Category Archives: Madison County “in the news”

The Huntsville, Alabama, metro area is the best place for engineers by far.


The north Alabama city with the country’s highest concentration of engineers and technology workers was recently named the best place for engineers in the U.S.

NerdWallet ranked Huntsville the nation’s top engineering city in a study published online Monday. The personal finance website, which analyzed 350 metropolitan areas, praised the Rocket City for its heavy engineer base, high average engineering salary and low rent costs.

About 25 miles from Huntsville, Decatur fell at No. 8 on the list, which also featured cities from Georgia, Florida, Michigan, California, Texas, Washington and Ohio.

“The South has a concentration of the best places for engineers,” said NerdWallet author Sreekar Jasthi. “Six of the top 10 places on our list were in southern states. Most of these areas have military bases, manufacturing centers and companies that provide competitive career opportunities for engineers.”

Click here to see the full list.

To determine the ranking, NerdWallet looked at two factors: size of the engineering industry using 2013 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and engineering income levels.

This week wouldn’t be the first time Huntsville has landed in a “top cities” list on NerdWallet. The city ranked No. 25 on NerdWallet’s list of America’s Most Innovative Tech Hubs. Huntsville, Montgomery and Birmingham were also among the best places for black-owned businesses in early February.

Here’s what NerdWallet had to say about Huntsville and Decatur’s engineering prowess:

Huntsville: With a NASA flight center and an Army arsenal, Huntsville is nicknamed “The Rocket City” for good reason. Engineers make up 6% of its employed population and make nearly $103,000 a year, which is higher than the national mean. Median rent is the second lowest in our top 10, at around $725 a month. Huntsville, a northern Alabama city near the Tennessee border, is a hub for aerospace engineers.

Decatur: Just 25 miles west of our list’s leading place, Decatur engineers have access to many opportunities in Huntsville. But Decatur itself is home to a United Launch Alliance facility, where spacecraft launch equipment is manufactured. Engineers make up about 2% of Decatur’s workforce, making it the smallest engineering industry in our top 10. However, it still has more engineers per 1,000 employees than the national average.

2 north Alabama cities within 25 miles of each other make NerdWallet’s best places for engineers |

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Huntsville launches plan to become ‘Gig City’


Huntsville’s ambitious plan to join the growing list of U.S. cities with ultra-high-speed Internet service is now under way.

Mayor Tommy Battle announced Wednesday that Huntsville wants to hear from private companies capable of creating a citywide fiber-optic network with download speeds “at or above” 1 gigabit per second.

Internet providers that want to partner with Huntsville on the “Gig City” effort must submit a letter of intent by April 1. Proposals are due April 24.

With Google Fiber and other Internet companies deploying ultra-high-speed fiber networks primarily in “NFL cities” like Atlanta and Nashville, said Battle, Huntsville has to be aggressive to make sure it is not left behind. Moving data at high speeds is becoming as essential to a city’s economic survival as water, sewer and roads, he said.

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Business Relations Officer Harrison Diamond, left, talks about Huntsville’s “Gig City” ambitions during a Wednesday news conference while Mayor Tommy Battle looks on. (Steve Doyle |

Business Relations Officer Harrison Diamond, who is spearheading the Gig City plan, said four companies have expressed interest in submitting proposals for a citywide fiber network that would serve homes as well as businesses.

Huntsville’s ideal network would be both affordable and fast, said Diamond, with Internet download speeds ranging from several hundred megabits to more than a gigabit per second.

“Cost and speed are two of our main considerations,” Diamond said at a Wednesday news conference. “We want the entire community to be covered. We want everybody in Huntsville who wants it to have access to it.”

He said the city will entertain proposals from companies that already provide Internet service here – AT&T, Comcast and Wow! – as well as firms with no ties to Huntsville.

Building an underground fiber network that stretches from Interstate 65 to Hampton Cove will take time, and serious bucks. Battle said the city would prioritize getting the network set up initially in areas that need it most today, including Cummings Research Park.

Diamond said Huntsville’s defense and aerospace industry is teeming with “data heavy” companies that are rooting for ultra-fast Internet. If it doesn’t happen, he said, high-tech firms will eventually bypass the Rocket City for places with faster download speeds.

“This is not a want, this is a need,” said Diamond.

Steve Doyle | sdoyle@al.comBy Steve Doyle |
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on March 18, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Huntsville launches plan to become ‘Gig City’ with ultra-fast, fiber-based Internet service |

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Grissom High ‘CyberSloths’ take 1st place in national cyber security finals

Crystal Bonvillian | cbonvillian@al.comBy Crystal Bonvillian |
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on March 15, 2015 at 12:58 PM


A cyber security team from Grissom High School won the national championship title in the CyberPatriot VII National Finals Competition this weekend in Washington, D.C.

The team, dubbed the “Grissom CyberSloths,” was one of 25 finalists from across the nation, including a team from New Century Technology High School. The Grissom team competed in CyberPatriot’s Open Division, and the “New Century Alpha” team competed in the Cyberpatriot’s All Service Division for ROTC groups.

This year’s competition began last fall, with more than 2,100 teams from across the U.S. participating in the preliminary rounds, according to Huntsville City Schools. In the finals, teams competed to defend virtual networks and mobile devices from a professional aggressor in the Network Security Master Challenge. They also completed a Digital Forensics Challenge, a Digital Crime Scene Challenge and a Cisco Networking Challenge.

Grissom finished second in the finals last year. Both Grissom and New Century have earned national reputations for their cyber security programs, and CBS Sunday Morning recently came to Huntsville to video the teams for an upcoming segment on their successes.

Grissom High ‘CyberSloths’ take 1st place in national cyber security finals |

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Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address


It was a sold-out speech at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Friday night as Madison Mayor Troy Trulock took center stage for his State of the City address.

Most of the mayor’s speech was spent on accolades, education and points of pride in his city. After that, Trulock gave some insight into what lies ahead for Madison with a taste of the projects that will go into play in 2015.

Some of the major developments involve improving Madison’s roads. For example, a five-lane expansion of County Line Road is being accomplished through a partnership between Madison and the state of Alabama. Trulock estimates construction will begin in the next month or two.

There’s also the continuing six-lane development of U.S. 72 from County Line Road to Providence. This is about a five and a half mile stretch, which Trulock said is “not in good shape right now.” He said the continuing effort to fix it has been acknowledged through a partnership between Madison, Huntsville, Madison County and the state.

“Right now if you drive on Highway 72, sometimes it turns into a parking lot. We’re going to fix that,” he said.

The final major road project planned this year is to open an interchange between Interstate 565 and County Line Road, another city and state partnership. The mayor expressed how the need for this interchange is a shared sentiment for those who drive through.

The discussion then turned from roads to buildings. Trulock said more homes and subdivisions will be coming in this year. As such, there will be development of the Village at Oakland Springs outside Browns Ferry Road. This residential and business district will be about two-thirds the size of the Village of Providence and is expected to be reminiscent of its setup. Trulock said the Village at Oakland Springs will hold offices and retail in close proximity to small, medium and large size homes.

A new library could be on the way too. Trulock said the 35,000 square foot plans should be a large improvement over the 15,000 square foot library on Hughes Road. He said crowding has been a problem with the branch’s limited size.

Plans are also being put together for a new recreation building, which would include an indoor pool and basketball and volleyball courts among other athletic facilities. Construction could begin over the summer.

“I know as a coach and as a parent that we need a lot of extra recreation space,” he said, adding, “Definite need for our community.”

Ground should be broken on this project by summer.

In line with the economic front, the continuing development of Town Madison is expected to bring in 1,600 new jobs on top of 1,000 jobs at Intergraph.

Trulock also promised a surprise on the way in terms of economic development. He teased two projects to be placed near the city’s center but could not reveal what they are yet. He said the first of these projects will likely be announced within the next month or two and the other in the next three or four months.

Madison mayor outlines road expansions, home and building development, new public facilities in State of the City address |

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales in January exceed forecast

Click here to view or print the entire January report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales totaling 299 units in January were 8 units or 2.7 percent above our monthly forecast but were 4.8 percent below the same period a year ago.

Historical Sales.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales slip 5% from last January. Inventory hits new peak in January. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,298 units, an increase of 475 units from last January and 16.3 percent above the 5-year January average of 2,836 units. New home inventory is up 3.8 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 3.6 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in January was 11.0 months of housing supply (7.4 months for new construction – up 17.5% from Jan’14). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 8-8.5 months during January. Huntsville is historically one of Alabama’s most balanced markets but it appears the market has, at least momentarily, got a little ahead of the recovery as it relates to additional new supply. With that said, the market in January began to mitigate the short-term excess as the inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a .7 percent (22 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement favorably contrast with historical data that indicate January inventory on average (‘1€0-’14) typically increases by 4.5 percent from the month of December.

Demand: Residential sales in January decreased 25.4 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with seasonal patterns and historical data indicating that January sales, on average (’10-‘€14), decrease from the month of December by 28.0 percent. New home sales were down 12.5 percent from January 2013. Existing single family home sales accounted for 81 percent (up from 72% in Jan’14) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 17 percent (up from 26% in Jan’14) while condos were 2 percent of sales (same as Jan ’14).

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in January was $155,000, an increase of .4 percent from January 2014 but a 8.8 percent decrease from the prior month as a result of the short-term supply/demand imbalance. This direction is consistent with historical data (’10-’14) indicating that the January median sales price traditionally decreases from the month of December by 4.0 percent. It’s important to note that pricing can fluctuate from month-to-month as the sample size of data (closed transactions) is subject to seasonal buying patterns so a broader lens as to pricing trends is appropriate. ACRE recommends contacting a local real estate professional to discuss pricing at the neighborhood level.

Industry Perspective: “Consumers are as positive about their personal finances at the start of 2015 as they have been since we launched the National Housing Survey in 2010, and this optimism seems to be spilling over into housing market attitudes,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Consumers are more optimistic about the environment both for buying and for selling a home today, and the share who plan to own on their next move has jumped back up, reversing a three-month trend toward renting. These results are in line with lender optimism about future growth in their mortgage origination business, as shown in our Mortgage Lender Sentiment Survey™. Overall, these are good signs to start off 2015 and are consistent with our expectation that strengthening employment and economic activity will boost the speed of the housing recovery.” For full report, go HERE.

View the current monthly Huntsville Residential Report here.

The Huntsville Residential Monthly Report is work product developed in conjunction with the Huntsville Area Association of REALTORS to better serve North Alabama consumers. The ACRE monthly report is provided to illustrate the “general” market direction & trends when comparing prior periods with the most current available data. Real estate is local and statistics will fluctuate between areas within a city including subdivisions. ACRE recommends that you consult a local real estate professional for “specific” advice associated with your market.

About ACRE. ACRE was founded in 1996 by the Alabama Real Estate Commissionthe Alabama Association of REALTORS and the Office of the Dean, UA Culverhouse College of Commerce. ACRE is not a state-funded entity, rather its operates in part because of the goodwill & generosity of our statewide ACRE Partners.

Alabama real estate resources & news, please visit our website and our ACRE blog. You can also follow ACRE from our facebook page, just “like” and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales in January exceed forecast |

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Huntsville OKs $70M City Centre development next to Big Spring Park

-f55a1cc4cec59c95 The Huntsville City Council has given the green light to a $70 million redevelopment of the former downtown Holiday Inn property. At its meeting Thursday night, the council voted to lease the prime tract overlooking Big Spring International Park to CRS City Centre LLC for $144,000 a year. The contract runs for 99 years. CRS City Centre – which is also building a new Whole Foods-anchored shopping center on South Memorial Parkway – says the project will include 230 apartments, a 150-room hotel, multiple restaurants and stores, professional office space and a six-level parking deck. The hotel, which Huntsville Director of Urban Development Shane Davis said will be a contemporary brand such as Hotel Indigo or Aloft, is expected to begin rising in October.

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Called CityCentre at Big Spring, the mixed-use development will bring “thousands” of new jobs downtown, said Mayor Tommy Battle. The developers have promised nearly 60,000 square feet of high-end retail and office space. “The whole effort out of this is to make a healthy, prosperous, vibrant city – not just downtown,” said Battle. “This will provide jobs for people throughout the county.” A development contract that passed the council unanimously says the city will pay for the ongoing demolition and removal of the old Holiday Inn; perform an environmental study of the property; make improvements to Williams Street in front of CityCentre; and turn part of unsightly Fagan Creek into a below-ground culvert. ‘Road diet’ Battle said the city needs to put Williams Street on a “road diet” so people who live, work and shop at CityCentre won’t have to walk across four lanes of traffic to get to the park. CityCentre will initially cover more than six acres. The developers have an option to lease or buy another 2.6 acres next door that houses the city’s Williams Aquatic Center and Scruggs Recreation Center. Both facilities are scheduled to close after Huntsville expands Brahan Spring Park Natatorium. If CRS City Centre decides to build a second phase, said Davis, the company can lease the aquatic center site for $60,000 annually or purchase it for $1 million. The second phase would include another hotel with at least 100 rooms near the downtown public library, he said. Along with retaining ownership of the old Holiday Inn tract, the contract gives Huntsville the final say on CityCentre’s hotel brands and architectural features. The city would also have to OK any proposed transfer of the lease to a different developer. August start date Davis said he expects the company to begin preparing the site for development in August. Construction on the hotel is scheduled to start in October, followed by the parking deck in December. CityCentre’s apartments, restaurants, shops and offices will start to take shape in early 2016. Not everyone at City Hall on Thursday night was a fan of the project. City government watcher Jackie Reed pointed out that Huntsville paid $6.8 million for the Holiday Inn site, which had been leased to Big Spring Partners. She balked at the city charging CRS City Centre only $144,000 annually. “You’re giving this city away,” said Reed. Davis said CRS City Centre offered far better terms than the other two companies vying to redevelop the property. One firm wanted the land for $1 a year; the other bid $60,000. “Not only did (CRS City Centre) have the best design, they offered the best price to the public,” said Davis.

Huntsville OKs $70M downtown mixed-use development next to Big Spring Park |

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Huntsville makes list of top places to retire


Huntsville made the short list of surprising places that make great retirement destinations.

The Rocket City and five others were recognized by, as 6 Best Places to Retire . . . in 10 years. The six were noted as places that “don’t always make the national top 10 lists but are a boon for retirees nonetheless,” and are “poised for big things.”

Most of the cities were in the Sun Belt that are not only warm in winter but also offer tax havens. The article pointed out that Alabama and Florida don’t tax Social Security benefits and have property tax breaks for seniors.

Huntsville was singled out for a “thriving economy” and “sophisticated, city-like feel.” The article gave a nod to award winning chef James Boyce, numerous boutiques and Huntsville being the epicenter of Southeastern craft brewing. It also complimented the natural beauty that invited outdoor recreation.

The other five cities in the list are

  • Mount Dora, Fla.
  • Sequim, Wash.
  • Dahlonega, Ga.
  • Chattanooga, Tenn.
  • Bluffton, S.C.

Huntsville makes list of top places to retire |

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