Tag Archives: Alabama

Huntsville signs $142M all-terrain vehicle factory development deal with Polaris


A development agreement approved by the Huntsville City Council on Thursday night clears the way for construction to begin on Polaris’ new $142 million all-terrain vehicle factory in southeast Limestone County.

The contract outlines the city’s $18 million-plus industrial incentive package to Polaris, as well as the Minnesota-based company’s promise to employ at least 1,700 people in Huntsville at a minimum average wage of $18 an hour.

Polaris is expected to begin clearing and grading the 505-acre factory site next month. Director of Urban Development Shane Davis said the 630,000-square-foot manufacturing plant should be under construction by May, with Polaris’ first Huntsville-made ATVs rolling off the assembly line in late 2016.

The factory site borders I-565 just west of Greenbrier Road and wraps around the massive Target distribution center.

The city’s promises to Polaris include free land, sales and property tax breaks, a waiver on grading and building permit fees, and speeding up construction of Greenbrier Parkway.

The limited-access roadway will branch off Greenbrier Road near the Polaris site and cut northwest for 8.3 miles through mostly undeveloped Limestone County farmland to Huntsville Brownsferry Road, creating a new route between I-565 and I-65.

Free land is the city’s most expensive contribution to the project. Huntsville will buy the factory site from the McCrary family for $14.6 million and then deed the property to Polaris.

However, Polaris is required to meet specific employment and wage targets in order to avoid the $1.2 million annual mortgage payment. The company has committed to having 400 full-time employees in Huntsville by the end of 2016, ramping up to 935 workers in 2017 and 1,700 in 2021.

Polaris would own the factory site outright in 2027, said Davis.

Up to 18 percent of the jobs created at the Huntsville plant could be filled by current Polaris employees transferring from other locations, he said. Polaris has about 7,000 employees worldwide.

When it reaches full employment, Polaris’ Huntsville plant will have an annual payroll of nearly $75 million. Huntsville expects to capture about $5 million of that each year in the form of new sales taxes as Polaris workers buy groceries, gasoline, computers, cars and other goods in the city limits.

Tax breaks were another key incentive.

Polaris is exempt from all but the education portion of sales taxes on construction materials and manufacturing equipment for the new plant. The company will also get a 10-year reprieve on non-education property taxes from both the city and state.

Alabama’s incentive package totals $80 million, including about $31 million in cash to help offset Polaris’ construction costs and a customized recruitment, screening and pre-employment training program for people who want to work for Polaris.

“The state government, for all their woes, really did come to bat for us and work very hard,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Meanwhile, Limestone County is chipping in $1 million to reimburse Polaris for temporary office and employee training space. Morgan County and the cities of Athens and Decatur are jointly contributing $950,000 toward the Greenbrier Parkway project.

Battle said Huntsville offered “the smallest amount of incentives possible” to snag Polaris, which scouted 100 different industrial sites in 14 states. The other finalists were Clarksville, Tenn., and LaGrange, Ga.

Waiving building and grading permit fees is a common industrial recruiting tactic nationwide, but this is the first time Huntsville has done it.

A new rule approved by the City Council on Thursday night says Huntsville will not charge building permit fees to new companies that invest at minimum of $100 million and create at least 1,000 jobs.

Huntsville signs development deal with Polaris; $142M all-terrain vehicle factory expected to begin rising in May | AL.com.

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Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December

Huntsville/Madison County area residential sales in December improved 4.4 percent from the same period a year earlier. Total sales of 401 units were 9 units or 2.3 percent above our monthly forecast. The Center’s 2014 sales forecast projected 5,219 closed transactions while the actual sales were 4,901 units, a 6.1 percent cumulative variance.

Historical Sales.jpg
View full sizeHuntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% from last December. Inventory hits new peak in December. Infograph provided by ACRE. All rights reserved.

Supply: Huntsville housing inventory totaled 3,320 units, an increase of 449 units from last December and 20.7 percent above the 5-year December average of 2,750 units. New home inventory is up 75.5 percent year-over-year while existing single family is up 2.8 percent.

The inventory-to-sales ratio in December was 8.3 months of housing supply (7.1 months for new construction – up 4.3% from Dec’13). The market equilibrium (balance between supply and demand) is considered to be approximately 8-8.5 months during December. 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 December began to mitigate the short-term excess as the inventory in Huntsville/Madison County experienced a 5.8 percent (203 units) decrease when compared to the prior month. This movement is consistent with both seasonal listing trends & historical data that indicate December inventory on average (€™09-€™13) typically decreases by 7.1 percent from the month of November.

Demand: Residential sales in December improved 21.9 percent from the prior month. Historical Huntsville data reflects that December sales, on average (€™09-€™13), decrease from the month of November by .1 percent so this break from the norm is encouraging news. New home sales were up 6.6 percent from December 2013. Existing single family home sales accounted for 72 percent (up from 65% in Dec’13) of total sales, new homes sales accounted for 16 percent (up from 12% in Dec’13) while condos were 2 percent of sales (down from 3% in Dec’13). 2014 sales were 5.7 percent below 2013.

Pricing: The Huntsville median sales price in December was $169,900, a decrease of 7.4 percent from December 2013 and 4.0 percent from the prior month as a result of the short-term supply/demand imbalance. Historical data (09-13) indicates that the December median sales price traditionally increases from the month of November by 5.0 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: “The housing market is likely to continue its gradual climb upward next year after a sub-par 2014,” according to Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “We anticipate a fairly strong increase in housing starts in response to stronger employment and some improvement in related household incomes. As a result, that may help to unfold some of the suppressed household formation numbers and incent builders to meet some of that increased demand. For all of 2015, we expect total housing starts to increase by about 22 percent and total home sales to rise approximately 5 percent, with total mortgage origination ticking up slightly to $1.13 trillion.” 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” http://www.facebook.com/acreua and/or follow on twitter at @uaacre.

Huntsville/Madison County residential sales up 4% in December; 2014 sales slip 6% | AL.com.

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6 Up-And-Coming Retirement Spots You’ve Probably Never Considered

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Posted: 12/08/2014 7:58 am EST Updated: 12/08/2014 1:00 pm EST
SPECIAL FROM Grandparents.com

When it comes to the best places to retire, we’ve covered prettiest, happiest, and most affordable cities and towns. We’ve even covered which towns have a strong collegiate tie. Now, we’ve compiled some of the unsung heroes of retirement — those places that don’t always make the national top 10 lists but are a boon for retirees nonetheless.

One thing to note is that many of the towns and cities we included are located in the South, specifically the part of the country known as The Sunbelt. Not everyone needs to retire someplace balmy, but we’ve found that the majority of people seek out warmer climates and are less inclined to want to deal with harsh winter weather, according to research conducted by TopRetirements.com. What’s more, many Southern states are veritable tax havens for retirees. Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, for example, don’t tax Social Security benefits and have property tax breaks for seniors, according to Kiplinger.

The key to remember, though, is that there are 76 million baby boomers in the United States envisioning their golden years in 76 million unique ways. So if none of these particular towns strike your fancy, let us know where you plan to retire in the comments section, and maybe you’ll see it featured in a future article onGrandparents.com.:

  • Huntsville, Alabama
    Bloomberg via Getty Images
    Median home value (Zillow): $133,100 Cost of living (Sperling’s Best Places): 3 percent below U.S. average
    Known as “Rocket City,” Huntsville’s impressive history reaches beyond its city limits and — as the center of rocket-propulsion research and home to the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center — has a strong foothold in American past and present.
    Unlike more rural parts of Alabama, Huntsville has a sophisticated, city-like feel to it, said John Brady, President of TopRetirements.com. And as one of the top 30 fastest growing metro cities in the country, according to the 2014 U.S. Census, it also has a thriving economy, which means finding work after retirement is possible if that’s on your retirement checklist.
    Huntsville was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and has three historic districts. If a 150-year-old antebellum single family isn’t your speed, luxury condos, affordable apartments and eclectic lofts dot downtown Huntsville. Speaking of downtown, it’s also home to award-winning chefs, like Chef James Boyce of Cotton Row Restaurant, eclectic boutiques and even craft breweries (Huntsville is considered the epicenter of Southeastern craft brewing). With more than 40 event venues and a thriving arts scene that includes museums, a ballet and even a symphony, Huntsville residents have more than their fair share of cultural activities to choose from. Even its parks feature prominent gifts from around the world, including the iconic red Japanese bridge and cherry trees given to Huntsville by Japanese Major General Mikio Kimata. And when they’re not experiencing man-made beauty, residents take advantage of the town’s warm climate by experiencing natural beauty through hiking, biking, walking and even horseback riding through its nature preserve and wildlife sanctuary.

6 Up-And-Coming Retirement Spots You’ve Probably Never Considered.

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Madison county commissioners OK borrowing $8.6 million for road projects

The day after having its strong credit rating affirmed on the national market, the Madison County Commission on Wednesday approved a bond warrant for $8.67 million.

Madison County Courthouse, November 2014.jpg
(Paul Huggins/phuggins@al.com)

Money raised from the bond will go toward paying matching funds for several road projects, primarily Winchester Road widening and new bridge over Flint River. The other roads addressed in the bond include Kellner and Blake Bottom improvements.

Merchant Capital, the largest bond agent in Alabama, will handle the transaction and resell the bonds on the market. The interest rate will be determined after the bonds are sold. The bond will be paid back over 20 years.

The county must pay $30 million in matching funds and similar requirements to pay for ATRIP (Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program) projects and other road improvements for the next 10 years. It will do so in three bond phases, Commission Chairman Dale Strong said.

The first bond will deal with projects constructed from 2014 to 2016. The second bond will deal with projects constructed in 2017 and 2018, and the third bond will apply to projects constructed from 2020 to 2025, Strong said.

Standard & Poors affirmed Madison County current rating of AA+ and Moody’s did the same with its Aa2, and Moody;s also increased its outlook on the county from “Stable” to “Positive.”

With the news of the affirmed credit ratings, the chairman said the county will continue to pursue a new county services center that likely would require a fourth visit to the bond market.

The county services center would relocate the tax assessor, tax collector, probate judge, license director, veteran’s affairs and board of registrars offices to a central location and open up more space for courtrooms at the downtown courthouse.

“The easiest way to do that (ease courtroom overcrowding) is to build a services center,” Strong said. “We’re doing a feasibility study to determine how many square feet they need to make this work, identifying multiple locations that are good for county and finding a good construction manager to get the property to where it needs to be.”

The credit rating to the county is vital because under Alabama’s constitution, county commissions cannot raise taxes as cities can and sometimes must borrow money to fund large projects. An Aa2 rating by Moody’s and an AA+ rating by S&P represents one of the highest ratings possible and ranks Madison County with the highest rated counties in the state.

“This is a huge vote of confidence not only of our county finances but for our local economy and our future. I commend the members of the Madison County Commission, our staff and employees for their hard work over the past two years that have led to this excellent rating,” Strong said.

“The diversification of our economy with new jobs announced with industry partners like Toyota and Remington once again show Madison County is perfectly positioned for the days ahead. Over the past year, our community has announced over 3,000 new jobs, a combined investment in new school construction of $300 million and over $400 million in new road projects,” he said.

Both credit rating services praised Madison County’s workforce diversity, potential for growth and low debt service.

Strong said the county currently has a couple of bonds through the water department and both are eligible for refunds, totaling about $230,000.

District 4 Commissioner Phil Vandiver thanked the previous county commissions for sound fiscal management and maintaining a low debt service, which made it easier for this commission to borrow money.

District 1 Commissioner Roger Jones thanks Gov. Robert Bentley and the ATRIP Committee for establishing the massive road improvement program and approving many of Madison County’s most needed projects.

With strong credit rating affirmed, Madison commissioners OK borrowing $8.6 million for road projects | AL.com.

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Huntsville will seek high-speed Internet to become “GIG City”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle talks about the several changes and advancement taking place in the city. The mayor's annual State of the City Address took place Monday afternoon, Nov. 17, at the Von Braun Center with Toyota serving as the presenting sponsor. (Sarah Cole/scole@al.com)

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle talks about the several changes and advancement taking place in the city. The mayor’s annual State of the City Address took place Monday afternoon, Nov. 17, at the Von Braun Center with Toyota serving as the presenting sponsor. (Sarah Cole/scole@al.com)

Huntsville will take the first steps in January to becoming a “GIG City” with high-speed, fiber-optic Internet service available to  businesses and homes, Mayor Tommy Battle said today. The city will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a vendor to start the process, Battle said at his annual State of the City address.

“Part of making Huntsville a vibrant, globally-connected community is looking at our connectivity,” Battle said. “It’s all about big data and speed. We need a telecommunications infrastructure that’s bigger, faster, more reliable and affordable.”

Battle said fiber-optic cable has become a basic city infrastructure. “Electricity, water, sewer and roads are the infrastructure that has taken us to the 21st Century,” Battle said. “Fiber is also an important infrastructure component.”

fiber optic cable

High speed fiber optic cable in a Chattanooga Internet service center. (Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

Fiber-optic cable works by sending laser-fired pulses of light down hundreds of strands of hair-thin glass. The light pulses are converted at the home or office into the electrical signals computers and other equipment can use.

The ability to move big data at high speed is vital to large companies and institutions such as the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, where gene studies can involve data from hundreds of subjects, and companies routinely moving and handling large files such as medical record companies, insurance companies and Internet graphics companies.

Bringing high-speed Internet to Huntsville was voted the most exciting idea for Huntsville’s future in a poll taken earlier this year for AL.com’s “What works: Regionalism” project. An Internet petition seeking the service had more than 1,000 signees.

Battle said the goal is to bring fiber first to businesses and eventually homes “allowing Huntsville to become a GIG City.” He cited Chattanooga as a model, where high-speed Internet is attracting entrepreneurs looking for the ability to move massive amounts of data at high speeds.

Battle said he wants an available range of Internet speed for homes of 100 MB per second to 1,000 MB (1 gig). Typical home Internet service now is around 20-25 Mbps (megabits per second). At 20 Mbps, the mayor said, it would take 10 minutes to download a 2-hour movie and more than 30 minutes if the movie is high-definition. With gigabit speed, the download would take 8 seconds and 25 seconds for high-definition.

Battle said Huntsville Utilities “will not be a direct responder to the RFP” – meaning the utility will not seek to provide the service directly as Chattanooga’s public utility does. However, the mayor’s office said that, if no “suitable” proposals come from private companies, the “city would explore a public entity like Huntsville utilities providing the infrastructure.”

Suitable proposals would include a commitment “to serve many areas of the community to ensure that even underserved areas are covered,” the mayor’s office said.

Huntsville will seek high-speed Internet to become “GIG City” starting in 2015 | AL.com.

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The Ultimate List of Homebuyer Tips

The Internet is awash with short and incomplete lists of tips for homebuyers. For the many Americans unfamiliar with the home-buying process, trying to determine which tips to focus on could be confusing. Upon reading these lists, aspiring homebuyers must ask themselves, “Are these tips that industry experts would actually recommend, and are they worth spending my valuable time on?”

To remedy this problem, Market Leader gathered tips for homebuyers from half a dozen sources, put them all on one giant list, and, after removing the trivial and contradictory ones, surveyed almost 400 real estate agents about the importance of each tip. For the 17 tips featured in this survey, participants indicated whether they found them to be very, moderately or slightly important for homebuyers – or not recommendable at all!

Click here to read a list of more homebuyer tips

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Replace a heart valve without open-heart surgery? Huntsville Hospital can

Medical inventor and Huntsville native Stanton "Stan" Rowe is interviewed about his new heart valve device at the Westin Huntsville on Oct. 23, 2014. (Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

Medical inventor and Huntsville native Stanton “Stan” Rowe is interviewed about his new heart valve device at the Westin Huntsville on Oct. 23, 2014. (Lee Roop/lroop@al.com)

Replace a heart valve in an hour without open-heart surgery with the patient awake on the table? It sounds like something from “Star Trek,” but a procedure invented by a Huntsville native has allowed surgeons around the world to do just that 150,000 times since 2002. It’s so accepted Medicare will pay for it, but it’s still rare enough that only two hospitals in Birmingham performed it in Alabama before this summer.

Now, Huntsville Hospital has joined the hospitals able to perform the procedure as a treatment for the disease called aortic stenosis. A team led by cardiologist Dr. Alex Vasquez has done a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) on seven patients since Aug. 12.

The aortic valve passes blood from the heart back through the body, but in patients suffering from aortic stenosis, the valve is clogged with calcium buildup and able to move only a small fraction of the blood the body needs. The results can range from loss of energy and fainting spells to heart failure and sudden death.

The disease affects people over 65

“It occurs in 12 percent of patients over 80,” medical inventor Stan Rowe said in a Thursday interview. Rowe, a graduate of Huntsville High School and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, is now chief scientific officer with Edwards Lifesciences LLC in Irvine, Calif.

“It’s an insidious disease,” Rowe said. “That’s one of the challenges. This loss of energy that’s probably the biggest symptom occurs over months because the disease has taken years. It’s under-diagnosed.”

heart valve
The valve used to replace the aortic heart valve. (Courtesy Edwards Lifesciences)

The traditional treatment is open heart surgery. “The cardiothoracic surgeon, who does amazing work, cuts through your sternum, opens your chest, puts you on cardiopulmonary bypass, cuts open your aorta and removes the diseased valve, then puts in with 30 sutures a new surgical valve.

“We’re the world’s leading maker of surgical valves, too,” Rowe said, “so what these surgeons do is amazing. Their mortality rate is only about 3 percent – phenomenal – but it’s a really rough procedure on older patients. A lot of older patients have other medical problems … that may put you at high risk.”

The new procedure is for high-risk surgical patients, Rowe said, “because it’s done on a beating heart. You can do this without general anesthesia while the patient’s awake on the table.”

In the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the upper thigh to access the femoral artery, which goes directly to the heart. A guide wire is inserted, then a sheath or conduit. A balloon catheter is inserted to dilate the valve. Then, the valve is pushed through and docked with the balloon. The valve is put in place and the diseased valve is pushed out of the way. The procedure takes about an hour. Patients go home in three-to-five days and recover in a month.

They said: It won’t work, we don’t need it

“This idea had been around, but no one had ever made one,” Rowe said. “No one knew what it should look like. A lot of people said it won’t work and we don’t need it, mostly the folks already doing the procedures. So I founded the company that developed this procedure in January of 2000 with two cardiologists, myself and one other engineer. We raised money, did the early engineering and by April 2002 did our first case in Europe. It shocked a lot of people that it worked. We did 14 cases before I sold the company to Edwards Lifesciences.”

So, what’s next? “Great question,” Rowe said. “Next is the mitral valve, which is a bigger deal than this one. It’s leakage, it’s not narrowed, it’s leaky. We have the same issue there that there’s no great option for replacing a valve in the mitral position. I worked for five years to develop a trans-catheter mitral valve, and we just started doing those clinical trials in January.”

A Huntsville Hospital, the procedure involves a number of medical disciplines including cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, imaging cardiologists, cardiac anesthesiologists and perfusionists as well as operating room and cardiac cath lab staff, all in the same room, at the same time.

The cardiologist members of the TAVR team are Vasquez, Joshua Krasnow, Michael Butler, Mihir Kanitkar, Sean Groark and Michael Ridner. Cardiovascular surgeons on the team include Drs. Benton Washburn, Shaf Holden and Aaron Hoffman. Katherine Meier, RN, is coordinator of the Valve Clinic.

To learn more, go to the website yourheartvalve.com.

Replace a heart valve without open-heart surgery? Huntsville Hospital joins the few facilities that can | AL.com.

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