South Huntsville Companies Host Private Topping Out Ceremony

Freedom Real Estate and Capital, Invariant and Torch Technologies hosted a Topping Out ceremony for their multi-tenant facility in South Huntsville.

Due to COVID restrictions, the event was held privately Friday. In building construction, topping out is a builders’ rite traditionally held when the last beam is placed atop a structure during its construction. The completion date for the facility at 4040 Chris Drive is set for early next summer.

Joining Freedom CEO Bill Roark at the ceremony were Huntsville Madison County Chamber CEO Chip Cherry, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Invariant Director of Advanced Technology John Montgomery, Torch Technologies Senior Director Brady Porter and Turner Construction’s Project Executive Brandon Tucker.  Turner raised the final beam atop the structure.

“Congratulations to our design and construction partners for keeping the project on schedule and moving forward safely during COVID,” said Freedom’s Director of Capital Projects Lee Holland.

The design is led by Arcspace Studio and construction is led by Turner Construction. The project has achieved 25,000 work hours to date with no lost time accidents or injuries.

The 4040 Chris Drive Development is 92,000 square feet and will feature a mix of office, research and development labs, light manufacturing, assembly, and integration space along with a high bay.

Stellar Group Named to Advisory Board for Drake State Space Construction Research Program

A nine-member advisory board has been named to oversee Drake State Community  & Technical College’s new Frontiers Research Program.

The Frontiers Research  Program was established after Drake State was selected by NASA’s Marshall Space  Flight Center as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies to support the Artemis  mission

The Frontiers Advisory Board, made up of technical experts, NASA officials and  community leaders will provide guidance to the research team throughout the year long project. 

“NASA is calling on us to help develop construction techniques suitable for use on the  moon,” said Dr. Pat Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College. “Our advisory board has the expertise to help guide our efforts as we complete this  significant work.” 

In addition to the advisory board, the Frontiers Research team will be supported by  representatives from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and ICON, a construction technologies company leading the 3D space construction research efforts for NASA. 

Drake State is the first community college and only Historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s CAN opportunity since its inception in 2013.

The Frontiers Research Program team – which consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s Engineering Design program  – will test 3D-printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

Frontiers Research Program Advisory Board Members 

Joe Fitzgerald – Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama 

Jeff Haars – Vice President and Deputy Program Manager, Jacobs Space Exploration

Laura Hall – State Representative (D) District 19 

Larry Lewis – Cofounder and President, PROJECTTXYZ, Inc. 

John Mankins – President, Artemis Innovation Management Systems 

John Meredith – President Pro Tem, District 5, Huntsville City Council 

Raymond Pierce – President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation 

Ritchie Whorton – State Representative (R) District 22 

Lisa Williams – Cofounder and President, 3D Research Corp.

TVA, Origis Energy to Power Google Data Centers with 100% Renewable Energy

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed Monday that the new 100-megawatt solar facility in Obion County, Tenn., will supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers in Clarksville, Tenn., and Hollywood, Ala., in Jackson County.

Florida-based solar developer Origis Energy is using TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program to develop the solar farm.

The Green Invest program helps customers like Google meet their long-term sustainability goals with new renewable energy projects. In the past two years, Green Invest has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in TVA’s service area.

“TVA’s Green Invest can deliver clean, reliable renewable energy at a competitive price – stimulating growth across our seven-state region and giving our region a competitive advantage through public power,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables.

Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Origis Energy will own and operate the plant, using industry leading land stewardship techniques. The project will create more than 300 construction jobs, with additional employment for 8-10 fulltime operations and maintenance staff. Origis plans to have the solar facility operational by the end of 2022, pending environmental reviews.

“This Tennessee solar milestone is another demonstration of the success of TVA’s Green Invest partnership,” said Johan Vanhee, Origis Energy chief commercial officer and chief procurement officer. “Such utility innovations are helping Google reach its aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030. We are very pleased to add 100 megawatts to this goal while contributing to the economic development of Obion County.”

To power the data centers, Google had already purchased a total of 266 megawatts of power generated by multiple solar farms linked into the TVA electric grid.

“Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and our goal is to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030,” said Reid Spolek, with Data Center Energy Strategy at Google. “Working with TVA and Origis through Green Invest will help move us closer to this goal.”

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of four other major Green Invest deals TVA completed this year: General MotorsVanderbilt UniversityKnoxville Utilities Board and Facebook.

“TVA is a job creator, and we are looking for creative ways to use our solar programs to bring high-paying jobs to the communities we serve,” said Hansen. “By integrating public-private partnerships with clean energy, we can make our region the premier destination for businesses that want to achieve their sustainability goals.”

HTSI, DC Capital Form Strategic Partnership

Hill Technical Solutions has formed a strategic partnership with DC Capital Partners to enhance HTSI’s ability to expand its capabilities and customer base.

Huntsville-based HTSI is a provider of systems engineering and integration, advanced technology development, systems architecture design and analysis, and hypersonic design and testing solutions for the Missile Defense Agency, Army, Navy and Air Force.

HTSI is a two-time “Best Places to Work” employer in Huntsville and a four-time Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company.  

“This is an exciting time for HTSI as we join the DC Capital family of businesses,” Stacey Hill, HTSI’s CEO, and Brad Hill, HTSI president, said in a news release. “Our company and our employees have always been focused on our customers’ missions and our partnership with DC Capital will allow us to continue to grow and provide exceptional service to our growing list of customers across U.S. government agencies.

“This partnership will also provide our employees with more personal and professional development opportunities as we continue to expand our business and our capabilities.”

Founded in 2010, HTSI’s expertise includes engineering support to the Army mission dating back to the mid-1980s. HTSI supports the Missile Defense Agency, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, Army CCDC Aviation and Missile Center,  Army COE (Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers), and the Air Force in system assessment, hypersonics, cybersecurity, information technology, modeling and simulation, and test.

“HTSI is an exceptional company with an extremely talented management team and a highly skilled and experienced eam of subject matter experts,” said Thomas J. Campbell, founder and managing partner of DC Capital. “We look forward to our partnership with Stacey and Brad Hill and their team as we all work to support our customers in the development of the next generation of defense systems. Our goal is to continue to grow the company and expand existing capabilities to provide even more advanced solutions to our customers.”

DC Capital Partners is a private equity investment firm headquartered in Alexandria, Va., focused on making control investments in middle market, U.S.-based government services and engineering and consulting services businesses. 

“DC Capital looks forward to partnering with Stacey and Brad and the HTSI management team to execute the strategic plan that we have developed and to continue the growth of HTSI that this management has begun,” said Jeffrey C. Weber, a partner at DC Capital. “HTSI plays a critical role in the defense of our country and our goal is to continue to attract world class employees who can broaden the role that HTSI plays in providing solutions to its existing customers and help the company expand to other U.S. government customers.”

Huntsville Companies Among Fortune Best Small & Medium Workplaces

Playing on a national stage, three Huntsville-based business have landed on Fortune’s Top 100 Best Small & Medium Workplaces 2020 in the country.

All three companies – Intuitive Research and Technology Corp., PeopleTec and Canvas – were recognized by Fortune magazine as top performing companies. To be eligible for the ranking, they must also be Great Places to Work-Certified companies, meaning at least 70 percent of the companies’ employees report a consistently positive experience working at their company.

Earning a spot of the list is based on confidential survey feedback representing more than 189,000 employees working at small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States.

Intuitive, an aerospace engineering and analysis firm in Cummings Research Park, is ranked the highest on the list at No. 5. Ninety-eight percent of Intuitive’s employees say it is a great place to work, compared to 59 percent of employees at a typical U.S.-based company.

“It is a true testament to the Intuitive culture and our employees that we have been honored as Best Workplace in the Nation nine years in a row, all nine years in the top five,” said Intuitive President Vergenia Shelton. “Receiving this honor reflects what is most important to Intuitive … Our employees are the driving force to our success, which is why we invest so heavily in our people. It has always been our priority to provide a workplace where employees are proud of where they work and excited about what they do.”

Also in Cummings Research Park, PeopleTec. is ranked No. 9. The employee-owned small business got its start in Huntsville in 2005 to help provide and retain a highly skilled workforce throughout the area. The No. 9 ranking came with a 98 percent employee satisfaction rate.

“Our unique culture and our commitment to the Warfighter creates a second home for our employee-owners, where trust is high, and everyone feels welcome,” PeopleTec CEO Terry Jennings said.

Coming in at No. 35, Canvas provides services and technical solutions for federal and commercial customers. The company finished with the highest positive employee rating from among the three at 99 percent.

“Canvas is proud to be recognized by our employees for creating one of the best small business workplaces,” said CEO Jami Peyton. “Our high-trust culture has not only helped us navigate a challenging 2020, but also continued to propel Canvas forward in the best way possible. We simply couldn’t be a Best Small Workplace or Great Place to Work without our incredible employees.”

Great Place to Work is a global people analytics and company culture research firm. Certification is based on responses to employee questionnaires based on the extent to which employees trust leaders; the respect with which people are treated; the fairness of workplace decisions; and how much camaraderie there is among the team.

The Event that Almost Wasn’t: Huntsville Science Festival Goes Virtual

Leave it to 2020 to throw a wrench in things.

In the Huntsville area, which prides itself on creativity and innovation, shifting gears has been the norm. 

Shifting gears. And that’s exactly what Huntsville Science Festival has done. By migrating to the virtual platform, the event is ready to roll.

In its inaugural year, Huntsville Science Festival/PPG STEAMfest 2020: Science at Home is a weeklong celebration of science, highlighting all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). 

From Oct. 24-31, participants can learn about astronomy, backyard biology, umbrella rockets, killer kudzu, dinosaurs, squirrels, genetics, robots, music, food, and beer!

All events are free and open to the public. Presentations will feature speakers from a variety of organizations; HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Innerspace Brewing, RadioBro, Von Braun Astronomical Society, Leonardo Project LLC, and more.

As an affiliate of MIT’s Science Festival Alliance, Huntsville Science Festival is only one of two national science festivals that has survived COVID.

The event was initially scheduled to be hosted at the Von Braun Center. Then, along came the pandemic. As a result, the Las Vegas Science Festival, now in its 10th year, has been postponed to 2021. The Atlanta Festival canceled midweek. 

Huntsville’s Festival was teetering on cancellation, as well.

“We were considering that” said Joe Iocuzzo, event organizer. “Then, decided that we could make it a virtual event.” 

The festival kicks off with the Von Braun Astronomical Society Astronomical Day and its “Astronomy for Everyone.” In this presentation, participants will be virtually transported to the VBAS Observatory to see live viewing through telescopes! 

“The Science Festival is not just for kids,” said Iocuzzo. 

A few of the presentations that may pique the interest of the grown-ups include Innerspace Brewery’s “Beer: Sudsy Science.” Participants will learn that there’s more to beer than what meets the eye, or the tastebuds.

Heidi Kizer from the Bakingtist will present “Baking Science: Bread Balloon Bonanza.” Kizer, a “sourdough bread-slinging, pastry-providin’, and MegaCookie-making baker” will demonstrate how science can be delicious and nutritious. 

And for those squirrel lovers among us, there’s “Squirrely Personalities: Amazing Facts About Those Backyard Critters” presented by Dr. Amanda Kelly of the College of Charleston. 

All events can be accessed through the festival website. Although some of the presentations are previously recorded, there will be live Q&A sessions after each presentation.

Several of the classes require supplies. Free kits are available at any of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library branches. Due to limited supply, calling ahead for availability is highly recommended. Curbside pick-up will also be available.

In addition to the presentations, there will be an auction in support of the Science Festival Alliance. Items include an original painting by paleo artist Dr. Julius Csotonyi, one of the foremost scientific illustrators in the world; a coin with embedded art by Dr. Alexandra LeFort, a planetary scientist and artist; and book by Iocuzzo, “Last Day of the Dinosaur Mummy.” 

For information, visit huntsvillescience.org/

 

Banking Industry Sees Digital, Mobile Services Increase During Pandemic

With the onset of the global pandemic, businesses rolled up their collective sleeves and grimly faced the arduous task of shifting gears.

And financial institutions quickly found themselves in the spotlight. When it comes to continued access to money, whether it be a loan, savings, or one’s paycheck, everyone feels the effect when that access is hindered.

The banking industry with its customers faced technological hurdles and economic hardships. But banks stepped up with solutions to protect their customers and employees as well as keeping themselves insulated against financial catastrophe – such as the crash of 2008.

“The current COVID pandemic focused a spotlight on the importance of providing uninterrupted services to all customers, including, personal, business and government,” said Tim Singleton, senior commercial lending manager for Bank Independent. “In many ways, the banking industry became hyper-vigilant preparing for multiple unknown economic factors.”

If one thing is certain, COVID-19 has been an accelerant for increased consumer usage of digital banking technologies.

Although most banks were already invested in digitalized and mobile banking services, the pandemic quickly prompted many of non-to-low-end digital users into the age of mobile banking.

Many banks, which had mobile banking tools and were already maintaining digital relationships with customers, had to quickly adjust to a sudden increase in demand for mobile services.

According to data collected by Fidelity National Information Services, April 15, 2020 witnessed a 145 percent spike in the average daily traffic for mobile banking platforms, as compared with the March’s numbers. Along with the uptick in traffic, new registrations for mobile banking apps jumped 207 percent.

“Wells Fargo has seen increased digital and mobile logins, mobile deposit volume, checks deposited using mobile devices and online wire transfers since COVID-19 started,” said Stephen Norris, regional bank president for Wells Fargo. “All of this translated into more digital banking access and transactions than ever before.”

For Wells Fargo, those numbers are significant when compared 2019’s second quarter statistics. For April 2020, digital logins were up 21.5 percent, mobile deposit dollar volume was up 108.3 percent, and online wires transactions were up 49.6 percent. There were also 31.7 million checks deposited using mobile devices, which was a 35.9 increase over a year ago.

Naturally, there were learning curves and the need for increased bandwidth capacity.

“Our IT department ensured an uninterrupted workflow for our team members who suddenly found themselves working remotely,” said Singleton. “The robust features built into Sync Mobile and Online found popularity with our customers.”

Bank Independent’s loan processing teams shifted gears by using the digital signature platform, in lieu of traditional signatures to close documents.

Since the pandemic exploded, customers have significantly changed how they do their banking. According to an FIS survey, 45 percent of consumers said they started using some form of mobile wallet following the pandemic’s onset. Once comfortable with usage, it is seen as another option, in addition to the face-to-face banking.

However, there are customers who prefer the return of “brick and mortar” banking.

“I think the industry will scramble to find the balance between digital and personal,” said Singleton. “Our customers have voiced their desire for things to return to ‘normal.’

“We have a plan in place that will accommodate our customers in a manner that is safe and secure for both the customer and our team members.”

 

 

 

Dynetics Unveils Lunar Lander Module Mockup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Bioscience Companies Headline BIO Alabama Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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