What’s Hot in Huntsville? #LinkedInLocalHSV, That’s What!

For those of us using LinkedIn, how many actually meet contacts face-to-face and have a discussion over coffee? In most cases, only a handful, and it’s likely that those are people we already know. What if we could meet up with those local contacts that we only know at the virtual level?

A group of local businesspeople hope to make those in-person connections a reality: Enter LinkedIn Local.

Getting its start in Australia, LinkedIn Local has quickly grown into a global movement. LinkedIn Local wants to put the “social” back into social media by hosting events where people could meet their online connections – offline. What began as a hashtag movement in 2017, LinkedIn Local has grown exponentially and is currently hosted in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Last fall, Huntsville joined the global community of LinkedIn users taking online relationships offline. #LinkedInLocalHSV came about after a Friday morning networking event.  A handful of local influencers met to brainstorm and came up with a way to make #LinkedInLocalHSV a reality, right here in the Rocket City.

After the initial brainstorming session, Mike Bean, Gary Choukse, Jared Wasdin, Angela Graham, Brad Wallace, Pam Marmon, and Carla Stiles soon formed a board and quickly got to work in developing #LinkedinLocalHSV.

Built on the concept of authenticity, respect, and collaboration, #LinkedInLocalHSV is a great opportunity to connect in an informal business context, to build strong, long-lasting relationships, all in your local community.

Presented quarterly, the second LinkedInLocalHSV event was recently held in the UAH Student Services Building.

“Thus far, we have sold out both events and we are in the planning stages of our next event,” said board member Carla Stiles. “It’s a great event for our growing community to get people to meet. We have over 100 people attend the events.

“This is great way for those that are new in the community to come and meet other businesses in the area.”

IronMountain Finds a Solution to its Growth – Location, Location, Location

In its new location on Voyager Way in Cummings Research Park, IronMountain Solutions has a lot to celebrate.

IronMountain Solutions has moved all its operations under one roof.

For the fourth consecutive year, IronMountain Solutions has been named as a contender for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Best Places to Work award. Businesses that create an excellent workplace culture through employee engagement, strong leadership, and excellent communication are not only measured through anonymous employee surveys, but also publicly recognized by the Chamber.

It’s no secret that IronMountain Solutions is a great place to work. As a rapidly growing enterprise that specializes in an impressive array of defense industry-based systems, security, solutions, and support, IronMountain Solutions fosters a dynamic, collaborative work culture with a highly focused vision of continuous growth. Because of this, the company was literally busting at the seams.

After spending the last decade as a tenant in a smaller facility, operations are now all under one roof, along with capacity for future growth, at its new facility on the corner of Old Madison Pike and Voyager Drive.

IronMountain Solutions President/CEO Hank Isenberg sees more great things to come for his company.

“It’s a big deal,” said Corporate Communications Manager Tiffany Morris. “In our previous location, we were spread across two different suites. We would have to trek across the campus, which made for a nice walk on a pretty day, but not so nice in bad weather.

“Our new facility is updated, new, and bright. And it’s great being all together, we can walk over to someone’s office and talk face-to-face.”

Shannon Drake, the company’s corporate community relations coordinator, said she welcomes the change of scenery – inside and out.

“We can do more with interior design and office configuration,” she said. “We’ve gained five conference rooms. Two of them are large training rooms that can accommodate 50 to 60 people. We also have state-of-the-art technology and secured access.

“The added conference rooms allow for in-house trainings and ‘all-hands’ meetings, without having to rent off-site meeting space. It’s also really exciting to be part of Cummings Research Park.”

“The same mindset that has kept us growing for the last 12 years will help us continue to be successful for years to come and that’s operating with extreme customer focus,” said company President/CEO Hank Isenberg. We strive to hire technically and tactically proficient employees, build sincere relations, and find ways to constantly improve our work atmosphere.

“As long as we keep doing what’s right for our customers and employees, I see only more great things for Iron Mountain Solutions for many years to come.”

Chamber Chair Kim Lewis: ‘We Need to Create a Trained Workforce’

One of the Huntsville-Madison County’s key business influencers has been recently named as the 2019 Board Chair of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Kim Caudle Lewis, the first African-American woman to hold the board position said her top goal for the year-long volunteer job is helping workers gain the skills they need to match the many jobs available locally.

“I’m pretty excited!” said Lewis.

“We’ve done a great job as far as economic development goes, but we’ve got to work on our workforce,” she said, adding that the unemployed, the under-employed, and those looking for new careers are the chamber’s focus.

With an upbeat, can-do work ethic, Lewis epitomizes hard work, soft-skills, and solid business savvy, an ideal combination for a board chair. Lewis has keen insight of the big picture, as well as understanding the future industry needs of North Alabama.

Lewis’ primary focus is job skills and workforce development, and the need to create a trained, work-ready job force in anticipation of the exciting new industry coming to Northeast Alabama.

“We need to create a trained workforce to meet the needs of the new industries and jobs that are coming to Huntsville, Madison, and North Alabama,” said Lewis. “The training required is not currently available in the two- and four-year systems, not even in the high schools. We also need to provide education that’s affordable and accessible.”

Even though Huntsville is a high-tech driven city, Lewis said there is a renewed demand for the skilled labor, blue-collar types of jobs.

“With economic growth comes demand,” she said. “Not all jobs are high-tech, there’s a lot of skilled labor jobs. There are jobs in every industry. A lot of them are new industries for this area.

“The Chamber has done a really good job of bringing new industry to Huntsville-North Alabama. There’s more concentration on the workforce now. We’ve promised the companies the workforce. Now, we need to make sure to educate workers to fill those jobs.”

“With the coming of the Toyota plant,” says Lewis, “we’ve never had a full production plant here. This makes it more exciting. You can come to Huntsville and be a part of something that’s done – all in one location.”

And there’s the advancements in aerospace.

“We’ve always had NASA here, but with the arrival of Blue Origin, we will be taking space to a whole new level,” she said.

“Many simply don’t know what skills are required to fill local open jobs,” said Lewis. “We want to show people the path to get there.

“The biggest mistake is that people generalize a lot of jobs, such as engineering. There are so many types of engineers, in various industries. We need to do a better job of explaining.  Asmartplace.com is a site linked to the Chamber’s website which shows a “Day in the Life” of a variety of industry jobs. It’s a sample. A good, brief overview of what they can anticipate in that job.”

Recently, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber hosted the Second Chance Job Fair in collaboration with the Alabama Career Center, the Alabama Community College System, and several local nonprofits, and community agencies. The event was developed to help bridge the gap between under-resourced job seekers and employers.

“Workforce development is just a small part of what the Chamber does,” said Lewis “There are a lot of activities going on. We help support businesses already here. We provide the resources to help them grow and continue to grow.”

Lewis is no stranger to service work. Growing up in Triana the youngest of 10 children, her parents Charley D. Caudle of Triana and the late Lela Mae Caudle, always instilled the virtues of civic duty and community participation.

Her father set a good example for his children. First serving in the military, he then worked for Tennessee Valley Authority, and was also a volunteer fireman. In retirement, he worked for the town of Triana. One of her sisters, Mary Caudle, is the mayor of Triana.

Lewis has also held several volunteer board leadership roles, including the Chamber Foundation, Public Affairs Research Council of North Alabama, Huntsville Botanical Garden, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, HEALS (Health Establishments at Local Schools), the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Huntsville Committee of 100, and her alma mater, Calhoun Community College.

As the owner and president of Project XYZ, an award-winning Huntsville company, Kim and her husband Larry provide engineering, logistics, information technology, and alternative energy services, in addition to health care IT.

Comprised of 100 employees, Project XYZ has been honored as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Woman-Owned Business of the year and won the 2016 “Blue Ribbon Award,” and the 2015 Business of the Year by the local chamber. Project XYZ was also on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s top entrepreneurs in 2014-17. 

BitBros Helping New Digital Currency to Grow Here – Bitcoin by Bitcoin

It’s a sound bet that not many, if any, Huntsvillians or passersby know that there’s a horde of miners gathered in the industrial park off Jordan Lane.

No one could blame them. These aren’t the light-on-the-helmet, overall-wearing type from most imaginations. These are the new age variety. They’re not even human.

Miners are an integral part of the decade-old bitcoin industry, and a new Huntsville company has powered up many miners (OK, computers) in town. The company, BitBros LLC., has been up and running since last year but held its grand opening in January following a power upgrade that brought 2.5 megawatts of power to the Blockchain and Crypto Mining Association outfit.

“Each of those miners is crunching algorithms all day,” said Matthew Rizzio, a Hazel Geen and UAH graduate who is also CEO and one of three founders of BitBros. “When it solves an algorithm is when you get paid, by bit.”

Confused? Here is how bitcoin is defined: a digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency generated by the computational solution of mathematical problems, and which operates independently of a central bank.

There it is, right?

“It took me a year to understand it,” said Rizzio, who graduated with degrees in marketing and supply chain management from UAH in 2014.

Rizzio is one of three founders of BitBros. There’s also his brother and COO Christopher Borgosz, who grew up in Birmingham, attended John Carroll Catholic High School and the University of Alabama and still lives in the Magic City. And there’s the CTO, Josh. He goes by the moniker Jmo, and hails from Illinois and met Rizzio at UAH.

In the bitcoin business there are: Blockchains (a ledger of records stored on an encrypted network of computers); cryptocurrency (digital currency used to pay for using the blocking or for exchanging currency; ASICs (chips than handle a specific, single encrypted algorithm); and the aforementioned miners.

Rizzio said the most difficult part of launching BitBros is waiting for people to get over the learning curve of what bitcoin is about.

“Historically, it takes about 20 years for new technology to catch on,” he said. “Like the Internet.”

But, he added, the company has heard good feedback since its January launch.

“We expect Huntsville to be a great location,” he said. “With so many engineers and people working in technology, there’s a large underground regarding the industry.”

Popular Madison Lunch Spot Main Street Cafe Now Open for Dinner

MADISON — For those who don’t know, the City of Madison was once called Madison Station and it grew up around the Madison Train Depot. Sitting alongside the train tracks that still sees two trains per day, in the 1950s the building held the original City Hall and a two-cell jail.

Tony and Cindy Sensenberger renovated the depot building in 2000 and opened what has become one of Madison’s favorite lunch spots – the Main Street Café. They added a kitchen and outdoor dining area. The jail cells? Private dining rooms!

“From day one when I came here in September, some of the very first questions I got was ‘When are you guys going to open for dinner?’” said co-owner Tammy Hall. She and her husband John bought into the Main Street Café last October. “We finally got the logistics worked out and we are thankful for everyone who helped us take this journey.

Main Street Café is known for its lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, and quiche, as well as yummy chicken, pork, and fish entrees, and even an Italian flair. The new evening menu will reprise some of the lunch entrée favorites but will also feature steaks and fresh recipes for fish and pasta.

The café is also famous for its strawberry pretzel salad, which mixes layers of sweet and salty into a concoction suitable more for dessert than a salad.

“With the expansion of downtown Madison, the new Avenue Madison, the baseball team and all the people it will draw into downtown, the city wants a vibrant downtown nightlife,” said Hall. “Expanding our hours to include dinner is part of the agreement.”

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Madison Mayor Paul Finley applauded the Main Street Café owners for their vision of downtown.

“Thank you for making the Main Street Café a place people can enjoy both day and night,” he said.

The new hours are 5-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations for parties of more than five people are accepted, too.

CFD Research Awarded $24M NASA Contract

CFD Research has been awarded a small business prime contract for the Vertical Lift Technology Development program at NASA Ames Research Center. It is the company’s first major service prime NASA contract.

The five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract has a ceiling value of $24 million.

CFD Research and its team of subcontractors will provide aeronautical engineering, research, and development for vertical lift technology development. Air traffic management development is also included to assess and integrate new operating procedures for efficiency and safety.

“The VLTD award marks a major milestone for CFD Research on two key fronts: it is our first major service prime contract for NASA and our first major service prime contract outside of Huntsville,” said COO/Vice President Steve Cayson. “It emphasizes our strategic goal to leverage our core research and development capabilities into on-site support for government customers.”

Huntsville-based CFD Research was founded in 1987 and provides work for government and commercial customers.

“CFD Research is honored to be selected for this highly competitive award and looks forward to continuing and growing our long and successful partnership with NASA’s prestigious Ames Research Center,” said President/CEO Sameer Singhal. “The award builds on CFD Research’s services growth of the last few years and provides opportunities to increase that growth significantly.”

Entrepreneur Awards Cap Innovate Huntsville Week

Every March, Innovate Huntsville Week is a weeklong, jam-packed event filled with networking, support, collaboration, and the celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s alive and well in the area.

Innovate Huntsville connects entrepreneurs and innovators with local resources to build solid networks and opportunities around Huntsville’s small business economy.

Innovate Huntsville 2019 kicked off with Ignite, the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber-sponsored mixer, providing an opportunity for participants to get acquainted. The week continued with the HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge, Engineer-to-Entrepreneur Tech Roadshow, Small Business Microloan Clinic, Entrepreneur’s Roundtable, the Angels of North Alabama Investment Forum, Urban Engine’s Co-Working Night, a Boost Pitch Competition and R.I.S.E. networking.

Capping off the celebration was the fourth annual Entrepreneur Awards luncheon, presented by the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, at the Campus 805 Stone Event Center.

This year’s winners are:

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lee Marshall, founder/CEO of Kids to Love. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for more than three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.

“There’s an incredible pool of talent in Huntsville,” she said. “And I’m honored to be selected among so many great people doing amazing things in our city!”

CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Rachel Lackey, owner and founder of Green Pea Press. Awarded to a non-technical entrepreneur whose focus is in
the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.

“I am excited and honored,” Lackey said. “Winning this award feels like a validation of all the hard work that I’ve put in and all the challenges I’ve faced up to this point.

“I appreciate the Catalyst including the creative sector among their honorees; so often we get overlooked in favor of tech entrepreneurism, but I think it’s important to recognize that creatives are the ones on the ground, so to speak, engaging and changing the culture of our community.”

VETERAN ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – LaBerrick Williams, owner of Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ. Awarded to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama region.

“My ‘why’ stems from my late grandparents, Jell and Ever Scruggs, hence, my restaurant’s name – Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ – to carry on their legacy,” Williams said. “Their selfless service and delicious food brought the community together for years. Our intertwined logo J4E is a symbol of their union of 75 years and stands for family, love, togetherness and happiness. This is our ideology for the world.”

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Dr. Morgan L. Goss, Dove Family Health. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for one to three years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.

“I do what I do because there is an insatiable desire to see my own people thrive in health,” Goss said. “I desire for my own people have access to affordable, accessible and compassionate health care experiences.”

FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Edwina Musante, founder/CEO/president, Cortina Solutions. Awarded to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North
Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.

Their mission is to serve God by serving the country, customers, coworkers, and community with excellence and integrity.

YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Joshua Wortham, general manager of Peaceful Pastries & Sweets. Awarded to a school-age entrepreneur, in K-12, who has
started their entrepreneurial journey and business at a young age and is working toward their dream.
“I am a 14-year-old chef who enjoys baking people happy,” Wortham said. “As my bakery continues to grow, I’m even more convinced that entrepreneurs should continue to learn new skills, but also stretch their minds and hearts through collaboration and immersion in the community.”

ENTREPRENEUR CHAMPION OF THE YEAR – Joe Newberry, president/CEO of Redstone Federal Credit Union. Awarded to an individual who has a proven track record of championing for the entrepreneurial journey. This can be through volunteering, mentoring, investing, or collaborating.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Mel Bowers, Mel B Enterprises. This award was determined by social media and overall community popularity.

“Being an entrepreneur has been a great adventure for me,” Bowers said. “Knowing that I set my own pace, create my own path, and that my future is extraordinary. I won’t make excuses, and never will I shun my hard days, they are what made me who I am.  There are no limits to what I can achieve.”

Urban Engine Salutes Women in Technology, Female Entrepreneurs

Urban Engine, a local nonprofit organization aimed at accelerating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)-focused innovation and entrepreneurship through education, announced a series of free events that will celebrate women in technology and showcase female entrepreneurs in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

The series of events includes:

  • Wednesday, March 6: Women in Tech-themed Co-Working Night at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – A schedule of one-hour technical workshops ranging from software and web development to digital marketing will be led by women in partnership with Women Who Code Huntsville.
  • March 14: 32/10 Speaker Series at The Camp at MidCity, 5901 University Drive, 5:30 p.m. – Amanda Latifi co-founder/CEO of the Los Angeles-based shopping application, HaftaHave.
  • March 20: Google “I am Remarkable” Women’s Empowerment Workshop at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Led by Lauren Johannesmeyer, city manager of Google Fiber Huntsville.
  • March 27: “Her-story” Panel at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Featuring Joanna White, Governmental Affairs liaison for the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors; Emilie Dover, co-founder/president of Rocket City Digital; and Jessica Barker, president of the Huntsville/Madison County chapter of Alabama New South Coalition.

Urban Engine is celebrating women in technology and female startup founders to bring awareness to equity in STEAM careers and startup opportunities.

National data indicates women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs while owning about 40 percent of all businesses. But, for those working on technology businesses, only 17 percent of venture-backed capital is invested in women-led startups.

For more information, visit https://www.urbanengine.org/events/wemonth.

A Brand New Time in South Huntsville or, Rather, a New Brand

In the next couple of months, south Huntsville will enter a new era. In fact, a “brand’ new era.

South Huntsville business owners, community members and government officials are coming together to create a vibrant and thriving district.

Extending from, essentially, Martin Road south to the Tennessee River, South Huntsville Main Street will be a corridor reflecting a diverse lifestyle of work and play.

Just imagine, driving south on the parkway through the Martin Road “tunnel.” On the “ceiling” and the sides are row upon row of colored lights.

Talk about a grand entrance!

And as you exit the “tunnel,” laid out in front of you are banners on the light poles welcoming visitors.

There are local businesses along the road, each touting their wares and inviting customers inside.

The South Huntsville Business Association, with Executive Director Bekah Schmidt and President Jerry Cargile, has been the impetus to improving this part of the city.

A major step was being accepted into Main Street Alabama, a nonprofit organization that uses a national model with a 40-year track record of revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods.

The process concentrates in four areas: organization, design, promotion and economic vitality. Each one is guided by Main Street’s transformation strategy to remain focused on a specific market-based outcome.

With a solid and active SHBA, the organization stage is answered. The design aspect concerns itself with aesthetics and function, such as the tunnel lights, improved landscaping and redesigned parking areas.

Promotion will incorporate some of the design aspects as well as sharing information and marketing the district. Economic vitality is key in that there must be room and desire for businesses to grow and prosper.

To help in the process, SHBA has launched a South Huntsville Community Survey. It is anonymous and the feedback will help provide direction for businesses to grow in South Huntsville. The findings will be shared with the public at a community meeting June 6. You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/sohunt. For information, visit http://shba.biz/

Also at the meeting, the Main Street Alabama officials will revisit south Huntsville to launch a branding presentation, which includes a logo for the district and several variations of it; a marketing strategy; and other information to help south Huntsville soar to new heights.

(Bud McLaughlin is editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. He can be heard every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. with Fred Holland on WTKI-FM 105.3 and 1450 AM.)

You Can Go Back to the Stone Age – for Korean Barbecue

Barbecue is synonymous with the South.

And a restaurant coming to Huntsville offers its barbecue from the South, as in South Korea.

The Stone Age Korean Steakhouse is slated to open late this fall in the Times Plaza development on South Memorial Parkway.

“Korean barbecue is a growing trend in many major cities that will fit well in the Huntsville market,” said Min Liu, main operator of Stone Age Korean Steakhouse. “Stone Age will serve a wide array of meats, ban-chan (pickled veggies), sauces and sides that guests can mix up with each visit. Everyone can prepare the food the way they like with the marinades and sauces they prefer.”

And, if you haven’t experienced this concept, Liu says not to worry.

“There will be plenty of people to assist patrons during their first visit and give them a proper introduction to Korean barbecue.”

Liu brought Oshi Poke Bowl & Sushi to The Avenue in downtown Huntsville and, last November, Liu and his team opened a similar eatery – Q Korean Steakhouse – in north Atlanta.

When asked why they chose Times Plaza for the new eatery, Liu said it had everything to do with introducing a unique concept to a growing area.

“I believe that Times Plaza will be a convenient option for our guests because they can take a quick exit on the parkway and drive directly to the plaza,” he said. “That area is introducing many attractive developments and its popularity and culinary diversity are growing rapidly.

“For us, Times Plaza offers an ideal scenario and we are so excited to bring another brand-new concept to this city.”

The restaurant’s interior features vibrant colors, red leather booths, LED lighting and Korean pop music videos playing on the televisions throughout the space. Liu said that Stone Age will be an “experience for all senses.”

On the menu are several types of beef, pork, chicken, and seafood including chadol-baegi (beef brisket), samgyupsah (pork belly), ribeye and filet mignon. There are many sauces available, like Yum Yum and Salted Sesame Oil, a large variety of ban-chan, fresh fruit and seasonal fare. There is also plenty of steamed rice, kimchi and ramen to go around.

In addition to its cuisine, Stone Age will have a full bar serving spirits, beer and wine.

“When we ask the people of Huntsville what they want to bring to the city, they usually suggest eclectic concepts that are popular in large markets,” said Anusha Davis, leasing agent at Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate. “Traditional Korean barbecue is something that offers a new spin on crowd favorites like steak, chicken and pork. There’s also the interactive element of preparing your food the way you like and customizing each dish.”

With the atmosphere inside the 5,000-square-foot restaurant and all-you-can-eat lunch and dinner options, Liu said that Stone Age will be an “experience for all senses.”