate; 1,179 – Shearer, 352 percent, $6.4 million, engineering; 1,408 – Matt Curtis Real Estate (Madison), 293 percent, $5.2 million, real estate; 1,553 – Cortina Solutions, 267 percent, $2.7 million, government services; 1,591 – Martin Federal, 258 percent, $16.9 million, government services; 1,651 – R2C, 249 percent, $5 million, government services; 1,655 – Corporate Tax Advisors, 248 percent, $3.2 million, financial services;

2,083 – Nou Systems, 194 percent, $23.2 million, government services; 2,106 – Noetic Strategies, 191 percent, $4.6 million, IT management; 2,170 – Hill Technical Solutions, 186 percent, $9.9 million, government services; 2,223 – Pinnacle Solutions, 181 percent, $61.9 million, government services; 2,297 – LSINC, 175 percent, $12.7 million, government services; 2,452 – IronMountain Solutions, 162 percent, $42.1 million, government services; 2,818 – i3, 134 percent, $69.8 million, government services; 2,872 – Mission Driven Research, 130 percent, $3.4, million, government services; 2,927 – nLogic, 128 percent, $48.5 million, government services; 2,961 – Engenius Micro, 126 percent, $2.9 million, government services;

3,242 – Simulation Technologies, 112 percent, $31.6 million, engineering; 4,046 – Bevilacqua Research, 80 percent, $52.6 million, government services; 4,200 – Torch Technologies, 74 percent, $405.4 million, government services; 4,316 – Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, P.C., 71 percent, $4.6 million, financial services; 4,404 – Trideum Corp., 68 percent, $27.7 million, government services; 4,976 – Spur, 53 percent, $34.9 million, human resources.

Pruning Cummings Research Park Infuses Vibrancy, Marketability

Any good gardener knows a first-class park requires long-term planning and seasonal pruning to ensure its vibrancy.

In 1962, Teledyne Brown Engineering (then Brown Engineering) lay deep roots on 100 acres off a dirt road that later became Sparkman Drive.

IBM, Lockheed Martin, Northrop-Grumman, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville quickly followed. Since then, Cummings Research Park’s 3,843 acres of prime Huntsville real estate has been a focal point of a 50-year master plan.

Cummings Research Park, with a 92 percent occupancy rate and 240 untouched acres to spare, is the second-largest research park in the nation and fourth largest in the world.

But to better understand the growth strategy at work in the park, it is best to differentiate between Research Park East and Research Park West.

“When we talk about current growth, we mean business growth from companies within the park, especially on the west side,” said Erin Koshut, the executive director of Cummings Research Park. “On the east side, market studies show we need to redevelop that area to create greater density and to replace 1960s and 1970s buildings with properties that align with today’s economy. That will infuse the older section with new vibrancy.

“By doing that, we won’t have to look at physical land expansion per se for a very long time.”

Within the master plan are five-year work plans. The city is currently working off a plan finalized in 2016; a new plan begins in 2021. The plan acknowledges that some of the original buildings and key properties in the oldest sections of Research Park East are no longer viable in the market.

“Without the revitalization, if a company wants to go in and invest in that part of the park, they wouldn’t get their return on investment,” said Koshut. “That is why the zoning ordinances were changed for Research Park East – to give back some of the land to the park and to reduce economic setbacks.”

Cummings Research Park East

Rendering of Bradford Crossing

One such property is at Bradford and Wynn drives on the former site of the St. John Paul II Catholic High School. Driven Capital Partners in California purchased the four-acre site and plans to redevelop it into a mixed-use site called Bradford Crossing.

“Article 55 of the new zoning ordinance is very specific and says if you have a retail element on the ground floor, there has to be two or more uses,” said Koshut. “We cannot build a standalone gas station or drop a superstore in there, but a multistory building with ground floor retail will create density on a small but efficient parcel of land.

“No decision has been made on what other uses will be included, but it could be office space, multi-family residences, a hotel, or a mixture of all three on upper floors.”

There are four big red circles marking areas of Cummings Research Park East targeted for potential mixed-use redevelopment. Currently, no groundbreaking date is set for Bradford Crossing.

“This is not just the (Huntsville-Madison County) Chamber or the city calling for these changes,” said Koshut. “We have landowners like the Olin King family at Crown Leasing who own property on Bradford Drive. They demolished the building that was on it and now have the land for sale. Business and landowners understand the flavor of changes happening in the older section of the park.”

Other planned redevelopments include converting Executive Plaza off Sparkman Drive into a multi-use facility, including an arena for the UAH hockey team and convocations; and Huntsville’s plans to donate up to $1.8 million in land to Alabama’s third magnet school, the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. It has a temporary home at the Tom Bevill Center on UAH’s campus, but plans are to build a permanent location in Cummings Research Park East by 2022.

“This will give the whole park along the outskirts of UAH, a big infusion of vibrancy and marketability,” said Koshut.

Cummings Research Park West

The new Radiance Technologies facility will consolidate operations and employees.

Over in Cummings Research Park West, it is not about redevelopment but about taking what is there, making it better, and expanding the footprint. In fact, Cummings Research Park West will see three major projects and numerous moderate but significant business expansions this year.

By the end of the year, Radiance Technologies will be moving into a 100,000-square-foot facility at 310 Bob Heath Drive. The new facility will consolidate operations and employees, but with significant growth, Radiance will keep its 38,000-square-foot facility on Wynn Drive in Cummings Research Park East for a while.

The new $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is sprouting from a 20-acre site at Old Madison Pike and Jan Davis Drive. It is scheduled to open in 2020.

The $45.5 million, 83,000-square-foot BAE Systems building is scheduled to open next year.

“BAE Systems has a long history with Huntsville dating back many years when they had only a couple of employees,” said Koshut. “We are proud to see them bringing in 200 employees, many new hires, and some recruited to Huntsville from the Northeast.”

Fifty-four-foot walls are up around the $200 million Blue Origin rocket engine production facility on Explorer Drive. Expected to open its doors in March 2020, Blue Origin is estimated to bring up to 300 jobs to the local economy.

Dynetics just expanded its footprint with the 78,000 square-foot Dr. Stephen M. Gilbert Advanced Manufacturing Facility; and IronMountain Solutions found a new home on Voyager Way.

“We have the first apartments, Watermark at Bridge Street Town Centre, built in Research Park,” said Koshut. “They consist of two four-story buildings and 240 apartments. Over half already leased before they open and of course a majority of those people work in Research Park.”

She said they would like to see an extension of Bridge Street Town Centre or at least retail that is congruent to Bridge Street grow into the commercial retail corridor between Bridge Street’s outdoor shopping promenade and Lake 4.

It’s All for the Employees

“There is a key component of all this expansion and redevelopment,” said Koshut. “It is driven by the wants and needs of employees.

“These companies want to recruit top talent to Huntsville, and they want to retain them. They require conveniences, activities, and amenities that have been available to them in cities where they are recruited from, many bigger than Huntsville.”

This includes access luxury apartments and single-family homes in or surrounding the park; creating a sense of vibrancy and community with activities such as the Food Truck Fest that draws some 300 people a month; free monthly happy hours in the park; and free Suzy’s Pops or Steel City Pops during the summer.

Later this summer or early fall, Koshut said the city will launch a pilot Bike Share project in Cummings Research Park West with three bike-share stations.

“As the city continues to invest in that program, we hope to connect many bike-share systems across the city so, at any time, an employee can hop on a bike and ride out to lunch,” said Koshut. “Young people enjoy being outside and easily get tired of being stuck in an office all day. Huntsville companies are recruiting people from cities that offer a quality lifestyle amenity.”

So, as new buildings are sprouting up all over Cumming Research Park, it always helps to keep the park neatly clipped and pruned to inspire growth and opportunities among the older, well-established buildings alongside the new and flourishing.

Amanda Howard Sotheby International Realty Attains Top Rankings

Huntsville’s Amanda Howard Sotheby’s International Realty was named a member of the Real Trends + Tom Ferry The Thousand.

The Thousand is an annual ranking that honors the top 1,000 residential agents and teams in four categories including Individual agent: Sales volume; Individual agent: Transaction sides (in each real estate transaction, there are two sides that can be represented by a real estate agent: a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent); Agent team: Sales volume; and Agent team: Transaction sides.

According to The Thousand, Amanda Howard Sotheby served 888 families in 2018, ranking the company No. 1 in Alabama for transaction sides, and No. 26 in the nation. Amanda Howard Sotheby also ranked No. 1 in Alabama for sales volume and No. 118 in the nation.

“It is a great honor to be recognized for these achievements, but it is even more important that these numbers represent families served – and not just transactions,” said CEO Amanda Howard. “I’m incredibly proud of my agents and support team and we are all excited to be in the middle of an equally amazing 2019.”

Burgeoning Regional Economy Ensures Everyone a More Valuable Slice of the Pie

Envision Huntsville as an average size pie.

Standing at city center, look outward in all directions toward the far edges of the pie crust – north toward the state line where visitors from Tennessee get their first glimpse of the city. South where many Huntsville businesses draw daily commuters. East across the mountain, west from neighboring communities and all points in between.

For Huntsville and Madison city leaders, this vision of the pie’s edge does not represent boundaries but, instead, corridors of growth.

“That’s always been our vision for Huntsville’s future and the basis for our regional economic strategy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The first part of revitalizing your city is to take the center point, known as the living room of your city, and revitalize it to make it economically viable. Get one area going and stretch it out to other areas.

“Year after year, we have pinpointed growth corridors that help us grow both economically and residentially. The result is an economic revival like what you have been seeing in Huntsville and Madison the past 10 years.”

Private investment land developers have that vision too. During the 1990s, brothers Jim and John Hays and their nephew Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development opened a growth corridor to the southeast in Hampton Cove and the Hays Nature Preserve.

In 2000, that development led to the expansion of a residential growth corridor along Taylor Lane in Big Cove, and, by 2010, it had extended into the Goldsmith-Schiffman community.

Also during the 1990s, Huntsville opened a residential growth corridor off Zierdt Road in the Edgewater and Mountain Brook communities southwest of the city. In 2010, it expanded into the Williams community further south.

Battle said that by looking at the local economy like a pie, you will see their strategy unfolding.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The Western Corridor

The Town Madison development along I-565 between Zierdt Road and Wall-Triana Highway in Madison will open a gateway to the city.

Anchored by the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium, the development is surrounded by residential, retail, commercial, and entertainment components that have thrown open a west side growth corridor that never existed.

“The location off I-565 is perfect catchment for a broad audience across the Southeast,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “As the interchanges off the highway are completed, you can expect ease of traffic getting to and from the area.

“If people come for a game or event, we hope they stay and experience all that Madison has to offer, including our historic downtown that offers livability with local boutique shopping and dining.”

Finley also believes Madison’s central geography in North Alabama positions it perfectly to feel the positive impact from economic development in the whole state as well as southern Tennessee.

“Madison benefits from Huntsville’s growth with the FBI and other tech development workforce to our east, as well as from the Mazda-Toyota plant to our west. We look to collaborate with Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties,” said Finley.

The development is envisioned to become a regional destination.

“Right on the interstate, convenient if you are coming from Cullman or Decatur, and where everybody who passes by can see it,” said Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison. “We are creating a regional destination with baseball, a food hall, and resort style hotels, similar to, but more diverse than Chattanooga.”

Open Southern Border

Recently, Enfinger and his uncles who are also developing McMullen Cove, announced the development of a multi-use Hays Farm development in South Huntsville that will replace the old Haysland Square and turn a 500-plus acre swath of undeveloped land into a new growth corridor to the south that will draw retailers and residents from Airport Road south to the river and beyond.

“There will be a commercial center all the way up to the Enfinger Building on South Parkway with a Village of Providence-type entertainment district surrounded by a city park, a ballfield, and 500-acre Hays Green with a passive walking park,” said Enfinger. “We’d like to maintain the natural green spaces. The Hays Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove has been a regional draw for a lot of people.”

In many ways, Ceci believes that with population growth and so many people commuting here to work every day from other counties, we already have an active regional economy at work.

“You see workers buying groceries, going out to eat and shopping during the workweek, even if they live outside the city,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand for some of the development that is occurring.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who has developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre and developing MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, has been watching those employee migration patterns into Huntsville for more than a decade.

“We see the regional trade area as about 50 miles and incorporates the 14-county commuter hubs from which Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park draw its employment,” said Grelier. “As a result, Huntsville has become the region’s primary center for healthcare, civic, cultural, shopping, and dining activity.”

Annexation of Morgan & Limestone counties

Add to all this, the annexation of a small portion of Morgan County to the southwest and a huge chunk of Limestone County due west of city center, and you can see the pie expanding!

“Yes, this annexation is a game-changer because it results in the ability to get infrastructure to certain areas and thus create major employment opportunities,” said Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty. His company has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue in downtown Huntsville, and is building a sister community, The Avenue Madison. “These new jobs will be an economic driver for the economy and create an incredible multiplier effect.”

The annexation is a precursor to the economic development that follows it, said Grelier.

“Annexing was necessary for the economic development of the Mazda-Toyota plant and other larger manufacturers,” he said. “It’s also helpful in attracting investment into commercial real estate projects across the metro area.”

“We’ve only made a foray into Morgan County,” said Battle, “The annexation of Limestone County where Mazda Toyota made a $2 billion land investment has seriously expanded our metro and opened an industrial growth corridor that is a win-win for both parties.”

City funds, thanks to Huntsville’s AAA credit rating from the S&P and Moody’s Investment Services, have pulled their share of the weight. With the power to borrow $85 million for city and countywide projects, of that, Huntsville will allot $25 million for the Mazda Toyota project infrastructure; and another $55 million for capital plans and schools.

Northern Exposure

Included is the revitalization of North Memorial Parkway. Since widening the well-worn highway into a viable parkway traffic corridor, it has encroached on many properties there, making them less viable.

“They don’t have enough depth to sustain retail, so we’ve taken them out and we’re turning that area into a park with greenways and walking trails,” said Battle. “Perception becomes reality.

“Instead of seeing boarded-up buildings when you enter from the north, you see it more as an entryway into North Huntsville – an economically viable area to move into and to be a part of.”

Among the projects is the upgrading of parks that will be instrumental in bringing in sports teams from all over the Southeast, including recreational rugby fields and soccer fields that can also be used for lacrosse.

“We are putting money into the tennis center and into the golf course, which now has cross-country running and mountain bike trails. All of these things tie back to what we call ‘quality of life’ for our residents and activities for our guests,” said Battle. “Travel sports bring people and their families to our area from all over, where they compete, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in our stores.”

Quality of Life

Town Madison’s $12 million Pro Player Park project with 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields, the $22 million Huntsville Aquatic Center, and the expanding Huntsville Tennis Center are already national attractions for travel sports competitions and events.

“To have a viable and growing economy, we have to offer a ‘quality-of-life’ that attracts people to the area, and quite frankly, we have a lot of jobs on the table too,” Battle said. “To recruit highly-skilled, higher income workers requires a quality of life that is equal to or higher than where they are moving from.”

Battle said “quality-of-life” is found in Lowe Mill, in craft beer, in a vast array of recreation facilities, disc golf, pickleball, art museums and public parks.

“But we still have work to do because people are coming from around the world to work for companies like Blue Origin, Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Mazda Toyotas,” said Battle.

Finley is ready for whatever challenges lay ahead for Madison.

“As Madison grows our focus is making sure we are responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars by improving infrastructure and providing a good quality of life in every district of our community,” said Finley. “While areas to the West are experiencing booming growth and increased traffic, we need to not only keep pace with growth but foresee areas that will need improvements down the line.”

Huntsville is also adding hotels, apartments, and homesites as more people move into the city. With a goal of adding 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, Battle said it will help draw larger conventions and business meetings.

“Part of the strategy for building smaller hotels instead of one big convention center hotel is to prevent people from living inside the hotel the whole time they are here,” said the mayor. “We want people to experience our city, eat in our restaurants, visit our museums, and shop in our stores.”

Enfinger believes that as we become a more affluent society, people’s wants, and expectations become more demanding.

“It looks like we are evolving in unison with the rest of the country as far as the type shopping we do and the kind of developments we build,” said Enfinger. “Our growth rate is higher than most cities, but I think we follow a national trend in the type developments we can sustain.”

Private Investment is Leading the Way

Private investment must still lead the way and developers such as Breland, RCP, Sealy, and Enfinger are leading the charge.

“When the City can support infrastructure needs or improvements, private investment can take those dollars further,” said Mayor Finley. “This is a win/win for both the City and for the investors. Ultimately, our citizens also reap the benefits of this growth and development.”

“Buy-in is good so far, but much harder than it may seem,” said Grelier. “Huntsville has a great story to tell, but many larger institutional investors are not aware of it or view the market as too small.

“Our team spends most of our time discussing and selling the regional market rather than the immediate project. A big part of Huntsville’s growth moving forward will be how the region is branded to compete for private investment and workforce internationally. It’s a regional story that should include our sister communities.”

He would also like to see the Gen Y & Z workforce move to the area because it’s a cool, fun place to live, and then find a job once they get here rather than moving here for the great job.

“Once this trend reverses, larger private investment and more economic development will follow quickly,” Grelier said.

From the city’s perspective though, Huntsville’s first mixed-use/multi-purpose development at Twickenham Square in 2014 has been a driver in enlarging the pie.

Join us for Part 2 of our series on Huntsville’s growing regional economy in the September issue of the Huntsville Business Journal as we investigate how multi-purpose/mixed-use developments are helping build Huntsville’s regional economy.

 

Razing Buildings to Raise Opportunities in North Huntsville

Devyn Keith ran to represent District 1 on the Huntsville City Council in 2016 vowing to make north Huntsville a destination.

He wasn’t making empty promises.

Devyn Keith helping bring redevelopment and opportunity to North Huntsville.(Photo by Eric Schultz)

With Keith leading the way, eyesore buildings bought by the city have been razed along North Parkway. There have been eight reduced to rubble so far and, if Keith gets his way, more will follow.

Blight isn’t welcome in Keith’s district where he grew up in the Northwoods development.

“We’ll be going after the rest of them shortly,’’ he said of privately owned buildings that have seen better days. “I’m not sure of the time frame.’’

Keith has been a mover and shaker since he unseated longtime District 1 Councilman Richard Showers. Just two years into the job, he was voted council president by his colleagues.

Meanwhile, he created the North Huntsville Business Association, which will soon move into office space near the corner of Oakwood Avenue and the Parkway in a strip mall that has been renovated.

Keith, who holds degrees from Samford and the University of Massachusetts, ran on the platform of reducing crime, increasing property values, investing in infrastructure and enhancing a vibrant quality of life for all of the district.

Some of his initiatives have already taken shape.

Along with the city, the Neighborhood Resource Center, a program that brings city government to the neighborhood, was launched. The Johnson HIgh School campus will soon become the Johnson Legacy Complex complete with indoor volleyball courts, soccer fields, a rock-climbing wall and even a sauna.

Those are just two of the projects Keith is overseeing.

There have been neighborhood block parties and ice cream socials. Streets are being repaved. The public library serving north Huntsville will move from a trailer into the new Berachah Park. There’s also the Council High Park planned for the site where the old building no longer exists.

One of the many empty buildings along North Parkway, the former Gander Mountain store, will soon be filled by Rural King, a farm/home department store slated to open in August/September.

For Keith, nothing is more important at the moment than erasing the blight that corrupts his streets.

“That was the first policy — start tearing things downs,’’ he said. “That was one of the things I ran on. Tearing down blight is a positive to let people know the city is serious about this.

“It’s, ‘What can we bring to north Huntsville?’ There hasn’t been a new subdivision in north Huntsville in a very long time.’’

Keith has his battle lines drawn. Imagine an area encompassing Oakwood Avenue, Pulaski Pike, University Drive, Jordan Lane and the Parkway.

“We’ll work from the outside in,’’ he said.

Drive past the intersection of the Parkway and Lantana these days and there’s an empty lot where dilapidated buildings once stood. It’ll soon be home to Lantana Way, a green space with a planned public art wall.

“We’re just trying to make it clean,’’ said Harrison Diamond, business relations officer for the city. “We’re tearing them down to make green space.

“We’ll work with the private sector to help make it better. We’ve got projects in the hopper.’’

That’s music to Keith’s ears.

“The city is making it advantageous (for businesses and homeowners) to come to north Huntsville,’’ he said. “For us it’s, ‘What can we do to make it easier?’ ‘’

Luxury Apartments Coming to Clift Farm

MADISON – A luxury apartment complex will begin to grow from former farmland across from the Target shopping center on U.S. 72.

Birmingham-based residential developer Tynes Development broke ground this week on The Station at Clift Farm, its second multi-family development in Madison.

The development is in the 550-acre Clift Farm community on U.S. 72 at Balch Road in Madison. The luxury apartment concept will offer 316 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, all with elevator access. Leasing will begin next spring or summer.

The Clift Farm location is an expansion of Tynes’ high-end apartment brand, which began construction this year on The Station at Town Madison. The four-story, 288-unit off I-565 – adjacent to the Rocket City Trash Pandas’ baseball stadium – will begin leasing one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments in early 2020.

The Station is designed with subway tile backsplashes, stainless-steel appliances, walk-in showers, high-end countertops and simple, yet modern, light fixtures throughout each unit.

“As Huntsville and Madison continues to grow and attract the brightest minds, their recruits are looking for high-end apartments that support their health and well-being,” said Ingram Tynes, president of Tynes Development Corp.

“The Station at Clift Farm allows residents to return from a hard day of work to a beautiful space that inspires their wellbeing and nourishes their relationships with family and neighbors,” said D.A. Tynes, Ingram’s wife and the company’s interior designer. “As a working mom with three children, it is always my goal to design a space that makes coming home a peaceful retreat.”

The Breland Cos. bought the farm from the Clift family who has owned it since 1850. Although it will be a multi-use development with a town center and retail and restaurant components that support the Clift Farm community, developer Louis Breland said it will maintain a generational feel. The residential component will consist of luxury apartments and townhomes starting at $300,000, and single-family homes ranging from $400,000 to $600,000.

“The Station at Clift Farm will be the centerpiece of the Clift Farm project,” said Breland. “We are developing Clift Farm to be one of the premiere mixed-use projects in the Southeast. Miles of greenways and walking trails will connect residents to parks, grocery and many first-to-market restaurants and shops.

“We could not have a better partner than Tynes Development to set the tone for the high-quality experience we are creating at Clift Farm.”

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.

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.”

Clift Farm: Breland Companies Bought the Farm That Jack Built

MADISON — In 1850, the population of rural Madison was less than 500 residents. Alabama farmers were producing nearly 565,000 bales of cotton and nearly 29 million bushels of corn a year.

John Henry Clift bought a small piece of rural farmland in what was then called Madison Station.

Since then, six generations of the Clift family have farmed that land for cotton, corn, soybeans, fresh fruits, and vegetables, mostly for local consumption.

Construction is underway on the Clift Farm development.

It was Jack Clift, known as Pawpaw to his many children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, who moved home from Atlanta after World War II and took over the family farming business. Jack, who turned 100 years old in December, expanded the farm to more than 600 acres off U.S. 72 between Wall Triana Highway and Balch Road in Madison.

Several years ago, he sold off a sliver to developers who built the shopping plaza where Planet Fitness sits today.

Last fall, Jack officially sold the remaining 550 acres to The Breland Companies who, with his blessing, will develop it into a pedestrian-friendly residential community, park, and retail center.

The Breland development recently broke ground across the highway from the Target Shopping Center and Madison Hospital, but according to Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, the development will in every way, honor and represent the Clift legacy.

“Jack has always been a conservationist at heart,” said Ceci. “His original vision for the land was to keep it agricultural, but he realized later in life that it was going to be sold. He wanted to be an active participant in the process and after much discussion with his family, he entrusted the development and preservation of his property to Louis Breland.”

“To understand this property, you need to understand the history of the Clift family and what faithful stewards Jack and Lillian Clift have been for this land,” said Breland. “I have ridden every inch of this property with Mr. Clift to understand its history and his vision for this wonderful piece of land.”

The goal is to create a community that will have a timeless feel, that will preserve many of the existing natural attributes, while providing retail, dining, residential, office space, multifamily homes, and medical opportunities.

“There is a lot of retail in that area already, but this one is different from those you are seeing at MidCity Huntsville and Town Madison, which will draw a regional audience,” said Ceci. “This one will be mostly residential and will have a relatively small, town center retail and restaurant component that supports the Clift Farm community.”

He said it will have a very real element of green space: a passive park area planted with wildflowers and fruit trees as opposed to soccer fields; a man-made pond surrounded by greenways, and a lot of walking trails. The residential component will consist of townhomes starting at $300,000 and homes ranging from $400,000 to $600,000.

In March, the Madison County Commission approved $8 million for Breland to spend on the development, to build roads and a utility infrastructure for the project.

“We have already done a little bit of groundbreaking, but we are currently building arterial roads and putting in that infrastructure,” said Ceci. “Breland is building a third lane into the property from (U.S.) 72 to alleviate the already heavy traffic in that area, and we have brought in traffic engineers to help us install a couple of red lights.”

An expanded farmers’ market is part of the Clift Farm development plan.

The front of the development along U.S. 72 will be retail and restaurants. The back will include three-story luxury apartments and townhomes with an overall pedestrian environment similar to Huntsville’s Village of Providence. Several out-parcels of land may be developed as medical office space, located conveniently across from Madison Hospital.

One of the most unique aspects of the project, according to Ceci, is that they carved out a modest plot of land on which Clift’s son and grandson will continue small-scale farming and they are building an enlarged farmers market where they will continue to sell fresh fruit and produce from the very land they continue to harvest.

“You have heard restaurants talk about farm-to-table ingredients? In this case, if you order a salad, you can almost sit there and watch the guys go pick it for you,” said Ceci.

Breland expects to begin selling residential lots possibly at the end of this year or early 2020. Some of the retail will likely open in April or May next year.

Should You Self-Manage Your Rental Properties?

If you’re like most investors, you want to create extra income.

Whether that was to pay off some bills or to build a savings to set a retirement in place for yourself because maybe your job isn’t going to give you the retirement plan you want.

Zack Childress

Or maybe a reason you want to buy rental properties is to replace your income so that you can leave your job.

There are lots of reasons why people lean into buying rental properties because everyone’s different. And the outcome is for the purpose of that individual person.

There are a lot of benefits with rental properties, such as tax advantages.

Another big reason is for legacy. We want to be able to pass down to our children: something that we didn’t have or something to give them a good start or maybe just to help them a little bit with some income.

But did you buy rental properties to manage them or did you buy rental properties to create cash flow off them?

If we are trying to buy rental properties and manage them, this can be a big headache. When it comes to managing rental properties, cash flow is what we want. This is why we buy rentals – the cash flow.

We don’t buy rental properties to create another job for ourselves. And this is where I lean into management because sometimes we think, “oh, I’ll self-manage it” without understanding the outcome or all that goes into managing properties.

So, to be truly focused on cash flow, we need to take a step back and let management take over.

Don’t let cash flow take over your life.

Sometimes we think too small and we count pennies and we lose focus on the overall goal. Yes, management charges a fee but it is well worth that fee.

If you’re running your numbers and you think about this fee as lost revenue, you’re really looking at it wrong. Because, for what management charges – 8, 10, 12 percent of gross rents, we’re only talking about $50 a month; sometimes it’s $70, sometimes it can be $100 but this goes back to when we run our numbers.

The fee helps you enjoy your life and it allows you to stay focused on finding more rentals and focused on really what you’re trying to do with a rental portfolio, which is manage it and not each property as you build.

When should we self-manage our rental properties?

I get this question a lot as the president of the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association and my answer is, if you’re just starting out and you bought a little single-family residence, then sure, try it out.

See what it’s like to manage. You’ll find the tenant, you’ll need to do the tenant’s screening, collect rents, deal with all the phone calls. Then you can see if that’s what you want to do.

Most cases, you won’t have time for it or you just won’t like it if you do.

If you’re holding several rentals, don’t do it. Put management in place because the next thing you’re going to find out is you’re running around chasing tenants, trying to collect rents.

Sometimes you have to self-manage when you bought the property wrong or got a bad loan on it and it can’t cash flow with property management in place.

In that scenario, you would have to come back to self-management, but this goes back to running your numbers to make sure that you can afford property management when you’re looking at the deal to buy it.

What are the benefits of having a management company?

This could be a 50-page book by itself. There are so many reasons that you should have management in place. Let’s just start off with the first one: safety. Safety for yourself and safety for the tenants.

Management companies have to follow state laws. Sometimes, as a landlord you may not know those laws and so you might be violating your tenant’s rights. You might be doing things that aren’t safe or not legal and therefore you could get in trouble for that.

The other reasons are finding tenants and screening them. Do you have the time for that? Probably not.

Management is also there to deal with all the calls from tenants as your portfolio builds. You’ll be surprised at the phone calls. They call for all kinds of reasons such as a leaky faucet or toilet’s clogged, or their door won’t shut all the way. Management handles all that.

Collecting rents or even chasing rents down when someone is late – these are all cases of what management can do. There’s the eviction process and dealing with that, even if you have to go to court to get them out. Other jobs include scheduling repair work and putting together monthly reports for the rentals for accounting and bookkeeping.

It’s like having a partner who does all the work that you don’t want to do. These are just some of the benefits of a management company and, as you can tell, it’s well worth having them in place versus self-management.

How do management companies work?

Most management companies in our area work where you bring them the property and they step in and take over. They’ll collect your rents for you and deposit them or write you a check to your bank account. They will give you a profit and loss statement on your rental properties each month, so you know what’s going on.

They charge anywhere from 8 to 12 percent on collected rents, which means their goal is to collect as much rent as possible each month and to help you increase rents so that they can make more on their service fees. 

Now, why can real estate investing be easy?

Well, when we look at real estate, yes, it comes with risk. And yes, it can be hard, but in most cases when real estate starts to become easier is when we have the right team to help you run and manage your rental and your investment business.

Management companies are key to making real estate investing easy for yourself when it comes to rentals so that you don’t have to deal with it any of the headaches.

Check out our vendor list at www.MadisonCountyREIA.com for management companies who are helping investors in this area.

You can also come to one of our meetings and meet some of our vendors, including property management companies. Get to know them to see how they could benefit and how they could be part of your team.

 If you’d like to come out to one of our meetings, visit www.JoinOurNextMeeting.com for information.

(Zack Childress is president of the Madison County Real Estate Investors Association.)