Madison Chamber Calls for Nominees for Best in Business Awards

MADISON — It’s an opportunity to call out your favorite businesses as the Madison Chamber of Commerce ask for nominations for the Best in Business Awards 2019.

Now through Sept, 6 at 5 p.m., businesses can be nominated in 12 categories for their outstanding services, products and customer service.

“We are excited to be kicking off the Best in Business Awards 2019,” said Chamber Executive Director Pam Honeycutt. “We have introduced some new categories this year to best represent our growing membership. We look forward to learning more about all of the great businesses that make up the Chamber.”

Every year, the Chamber re-evaluates the categories to ensure businesses are not competing in like categories.

“We did away with Home & Living and added Professional Services, Essential Services, and Arts, Entertainment & Hospitality this year,” said Honeycutt.

There will be one overall Best in Business 2019 award given along with nominee and winners in Nonprofit, Small Business with four or more employees, Health & Wellness, Start-ups, Community Servant of the Year, Culinary Business of the Year, Excellence in Leadership & Service, and Medical Practice of the Year.

Nominees must be a member in good standing of the Madison Chamber of Commerce for at least six months. The winners will be announced at the Best in Business awards banquet Oct. 22 at the Insanity Complex Entertainment Center off Hughes Road.

To nominate businesses, visit  http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07egj7kwh8jzbqlz9v/a013ojzrw4zk6/greeting.

 

Redstone Federal, South Huntsville Business Main Announce Business Facade Grants

South Huntsville is about to undergo a facelift.

Or, rather, a façade lift.

Business owners in South Huntsville will be able to apply for money to improve/update their storefronts through the Façade Improvement Grant Program.

The program, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union, was announced Monday by the South Huntsville Main Business Association.

“With the generous contribution of Redstone Federal Credit Union, we are proud to be able to provide this innovative approach to improving the aesthetics of our district,’’ said Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association. “Façade Improvement Grants have had great success in other Main Street communities, such as Birmingham and Gadsden.

“We look forward to seeing the impact this new Façade Improvement Grant Program has on our district.”

The program is designed to promote the improvement of commercial and multi-use properties in the South Huntsville Main district by helping property owners upgrade, rehabilitate, and preserve the façades of eligible structures in the South Huntsville Main district.

The program aims to make revitalization efforts affordable by providing one-third of matching grant funds up to $5,000. Qualifying applications must identify the source of the additional funds required to complete the project within a calendar year of the award date.

After surveying its business owners, the South Huntsville Main Business Association found that most of the South Huntsville building stock was built before 1980. The market study also indicated that both the consumers and b

Redstone is excited about this opportunity to serve small businesses, said John Cook, the credit union’s vice president of lending.

“Redstone is committed to walking alongside the area’s small businesses owners to provide the resources they need to not only survive, but to thrive and grow,’’ said Cook. “That’s why Redstone is excited to partner with the South Huntsville Main Business Association in supporting the Facade Improvement Grant Program.’’

Façade Improvement Grants are provided to owners who apply, and are selected, in recognition of the positive impacts that individual building improvements can have on overall appearance, quality, growth, and vitality of the district.

Additional benefits of the Façade Improvement Grant Program include:

  • Encouraging new private investment the South Huntsville Main District in the form of fixed asset contributions related to exterior building improvements;
  • Preserving, enhancing, and restoring the historical and architectural significance of buildings in South Huntsville;
  • Perpetuating a positive and proactive business climate in South Huntsville that encourages the revitalization of buildings and supports business improvement.

Interested business and property owners inside the South Huntsville Main district are invited to attend the Façade Improvement Grant Workshop on Sept. 23, at 3 p.m. at the Huntsville Hub. The deadline to apply for the grant allocation is Oct. 15, 2019.

More information, including the application and grant requirements can be found at shba.biz.

 

 

Dave & Buster’s: Not just restaurant or game room – it’s ‘a full experience’

There are some 125 games ready to play at Dave & Buster’s. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

Even the old school games have new age twists.

Starting Aug. 19, the grand opening of Huntsville’s Dave & Buster’s Sports Bar — or restaurant and adult/family entertainment venue — patrons could play the iconic 1980s video game “Pac-Man” in the “Million Dollar Midway” at the newest business to open at MidCity District in Huntsville.

But this is not your father’s version of the classic arcade staple.

This century’s “Pac-Man” features a four-person Battle Royale where contestants eliminate others by eating them on a state-of-the-art big screen.

“Pac-man” is one of 125 games in D&B’s entertainment section.

“The technology involved really is the latest and greatest in terms of modernization,” said Eric Drescher, the store’s general manager and a 20-year veteran of the restaurant scene in the region.

The high-tech stuff contines throughout the Midway. There are the classic standards such Pac-Man, Pop-A-Shot and Skee-Ball. Some games have virtual reality and others are based on themes surrounding “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars” and “Men In Black.”

As some 200-plus new hires went through training days before the grand opening, a walk through the Midway had a feeling of the last quarter of the 20th century blending into the new millennium.

At the back of the Midway, ticket winners can shop for prizes ranging from candy to PlayStations in the Winner’s Circle.

General Manager Eric Drescher stands ready to welcome customers as the new Dave & Buster’s is ready to open at Mid City District in Huntsville. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

D&B’s next calling card is the restaurant/sports bar area. A full bar divides one eating section from a full dining room and dissects a room that features garage-style doors that close off a meeting room for around 50 people.

Drescher said the setting is perfect for any type of private function, even midday.

“At lunch, we can get them in and get them out,” he said. “They have a great lunch experience and come back at night with their family and have a great game experience.”

Among the televisions that can be seen from every angle around the restaurant and bar are four that measure at 169 inches. The decorative walls reflect a state and regional flavor when it comes to sports teams.

“We have the best sports viewing in town,” Drescher said. “If there’s a game, on the chances are we have it and, if we don’t, we can get it.”

Drescher said if certain games — Alabama and Auburn football, for example — are being televised, the sound will also be turned up.

After all, he said, his restaurant is seeking to provide ultimate entertainment.

“Dave and Buster’s is such a different entity because of the games and high-quality food and amazing drinks.” he said. “It’s not just a restaurant. It’s not a game room. It’s a full experience …”

For more information, visit daveandbusters.com.

 

Airport CEO: Huntsville’s Economic Future is Tied to Airport’s Success

By Rick Tucker

Rick Tucker

Huntsville is one of the fastest growing local economies in our nation. Boosted by federal and private sector investments, our region is on a strong economic trajectory. In fact, a recent population boom has put the Rocket City on track to potentially be the largest city in Alabama in the next six years.

Our airport represents a key component to continuing this trend because current and new industry considering locating to our region depend on passenger and air cargo operations that support their own operating needs. The local economy depends on our ability to connect with other communities across the globe, so Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is vital to maintain those bonds as the region’s gateway to the world.

But similar to other airports around the country, HSV needs infrastructure investments in order to continue to be able to meet the expected flow of passengers and goods in the future. Projected growth in the area and HSV’s desire to continue to propel this region forward is why in 2012 the airport completed a major $92 million terminal and landside project that included creation of a public waiting area, a security screening checkpoint, a baggage claim and a second parking deck. Those necessary upgrades that were a part of the 2002 Master Plan update have improved the passenger experience and the efficiency of the airport.

Although HSV has seen many improvements and aesthetically offers visitors a very warm welcome to our community, other portions of our terminal are between 30 and 50 years old and in immediate need of improvement. As determined by HSV’s current Master Plan update, the parts of the airport’s facility that passengers use every day, such as elevators, escalators, restrooms and concessions, need redevelopment and expansion to keep up with demand.

In addition, these anticipated terminal improvement projects are imperative to adhere to new federal standards and provide our passengers with facilities that meet their expectations like nursing rooms and pet relief areas.  The terminal improvement projects would reinvigorate HSV and set the stage for continued growth for our region for years to come.

We are grateful to Senator Shelby and our Alabama congressional delegation for recently securing significant FAA discretionary grants, however these funds are designated for specific federal government high priority airfield projects. The previously mentioned terminal improvement projects are considered a lower priority for federal discretionary grants. Therefore, our challenge is to find funding for these necessary terminal improvement projects that are currently on hold.

The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require taxpayers to foot the bill.

If Congress would lift the cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) — a small user fee paid only by air travelers on which airports depend to fund their infrastructure – HSV could begin this project immediately. The PFC is federally capped at a maximum of $4.50 and hasn’t been updated in nearly 20 years, making it ineffective and inadequate to serve 21st century airports that have experienced inflation just like everyone else.

For example, HSV’s current PFC dollars are already committed through 2030. By modernizing the PFC for the first time since 2001, Congress would allow our airport to generate funding from only the people using the airport, for the project referenced above – all without a dime of taxpayer dollars.

Starting these terminal improvement projects would have a major impact on our region’s economy. On top of the tens of thousands of jobs that Alabama’s airports already support, it’s estimated that these projects would create 608 construction jobs and inject $19.1 million into the Huntsville economy via construction labor wages alone.

Some will say that we should leave the PFC alone. However, those voices fail to acknowledge that maintaining the current PFC could result in stalled growth in Huntsville.

The airport has a major footprint on the local economy, with a total regional economic direct impact of 7,692 jobs equating to a payroll of $474,327,000 and a total multiplied impact of 24,293 jobs equating to a payroll of $942,828,000. Failing to upgrade our airport infrastructure could harm our economy and job growth.

We have recently experienced lower fares at HSV due to the addition of two new carriers and the competition that those carriers created in the market. The improved and expanded infrastructure projects will further encourage the airlines to grow and expand, therefore modernizing the PFC can have a positive and direct impact on passenger fares.

HSV is not alone, America’s airports need nearly $130 billion in infrastructure over the next five years in order to match the demand. It sounds like a staggering number, but the number of passengers traveling through U.S. airports has doubled since 2000 to approximately one billion annually. Conversely, the PFC that pays for critical infrastructure of those airports has not increased in nearly two decades. These airports in their current state were designed for half of that traffic so it is clear that something must be done to modernize airports.

Airports across the country and organizations such as Airports Council International-North America and the American Association of Airport Executives stand alongside numerous conservative organizations asking Congress to consider eliminating the PFC cap entirely or, raising the cap and adjusting it periodically for construction cost inflation.

There’s no doubt that Huntsville is a city on the rise. With a strong economy and a growing population, we are poised to continue to enjoy this success.

HSV has always worked to provide the community with an airport that acts as an economic engine by taking proactive measures that allow for immediate and long-term growth. However, to stay on this path we must ensure that our airport is able to meet the vital needs of the growing population and business community.

Modernizing the PFC isn’t just important for HSV – it’s critical for the future of our region.

(Rick Tucker is the CEO of Huntsville International Airport)

 

Riley Receives Russell G. Brown Leadership Award

“Fire and Ice” was the theme of the 34th annual Small Business Awards Celebration. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Randy Riley won the prestigious Russell G. Brown Leadership Award at the 34th annual Small Business Awards Celebration presented by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Amid the theme “Fire and Ice” and Von Braun Center North Hall decorations, more than 1,000 people attended to recognize the outstanding work businesses and individuals are doing in the community.

Riley is the CEO of Archarithms, a small, high-tech HUBZone company providing innovative products, solutions and services to the government and commercial customers.

More than 1,000 people turned out for the annual Small Business Awards Celebration. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We are so proud of our contenders and winners, and we are thrilled to celebrate with each of them,” said Pammie Jimmar, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s vice president of Small Business & Events. “It is no easy task to start and grow a small business, but our community is blessed with individuals who aren’t afraid to tackle tough challenges, and Huntsville continues to grow because of their dedication.”

This year’s judging was completed by the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. The winners are:

  • Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award: Randy Riley, Archarithms, Inc.
  • Young Professional of the Year: Lauren Johannesmeyer, Google Fiber
  • Nonprofit of the Year – (tie): Greater Huntsville Humane Society, Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG)
  • Professional Services Business of the Year: Palco
  • Culinary Business of the Year: Cyn Shea’s Café & Catering
  • Emerging Business of the Year: Outpost Technologies, Inc.
  • Government Contracting – Professional Services Business of the Year: HigherEchelon, Inc.
  • Government Contracting – Technology Business of the Year: Mission Multiplier
  • Service Business of the Year: Armstrong Relocation Company, Huntsville, LLC
  • Retailer of the Year: Haley’s Flooring & Interiors
  • Local “Creative” of the Year: Church Street Wine Shoppe
  • Medical Practice of the Year: Dunagan Yates & Alison Plastic Surgery Center
  • Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Nesin Therapy Services, PC

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.

Governor’s Conference on Tourism Coming to Huntsville

Elected officials and tourism leaders throughout the state will gather in Huntsville for the 2019 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference, which is Aug. 17-20 at the Von Braun Center, brings the state’s travel and tourism industry together for professional development, networking, and collaboration on strategies to promote Alabama as a premier travel destination.

Approximately 200-250 guests, including representatives from statewide attractions, hotels, convention and visitors bureaus, marketing firms, and other hospitality workers, are expected to be in attendance.

“The conference not only gives Alabama travel professionals the opportunity to learn from experts in tourism and marketing, but to also raise money for in-state college scholarships and reward hard work through industry awards,” said Patti Culp, CEO for the Alabama Travel Council.

Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the city is excited about the conference.

“2019 is such a hallmark year for our city as we celebrate the state bicentennial, the Apollo 11 50th anniversary, new dining, retail, and entertainment developments, and so much more; this is perfect timing to welcome our tourism partners to see the growth happening in Huntsville and experience everything we have to offer as a destination,” Ryals said. “We look forward to the opportunity to showcase our community’s progress to industry leaders and highlight why Huntsville/Madison County is a key asset in the state’s tourism offerings.”

In 2018, the travel and tourism industry, which includes leisure and meeting visitors, was responsible for more than 17,000 jobs in Madison County. The 3.4 million visitors also pumped a record-breaking $1.4 billion into the local economy.

While in Huntsville, the visitors will attend receptions at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Campus No. 805 and , Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum; play a round of golf at Robert Trent Jones – Hampton Cove; and tour the Huntsville Botanical Garden and downtown.

 

Nielsen joins VBC as Marketing, Public Relations Manager

Samantha Nielsen has been named the marketing and public relations manager for the Von Braun Center.

Nielsen will manage internal and external communications, including media relations and advertising campaigns for the VBC.

A native of Huntsville, Nielsen was the director of communications for the Huntsville Museum of Art and also assisted the marketing and public relations efforts at the Port of Huntsville.

“I have had the pleasure of promoting different aspects of our city throughout my career and am excited to now begin marketing the VBC as it continues to grow with Huntsville,” she said.  “I am honored to begin marketing an organization that constantly works to improve the quality of life for our community.”

Warren Averett Ranked by Financial Times and Accounting Today

Warren Averett Asset Management has been listed among the 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers by Financial Times and among the top CPA financial planners for 2019 by Accounting Today.

The 300 Top Registered Investment Advisers list recognizes top independent RIA firms from across the U.S. and is produced independently by the Financial Times in collaboration with Ignites Research—a subsidiary of the Financial Times that provides business intelligence on the asset management industry. This is the second consecutive year that Warren Averett Asset Management has made the list.

The 13th annual Accounting Today Wealth Magnets report ranked Warren Averett Asset Management as the 17th largest financial planner by assets under management among 150 total CPA firms across the U.S. Among these firms, Warren Averett Asset Management is the third-largest in the Southeast.

The list of rankings is organized into groups in order of AUM. Warren Averett Asset Management, reporting more than $2.5 billion of assets under management, was placed in the largest group.

“These rankings are not about our own success or status. Instead, they are a reminder to us that our clients continue to be the driving force behind all that we do and seek to achieve,” said Josh Reidinger, president of Warren Averett Asset Management. “Our goal is to see them succeed, and we believe that sound asset management is a part of that success.

“We are thankful to our clients for them.”

Merit Bank to Open Headquarters in Huntsville

Merit Bank will open its doors this month as a newly established financial institution headquartered in the Huntsville market.

In less than 60 days, Merit Bank raised $25 million from hundreds of investors with diverse backgrounds from across North Alabama. In that same time, the bank gained approval from all three regulatory agencies – the Alabama State Banking Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve – to rebrand and relocate its headquarters from Valley Head to 659 Gallatin Street. Merit Bank had acquired Citizens Bank of Valley Head.

Merit Bank is led by an executive team with decades of experience and success in the Huntsville market, including President/CEO Hill Womble, COO Frank Aldag, and Executive Vice Presidents Mark McIntyre and Will Heaps.

In addition, the Board of Directors, representing a vast range of industry and investment experience across North Alabama, will help shape the vision and growth of Merit Bank.  Board members include Chairman Kevin Heronimus, Steven Cost, Chad Falciani, Jeff Huntley, and Brent Romine.

“In any industry, including banking, success starts with the people,” said Womble. “We have built a team of established bankers with proven track records and highly successful board members.  The overwhelming response to our initial private stock offering shows we have the confidence of investors. 

“We are committed and poised to do big things for our clients and our community.”

With Huntsville’s continued growth and repeated accolades, funding and investment in this market is critical. Merit Bank will specialize in commercial lending and private executive banking, expansions, capital improvements, and agricultural lending, among other opportunities.

“Obviously, Huntsville and the North Alabama market is an ideal setting for commercial banking,” said Heaps, executive vice president of commercial banking. “Merit Bank will focus primarily on providing a high level of service and support to our clients, along with a secure, easy-to-use platform for efficiency.  We are excited for this opportunity to support economic development and growth in our community.”

Operations of Citizens Bank will not be interrupted and former President E.N. “Buz” Jones will continue overseeing Valley Head operations.