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


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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When do leaves change color in Alabama?


Get ready for fall foliage, fall color, or whatever you call Nature’s annual splashing of Southern forests in vivid reds, maroons and yellows. Leaves put on their brightest colors from now through early November, and that means it’s time to get outside and ramble.

Experts say it’s shaping up as a pretty colorful year – about the same as the past few years – and the dry September may have helped, not hurt this year’s color. A report from the Citizen Times of Asheville, N.C., quotes a regional expert revising her fall foliage outlook for the mountains upward. She said wet weather like we’ve had this year mutes leaf color, but dry weather like September’s makes color “pop.”

‘Not too shabby’

In Alabama, regional state naturalist Patti Donnellan said simply “not too shabby” as she looked out her window at fall foliage in Lake Guntersville State Park Tuesday afternoon.

Lake Guntersville State Park’s mountaintop lodge is as scenic as fall gets in Alabama, and Donnellan said low ground cover like sumac is already red. Bigger trees like oaks “don’t have too much going on yet,” she said, but they will start changing quickly across north Alabama beginning next week.

If you want great color this week, you’ll have to drive to western Virginia and eastern West Virginia, according to The Foliage Network, a non-profit website that uses volunteer spotters to report on fall foliage across the eastern United States. Those two areas are the only ones reporting high to peak color this week. Farther south, spotters report low color in eastern and middle Tennessee, low color in western North Carolina, and no color in middle North Carolina.

About that weekend trip: If you’re planning one, state tourism websites in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee are serious about the season. Leaves changing color means big business, and the states will help you find where color is peaking when you’re ready to travel. Alabama’s website has a particularly nice interactive map.  Another hint: If you plan to stay overnight near the woods, a reservation is a good idea. It can get crowded out there this time of year.

Why do they change?

Why do leaves change color? Dr. Leland Cseke, an assistant biology professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, says it’s because trees start breaking down their green pigments to store the nitrogen they contain for energy through the winter. The process lets the fall sun light up the other color pigments in the leaves.

How do they know it’s time? Cseke’s specialty is tree nutrient systems, and he said the signal varies for different trees. Some trees sense the changing light as the autumn sun drops lower in the sky. Some trees sense the change in temperature. Some of the process remains mysterious.

That temperature signal to change may be a few days away. The National Weather Service Office in Huntsville is predicting normal or above-above normal temperatures across North Alabama for the next week to 10 days. So, unless something changes, there will no cold snap to get trees moving for at least the next week.

When do leaves change color in Alabama? 2014 expected to yield vibrant fall foliage | AL.com.

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1,000 new rooftops to rise on Madison’s western horizon


A thousand new residential rooftops will be popping up in eastern Limestone County, based on recent rezoning proposals to the City Council.

On Monday, the council announced public hearings on rezoning for three separate parcels totaling 176 acres. Combined with the rezoning in July of 158 acres on Huntsville Brownsferry Road, Madison can expect to add more than 1,000 single-family homes, said Mayor Troy Trulock.

“There’s another 600 in the pipeline,” he added.

The 1,000-home estimate will take two to five years to play out completely, the mayor said, so there’s going to be plenty of ongoing construction work in western Madison.

Mungo Homes will likely be the first to break ground should the rezoning requests be approved Sept. 22. It seeks to rezone 58 acres at the northwest corner of Burgreen and Powell roads from agriculture to R-3A single-family detached residential. The 58 acres will be combined with another parcel already zoned residential for a total of about 100 acres.

There’s another 600 in the pipeline.” – Mayor Troy Trulock

The largest of the three rezoning request is from Murphy Homes. It calls for 89 acres on the south side of Hardiman Road and east of Segers Road to be changed from agriculture to R-3A single-family detached residential. The smallest of the three comes from Woodland Homes. It seeks to change 29 acres from agriculture to single-family residential. The property is east Segars Road and across from the entrance to Hardin Oak Drive.

District 4 Councilman Mike Potter, who represents some areas west of County Line Road, said the growth is going to put “tremendous pressure” on Hardiman, Burgreen and Segers roads, and the city must get plans in place so the infrastructure can handle the large amount of traffic. A key part of that will be partnering with the Limestone County Commission, he added.

“Our school system’s got to be concerned, too,” District 1 Councilman Tim Holcombe said.

Potter referenced the new 700-acre Town Madison retail and commercial development as making the expected, rapid growth of new homes easier to bear.

While there’s some tax revenue generated from the construction phase of home building, he said property taxes are not enough to offset the cost of providing city services to them. Without retail taxes on the side, “rooftops translate to negative numbers.”

1,000 new rooftops to rise on Madison’s western horizon; 176 acres sought for rezoning | AL.com.

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Heritage Brook by Legacy Homes

Located on Old Railroad Bed Road just a mile north of Hwy 72 (University Drive) in Madison, Heritage Brook provides the best of both worlds. The private wooded lots, raised foundations and gently rolling topography provide an established neighborhood feel with brand new homes. This unique combination combined with the convenient proximity to Redstone Arsenal, Madison Hospital and The Shops of Madison; make Heritage Brook a natural choice for your new home.

Looking for a new home? I work with every builder in every new community and school district in Madison county.

Buy your new home with me and I’ll sell your current home for FREE!

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