Initiatives - August 2023

Page 1


Focused On You

When it comes to managing the challenges facing your business, it’s critical to partner with a legal team that has a sophisticated understanding of your goals. As a full-service law firm with extensive experience in commercial litigation, banking and financial services, intellectual property, government contracts, construction, economic development, healthcare, real estate, corporate and securities, life sciences, labor and employment law, and governmental affairs, our attorneys can address the unique needs of every client. At Bradley, we’re focused on providing you with innovative solutions, dependable responsiveness, and a deep commitment to success.

For more information visit

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. ATTORNEY ADVERTISING. Contact: Benjamin W. Hutton, Esq., 256.517.5173,, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, 200 Clinton Avenue West, Suite 900, Huntsville, AL 35801. ©2023 Alabama | Florida | Georgia | Mississippi | North Carolina | Tennessee | Texas | Washington, D.C.

Health Care Heroes

Miracle Makers

Philanthropy Partners

–BlueCross BlueShield of Alabama | The Caring Foundation

Healing Hands

–Alabama Cleaning Service

–Axient and Axient in Action

–Bill Penney Toyota

–Century Automotive Group

–Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Inc.

–Cerner Charitable Foundation

–Chapman Sisson Architects

–Civitans Care, Inc.

–COLSA Corporation

–Davidson Technologies, Inc.

–Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of North Alabama

–First Horizon

–Gayle Milton CLU ChFC CFP

–Healthcare Worker’s Compensation Fund

–HighTower Twickenham

–Hill Family Foundation

–Hopper Family Market, LLC

–Huntsville Utilities


–Inline Electric Supply Company

–Jesse Stutts, Inc.

–Junior League of Huntsville

–Keel Point, LLC

–Lockton Companies

–Madison Street Wealth Advisors of Raymond James

–Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA, Inc.

–Monte Sano Research Corporation

–Moon Construction Services, Inc.

–Northrop Grumman –PNC


–Redstone Federal Credit Union

–The Daniel Foundation of Alabama

–Tropical Smoothie Cafe

–Quality Glass Company Incorporated

–Republic Services, Inc.

–Russel Hill Cancer Foundation

–Simulation Technologies, Inc.

–Spirit Halloween

dba Spencer Spirit Holdings, Inc.

–The James Cecil and Margaret G. Ashburn Foundation

–The Lioce Group

–Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Inc.

–Trident Security Solutions, LLC

–United Community Bank

–Viva Health

–Vulcan Materials Company

–Warren Averett, LLC

–Wells & Tate Electrical Co., Inc.

Your gifts make a difference for our hospitals, patients and health care heroes! Thank you for your support!
Visionaries –Alabama State Council on the Arts –Alliance Cancer Care
–CFD Research Corporation –Clearview Cancer Institute –Dunkin’ | Joy In Childhood Foundation –Hexagon –Landers McLarty Dodge Chrysler Jeep Subaru of Huntsville –Madison County Commission –North Alabama Chemical
–Radiance Technologies, Inc.
Community Partners based on fiscal year. Giving totals as of June 12, 2023. Learn more at

new chamber members


Joined in May

Aberdeen Advisors

Added Space Self Storage

Advanced Medical Clinics LLC

Arcus Restoration

Belk Parkway Place

Best Buy

Big Spoon Creamery

BrightPoint, LLC

Caring Heart Thrift Store, Inc.

Continental Roofing Company Copart

Dashu Japanese Cuisine & Bar

Forcepoint Federal, LLC

Hampton Cove Funeral Home

HSV Marketing

Huntsville Compounding Pharmacy

Inside Medicine

Jim N Nicks Community Bar-B-Q

MNT Machine Inc.

Opus Technologies, Inc.

P3 Alliance LLC

Photos By Rodell

Project Sweet Peas - Alabama

Raise Your Own Bar LLC

Rocket City Mobile IV

RPM Computing

Sand Mountain Cooperative Education Center

Timberline Glamping Company Huntsville

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 June


Advanced Neutron Generation, Inc.

Alabama Automotive Manufacturers Association

Amplified Displays, LLC

Apex Restoration DKI

Apparel Lab


Ashford Advisors


BKS Partners

Butterfly Kisses Photography & Photo Booth Rental LLC

CCI Utility and Construction Services, LLC


Cove Pharmacy


Definitive Logic

Enable Madison County

Food City

Grateful Recovery, Inc.

Hays Farm Homes

Heritage Wholesale Supply

Ivaldi Engineering

Mama’s Kitchen CUPBAP

Pickens Scientific, Inc.

Rocket City Plumbing, LLC

Scott Plumbing, LLC

Sensigreen Heating & Air

St. Luke Integrative Medical Center

T2S, LLC - Gilmer

The Cow Family, Inc.

The Dean at Chase Creek

Tom Brown’s Restaurant

Tom Taylor Agency, Inc.

Trashy Dawg

Tuff Shed

US HVAC Services, LLC

Veterans Security & Surveillance, LLC

Worthington Mortgage

BUILT TO SERVE YOU You deserve the best of both worlds - the high-tech, high-touch banking convenience you need delivered with the exceptional personal service you deserve. Bank Independent is North Alabama’s bank of choice for everything from checking to mortgage to treasury solutions. MEMBER FDIC | EQUAL HOUSING LENDER BIBANK.COM | 877.865.5050 VISIT ONE OF OUR MANY MADISON COUNTY SALES OFFICES Downtown Huntsville 225 Holmes Ave Huntsville Hampton Cove 410 Sutton Road, Suite A Owens Cross Roads MidCity 930 Old Monrovia Rd NW, Suite 6 Huntsville Madison 7564 Highway 72 W Madison West Madison 11264 County Line Road Madison Opening Fall 2023 South Huntsville 9010 Memorial Pkwy SW Huntsville Opening Early 2024 Downtown Huntsville 225 Holmes Ave


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

(see staff listing on page 34)

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

editorial staff

publisher Chip Cherry, CCE

editor Claire Aiello

editorial designer Kristi Sherrard

contributing writers

Kayla Brown

Katie Coppens

Annie Davis

John Peck

Lyndsay Ferguson

Mike Ward, CCE advertising

Kristy Drake

Lakeysha Brown


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 world-class golf, hiking, biking, and fishing. Major concerts, Broadway and symphony performances, extensive permanent collections, and traveling exhibitions contribute to a wonderful way of life.





pages 18-23

table of contents
of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, Inc. 225 Church St NW, Huntsville, AL 35801 • 256-535-2000
4 NEW CHAMBER MEMBERS | BECOMING A MEMBER 5 HREGI INVESTORS 8 MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT | BOARD LISTING 13 HREGI PROFILE: Huntsville International Airport with Butch Roberts 15 COMMUNITY PROFILE 30 ARMED FORCES CELEBRATION WEEK: Recap with photos 34 CHAMBER STAFF | ASSOCIATED ORGS 35 TO THE MOON | Huntsville marks 70 Years as “The Rocket City” more for you 10 COMMUNITY HIGHLIGHTS | includes Weezer, Freedom Real Estate, Kömmerling, and more 14 IT’S NOT BUSINESS, IT’S PERSONAL | Three local leaders impacting the future of heart health 16 TICKET TO RIDE | Huntsville leverages aerospace muscle at Paris Air Show 17 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | Kristy Powell, 2022 Young Professional of the Year 24 MOVING FORWARD | Drake State breaks ground on Advanced Manufacturing Facility 25 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro 26 INTERNS GOT GAME | Students compete in Summer Games at Booz Allen to solve real-world problems 27 GO ROCKET CITY! | “Get Onboard” seeks to engage local interns 28 REDSTONE PROFILE | LTG Robert A. Rasch, RCCTO 32 SBA WINNER SPOTLIGHT | Jonathan Hard, 2022 Russell G. Brown Exective Leadership Award 33 SAFE DISTANCE | Parsons celebrates RADBO delivery
Photo by Jeff White Photography
feature stories
sets eyes on future for Huntsville City Schools
Madison City Schools: New Journey Middle School opens
The Schools Foundation: RECHARGE for Teachers
Madison County Schools: Introduction to ALICE

a message from chip cherry


Dear Chamber Investors, Community Leaders, and Friends:

Huntsville was built on the understanding that a strong education system is critical to the future growth of a community. Numerous studies show that high quality public education leads to economic vitality and a strong future workforce. Our public schools are critical to every person and every business in our community.

We are excited to celebrate the selection of Dr. Clarence Sutton as the new superintendent of Huntsville City Schools. Dr. Sutton joins an ecosystem of primary, secondary, and post-secondary education entities in our region that work to ensure we have the talent needed to excel now and in the future. He brings the insights of a teacher and school-level administrator to his role – valuable insights that will empower him to lead the largest system in the region. I look forward to seeing Superintendent Sutton use his experience and insights to mentor Huntsville’s principals, empower our educators, and support a culture where our young people can excel.

It is an honor to live in a community that celebrates the contributions of the women and men who serve our country, as well as the civil servants, contractors, and the service members’ families. You will see the highlights of the 2023 Armed Forces Celebration Week on pages 30-31. I would also like to thank General Charles Hamilton for making time in his schedule to make a presentation to the attendees of the Armed Forces Celebration Luncheon. Gen. Hamilton took a non-traditional path to his role as Commander of Army Materiel Command. He didn’t attend a military academy like many of our country’s four-star generals. Instead, he enlisted! I encourage you to read his bio online: . To all those who are serving, have served, or supported them – Thank You!

For those who have read my letters in the past, you know I grew up in a Small Business Family. I have a great appreciation for the dedication and perseverance it takes to be successful running a small company. I also have seen firsthand the struggles and stress it places on the families of the principles. Therefore, one of the highlights of the year for me is our Small Business Awards program and our Shop Local promotions. Take time to read the highlights of three of last year’s winners on pages 17, 25, and 32. I also encourage you to schedule time to join us for the Small Business Awards program on September 28.

I am blessed to work with a talented group of volunteers and Staff Team Members at the Chamber. Three on our Team are being promoted to directors. They are:

■ Kayla Brown – Director of Strategic Communications

■ Meghan Chambliss – Director of Governance Support & Special Projects

■ Kristi Sherrard – Creative Director


I look forward to seeing you at a Chamber event soon!

Executive Committee

Lynn Troy, Board Chair – Troy7, Inc.

Sameer Singhal, Chair-Elect – CFD Research Corporation

Greg Brown, Immediate Past Chair – Brown Precision, Inc.

Ron Poteat, Board Chair, Chamber Foundation

Wayne Sisco, Secretary/Treasurer – Redstone Federal Credit Union

Jeff Samz, Vice Chair, Economic Development & Workforce –Huntsville Hospital

Michelle Jordan, Vice Chair, Economic Inclusion & Diversity – TARCOG

Ronnie Chronister, Vice Chair, Government & Public Affairs –Lockheed Martin Corporation

Beth Sippel, Vice Chair, HREGI – Synovus

Blake Bentley, Vice Chair, Investor Relations – SportsMED

Jason Puckett, Vice Chair, Marketing & Communications – Toyota Alabama

Dr. Karockas Watkins, Vice Chair, Small Business – Ability Plus, Inc.

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

Brett Crain, Chair-Appointed – Huntsville Tractor & Equipment, Inc.

Jami Peyton, Chair-Appointed – Canvas, Inc.

John Watson, Chair-Appointed – Torch Technologies

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

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

Chrm. Mac McCutcheon, Ex-officio Member – Madison Co. Commission

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

Elected board

Ted Baudendistel, InterFuze Corporation

David Bier, Anglin Reichmann Armstrong, P.C.

Penny Billings, Cadence Bank

Mark Brazeal, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM)

Thomas Busby, SouthState Bank

Katie Comer, Meta Platforms, Inc.

Michael Cox, Raytheon, An RTX Business

Dr. Patti Dare, Davidson

Melissa Davis, MTA, Inc.

Tyler Evans, Aerojet Rocketdyne

Kevin Fernandez, L2 Mindset

Greg Fortier, SAIC

Owen Franklin, Blue Summit Supplies

Dr. Greg Gaddy, Five Stones Research Corporation

Greg Hall, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT)

Scott Hall, Teledyne Brown Engineering, Inc.

Ginger Harper, First Horizon

Josh Herren, Yulista

Tharon Honeycutt, MSB Analytics, Inc.

Laura Huckabee-Jennings, Transcend, The Fearless Company

Lincoln Hudson, Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.

Tyce Hudson, Freedom Real Estate and Capital, LLC

Hank Isenberg, IronMountain Solutions

Sean Kelly, Regions Bank

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

Clint Kirkland, United Community Bank

Rich Kretzschmar, Integration Innovation, Inc. (i3)

James Lackey, Parsons

Todd May, KBR

Bob McCaleb, Northrop Grumman Corporation

Chrystal Morgan, The Boeing Company

Collin Orcutt, Schoel Engineering Company, Inc.

Alana Parker, Rocket City Drywall & Supply, Inc.

Zack Penney, Bill Penney Toyota/Mitsubishi

Sharné Rice, U.S. Army

Alicia Ryan, LSINC Corporation

Charlie Sealy, Sealy Management Company, Inc.

Sandra Stephens, Keel Point, LLC

Mitch Stevison, Mercury Systems, Inc.

Nilmini Thompson, Systems Products and Solutions, Inc.

Mark Vaporis, Intrepid

Mike Watkins, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

HUNTSVILLE/MADISON COUNTY CHAMBER Executive Committee & Board of Directors 2023

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community highlights

Weezer in the Rocket City

The band Weezer performed at the Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville on June 4, but they didn’t just come for the night. They spent six days rehearsing at the Orion for their upcoming tour.  During that time, they also visited a few local sights, including Marshall Space Flight Center, where band members saw Orion stage adapter flight hardware of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the upcoming Artemis II mission that will launch four astronauts around the Moon. The adapter is fully manufactured at Marshall. They also visited the Payload Operations Center, which oversees all experiments and science communications aboard the International Space Station.

Improving Access at Huntsville International Airport

Huntsville International Airport is undergoing a $13.3 million construction project that will improve customer access to the concourse. The project, funded by a competitive Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant paired with other FAA Airport Improvement Program dollars, will double the access to the concourse with two elevators and four escalators as well as aesthetically improve the circa 1990 concourse construction. The airport is also building a cell phone waiting lot that will help alleviate congestion around the terminal passenger loading areas, and increasing capacity for rental cars by moving the employee parking lot.

New Industrial Park in north Huntsville

On July 20, Freedom Real Estate & Capital broke ground on a new industrial park located at 7401 Pulaski Pike. Freedom Industrial Park is just across from Toyota Alabama.

The first building will be 104,000 square feet, and is scheduled to be complete in January 2024. Altogether, the park will include 600,000 square feet of speculative industrial space. Freedom is actively seeking tenants.

“We are thrilled to expand into the north Huntsville market, which has seen a lot of recent success,” said Bill Roark, Freedom’s founder and CEO. “We are confident that our Freedom Industrial Park will help continue the momentum. We are grateful for the leadership of the City of Huntsville, the Chamber, and other community partners. Their support has allowed us to invest with confidence in this part of the city.”

Kömmerling Announces Expansion in Huntsville

Kömmerling USA, which is located in Chase Industrial Park in Huntsville, has announced an expansion and additional jobs for the local facility. Kömmerling will add two new production lines to manufacture window and door profiles. The company currently makes these products elsewhere, including Germany, and this expansion will allow the team to make these items here rather than customers having to import them. With the expansion, 30 new positions will be added, and these will be folded in over the next two to three years. Kömmerling is rolling out expansion plans in several parts of the United States, with Huntsville’s addition being the first.

Dr. Peter Mrosik, owner and CEO of profine Group, emphasizes the strategic aspect of the investment.

“By expanding our capacities in Huntsville, we are continuing our international growth strategy and sending a clear signal to our partners and for mutual success,” said Dr. Mrosik. “The site’s upgrade and the additional property are a trendsetting step for profine Group and for its sustainable positive development.”

This expansion by the company represents a $12.6 million capital investment, including $4.5 million to purchase new equipment, $7.5 million to upgrade the existing facility, and $600,000 to purchase additional land next to the existing plant.

“On behalf of the local Kömmerling team we appreciate profine Group’s investment in Huntsville,” said Brandon Moore, Chief Executive Officer – President of Kömmerling USA. “We look forward to growing as a company and within the community.”

NAITA Celebrates 40th Anniversary with Cyber Program & Golf

The North Alabama International Trade Association (NAITA) will host a Trade Compliance Roundtable on August 29 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Invention to Innovation Center (I2C) focused on “Battlefield Cyber | How China & Russia Are Undermining Our Democracy & National Security .” Baker Donelson attorneys from Washington, DC, Michael McLaughlin and Lee Smith will discuss this timely and critical topic.

NAITA will also host its 40th Anniversary Golf Classic on September 11 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Hampton Cove. The tournament supports nonprofit education and training programs. Sponsorships are available for the golf outing, with networking social and cookout to follow. NAITA educates, advocates, and connects companies to international business resources and opportunities. Please visit for details and registration.

UAH receives $58K grant as sole sponsor of Alabama’s Ability Sport Network

The Ability Sport Network (ASN) at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has received a $58,200 grant as the sole sponsor of the state’s adapted youth sport league focusing on Paralympic sports. Dr. David Kyle runs the program, and says the equipment is very expensive. For example, one specialized wheelchair costs $3,000. Beep baseballs for blind athletes cost $50 each.

ASN provides sport activities for middle and high school students with functional limitations based on physical disabilities. ASN at UAH has held two big events on campus this spring: Adaptive Cycling Community Day and Development Clinic on May 21 and beep baseball with the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind on June 5-6. Find more information on upcoming events at

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Huntsville International Airport is very active with economic development for our region. Tell us about what kind of business you work to recruit, including recently at the Paris Air Show.

Everybody needs passenger travel, and everybody needs to transport their goods. The Port of Huntsville is proud to be a part of the Huntsville/Madison County delegation attending important business development events like the Paris Air Show. When companies are considering where to locate their headquarters, an office, or manufacturing facility, they are looking for some very specific amenities related to moving people and goods. With a sophisticated inland port and intermodal center, Foreign Trade Zone 83 and a U.S. Customs office onsite, as well as commercial and private passenger aviation, and 8,000 acres of real estate including the Jetplex Industrial Park, the Port of Huntsville is able to offer companies a complete package that makes it advantageous for them to locate in Huntsville.

There has been a renewed push for several years to get more people to ‘Fly Huntsville’ – what is the latest?

We approach our marketing campaigns and public relations efforts to Fly Huntsville as an opportunity to educate our community. It’s important for people to know that buying a ticket to fly from Huntsville is casting a vote for more nonstop routes and more air service for the routes we have. Airlines find growing markets attractive. We also want potential customers to think about the value of their time – we are close to home, and our latest campaign emphasizes the value of “Get to the Fun Faster.” Who wants to spend half of their vacation day just getting to the airport? We want passengers to think about the risks of driving hours to catch a flight at an out-of-town airport, too. Flights are more scarce this year, and they are full, so missing a flight because of an unforeseen traffic slow-down or stop might mean you don’t leave the airport at all for a day or more. Finally, we want our community to think about Huntsville International Airport when they are considering visiting desirable leisure destinations like Las Vegas, Orlando and Tampa. Breeze Airways offers nonstop service to these vacation spots at ultra-low fares making flying from HSV even more affordable and more convenient.

There’s a lot more that happens at the Airport than just passenger travel. You also handle quite a bit of cargo!

We have a new, 110,000-square-foot cargo warehouse coming online soon, after construction is completed this year. This space has been leased already, and this just illustrates how desirable real estate adjacent to the runway is. Alongside that project, construction is nearly complete on a new cargo hangar access road that will service the hangars located between Wall-Triana Highway and the east runway. We did see some fluctuations in the supply chain over the past few years. When the seaports were experiencing huge backlogs, the demand for air cargo service skyrocketed. Now that the ports are flowing freely again, the logistics supply chain is normalizing, and our intermodal center is seeing the demand for cargo transport by rail and truck increasing to pre-COVID levels.

Huntsville International Airport is one of our Regional Partners in the Huntsville Regional Economic Growth Initiative, or HREGI. What would you say to other companies who are considering an investment?

We believe that HREGI does help strengthen the economic base in our community, that it grows Huntsville in the technology sector and enhances our quality of life here. We see the benefits of having a seat at the table, and by participating in HREGI, we are able to cooperate in positioning Huntsville and Madison County as a leading economic growth center in the Southeast.

Anything else you’d like to add?

We are excited about the capabilities we are developing to host UAS (unmanned aviation systems) testing on our property. We’ve got an opportunity here for anyone in the UAS business, and our facility has the ability to support businesses in this field. With 8,000 acres, we have built basic facilities adjacent to the airport, outside our perimeter fence, that include landing pads and operational assets required for UAS testing. It’s a way we can utilize this land and benefit not just our community but technology development that benefits the field of UAS aviation. Our vision is to match the growth of our community, and one day, we plan to build additional runways and amenities to service our growing commercial customer and cargo base. To take a peek at the future, our Master Plan can be accessed online at


It’s not business, it’s personal

How three local defense industry leaders are impacting the future of heart health

When Hank Isenberg and Bill Roark signed on to serve as chairmen for Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s 2023 Huntsville Classic, the CEOs weren’t just motivated to receive the iconic green chairmen’s jacket. Both men were driven to give back to a cause that saved their lives. That drive resulted in a record-breaking event for the city of Huntsville and north Alabama, raising $1.7 million to fully fund a new cardiac CT scanner for Huntsville Hospital Heart Center. That equipment will improve access and outcomes, cutting diagnostic wait times from months to weeks.

“This CT scanner will save lives because people will know they have a problem,” Roark said. “Weeks make a difference.”

Roark knows this firsthand. In 2010, he suffered a heart attack while in his office at Torch Technologies in Huntsville, and later underwent a quadruple bypass. Now, more than a decade later, he can joke that “if Huntsville Hospital weren’t here, I might be plant food.” Instead, he is using his time and resources to ensure others have access to the cardiac care they need.

Isenberg, president and CEO of IronMountain Solutions, has also been passionate about transforming heart health since his triple bypass in 2014. It was a perfect storm when the two leaders and philanthropists joined together for Huntsville Classic and started scheming how to make it the biggest event in Huntsville history.

Their first call was to Mike Wicks.

“Thirty-five years ago, my mom suffered a massive heart attack and underwent a successful emergency open-heart surgery with five bypasses at Huntsville Hospital Heart Center,” shared Wicks, founder of the Wicks Family Foundation and retired founder of i3. “Thankfully, she made a full recovery and has had no further heart issues. As my dad says, ‘That’s some good plumbing work.’”

Wicks’ gratitude for that care meant he and his wife, Christine, didn’t hesitate to join Isenberg and Roark at the top of the Classic sponsor board. Together, IronMountain Solutions, Torch Technologies, and the Wicks Family Foundation contributed at unprecedented levels toward the event and rallied other area businesses and defense contractors to join the cause.

“We made a real push to bring new companies and individuals to the table from our industry,” Roark said. “I never made a call where someone wasn’t happy to hear what we needed.”

Roark attributes that to the essential role health care plays in caring for and recruiting employees.

“Huntsville’s system of hospitals not only benefit our companies and employees, but our whole community,” Isenberg agrees. “Continually maintaining and updating capabilities at the hospitals enables the residents of Huntsville to have top-notch care without having to travel several hours to another hospital. Huntsville Hospital takes care of us, so we should take care of them.”

According to Wicks, that “takes a village.” And a village is what they got. More than 120 companies signed on to contribute to the Heart Center’s needs. This collaborative effort resulted in a record-smashing event, raising enough to fully fund the $1.7 million piece of diagnostic equipment.

“As the defense industry continues to grow and bring new residents to the community, the regional hospitals must continue to grow and adapt to serve them,” Isenberg says. “There are many individuals and corporations that were involved in the Classic for the first time this year. It’s great to be able to broaden the impact of what it’s all about –helping Huntsville Hospital Foundation make lifesaving investments.”

That investment was possible – and lives will be saved – thanks to Isenberg, Roark, Wicks, and other leaders. Now that’s a gift from the heart.

– Contributed by Katie Coppens Huntsville Hospital Foundation L-R: Mike Wicks (co-founder of Summit Research Corporation and founder of i3); Bill Roark (co-founder of Torch Technologies, Inc., founder & CEO of Freedom Real Estate and Starfish Holdings); and Hank Isenberg (founder, president & CEO of IronMountain Solutions, Inc.) at the 2023 Huntsville Classic concert at The Orion Amphitheater.

15 Employers: Huntsville & Madison County

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:

AUG 2023 initiatives 15 A HUNTSVILLE/MADISON COUNTY CHAMBER PUBLICATION Sources: U.S. Census Bureau (, American Community Survey Estimates As of July 2023 Madison City of City of Huntsville POPULATION County Huntsville Madison Metro Area 2010 Census 334,811 180,105 42,938 417,593 2022 Census 403,565 221,933 59,785 514,465 % Growth 20.5% 23.2% 39.2% 23.2% HOUSEHOLDS & INCOME # of Households 164,493 96,551 21,357 205,178 Avg. Household Income $105,994 $95,849 $123,831 $103,388 Per Capita Income $43,656 $42,232 $48,070 $41,897
U.S. Army/Redstone Arsenal* 38,000 * Huntsville Hospital System 10,160 NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center* 6,000 Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) 3,500 The Boeing Company ................................... 3,048 Huntsville City Schools 3,000 Dynetics, Inc. 2,946 SAIC 2,746 Madison County Schools 2,389 Northrop Grumman Corporation 2,266 City of Huntsville 2,206 University of Alabama in Huntsville ........................ 1,979 Polaris Industries 1,932 Toyota Alabama 1,800 Lockheed Martin Corporation 1,685 Source: Huntsville/Madison County Chamber *includes on-site contractors

Ticket to Ride

Huntsville leverages aerospace muscle at Paris Air Show

Since the mid-1980s, our community has used international air shows as a tool to help market itself to the broader international aerospace industrial base. Those efforts have primarily focused on two venues – the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget (in odd numbered years) and, since 2004, the Farnborough Air Show (in even numbered years). Both shows are week-long events that combine a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defense industries with a public airshow.

Attracting and retaining those aerospace industry partners is an important part of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s economic development mission.

The air show is an important event in the international aerospace and defense industry calendar, providing an opportunity for key industry leaders, customers and community leaders to meet. It also allows industry to demonstrate the state-of-the-art technology in civilian and military aerospace systems to potential customers and investors. Industry is fond of using the show as a platform to attract media coverage of new developments and orders.

At the heart of the community effort are the meetings arranged by the community with key aerospace company officials. This year’s Paris Air Show trip included nearly 60 meetings with industry decision makers from both existing industry and potential new companies. The north Alabama community also hosted a reception, honoring Senators Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville and Congressman Dale Strong, at Les Invalides. The north Alabama reception was attended by a “Who’s Who” of more than 300 aerospace industry leaders.

“I was extremely impressed with the efforts of the north Alabama delegation, and the number and quality of the economic development meetings held at Le Bourget,” observed Lynn Troy, 2023 Chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Board of Directors. “Everything was highly coordinated, from the engagement with our Congressional delegation, as well as our State leadership with Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, and certainly the tremendous community leadership from Huntsville, Madison County, UAH, Huntsville International Airport, and the Chamber.”

Since the late 1990s, the State of Alabama has joined the air show marketing effort, as have a number of other communities from across our state. Other states have also begun to take advantage of this unique meeting and marketing opportunity. Over two dozen states participated in this year’s Paris Air Show.

“You have no idea of the magnitude of the Air Show until you’re able to see it in person,” Troy continued. “Attending the Paris Air Show was a great opportunity for me to see what north Alabama does to help build economic development in our area. It was impressive to see how hard we are working and such a high level of cooperation among our partners.”

– Mike Ward, CCE Top photo (L-R): Mike Ward, Lynn Troy, Robert Lindquist, Rep. Dale Strong, Mayor Tommy Battle, Payne Griffin, , Joey Ceci, and LaFreeda Jordan at the Paris Air Show. Middle photo: Senator Katie Britt speaks with the Chamber’s Lucia Cape and Mike Ward and UAH’s LaFreeda Jordan. Bottom photo: Rep. Dale Strong with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Young Professional of the Year Kristy Powell

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh my goodness, did they just call my name?’ I was so surprised!”

That’s what ran through the mind of our 2022 Young Professional of the Year, Kristy Powell.

Powell said winning the award was one of her happiest moments. She worked under Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis until they were recently acquired by Signalink, Inc. Powell said she grew up dreaming of the moment she could be part of the small business community. Growing up in a small business family, with both of her parents being small business owners, she learned how to treat customers and how important small businesses are to a community.

“I love the small business community and believe small businesses are the heartbeat of this area,” she added.

Since winning the award, Powell has seen some changes in her career. At the time of the awards, Cepeda Systems & Software Analysis, Inc., (CSSA) had just become a wholly owned subsidiary of Signalink, Inc., where she currently serves as the director of Business Operations. When she isn’t working, she dedicates her time to her family and community involvement. She volunteers with many organizations, including serving on the Board for the Junior League of Huntsville, the leadership team at Cornerstone Community Church which focuses on outreach to the community, and she just completed her time on the Huntsville Hospital Foundation Board of Directors as the Development Council chair.

“As a Madison native, I have seen our community grow so much. My husband and I are big supporters of our community where we both were raised,” said Powell. “We enjoy raising our family in the #2 Best Place to Live!”

Her experience and support in the north Alabama business community has proved she has what it takes to lead by example – something we strive to see in young professionals. As the Business Operations director at Signalink, Powell takes pride in her company’s mission. Their goal is to “honor God and to become their customers’ trusted advisor by delivering best-value services through innovative, flexible, and adaptable services and products that exceed their expectations and contribute to their success.”

Sutton sets eyes on future for Huntsville City Schools

continued on page 20

Dr. Clarence Sutton was hired as superintendent of Huntsville City Schools on June 13. He came on with the school system in January of 2020, just prior to the start of the Covid pandemic. COVER STORY BY CLAIRE AIELLO PHOTOS BY JEFF WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

continued from page 19

Sutton has been what some might call a quiet player in the central office until now. We spoke with him this summer as he was preparing to lead the school system in a much more public role as the new academic year begins.

Sutton pointed back to his earlier career in Tuscaloosa, where he was born. He started as a science teacher in 1994 at Eastwood Middle School, finding success using project-based learning with students of different levels.

“I had advanced students in the morning, but then I’d have another class in the afternoon that needed more support. I started sharing the same material with both groups,” he recalled. “I started doing different levels of assessments to get the afternoon students up to par, and I realized I wanted to do project-based learning, which opened up student performance, being patient, and actually getting students excited about learning. If you know me, you know I’m always going to be excited, because I believe being excited as an educator attracts excitement about learning among students.”

Sutton later transitioned to administration, eventually moving to Southview Middle School in Tuscaloosa, which was in academic improvement at the time. The school moved into the clear within one year. In 2010, Sutton moved to Central High School. While the school was consistently on Alabama’s Failing Schools List, the school was no longer on the list by the end of Sutton’s tenure.

“It was a very challenging school, but a very rewarding school when we implemented the plan,” Sutton said. “With that, we worked to recruit staff, retain staff, train staff, and build a culture of professional learning. I worked 10 years there and got the opportunity to come here.”

In his new role, he oversees Huntsville City Schools, a system with

JEFF WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY Dr. Clarence Sutton checks in with students at Whitesburg School.

more than 23,000 students and 2,350 employees. With 43 schools and an operating budget of over $405 million, running the system is a huge job. Sutton said he has laid out a five-part plan to ensure the district is successful, and students are priority one:





HCS offers innovation in courses and curriculum. It is a fully digital 1:1 school district, providing every student in grades K through 12 with a device. HCS also offers state-of-the-art courses in academics, fine arts, and career technical education. All six high schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and 17 schools offer career tech and academy programs.

In fact, HCS is planning to build a new $25 million, 60,000-squarefoot career tech center on North Memorial Parkway at Max Luther Drive. Once the center is complete, it will bring many programs under one roof, including welding, advanced manufacturing, and precision machining. “It’s going to expand what we’re doing at each of the six high schools, and students can travel to take those classes,” said Sutton. Sutton acknowledges there are challenges to tackle. One involves boosting reading scores for second and third graders. Results from tests administered this spring show Huntsville’s students are about the same as the statewide average for second and third graders, which shows about one in four students is below the benchmark. This is not just local or statewide – it is a national gap that educators have been planning for as they watched trends from the start of the pandemic to now. Students needing extra support were starting kindergarten and first grade at that time.

“The first year, all were in virtual learning. The second year, some were coming in, some were coming out, so we’re seeing the byproduct,” said Sutton. “That’s why we’re not stopping at third grade. We’re doing this for fourth grade, fifth grade. That group is going to need continuing support.”

The district is working aggressively to provide it. On the day we spoke, we visited Whitesburg P-8 School where elementary students

New Journey Middle School opens in Madison

When Madison City Schools begins the 2023-24 school year, there will be several new additions to the school system’s facilities. Journey Middle School will welcome students at its campus on 217 Celtic Drive, behind the MCS Central Office. The Journey name was picked from nearly 700 names submitted in a public survey. The school mascot is the Journey Jaguars.

Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols said Journey’s opening will help alleviate crowding at DMS and LMS, which are nearing capacity.  “As the fastest growing school district in the state, we are excited to expand our footprint to allow for a better educational opportunity for our students. With the new middle school, a new Pre-K Center and a new wing at Bob Jones, we are meeting both the growth of our community and the educational space to continue to provide the best educational opportunity in Alabama,” he said.

Opening enrollment for Journey will be about 650, with the student count expected to climb. It will serve students from both Madison and Triana and feed into both Bob Jones and James Clemens high schools.

Rising 7th and 8th graders rezoned from Discovery and Liberty middle schools were given a choice to attend Journey or continue (without school provided transportation, though) at DMS or LMS. All rezoned rising 6th graders will attend the new JMS.

The school will open with a full array of athletic and extracurricular offerings including band, theater, arts and choir and nearly a full slate of Project Lead the Way programs.

“We look forward to welcoming students into the Journey family,” said Dr. Treva Stewart, Journey principal. “My team and I have worked tirelessly to create a school culture and climate that will provide a nurturing, safe, empowering and inspiring learning environment for all of our students.”

Journey marks the third middle school and the 14th school overall in the MCS district to serve nearly 13,000 students. It joins Discovery and Liberty middle schools, James Clemens and Bob Jones high schools, Rise Academy alternative program, seven elementary schools and the standalone Madison City Schools First Class PreK Center.

The elementary schools are: Columbia, Heritage, Horizon, Madison, Midtown, Mill Creek and Rainbow.

The new Pre-K Center located on the former West Madison Elementary Campus will allow the district to grow from its current 216 student capacity to around 400 students in the next several years. This new facility will offer upgrade space for music, art, and STEM.

The Board has acquired property and approved funding for an eighth elementary school for Madison City. Construction on that project could begin in the coming months.

– Contributed by John Peck Madison City Schools continued on page 22


continued from page 21

were attending summer classes to brush up on math and reading. This was one of about 10 schools hosting summer enrichment programs.

“We’re taking a multi-pronged approach -- today, you saw the investment in summer learning -- with an enrichment-type feel to get students excited about learning,” said Sutton. “We want to make sure they’re motivated to be able to take the test. At the same time, with this new testing, we really have to train and provide professional development for our teachers. New math, new reading techniques. We’re putting a lot of focus on supporting our teachers.”

Sutton said literacy specialists and reading coaches have been added. In fact, as we visited Whitesburg, he greeted students and sat down with them to offer pointers. He also took off his coat to shoot hoops on the playground during recess. The kids were impressed to watch Sutton make six shots in a row!

Work will continue on the desegregation order as well.

“The desegregation order is in place to make sure we have best practices,” explained Sutton. “What we’re going to do is focus on a great educational experience, and we’re going to shift the focus to create excellent schools for every student. I think when this community sees, no matter what school you go to, no matter what side of town, no matter what community, you’re getting an excellent education –the desegregation order will take care of itself.”

Sutton welcomes business involvement and has experience to prove it. During his time at Central High School in Tuscaloosa, he created the Ready to Work program where students learn about and work for companies in the area. The Alabama Department of Education later used Sutton’s concept as a statewide model.

“Businesses are great with trends, and we need that expertise. They can help us plan for five, 10, 15 years down the road of where the

Sutton. “We’ve seen this in the past with healthcare leaders, talking about openings in nursing – we’ve created pathways to help students target that career. We’ve done the same with advanced manufacturing. There are more opportunities to come and that’s all because companies come to the table and we welcome them.”

For more information, please contact: Laurel Bailey Chief Operating Officer 256-461-7482 9668 Madison Blvd. MADISON, ALABAMA 5021 Bradford Drive HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA 303 Williams Ave. HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA 9668 Madison Blvd. Suite 100, Madison, AL 35758 Developing and leasing industrial, office, and warehouse space in north Alabama –Locally owned and operated for over 40 years – Providing superior customer service

The Schools Foundation (TSF) recently acquired RECHARGE, an online resource that provides handson content for teachers and staff that focuses on mental health and overall wellness. TSF supports our three public school systems and this is an additional way to reach more educators across north Alabama.

RECHARGE is tailored to the needs of today’s educators, providing engaging videos, informative articles, and curated content to help educators navigate life’s challenges. RECHARGE has also teamed up with WellStone and Solid Ground Counseling Center to provide support with stress management, self-care, understanding anxiety, and more. Throughout the year, RECHARGE will have different programs and events that engage teachers beyond the classroom.

Introduction to ALICE

Continued focus on NBCT + SRO Training in Madison County School System

There is a continued effort locally to increase the number of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs). There are about 220 of these teachers in our three school systems combined, with more awaiting final confirmation they are certified, and about 150 more in the pipeline.

The Raise Your Hand campaign, run through the Committee of 100’s philanthropic arm, the Creative Cities Fund, raises money to provide a $2,000 scholarship per teacher going through the certification process. The goal is to get 500 NBCTs in the three school systems.

In 2022, the Madison County School System ranked in the top 25 nationally for total number of new NBCTs. The certification is an advanced teaching credential that complements an educator’s professional certificate. Research shows students of NBCTs gain additional and deeper learning compared to students of non-NBCTs.

ALICE training for SROs

The Madison County School System currently has 18 school resource officers (SROs) who cover 30 schools across the district. The goal is to get an SRO in each school. These men and women help with safety and are well-known within school halls, smiling and interacting with students and teachers on a daily basis.

Later this year, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office plans to certify SROs through a federally endorsed safety program called ALICE:

■ Alert – inform people of the threat, giving as much information as possible.

■ Lockdown – Students and Staff can choose to lockdown and barricade the room that they are in if they determine that it is not safe to evacuate.

■ Inform – pass on as much information as possible to others and First Responders, including contacting 911.

■ Counter – an effort of last resort, if an armed intruder can enter their space, students are trained to use every effort to stop the intruder instead of being passive victims.

■ Evacuate – If it is safe, all are encouraged to evacuate the building and remove themselves from the threat.

Through the training, staff and students learn about different options to respond to a school intruder intent on harming. “Our main objective is to be prepared year-round to prevent fatalities and injuries within our school system as well as the environment and our community,” said Brent Patterson, Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s Office.

Also, medical emergency response teams and SROs will receive additional training to help provide immediate care to someone suffering an emergency within schools.

Deputy Hassan Peterson, an SRO in the Madison County School System, reads to students at Madison Cross Roads Elementary as part of 2023 Read Across America Week.

Moving Forward

Drake State breaks ground on Advanced Manufacturing Facility

Construction is underway on Drake State Community and Technical College’s advanced manufacturing center. Officials from Drake State, the Alabama Community College System, City of Huntsville, Madison County, as well as representatives from Goodwyn Mills Cawood and Fite Building Company celebrated the milestone with a groundbreaking ceremony at the Meridian Street campus on June 9. “This leading-edge facility cements our commitment to workforce development in the north Alabama region,” said Dr. Patricia Sims, president of Drake State Community and Technical College. “It will help our students secure high-wage jobs and nationally recognized certifications at an affordable cost. With dedicated spaces for various disciplines and top-notch equipment, we aim to equip our students with the skills needed to excel in high-demand fields. We are grateful to our partners, including the Alabama Community College System,

the City of Huntsville, Madison County, Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Fite Building Company, and others, for supporting this vision.”

The Drake State Advanced Manufacturing Center was identified as a needed project through the ACCS ASPIRE 2030 initiative, which provides funding for facility upgrades and new construction for all levels of education in Alabama. The 50,000-square-foot facility will support the aerospace and advanced manufacturing industries and house the most in-demand training programs, including engineering design and mechatronics. The new building will include dedicated space for machine tool technology, welding, industrial systems and technology, drafting and design and more, as well as lab spaces, classrooms and offices for instructors and administration.

Construction on the new building is scheduled to be completed by fall 2024.


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Woman-Owned Business of the Year Mason Dixon BAKERY


It has been quite the year for Dr. Ashley Ramirez and her team at Mason Dixon Bakery & Bistro. Since winning her Small Business Award for Woman-Owned Business of the Year, Ramirez has celebrated a successful year at her store’s new location on Church Street.

Years before her restaurant became what it is today, Ramirez discovered she had Celiac Disease – a disease that can cause an immune reaction to eating gluten. And so, her journey to a gluten-free life began. The challenge of changing her lifestyle quickly became more difficult as she began noticing a small barrel of options for gluten-free eaters. She decided to use the information she was learning in her PhD Chemistry program in school to help develop recipes that would better suit her lifestyle.

After earning her doctorate, Ramirez moved to Huntsville where her job offer on Redstone Arsenal was postponed, leaving her unemployed and needing money. That’s when her idea to create Alabama’s first gluten-free bakery came to fruition.

From the first days in farmers markets, to her now much larger storefront in the heart of Huntsville, Ramirez has learned a lot along the way. The bakery has since added a bistro to allow customers to enjoy the indulgence of her sweet gluten-free items, as well as her savory meals. The restaurant caters to many events, and even dedicates their ingredients to being farm fresh every day.

Ramirez has had the opportunity to speak to many groups about her story of success. Those who have listened to her before will agree, she is very intelligent and is changing the face of gluten-free living in the Rocket City. Her menu includes gluten-free pastries, biscuits, macaroni & cheese, sandwiches, and much more. Check out the menu at Mason Dixon

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Interns Got Game

Students compete in Summer Games at Booz Allen to solve real-world problems

For Malik Wesley, Paul Christenson, Hannah Evans, and Asher Perrigin, their summer internship isn’t just something to put on their resume. “It’s a chance to gain 10 weeks of real-world experience that has the potential for a much longer impact,” said Wesley, a computer science student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). These students are part of a multi-disciplinary team that was selected for Booz Allen Hamilton’s intern program known as the Summer Games. The Summer Games is an intensive, 10-week paid internship program that simulates a real-world startup accelerator. “We intentionally wanted a mix of degrees to include both technical and marketing,” said Gary Pomajevich, a distinguished engineer for Booz Allen.

Upon arrival, the students were given maximum freedom. They received information on their project requirements, a list of potential applications, and access to an abundance of mentorship and support from Booz Allen employees. The rest was up to them. Their complementary skills proved immediately valuable. “This is unlike any team environment that I’ve been in,” said Perrigin, also a computer science student at UAH. “It’s not random; everyone has the skills to do what they need to do.”

Evans, a marketing major at UAH, took the lead to schedule a meeting with the Huntsville Fire Department’s Station 6. In that meeting, they learned that one of the biggest and most common challenges firefighters face is detecting humans inside large buildings. The students confirmed that their project had the potential to solve this challenge using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and began to collect additional requirements. Wesley, Christenson, and Perrigin collectively built the hardware list and now, five weeks into the project, they have received the parts for their prototype, which Perrigin is beginning to assemble.

The goal at the end of the 10 weeks is to have a fully working prototype, which the firefighters intend to test at their rookie school training center. In addition, the Huntsville team will compete against 33 other Booz Allen Summer Intern teams from across the country as they present their project and business case to a panel of senior leaders. The Huntsville office has high hopes this team carries on the winning traditions of their predecessors. The Huntsville-sponsored teams won the competition in 2018, earned a top 10 finish in 2019, and placed in the top 5 to include second in 2022 in the last two competitions.

“As they’ve gone through the project, everyone has developed new skills, even taken classes on their own and obtained certifications to learn more about it,” shared Keith Croce, who serves as a mentor to the project. The students agree. “I feel like I’m a full degree better than when I started,” shared Christenson, a management information systems and finance major at the University of Alabama.

Of course, it’s not all work with no play. Throwing out the first pitch at a Trash Pandas game still stands out to all of the students as one of the highlights of the summer!

L-R: Asher Perrigin, Paul Christenson, Malik Wesley, and Hannah Evans interned at Booz Allen Hamilton this summer. Here they are after throwing out the first pitch at a Trash Pandas game!

GO Rocket City!

“Get Onboard” seeks to engage local interns

This summer, starting in June, we kicked off a new program exclusively for college interns and co-op students living and working in the Huntsville area. GO Rocket City! Get Onboard featured a series of events that help to engage summer interns outside of their work days and showcase all that our region has to offer them as they choose their next step after graduation.

During June and July, students participated in activities to strengthen their professional development skills, volunteered with local nonprofits, and networked and socialized with other young professionals in the Rocket City. Thanks to our partnership with FuelAL and Innovate Alabama, along with Adtran, the program’s presenting sponsor, and gold sponsors CFD Research, Northrop Grumman, and UAH, students attended each event at no cost to them or their employers.

On June 8, more than 100 interns representing 38 colleges and universities and 41 different employers attended the Kickoff Mixer at Yellowhammer’s Lost Highway Lounge (see photos). Madison Mayor Paul Finley welcomed the students and shared some of the unique benefits and opportunities our region provides, and how proud he is of the way our communities work together to achieve success. Sharné Rice with the U.S. Army, and Collin Orcutt with Schoel Engineering, who both serve as Young Professionals on the Chamber Board of Directors, also shared their perspectives on living and working in the Rocket City.

In partnership with United Way of Madison County, students also packed backpacks and health kits to support local school children and community members. Other activities included professional development programs focused on networking and emotional intelligence, a farmer’s market meetup, volunteering with Village of Promise, and a Biergarten Stein & Dine at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Good luck to all of our interns as you return to school! We hope to welcome you back to Huntsville upon graduation.


Redstone Profile:

LTG Robert A. Rasch, Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO)

The Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office (RCCTO) is proud to call Redstone Arsenal home here in Huntsville, Ala. In 2018, the DoD published the National Defense Strategy and recognized the greater need to prioritize expansion of hypersonics, directed energy, advanced computing analytics technologies, to name a few, to meet the demands of the battlefield today and prepare for future adversaries. Not long after, the Board of Directors, comprising the Army’s top leadership, charged the former Rapid Capabilities Office to expedite the delivery of critical combat materiel capabilities to the Warfighter, and the RCCTO was born.

The Army recognizes threats are evolving faster than ever, and the RCCTO plays a vital role to address capability needs for the Nation’s highest priorities. RCCTO Director, Lieutenant General Robert A. Rasch, Jr. leads the mission to rapidly and efficiently research, develop, prototype, test, evaluate, procure, and field critical enabling technologies and capabilities that address near-term, and mid-term threats.

Lt. Gen. Rasch’s background and previous leadership roles uniquely position him to lead the RCCTO. He served as the Program Executive Officer (PEO), Missiles and Space from July 2018 to August 2022. PEO MS is the future home to several current RCCTO prototyping efforts, and Lt. Gen Rasch brings empirical knowledge of the necessary requirements to transition these efforts to a Program of Record to PEO MS. Prior to serving as PEO, he served as the Deputy PEO for PEO MS, and as the Military Deputy to the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Redstone Arsenal. Prior to that he was Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology in Washington, D.C.

The RCCTO is organized to enable prototyping, testing, and delivery of combat-critical technologies outside the traditional and lengthy acquisition pathways. As a result, the RCCTO addresses both

urgent and emerging threats while supporting acquisition reform efforts to put prototype technology in the hands of Warfighters. The RCCTO includes Soldier feedback, or Touchpoints, during prototype development to determine critical requirements early and bring Warfighters capabilities they need. This rapid process is consistent with the Army’s current modernization priorities, but on an accelerated timeline, most often in five years or less.

While the RCCTO’s focus in the Huntsville area is largely on hypersonic technology, directed energy, and midrange capabilities, there are several initiatives in the National Capital Region addressing technology areas that include artificial intelligence, electronic warfare, hybrid electric vehicles, cyber platform assurance, and many others. RCCTO’s unique approach to prototype development includes joint coordination with partners across the board – both traditional and non-traditional – to find the best emerging technology available. The RCCTO is not limited to partnering only with DoD or industry. The academic community, start-ups, and other sources provide the emerging technology the Army needs. The RCCTO can transition these innovative technologies into rapid acquisition and testing to close current capability gaps. The RCCTO aims to stimulate aggressive, proactive capability development and leverage disruptive technologies to meet Army strategic objectives.

Since its inception in 2016, the RCCTO has synchronized efforts amongst the research, development, testing, and engineering communities to stay ahead with the most innovative solutions. “RCCTO provides prototype-enabling battlefield superiority today and innovation for the Warfighters to prevail in future conflicts,” Lt. Gen. Rasch says. “In delivering a prototype, we tailor our acquisition and risk acceptance practices accordingly. It is our goal is to deliver a prototype that Soldiers can use as the mission requires and that the Army can leverage as a potential baseline for a Program of Record.”

– Contributed by Venetia Gonzales RCCTO Public Affairs


Armed Forces Celebration Week

June 25–July 1, 2023

We enjoyed another wonderful series of events celebrating our Armed Forces during the last week of June! Thanks to all who joined us for the Concert in the Park and fireworks, community softball game at Toyota Field, young professionals mixer and Biergarten events to support AUSA, and the big Armed Forces Celebration Luncheon to cap off the week.


– Claire Aiello

OPPOSITE PAGE: Ft. Moore’s MCOE Band playing to the Concert in the Park crowd, plus an induction ceremony; LTG Robert Rasch, Madison Co. Chairman Mac McCutcheon, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle at the AFC Proclamation signing. THIS PAGE: GEN Charles Hamilton, Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, speaking at the AFC Luncheon to a full room; Team Redstone and The Rockets enjoy some friendly competition at the annual AFC Community Softball Game.

At the luncheon, General Charles Hamilton presented his first address to the Huntsville community after being installed earlier this year as 21st Commanding General of the U.S. Army Material Command, which is headquartered at Redstone Arsenal. He encouraged all in the crowd to help with recruiting challenges the Army is facing,

in addition to the other service branches. GEN Hamilton said everyone in the room is an influencer and can help share messages with those we know to consider serving our country.

If you missed this year’s activities, please plan to join us next year! Thank you to the many groups who helped make the week a success.


Business getting momentum? Get more of it.

Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award Recipient Jonathan Hard

Our 2022 winner of the Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award certainly manages a balancing act! During our Small Business Awards ceremony last year, Jonathan Hard of H2L Solutions was deployed on active duty. However, his lack of presence spoke louder than any acceptance speech could.

Hard recalled the morning he found out he won the award. “I vividly remember being awakened by my phone buzzing with numerous notifications of congratulations from my team and colleagues,” he said.

The moment was bittersweet.

“Despite not being physically present, the recognition and support from my peers served as a reminder of the love and strength from home,” he said.

Hard serves as a Signals Officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, following 12 years in the National Guard. During his time in the Alabama National Guard, Jonathan graduated from Infantry Officer Basic Course (IBOC), Ranger School, Airborne School, and completed a tour in Iraq in 2008 as an Infantry Officer.

Balancing his military career with his cybersecurity business has been undoubtedly challenging, but it has its benefits. As an up-and-coming leader in our community, Hard draws mentorship inspiration from several influential figures in his life. What motivates him are leaders who show a strong ability to navigate challenges, who lead with integrity, and who make a positive impact in their industry. At Hard’s company, H2L Solutions, he strives to keep that positive impact memorable by making sure his team builds strong bonds through high intensity activities and trips around the world. Their team-building activities include skydiving and trips to destinations like Costa Rica.

Hard said he chose to participate in the Small Business Awards to showcase the accomplishments of his business and to highlight his company in front of hundreds of other business professionals. Winning his award served as validation of his dedication and hard work in building his company and serving the warfighter with excellence.

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Parsons hosted an event on June 1 in Huntsville to commemorate the delivery of the first of 13 Recovery of Airbase Denied by Ordnance (RADBO) systems, plus an additional three ZEUS® laser neutralization systems. These will go to the U.S. Air Force, to be used to dispose of explosive ordnance more safely and effectively.

Parsons has been working on this technology for several years. The primary goal, according to Shane Hegarty, the company’s vice president of Integration & Production Directorate, is to save lives.

“Since Parsons started development of these systems in 1997, 141 Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) technicians have lost their lives in the line of duty. That’s 141 individuals and their families who have been directly affected by a loss as a result of this dangerous mission,” said Hegarty. “With its 300-meter stand-off distance and armored vehicle platform, the RADBO system will protect airmen from the lethal dangers they face by allowing them to effectively and efficiently

Safe Distance Parsons celebrates RADBO delivery

clear unexploded ordnances from a safe distance.”

RADBO is comprised of three primary components: the mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle, the interrogation arm assembly, and the Parsons-developed ZEUS laser. ZEUS is the first ground-based directed energy weapon (DEW) system to be approved for production. RADBO’s integration of the ZEUS directed-energy system provides precision standoff neutralization of surface mines, unexploded ordnance, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The RADBO systems can be used for route clearance, airfield clearance, clearing test ranges of ordnance, and many other purposes. The work represents a $50 million investment by the Department of Defense, $40 million of which goes directly to Huntsville area businesses, including $6.5 million to local small businesses. This contract has created more than 50 jobs in the Huntsville area, including 30+ at Parsons ( ).


chamber staff


Executive Staff

Chip Cherry, CCE, president & CEO

Meghan Chambliss, director of governance support & special projects

Economic Development & Workforce

Lucia Cape, CCE, senior vice president

Erin Koshut, executive director, Cummings Research Park

Lyndsay Ferguson, vice president, workforce

Ken Smith, senior director, research & information services

Ross Ivey, senior director, industry relations

Annie Davis, director of talent initiatives

Finance & Administration

Mary McNairy, IOM, vice president

Joe Watson, facilities supervisor

Kim Weeks, accounting specialist – receivables

Dionne Scales, accounting & HR specialist

Diana Baccus, director of event management

Stefanie Davis, resource desk coordinator

Government & Public Affairs

Mike Ward, CCE, senior vice president

Huntsville Regional Economic Growth Initiative (HREGI)

Kristy Drake, IOM, vice president, investor relations

Investor Relations

Kristy Drake, IOM, vice president, investor relations

Lakeysha Brown, director of member engagement

Richard Bigoney, membership account executive

Dennis Euting membership account executive

Crystal Baker, retention specialist

Marketing & Communications

Claire Aiello, IOM, vice president

Kristi Sherrard, creative director

Hiroko Sedensky, web designer

Kayla Brown, director of strategic communications

Small Business | Economic Inclusion & Diversity

Ashley Engles-Ross, vice president, small business



To the Moon

Huntsville marks 70 Years as “The Rocket City”

May 13, 2023 marked the 70th anniversary of Huntsville’s adoption of “The Rocket City” as our community’s official nickname. On May 13, 1953, then-Chamber Secretary (President) Jimmy Walker announced the change in monikers to The Huntsville Times, with the publication of a new Chamber brochure, depicting a rocket embarking for the moon from downtown Huntsville.

The brochure included Huntsville scenes of its industries, hospital, schools, and other landmarks, plus brief descriptions of area attractions and statistical data. Previously, Huntsville had dubbed itself the “Heart of the Tennessee Valley.” Prior to that, Huntsville was known as “The Watercress Capitol of the World.”

Dr. Werner von Braun and his team of rocket scientists had arrived in Huntsville in 1950, establishing the Army Ballistic Missile Agency on Redstone Arsenal. Not long after arriving in Huntsville, Von Braun published a series of articles in Colliers Magazine in which he envisioned future spacefaring adventures, bringing worldwide attention to Huntsville.

On August 20, 1953, the Huntsville rocket team successfully launched its first Redstone missile from Cape Canaveral. Von Braun and his team soon quietly proposed the launch of a small orbital satellite. That proposal would have to wait until January 31, 1958, when the Redstone Rocket would put the first American satellite into space. Later, in 1961, the Mercury Redstone Launch Vehicle would put America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, into space.

In addition to The Rocket City, the Chamber also refers to Huntsville as “A Smart Place” and has incorporated this tagline into our branding efforts, along with our “GO Rocket City!” brand. The Chamber also holds the trademark for “The Sky is Not the Limit.”