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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.

Huntsville Shows Resilience as New Economic Numbers Are Mixed Bag

New economic impact numbers have been released and according to the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce Research Director Ken Smith, they provide a snapshot into exactly what kind of impact COVID-19 has had on our local economy, and how that information compares to the national numbers.

While there is some bad news in the data, albeit expected; there is quite a bit a good news going forward as Huntsville proves to be overwhelmingly resilient.

According to Smith’s presentation on a recent teleconference call with Chamber members, there was a big dip in employment coming off March into April with Huntsville employment at 226,000. The one-month change showed an 8.3 percent dip, which Smith said is a significant drop. However, compared to the U.S. employment numbers of -13.1 percent, Huntsville stayed well ahead of the national statistics.

Furthermore, according to early calculations for May, employment has already started ticking back up, showing a 2 percent increase in employment from April to May.

“We are looking at what analysts are saying is a two-year recovery for GDP and a possible three-year recovery for employment to get back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Smith. “We are about 7.5 percent below where we were this time last year, as compared to 13 percent for the U.S. economy. That translates into 10.6 percent unemployment locally, which is a big jump, but not bad when compared to the U.S., which was up to 14.4 percent.

“The Federal Reserve recently announced they are not likely to raise interest rates until after the year 2022. So this gives us hope and a sign it will be the same for the local Huntsville economy, and it will rebound, which falls in line with what the Federal Reserve has been predicting.”

Looking at the two-year picture, backing up to January 2018, the numbers show the precipitous drop in April wiped out any gains over the past few years, and the same can be said for the U.S. economy, which lost 20,000,000 workers over the past month. It added back 3 million in May.

“We at the Chamber use trends in our marketing to potential new clients interested in moving their business into the area,” said Smith. “They like to see that our economy is strong.

“If you look out over 20 years instead of two years, you can see Huntsville’s employment growth is about twice the rate of the U.S. and it has been trending that way since 2000.

Smith’s data charts show the dip in 2008, which was the recession. It took Huntsville about five years to recover and get employment back to pre-recession levels. It took the U.S. six years.

“But what they’re predicting now is a larger drop but a shorter recovery,” said Smith. “That is a three-year recovery in employment and four years for the U.S. to recover.”

Looking at employment by industry, there are no surprises.

The biggest local job loss was in the leisure and hospitality industry, losing 8,000 jobs from March to April. That includes all the arts, entertainment, and recreation, and hotel and food services.

The second biggest loss for Huntsville was in professional and business services.

Huntsville lost 4,100 jobs during that same time period, and where engineering and technology workers did not see a big job loss, the losses were in support services such as office and administrative, cleaning services, document preparation, and employment services. With companies closed or people working from home, there was a lot less need for some of that support.

The third largest drop was some 1,500 jobs in a sector that included repair and maintenance businesses, hair and nail salons, and nonprofit organizations.

Smith said Huntsville’s employment by industry matches up pretty well against the U.S. hospitality and leisure sector, which lost 7.2 million jobs.

“Huntsville dropped about 36 percent, so we see over one-third unemployment in leisure and hospitality, where the U.S. lost almost half in that sector at about 46 percent,” said Smith. “Huntsville expects to gain it back.”

In areas where Huntsville fared pretty well, the retail trade industries only lost about 5 percent, compared to the U.S. at about 14 percent.

Huntsville also did well in manufacturing, losing only about 4 percent compared to the U.S. losing about 10 percent overall.

In the areas of construction, wholesale trade, and transportation, Huntsville lost very few jobs compared to the national numbers, but transportation is not a very big industry in the local market.

Huntsville also did not lose many jobs in finance or in the government sector.

Looking at the good news, Moody’s Analytics did an analysis at the end of May showing a sharp drop with a continued recovery through the rest of this year 2020.

“A lot of people might think, ‘Well, all we did was put on the brakes. Why can’t we just start right back up and go back to where we were two months ago?’,” said Smith. “That’s typically not going to happen. We saw after the 2008 recession it took five years to get back to pre-recession levels.

“Here, they are expecting a recovery, but not an immediate one. Huntsville is looking at two years for GDP and three years for the employment to recover, which is one year earlier than the U.S.

Why is Huntsville’s recovery faster than the U.S.?

Moody’s points to some of the area’s key strengths.

“It’s interesting to see how the short-term and long-term statistics show us in expansion mode, which is pretty positive,” said Smith.

Some of those strengths are Huntsville’s extremely highly skilled and educated workforce in areas of advanced manufacturing at key companies like Mazda Toyota, for example; and research jobs such as those at Blue Origin and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Moody’s mentions all three specifically.

Huntsville’s robust population growth and favorable migration is part of it too. It comes on the heels of new population numbers recently released showing Huntsville’s population hitting over 200,000 for the very first time, so that is definitely something to note.

In terms of weaknesses, Smith said Huntsville still gets knocked down because of our dependence on the government sector with an underrepresented private sector.

Also wage growth is slow, due in part to a higher-educated workforce whose wages are already on the upper end, so there is less room to grow.

“Lastly, if we look into the Moody’s forecast a little more deeply, you can see the year-by-year percent growth, and you can see where we were trending before 2019,” said Smith. “We were outpacing the U.S. economy in growth and jobs so this is why we say Huntsville’s economic recovery and employment growth is better, and will be faster than the U.S.”

Smith also said the Chamber still has companies interested in locating their businesses in the Huntsville community and they are working on several projects on the commercial side.

“We are still seeing a lot of investment companies and private investors looking to continue their projects here, so from the Chamber perspective, we are primed and ready!

“It’s a very difficult time for many people, especially small business, but the balance of the skilled workforce and job growth makes Huntsville residents better able to support their families than some,” said Chamber President and CEO Chip Cherry. “There’s a lot of job growth and information that shows companies are hiring, and there is a lot going on Redstone Arsenal too, so there are still a lot of opportunities in this market.

“We are not recession-proof, but we are a lot more resilient than some,” Cherry said.

 

Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Wins ‘Site Selection’ Award

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has been named a winner of a 2020 Mac Conway Award by Site Selection magazine.

The award recognizes the Chamber, a longtime Tennessee Valley Authority economic development partner, as one of the top local and regional economic development agencies in the U.S. for its role in helping deliver prosperity to its community.

“Congratulations to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber on receiving the Mac Conway Award,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president for Economic Development. “This organization is committed to raising the quality of life in the area, and its efforts continue to bring high quality jobs and attract business and industry to the region.”

The Chamber actively promotes economic development, workforce and education, small business events, marketing and communications, and government outreach on behalf of the local business community. The Chamber’s efforts propelled it to high marks in the four areas considered in the selection process.

“This recognition is a direct reflection of our community and its attractiveness to new and expanding businesses,” said Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development, Industry Relations and Workforce at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “The talent here and the quality of life make it possible for us to recruit new companies while supporting local growth.

“We appreciate this award and what it means for the Huntsville area.”

This year’s Mac Conway Award winners have been determined by an index that examines 2019 corporate facility investment projects in U.S. metro areas as tracked by Site Selection’s proprietary Conway Projects database. Scores are awarded based on six criteria: total projects, total investment associated with those projects, jobs associated with those projects and three criteria representing a per capita calculation of those same metrics.

‘Best Places to Work’ Awarded Virtually

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of events and activities, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber went virtual this year for the annual Best Places To Work Awards,

The event, presented by Synovus, was originally scheduled for April 15 in the Von Braun Center North Hall, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The results are based on employee surveys. Results are tabulated by Quantum Workplace and were kept confidential prior to the event.

The winners are:

Micro Category (10-24 employees)
GOLD: Phased n Research, Inc.
SILVER: Cortina Solutions, LLC
BRONZE: River Tree Insurance Services, Inc.

Small Category (25-50 employees)
GOLD: KODA Technologies, Inc.
SILVER: Matt Curtis Real Estate, Inc.
BRONZE: Crossflow Technologies, Inc.

Medium Category (51-100 employees)
GOLD: Thompson Gray, Inc.
SILVER: Hill Technical Solutions, Inc.
BRONZE: Brockwell Technologies, Inc.

Large Category (101-250 employees)
GOLD: Avion Solutions
SILVER: IronMountain Solutions
BRONZE: Simulation Technologies, Inc.

X-Large Category (251-plus employees)
GOLD: Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation
SILVER: Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI)
BRONZE: PeopleTec, Inc.

Huntsville Receives Donations from Booz Allen Hamilton Pandemic Resilience Program

Huntsville will receive a $50,000 donation to the Food Bank of North Alabama, and numerous other donations from Booz Allen Hamilton, as part of the company’s national $100 million pandemic resilience program in support of its employees and the communities where those employees live and work.

Huntsville is one of 10 cities to receive these funds out of the $1 million national donation to Feeding America’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

Shirley Schofield, executive director of the Food Bank of North Alabama, said she is grateful for the donation on behalf of the 11 counties and network of 250 food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and rehabilitation centers who partner to provide food to those in need.

“This is a tremendous gift for our community,” Schofield said. “This is funding that will go straight into the community and help feed many people and families affected by the current crisis.

“Generally, we are able to convert every $1 into seven meals, so if you do the math on that, it is a lot of food coming into this community thanks to Booz Allen Hamilton, and we are very appreciative of that.”

Her organization has seen a tremendous increase in the need for food since the shutdown ensued.

“Since March 15, we have provided almost a million meals to people in need, and every day, we hear from someone who has never had to seek assistance before,” she said. “They have worked full time but got laid off and they have not yet received their unemployment benefits.”

Another of those programs help families who count on the free lunch and breakfast programs at schools, who are feeling the pressure to accommodate two more meals a day for their children since the school system has moved to online classes from home.

“We have a lot of partnerships that work together to provide meals to all those kids, and we are one of the main suppliers of food for that,” said Schofield.

Huntsville Chamber’s A Smart Place Digital STEM Learning Hub

Booz Allen Hamilton also made a $15,000 donation to the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s digital STEM learning hub A Smart Place, which is being used by students and teachers as part of the remote-learning system. With city and county schools having moved to daily online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the donation is timely to say the least.

Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president of company’s Army business in Huntsville, is on the board of directors for the  Chamber of Commerce. He said the $15,000 donation to the Chamber’s Smart Place will significantly boost local schools’ laptop loaner program and access to Wi-Fi.

“This goes directly to one of the problems we see due to the unexpected shutdown of the schools,” he said. “I think it was pretty timely and right in line with what is expected of technology companies, and it has helped too with planning for the future to keep education moving forward.”

Local Support for Emergency Response and Front-Line Health Care

Booz Allen made a $1 million donation to the national CDC Foundation and Huntsville’s portion of that money will go directly to support local emergency response priorities such as staffing and helping front line health care workers during this critical time.

Furthermore, in partnership with the independent Booz Allen Foundation, the company has committed at least $10 million in assistance to local communities across the U.S. in the form of cash donations, grants, volunteer hours, pro-bono work, and technology to help military families, veterans, front line healthcare workers and those who are most vulnerable to the virus, including the elderly and homeless.

In addition to the initial funding, Booz Allen Hamilton is also exploring pro-bono, skills-based, and general volunteerism efforts in Huntsville.

COVID-19 Military Support Initiative

With the Army being the preponderance of the 225 people Booz Allen Hamilton employs on Redstone Arsenal, followed by the FBI and to a lesser extent, NASA, Huntsville will also see the impact of more than $1 million in donations to the COVID-19 Military Support Initiative, which supports veterans and military families during this unprecedented time.

The initiative is another slice of the $100 million pie, some of which will be routed to Huntsville to tackle employee health issues, provides an increase in the general benefit for employees, and offers flexibility for support services distributed through charitable donations.

Guaranteed Employment Until July 1

“On top of all of this, the big takeaway is that Booz Allen made the commitment across the whole firm to say, ‘If you’re a Booz Allen employee, you have a guaranteed job all the way until July 1’,” said Hudson. “Over 90 percent of our employees are teleworking so that is a great position to be in because that is not the case everywhere.”

He said it has been great working with Redstone Arsenal because they were so quick to adapt to a teleworking mentality.

“That has been a huge stress relief for employees and their families,” Hudson said. “Not only does it give them the security to pay their bills, but it also helps us to be able to support our customers so business can go forward.”

Community Foundation Reignites Emergency Relief Fund with $50K Donation from Toyota

Initiated after the tornado outbreak in North Alabama in 2011, the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville has  reignited its emergency relief fund thanks to a donation of $50,000 from Toyota. The funds are intended to support community nonprofit organizations who are providing basic needs and health and wellness relief throughout the community in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce and WAAY-TV have also partnered with the Community Foundation and Toyota to kick off the Take 5 to Give $5 campaign, which will culminate on May 5 for the global GivingTuesdayNow Day.

The partnership is challenging other companies to give anything from $5 up to $50,000 to match Toyota’s donation. Melissa Thompson, executive director of the Community Foundation, said their goal over the next two weeks is to put $500,000 into this fund.

In just a few days since launching the campaign, the Community Foundation and its donors have deposited nearly $200,000, not including the Toyota donation.

“We are supporting 28 different grants from 27 different nonprofit organizations to date,” said Thompson. “But the needs are still beyond what we are able to fund, so we have received grant applications in excess of $800,000. Our grants committee continues to work to get this money out to those organizations on the frontlines of our COVID-19 response.”

The Community Foundation usually relies on fees for managing company funds to cover operations. However, during the pandemic, the foundation is waiving its fees for the management of the emergency relief fund, to ensure that 100 percent of every dollar contributed goes directly to the nonprofits recommended for funding.

“Managing these contributions is our way of giving back to the community,” said Thompson.

The Community Foundation website at https://communityfoundationhsv.org/Covid lists the organizations that have already received grant funding, and visitors can also see the Foundation’s grants committee recommendations.

“Our grants committee is trying to prioritize needs and is very conscious of the fact we are spending other people’s money who have donated to this fund and also, that by endorsing a grant, we have a responsibility to stand behind it,” said Thompson. “The community can have confidence in the grants we are recommending.”

For questions about how an agency on the frontlines of this pandemic can apply for a grant and become a part of the Community Foundation, those agencies can find the application at the bottom of the webpage.

“We try to make it a pretty easy application,” said Thompson. “Our grants committee is meeting weekly right now to turn these applications around quickly, so get your application in as soon as possible.

“Just note the money is specific to basic needs and health and wellness right now.”

Chamber Launches GetYourGiftOn.Org to Support Local Restaurants and Stores

If you were not hungry before, you will be after visiting the new GetYourGiftOn.org website (https://www.getyourgifton.org/), launched by the Huntsville-Madison Chamber of Commerce in support of local small businesses, especially restaurants and retail establishments.

The website features retail and dining establishments which can quickly and easily upload detailed information about their business, including any promotional offers and specials; new and limited business hours; whether or not they offer curbside or delivery options (even if they didn’t offer it before); and links to online gift cards that can be used to order food or goods, or that can be given to someone else as gift.

Searchable by neighborhood, it is easy for businesses to take part by clicking the “Submit a Business” link at the top of the site and filling out the information. That information goes to the Chamber to be verified and could go live within a couple of hours if not sooner.

There is no cost for businesses to be added and Chamber membership is not required to participate.

“Maybe your company never thought about offering gift cards or just hadn’t gotten around to it yet,” said Lucia Cape, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at the Chamber. “This makes it really easy, and that was our intent – to keep it really simple and make it very attractive.”

For businesses that do not offer gift cards, there are options available.

  • Instagift, an Alabama-based e-gift card service, is  waiving monthly fees for any Huntsville signups;
  • Gift Up is waiving its 3.49 percent fee on the first $5,000 of gift card sales.

For businesses with e-gift cards and using platforms such as Square, they can be easily and quickly linked.

The Chamber has been brainstorming ways to help support local businesses during this unprecedented shutdown and heard about a site called LocalDistancing.com in Birmingham.

Inspired by three childhood friends and entrepreneurs Vince Perez, Dylan Spencer, and Trey Oliver, the Chamber asked them for help in building a sister site in Huntsville based on the same premise.

According to Cape, it was a labor of love working with them to get the site up quickly, and to provide such an easy format so business owners can add themselves to the site and be up and running almost immediately.

“Please pass along the word about GetYourGiftOn.org and encourage every retail or restaurant owner you know to add their information to the site,” said Cape. “We expect to add a lot more vendors to the site in the coming days so if there is a business you haven’t been to lately; or if you know of a business or restaurant in your neighborhood that should be using the site, be sure and let them and the Chamber know so we can get them up as soon as possible.

“Remember that even though we may be losing track of dates these days, we have not canceled holidays and Mother’s Day is coming up May 10. Maybe you are checking in with your mom, but not able to visit. You can still send her a gift. Go to GetYourGiftOn.org and buy her an online gift card to somewhere to eat or to her favorite retail store.

Because the website is new, the Chamber is seeking feedback to provide improvements and updates.

 

Companies Step Up to Help Produce Protective Equipment during Pandemic

Innovative thinking and ideas know no limits in the Rocket City, famous for finding solutions to complex problems and managing complicated situations.

The list of needs from the hospitals as they ramp up preparations for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases include surgical and procedural masks, N95 masks, isolation gowns, gloves, face shields, face goggles, ventilators, and swabs. However, it is the “other things” category that breathes life into Huntsville’s smartest minds during this unprecedented medical crisis.

Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center are, of course, at the heart of these efforts. The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has taken unprecedented steps to coordinate small business and manufacturing efforts to provide additional equipment and supplies to health care providers throughout the community, in the event our area gets overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

From the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Madison County companies and manufacturers large and small have been participating in these efforts, some adjusting their operations, while others are adapting to needs as they arise, and donating goods and services.

Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, is spearheading the manufacturing efforts, maintaining an ongoing list of needed items and locations where businesses can drop off those donations, including the Chamber office on Church Street downtown.

“The manufacturing of these supplies, whether it is something you already manufacture, or something you can modify, the Chamber is running that information down and giving it to Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood to help them coordinate it,” Cape said. “Both hospitals are getting overwhelmed right now with the medical aspects of COVID-19 and this helps keep things in the proper channels.”

The Chamber holds regular calls with manufacturers to get clarification about what items can and can’t be made outside and over their existing supply chain or existing distributor base; and what the procedures are for getting a design approved.

Many of the requests are in reference to face shields, but Cape said several companies responded, offering anything from machine tooling shops that can make metal parts for ventilation carts and shelves, to 3D printers, and shops which specialize in custom injection moldings that can make pretty much anything.

And anything can mean taking on unexpected problems.

One of the things that has arisen from the making of N95 masks, for instance, is that prolonged wearing of the masks has shown to cause some skin breakdown on the bridge of the nose of clinical staff. There may be an opportunity for a device that could cushion the nose and prevent that from happening.

Cape said it is things like that that create unexpected opportunities that might not be on an original list of needs, but for which the Chamber is happy to be a clearinghouse.

“If you have things to sell, donate or have some great ideas, bring them to the Chamber so we can make sure they pass through the right channels and we will connect you directly,” Cape said.

Also, if the hospitals reach a point in which they don’t need some of these items any longer, the Chamber is setting up distribution throughout the community to doctor’s offices and clinics inside and outside our community to help.

Other creative ideas consist of converting CPAPs into ventilators; using plexiglass to make intubation domes; and making ventilator helmets based on a design from a company in Texas that looks like a space suit helmet. One manufacturer on a teleconference call with the Chamber hinted that surely someone in Huntsville can make that.

Study: Ventilator helmets said to be better than traditional face masks.

A couple of companies are assessing whether local doctors and respiratory therapists would embrace that kind of therapy if it were available.

Yet another company is tooling up a sanitization assembly line at Lincoln Mill that can bleach manufacturing parts intended to go into the supply chain.

Another company has offered to repair broken or failing electronic, plastic, or metal equipment.

Companies are also looking at ways to be more efficient, for instance, cutting the filtration material used for making N95 masks differently, and basically getting four masks out of what was originally one.

“We just want to make sure before anyone goes down that track that it is something the hospitals can accept, made by someone from outside the supply chain,” said a spokesperson for the company.

A representative from Huntsville Hospital said he thinks the FDA has waived some of the rules during this pandemic and if they begin running low on anything at some point, emergency authorizations they have already received, give them clear guidance that if reasonable health care professionals and doctors agree these ideas are an acceptable way to do it, then it will be okay.

Many large companies have stepped up to the plate as well.

PPG, which employs 700 people in Huntsville, announced it will donate 50,000 surgical masks and 10,000 N95 masks to several hospitals in the United States including Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

“PPG is proud to support the medical community as they courageously continue their work on the frontlines of this global pandemic,” said Michael H. McGarry, PPG chairman and chief executive officer. “As One PPG family, we will continue to work with our community partners to provide support and deploy resources wherever possible. We look forward to a brighter future, together.”

Several local companies have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to help hospitals and medical workers stock up on supplies. Adtran, Aerojet Rocketdyne, ATI, Brown Precision, Bruderer, Dynetics, Facebook, HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Utilities, John Blue Company, Matcor-Matsu, Mazda, Toyota Manufacturing USA, Inc., Mitchell Plastics, Navistar, Polaris, Remington, Turner Construction, TVA, and the UAH College of Nursing have all donated several thousand pairs of reusable protective eyewear to Huntsville Hospital, Madison Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, one of the area’s top employers, has kicked into high gear in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. TMMA is helping curb the spread of the virus by donating masks, safety glasses, shoe/boot covers, gloves, blankets, and cotton swabs to medical personnel.

The automobile engine company is also utilizing its facilities to mass fabricate 3-D printed face shields here in Huntsville.

According to Jeff Samms, COO of the Huntsville Hospital System, Toyota has a nice design for the shields and are now making hundreds of them for the hospital..

“The unknowns for all of us on this is what’s going to affect utilization,” he said. “COVID-19 patients use this isolation equipment at many times the normal rate, so there is an exponential growth in our use of the product, and we don’t know what the demand is going to be.”

Most of the hospitals admit their normal supply chains are broken right now and they are never quite sure what they’re going to get.

Toyota is also offering manufacturing and engineering expertise in support of any company seeking to increase their capacity for making medical supplies and equipment like ventilators and respirators.

The automaker continues to assist in providing essential supplies and emergency relief through local organizations and nonprofits, including significant monetary, “in-kind” donations to the United Way, community food banks, and to other key non-profit organizations geared towards helping those in need.

“Toyota’s core value has always been to contribute to society in meaningful ways beyond providing mobility for our customers,” said Ted Ogawa, incoming CEO, TMNA. “With our plants idled and our dealers focused on servicing customers, we are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis. Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise.”

Although currently, the “numbers” – that is the number of infected patients in Madison County hospitals – have not reached the critical level first projected, Chamber President and CEO Chip Cherry said, “We are incredibly grateful for the response from our business community to help our hospitals and first responders stock up on their supplies.

“It has been so good to see boxes of items come in over the last few days. We know these will help in the days to come. We know there is strength in numbers, and we and our members are committed to getting through this together.”

 

 

Huntsville Hospital Finds Partner for Test Kits; Preparing For Peak in Cases

The Huntsville Hospital Health System recently signed an agreement with a wholesaler to supply 200 COVID-19 test kits a day, CEO David Spillers said. The agreement allows the hospital to process kits in its own lab every day, beginning late this week or early next week.

“One of the problems we have been facing is getting access to labs,” Spillers said. “We have the ability to test for COVID-19, but we don’t have the supplies needed to do as much testing as we need.”

On a daily small business teleconference call at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce this week, Spillers gave an overall situational analysis of where his hospital chain is in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spillers said there are 800 patients in the hospital and eight of them are confirmed COVID-19 patients. A single COVID-19 inpatient requires 10 times as many resources as a regular patient, Spillers said.

He said some 116 patients across the entire hospital system are waiting for testing results, which can take 24 to 48 hours. Until they know the results, they must treat those 116 patients as if they are positive, even though most of them will be negative.

“In the meantime, we’re consuming massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE) resources like gowns, face shields, N95 surgical masks and gloves.” Spillers said. “This new agreement will allow us to turn those 116 patients around faster because we won’t have to wait so long for lab results.

“That will get those testing negative off the resources utilization train.”

Thousands of people tested

Spillers said the Huntsville Hospital system has tested thousands of patients over the last two weeks thanks to testing centers set up in the area. Last Friday, he said they tested close to 600 patients in Huntsville, which is why the positives are going up.

“The more people we test, the more positives we’re going to find,” he said. “Right now, luckily, the number of inpatients is not going up nearly as fast as we were expecting, but that still might happen. Obviously, our fear is an influx of COVID-19 patients.”

A higher than normal use rate is what concerns him.

“You’ve seen the curves on the chart where the trend line sort of goes up slowly and then peaks,” Spillers said. “Well, we’re still on the slow part of the slope and looking at several models, it will be somewhere around two weeks before we reach our peak.”

He said testing is important and by the time they reach that peak, they expect the number of patients to be higher.

“You can see how if we find ourselves with 100 COVID-19 patients, what an enormous amount of resources that will consume,” he said.

One of the first steps was deferring all elective surgeries in the regional hospitals in Athens, Decatur, Helen Keller and Red Bay.

Businesses step up to produce equipment

Spillers also said the outreach from companies to make needed protective equipment, such as face shields and masks, is overwhelming.

“We’ll take all the help we can get right now because our normal supply chains are broken,” he said. “The shipments for a lot of this stuff comes from overseas, and a lot of it’s going to hot spots in the country like New Orleans and New York and other places.

“This disruption in our supply chain means we’re not getting what we would normally get. We have gone off our purchasing contracts to try to buy stuff that was just out there, and we were able to acquire some masks – in fact we should get some more masks in later this week to help shore up our supplies.”

Several entities have stepped up and the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce is leading the way by helping coordinate community businesses that believe they can help by making some of the needed supplies and PPE.

Spillers said the help is much needed because his supply staff doesn’t have time to run down the dozens of different opportunities people are offering.

“Right now, we have Toyota Manufacturing meeting with some of our supply people to look at some things they think they can make,” said Spillers. “We have had people say they think they can 3-D print some supplies and a lot of people wanting to see the individual equipment to determine whether they can make it, how fast and how many.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a situation where we’re going to get too much of anything, but if we do, we will make sure we get it to some other area in need.”

Businesses that want to contribute should contact Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s senior vice president for economic development, industry relations and workforce, at 256-535-2033 or visit https://hsvchamber.org/category/news/covid-19/.

Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Announces Best Places to Work Contenders

And the nominees are …

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber has announced the contenders for the 2020 Best Places to Work Award.

The award recognizes businesses that create an excellent workplace culture through employee engagement, strong leadership and excellent communication.

The winners will be announced at the annual awards luncheon April 15 in the Von Braun Center North Hall.

The categories and contenders are:

MICRO: 10-24 employees
Aleta Technologies, Inc.; Applied Technologies Group, Inc.; Boecore, Inc.; Corporate Office Properties Trust; Cortina Solutions, LLC; Croy Engineering; Flint River Dental; H2L Solutions, Inc.; Mb Solutions; Mission Multiplier Consulting; New Beginnings Family Law, P.C.; On-Line Applications Research Corp.; Phased n Research, Inc.; Practical Energetics Research, LLC; Redstone Government Consulting, Inc.; Resolution, LLC; River Tree Insurance Services, Inc.; Roto-Rooter; Seabrook Solutions, LLC; Still Serving Veterans; Stratagem Solutions, Inc.; TVA Huntsville Customer Service Center; Women4Women OBGYN.

SMALL: 25-50 employees
Arcarithm, Inc.; Crossflow Technologies, Inc.; Davidson Homes, LLC; EOS Defense Systems USA, Inc.; Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison; Huntsville-Madison County Senior Center; Invariant Corp.; JHNA; KBM Enterprises, Inc.; KODA Technologies, Inc.; MartinFederal Consulting, LLC; Matt Curtis Real Estate, Inc.; Mission Driven Research; MTA, Inc.; Nesin Therapy Services, P.C.; Noetic Strategies, Inc.; PPT Solutions, Inc.; Reliant Technologies, Inc.; Sentar Inc.; Signalink, Inc.; Verity Integrated Systems, Inc.

MEDIUM: 51-100 employees
Brockwell Technologies, Inc.; Canvas, Inc.; Cepeda Systems and Software Analysis, Inc.; Conditioned Air Solutions; deciBel Research, Inc.; Geocent; Hill Technical Solutions, Inc.; Ignite, Inc.; LINE-X, LLC; MDW Associates; Monte Sano Research Corp.; QTEC Aerospace; Thompson Gray, Inc.; Trideum Corp.; TriVector Services, Inc.; Troy 7, Inc.; Willbrook Solutions, Inc.

LARGE: 101-250 employees
AEgis Technologies Group; Avion Solutions; Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.; HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; IERUS Technologies; Intrepid; IronMountain Solutions, Inc.; Leonardo DRS; Manufacturing Technical Solutions, Inc.; MITRE Corp.; nLogic, LLC; nou Systems, Inc.; S3, Inc.; SEA Wire and Cable; Simulation Technologies, Inc.;
Technology Service Corp.; Trident Technologies; Turner Construction; Woody Anderson Ford.

X-LARGE: 251-plus employees
Five Stones Research Corp.; Integration Innovation, Inc. (i3); Intuitive Research and Technology Corp.; Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI); PeopleTec, Inc.; The Orthopaedic Center; Torch Technologies; Yulista Holding, LLC.