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Nielsen joins VBC as Marketing, Public Relations Manager

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

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

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

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

MDA Director: We Can Sleep Knowing We are Protected

It was a simple question from a Nevada congressman to the director of the Missile Defense Agency:

“Am I protected?”

“Yes.”

Vice Adm. Jon Hill: “We’re going to continue to make things hard for our adversaries.” (Photo/Eric Schultz)

“I gave that answer because I have the utmost confidence in those soldiers sitting at the console,” MDA Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill said Thursday at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium.

Hill spoke before a packed and attentive Von Braun Center ballroom audience on the final day of the annual event. It was a record-setting event with more than 3,500 people attending the three-day symposium which had nearly 200 exhibits and some 1,400 private exhibitors and 605 government exhibitors.

The director said the a modern-day threats are much more complex than in the past and the United States must be ready for the ever-changing, constant challenges.

“For me, it always starts with the threat,” Hill said. “What’s really changed has been the advancement of the threats.

“Our adversaries are figuring out ways to stress our systems and we’re figuring out ways to stress theirs. We’re going to continue to make things hard for our adversaries.”

While the threats are constant and complex, Hill said he has spoken with Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command; and Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), about developing means to overcome the threats without overburdening the personnel.

“The more complex things become, that you put before the eyes of the soldiers and sailors, it’s harder for them to execute,” he said.

In effect, keeping things simple instead of causing the personnel to spend time learning and relearning, forcing them to divert their attention from the mission.

Hill also touched on our international relationships as key to our security.

With NATO and the U.S. having installations around the world, it provides the United States with something Russia, China, Iran and North Korea don’t have – “partnerships,” he said.

“It’s what our adversaries do not have; they don’t have partnerships. That gives us an advantage.”

Overall, Hill said, the mission of the Missile Defense Agency is “a great mission.”

“I call it a noble mission,” he said. “It’s very motivating to defend our troops, our allies and friends.

“I feel great about where we are today.”

Video below: The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, in cooperation with the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, U.S. Northern Command, and elements of the U.S. Air Force Space Command’s 30th, 50th, and 460th Space Wings, conducted a successful test March 25 against an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) class target.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘Final Frontier’ is a ‘Warfighting Domain’

Science fiction met science reality Monday in the Rocket City.

And no punches were pulled when it came to discussing national defense at the 22nd Space & Missile Defense Symposium. The symposium runs through Thursday at the Von Braun Center downtown.

“It’s a very crowded environment,” said Army Lt. Gen. Jim Dickinson, commanding general of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. It is the mission of the SMDC to “defeat, penetrate and disintegrate” our adversaries’ levels of defense and “operate and dominate a combative” space environment.

Dickinson said the Army is the largest user of space of the military branches and has some 3,000 soldiers trained. The Army’s involvement dates to the 1950s with the Redstone rocket and the launch of the Explorer I satellite in 1958 began its space involvement.

And, as we know, technology has traveled at warp speed over the last 60 years.

Maj. Gen. Rick Evans addresses the 22nd Missile & Space Defense Symposium. (Photo by Steve Babin)

“We have become increasingly reliable on space and cyber,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Rick Evans, assistant to the commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “Space and cyber are vital to our defense.

“We must adapt to new threats and stay ahead of our adversaries.”

To counter those threats, President Trump directed the U.S. Space Command be re-established as a full military branch. But, Evans said, that doesn’t mean “SAC will be out of the space business.”

And, the Army and Air Force still have their own space commands.

The Army’s 1st Space Brigade with headquarters in Colorado Springs supports joint forces and their critical dependence on space capabilities. The Air Force Space Command is headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

“Space is a warfighting domain,” he said. “We need those commands. Almost everything we do is tied to space in some way.”

The “crowded environment” in space includes threats from Russia and China, as well as “new threats” from the likes of North Korea and Iran through missiles, satellites and directed-energy (laser) weapons.

Evans said the U.S. must be prepared to answer the challenge by focusing on agility and speed.

“We need resilient, redundant capability,” he said. “We need a rapid, reconstituting capability.

“We can’t wait five years to replace a satellite.”

Huntsville’s Magic Number for Downtown Hotel Rooms is 1,000

The newest edition to Huntsville’s skyline is only one of many new hotels planned for downtown.

City planners don’t plan to stop until they reach 1,000. Not the number of hotels, obviously, but the number of hotel rooms available in the center of the city for highly-attended events.

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, a Marriott property, is open for business and joins the Embassy Suites as two hotels overlooking Big Spring Park. AC Hotel is on the corner of Williams Avenue and Monroe Street and will anchor the mixed-use City Centre development.

The six-story building, which has 120 rooms, will eventually be joined by other hotels as part of the vast growth of business in the downtown area.

“It’s been a goal to get to 1,000 rooms,” Downtown Huntsville Inc. CEO Chad Emerson said. “It’s not necessarily about the number of hotels but the number of rooms.”

Construction will begin in the fall for a seven-floor Hampton Inn and Suites at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street. The site is next to the garage that serves the Von Braun Center and is used for event parking.

One more hotel is in the planning stages and, like the Embassy Suites, AC Hotel and Hampton Inn and Suites, will be within a one-mile radius of the VBC. Curio by Hilton is slated for Jefferson Street near the Courthouse Square and an Autograph Collection boutique hotel by Marriott adjacent to Big Spring Park and PNC bank is planned.

And city planners aren’t stopping with the addition of these hotels.

“There have been three new hotels announced,” Emerson said, “and there are some that have not been announced.”

As the makeover of downtown Huntsville continues and expands, two new franchises are getting ready to open.

The Poppy is a traditional English pub on the North Side Square and held its grand opening Monday.

The Mercantile, in space formerly occupied by Crossroads Music Hall at 115 Clinton Avenue, is an entertainment and private party venue. The Mercantile will host its first musical acts July 3 with local rockers Rob Aldridge and the Proponents opening.

“We’re actively engaged in in the booking process,’’ co-owner David Clarke said of The Mercantile. “We’ve got quite a few bands booked.’’

Clarke said he and his partners at PBG Holdings want to provide a unique experience with the two new sites. They’re also bringing Arsenal Coffee food truck to the exploding downtown scene.

“We’re paying attention to details and trying to create a destination at The Mercantile,’’ Clarke said. “We want the people of Huntsville to come but also have people coming from Nashville, Birmingham.’’

Emerson is confident the new businesses will attract visitors.

“The Mercantile and The Poppy will bring unique new retail options to downtown Huntsville,’’ he said. “Both add another interesting and creative destination to our city center.’’

The AC Hotel by Marriott recently opened as part of the CityCentre development in downtown Huntsville. It’s the first of its kind in Alabama by Marriott and features 120 rooms and six levels. The hotel is one of two planned for CityCentre and another two have been proposed within the vicinity of the Von Braun Center.

Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Announces 2019 Best Places to Work

The employees have spoken. Well, they voted, actually, on the best places to work in Madison County.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber announced the winners of its annual Best Places to Work Awards at a recent luncheon held in the Von Braun Center.

Businesses of all sizes are represented in five categories ranging from fewer than 25 up to large businesses with over 250 employees. The results are based on employee surveys with gold, silver and bronze awards presented.

In the Micro Business category of 10 to 24 employees, Crossflow Technologies won the gold; Summit Information Solutions won the silver; and the bronze went to New Beginnings Family Law.

In the Small Business category of 25 to 50 employees, Matt Curtis Real Estate was the gold winner; followed by Invariant Corp.; and Nesin Therapy Services.

The Medium Business category (51-100 employees) saw Brockwell Technologies win the gold. The National Children’s Advocacy Center and Monte Sano Research Corp. were the silver and bronze winners.

IERUS Technologies was the gold winner for Large Business (101-250 employees) while Avion Solutions and IronMountain Solutions took the silver and bronze recognitions.

Intuitive Research Technology was the best place to work in the X-large Business category (more than 251 employees). Integration Innovation Inc. (i3) won the silver and Modern Technology Solutions took the bronze.

Multi-use development planned for former Coca-Cola plant site

For some time, there have been questions and rumors about the site of the former Coca-Cola plant on Clinton Avenue.

Now, the questions have been answered and rumors dispelled.

Rocket Development Partners of New York City owns the 13-acre property and have a vision for its use.

“There’s going to be a mixed-use development on the site,” said Mitch Rutter, a principal with Rocket Development. “It will be heavily residential with some office components. We’re not going to overload with retail.

“It will be a live-work facility … modeled after The Gulch area of Nashville.”

He said some of the residential units will be “geared toward artists’ and musicians’ housing” because of its proximity to the Von Braun Center and Museum of Art.

Rutter suggested that some companies with their main offices in Cummings Research Park may opt to also open an office in the project “to help with their recruiting.”

He did not dismiss the possibility of a hotel also being built at the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street, “if the right hotel came along. We’re not going to be building or operating it.”

Rutter credited Mayor Tommy Battle and city officials for being “very practical” and said the city’s team was a major factor in developing the project here.

“It’s not by chance; we have a process (on project decisions) … and study econometrics,” he said. “Huntsville is blessed with triangulating factors: job growth with good wages; population growth; and the leadership team.

“They have a long-term Huntsville vision. That long-term plan, which includes the Von Braun Center expansion, renovation of Pinhook Creek, greenways and bikeways, is geared to accelerate the growth of downtown.”

Rutter said his company has retained Huntsville architect Paul Matheny and Urban Design Associates, who developed the city’s long-term plan.

“We’re very focused to create the density to bring people who want to live and work here,” he said. “It’s really very exciting.” 

Ahead of Spring Opening, AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown Taking Reservations

It hasn’t opened, yet, but Huntsville’s newest hotel is taking reservations.

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, the first AC Hotels by Marriott in Alabama, said reservations are being accepted ahead of its spring opening.

The six-story hotel is across the street from the Von Braun Center and is the first tenant for CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million, mixed-use development in downtown Huntsville. The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown includes 120 guest rooms, AC Lounge, AC Library, co-working space, event space and three meeting rooms named for the city’s mill heritage – Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack.

“With its Southern hospitality and strong appreciation for the arts, Huntsville is a great match for the AC by Marriott brand,” said Srinath Yedla, CEO of Yedla Management Co., which will manage the property. “The hotel provides everything essential you need – and nothing you don’t – creating a seamless, tranquil and frictionless experience for guests, whether traveling for business or leisure.”

The hotel will be anchored by Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft’s restaurant—The Gemini Kitchen + Cocktails, which is set to open in the fall. Gemini will be an approachable polished-casual restaurant for those looking for an affordable, quality dining experience. Taft will provide catering for the hotel as well as oversee menus for the hotel’s second-story terrace, The Veranda.

Reservations for the AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown can be made at Marriott.com.

Small Business Awards celebration honors Huntsville’s best

Lynn Troy of Troy 7 receives the Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award from Chamber Vice Chair Hank Isenberg (Photo by Steve Babin)

Amidst a gala “Masquerade Ball” atmosphere of a masked audience in formal attire, the Huntsville Madison County Chamber celebrated the city’s entrepreneurial community in the 33rd annual Small Business Awards.

Gary Bolton, the Chamber board chair and vice president of global marketing for Adtran, welcomed the crowd to Tuesday night’s affair. Hank Isenberg, Chamber vice president, small business and events, and Haley Baker of WAFF-TV were the emcees.

“We are celebrating the most successful” small businesses, Bolton said.

“We received 650 nominations and there are 155 contenders,” he said. “There are 1,100 people here” … in the soldout event held in the Von Braun Center’s North Hall.

Lynn Troy of Troy 7 received the prestigious Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award, the top honor presented annually.

Canvas was a double-winner, capturing the Woman-owned Business of the Year and the Government Contracting – Technology Business of the Year awards.

Mary Taylor Griffith with Aleta Technologies was named the HASBAT Small Business Advocate for Excellence.

A new category debuted, saluting the area’s booming growth – Local “Creative” of the Year. It was won by Pizzelle’s Confections.

The other winners were: Rocket City Digital, Emerging Business of the Year; Flint River Dental, Medical Practice of the Year; Capstone Realty, Professional Services Business of the Year; Kristina Sexton of NXTSTEP Family Law, Young Professional of the Year; Downtown Rescue Mission, Nonprofit of the Year; MartinFederal, Government Contracting – Professional Services Business of the Year; Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza, Culinary Business of the Year; Matt Curtis Real Estate, Service Business of the Year; and Summit Information Solutions, Technology Business of the Year.

 

 

 

Dr. Michael Griffin is keynote speaker at SMD Symposium

Michael Griffin

A former NASA administrator and University of Alabama-Huntsville eminent scholar returns to the Rocket City in a key role at one of the largest symposiums of its kind.

Dr. Michael Griffin, who is responsible for ensuring U.S. military technical superiority as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, is set to provide the keynote address at the upcoming Space & Missile Defense Symposium.

The event is called “the leading educational, professional development and networking event in the space and missile defense community,” and the keynote dinner will be Aug. 8 at the Von Braun Center. According to a Department of Defense spokesperson, Griffin was not ready to reveal the topic of his address when contacted in July.

Griffin, a former NASA administrator and eminent scholar at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, took over his new role at the Pentagon earlier this year following a career that has spanned academia, industry, and the civil and national security government space sectors. He was appointed by President Trump to fill the new position created from the reorganization of the Pentagon’s acquisition, technology and logistics (AT&L) organization.

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act instructed the DoD to break up AT&L and replace that undersecretary position with two new ones, including Griffin’s post as undersecretary for research and engineering post, to develop future technologies; and an undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, held by Ellen M. Lord, who has day-to-day focus on existing defense systems.

In his role, Griffin is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense enterprise and is mandated with ensuring technological superiority for the DoD, according to his U.S. DoD biography. Griffin oversees the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Strategic Capabilities Office, Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the DoD Laboratory enterprise, and the undersecretariat staff focused on developing advanced technology and capability for the U.S. military.

During his career, Griffin was deputy for technology in the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative Office and served as NASA administrator under President George W. Bush. He was also president and chief operating officer of In-Q-Tel, the nonprofit venture capital firm created and funded by the CIA.

He served as Space Department Head at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and was the King-McDonald Eminent Scholar and professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UAH from 2009-2012 before serving as a consultant to the military defense community.

 

Theme of this year’s SMD Symposium focuses on ‘peer adversaries’

The 21st annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium runs Aug. 7-9 at the Von Braun Center.

What began as a local gathering of enthusiastic space and missile defense professionals more than 20 years ago, has evolved into one of the most anticipated, informative, and influential national public conferences on the defense of our nation.

The 21st Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium opens Aug. 7 at the Von Braun Center and runs through Aug. 9.

Embraced by the Missile Defense Agency and the Department of Defense, Brig. Gen. Bob McCaleb and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle will welcome enterprise level professionals from the missile defense community, military leaders, and allies from the United States and abroad.

According to Joe Fitzgerald, an original member of the SMD Symposium’s executive committee and two-time past chairman of the event, the 2018 theme, “Sharpening the Military’s Competitive Edge,” marks a fundamental shift in the way industry professionals have looked at the threats our country faces for many years.

“This year’s Space & Missile Defense Symposium will bring to the forefront the realization that the United States has peer adversaries,” he said. “That is, not just threats from rogue nations like Iran and North Korea, but very real threats from countries across the globe who are our equals.”

He said the symposium will address the important part missile defense plays in the survival and security of our nation.

“You will see a recognition that we face challenges meeting those threats, and that we must put more resources into missile defense technologies associated with those threats to ensure our nation’s future, and to assure the defense of our nation. Victory is not assured,” Fitzgerald said. “therefore, we must work to maintain our competitive edge, and by edge, we mean superiority.”

This year’s SMD Symposium will address all aspects of these challenges.

Conference Opening

Gen. John Hyten is a graduate of Grissom High School

Beginning Tuesday morning, Gen. John Hyten, senior commander of the United States Strategic Command, will open the symposium by outlining Space and Missile Defense Imperatives. USSTRATCOM is one of 10 unified commands in the Department of Defense representing all four unified branches of the military.

Among the topics he is expected to discuss is the importance of innovation related to space and the military’s interdependence on space, national security, and the global economy.

In a December 2017 article in SpaceNews, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay said the modernization of missile-warning satellites has been a topic of recent conversations with leaders from U.S. Air Force Space Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Northern Command. So, will Hyten,  a graduate of Huntsville’s Grissom High School, offer any insights into the future of a new Space Force as recently proposed by the current administration?

“I think Space Force is likely to come up given Gen. Hyten’s relationship with the Air Force Space Command,” said Fitzgerald. “Advanced forces surely add flavor to his thought process, and any future Space Force plans are bound to affect Huntsville for sure.”

Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, Commanding General of the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command follows Hyten with a Space and Missile Defense update and, later, Col. William Darne, the Training & Doctrine Command Capabilities Manager for the Army Air and Missile Defense, will give an update on the AMD’s Cross-Functional Teams.

After lunch Tuesday, Dr. Tom Karako, Senior Fellow and International Security Program Director for the Missile Defense Project, will speak on adapting Joint Air and Missile Defense Operations to the Near Peer Threat. The Missile Defense Project researches innovative means for defeating missile threats and hosts a variety of events to shape the debate about policy, budgets, legislation, and both current and future programs.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, Technology Track gives a variety of selected candidates an opportunity to present innovative technical ideas, methods, and processes regarding cyber resiliency, testing and development, and weapon system performance testing and validation.

Several moderators will host a Multi-Domain Battle Panel Tuesday afternoon. Created by the Army, Multi-Domain Battle allows U.S. forces to outmaneuver adversaries physically and cognitively by applying combined arms in and across all domains of war – that is, land, sea, air, space and cyberspace – cyber being the newest domain, and with underpinnings in every aspect of strategic warfare.

Wednesday & Thursday Features

The programs Wednesday include the MDA’s Focus For the Future presented by Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, director of the MDA; an Allied Update by Air Commodore Madelein Spit, Assistant Director of NATO Joint Air Power Competence Center; and an update from Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch Jr. on the Programs Executive Office Missiles and Space, which provides centralized management for Army Air and Missile Defense and Tactical Missile Programs, as well as selected Army Space programs to meet warfighter multidomain and full spectrum operation requirements.

There will be two Industry and Technology panels Wednesday focused singularly on missile defense with a variety of guests participating including major original equipment manufacturers  and developers of our nation’s missile defense systems. They will talk about the technology challenges, and what the R&D industry is doing to meet those challenges.

On Wednesday evening, prior to an invitation-only VIP reception, Northrop Grumman will host the “Salute to the Warfighter” at its exhibition space. A presentation recognizing and honoring all U.S. warfighters involves a formal salute followed by a networking social and then dinner.

On Thursday, Holly Haverstick, Chief of Weapons for Defense Support of Civil Authorities, will speak on security cooperation efforts in support of missile defense; followed by Rebeccah Heinrichs, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, who will close out the symposium with a talk concerning Space and Missile Defense Imperatives.

Awards & Recognitions

Throughout the week, various industry groups will present a variety of awards such as the Air, Space and Missile Defense Association Scholarship and the Julian Davidson Award, awarded by the National Space Club to an individual or organization that has shown great achievement in advancing space flight programs, and has contributed to U.S. leadership in the field of rocketry and astronautics.

The John Medaris Award, given to an individual from the Tennessee Valley who has made outstanding contributions to the defense industrial base, will be awarded to Dr. J. Richard (Dick) Fisher, Executive Director of the Missile Defense and Space Technology Center.  

“The entire conference is laid out to be an exposé on meeting the challenges of a peer adversary, while focusing our efforts on ways to give our soldiers a competitive edge that is superior to anyone else in the world,” said Fitzgerald.