The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 days ago

Dale Strong unveils new Madison County Services Center

HUNTSVILLE — The days of residents driving around the Madison County courthouse square looking for a parking spot to conduct personal business with the County are no more. The time and energy wasted standing in lines at overcrowded offices — no more.

Beginning March 1, getting licenses, automobile plates, seeing the tax assessor or paying property taxes are expected to be more accommodating and less frustrating, according to Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong.

Chairman Strong held a media briefing recently to show off the new 60,000-square-foot Madison County Services Center located at the southeast corner of Memorial Parkway and Oakwood Avenue.

“Convenience for citizens in Huntsville and Madison County was the driving force behind this new services center,” Strong said. “With input from the county departments and employees we believe we have established a facility that will provide services in a more effective and comfortable way.”

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Strong pointed out that it starts when residents drive onto the site. They will see free, ground-level parking spaces for more than 350 cars. The site is also a bus stop for public transportation.

The next improvement is upon entry to the building. After residents make it through security, there are several kiosks to register for the county’s services. They will be afforded comfortable seats as they wait to be called.

Waiting time will also be minimized. Residents will find 23 service windows at the license department, three cameras for driver’s license photos and 175 employees to keep things moving along.

One other feature of the two-story building pertains to its COVID-19 protocols, which will be built-in for future possible outbreaks as well. Numerous glass panels have been installed in addition to durable materials and surfaces easy to clean.

The six departments that will be located in the building are: Board of Registrars, License Department, Probate Judge, Sales Tax Department, as well as the tax assessor and tax collector.

It should be noted that the cost of the land, facility and equipment was covered without debt to taxpayers, Strong said. The dollars used to make the facility possible resulted from savings generated by several cost-cutting measures put into place by Strong and members of the county commission in recent years.

The facility also came in under-cost and ahead of schedule. The construction budget was $13.8 million, and the final construction cost totaled $11,597,298. Strong said April 1 was the target for opening and the opening is going to be March 1.

Chapman Sisson was the architect on the project and Lee Builders Inc. served as the building contractor.

Strong underlined yet another advantage of the new services center. The departments that have moved from the courthouse to the new center will create new space in the 1960s-era building on Courthouse Square. He advised plans are being developed for an interior and exterior renovation to that building.

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.

2 weeks ago

Defense industry leaders don’t anticipate drastic changes for Redstone Arsenal after change in administration

(Team Redstone/Facebook)

Veteran aerospace and defense industry leaders in North Alabama do not anticipate drastic change for Redstone Arsenal as a result of changing leadership in Washington, according to a roundtable discussion with Yellowhammer News.

That seemed to be the consensus of corporate executives recently gathered on a Zoom call. Joining the call were Jeff Gronberg of deciBel Research, David Cook of Torch Technologies and Craig Naudain of SAIC. The call was arranged by Mike Ward, senior vice president for government and public affairs with the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. These executives also play a role as volunteers in the chamber’ s community leadership.

The consensus from this conversation was that drastic changes are not expected. They said from a Department of Defense budget perspective, it would not be surprising if budgets could be flat or slightly reduced. From a Biden administration perspective, the jury remains out while officials try to balance the different aspects of DOD’s needs. But huge changes are not expected to take place. Several agreed that ensuring the viability and safety of the nation is not a partisan issue.

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RELATED: Madison County leads Department of Defense spending in Alabama

They pointed out this is not the first time the military has faced budget pressures. The Army has gone through this in the past, they noted, as recently as 2012-2013 when the United States was involved in conflicts on several fronts.

When viewing the Department of Defense budget, the executives point out it is largely broken into three areas – readiness, sustainability and modernization. Even when the nation was involved in a couple of wars, the modernization efforts kept pace, they said. If modernization remains a priority, then the impact won’t be devastating. They added a key factor is having the right balance of people in the room when those decisions are being made.

The executives also agreed there are two overwhelming threats currently facing the nation, one is internal and the other is external.

COVID is an internal threat that cannot be avoided, they said. Differing administrations will view these threats differently and will allocate resources differently based on their perspective. Bills are being considered to deal with COVID relief but one of the executives pointed out there is going to be a day of reckoning where it will be paid for, as well as other areas of the budget and the nation has to be prepared for that.

Then, of course, there are external and emerging threats to the United States that will not be going away anytime soon. Again, the group of executives say those external threats are really non-partisan issues. They pointed to national security threats from our adversaries – such as hypersonics, cybersecurity and space.

Programs at Redstone Arsenal are front and center at combating these threats. Reducing spending on these modernization efforts would create an even greater advantage for America’s enemies, the executives said.

There are six modernization priorities for the military. Several priorities are headquartered, or most of the work is carried out, through Redstone: Future Vertical Lift; Long-range Precision Air and Missile Defense; and Assured Position Navigation and Timing.

Some of the Army’s enabling systems and technologies are managed by the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, which serves to expedite critical capabilities to the field to meet combatant commanders’ needs. That office is under the direction of Army three-star Gen. Neil Thurgood.

One of the high points of the roundtable discussion was Alabama’s political strength when it comes to protecting the federal mission of the agencies on Redstone Arsenal. While acknowledging the change in leadership in Washington, the executives felt comfortable in that U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) will remain in office for at least a couple of years. There was agreement among all of the participants on the call that Sen. Shelby has an excellent reputation for helping develop what is good for the country. They acknowledge he works collaboratively with others from a federal spending perspective.

They also pointed to the influence of U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who holds a key position on the U.S. House appropriations committee. They described him as always helpful and his role will become even more important when Sen. Shelby decides not to seek reelection after his current term.

The consensus of the small group also revolved around how well the community worked together from local government to industry. Most everyone is very supportive of the entire Alabama delegation. To hear one executive, “they are very well aligned with the priorities of what is taking place at Redstone.”

The closing remark of the 30-minute Zoom call touched on the community’s effectiveness in defending Redstone Arsenal. While the military is not in the position to be an advocate for the community, they always have opportunity to “grade our papers” on what is provided to Alabama’s congressional delegation.

“One of the keys to our community’s success is that everybody pulls in the same direction; whether it is industry, government or academia,” said Ward.

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.

2 weeks ago

Madison County leads Department of Defense spending in Alabama

(Ray Garner/Facebook, YHN)

The Department of Defense released defense spending for Fiscal Year 2019, and the amount of money spent in Alabama produced no real surprises in many of the categories tracked by the Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) — formerly the Office of Economic Adjustment.

Madison County, home to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, dominated many of the categories. The best way to describe Madison County’s share of DoD spending in Alabama is with the “B” word – billions.

“It comes as no surprise that Redstone Arsenal is the economic engine that drives not only Madison County’s economy but the entire north Alabama region,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “The continued growth and development of Redstone and the many agencies on this federal campus, as well as the corporations that support these agencies, is paramount to the success of our regional economy.”

However, Strong points out that Redstone’s role in global affairs is also a crucial element of protecting America’s vitality and fortunes.

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“The specific missions that exist at Redstone assures that our nation keeps America prepared against our enemies both domestic and abroad. You can’t put a price on defending our freedom and security,” he stated.

Madison County led the state with $9.2 billion in defense contract spending during FY19. That places Madison County as one of the highest totals in DoD spending in the United States — seventh, to be exact. A Dallas suburb, Tarrant, is number one with $17.6 billion.

Others in the top 10 were: 2) Fairfax, Va. with $17.4 billion 3) San Diego with $14 billion 4) Los Angeles with $13.1 billion 5) St. Louis $10.5 billion 6) Dallas had $9.3 billion followed by Huntsville. Hartford, Conn. was No. 8 with $8.5 billion, King County, Washington was 9th with DoD contracts totaling $8.3 billion and Jefferson County, Ky. rounded out the top 10 with $7.5 billion.

Breaking down those numbers and looking at how the Department of Defense dollars flow into Alabama shows the money is spread around several communities across the state.

The top 10 Alabama counties in defense contract spending for FY19, compared to FY18 figures, were:

1) Madison – $9.2 billion, up $400 million
2) Mobile – $1.5 billion, up $100 million
3) Dale – $857.2 million, up $61.8 million
4) Montgomery – $269.7 million, up $8.11 million
5) Calhoun – $269 million, up $98.5 million
6) Limestone – $94.2 million, up $18.33 million
7) Talladega – $87.3 million, up $8.6 million
8) Jefferson – $71.3 million, down $6 million
9) Marshall – – $48.4 million (not ranked top 10 in 2018)
10) Dallas – $41 million (not ranked top 10 in 2018)

Despite the dominance of Madison County in DoD contract spending, the largest defense contractor during 2019 was located in Mobile County. That would be Austal USA with contracts valued at $1.4 billion. Austal is a global ship builder and defense contractor with capabilities in military and commercial vessels.

Austal USA announced last year it is expanding the capacity and capability of its Alabama shipyard. The company is looking ahead to future business in unmanned, amphibious shipbuilding programs.

Austal is followed closely by The Boeing Company with $1.3 billion in contracts. Key programs underway in Huntsville include Ground-based Midcourse Defense; PAC-3 Missile Seeker and other missile defense systems; the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM); NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System; and the International Space Station.

Other top contractors in Alabama include Northrop Grumman, M1 Support Services, SAIC, Torch Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Science and Engineering Services, KBR and Parson Corp.

The report also documented the top defense personnel locations within Alabama. Montgomery and Dale Counties have the largest concentrations of active-duty personnel in Alabama.

Dale County, home to the Army’s Fort Rucker, has 3,837 active personnel to lead the state. Dale also has 2,180 Army civilian employees plus 52 Guardsmen and 146 in the Reserves for a total of 6,215 DoD personnel, ranking Dale County third in Alabama for total DoD employees.

Montgomery County ranked second in front of Dale County with 3,161 active-duty personnel, mostly at Maxwell Air Force base. Add 3,185 Army civilian employees, 2,686 National Guardsmen and 2,220 Reserves and Montgomery County has 11,252 DoD.

Meanwhile, the makeup of the personnel at Madison County’s Redstone Arsenal shows 727 active-duty employees, 461 in the national Guard and 776 in the Reserves. However, Redstone also has 13,767 Army civilian workers. That provides a total of 15,731 DoD personnel putting Madison County in the top spot for DoD personnel.

The top 10 Alabama counties in DoD personnel spending in FY19 and compared to FY18:

1) Madison – $1.6 billion, up $100 million
2) Montgomery – $629.7 million, up $29.8 million
3) Dale – $439 million, up $11.2 million
4) Calhoun – $264.2 million, up $26.7 million
5) Jefferson – $156.1 million, down $2.8 million
6) Mobile – $933.2 million, up $2.3 million
7) Coffee – $14.9 million, down $700,000
8) Tuscaloosa – $14.1 million, down $1.2 million
9) Houston – $13.6 million, down $8.7 million
10) Lee – $12.8 million, down $3.6 million

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.

2 months ago

Ray Garner: Watching for the ‘Christmas Star’

(NASA/JPL-Caltech, YHN)

It is a celestial treat for amateur astronomers as well as those interested in tying the heavens to religious events. It’s the annual planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that should be easily viewed in the early evening sky. The event is also called the Christmas star.

The planets regularly appear to pass each other in the solar system with the positions of Jupiter and Saturn being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years. Actually every 19.85 Earth years. It’s a natural occurrence because Jupiter takes 11.86 years to orbit the Sun and Saturn 29.4 years. This means they will appear to pass each other in our night sky from our point of view despite being many millions of miles distant from each other.

This phenomenon will peak on the evening of Monday, December 21.

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What makes this year’s spectacle so rare? It will be the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623, and the first to be easily observable since March 4, 1226, thus allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.”

Henry Throop, astronomer in NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said the closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, the planets will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

From our vantage point on Earth, the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.

Each December, planetariums and astronomers across the globe speculate on the origin of the “Christmas Star” or “Star of Bethlehem.” As the story in the Gospel of Matthew goes, a bright star rose after the birth of Jesus Christ that the wise men then followed to find him.
Some believe it was a comet or a supernova. It could have been a conjunction of two planets? It is a detail that remains open for debate.

For those who would like to see this phenomenon for themselves, here’s what to do:

  • Find a spot with an unobstructed view of the sky, such as a field or park. Jupiter and Saturn are bright, so they can be seen even from most cities.
  • An hour after sunset, look to the southwestern sky. Jupiter will look like a bright star and be easily visible. Saturn will be slightly fainter and will appear slightly above and to the left of Jupiter until December 21, when Jupiter will overtake it and they will reverse positions in the sky.
  • The planets can be seen with the unaided eye, but if you have binoculars or a small telescope, you may be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons orbiting the giant planet.

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

2 months ago

Huntsville’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center names Kimberly Robinson next CEO

(@RocketCenterUSA/Twitter, YHN)

Dr. Kimberly Robinson, a 31-year veteran of NASA, has been named the chief executive officer of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The hiring was announced Tuesday by the Alabama Space Science Exhibition Commission, the state agency that oversees the operation of the center. She will begin her new role on Feb. 15, 2021.

Her background provided the perfect match for the position, according to a news release issued by the Space & Rocket Center.

“Dr. Robinson brings to the position a background that includes leadership, public engagement, engineering, education, flight crew training and hands-on experience shaping the nation’s space program,” the release outlined.

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Currently, Robinson serves as NASA’s utilization manager for Advanced Exploration Systems. She was formerly the payload mission manager for Artemis.

She succeeds Louie Ramirez, who has served as executive director and CEO of the center since January 2020 following the retirement of Dr. Deborah Barnhart. Ramirez will remain in a part-time capacity as chief operations officer.

Robinson completed her Ph.D. and master’s degrees in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University.

“Along with her vast experience with NASA, Dr. Robinson brings an innovative spirit and the leadership skills needed to guide the Rocket Center as we plan for the future,” stated Joe Newberry, ASSEC board chairman. “Her energy and enthusiasm are contagious and brought her to the top of a rigorous and exhaustive search for our new Executive Director and CEO.”

“I look forward to joining the remarkable team at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to inspire our next generation of explorers,” Robinson said in a statement. “The Rocket Center is a vital part of our community that honors the Rocket City’s storied accomplishments and helps shape tomorrow’s space industry. I am excited to bring my knowledge and experience from three decades in the field of space exploration to the Rocket Center and help plan for our vibrant future.”

Robinson has taught at Oakwood University and UAH.

RELATED: Space and Rocket Center saved by public support

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

3 months ago

Rapid disease pathogen identification is one step closer following successful demonstration by GeneCapture

Dr. Krishnan Chittur, professor emeritus in UAH’s Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, cofounded GeneCapture to commercialize a breakthrough technique for rapid identification of genetic signatures from pathogens. (GeneCapture/Contributed, YHN)

Soon it could only take an hour to find out what pathogen is making you ill following the successful demonstration of the world’s first multi-pathogen identification using non-amplified RNA detection by GeneCapture, a company cofounded by researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

GeneCapture has licensed a molecular binding technology from UAH, and the company’s CAPTURE PLATFORM is on track for commercialization within two years.

The GeneCapture team has briefed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its approach and has begun to prepare for the clinical testing required for FDA clearance. It is in discussions with industry leaders for various applications in health care rapid infection detection.

“We made history today – this is the first time an automated rapid pathogen identification has been reported directly from the RNA of the sample, with no modification or amplification of its genetic source, in about an hour,” said GeneCapture CEO Peggy Sammon. “We envision a future where finding out why you are sick can be solved almost anywhere, in an hour, and without being chained to a lab.”

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The company’s unique disposable cartridge and portable reader platform enables rapid, inexpensive multi-pathogen detection at the point of care. Whether the illness is bacterial, viral, fungal or protozoan, a single test that’s estimated to cost around $20 will pinpoint the cause.

The novel technology consolidates sample prep and molecular signature detection in one plastic cartridge with a one-button portable reader.

The initial molecular binding concept was conceived by researchers at UAH and licensed exclusively to GeneCapture. The co-inventors on the original patent included Dr. Krishnan Chittur, professor emeritus in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering; Dr. Joseph Ng, professor in the Biological Sciences Department; Dr. Mark Pusey, UAH adjunct professor; and Jeff Dowell, who at the time was a student in UAH’s graduate program in Biotechnology Science and Engineering. In 2016, GeneCapture was awarded $100,000 in Alabama Launchpad’s inaugural LEAP Alumni Competition for local start-ups.

The partnership with GeneCapture is an example of a truly groundbreaking technology developed at UAH and being made available for the benefit of all, said Kannan Grant, director of UAH’s Office of Technology Commercialization.

“I would term this as a disruptive technology and not merely an incremental improvement to the current state of the science,” Grant stated.

“UAH research has been at the cutting edge of technology development,” he added. “UAH has always shown responsible stewardship so the fruits of taxpayer-funded research are being made available for public consumption at the earliest possible time.”

Since its founding, the company has filed an additional 11 patents, automated the process in a cartridge, built prototypes and performed successful pre-clinical validation tests. In addition to the commercial applications, the company has been awarded multiple Department of Defense contracts to mature the technology for potential military operational use.

GeneCapture’s CAPTURE PLATFORM has a closed cartridge that accepts a direct sample of urine, blood or a sample from a swab and then concentrates and exposes the pathogen’s RNA fragments to custom DNA probes on an array. Once the RNA is captured, the specific probes activate an optical sensor. The pattern across the array identifies the pathogen. Limits of detection have been validated and are currently clinically relevant for most bacterial infections. They are now being optimized for low-load viral infections.

Infection detection will soon be portable, fast and inexpensive, GeneCapture officials have advised.

“Just as the shift from relying on central computers to desktop and handheld devices enabled entirely new markets, so will decentralized, portable multi-pathogen infection detection enable new point of care markets,” Sammon explained.

A rapid diagnostic solution will fill a critical need, noted Dr. Louise O’Keefe, Ph.D., the director of UAH’s Faculty and Staff Clinic and an advisor to GeneCapture.

“Our industry needs a breakthrough in turnaround time for diagnostic results,” Dr. O’Keefe said. “GeneCapture’s approach will transform the challenges we deal with every day.”

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

4 months ago

Huntsville, Auburn named in list of 100 best places to live for 2020

(Wikicommons, Josh Hallett/Flickr, YHN)

In a world that has been turned upside down by a global pandemic, a pair of Alabama cities have been ranked in 2020 among the 100 best places to live in the United States: Huntsville and Auburn.

For the past seven years, Livability.com has released a data-driven list of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live in America.” Livability crunches 40 data points to come up with the best small- to mid-sized cities in the U.S.

Every year, the list changes; the publication does surveys and studies, adjusts algorithms and adds in new variables and data points. Livibility stated this year’s circumstances that have been taken for granted have been replaced with a new set of questions about where and how we live:

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  • What if you could work remotely and live anywhere?
  • What if paying thousands of dollars a month to live in a big, expensive city wasn’t worth it anymore?
  • What if the things that have always mattered — affordability, opportunity, safety, community — mattered more than ever?

Livability analyzed more than 1,000 small- to mid-sized cities on factors like safety, affordability, economic stability, outdoor recreation, accessibility and community engagement. This year’s list also included a new metric: an “opportunity score” used to determine each city’s landscape of opportunity, including variables like job numbers, broadband access, economic resilience and growth.

All of that data crunching settled on Huntsville and Auburn as two of the top 100 cities.

Huntsville (Population: 205,061)

The publication centered on the city’s notoriety of space.

“Known as the ‘Rocket City,’ Huntsville… has a thriving aerospace industry.”

Huntsville grew to notoriety during the 1960s space race and is now the fastest growing city in Alabama. But it isn’t all out space exploration and rocket science — Huntsville is a diverse city with a great food scene, repurposed buildings and history on every corner, Livability added.

The publication also cited the location of Huntsville’s two research universities  — The University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alabama A&M University.

The website further pointed out that the cost of living in Huntsville is below the national average.

The article outlined specific highlights, such as the economy — with top industries in Huntsville being aerospace and military technology.

Also noted were local amenities:

  • Best Coffee Shop: Alchemy
  • Best Local Beer/Brewery: Yellowhammer Brewing’s Groovy Don’s Groovy IPA is a must-try.
  • Must-Have Meal: The BLT of Curtis Loew from the I Love Bacon Food Truck. Yes — Huntsville has an entire food truck devoted to bacon and it is just as amazing as it sounds.
  • Best Meetup Spot (When Meeting Up Is a Thing Again): Meet up with your group at any of the bars or eateries located inside of Campus 805, the “coolest middle school in the nation.”
  • Creative Hub: Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment is the largest, privately-owned arts facility in the South and the re-worked building now houses 150 working studios for more than 200 artists, seven art galleries, four performance venues, a multi-use theater and restaurants.
  • Favorite Weekend Activity: Huntsville is the craft beer capital of Alabama and the Downtown Huntsville Craft Beer Trail is the best way to sample what the city has to offer. Enjoy any (or all!) of the 11 local breweries on the map, including Rocket Republic BrewingStraight to Ale and Salty Nut Brewery.
  • Local Dream Job: Counselor at Space Camp, because who didn’t dream of being an astronaut when they grow up?

Auburn (Population: 64,620)

Of course, citing Auburn in a comparison of small- to mid-sized cities begins and ends with Auburn University.

The article cites Auburn as one of the best college towns in the South. The article mention it’s also an amazing place to live. This Alabama city is full of small-town charm, cozy traditions and, yes, lots of team spirit. Auburn’s location gives residents quick access to major cities in the surrounding area, like Atlanta, is close to Chewacla State Park and is just a few hours away from the beach. If all that wasn’t enough, the Auburn-Opelika area is one of the fastest-growing metros in the country.

Livability also notes affordable housing, an award-winning school system, and a growing business sector make life in Auburn appealing – not to mention the cultural and sports perks of living in a top college town.

Auburn University is the largest employer, and housing options span from the eclectic downtown and historic neighborhoods to the rapidly growing outskirts and amazing things to do. With courses like The Grand National in Opelika, part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, the area is also known for great golf.

Nationally, the top 10 small- to medium-sized cities were shaped by colder environments:

  • Fort Collins, Colo.
  • Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • Madison, Wisc.
  • Portland, Maine
  • Rochester, N.Y.
  • Ashville, N.C.
  • Overland Park, Kansas
  • Fargo, North, Dakota
  • Durham, N.C.
  • Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News. He is the retired chief of staff to the president at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the former business editor of The Huntsville Times. Ray also served as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives.

1 year ago

Zellner will highlight UAH MLK commemoration

(EMU.edu/Contributed)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday, January 16, at 3 p.m. in Room 112 of the Student Services Building.

Bob Zellner will be the special guest and featured speaker during the commemoration program on the UAH campus. Zellner is the son and grandson of Ku Klux Klan members, but he risked his life – and nearly lost it – many times in the fight to achieve The Second Emancipation.

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As an organizer of The Freedom Rides of 1961 and the first white southerner to serve as field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, Rosa Parks and many other civil rights leaders.

Famous for battles with the KKK, segregationist lynch mobs and violent police, Zellner is now the individual that a new generation turns to with questions on the racial, historical and cultural assumptions on which they were raised, as they ask themselves, “What is my place in this struggle?”

Zellner captivates audiences with the untold stories of the Civil Rights Movement and his dedication to fighting for the rights of others. Drawing on decades of experience guiding the movement and his ongoing active role, he presents a modern-day message for combating deep-seated racism, discrimination and prejudice and sparking widespread social change.

(Courtesy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville)

2 years ago

UAH to host 50th anniversary lunar landing events: Fireworks show will highlight week’s activities

(NASA/Contributed)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) will host a variety of events and activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

UAH has played a key role in America’s space program since Marshall Space Flight Center Director Dr. Wernher von Braun helped create the university’s Research Institute in the early 1960s. Since that time, UAH has become a leading research university in aerospace engineering.

UAH ranks fifth in the nation in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, according to the National Science Foundation. The campus is also 11th in the U.S. in NASA-sponsored research, according to the NSF.

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Anniversary events and activities include:

Sunday, July 14, 2 to 5 p.m.

Open House: UAH M. Louis Salmon Library Special Collections and Archives
The UAH Library Archives and Special Collections invite the north Alabama community to enjoy an afternoon of Apollo history from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event will include behind-the-scenes tours of the archives, a showing of documentary “When We Were Apollo.” The film’s producer Zach Weil will give a brief talk. There will be an opportunity to record personal memories of the Apollo 11 mission and a history exhibit curated by UAH Archives and Special Collections staff. Light refreshments with a 1960s theme will be served. This event is free and open to the public.

July 14-July 31

UAH Library Exhibit: “To Land on the Moon: Huntsville and the Apollo Program.” M. Louis Salmon Library Art Gallery
This exhibit highlights the roles of Huntsville and its inhabitants and their contributions to the early space race and the Apollo program. The majority of the materials on display are housed in UAH Special Collections and Archives.

July 15-19

Unguided Tours: Von Braun Research Hall, UAH campus
The North Alabama community is welcome to take unguided tours of Von Braun Research Hall from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Posters line the walls of VBRH to chronicle the 20 years Dr. Wernher von Braun lived in Huntsville. Copies of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s speech to the Alabama Legislature creating the UAH Research Institute will be available.

July 19, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Radio Interview: UAH Head of Special Collections Reagan Grimsley talks Space History on Science Friday, on WLRH Radio 89.3 FM/HD and nationwide on National Public Radio.
Listen in as Science Friday host Ira Flatow interviews Reagan Grimsley, of UAH Special Collections and U.S. Space and Rocket Center Curator Ed Stewart on the topic of collecting space history. Segment was pre-taped on May 21 and will be broadcast as part of Science Friday’s Apollo 50th anniversary programming.

Saturday, July 20

Fireworks Display: UAH campus – 50th anniversary of the lunar landing
A fireworks show beginning at 8:30 p.m. will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. The North Alabama community is invited to park on the UAH campus for the show, which is expected to last 10 minutes.

(Courtesy the University of Alabama in Huntsville)