What happened to Space City USA theme park? UAH MBA students give theories

Space City USA

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — In the early 1960s, a fantastic Disney-style park was under construction between Huntsville and Madison beside Lady Ann Lake.

Space City USA would have a skyway ride, lunar restaurant, glass-bottom boat, floating amphitheater, mini volcano and simulated moon colony, plus sky-is-the-limit potential for tourism. After a brief period of celebrity endorsement and public fascination, it spiraled into financial free-fall, declaring bankruptcy and finally auctioning assets in 1967.

A March 18 story in The Times told of the theme park’s exciting early days and eventual decline into a local history footnote.

Dr. J.P. Ballenger decided Space City’s failure would make a good topic for his graduate students in the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s summer Project Management class. Ballenger called the park failure a “perfect case study” because it was “local, very interesting, and its failure was listed as ‘mysterious.’”

Those students, most working toward an MBA, spent weeks coming up with diagrams, timelines, stock records, park comparisons and Power-Point presentations to support conclusions in several key areas.

UAH class

Their thoughts on the long-defunct park are just theories, of course, but are from teams of highly educated students who used modern management ideas to form the best guesses in 45 years about why a $5 million idea fizzled.

Among the questions: Was it too ambitious? Was the land too challenging? Was weather a factor? Was there too much competition?

In short, yes.

Highlights of their findings

Weather

• According to National Weather Service records, in January 1964 just as park construction began, Huntsville recorded a record 17.1-inch snowfall that stayed on the ground seven days.

• A record 23.3 inches of rain fell March and April, surely causing construction delays.

• January 1966 saw a record-setting 11 degrees below zero and 7 inches of snow.

Project management

• There seemed to be a lack of organizational direction and scope

• The decision-making process was not agreed upon

• Preliminary designs and economic studies should have been done before construction

• Project leaders had no experience in theme parks

Finances

• No deep pockets, Space City operated as a “pay as you go scheme”

• They bought an expensive train before developing critical park infrastructure

• There was too much reliance on stock sales

• Focus was split: Was the idea to generate investors or attract customers?

• “They grossly underestimated the cost.”

• “We doubt that Space City would have had the money available needed to make the changes to its rides” in the future.

Public relations

• Modern surveys show people go to theme parks for fun, not education.

• Where was Dr. Wernher von Braun, who could have helped sell the idea? “Working with Disney.”

• “They haven’t built a brand,” like Walt Disney with his mouse and castles

• Organizers spent “way too much money” printing brochures and going places for research.

• Disney was able to partner with ABC to finance his parks.

• “They already had a Space City, if you will, in Disneyland.”

Construction

• The 850-acre site was swampy and filled with tree stumps.

• “They should have done it in phases.”

• Potential flooding issues were never addressed

• “The land was a larger problem than they ever thought it would be.”

The class professor said the students’ report “far exceeded my expectations.

“In general, what they determined was that Space City was ‘living hand to mouth,’ depended almost totally on stock sales, and lacked adequate initial financing, when compared to other similar amusement parks of that era,” he summarized.

“Space City investors did not have the deep pockets of Walt Disney or others like him to bail them out when troubles arose,” said Ballenger, an associate research professor and director of the UAH Center for the Management of Science and Technology.

“Project leadership suffered, initial project planning (budget and schedule) appeared to be lacking, and what appeared to be ‘fast tracked’ construction was hampered by extremely bad weather,” Ballenger said.

Still, the idea of a big theme park in Huntsville captured the students’ imaginations, just as drawings of rocket rides, a moon colony and a spewing volcano dazzled young people in the early 1960s.

“It would have been a great park to have been placed here in Huntsville,” one student said wistfully in his presentation.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/08/what_happened_to_space_city_us.html

Hurricane Isaac gives boost to already increasing gasoline prices

Gasoline prices

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – It didn’t take Hurricane Isaac coming ashore Tuesday as a Category 1 hurricane for gasoline prices to increase, according to Matt Neighbors of Huntsville.

“They could say the wind was blowing too hard and raise it,” Neighbors said as he pumped gasoline at $3.79 a gallon into his Dodge Journey sport utility vehicle this morning.

Gasoline prices shot up a nickel per gallon on Wednesday — the largest one day increase in 18 months — after Isaac unleashed its fury on the Gulf Coast. That means prices increased by nearly a dime in the week after weather watchers began tracking Isaac as a tropical storm.

Gasoline prices had been climbing before Isaac came along because refineries had started cutting back on production of the more expensive summer blend of gasoline in anticipation of switching to the winter blend on Sept. 15, said Fred Rozell, director of retail pricing with the Oil Price Information Service.

The reduction in production of the summer blend reduced gasoline inventories and drove up prices, Rozell said.

When Isaac headed to the Gulf, oil companies closed their refineries and drilling rigs in the area as a precaution, Rozell said. The closings reduced refining capacity by 1.3 million barrels daily, which threatened gasoline supplies.

“That got the traders excited and the prices went up,” he said.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Huntsville today was $3.625 compared to $3.535 a week earlier, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The average price was $3.241 a month earlier and was $3.516 a year ago.

The price of gasoline increased more in the Great Lakes area Wednesday than in the Gulf Coast states, Rozell said. Prices jumped as much as 14 cents per gallon Wednesday because of the closing of a pipeline in Louisiana that serves several Midwest refineries.

Oil Price Information Service said that Wednesday’s 5-cent price increase was the 10th largest one-day increase in history. Rozell said gasoline prices spiked more after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The average price shot up 40 cents in six days after Katrina.

“I think they’ll use any excuse they can to go up,” Neighbors said. “The prices are controlled overseas. It’s gotten so expensive.”

Anna Petroff was also at the Chevron Food Mart on Drake Avenue on Thursday gassing up her Mini Cooper. She said she doesn’t like paying more for gasoline, but gasoline prices are less a concern to her than her health insurance costs.

“I’m not paying as much for gas each month as I am my health insurance,” she said, adding that she’s lucky because her car gets 40 miles per gallon.

Higher gas prices are forcing Labor Day holiday weekend travelers to dig deeper in their wallets for a last trip to close out the summer.

But, good news on the gasoline price front may be right around the corner.

The refineries and oil rigs closed as a precaution for Isaac will start ramping up production and will be “up and running in a few days,” Rozell said.

On Sept. 15, the refineries will switch to producing the cheaper winter blend, he said.

“I think we’ll be paying much less by the end of the month,” Rozell said.

Oil Price Information Service is an independent company that publishes and tracks wholesale and retail petroleum prices.

To leave a comment or question about traffic or roads, contact Keith Clines at 256-532-4236, email keith.clines@htimes.com, tweet @KeithClines or fax 256-532-4420.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/08/isaac_gives_boost_to_already_i.html

Area shoppers, stores staring Isaac down

MOBILE, Alabama — The midtown Winn-Dixie might be shutting down early Tuesday as Hurricane Isaac meanders toward a coastal Louisiana landfall, but local shoppers can rest assured the shelves will be stocked with essential post-storm supplies Wednesday morning.

“We really aren’t out of anything, and especially not the essentials: bread and water, milk and eggs. The last couple of days have been crazy, crazy, but the store’s stayed pretty well stocked,” said Heath Edwards, store director.

Carolyn Greeley stopped in for a bag of charcoal and a case of beer after an early release from work.

“We really are ready for this one, so it’s just down to getting these last-minute little things,” Greeley said, stashing the charcoal next to a first-aid kit and a weather radio in her trunk.

Edwards said the store is working toward closing its doors at 6 p.m. to allow employees ample time to get home safely ahead of the storm’s brunt, but the actual closing time is within his discretion.

“If business warrants it, we’ll stay open as long as we can, but I’m authorized to stay open as long as conditions are safe and I have the employees we need,” he said.

Patrons can expect the doors to re-open a little late on Wednesday around 8 a.m., but Edwards said – again – that time is a little fluid.

Martin Davis, who was stocking up on cans of tuna fish and powdered energy drinks, said he is only being cautious and does not expect to be stranded or without utilities because of Isaac.

“We’ve seen much worse around here. But it never hurts to be prepared,” Davis said.

Heading west, some businesses were booming, in spite of a heavy wave of rain at 4 p.m.

The Winn Dixie on Government and Catherine Streets was hopping with business, but closes tonight at 6 p.m. A line of cars circled around the Popeye’s chicken restaurant at the Loop. A woman could be seen inside Nouveau Salon and Day Spa getting her hair done.

Bel-Air Mall and Springdale Mall were closed. But there were a couple of dozen cars at Target. Toys R Us and Fresh Market on Airport Boulevard were welcoming patrons. And the Wal-Mart and Lowe’s off the Interstate 65 Beltline were absolutely packed.

Several restaurants along nearby, including Morrison’s, Logan’s, O’Charley’s, Wings and the Boiling Pot were open. And an 18-wheeler was pulling into Panera Bread to make a food delivery.

______

Rena Havner-Philips contributed to this report.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/08/area_shoppers_stores_staring_i.html

AMVAC expansion gets tax breaks from Mobile County

axis.jpgAmerican Vanguard operates the AMVAC plant out of a E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., owned facility, seen in this file photo. (Photo courtesy of DuPont)

MOBILE, Alabama — The Mobile County Industrial Development Authority has approved local tax abatements for a $9.92 million project at the AMVAC Chemical Corp. plant in Axis.

A wholly owned subsidiary of agriculture products company American Vanguard Corp., AMVAC said it will spend about $6.59 million to expand its equipment and about $922,000 for building upgrades.

The project will create 21 jobs in Mobile County and workers should earn about $54,000 a year, benefits included, said Claudia Zimmermann, director of economic development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.

American Vanguard operates the plant out of a E. I. DuPont de Nemours and Co.- owned facility.

The expansion is already underway, with production expected to start at the end of this year.

The Mobile County IDA approved about $476,000 in non-educational property tax abatements over the next 10 years for AMVAC.

Last month, AMVAC began production at its new cotton defoliant unit at the company’s Axis plant.

AMVAC added about 10 jobs at the plant based on the new unit, which will produce the defoliant Folex 6 EC, used in cotton production to aid harvesting.

About 200 full-time and 30 part-time employees work at the plant, which manufactures about 10 major agriculture and farming chemicals and packages an additional six. AMVAC has added 60 jobs to the facility so far this year.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/08/amvac_expansion_gets_tax_break.html

Unemployment rates up in Mobile and Baldwin Counties

MOBILE, Alabama — Mobile and Baldwin residents found it harder to find work in June, according to the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations.

The unemployment rate in Mobile County rose to 10 percent in June, up from 8.6 percent in May, but down from 11 percent a year earlier. June’s numbers represent more than 19,300 Mobilian’s seeking jobs

In Baldwin County, the unemployment rose to 7.7 percent from 6.7 percent in May, but dropped from 8.5 percent in June 2011. The 7.7 percent rate represents about 6,700 jobless people.

The unemployment rate can fall for two reasons — either more people get jobs, or fewer people are actively looking for work, said Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University Montgomery.

Deravi said June is the high season in Mobile and Baldwin counties for tourism and a high number of people may have traveled to the area to find a limited number of jobs.

“Mobile County is one of the most diversified counties in the state,” he said. “There may be more people relocating there than the rest of the state. There’s a more attractive business market for people to relocate themselves to in hopes of finding a job.”

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 7.8 percent, from 7.4 percent in May and 9.3 percent in June 2011. The jobless rate represented 168,775 people seeking work in Alabama.

Industrial Relations Director Tom Surtees said the unemployment rate increased in the state because more people were seeking work as the summer break began in June.

“Just as with last month, we are experiencing an expected, seasonal increase in the labor force,” he said in a statement. “People looking for summer work as well as teachers and education employees who are not working over the summer are entering the job market.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2012/07/unemployment_rates_up_in_mobil.html

Birmingham’s 2013 50th Anniversary Civil Rights Celebration offers chance to show world the city has put its racist past behind it, lawyer says


J. Mason Davis.jpgJ. Mason Davis, who in the 1960s defended blacks accused of violating racist Jim Crow laws, said the 2013 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the civil rights events of 1963 is a chance for Birmingham to show racial progress made in the city.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama–Birmingham’s 50th anniversary remembrance in 2013 of the civil rights events of 1963 is a great opportunity to show the world how the city has put its racist past behind it, Birmingham lawyer J. Mason Davis told members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham Wednesday.

“When I came back to Birmingham in 1959 after getting my law degree, Birmingham was probably the most segregated city in America,” Davis said during a luncheon address at the Harbert Center downtown. “Birmingham has made a lot of progress.”

   Davis talked to the Rotarians about Davenport Harris Funeral Home, Alabama’s oldest black-owned family business. It was founded in Birmingham in 1899 by Davis’ grandfather, Charles “Boss” Harris, and his sibling, Harriet Davenport. The company is now run by the fifth-generation of the family.

   After the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Davenport Harris handled the funeral of two of the four girls killed, Denise McNair and Carole Robertson, Davis said. He also shared stories of two other major events in which the funeral home, including handling the funeral in the 1920s of 120 blacks killed during a stampede inside a black church after the crowd thought someone had yelled “fire.”

   Davis said Birmingham began to move toward an inclusive city in the late 1960s after the city adopted a mayor-council form of government, going away from a commissioner form of government ruled by Police Eugene “Bull” Connor, an avowed racist who ordered firehoses turned on black children marching peacefully downtown in 1963.

  Though segregation laws that required separate bathrooms for blacks and whites and denied blacks access to restaurants used by whites were ended, Davis said Birmingham began returning to segregated lifestyles when whites bolted the city for the suburbs.

   “That left Birmingham’s schools segregated, a problem that continues to exist today,” Davis said. “If we want to fix Birmingham’s schools, we need to stop having them segregated.”

   Asked after his address what advice he’d give young blacks, Davis said working hard opens the door to opportunity. He told of how he earned his legal stripes as a young lawyer during the 1960s as a civil rights lawyer defending blacks arrested for protesting Birmingham’s racist Jim Crow laws, then in 1972 became the first black adjunct professor at the University of Alabama, where he taught for 25 years.” My advice to young blacks is simple: work hard,” Davis said.

Birmingham’s 50th anniversary remembrance in 2013 of the civil rights events of 1963 is a great opportunity to show the world how it has put its racist past behind it, Birmingham lawyer J. Mason Davis told members of the Rotary Club of Birmingham Thursday.

“When I came back to Birmingham in 1959 after getting my law degree, Birmingham was probably the most segregated city in America,” Davis said during a luncheon address at the Harbert Center downtown. “Birmingham has made a lot of progress.”

Davis talked to the Rotarians about Davenport Harris Funeral Home, Alabama’s oldest black-owned family business. It was founded in Birmingham in 1899 by Davis’ grandfather, Charles “Boss” Harris, and his sibling, Harriet Davenport. The company is now run by the fifth-generation of the family.

   After the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Davenport Harris handled the funeral of two of the four girls killed, Denise McNair and Carole Robertson, Davis said. He also shared stories of two other major events in which the funeral home, including handling the funeral in the 1920s of 120 blacks killed during a stampede inside a black church.

   A crowd of 1,000 was packed inside the Birmingham church to hear educator Booker T. Washington speak when a fight broke out. The stampede occurred when a woman yelled “fight” and the crowd panicked, thinking she had yelled ”fire.”

   Davis said Birmingham began to move toward an inclusive city in the late 1960s after the city adopted a mayor-council form of government, going away from a commissioner form of government ruled by Police Eugene “Bull” Connor, an avowed racist who ordered firehoses turned on black children marching peacefully downtown in 1963.

Though segregation laws that required separate bathrooms for blacks and whites and denied blacks access to restaurants used by whites were ended, Davis said Birmingham began returning to segregated lifestyles when whites bolted the city for the suburbs.

“That left Birmingham’s schools segregated, a problem that continues to exist today,” Davis said. “If we want to fix Birmingham’s schools, we need to stop having them segregated.”

Asked after his address what advice he’d give young blacks, Davis said working hard opens the door to opportunity. He told of how he earned his legal stripes as a young lawyer during the 1960s as a civil rights lawyer defending blacks arrested for protesting Birmingham’s racist Jim Crow laws, then in 1972 became the first black adjunct professor at the University of Alabama, where he taught for 25 years.

” My advice to young blacks is simple: work hard,” Davis said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/08/birminghams_2013_50th_annivers.html

Alabama Power Co. sends crews to Mississippi to aid in Isaac recovery

isaac.jpgA Waveland, Miss., resident wades through storm waters left by Isaac. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Alabama Power Co. today sent 390 employees to Mississippi to help Entergy Mississippi with storm recovery efforts.

More than 1 million households in Mississippi and Louisiana are without power in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, which was downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall.

Among the crews Alabama Power has sent to assist in Mississippi are 297 power line crew personnel and 93 support and logistics employees.

“The crews will be coming from all across the state of Alabama, except for the Mobile area where our crews will still be dealing with the possibility of outages from secondary storms,” Alabama Power said in a prepared statement.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/08/alabama_power_co_sends_crews_t.html

Alabama Tourism Director: Despite Isaac, Gulf Coast beaches in good shape, ready for Labor Day travelers

lee sentell.JPGAlabama Tourism Department head Lee Sentell says Hurricane Isaac caused lots of rain, but Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are ready to welcome Labor Day visitors this weekend.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama–Alabama Tourism Department Director Lee Sentell had a message today for vacationers planning to visit Gulf Shores or Orange Beach this weekend: The state’s beaches came through Hurricane Isaac relatively unscathed and are ready for Labor Day travelers.

“Many people in Alabama following the storm were concerned about what happened at the beach,” Lee Sentell told members of the Rotary Club of Homewood during a luncheon today at the Homewood Public Library on Oxmoor Road.

   “The good news is that despite getting a lot of rain, the beaaches are all cleaned up now and they are expecting a great weekend in terms of visitors,” Sentell said.

    Other beach destinations in the Florida Panhandle are also trying to encourage vacationers not to cancel planned Labor Day weekend visits.

“For our area it was more of a non-event, still, people who had planned a beach trip are cancelling their reservations,” said Gina Gregory, spokeswoman for nearby Navarre Beach and Santa Rosa County, Fla. “We are breathing a sigh of relief now that Hurricane Isaac has moved on and are thankful that all the storm brought was some rain, wind and high surf to our area.”

  Several music festivals and other Labor Day events will take place in Baldwin County this weekend to entice folks looking for an end of summer vacation, Sentell said. Former Alabama football player Bob Baumhower, who owns two restaurants in Orange Beach, is planning to host a tailgate party  between the two eateries with a big TV screen showing the Alabama-Michigan game Saturday night.

  “It will be the first chance people get to take advantage of the new Alabama Entertainment District Law allowing people to walk in public places with open (alcohol) containers,” Sentell said.

    Sentell, state tourism director since 2003, said Alabama’s beaches have bounced back nicely from the 2010 BP oil spill, hitting a record $10 billion in tourism spending last year.

“Over the last 10 years, tourism has grown 60 percent in Alabama,” he said. “Gulf Shores is up 20 percent over last year, which was already a record year.”

   Sentell credits Alabama’s tourism marketing campaign featuring commercials produced by Birmingham’s Luckie Co. and financed in part by $15 million that BP gave the state to help promote the beaches in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon BP oil spilll. He said the success of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail has also made the state a destination for golfers across the country.

   “When Dr. David Bronner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama first talked of starting a golf trail in Alabama, people laughed at him,” Sentell said. “But it has been a huge success.”

   During the Homewood Rotary Club meeting, Sentell talked about the ”100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” campaign, which was updated over the past year. Nabeel’s, a Greek Homewood restaurant that catered the Rotary meeting for free today, is the only Alabama restaurant to have two items on the list — Camel Rider sandwich and Moussaka, an egg plant dish.

Nabeel’s owner John Krontiras said the 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” campaign has boosted business for the restaurant. “It has helped raise our public profile and brought in new customers,” he said.

 Alabama’s themed-year campaigns, which have included Year of Alabama Small Towns, Year of Alabama Outdoors and Year of  Alabama Food,  continue to win national acclaim. “This Tuesday, we won a national award for our Year of Alabama Music, the fourth time over the past five years that we’ve won best statewide campaign in the country,” Sentell said.

    The tourism department is currently working on a ”100 Alabama Road Trips” brochure and campaign,  promoting short weekend vacation trips across the state. Despite its growth, Sentell said Alabama’s beach tourism industry  continues to be hampered by lack of a convention complex large enough to accommodate major business meetings and conventions.

“Alabama loses $200 million to $300 million in business every year to state associations and businesses that hold meetings in Florida due to our lack of space,” he said.

After the Rotary meeting, Sentell said there are early discussions taking place seeking to attract a major convention complex to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach.   

“Right now we have a robust summer vacation business but things slow down a bit in the spring and fall convention season due to lack of accommodations,” Sentell said. “Once we have enough space, other attractions for families and business travelers will come.”       

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2012/08/alabama_tourism_director_despi.html

U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes event in Huntsville brings together job hunters, employers

Hiring Our Heroes job fair

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — Twenty-eight-year-old Daniel McCormick spent six years in the Air Force, with deployments in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during his service.

Now he’s looking for post-military employment, preferably in the acquisitions and contract management field.

“It’s been tough,” said McCormick, a resident of Lincoln County, Tenn., who’s managing a cattle farm as he finishes up an associate’s degree in business from Calhoun Community College before pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Athens State University.

“It seems like it’s getting better because I’ve had a few calls back,” said McCormick as he made the rounds at a Hiring Our Heroes job fair this morning at the Huntsville Marriott. The hallways and conference rooms were lined with tables set up by nearly 70 employers that were taking resumes and handing out their brochures.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation launched Hiring Our Heroes, an initiative to help veterans and military spouses find jobs, in March 2011 The foundation works with a network of 1,600 state and local chambers and other partners in the public, private and non-profit sectors in the effort.

“This has been a good opportunity to meet face to face” with company representatives, said McCormick, “and be able to hand a resume to someone.”

Ernie Lombardi, the Southeastern Region associate with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was pleased with the response to the hiring fair. Sixty-seven employers had pre-registered for the event, and 256 job seekers had pre-registered, he said.

“We want these men and women hired, that’s the bottom line” of the campaign, he said. Hiring veterans and military spouses “is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. They bring so much to the table.”

Arthur King, 47, of Huntsville, who served with the Army for nearly eight years, is job hunting after recently being laid off from a car dealership.

“I’m looking to get into an apprenticeship program,” said King, who was close to getting an engineering degree and received a degree in communication arts. “I think I need some retraining. I want to put myself in position to build a career I can stay in.”

The Huntsville job fair was one of four Hiring Our Heroes events nationwide scheduled today.

The goal is to host 400 job fairs in the program’s second year, said Bryan Goettel, director of communications for Hiring Our Heroes. “We’re well on pace to meet that goal.

“To date, we’ve had more than 10,400 veterans and military spouses hired.”

The Hiring Our Heroes quarterly report states that the national unemployment rates last year were 12.1 percent for post-9/11 veterans, 29.1 percent for veterans under 25 years old and 26 percent for military spouses – with 1 million more service members and military families preparing to re-enter the civilian workforce over the next five years.

“Having this Hiring Our Heroes event in Huntsville is a tremendous win/win/win,” said Will Webb, the co-founder and president of Still Serving Veterans in Huntsville. “It is a win for our hero veterans because meaningful new careers are critical as they transition into post-military lives. It will also be a win for our community and employers who will benefit from the expertise, talent and values such as leadership, loyalty, teamwork, judgment and mission accomplishments that veterans bring to companies’ bottom lines.”

The event will also give U.S. Chamber of Commerce personnel a chance to visit this “patriotic, veteran-friendly community,” Webb said.

The job fair was also a chance for businesses to recruit workers.

Spring Lake, N.C.-based RLM Communications has plans to open a Huntsville office here late this year or early next year.

So the timing of the job fair was perfect for Van Milne, the director of the Huntsville office.

“We’ll have a presence here” as of Oct. 1, he said. “We’re looking for all kinds of people – IT, information assurance, cyber security (professionals), trainers, engineers, logisticians.”

Decatur residents Michael Cole, 26, and Andrea Malone, 25, also came to the fair, looking for some job leads.

“It’s hard to find a job,” said Cole, who was with the 699th Maintenance Company in Fort Irwin, Calif., and served in the Army for three years. He had just stopped by a Huntsville Police Department booth with Malone, who was with the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade in Fort Hood, Texas, and served for five years in the Army. Malone was looking for job openings in human resources, the field in which she previously worked.

“In Decatur, nobody’s hiring really,” said Cole. “I’m here looking for anything.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/08/us_chamber_of_commerces_hiring.html

What happened to Space City USA theme park? UAH MBA students give theories

Space City USA

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — In the early 1960s, a fantastic Disney-style park was under construction between Huntsville and Madison beside Lady Ann Lake.

Space City USA would have a skyway ride, lunar restaurant, glass-bottom boat, floating amphitheater, mini volcano and simulated moon colony, plus sky-is-the-limit potential for tourism. After a brief period of celebrity endorsement and public fascination, it spiraled into financial free-fall, declaring bankruptcy and finally auctioning assets in 1967.

A March 18 story in The Times told of the theme park’s exciting early days and eventual decline into a local history footnote.

Dr. J.P. Ballenger decided Space City’s failure would make a good topic for his graduate students in the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s summer Project Management class. Ballenger called the park failure a “perfect case study” because it was “local, very interesting, and its failure was listed as ‘mysterious.’”

Those students, most working toward an MBA, spent weeks coming up with diagrams, timelines, stock records, park comparisons and Power-Point presentations to support conclusions in several key areas.

UAH class

Their thoughts on the long-defunct park are just theories, of course, but are from teams of highly educated students who used modern management ideas to form the best guesses in 45 years about why a $5 million idea fizzled.

Among the questions: Was it too ambitious? Was the land too challenging? Was weather a factor? Was there too much competition?

In short, yes.

Highlights of their findings

Weather

• According to National Weather Service records, in January 1964 just as park construction began, Huntsville recorded a record 17.1-inch snowfall that stayed on the ground seven days.

• A record 23.3 inches of rain fell March and April, surely causing construction delays.

• January 1966 saw a record-setting 11 degrees below zero and 7 inches of snow.

Project management

• There seemed to be a lack of organizational direction and scope

• The decision-making process was not agreed upon

• Preliminary designs and economic studies should have been done before construction

• Project leaders had no experience in theme parks

Finances

• No deep pockets, Space City operated as a “pay as you go scheme”

• They bought an expensive train before developing critical park infrastructure

• There was too much reliance on stock sales

• Focus was split: Was the idea to generate investors or attract customers?

• “They grossly underestimated the cost.”

• “We doubt that Space City would have had the money available needed to make the changes to its rides” in the future.

Public relations

• Modern surveys show people go to theme parks for fun, not education.

• Where was Dr. Wernher von Braun, who could have helped sell the idea? “Working with Disney.”

• “They haven’t built a brand,” like Walt Disney with his mouse and castles

• Organizers spent “way too much money” printing brochures and going places for research.

• Disney was able to partner with ABC to finance his parks.

• “They already had a Space City, if you will, in Disneyland.”

Construction

• The 850-acre site was swampy and filled with tree stumps.

• “They should have done it in phases.”

• Potential flooding issues were never addressed

• “The land was a larger problem than they ever thought it would be.”

The class professor said the students’ report “far exceeded my expectations.

“In general, what they determined was that Space City was ‘living hand to mouth,’ depended almost totally on stock sales, and lacked adequate initial financing, when compared to other similar amusement parks of that era,” he summarized.

“Space City investors did not have the deep pockets of Walt Disney or others like him to bail them out when troubles arose,” said Ballenger, an associate research professor and director of the UAH Center for the Management of Science and Technology.

“Project leadership suffered, initial project planning (budget and schedule) appeared to be lacking, and what appeared to be ‘fast tracked’ construction was hampered by extremely bad weather,” Ballenger said.

Still, the idea of a big theme park in Huntsville captured the students’ imaginations, just as drawings of rocket rides, a moon colony and a spewing volcano dazzled young people in the early 1960s.

“It would have been a great park to have been placed here in Huntsville,” one student said wistfully in his presentation.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2012/08/what_happened_to_space_city_us.html