Category Archives: Madison County “in the news”

Village of Providence cuts ribbon on Phase VIII, named 2014 Community of the Year

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Lucy Berry | lberry@al.comBy Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com
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The Village of Providence continued its expansion efforts Thursday with an official kickoff of Phase VIII, which will create 52 custom homes at the Huntsville neighborhood development.

Developer David Slyman said 15 of the homes are currently under construction at the west end of the Providence bridge, with more to be added over time. The eighth phase represents a $25 million investment, Slyman said.

Officials also took the opportunity to celebrate winning the 2014 Community of the Year Award from the National Association of Home Builders and the Platinum Award for Best Mixed-Use Community. The awards recognize outstanding achievement and innovation each year.

“When you get the Community of the Year from the National Home Builders Association, that is something that nobody else has done as they said in Alabama for 30 years, but it is also something that makes us very proud to be part of Huntsville,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle told the crowd. “As part of Huntsville, this shows that Huntsville is always on the cutting edge.”

Slyman said he and his brother, Todd, had planned to cut the ribbon on Phase VIII late last year, but wet weather “put us way behind the eight ball.”

He said home sales have been rapidly picking up since the weather has improved.

“We expect it won’t be too long until we announce Phase IX,” he said.

Only one-third of the Village has been built, and more than $350 million has been invested since its inception. The Village of Providence now has more than 200 homes, 226 apartments, two national hotels, several restaurants and businesses, and over 450 workers.

Slyman, who said another 400 homes will be built at the Village of Providence, said new multi-family and retail components should come to fruition in the future.

“On the Village side, we’ll have some other announcements coming,” he said. “We’ve got another corporation getting ready to locate here. We’ve got another hotel to announce shortly, and another phase of our Providence Place Apartments.”

Village of Providence cuts ribbon on Phase VIII, named 2014 Community of the Year | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County March residential sales up 21% from last year

Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE)By Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE)
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Click here to view or print the entire March report compliments of the ACRE Corporate Cabinet.

Sales: Huntsville/Madison County residential sales totaled 468 units in March, an increase in sales growth of 21.2 percent or 82 units from the same period last year. This represents the best sales results for the month of March since 2007. Year-to-date sales through March are 6.2 percent above 2014.

Forecast: Closed transactions in March were 89 units or 23.5 percent above the Center’s monthly forecast. ACRE’s year-to-date sales forecast through March projected 998 closed transactions while the actual sales were 1,097 units, a favorable cumulative variance of 9.9 percent.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales improve 21% from last March. Inventory is 4% below monthly peak established in 2011. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) 

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 2,993 units, a decrease of .5 percent or 16 units from last March and only .5 percent above the 5-year March average of 2,983 units. New home inventory is up 21.5 percent year-over-year while existing single family inventory is down 3.5 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in March was 6.4 months of housing supply (5.3 months for new construction – up 35.9% from March’14 when it stood at 3.9 months). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 7.5 months during March (NSA). Huntsville was one of Alabama’s most balanced markets in March. The market in March experienced a 8.6 percent (81 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement favorably contrast with historical data that indicate March inventory on average (‘1€0-’14) typically increases by 3.4 percent from the month of February.

Demand: Residential sales in March also increased 41.8 percent from the prior month. This direction is consistent with seasonal patterns and historical data indicating that March sales, on average (’10-‘€14), increase from the month of February by 23.4 percent. New home sales remain soft, down 12.9 percent from March 2014. Existing single family home sales accounted for 76 percent (up from 70% in Mar’14) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 20 percent (down from 28% in Mar’14) while condos were 4 percent of sales (up from 2% in Mar’14).

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in March was $158,432, a slip of 3.9 percent from March 2014 and 5.6 percent decrease from the prior month. This direction unfavorably contrast with historical data (’10-’14) indicating that the March median sales price traditionally increases from the month of February by .2 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 being patient prior to entering the housing market. Our March survey results emphasize how critical attitudes about income growth are to consumers’ outlook on housing,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “We’ve seen modest improvement in total compensation resulting from a strengthened labor market. However, income growth perceptions and personal financial expectations both eased off of recent highs, consistent with Friday’s weak jobs report. Simultaneously, the share of consumers expecting to buy on their next move has declined. We believe the recent setback in consumer sentiment should be short lived if early signs of income growth bear out and occur in proportion to expected interest rate increases. Meanwhile, the wait for housing expansion continues.” For full report, go HERE.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales in March increase 21% from prior year | AL.com.

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North Alabama housing market ‘one of the most stable’ in Southeast

Rob Hale, president of MarketGraphics Southeast, speaks to Huntsville-area realtors and home builders April 2 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. (Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com)

Rob Hale, president of MarketGraphics Southeast, speaks to Huntsville-area realtors and home builders April 2 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. (Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com)

Lucy Berry | lberry@al.comBy Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com
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More residents in the Huntsville area are seeking apartment communities with higher-end amenities as the housing market recovers.

That was one of the talking points Thursday during a 2015 north Alabama housing forecast presentation by MarketGraphics Southeast President Rob Hale at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. The annual breakfast event for area realtors and homebuilders was sponsored by BancorpSouth.

Hale said the recession sparked a shift in the number of north Alabama millennials, retirees and move-down buyers interested in new apartment projects.

“The recession started it because people lost their homes,” he said. “They were able to rent, but not buy, and I think that started a trend of new apartment construction and it built on that.”

Nationwide trend

The movement toward apartments isn’t just affecting Huntsville, Hale said, but the entire U.S. He said the developments are especially attractive to the under-30 crowd that’s not as interested in purchasing a new or existing home as past generations were.

Apartments are also a good option for retirees who need smaller housing, but still want luxury, an audience member pointed out.

“There’s the pool, there’s somebody else mowing the grass, there’s really great amenities with these new developments,” Hale said. “It’s attractive to people who at some point might have been first-time homebuyers.”

The local market, which includes Madison, Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties, is the picture of stability, Hale told the crowd. The four-county area had 2,470 building permits last year, down slightly from 2,501 the previous year and 2,518 in 2011.

Market vibrancy

While north Alabama led the Southeast for several years in market vibrancy (new home permits divided by total population), Hale said that’s no longer the case today. Markets like Jacksonville, Fla., Nashville and Charleston, S.C., are experiencing more vibrant housing markets right now.

Huntsville hasn’t always followed the national trend, he said, and the market doesn’t encounter the same peaks and valleys as other places sometimes do.

“You did not experience the wave of destruction that took place in a lot of places in the Southeast,” he said. “The coastal Florida market was devastated by the recession. This just illustrates how stable the market is in north Alabama.”

The area had 15,000 vacant developed lots in February 2011. Since then, that figure has declined to roughly 11,500. There are 546 homes under construction in the four-county area, Hale said.

With companies like Polaris and Remington Outdoor promising thousands of jobs in Huntsville over the next several years, Hale hopes the local housing market enters a phase when new jobs have a direct link to the construction of new houses.

Jobs equals housing

Hale said the market needs about 1.25 new jobs for every building permit issued in order to sustain healthy housing activity.

“Of all the markets in the Southeast over the years, the Huntsville market has been one of the most stable, even through the recession,” he said. “Our hope is that as new jobs arrive in Huntsville, it will result in an improvement in the new home housing market.”

Hale praised the area’s public leadership in attracting new companies and diversifying the economy. “That’s certainly not true everywhere,” he added.

Penny Billings, division president for BancorpSouth, said her biggest takeaway from Thursday’s event was “location and where you’re building.”

“We have seen some pretty good vibrancy right now in new home sales,” she said. “Some of our builders are reporting that their sales are a lot higher than they’ve been.”

North Alabama housing market ‘one of the most stable’ in Southeast, even through recession | AL.com.

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Huntsville among top 10 Southern cities for jobs right now

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Lucy Berry | lberry@al.comBy Lucy Berry | lberry@al.com
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Two Alabama metros are among the top cities in the South for job creation and hiring in 2015, according to a new study by ZipRecruiter.

The hiring and job market data company released a report this week of the top 20 Southern cities with the greatest 2015 hiring demand and growth potential. Cities were ranked using ZipRecruiter’s Hiring Demand Index, which is based on relative monthly job growth percentage measured across the U.S.

Huntsville came in at No. 9, while Mobile fell at No. 19. Here is the full list:

  1. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Fla.
  2. Dallas/Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas
  3. Houston/Sugar Land/Baytown, Texas
  4. Richmond, Va.
  5. Jacksonville, Fla.
  6. Memphis, Tenn.
  7. Roanoke, Va.
  8. Greenville/Mauldin/Easley, S.C.
  9. Huntsville
  10. Orlando/Kissimmee, Fla.
  11. Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fla.
  12. Durham, N.C.
  13. Greensboro/High Point, N.C.
  14. Winchester, Va.
  15. Spartanburg, S.C.
  16. El Paso, Texas
  17. Danville, Va.
  18. Lubbock, Texas
  19. Mobile
  20. Myrtle Beach/Conway/North Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Click here for ZipRecruiter’s report.

ZipRecruiter writer Kylie Anderson, who praised Huntsville’s military and aerospace technology, called the city “the center for NASA rocket-propulsion research.”

“The city also supports commercial technology companies and other engineering research,” she said.

Huntsville’s top five industries and their most in-demand position are:
  • Healthcare: Healthcare Representative
  • Trucking/Transportation: Class A CDL Driver
  • Engineering: Applications Engineer
  • Admin/Secretarial: Customer Service Retail
  • Manufacturing/Operations: Production Manager

Madison County’s February unemployment rate was 5.2 percent, down from 5.6 the previous month. Joblessness was also down in Mobile, from 7.1 percent unemployment to 6.4 in February. To see how your county fared, click here.

[Related: Top 10 Alabama occupations with the most online job postings in February]

Visit AL.com/jobs to search more than 2,000 listings in Alabama.

Huntsville, Mobile among top 20 Southern cities for jobs right now | AL.com.

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

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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 | AL.com.

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Huntsville launches plan to become ‘Gig City’

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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 | sdoyle@al.com)

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 | sdoyle@al.com
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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 | AL.com.

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

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

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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 | AL.com.

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