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Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Chamber Hosts Virtual Automotive Hiring Event

Ready for some good news/bad news?

The bad news first: Yes, there are a lot of people out of work, some people who are not sure their jobs are coming back post-COVID, and others facing instability in their current jobs and careers.

But there is a lot of good news for these people: Huntsville has jobs available, and lots of them – particularly in the automotive industry.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual North Huntsville Automotive Hiring
Event Wednesday with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, as well as other automotive industry-related companies.

The companies will do virtual presentations about the work they do and what their jobs entail. They will meet with job seekers to discuss the jobs they have available (entry-level and above); and talk about the companies’ culture and expectations.

According to Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, they will be using a platform called Remo, an interactive online recruitment environment.

“Ideally, we would do this in an auditorium where we could get people in the room talking to each other face-to-face,” Cape said. “But this is the closest thing we could find with COVID still a threat.

“There will also be a presentation from AIDT, Alabama’s statewide industrial training and recruitment group which does most of the hiring for production jobs.”

Cape said there are openings now with great opportunities to make a career change.

“If you know someone who is out of work, or concerned about their job or their career, given the changes in our economy, encourage them to check this out,” Cape said. “We are experiencing a lot of growth – we have never had this kind of OEM activity before … we are always looking for ways to support these companies, while making sure the community benefits from these great job projects.”

There are two sessions Wednesday: 4-5 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. with spots for 200 people per event.

Cape said if they max these two sessions out, they will host another one. She said there will likely be similar events well into the first quarter of 2021.

“Remember, the Chamber’s job site at https://asmartplace.com/work/find-a-job has jobs posted from other industries and other employers all the time,” she said. “But we had a particular push right now with Mazda Toyota and Toyota Alabama for specific positions that are available now.”

To register in advance for the 4 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs1.

To register in advance for the 5 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs2.

Automotive companies that would like to join the job fair should contact Cape at lcape@hsvchamber.org.

 

Prelude to Tokyo: Team USA Rolls into 2021 Paralympic Cycling Season in Huntsville

The Rocket City is quickly becoming a city of elite athletic events.

The latest jewel in Huntsville’s crown is the Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open – a stepping-stone event for the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

After a year of postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Tommy Battle announced Huntsville, in partnership with the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Committee and presenting sponsor Toyota, will open the 2021 Paralympic Cycling’s national calendar here next spring. 

Battle has long said Huntsville is quickly becoming the location of choice for athletic events and with more than 100 elite Paralympic athletes competing April 17-18, 2021, the elite U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team will not disappoint. Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open is a key stop for cyclists looking to make it to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

“At a time when our country and world is dealing with a pandemic and unease around the future of sports, this event can inspire us and unite us,” said Battle. “The event requires a lot of planning and Medalist Sports has been working with Toyota, the City of Huntsville, the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Cummings Research Park, and the Huntsville Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau for several months to make the event happen.

“The event has been in the works a long time, ever since the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Committee representatives visited Huntsville in October 2019 to scout a venue that would work well for this event. They really liked what they found in Cummings Research Park.”

He said Cummings Research Park has hosted several 5k and cycling events and that played a large part in the decision. It is also relatively calm on weekends in terms of traffic. 

“The Paralympic Committee is continuing to work with Toyota and our local leaders to make sure things go smoothly for the race planners, athletes, families, and the sports teams,” said Battle.

Team USA athletes have continued their training throughout 2020, despite the pandemic, to stay in top shape as they get ready to compete again and qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics. 

Ian Lawless: “We expect to see many of the same names in Huntsville, later competing in Tokyo.”

“The Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open is not only our domestic road cycling season opener for our Paralympic athletes, but it will be their first major return to competition on the road after we have reset things due to the pandemic in 2020,” said Ian Lawless, director of Paralympic Cycling. “We have had no road events either domestic or internationally this year, so Huntsville will be an opportunity for 100 Paralympic cycling athletes to compete in a beautiful venue, as part of their road to Tokyo.”

The Paralympic athletes will be competing in Europe in May 2021 to earn final spots for the Tokyo games. The roster will be comprised of winners from the Huntsville Open, making it a crucial event to the athletes’ path to Tokyo.

“We are super excited and of course we will be working with the CDC and the Paralympic sports medicine team and Paralympic Committee to put on an event that is safe for our athletes and for the community, and we will be working with local authorities in Huntsville to do so,” said Lawless.

“We appreciate all the folks involved in the local organizing committee, Mayor Battle and our partner with both Toyota Alabama and Toyota nationally for their support, not only of this event, but the Paralympic cycling program at the U.S. Olympics and the Paralympic committee.”

As the presenting sponsor, Battle said this is another example of how Toyota is so supportive of our community and will be active in helping make this event a reality.

Visually impaired athletes ride in tandem with a sighted pilot on the front.

“As a longstanding partner with the city of Huntsville and with the Chamber, it is truly an honor for Toyota to present this wonderful opportunity for our community and for the Toyota Alabama team members to show the world what Huntsville has to offer,” said Kim Ogle, manager of Corporate Communications for Toyota Alabama. This partnership further identifies our commitment to sustainable societies through mobility and to reiterate that no matter the challenge, when a person is free to move, anything is really possible, and no one knows this better than the amazing athletes who will compete at the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Open. 

“They have fought against adversity throughout their lives, yet they never gave up the dream of representing their country at the highest level … this campaign truly reflects the Olympic and Paralympics spirit of encouragement, challenge and progress and aims to inspire our employees, our partners, and our customers to dream the impossible dream. And in this spirit, we look forward to welcoming Team USA athletes as they go for the gold.”

Lawless said fans should expect to see an exciting event with high stakes, and athletes competing at a world-class level.

“We expect to see many of the same names in Huntsville, later competing in Tokyo,” said Lawless.

The event begins with individual time trials on Saturday, April 17. The athletes will compete within their categories, all day against the clock on a 15 km course. 

On Sunday, there will be a road race with about 12 different races throughout the day where athletes within their categories race varying distances on a 12km course. Those races consist of men’s and women’s road races and hand cycling team relays with multiple laps depending on their category.

“In Paralympic cycling there are races in different categories for people of varying disabilities based on their level of function and the type of bikes they ride, whether they ride a handcycle or a 2-wheel bike with or without an adaptation, or a tandem for visually impaired riders,” said Lawless. “They participate with a sighted pilot on the front.”

He said they also have athletes with neurologic impairments compete on a 3-wheel upright trike.

“It is a mass start race, but I think most importantly, what you’ll see is athletes returning to competition for the first time on the road since September 2019,” said Lawless. “That is a long time for our athletes to be off from competition domestically and internationally.”

The event will feature the best Paralympic athletes in the nation can show not only the local community, but the world what they can do, and how elite they are in terms of their athletic ability. 

Oz Sanchez: “Huntsville will be thoroughly pleased with the caliber of athletes they see here.”

Oz Sanchez, a three-time Paralympian champion who competed in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Games, is also a six-time Paralympic medalist. 

“I am absolutely looking forward to our first race in Huntsville next year where I will most definitely plan on competing,” he said. “It’s going to be the benchmark for what we are going to look like the rest of the season, and hopefully a good indicator of the fit and feel of the rest of the season.

“An event like this one really gives us that ‘shaking off the cobwebs’ (after a year off in 2020) and seeing what our fitness is like. There is nothing that really replicates the actual feel of a competitive day of racing – the nerves, the edge, the mindset, the psyche – so if we don’t have these sorts of opportunities to dry run the process of competing at a top level, it sets us up for less than ideal or less than desirable performance.”

“I will likely be keeping my campaign head down, remain on-throttle. It will be a benchmark temperament check in Huntsville,” said Sanchez. “I keep my mind and my eye on the prize – Tokyo – that is where it all ends, and Huntsville will be thoroughly pleased with the caliber of athletes they see here. Huntsville will be like a miniature championship as far as I’m concerned.”

There is no charge for admission or tickets required to attend any of the events.

“The beauty of roadside cycling worldwide is that it is available to the general public and to the community to come out and watch,” said Lawless. “If you have seen professional cycling like the Tour de France on TV for example, traditionally there are thousands of fans on the side of the road.

“In 2020, the Paralympic Committee worked hard to figure out how to run outdoor professional cycling events in a safe way.  They have been recognized for setting the bar high and coming up with new standards on how to run a road cycling competition that is still open and free and available to the public in a way that protects the athletes, protects staff working on the event, and protects the community and spectators all in attendance.” 

He said that is the standard they will be following in working with the city, the state, and national authorities, as well as the CDC and their sports medicine team, to ensure protocols and parameters are in place to keep everyone safe.

“We are excited about having a host community and local organizing committee who is investing a lot into this event, as well as great support from Toyota,” said Lawless.

Booz Allen Innovation Center at Stovehouse Will Put Technology on Display

Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson: The innovation center “is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent.”

This winter, visitors to the historic Stovehouse will be able to watch innovation in progress through the glass “storefront” of the new Booz Allen Innovation Center overlooking the grassy courtyard of the reimagined factory. On display will be the company’s vast 3D printing capabilities and other additive manufacturing technologies.

Plans for the innovation center were first announced in June, but a live groundbreaking event followed by a virtual tour of the renovated 6,400 square-foot facility was recently carried on Facebook with Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Burns; City Councilman Bill Kling; the Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager Emily Jones; and Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson.

“This new innovation center is a celebration of one of Huntsville’s longtime investors, and a key member of the Huntsville regional growth initiative,” said Burns.

The 3D printing space will act like a “storefront” in front of the windows overlooking the Stovehouse courtyard. Guest office space will be on the right.

“It’s a really big day for Booz Allen, opening this innovation center,” said Hudson. “We have been a part of Huntsville, really from the very beginning when Wernher von Braun was still a director at MDA (Missile Defense Agency). He reached out to Booz Allen to try and figure out how to get the funding to kick off the U.S. missile program here.

“We have grown as a company supporting MDA and NASA since then and grown into the huge company, we are today because of it, and more recently, because of our support for the DoD (Department of Defense) as well.”

The innovation center is a way for Booz Allen to showcase its engineering expertise in a customer and community collaborative environment. The center will feature a reconfigurable layout based on client work and technology requirements, including additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“Huntsville’s newest innovation space is well on its way to being finished,” said Kling. “Booz Allen’s Innovation Center will provide a cutting edge and a welcoming environment in support of Booz Allen and their customers here in Huntsville.

Taking part in a “groundbreaking ceremony” are Kevin Burns, 2020 Chair Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce; City Councilman Bill Kling; Emily Jones, Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager; Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president, Booz Allen Huntsville; and Mayor Tommy Battle

“It will definitely have some very cool features.”

Hudson said the goal is to change as little as possible of the original factory space, while making it as flexible as possible to meet the company’s needs.

Entering the building from the Stovehouse courtyard, Booz Allen customers and Stovehouse guests will find the space open and conducive to social distancing.

The 3D printing space is in front of the windows and on full display. Across from it are guest offices for Booz Allen customers already using that technology.

Off to the right is a large, reconfigurable open space that can be used for multiple purposes and events with desks and tables and chairs.

In the far right corner is a main conference room that includes a soundproof, video-quality environment for customers and clients.

This multi-purpose open space is reconfigurable and will include a main conference room with a soundproof, video quality environment.

“Everything behind the front pillar as you enter the building will be on wheels,” said Hudson. “We will have some carts and toolboxes for light integration work, a lot of work with training in virtual environments such as cockpit controls. We manufacture some training environments and will definitely be demonstrating how we integrate technologies into those different virtual environments.”

They will also have a recruiting area and will hold staffing events.

“It is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent,” said Hudson.

Booz Allen plans to be open in time for a February leadership meeting scheduled at the Innovation Center.

“Innovation is what has made Huntsville what it is today,” said Battle “On behalf of the 205,000 people in the city of Huntsville, I thank you for making Huntsville part of your home.

“As we continue to grow, we are proud this is happening here in our community.”

Holiday Shoppers Urged to Shop Small, Save Local and Spend Big

They won’t say “Black Friday”, “Small Business Saturday”, or “Cyber Monday” have been called off this year, but instead, it has been extended to incorporate the entire four weeks from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the South Huntsville Main Business Association, Downtown Huntsville Inc., the North Huntsville Business Association, and the cities of Huntsville and Madison have launched a Shop Small, Save Local campaign to support Madison County retailers.

After a long, challenging year of pandemic and shutdowns, the traditional Christmas shopping experience looks a lot different this year than it has in the past, but local small businesses are doing what small businesses do best – they have used a lot of creativity in turning COVID problems into new opportunities, while developing practical solutions like required masks, social distancing, easily accessible sanitizing stations and a whole lot of Plexiglas to improve their business models – perhaps permanently.

Ask yourself – will anyone really miss the traditional mad dash at midnight to lay claim to crowded “Black Friday” doorbusters? Will you miss riding people’s heels to take their parking spot, or wrestling your neighbor out of the last Star Wars Child Animatronic Edition of Yoda?

According to Pammie Jimmar, vice president, Small Business & Events for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber, local retailers large and small started in October preparing for a longer Christmas shopping experience to help local retailers make up some of what they have lost during the pandemic.

“We have to save our local businesses and that is why the Chamber decided to make a strong statement about it,” said Jimmar. “Traditionally, we celebrate Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, but after what our local businesses have been through this year, we felt it was important to support them all the time, all year long, across the board, and not just on one day or two.”

And it is not just an override of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Before you wear the lettering off Amazon’s “Submit” button online, Shop Small (Business), Save Local asks residents to take a pause and look at the benefits to shopping local small businesses, and spending big while you are at it!

“Everything you can find online, you can also find locally,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “You can hold it in your hand, try it on, and save the wait for it to arrive. You can save the expense of shipping or returns, printing labels, buying postage, and having to go to the post office. It is also efficient since the receiver can easily exchange it for a different color or a different size.

“In terms of whether it is safe, grocery stores, pharmacies and big-ticket stores have found ways to safely adjust to the pandemic and North Alabamians have learned to mask, sanitize, and separate. So, there is no reason why shopping cannot be an even better experience this year.”

“When you shop local, you are supporting local government,” Battle said. “The money comes from sales tax and is used to build roads and run schools – all things we provide in support of our community. Know that when you buy local, you are supporting a school child, a teacher, or someone who might be distance learning. It is very important for us and for our community.”

For years, “Black Friday”, and more recently, “Cyber Monday” have kicked off the retail Christmas shopping season. Even in normal times, those three days following Thanksgiving mark the first time all year that retailers begin to turn a profit – that is, operate “in the black”, after operating at break-even or at a loss – “in the red” – all year prior.

In 2020, to say retailers have operated in the red is a colossal understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged retailers in a way they have never had to face before.

“This is definitely an unusual year for shopping,” said Sameer Singhal, president/CEO of CFD Research Corp. and vice chair of Small Business and Events at the Chamber. “The pandemic makes everything look a little bit different and we have a new normal, but it doesn’t stop us from doing what’s the right thing.

“It is all about our small business owners.”

David Christopherson of Roosevelt and Co., a men’s clothing and supply store in Huntsville, said he wants customers to know how conscientious they are in providing a safe and healthy environment where customers can come in and shop.

“Our team is just three people,” said Christopherson. “So, if one of our employees got COVID, we will be losing a part of our team, so I think all small businesses are very conscious about making masking, sanitizing and distancing a priority.

“We extended our Small Business Saturday deals for the entire week so people won’t feel rushed and they can get down here when they can and feel safe and comfortable in the store.  For those who prefer not to come in, we offer more merchandise on our website than usual and provide curbside pick-up and delivery to make it easy for those people.”

Singhal said many small businesses are handling customers the same way.

“In the early days of the pandemic, I called Wild Birds Unlimited on Whitesburg Drive and bought bird seed and a feeder on the phone,” he said. “The manager met me in the parking lot and put it in the trunk of my car.

“Toy Place in Five Points actually did a Facetime walk-through her store, we picked out a gift, she gift-wrapped it, and we picked it up outside the store without ever getting out of the car.”

Madison Mayor Paul Finley: “I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community.”

“It is just a different year,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “I think part of what we get to do is be innovative in finding purposeful ways to support our community. Ninety percent of U.S. businesses are categorized as small or medium sized. With this pandemic, about one-third of those businesses right now are either operating on a very basic level or not operating at all.

“I have five boys to shop for and I’m going to be looking forward to shopping locally to make prosperity happen for every store in our community. Let’s make this a really successful, although different, season.”

“The pandemic has impacted us in a lot of ways, but the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops,” said Chad Emerson, president and CEO of Downtown Huntsville Inc. “Gifts you can’t find anywhere else, a lot of exclusive lines in clothing, candles and other gifts.

Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson: “… the reality is, you can find more interesting, more unique goods when you shop with our local shops.”

“I want to stress that shopping local isn’t just an altruistic thing to do. It’s different, but one thing that is not different is you can buy everything you need for friends and family locally. You can find interesting and unique gifts whether it is downtown, South Huntsville, North Huntsville or the great Madison community and throughout the County. And remember that a lot of the local boutiques have online stores on their websites where you can request curbside pickup.”

Merrill Wright, interim director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, said shopping local is easy and convenient because you can make a quick stop at a store on your way home from work or school or during a lunch break, to pick up gifts for family and friends.

“We see our small business owners quite often,” Wright said. “We’ve been communicating with them a lot since COVID, and we see the stress they have been under this year. One thing I can say from talking and meeting with them almost daily is, they have a wonderfully positive outlook. They continue to wake up and go to their business in the morning and start every day fresh. And it is not just during the holiday season, it is during the rest of the year as well.

“They need our support whether it is a birthday present or a universal gift, so shop small, local business whenever you can.”

The new North Huntsville Business Association recently introduced Judy Hardin as its executive director. She said North Huntsville’s revitalization projects have helped build relationships between small businesses and the community.

North Huntsville Business Association Executive Director Judy Hardin: “… remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

“It is the American dream to become an entrepreneur so our business owners are proud of all the new products and services starting up in the area,” said Hardin. “We are having problems due to COVID just like everyone else in Madison County. Small business establishments are supporting each other in getting past the situation, but we are excited and ready to support them because remember, shopping brings in tourism as well and we all need that.”

Bekah Schmidt, executive director of the South Huntsville Main Business Association, said, “This holiday season it is more important than ever to support local businesses. We have great gift guides and if you are buying for the kids, Rocket City Moms website is a valuable tool for ideas.”

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber launched a website this past spring aimed at helping all types of small business retailers, including restaurants. GetYourGiftOn.org is the perfect solution if you are not comfortable shopping in person. It features many local Madison County retail stores and restaurants where customers can purchase gift cards directly on the site. They can be emailed to you or a recipient from the comfort of home. Even though the recipient may not use the gift card until later, the purchase provides financial support to the business owner immediately.

“It is a great way to thank someone and it is free to all local businesses, whether you are a member of the Chamber or not,” said Singhal. “The site is free for businesses to set up a profile and gift cards. In fact, if your company does not currently offer gift cards, you can set them up right there on the site and it only takes about 15 minutes. There is a link at the top to add your business, and a link to set up gift cards if you don’t currently offer them.”

“There are a lot of positives to shopping locally, but the biggest positive is your next door neighbor or your friends may be working at that store, may be part of the economy supporting that store, part of the economy that store supports,” said Battle. “If we take a minute to think about how much these stores mean to us … and support them, we make for a great Christmas for us and a great Christmas for them, a successful holiday season … so shop local and spend big (dollars).”

 

NHBA Taking Care of Business on Huntsville’s North Side

North Huntsville is open for business.

And the North Huntsville Business Association has opened an office and business center to help entrepreneurs and small business owners find success.

The NHBA Wall of Fame recognizes supporters of North Huntsville businesses.

The new office is at 2007 North Memorial Parkway, adjacent to HC Blake in the remodeled shopping center at the intersection with Oakwood Avenue. Among those joining NHBA President Reggie McKenzie and other officers at the office’s “soft opening” Thursday were State Rep. Laura Hall, City Councilman Devyn Keith and Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Vice President Small Business & Events Pammie Jimmar.

“It’s important we not only identify businesses we can help, but it’s also about redevelopment and what businesses’ needs are,” said NHBA Executive Director Judy Hardin. With some 30 years of experience working with small businesses, Hardin recently retired from Raytheon as manager of Small Business Partnering. “We are here to support them, finding the means for them and collaborating.

“As businesses grow, the community will grow.”

One of the means is a Google Fiber-supported Promote the Parkway Initiative. The program aims to assist the city in attracting business along the North Memorial Parkway corridor. It includes one year of free rent to a start-up small business in North Huntsville.

Keith, who is opening the North Side Dark coffee shop in the shopping center, has been working to get needed help – financial and advisory – for the North Memorial Parkway corridor.

“This is the first example of seed money from the city,” he said. “We have to keep the public and private partnerships.

“You can’t get the location and right of way the way North Huntsville has it.”

Hall, whose district includes North Huntsville, said the redevelopment of the area is vital and that inclusion is a primary aspect of the redevelopment.

“We want to see that the inclusion is a reality,” she said. “The importance of inclusion and diversity is a benefit to all.”

Jimmar echoed Hall’s remarks on diversity and inclusion … and added another aspect.

“As a Chamber, we’re here for you,” she said. “It’s about diversity, inclusion and equity.”

Keith credited NHBA President Reggie McKenzie with being instrumental in promoting North Memorial Parkway and the need for redevelopment and opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The NHBA also unveiled its Wall of Fame recognizing Google Fiber, Redstone Federal Credit Union and the City of Huntsville as keep supporters and Walk of Fame Stars honoring Keith and former District 1 City Councilman Richard Showers Sr. for their work for North Huntsville.

“This has been a real inspiration for the community to see there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs,” said NHBA Vice President Alex Adams. “This is a star for Huntsville, particularly the north side of town.”

For more information on the North Huntsville Business Association and the Promote the Parkway Initiative, visit http://northhuntsvillebusiness.com/

Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

Fund Established to Support Nonprofits Providing Supervised Learning for Students

A fund has been established to support nonprofit organizations providing assistance for local students during this time of virtual learning.

The Remote Learning Supervision Fund is a collaborative effort of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, The Schools Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville. Toyota Alabama, Raytheon Technologies, and The Junior League of Huntsville provided the initial $50,000 to start the fund. The deadline for donations for the initial round of grants is Sept. 25, and grant applications will be open soon.

The fund is for nonprofits that provide supervised learning for students in Huntsville, Madison, and
Madison County school districts that are operating remotely, running staggered schedules, or temporarily closed because of COVID-19 cases.

“While all three public school systems are operating virtually for the first nine weeks, schedules could adjust as the school year proceeds, and students will continue to need support,” said Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Industry Relations and Workforce. “We are thankful for all of the organizations who have stepped up to provide expanded services to support children, and this fund is intended to help provide scholarships and subsidies for parents who cannot afford existing options.”

As the first donor, Toyota created the momentum to get it started.

“Toyota is proud to support this initiative in collaboration with fellow community members,” said Kim Ogle, Toyota Motor North America Communications Manager. “We’re grateful to do our part and see our community come together and help each other during this unprecedented time.”

For information, visit hsvchamber.org.

Mission and Vision: Region’s Largest Spec Industrial Facility Breaks Ground

All it takes is a mission and a vision for Huntsville’s long-term strategic plan to build a multicounty regional economy in North Alabama to take shape.

One of the components of that vision dropped into place recently as the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the Limestone County Economic Development Authority joined the Hollingsworth Cos. in breaking ground on the largest speculative industrial facility in North Alabama.

It is the 11th facility Hollingsworth has built in the SouthPoint Business Park, which has already provided hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investments. When finished, the new building will be home to more than 1.9 million square feet of industrial space.

Located off Interstates 65 and 565 and five miles from the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, the park is suitable for high-growth manufacturing and distribution companies who benefit from a location along the I-65 corridor in North Alabama.

SouthPoint Business Park is already home to HDT Global, Custom Assembly, Redline Steel, Woodbridge, Supreme Beverage and Aldez.

While shovels moved dirt for the sprawling new building, local and state officials and members of the business community toured two industrial buildings now available in the park. The two buildings provide 173,888 and 109,080 square feet for companies looking to expand or relocate their manufacturing and distribution facilities.

“In spite of the economic pressure of COVID-19 and this being an election year, we are very bullish on the North Alabama market,” said Joe Hollingsworth, CEO of The Hollingsworth Cos., the largest nonurban industrial real estate developer and construction firm in the Southeast. “We have grown our business on the belief that American manufacturing will continue to prosper, and the Southeastern United States will lead this growth. I would like to thank the community for being willing to invest time, effort, and money into being a true partner in making this park successful.

“It is my belief that the next eight years will be the best economic period of our lives.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said the park will help ensure job creation and business development for the Rocket City.

“Over the past 10 years, we’ve been able to announce new and expanding companies in our community that have created 30,000 jobs,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “To do that requires many assets. You need a workforce, you need access to markets, and you need sites and buildings. Today’s groundbreaking gives us another tool to help us in our continuing efforts to diversify our economy and to make sure that anyone in Huntsville who wants a job can get a job. 

“We thank the Hollingsworth Companies for its continued investment and belief in our community,” 

Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly said, “The groundbreaking of the largest speculative industrial building in North Alabama, despite being in the middle of a pandemic, is positive news for our county. We look forward to this new location assisting with the demand for industrial facilities needed for the continued growth in our county.”

Brooks Kracke, president and CEO of the North Alabama Industrial Development Association, said, “This latest Hollingsworth building in Southpoint Industrial Park is much needed and is very timely in order to meet the demands of our regional growth.” 

 

Huntsville No. 2 for Career Opportunities in COVID-19 Recession

We’re not No. 1, but No. 2 is pretty good.

In a recent study, Huntsville ranked No. 2 among the best places for career opportunities in the COVID-19 recession . SmartAsset analyzed 200 of the largest metro areas across seven metrics related to employment, income and access to professional development through higher education or career counseling.

Huntsville placed in the top 10 of the study for two different categories: It had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in May 2020, at 7.6 percent, and the eighth-highest income growth over a career, at 30.47 percent.

While the metro area finishes in the bottom half of the study for its low number of career counselors and post-secondary teachers per 1,000 workers, it ranks within the top 50 for its relatively small drop in total employment over the past year (-7.26 percent) and its relatively high 2019 median income (almost $42,000).

The top 10 according to SmartAsset are: College Station-Bryan, Texas; Huntsville; Gainesville, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Provo-Orem, Utah; Tallahassee, Fla.; Boulder, Colo; Tucson, Ariz.; and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.

SmartAsset is a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice on the web. The company offers free and personalized tools for personal finance decisions around homebuying, retirement, taxes and more.

 

Upwards Virtual Career & Training Fair a Must for Out-of-Work Alabamians

There are 42,146 people out of work in North Alabama. 

The additional $600 a week people have been receiving from the federal government is scheduled to end July 31, and taking the initiative to bring down that 7.8 percent unemployment rate as quickly as possible is the focus of the Upwards Career & Training Fair. It will be one of North Alabama’s first, virtual hiring events, and the fair runs July 14-16.

Spearheaded by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with local business and civic leaders, including the AlabamaWorks! North Alabama workforce council and a variety of educational partners from the surrounding 13-county region, the Upwards Career & Training Fair has been organized specifically to assist these dislocated workers impacted by COVID-19. 

North Alabama’s Region 1 includes Colbert, Cullman, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Morgan, and Winston counties. 

The event will match job seekers with employers who have available, high-demand jobs that pay family-sustaining wages. It will also look to upskill or reskill workers with training opportunities designed to leverage workers into high-demand, good-paying jobs. The upskilling and reskilling portion of the event was a big focus for the state of Alabama before the pandemic.

There is no cost to register; employers, training organizations and job seekers throughout the North Alabama region should register at UpwardsAlabama.com before July 14.

It is easy for job seekers to register, upload a resume, and explore the companies and training resources offered. There are also recommended times for job seekers and companies to hook up online and talk. 

Those times, designed to suit a variety of schedules are July 14 from 1-4 p.m.; July 15 from 2-4 p.m. and 7-8 p.m.; and July 16 from 9 a.m. until noon.

Once registered, each company or training organization will be able to build a virtual booth with a welcoming video to the job seekers that explains more about the company or organization, including the mission, vision, values, and potential opportunities to grow.

It will also provide at least one specific position for which they are hiring, with a complete job description and three specific interview questions that align with the company’s culture or the specific position.

To make it even easier, the Chamber of Commerce is offering a mobile-friendly experience for those workers who do not have access to a computer.

Once again, Huntsville’s regional economy is pulling together to give the workforce a boost – not just as a long-term strategy for economic growth, but in response to the worker in times of uncertainty where creative thinking and positive initiatives help the region recover as quickly as possible.