Initiatives - April 2024

Page 1

Sponsored by FROM SANDING TO
APR 2024


When it comes to visiting the people or places you love, don’t let back or neck pain get in the way.

new chamber members


Joined in January

BlueJireh, Inc.

Cahaba Federal Solutions

Conyer Roofing and Exteriors

DPR Construction

Elio at Research Park

First Priority of North Alabama

Flagship Custom Golf Carts

GeneCapture, Inc.

GoodPeople Promotions

Honeycomb CPAs & Advisors

Kenedic Technical Solutions, LLC


Macky Outlaw Private Investigators Materials Sciences LLC

Melissa Henderson Financial Advisor Edward Jones

Perez Law, P.C.

Premier Consulting & Integration LLC

Salon Gray Inc.

The Villas at Old Monrovia Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux

Become a Chamber Member

In addition to investing in the economic growth of the entire region, as a Chamber member, you receive a variety of important benefits:

■ Build business relationships, create partnerships, and grow your business

■ Listing in the online Membership Directory

■ Specially designed professional development programs to grow your talent and strengthen your business

■ Brand exposure through the Chamber’s multimedia platforms to fellow member companies and the region’s business community

■ Priority communications to keep you updated on the latest business news and information impacting your business

If you want to make a valuable investment in your business and the community, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is the place to start. Contact Crystal Baker, Membership Retention Specialist: 256-535-2039 or

Joined in February

AM Pierce & Associates, Inc.

Amplified Security

Applied Technologies Group, Inc.

Bailey Education Group, LLC

Balance Doctor

Beyond Trash

Carillon Oaks Madison

Century Communities

Deep South Construction Pros LLC


Edge Autonomy

Front Row Huntsville

HHUC Hazel Green

Huntsville Integrative Therapy

Ingenium Scientific, Inc.

Millwood, Inc.

Nanoracks LLC

Ozark Outdoor Media

Premier Federal, Inc.

Red Door Real Estate

Sling And Stones, LLC

Southern Family Home Builders

Squeeze Massage Huntsville


The Gumbo Network

The Kroger Co.

The Masters Salon

Tintronics Industries

Vitality Living Upland Park

VSC Fire & Security

Walden at Providence Apartment Homes

Yearta Consulting Group, LLC

Your Best Health, Pediatrics and Adults, LLC





Bill Penney Toyota/Mitsubishi

■ BlueHalo

COPT Defense Properties

■ Crestwood Medical Center

Lockheed Martin Corporation

■ Dynetics, Inc.

■ Raytheon, An RTX Business

Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.

■ Torch Technologies


■ Yulista




Five Stones Research Corporation

■ Intrepid

Landers McLarty Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram


■ S3, Inc.

■ Lanier Ford Shaver & Payne P.C.

■ Science and Engineering Services, LLC (SES)

Sealy Management Company, Inc.


■ SportsMED Orthopaedic Surgery & Spine Center

■ The Westmoreland Company


Ability Plus, Inc.

■ Aerojet Rocketdyne, An L3Harris Technologies Company

■ Amazon

■ Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, P.C.

■ ASRC Federal

■ Baron Weather, Inc.

■ BASF Corporation

■ BL Harbert International, LLC

■ Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP

■ Canvas, Inc.

■ CFD Research Corporation

■ Colliers International

■ First Horizon

■ Freedom Real Estate & Capital, LLC

■ Goodwyn Mills Cawood, LLC

■ Huntsville/Madison County Builders Association

■ Huntsville Tractor & Equipment, Inc.

■ Integration Innovation, Inc. (i3)

■ Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation

■ IronMountain Solutions

■ Keel Point, LLC

■ Leonardo Electronics US Inc.

■ LSINC Corporation


■ Marsh & McLennan Agency, locally known as J. Smith Lanier & Co.

■ Radiance Technologies, Inc.

SouthState Bank

■ The Orthopaedic Center (TOC)

■ RE/MAX Alliance

■ Pearce Construction Company

■ Robins & Morton

■ ServisFirst Bank

■ Steak-Out (Rosie’s Restaurants, Inc., & Right Way Restaurants, Inc.)


■ United Community Bank

■ Venturi, LLC

■ Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP

■ Woody Anderson Ford

■ S&ME, Inc.

■ Schoel ■ Shee Atiká Enterprises,

■ Valor Communities

■ Van Valkenburgh & Wilkinson Properties, Inc.

■ Vision Excellence Company

■ Volkert, Inc.

■ Warren Averett, LLC

■ Wilmer & Lee, P.A.

APR 2024 initiatives 5 A HUNTSVILLE/MADISON COUNTY CHAMBER PUBLICATION hregi investors HUNTSVILLE REGIONAL ECONOMIC GROWTH INITIATIVE For more information, contact Kristy Drake, Vice President, Investor Relations: 256-535-2036 or AS OF MARCH 19, 2024 PROGRESS INVESTORS Accenture Federal Services ■ Air Essentials, Inc. ■ Alpha Beta Technologies, Inc. ■ Averbuch Realty / Enterprises ■ Avion Solutions ■ Bailey-Harris Construction ■ Bridgeworth + Savant ■ BRPH Architects-Engineers, Inc. ■ Bryant Bank ■ Cadence Bank ■ CB&S Bank ■ Century Automotive ■ Convergint ■ Corvid Technologies LLC ■ deciBel Research, Inc. ■ Deloitte LLP ■ DESE Research, Inc. ■ Express Employment Professionals ■ FITE Building Company ■ FLS Translation & Interpreting ■ Fountain, Parker, Harbarger & Associates, LLC ■ Garver, LLC ■ GTEC ■ Hexagon US Federal ■ HEMSI ■ Hiley Automotive Group ■ Huntsville Botanical Garden ■ Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau ■ Industrial Properties of the South ■ InterFuze Corporation ■ Investor’s Resource ■ L3Harris ■ Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI) ■ MSB Analytics,
nLogic, LLC
PROJECTXYZ, Inc. ■ QTEC Aerospace
Quadrus Corporation ■ Renasant Bank ■ RJ Young Company ■ Rosenblum Realty, Inc.
Signalink, Inc.
Systems Products and Solutions, Inc. ■ Textron Inc. ■ The Lioce Group, Inc.
Transcend, The Fearless Company
Troy7, Inc. ■ Truist Bank
TTL, Inc. ■

Mission: To prepare, develop, and promote our community for economic growth.

(see staff listing on page 38)

Chamber members: You are encouraged to contribute ideas for our publications. Please send items to

The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber maintains editorial control.

on the cover

Current view of the new City Hall construction (left) behind the older City Hall building

feature stories


Polishing the Gem of Downtown Huntsville pages 20-26


Military, space, telecommunications, biotechnology, diversified manufacturing, and a variety of emerging specialties provide challenging work in delightful surroundings. The area enjoys a favorable cost of living and quality of life.

Mountains, lakes, woodlands, and the Tennessee River accommodate numerous recreational activities. A temperate climate enhances the season for outdoor sports, including worldclass golf, hiking, biking, and fishing. Major concerts, Broadway and symphony performances, extensive permanent collections, and traveling exhibitions contribute to a wonderful way of life.

table of contents INITIATIVES
of Huntsville/Madison
Inc. 225 Church St NW, Huntsville, AL 35801
editor Claire Aiello
designer Kristi Sherrard contributing writers Kayla Brown Lucia Cape, CCE Ashley Engles-Ross Lyndsay
editorial staff publisher
Ferguson Ross Ivey Camille Pike Ken Smith Mike Ward, CCE advertising Kristy Drake
Lakeysha Brown
you 10 COMMUNITY HIGHLIGHTS | includes Toyota Alabama, John Hunt Park, and more 14 TRACKING THE FORECAST | Lessons learned from the January ice storm 15 THE BUSINESS OF SPORT | Irish sporting expert also experiences whirlwind tour of Huntsville 16 HREGI INVESTOR PROFILE | Carey Miller with Deloitte LLP 18 NEW ON THE MIC | ASmartPlace has a new podcast 28 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | Alabama Colon & Gastro, 2023 Health/Social Service Business of the Year 29 READING TO GO | Toyota, Chamber foundations supply book vending machine to local school 30 YEAR-LONG PARTY | VBC commences 50th Anniversary Celebration 32 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | OTC, Inc., 2023 Woman-Owned Business of the Year 32 FEELING EMPOWERED | WBC marks Women’s History Month with Gov. Kay Ivey 33 TRIBUTE TO W.F. SANDERS 34 NEW IN COMMAND | Redstone welcomes 3-Stars at SMDC, MDA 36 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | Offset Strategic Services, 2023 Veteran-Owned Business of the Year 39 LIFE-CHANGING FEAT | Chamber’s Ken Smith shares his story of climbing of Mt. Kilimanjaro for PTEN
Photo by Kayla Brown
more for

a message from chip cherry


Dear Chamber Investors, Community Leaders, and Friends:

A study of the history of our country drives home one point very clearly – democracy is messy. As the political rhetoric heats up and people engage in heated conversations, it is refreshing to see the National Governors Association’s Initiative: Disagree Better ( ). The statement after the header of the website is insightful: “Americans are deeply concerned and exhausted by the hype partisan and polarization in our country, and rightly so. We’ve forgotten how to persuade without hating each other. But our nation’s history shows there’s a better way, and we all need to re-learn how to Disagree Better.”

I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about the initiative. A bonus – you will be able to watch Gov. Kay Ivey and Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox model how to Disagree Better about Auburn and Alabama. Hopefully this campaign is a catalyst for conversations where we can agree to disagree on certain issues and work together on others.

I was told a long time ago that luck happens when opportunity and preparation meet. I would offer a corollary that, success is possible when you have leaders who don’t care who gets the credit, coupled with partners who rally around a common vision. Sprinkle in a little engineering mindset – ensuring a logical process, and you have what is reflected in Mike Ward’s feature article on Downtown (page 20). We are blessed to live in a forward-thinking community where the objective is not to be the biggest, but rather to be the best place we can be to live, pursue a career, and raise a family.

I have mentioned in previous issues my passion and admiration of Small Businesses. Both of my grandfathers had small businesses – one sold commercial floor coverings and the other ran a country store. My dad had a retail and wholesale flooring business. In my office, I have a print showing the inside of a country store and an article about my dad. The memories of them running their businesses both make me smile and remind me how challenging operating a business can be. The journey continues – my son, Trey, is in business for himself, and my daughter, Julia, does some freelance work. We will recognize our local hardworking entrepreneurs during the Small Business Awards on September 12. Watch your inbox or see page 2 of this publication on how to nominate a Small Business for an award. Help us as we celebrate these women and men who form the foundation of our region’s economy.

I wish you and your family well and look forward to seeing you at a Chamber Event soon!


Sameer Singhal , Board Chair – CFD Research Corporation

Jeff Samz , Chair-Elect –Huntsville Hospital Health System

Lynn Troy, Immediate Past Chair – Troy7, Inc.

Ron Poteat , Board Chair, Chamber Foundation

Dr. Karockas Watkins, Secretary/Treasurer – Ability Plus, Inc.

Jami Peyton, Vice Chair, Economic Development – Canvas, Inc.

Ginger Harper, Vice Chair, Economic Inclusion & Diversity – First Horizon

Dave Cook , Vice Chair, Government & Public Affairs – Torch Technologies

Chrystal Morgan, Vice Chair, HREGI – The Boeing Company

Beth Sippel , Vice Chair, Investor Relations – Synovus

Ronnie Chronister, Vice Chair, Marketing & Communications –Lockheed Martin Corporation

Brett Crain, Vice Chair, Small Business – Huntsville Tractor & Equipment, Inc.

Jason Puckett, Vice Chair, Talent Initiatives – Toyota Alabama

Jeff Gronberg, Liaison, Redstone Regional Alliance – deciBel Research, Inc.

David Fernandes, Chair-Appointed – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM)

Tyce Hudson, Chair-Appointed – Freedom Real Estate and Capital, LLC

Srinath Yedla, Chair-Appointed – Yedla Management Company

Graham Burgess, Legal Counsel – Maynard Nexsen

Mayor Tommy Battle, Ex-officio Member – City of Huntsville

Mayor Paul Finley, Ex-officio Member – City of Madison

Chairman Mac McCutcheon, Ex-officio Member – Madison County Commission

Chip Cherry, CCE , President & CEO, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber


Ted Baudendistel , InterFuze Corporation

Blake Bentley, SportsMED Orthopedic Surgery & Spine Center

Alka Bhargav, Aum Foundation

David Bier, Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, P.C.

Penny Billings , Cadence Bank

Jason Blount , Keel Point, LLC

Mark Brazeal , Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM)

Katie Comer, Meta Platforms, Inc.

Michael Cox , Raytheon, An RTX Business

Dr. Patti Dare, Obsidian

Melissa Davis , MTA, Inc.

Tyler Evans , Aerojet Rocketdyne, An L3Harris Technologies Company

Kevin Fernandez , L2 Mindset

Greg Fortier, SAIC

Owen Franklin , Blue Summit Supplies

Greg Gaddy, Five Stones Research Corporation

Greg Hall , COPT Defense Properties

Scott Hall , Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.

Josh Herren , Yulista

Jim Holtkamp, ServisFirst Bank

Laura Huckabee-Jennings , Transcend, The Fearless Company

Hank Isenberg , IronMountain Solutions

Michelle Jordan, TARCOG

Sean Kelly, Regions Bank

Tim King , Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI)

Clint Kirkland , United Community Bank

Rich Kretzschmar, Integration Innovation, Inc. (i3)

James Lackey, Davidson

Todd May, KBR

Matt Meko, Booz Allen Hamilton

Stephanie Mell , ChurchStreet Family Businesses

Carey Miller, Deloitte LLP

Zack Penney, Bill Penney Toyota/Mitsubishi

Alicia Ryan , LSINC Corporation

Angie Sandritter, RippleWorx

Annie Saylor, Simulation Technologies, Inc.

Julie Schumacher, KODA Technologies Inc.

Vergenia Shelton , Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation

Wayne Sisco, Redstone Federal Credit Union

Nilmini Thompson , Systems Products and Solutions, Inc.

Henry Thornton , Meta Platforms, Inc.

Mike Watkins , Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

Frank Williams II , Landers McLarty Subaru

HUNTSVILLE/MADISON COUNTY CHAMBER Executive Committee & Board of Directors 2024

Make an

Appointment to start living better.

Better living starts with taking good care of yourself. At Crestwood Medical Group, our healthcare providers take the time to identify your health risks and can help you prioritize good health. Regular checkups and age-appropriate screenings are important to be healthy now – and to stay well in the future.

With same-day appointments and online scheduling, we make it easy to make an appointment right now. You can even see us from the comfort of home via telehealth.

Put your health first and start living better right now. Make an appointment at or call (888) 280-2438.

community highlights

Toyota Powers Up New i-FORCE Engine Line

Toyota Alabama is producing a new engine in Huntsville. The i-FORCE 2.4-liter turbo engine will power the all-new Tacoma.

“The completion of the i-FORCE 2.4-liter turbo engine line marks a significant milestone for Toyota Alabama and further supports job stability for our 2,000 employees,” said Jason Puckett, president of Toyota Alabama. “Now, with Tacoma offering a hybrid option, every line at our plant includes engines for hybrid vehicles. It’s our team and their skills that have paved the way for this plant to play a critical role in Toyota’s efficient and electrified future.”

The i-FORCE 2.4-liter turbo engine line marks the plant’s sixth building expansion and brings Toyota Alabama’s total investment up to $1.5 billion.

In 2023, the plant achieved record production, assembling more than 777,000 engines for Toyota vehicles manufactured in North America. The plant produces four-cylinder and six-cylinder engines for popular Toyota vehicles such as the Tundra, Sequoia, Corolla, Corolla Cross, Tacoma, Highlander, Sienna and RAV4.

Raymond W. Jones Community Center opens in John Hunt Park

The 14,000-square-foot building once housed the National Guard Armory, and the City acquired it after it closed in 2017. At that time, Parks & Recreation was working on a master plan and build-out for John Hunt Park. They were also managing increased demand for senior programming, particularly for those with Parkinson’s disease.

“The opportunity presented itself, and we jumped,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “We found a great space to house the growing Rock Steady Boxing Parkinson’s classes and more room for recreation offices in John Hunt Park.”

Renovations include a new roof, HVAC system, plumbing, upgraded electrical systems, windows, LED lighting and finishes. The building’s façade was upgraded and the parking lot expanded to accommodate more vehicles and ADA-accessible spaces.

The state previously named the facility in Jones’ honor, recognizing his service in World War II.

The renovation cost $6.4 million and funding came largely from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program, with the City providing the remaining funds through its capital budget.

NASA Recognizes Chamber Support for Artemis

Joseph Pelfrey, the new Director of Marshall Space Flight Center, joined us at our February Chamber Board meeting with a surprise. He presented a plaque commemorating the Chamber’s support for the Artemis program to Chip Cherry, our president and CEO, and Sameer Singhal, our 2024 Chair. The plaque contains an SLS flag and an Artemis I mission patch flown to space. We applaud the great work being done by the team at MSFC and wish you much continued success as you prepare for the next launch!

New Office Building Under Construction for RANA

Construction crews recently held a topping out ceremony for Rheumatology Associates of North Alabama’s (RANA) new medical office building in Huntsville. It’s located in the Bellewood Park neighborhood and will be 20,500 square feet, set on 2.1 acres. The building will feature 24 exam rooms, four nurses’ stations, a laboratory, an infusion room, an X-ray room, and numerous offices. This state-of-the-art clinic is designed to better accommodate RANA’s expanding practice and serve the growing population in north Alabama.

Robins & Morton is the general contractor, and Chapman Sisson Architects is the architect.

JPII Students Shadow at the Chamber

Two seniors from St. John Paul II High School shadowed our team from March 6-8.

Lila Ross and Jasmine Hall expressed interest in business and government affairs and wanted to learn more about what we do. They visited Redstone Arsenal, went on a video shoot at Bravo! Italian Kitchen, and helped with another video for our Senior Sprint event in April. We also shared with them what goes in to publishing each issue of Initiatives magazine, among other things.

Lila and Jasmine, we enjoyed having you here and wish you the very best in your future!

The City of Huntsville opened a brand new community center on February 29. The Raymond W. Jones center is in John Hunt Park, just near the Steve Hettinger Drive entrance off the Memorial Parkway southbound access road.

For 50 years, the VBC has proudly served as your place to share experiences, build connections, and make memories together

Join us for a year-long celebration of the past 50 years as we look forward to the next 50 to come.

QR code to learn more or visit



Maximum Technology Corporation (MTC)


GTEC provides environmental, facilities, geotechnical, aerial photography, and construction testing services in the Tennessee Valley to support economic development, infrastructure improvements, industrial and commercial development. Their client service focus is to be responsive, reasonable, reliable and respectful. Founded in 2020 and having recently celebrated four years in business, GTEC staff have decades of experience assisting their clients from project inception to design to construction observations and evaluating existing assets. They help ensure the success of your project with site impact insights, quality assurance, timely reports, and monthly aerial progress photography. Learn more at .

Maximum Technology is a small business that supports the Missile Defense Agency, the Army, and commercial space initiative with customer-focused and innovative solutions. They specialize in software engineering, data analytics, and test & evaluation services where they set their smart people to the task of solving hard problems. Maximum Technology ( values their people as their most important asset and puts a real emphasis on growing leaders from within. From day one, they begin developing tomorrow’s leaders from the moment they join the team with opportunities for internships, mentors/mentees, volunteerism, education, and technical skills. It is MTC’s belief that employees who are given opportunities to grow mind, body, and soul will be more productive, better equipped, and more willing to serve their customers. Their agile mindset and passion for innovation help to create a positive environment and culture of success.

Outpost Technologies

Outpost Technologies Inc. ( has undergone rapid expansion since 2017, focusing on delivering comprehensive solutions within the Defense and Space sectors. Their expertise spans the entire program lifecycle, from initial requirements to system deployment. Outpost possesses unique capabilities to both provide engineering services as well as manufacturing to a range of Department of Defense, government, and commercial customers. Notably, Outpost has formed a strategic alliance with NASA to produce critical hardware for the International Space Station. In the Defense sector, the company aids in weapons systems research, development, testing, and evaluation, aimed at safeguarding our military personnel. Outpost Technologies is dedicated to pioneering industry-defining solutions.

Ross Ivey is the senior director of Industry Relations for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. As part of managing the existing industry program, he is responsible for meeting with existing member companies all while establishing relationships to provide various forms of support. Ross learns all about the cool happenings of local Huntsville companies, and he will share some of that information here in each issue of Initiatives

You can contact Ross here:



Today’s unique challenges in government contract accounting require an astute team of advisors. Warren Averett takes great pride in supporting Department of Defense (DoD) contractors. Whether you need a full-service accounting firm to handle tax and audit needs or an outsourced accounting solution to take over certain functions, our team has the government contract, DCAA and FAR knowledge to ensure you stay in compliance. We’re here for you.

community profile


Aerospace & Defense

Huntsville/Madison County is home to the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center which combine to drive a thriving aerospace and defense technology industry. Currently, 44,000 people work at Redstone Arsenal and NASA, managing some of the country’s most important and sophisticated technology programs.

Research & Technology

Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park (CRP) has earned a reputation as a global leader in technology development. The second-largest science and technology research park in the U.S., CRP is home to 320 companies and 26,500 people involved in technology research and development.

For more information, visit:

Madison City of City of Huntsville POPULATION County Huntsville Madison Metro Area 2010 Census 334,811 180,105 42,938 417,593 2022 Census 412,600 221,933 59,785 527,254 % Growth 23.2% 23.2% 39.2% 26.2%
# of Households 166,454 95,683 22,073 206,490 Avg. Household Income $109,789 $104,769 $132,478 $109,146 Per Capita Income $45,934 $45,819 $51,788 $44,601 Top 15 Employers: Huntsville & Madison County U.S. Army/Redstone Arsenal* 38,000 * Huntsville Hospital System 11,149 NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center* 6,000 Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) 4,000 The Boeing Company ................................... 3,411 Huntsville City Schools 3,000 Dynetics, Inc. 2,946 SAIC 2,746 City of Huntsville 2,589 Madison County Schools 2,389 Northrop Grumman Corporation 2,266 Toyota Alabama ....................................... 1,994 University of Alabama in Huntsville 1,979 Polaris Industries 1,932 Lockheed Martin Corporation 1,685 Source: Huntsville/Madison County Chamber *includes on-site contractors
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau (, American Community Survey
As of March 2024
Alabama | Florida | Georgia |
For more information, contact: S. Hobie Frady, CPA Government Contracting Group Leader 256.704.6453

Tracking the Forecast

Lessons learned from the January ice storm

The weather event of January 2024 was a perfect storm that kept most of Huntsville and the surrounding area shut down for days. Despite preparations based on the forecast, by Monday evening most roads in the area were coated in a sheet of ice that melted slightly during the following days, only to refreeze overnight.

The ice was so thick that kids were able to play hockey in the streets, employees at Marshall Space Flight Center practiced their curling outside the Payload Operations Center, and at least one skater performed graceful jumps in a Home Depot parking lot.

While it was fun for some, the ice did put a deep freeze on many local businesses. During COVID, a lot of companies learned how to let employees work from home, but manufacturers and service-based establishments had to find a way around the “in person” requirement. The same was true for Ice Storm 2024. Essential services like Huntsville Hospital put plans in motion to house employees at nearby hotels and provide accommodations at their medical mall, and Huntsville Utilities operations remained fully “mission capable.” And as we also learned in COVID, personnel working on classified networks and mission-critical programs had to find a way to their facilities.

still dealing with the impacts of lost revenue and schedule delays. Mandatory overtime and weekend work are required by some facilities to catch up with production, and gratuity-based employees might never recoup those days of lost tips.

In order to help our members with access to the best weather and road information going forward and to allow them to share best practices among themselves, the Chamber is developing an emergency contact list to use next time we anticipate an event that could disrupt business operations in the Huntsville area. Much like we did during the pandemic, the Chamber will use this list to send updates and schedule virtual meetings as needed for facilities and operations managers and decision makers. If your company would like one or more of your team members to be on this list, please contact Ross Ivey at

And while spring is already speeding toward summer this year, the City is already thinking about next year.

A few manufacturers were able to operate with skeleton staff once they got their lots cleared. Many provided incentives such as gift cards, extra pay, free meals, and hotel rooms for employees who were able to safely get to work. For those who couldn’t, options ranged from partial pay to using paid time off such as vacation or sick leave, even taking advances against future leave. For others, the hard choice was no work, no pay. Some employees who could get to their job site worked double shifts and more to cover for those who could not.

Even after the storm, employers and their team members are

“This was a historic weather event. Our crews were working around the clock to clear our roadways,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “We will continue to work collectively as a city to keep traffic flowing during these types of events. We will also work with industries and our neighborhoods during these challenging times.”

The City has published a blog with more information on its response during the ice storm. It is available on

– Lucia Cape, Lyndsay Ferguson, and Ross Ivey Bob Wallace Avenue at Memorial Parkway as seen covered in ice. Hundreds of crashes were reported the week of Jan. 15-20 as few vehicles could overcome treacherous road conditions. Huntsville Fire & Rescue trucks wait outside Huntsville Hospital. The department helped ferry discharged patients home from the hospital.

The Business of Sport

Irish sporting expert also experiences whirlwind tour of Huntsville

We had a wonderful opportunity to host Dr. Fiona Chambers of Cork, Ireland for a visit to the Rocket City March 15-18. During her time here, she served as grand marshal of the Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day Parade and also experienced several sites and friendly visits around town.

Chambers presented on ‘The Business of Sport’ to local community and business leaders on her final day here. She has more than 30 years of global experience in education, sports, and innovation, and is also the 2023 winner of the Irish Sport Industry Award for Women in Business in Sport. Chambers led a group exercise to bring forth ideas on ways we can increase sports tourism in Huntsville as well as community involvement once the events come here.

The Conference USA basketball tournament took place during Chambers’ time in Huntsville. She had the opportunity to watch the women’s championship game between Middle Tennessee and Liberty, and also met with Judy MacLeod, Commissioner of Conference USA.

Chambers is married to Pat Roche, CEO of MOOG Aerospace. While they were here, one of their stops was the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, where docent Kim McCutcheon shared the history of the Apollo program. McCutcheon worked as an electrical engineer for the Space Shuttle program, and he pointed out some of MOOG’s products that were used on the Saturn V rocket.

Above (L-R): Mark Russell, Dr. Fiona Chambers, and Lucia Cape.
AL | CO | D.C. | FL | GA | LA | MA | MS | NC | NM | NY | PA | SC | TN | TX | VA | UK YOU CAN STAY IN YOUR LANE. OR YOU CAN SET THE PACE. At Butler Snow, our attorneys have the specialized knowledge and depth of experience to predict trends and anticipate challenges before they become obstacles. We’re law. Elevated. See the difference at BUTLERSNOW.COM This ad authorized by Christopher R. Maddux, Chairman, 1020 Highland Colony Parkway, Suite 1400, Ridgeland, MS 39157. No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers.
Left: Dr. Chambers leading a group activity during The Business of Sport at the Chamber.

Business Banking Focused, Customer Service Driven.

At Southern States Bank, business banking is our focus. If you are looking for bankers who care about both your commercial and personal banking needs, come visit our Huntsville office! With more than 50 years combined banking experience, we are able to provide the business banking products you need with outstanding customer service

Huntsville 415 Church Street Huntsville, AL 35801

256 382 1490

ALABAMA Anniston | Auburn | Birmingham | Huntsville

Opelika | Roanoke | Sylacauga | Wedowee

Carrollton | Columbus | Dallas | Newnan


Q: Tell us about yourself. Are you from Huntsville?

Alabama has always been my true home. I was born and raised in a small rural town in south Alabama and went to college at Birmingham-Southern. After graduation, I moved to Washington, D.C. to start my career in consulting, not knowing it would be my forever passion. While in D.C., I met my husband, Jamie, and started raising a family. Alabama called us home in 2013 and we excitedly relocated to Huntsville permanently. Two more kiddos and a decade later, we consider ourselves Huntsvillians through and through.

Q: Tell us about Deloitte. What kind of work do you do?

We are professional problem solvers who help clients tackle challenges and achieve their missions. As an organization Deloitte is a leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services. While we are well-known for our audit services, more than 50 percent of our business consists of consulting services.

Our Huntsville professionals primarily serve clients within our Government and Public Services (GPS) practice and specifically in the Defense, Security, and Justice sector – which includes all branches of the military, agencies of the Department of Defense, and the intelligence community, as well as the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice . We have worked with clients to help them achieve complex IT transformation efforts; manage AI strategy, governance, and implementation; and provide data and analytics that help clients enhance decision making and advance mission outcomes.

Q: What would you like others to know about your business?

Deloitte professionals leverage cutting-edge technology and their experience to construct future-forward solutions for our clients.

Deloitte invested in Huntsville to expand our GPS impact about 10 years ago. Our Huntsville footprint now boasts more than 200 professionals. We’re proud to collaborate with important institutions across the region – including the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE), the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, and many local nonprofits. We participate in Deloitte’s annual impact day – a day of service – by volunteering at sites across the city.

Q: What does Deloitte get from its Chamber membership?

Our membership in the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber has accelerated our ability to get involved with the community and engage in impactful initiatives alongside our daily business. As a Chamber member, we have worked to build strong relationships within the community and identify new ways we can contribute to its growth.

Q: Why do you support HREGI?

Madison County has shown remarkable growth in the past several years. With that expansion comes many opportunities and challenges. Our participation in HREGI allows us to engage in important issues at the forefront of the region’s economic growth and get Deloitte more involved in the community. The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber has been a strong collaborator in helping us identify ways to keep making a positive impact on our incredible community.

Director, Deloitte LLP
Senior Vice President NLMS
Richard T. Perdue
Kirsten Tidwell
and Loan Support Manager NLMS 2450871 GEORGIA

Montgomery Trip

March 5–6, 2024

Thanks to all who traveled with us to the state capital for our annual Montgomery Trip. We had great visits with our state legislators, including our north Alabama delegation and House and Senate leadership, plus Gov. Kay Ivey. During the trip, we presented our 2024 State Agenda , which includes pieces on PreK-12 education, investing in higher education to support the region’s advanced workforce, health insurance coverage expansion, road and airport infrastructure improvements, cyber, biosciences, and more. You can read the 2024 booklet on


New on the Mic

ASmartPlace has a new podcast: What’s So Smart

The Chamber’s economic development and talent initiatives teams use the tagline ASmartPlace® when recruiting new companies and new people to our community. With the highest concentration of engineers of any other metro in the country, of course we’re smart. We focus on STEM talent, computer & math workers, and strong education sys tems. However, those aren’t the only reasons that Huntsville is ASmartPlace. There is more. So much more.

Strategically planning for the future is smart. Our community leaders are do ing that every day. Welcoming newcomers to our community with open arms is smart. With more than 50 percent of our neighbors orig inally coming from outside the state, many of us know what it feels like to be “the new kid.” Let’s help others transi tion here more seamlessly, because someone helped us do the same. Space science, genomic medicine, cyber and engineering, and building a music ecosystem. Those things are all smart! We want to help our newcomers, and those who don’t know us so well, get to

know just What’s So Smart about Huntsville. So, we’ve launched a podcast to do just that.

What’s So Smart…

It’s not a question, it’s an exploration… of the technology, people and initiatives that make Huntsville ASmartPlace to live, work, play, and learn. In this podcast, we will talk to the leaders of Huntsville’s economic and cultural development. What’s So Smart will explore the visionary and data-driven initiatives that make Huntsville, well, so smart. We hope you’ll join us to hear from these leaders and that you’ll share the message with someone who might not know about how smart we are – yet.

The podcast launched in March, and we will release two new episodes each month. You can watch the full conversations on our YouTube Channel @huntsvillealabamausa and be sure to subscribe wherever you listen. We hope you enjoy hearing more about what makes Huntsville so smart.



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Nestled in the heart of the Rocket City, lies something of a conundrum. Huntsville – Alabama’s most populous city, with a population closing in on 235,000 –has a downtown the size of which bespeaks a town with a population considerably smaller.

When Dr. Wernher von Braun landed here in 1950, changing this community forever, Huntsville’s population was about 20,000. But as Huntsville grew, the downtown remained largely unaffected by all the changes that the von Braun team brought. continued on page 22


continued from page 21

In many ways, Huntsville’s downtown is an anachronism. The downtown Twickenham Historic District has the state’s largest collection of pre-Civil War homes. This District is a living museum of American architectural styles dating from 1814, and it encompasses about one-half of the original town. The site of the State’s first constitutional convention, in 1819, is a well-preserved piece of living history.

Today, downtown Huntsville has become a thriving center for living, working, and entertainment that shines like a new penny. Its blossoming renaissance celebrates a maturity that incorporates all of the conveniences and excitement you’d hope to find in a modern downtown, with a twist of antebellum allure, minus the bluster and problems that dilapidated urban core downtowns often face.

It hasn’t always been that way.

When Huntsville’s population was soaring in the 50’s and 60’s, most of the growth that would have usually been drawn to a “downtown market” was directed away, to the City’s new Research Park and new highway corridors and suburbs that sprang up to support the region’s booming growth. Downtown suffered as a result.

Across its housing, retail, entertainment, and office space portfolio, Huntsville’s downtown is currently experiencing the most profound makeover in its 200+ year history.

Over the course of the last 15 years, the downtown has added 1,646 apartments and condominiums, with 1,268 units currently under construction and another 510 units in the pipeline. That brings the total number of new downtown apartments and condos to over 3,400 units with an accompanying increase in downtown foot traffic and demand for places to eat, drink, and be merry.

Downtown Huntsville has a vibrance that it lacked 15 years ago.


New restaurants, breweries, speakeasies, rooftop bars, and entertainment venues have breathed fresh life into what had once been an area that seemed long in the tooth.

Much credit can go to Jim Hudson, co-founder of HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, for having the fiscal courage and vision to make some bold investments in Huntsville’s downtown living and entertainment spaces in the early 2000s.

Next came Jeff Sikes and James Boyce with several high-end restaurants, including Cotton Row, Commerce Kitchen, and Pane E Vino, followed by Stephanie and Matt Mell, who brought the ChurchStreet Wine Shoppe, then Purveyor, Catacomb 435, and Mazzara’s to downtown. Charlie and Sasha Sealy developed Belk Lofts, followed by the Avenue, and then the new Twickenham area, adding critical new multifamily housing as well as a Publix grocery store and lots of shops and restaurants.

There’s been an explosion in the number of hotel rooms, with nearly 1,000 rooms added in the last few years and another 465 under construction. By the end of 2025, Huntsville’s downtown will have seen an increase of 1,600 hotel rooms.

Downtown office space has also seen a significant increase with 518,631 square feet developed since 2009 and another ~60,000 square feet in the pipeline. Retail space has also boomed with 378,943 square feet of retail delivered in the last 15 years and another 70,000 proposed or under construction.

“We’ve watched Huntsville’s downtown heart beat stronger with each passing year. Ten years of innovation, collaboration, and sheer momentum have made it a powerhouse of progress,” said Rob Buddo, president & CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. (DHI), shown below. “Since 2010, we have seen downtown transform from a primarily office and governmental district into a premier live, work,

and play district consisting of a walkable network of bustling boutiques, and a top-notch food and beverage scene. As the momentum continues, I believe downtown will continue to develop as a regional powerhouse in the hospitality market as hotel occupancy levels continue to rise. Paired with its ongoing vibrancy, tight vacancies, and walkability, I believe office development will begin picking up steam in the next few years.”

Local and federal government activities have likewise contributed to the downtown’s growth. In 2024, Huntsville will open a new 176,000-square-foot City Hall, replacing the current 70,000-squarefoot facility. The additional space will allow several departments housed in separate buildings throughout downtown and beyond continued on page 24

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continued from page 23

to consolidate from seven locations into the new space. This move allows the City to eliminate three commercial leases and sell two properties.

Once the City vacates the current City Hall, the building will be demolished, and the site is master-planned to be developed into an expansion of Big Spring Park.

The new federal courthouse, at the corner of Lowe Avenue and Gallatin Street, is expected to be complete at the end of July 2024. It is 123,000 square feet, and the judges should take occupancy sometime toward the end of 2024 or early 2025.

The new courthouse will have five courtrooms: two courtrooms and sets of chambers for active U.S. District Judges; one courtroom and set of chambers for a Senior U.S. District Judge; one courtroom and set of chambers for a U.S. Magistrate Judge; and a courtroom and set of chambers for a U.S. Bankruptcy Judge. In addition, there will be a set of chambers for a visiting U.S. District Judge.

The current federal courthouse on Holmes Avenue, completed in 1935, originally had just one courtroom, on the second floor, above the U.S. Post Office. Over time and following the vacancy of the building by the Postal Service, two additional courtrooms and sets of chambers were shoehorned into the first floor for a U.S. Magistrate Judge and Senior U.S. District Judge.

Senior U.S. District Judge C. Lynwood Smith observed, “This new facility has been needed by our community since the date of my arrival on January 4, 1996, twenty-eight years ago. It has been a long time in coming, but worth the wait. North Alabama was blessed by the nomination and confirmation of Liles C. Burke to fill my active judge position after I assumed senior status. He and I shared a common vision – that the design of a federal courthouse should beautify public spaces, command respect for the important functions that occur within, and ennoble our national experiment in a democratic-

continued on page 26


The Thing about Downtown Huntsville

A downtown is a city’s signature. It represents a municipality’s brand, and it’s the first place visitors and prospective companies see when they come to town. Until the past decade, Huntsville’s downtown was quaint and sleepy. We believed it had potential for something special but were puzzled about what it would take to make it happen.

It took years of community planning and public and private investment to ignite Huntsville’s downtown. The work has been intentional and collaborative. We started with a focus on key assets – a thriving historic district, the Von Braun Center (VBC), cultural attractions, and Big Spring Park. There were historic commercial properties ripe for renovation and opportunity sites open to new construction.

We focused on residential first, then hospitality. As new apartment options drew people to live downtown, restaurants and shopping followed. Investment in expansions for Big Spring Park and the VBC drew more patrons, tourists, and convention business, and that drew more new hotels and entertainment options. The City created an Arts & Entertainment District, new streetscaping, public art, greenways, and pocket parks.

When we needed a new City Hall, we were determined to remain  downtown. A beautiful, classically inspired building is set to open this May to serve the public for the next century. With the new federal courthouse going up and the Mill Creek mixed-use development on the horizon, our next focus is office space. We recognize that a sustainable downtown needs to have a mix of all these elements –a beautiful, clean and safe place to live, work, and play.

We believe downtown Huntsville can have it all.



continued from page 25

republican form of government. We insisted upon a classical design. The central portico is based upon George Steele’s second Madison County Courthouse, constructed in 1836. Judge Burke’s energy and negotiating skills combined to make the new facility far more than it would have been without his input.”

There have also been discussions about a potential new downtown Madison County Courthouse, although those plans are far from being final.

The City of Huntsville has invested in a number of new parking decks to support the increase in living, working, and entertainment traffic, adding thousands of parking spaces.

The Von Braun Center (VBC), Huntsville’s largest event venue, has seen a series of upgrades and improvements since 2010 including a $15M renovation to the Propst Arena including seating, exterior, and expansion of the lobby and concourse, featuring concessions, bars, and a cook-to-order walk-up café. In 2011, we saw the full renovation of the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall including seating, lighting, lobby, and exterior enhancements.

In June of 2017, the Huntsville City Council approved $44M in improvements to the VBC’s facilities. Those upgrades included the addition of a new 1,200 capacity music venue, Mars Music Hall, and development of the adjacent restaurant and rooftop bar, Rhythm on Monroe.

The VBC has also made investments in upgrading the interior and exterior of the Arena, Concert Hall, Ballrooms and Exhibit areas.

Additional entertainment venues downtown are also taking shape. Fifteen years ago, there wasn’t a single rooftop venue downtown. Today there are at least five. Also in development are the sites of the old downtown Heritage Club dining establishment and AM Booth’s Lumberyard, which will bring larger entertainment options to the downtown market.

Late last year, The Front Row development of the old Coca Cola Bottling property was finalized. The $375M downtown Huntsville development started construction in February.

The project will be completed in two phases, per the agreement with the City, which calls for Phase II to begin by Nov. 1, 2029, and take three years to complete.

The project promises to be transformational once completed. Phase I will bring two buildings fronting Clinton Avenue from Pinhook Creek to Monroe Street directly across from the VBC that will include:

■ At least 500 apartment units

■ At least 36,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space

■ At least 35,000 square feet of office space

Between the buildings will be a public plaza greenspace. There will also be 565 parking spaces at the development.

“All of this adds up to well over $1 billion in capital investment over the last 10 years,” according to Chad Emerson, the former director of DHI. Chad left DHI to run the Huntsville City Football Club operation at Joe Davis Stadium in 2022. Emerson says downtown Huntsville’s growth is “unprecedented when compared to peer cities.”

“As prices in the core of downtown have gone up, we’ve seen growth in the inner ring around the core with developments like StoveHouse, Campus 805, and Lowe Mill that are spinoff developments from investors who initially made investments in downtown,” he added.

So downtown Huntsville may be less of a conundrum than it is a happy marriage, synthesizing the old with the exciting new.


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Health/Social Services Business of the Year: Alabama Colon & Gastro

As we reflect on the last month, we want to shine a light on our Health/Social Services Business of the Year winner, Alabama Colon & Gastro. March is recognized as Colon Cancer Awareness Month According to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States, but is also one of the few cancers preventable thanks to screening. Alabama Colon & Gastro is dedicated to diagnosing, preventing, and treating digestive disorders and liver disease to decrease this statistic the best they can.

“We focus on all parts of the digestive system, including the liver at our practice,” CEO Lindsay Rice said. “Anything from colon screenings to GERD (heartburn) to Crohn’s Disease. We stress the importance of early screenings.”

The team at Alabama Colon & Gastro starts their day bright and early at 6:45 a.m. Five days a week, and sometimes more, the physicians and midlevel providers see patients and guide them to diagnosis. It’s a tough job, but the team gets it done!

“I participated in the Small Business Awards to show how wonderful our providers and staff are to the community. They all work so hard on a daily basis and really love taking care of patients, so I think it is a great way to show them how much I appreciate them and how valued they are in the community as well as the company.”

Rice finds value in encouraging those under her. In a previous life, she was actually a high school teacher and administrator. That career stressed the importance of education and mentorship to the younger generation of potential doctors and providers. Because of

that passion, Alabama Colon & Gastro provides a summer internship program for high school and college students who wish to learn more about the field of medicine. This year, they received over 25 applications and chose 12 participants for the summer. These students will work in the office and learn things about billing, coding, scheduling, medical records, patient vitals, and colon cancer screening.

“Over the past three years with this program, we have supported students to get accepted to medical school, physician assistant school, nurse practitioner programs, and nursing school. This year we will be rewarding our first medical scholarship to a student in Madison County,” she added.

To learn more about colon cancer screenings or the scholarship program, head to



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My name is Camille Pike, and I’m working as an intern at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber from January to May. As a Senior at New Century Technology High School, I was given the opportunity to engage in Huntsville City Schools’ Work-Based Learning program. The program so far has allowed me to work at the Huntsville Hospital Foundation for a semester, and now the Chamber. So far, I’ve assisted in brainstorming the What’s So Smart podcast, setting up various events, and furthering the Chamber’s goal for a better and brighter Huntsville.

I’ve learned a lot about Chamber work in the short months my semester allows. It has helped sharpen my skills in communication, connection, and preparation for my future. I can see how adult life will allow me to progress, and it truly helps to have my wonderfully experienced and supportive coworkers around me.

Before I worked at the Chamber, I only had a small sense of what connection was in our city. But now, since I’ve begun working closer to the community as a whole, I’ve learned how important connection is to each of us. Growing up, Huntsville was my home base, so I never truly appreciated how welcoming and beautiful we as Huntsvillians are. Now that I’ve seen up close how our community is growing, I can also see how gorgeous our city is, from the rockets at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center peeking through the trees, to Monte Sano’s hidden streams and wildlife. After graduation, I plan to attend the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and then I look forward to marking a career path in the Rocket City.

603 Madison Street, Huntsville

Reading To Go

Toyota & Chamber foundations supply book vending machine to local school

On March 5th, as part of Read Across America week, the Chamber Foundation surprised the students, faculty, and staff of Lakewood Elementary School with a new book vending machine stocked with almost 200 books on various reading levels and covering a wide range of topics. This gift was made possible by the Toyota Foundation, which awarded the Chamber Foundation a grant as part of the Driving Possibilities initiative last December. At the machine's unveiling, one of Lakewood’s 3rd grade classes gathered around as Principal Sanchella Graham and a 3rd grade student demonstrated how to use the coin-operated machine. Afterward, three members of Toyota Alabama’s young professional business development group served the Lakewood students as volunteer readers and encouraged the students to get excited about reading!

Later in the week, Lakewood hosted a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Awards Day, utilizing the machine on a school-wide

basis for the first time. The purpose of the PBIS Awards Day ceremony was to reinforce and incentivize students’ positive behavior in school. At this event, students received coins as rewards for good behavior, good grades, and/or good attendance, and they used the coins to “purchase” books to grow their home libraries. When the vending machine needs to be refilled, additional books will be added using funding received from grants and school fundraisers and through book and monetary donations from the community.

The Chamber Foundation was honored to be involved in this exciting literacy initiative along with Huntsville City Schools and Toyota. We are also proud to serve as the coordinating partner for the Toyota Foundation’s Driving Possibilities initiative to give students access to educational programs that are inclusive, future-focused, and responsive to workforce demands. To that end, we received $6.7 million from the Toyota Foundation to develop new programs and enhance existing programs in Huntsville City Schools over the next five years. Two of four main workstreams are already underway, including the implementation of a new teacher mentoring program in six of the Title I schools in the Lee High School and Jemison High School feeder patterns as well as the development of an Industrial Maintenance (INDTECH) program to create a pipeline of talent for the growing manufacturing industry across our region. We are working collaboratively with Huntsville City Schools, Toyota Motor North America, Toyota Alabama, and other community partners to create successful program prototypes that we can duplicate and share with other schools in our community and around the State of Alabama.

To learn more about partnering with the Chamber Foundation on this initiative or to find out about the workstreams already underway, please contact Beth Zinn, the Driving Possibilities Program Manager, at

PHOTOS: Students and staff at Lakewood Elementary School, along with Huntsville City Schools leadership, celebrate a new book vending machine designed to encourage and reward young readers.

Year-Long Party

VBC commences 50th Anniversary Celebration

Now through March 14, 2025, the Von Braun Center (VBC) is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It is north Alabama’s most iconic entertainment and event venue, and we can all remember special concerts and moments in our life that we celebrated there.

And, that is the theme for the VBC’s 50th: Your Place Through Time .

Over the next year, the VBC is launching a 50th campaign, publishing a commemorative anniversary book, creating an interactive public art installation, launching a 50th anniversary website, giving away tickets and prizes throughout the year for the use of #VBC50 social media tag, and hosting special anniversary events like behind-the-scenes tours, open-houses, headlining events and more –all culminating on the 50th birthday of March 14, 2025.

“Since 1975, the VBC has created a legacy that is unparalleled in the community,” commented VBC Executive Director Steve Maples. “It is an icon, a pillar of Huntsville and north Alabama, and there is truly no other organization or business like the VBC in the region.”

We can all think of events we have attended, whether they be concerts, musical theatre performances, graduation ceremonies, or comedy shows. Marking ‘Your Place Through Time’ gets our mind going down memory lane and calls for the community to remember how the VBC has been here for these shared experiences and will continue to be your place for many years to come.

At the 50th kickoff ceremony on March 1, Maples said the question has come up about what has been his favorite event over the decades. For him, it was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “Seeing the elephant walk to start each show, and the kids’ faces lighting up, smiling as they came in, I will never forget how special that was, being part of that,” he said.

He also thanked the VBC board of directors and his staff for their service over the years. “Our staff is the heartbeat of the VBC. Thank you for all you do,” Maples said.

When the (then) Von Braun Civic Center first opened its doors in 1975, it was home to an Arena, Concert Hall, Playhouse, and East

Hall. Today, the Von Braun Center includes Propst Arena, Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, The Playhouse, Saturn Ballroom, South Hall, East Hall, Mars Music Hall, and Rhythm on Monroe, as well as a full-service catering kitchen.

“The Von Braun Center has been a catalyst in creating culture and great memories through the many thousands of concerts, performances, sporting and special events it has provided over the past 50 years,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Thanks to the outstanding VBC management and employees who lead this landmark venue. We can’t wait to see what happens in the next 50 years!”

Over the years, leadership has invested in the facility to make sure the building remains an asset the community can be proud of. Some of the more recent investments include:

■ Renovating Propst Arena in 2010 to add seating, update the exterior and expand the lobby and concourse.

■ Renovating Mark C. Smith Concert Hall in 2011 to add seating, update the exterior lobby, and upgrade the lighting.

■ Upgrading Propst Arena interior lighting to a full color-changing LED lighting system in 2019.

■ Opening Mars Music Hall and Rhythm on Monroe in 2020.

■ Upgrading the steel-rigging system in Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, renovating the lobby in front of The Playhouse, and expanding the backstage of Propst Arena in 2021.

■ Upgrading the outdoor marquee, adding LED monitors in the facility, and enhancing the exterior of Propst Arena with a new roof, new paint, and a new exterior full color-changing LED lighting system in 2022.

■ Renovating North Hall interior and exterior, and renaming it Saturn Ballroom in 2023.

The efforts to improve the facility continue with current renovations of East Hall, renovation of the 15,000-square-foot lobby in South Hall, expanding the backstage and loading docks of Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, and updating the connecting corridors throughout the building for a cohesive and modern feel.

When last year’s fiscal year ended, the VBC had hosted 544 events with an estimated economic impact of over $97 million between October 2022 and September 2023.


2024 ChamberON Campaign is underway!

Making sure that our Chamber members have access to outstanding development and professional programs, business services and events is our top priority. With your support, we are able to provide many of these resources through membership dues and ChamberON – our annual sponsorship campaign.

This year’s campaign is underway and runs through June 30. Pull up our catalog at or by using the QR code to check sponsorship opportunities at every level. There are many ways to grow and promote your business, from investing in annual events to high-impact marketing assets.

We have a highly energized group of ChamberON volunteers who give a tremendous amount of their time to connect with Chamber members who are looking to be more actively engaged in the Chamber’s mission through sponsorship opportunities. These volunteers are your personal conduit to an

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Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year: OTC, Inc.

Woman-owned small business is one of our largest categories each year. Our 2023 winner, OTC, Inc., has a growing team in Huntsville that is about to triple in size after just one year of focusing on growth. OTC Co-founder and CEO, Kimberly Byrge (shown second from left) is a huge advocate for women in STEM and is working hard to partner with other local Huntsville-based companies.

“I believe deeply in strong community ties and involvement and giving value back,” Byrge said. “Getting involved in the Small Business Awards was a great thing that added recognition and validation to our growth and success.”

Since her company’s recognition at the Small Business Awards, Byrge has continued to get involved in other Chamber-related events. She recently was featured in the Women’s Business Council’s Portrait of Success event, where she shared her journey to the top and how Huntsville has played a role in her growth. She said she was humbled by the overwhelming number of responses from people who related to her vulnerability.

“I felt a mix of nerves, pride, and gratitude for the opportunity to share my story with other businesswomen,” she added.

As a female business owner, Byrge has faced challenges that forced her to reflect on self-doubt. Her feeling of imposter syndrome grew quickly once she took on the role of CEO. “I stepped into this role just three short years ago, in a male-dominated space, in a company that was in dire need of almost everything overhauled,” she said.

But her time in the Rocket City has helped build that confidence.

Feeling Empowered

She has felt more validated in her abilities to lead thanks to the special events and recognitions she chose to participate in. With a split arsenal of skills in being technical and creative, her life in ASmartPlace® is turning out to be more than she expected.

“In the last couple years, I picked back up singing as lead in a local band with my husband and brother, called ‘Soul Source’… and yes, we can be found playing around town when it’s warmer.”

Learn more about OTC, Inc. and how your company or organization can collaborate at

WBC marks Women’s History Month with Gov. Kay Ivey

According to the World Bank, women-owned firms in the U.S. are growing at more than double the rate of all other firms and contributing almost $3 trillion to the economy. Alabama alone has an estimated 154,000 women-owned businesses that employ over 111,000 people, a growth of 42% which places Alabama 15th in the nation for women-owned businesses. This growth and these businesses were represented in Montgomery recently by members of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s Women’s Business Council (WBC). Members of the WBC, all business owners, traveled to Montgomery to meet with Gov. Kay Ivey as she signed a proclama-

tion designating March 30th as Women-Owned Business Day in the State.

The WBC represents women business owners from industries that span marketing, defense, construction, design, and professional workspace and administrative support services. They are all members of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and passionate about encouraging and supporting other women in business.

Every year the Council honors women-owned businesses throughout the month of March – Women’s History Month –by hosting proclamation signings honoring Women-Owned businesses with local officials like Mayor Tommy Battle of Huntsville and Mayor Paul Finley of the City of Madison; and throughout the year, these women will host events highlighting other successful business owners in our community and create spaces where women in business can meet and network with other women.

In the words of Angela Rittenbach, a member of the Council, “owning and managing my business has been the most rewarding and challenging job ever. I celebrate all the other women doing the same as we commemorate Women’s History Month, and I am grateful for the Governor and the Chamber’s WBC for making this recognition possible for all women who own and operate their own companies.”


Tribute to W.F. Sanders (1935-2024)

Huntsville business leader, W.F. Sanders, Jr. passed away on February 24, leaving behind a legacy of community service that stretched back over 60 years. He was 88 years old.

W.F. helped to facilitate the merger of the Chamber of Commerce and the Huntsville Industrial Development Association (IDA) in 1980, becoming the first Chairman of the combined Chamber Board of Directors in 1981. Later, he was recognized with the Chamber’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, in 1999.

In a 2020 interview, Sanders recalled the merger effort. “I shall never forget. I was president of the IDA, and Guy Nerren and I met with Martha and Leroy Simms where the old hotel was downtown. We decided those two organizations had to merge, so we then met with the Chamber hierarchy because we were fighting each other to raise money, so we brought about a merger,” Sanders explained. “In 1980, that merger took place, and from there is when we began the great growth process that we have now. There are a lot of names that probably should be mentioned on this. It was an excellent move.”

W.F. graduated from Huntsville High School in 1958 and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1962. He joined the Wall Street firm of Goodbody & Co. in Atlanta, Ga. W.F. and his family returned to his native Huntsville in 1963 when Goodbody opened its first Alabama office. In 1967, he was appointed manager and opened the Birmingham office. In 1972, W.F., his wife Paula, and their three children returned to Huntsville. W.F. opened the Robinson Humphrey office in 1980, which later became part of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. W.F. retired from management in 1996 to form his partnership, The Twickenham Group.

He served in the Alabama National Guard for over a decade.

W.F. served on numerous local boards and foundations including the Huntsville Industrial Development Board, the UAH Foundation Board, the Huntsville U.S. Army Advisory Committee, and as a trustee on the Jane K. Lowe Charitable Foundation.

“That our industrial board has worked so closely with all organizations in this community has been a godsend for Huntsville to have this organization and the legislation we have behind it,” Sanders said. “It’s part of the culture of this community to try to do things right, so I’m just delighted I’ve been a small part of it since I came back from [four years in] Birmingham – and that’s been a long time ago.”

“We have brought in some great leadership which has been a concern from a number of us who grew up in the old days,” Sanders added. “We’ve wondered whether we will have the leadership to carry this community forward. I can unequivocally say now that there is no question that we have that, and we’re seeing it every day in this town.”


New in Command

Redstone welcomes 3-Stars at SMDC, MDA

Team Redstone has two new three-star generals on the job. Lieutenant General Sean Gainey assumed command of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense on January 9. Lieutenant General Heath Collins took over as Director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on December 5.

LTG Gainey comes to Huntsville from the Pentagon, where he served as director of the Joint C-UAS Office and director of Fires in the G3/5/7 for Army Headquarters. At SMDC, LTG Gainey will lead a workforce of 2,300 military and civilian professionals in their no-fail mission of providing the Army and joint force trained and equipped space and global ballistic missile defense forces, and space, missile defense and high-altitude capabilities. The command serves as the Army Service Component Command to U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command and as the ASCC for ground-based midcourse defense to U.S. Northern Command.

“As a career air and missile defense officer, being the commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command is essentially the pinnacle. As I look at this organization, I see it as “One Team” of professionals striving for excellence in everything that they do,” said Gainey. “I have an incredible team of leaders, Soldiers and civilians, who all come together and really make my job easy. I’m honored to lead this amazing group who make up the “Best Place to Work” in the Army.”

LTG Gainey has a personal tie to Huntsville. His mother, Lucy Gainey, is a native of our city, and married his father William Gainey at Bicentennial Chapel on Redstone. Gainey’s father was a Soldier.

LTG Collins leads the Missile Defense Agency. The Missile Defense Agency is an $11 billion global organization with more than 9,000 military, civilian and contract personnel located in time zones around the world. Collins exercises management oversight for the Missile Defense System to include program management of missile defense resources which he synchronizes with the services in support of Combatant Command requirements.

MDA’s global mission is to develop, test, field, and sustain integrated, layered missile defense capabilities to defend the United States, its deployed forces, allies and friends against missile attacks in all phases of flight.

Collins’ previous assignment was the Program Executive for GroundBased Weapon Systems for MDA, also at Redstone.

“I am honored by the opportunity to lead this incredible Agency and humbled by the magnitude of our noble mission. Rest assured, the MDA family stands ready and equipped to Go Fast and Think BIG in defending our Homeland and our deployed forces today and tomorrow. We Have You Covered!

Julie and I are also thankful to remain at Redstone Arsenal, a center of gravity for the Missile Defense Agency. The Huntsville-Madison County community has been long-time champions of our Armed Forces, tireless supporters of the missile defense mission, and simply a great place to live,” Collins said.


saturday, June 8

Armed Forces Night at Wicks Family Field

Huntsville City FC vs. Crown Legacy FC ▬ 7 p.m. ▬ Redstone Test Center flyover planned Gold Star Family Appreciation (private event)

monday, June 10

Proclamation Signing Ceremony

Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial, downtown ▬ 8 a.m.

Concert in the Park

Huntsville Museum of Art lawn ▬ 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. ▬ Fireworks at 8:30 p.m.

In case of rain, event will move to VBC South Hall, and fireworks will be cancelled.

tuesday, June 11

Armed Forces Celebration Luncheon

VBC Saturn Ballroom ▬ 12 p.m.

Wednesday, June 12

Softball Game between Team Redstone and Community Team

Toyota Field ▬ 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Check for more updates as we get closer to June. Mark

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Veteran-Owned Business of the Year: Offset Strategic Services

The Huntsville community has a growing number of Veterans, many of whom eventually start their own business and find success thanks to the many opportunities with Redstone Arsenal. Our Small Business Award winner for Veteran-Owned Business of the Year, Offset Strategic Services, is no exception. It was founded by TJ Wright, a former Special Forces Commander and leader of the U.S. Army’s Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) system. He says OSS creates strategic advantages through its powerful community engagement.

“Some of our efforts include raising $150,000 annually for Veterans, acting as a presenting sponsor, and contributing to collective efforts that have raised over $1 million for local school health programs,” Wright said.

Their contributions are one way they show their commitment to providing essential advantages to Veterans, underrepresented children, and communities. They’ve also donated $100,000 to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering’s Robotics team to support and encourage the STEM interest in our younger generations. Some of OSS’s other supports include Habitat for Humanity and scholarship programs. “Ensuring those in need receive a significant ‘offset’ for success in life and technology” is what OSS takes pride in, Wright explained.

Winning a Small Business Award was a validating experience for the team at OSS. It was an opportunity to showcase what makes them unique. That type of recognition is beneficial for recruiting new talent, partners, and customers who share their vision for mak-

ing a meaningful impact on the community and Veterans.

“Getting involved in the Small Business Awards was a no-brainer for us,” said Wright. “Huntsville is truly special. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Wright mentioned how their involvement in the Small Business Awards allowed them the opportunity to learn from other companies’ successes, which inspired his team to do more. “It taught us a lot about the power of teamwork and innovation,” he said.

OSS is all about blending passion and professionalism. Their work in the community continues to rise and our region is fortunate to have companies that continue to strive for this type of involvement. Learn more about OSS at


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Life-Changing Feat |

On February 29th, a team from Huntsville summited Mt. Kilimanjaro on Rare Disease Day to support the PTEN Foundation based at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. As a cancer survivor, I was glad to be asked to be part of this team and support the effort to raise awareness and funds for this great cause. PTEN is an international foundation based at HudsonAlpha which supports patients with PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome (PHTS) through education, patient programs, and advancing research initiatives. PHTS arises due to a mutation of the PTEN gene, putting patients at high risk of developing multiple types of cancer.

The goal to summit on Rare Disease Day was symbolic, as PTEN is a rare, under -diagnosed hereditary cancer syndrome, and bringing awareness of this condition is the first step to finding a cure. Our team was comprised of individuals from across the globe, including Austria, Canada, Colorado, New Jersey, Boston, Florida, and Huntsville. In total, we had 12 members forming an international delegation climbing to support the PTEN Foundation mission. Two of our members were mothers from Canada whose sons are both affected by PTEN. The founder of the organization is also a mother of an affected child and is a PTEN patient as well. They were all climbing to support and inspire their children.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is no easy task – in fact, some say it is the hardest thing they have done in their lives. The summit rises 19,341 feet and is one of the famed Seven Summits, being the tallest mountain on the continent of Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Our journey included eight days on the mountain, climbing over rocks and boulders, and camping above 15,000 feet. On summit night, we began our climb at 11 pm after a long day of hiking. Our day would include over 4,000 feet of climbing to the top in snow and freezing weather, as well as 7,000 feet of treacherous descent. We were tired and exhausted, but we made it to the summit, the Roof of Africa.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is a challenging and life-changing experience. It

was an honor to be asked to be part of the team, and I am proud to have had a hand in helping raise over $30,000 to support the efforts of the PTEN Foundation. Just like climbing the mountain, finding a cure for rare diseases is not easy and takes thoughtful planning and effort to reach each milestone one step at a time. I appreciate everyone’s support and encouragement as we set out to achieve a big goal and to raise awareness about this international effort based in Huntsville. Your support and contributions to the PTEN Foundation are much appreciated as they continue to reach new heights to help those affected by this rare condition.

For more information on the PTEN Foundation, please contact Kristin Anthony, president & founder, at or visit

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro for PTEN Foundation
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