Huntsville maintains top AAA credit rating from Wall Street in advance of $107M bond issue

Randy Taylor square crop.jpgView full sizeHuntsville Finance Director Randy Taylor. (File photo) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama - Huntsville continues to enjoy a stellar reputation with the Wall Street credit rating agencies.

Standard Poor’s on Monday awarded the city its top AAA credit rating in advance of a $107 million bond issue to pay for new schools, wider roads and other public projects. Moody’s Investors Service assigned Huntsville its best-possible Aaa rating on Oct. 18.

Huntsville has maintained its AAA rating since February 2009. In their most recent reports, both Moody’s and SP say the Rocket City has a stable economic outlook.

City Finance Director Randy Taylor said the AAA rating is both a measure of Huntsville’s economic strength and city government’s financial management.

“Clearly, we’ve worked hard for it,” Taylor told AL.com Tuesday. “We’ve tried to put policies in place that insulate the city from economic risk and also use taxpayer dollars wisely.”

Mayor Tommy Battle and the Huntsville City Council deserve credit for “holding (tax dollars) back and taking positions that protect the city,” he said.

Moody’s said its rating reflects Huntsville’s “strong regional tax base and position as a major economic engine for northern Alabama,” as well as a “stabilized financial position with satisfactory reserve levels.”

The city’s existing debt load is “above-average but manageable,” Moody’s said.

Just 213 cities nationwide boasted SP’s AAA credit rating as of September 2012. Huntsville was the only one in Alabama. There were four in Tennessee (Brentwood, Franklin, Germantown and Bartlett) and three in Georgia (Alpharetta, Peachtree City and Roswell). Mississippi had no AAA-rated cites as of last fall.

Cities with a stellar credit rating command the lowest interest rates when borrowing money for new schools, roads and other projects.

In the coming days, Huntsville intends to borrow about $80 million for Huntsville City Schools and $27 million more for city projects including a new downtown connector road off Governors Drive, extending Weatherly Road to the future Grissom High School site, and relocating Fire Station No. 6 from Airport Road to Drake Avenue.

In addition to rebuilding Grissom, the city school system plans to construct a new northwest Huntsville high school on Pulaski Pike to replace 41-year-old Johnson High.

The school board recently voted to name the new high school for Decatur-born astronaut Dr. Mae Carol Jemison – a move that has angered Johnson High School students, alumni and supporters.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/huntsville_maintains_top_aaa_c.html

‘Bridge to nowhere’ at Providence in west Huntsville will now lead to hundreds of high-end homes

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Once ridiculed as a “bridge to nowhere,” a $900,000 road across Indian Creek in west Huntsville will soon lead to hundreds of new, high-end homes.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and other local dignitaries gathered Tuesday afternoon to mark the start of construction on the latest phase of 53 homes at the Village of Providence.

Brothers David and Todd Slyman, who founded Providence in 2003, plan to create another 400-plus residential lots over time in what is now a wooded area across Indian Creek from the Town Center.

Crews have already started clearing land and installing sewer pipes. Todd Slyman said he expects the first homes to begin rising in January. They will start at about $250,000, he said.

Tuesday’s “Bridge to Progress” groundbreaking ceremony was a tongue-in-cheek reference to an infamous Battle campaign speech. In September 2008, Battle criticized then-Mayor Loretta Spencer for spending $900,000 on a “bridge to nowhere” at Providence.

Until recently, the two-lane span ended at the tree line on the far side of Indian Creek. It will now tie the existing part of Providence to future phases of the live-work-play development.

“The bridge that some had once said goes to nowhere now goes somewhere,” said Battle. “It will provide a place for future Huntsvillians to live, and for the community to grow.”

Battle credited the Slyman brothers for having the vision 10 years ago to turn a cotton field on the city’s western fringes into “a true urban center for the whole community.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/bridge_to_nowhere_in_west_hunt.html

Huntsville, Montgomery among top 10 places for veterans to find jobs after service

The Huntsville and Montgomery metros areas made list of the top 10 best places for veterans to find jobs after leaving the armed forces, according to Sperling’s Best Places.

big spring parkBig Spring International Park in downtown Huntsville. (File photo by Bob Gathany/bgathany@al.com)

USAA Insurance, Hiring Our Heroes partnered with Sperling’s to determine measurable variables for 379 major U.S. metropolitan areas, which are defined as one or more central cities including the surrounding county or counties.

The list was then divided into three levels of metro areas. Huntsville and Montgomery are in the Medium Metro level and were ranked against areas with a population of 175,000 to 500,000.

Montgomery RiverwalkMontgomery’s Riverwalk Park. (City of Montgomery website)

Huntsville was ranked fifth and Montgomery was ranked ninth.

The variables included the ranking:

  • Military skill-related jobs
  • Unemployment rate
  • Number of government jobs
  • Volume of DoD contracts
  • Recent job growth
  • Health resources
  • Presence of colleges/universities
  • VA hospitals

Each of the variables was weighted, and each metro area was then ranked based on its total points for all variables.

Metro areas with the following attributes were excluded from the list: unemployment rate more than 1 percent above the national average and median cost of living more than 10 percent above the national average. The top 10 percent of metro areas with the highest violent crime rate also were excluded.

The Medium Market Top 10

  1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  2. Lexington, Ky.
  3. Gainesville, Fla.
  4. Lincoln, Neb.
  5. Huntsville
  6. Roanoke, Va.
  7. Fayetteville, Ark.
  8. Lansing, Mich.
  9. Montgomery,
  10. Asheville, N.C.

Houston, Dallas and Minneapolis led the list of top large metro areas (more than  500,000). Columbia, Mo., Billings, Mont., and La Crosse, Wis., led the list of top small metro areas (less than 175,000).

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/huntsville_montgomery_among_to.html

Chief of Naval Operations: Sequestration will not affect Austal’s existing LCS and JHSV contracts


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Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle (L) and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Johnathan Greenert, discuss sequestration and how it will affect Austal’s Mobile shipyard, Feb. 22, 2013 in Mobile, Ala. (al.com/ Ellen Mitchell)


 

MOBILE, Alabama — Sequestration cuts will not affect Austal USA’s 10-ship, $1.6 billion joint high-speed vessel contract with the U.S. Navy, nor will it affect its contract to build five 127-meter littoral combat ships, according to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Johnathan Greenert.

During a tour of the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile today, Greenert said sequestration cuts will not affect projects that are already under contract, including Austal’s JHSV and LCS Navy deals.

“Sequestration will impact every single program; it requires a cut in every budget line,” Greenert said. “However, all those ships here that are under contract will not be affected, but we’ll have to move some money within the program line.”

Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said Austal is optimistic that it’s providing a low cost
solution to the Navy, and does not expect any job cuts from
sequestration in regards to Austal’s existing Navy contracts.

“All
of our focus right now is delivering a great quality product to our
customer and that’s what we can control,” he said. “We’re confident,
based on the feedback that we’re getting from our customer, that we’re
stable on the contracts we have going forward.”

Standing alongside Perciavalle, Greenert addressed sequestration concerns, recent LCS criticisms and the future of the Navy’s partnership with Austal.

In a Bloomberg article released this week, critics inside the Navy referred to the LCS as the “Little Crappy Ship.” The article also discussed the debate over how vulnerable the LCS may be to attack, and cited numerous problems with the newly built vessels, including a six-inch crack in the hull of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s USS Freedom that had to be repaired, and “aggressive” corrosion in the propulsion area of Austal’s USS Independence.

Greenert said despite the LCS coming under fire recently for its design and cost, he’s looking forward to the Navy’s use of the ship.

“The Freedom and the Independence have proven their worth for the design of the ship,” he said. “Some folks felt that the ship should be used for missions or for capabilities which it frankly will not do. Some folks will put it in a situation and say ‘it’s not made for this, it won’t do well in this.’ I would acknowledge that.”

Greenert went on to say that the Navy has intentions to operate the ship in conjunction with other, larger ships, so he’s very optimistic that the ship will do well.

Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland and Austal Ltd., based in Henderson, Australia, build two separate versions of the LCS. The dual sets of ships were meant to get them built faster, at a rate of four a year rather than two a year.

Lockheed makes a steel-bodied version in partnership with Marinette Marine Corp., at Marinette’s yard in Marinette, Wis., while Austal makes an aluminum version in partnership with Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics Corp. under a 10-ship, $3.5 billion contract. The estimated price to build each LCS is $440 million.

The LCS is intended to perform missions such as destroying mines, hunting submarines, interdicting drugs and providing humanitarian relief.

“As a customer, I’m here to check out the wares that we buy,” Greenert said of his shipyard tour. “I’m very impressed with what I’ve seen. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve got a lot of capacity for future building.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2013/02/chief_of_naval_operations_sequ.html

Alabama State Port Authority: Shipping report for Feb 24


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The MSC LAURA docks at APM Terminals Mobile, June 4, 2012 in Mobile, Ala. (Photo courtesy of the Alabama State Port Authority)


 

MOBILE, Alabama — The Alabama State Port Authority provides its weekly port activity report, including ship departures and arrivals for the next week.

Departure and arrival dates, vessel name, berth, destination and cargo are provided below. Look for the report here on al.com each Sunday.

Arrivals:

Feb. 23: OSTENDE MAX; ASD MCDUFFIE 2; NEW ORLEANS; BULK CARGO

Feb. 23: INTERLINK ACUITY; ASD PIER SOUTH D 1; ORANJESTAD, AW; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 24: STAR EAGLE; ASD PIER 2 – CONTAINER BERTH; PANAMA CITY; GENERAL CARGO

Feb 24: AM CONTRECOEUR; ASD MCDUFFIE 2; SWINOUJSCIE, PL; BULK CARGO

Feb 24: MSC JORDAN; APM TERMINALS MOBILE; ANTWERP, BE; CONTAINER

Feb. 24: MSC BARCELONA; APM TERMINALS MOBILE; ANTWERP, BE; CONTAINER

Feb. 24: LIJUN C; ASD SOUTH B 2; KINGSTON, JM; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 25: BBC ROMANIA; ASD PIER 5; HOUSTON; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 25: LETO; ASD MCDUFFIE; IMMINGHAM, GB; BULK CARGO

Feb. 25: SPIEGELGRACHT; ASD RIVER END C; ORANJESTAD, AW; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 26: BANDA SEA; ASD RAIL FERRY RAMP; COATZACOALCOS, MX; RAIL

Feb. 26: OCEAN BEAUTY; ASD NORTH A 2; NEW ORLEANS; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 26: STELLA BECRUX; ASD MCDUFFIE 2; CONSTANTZA, RO; BULK CARGO

Feb. 26: THOR; ASD PINTO ISLAND; UNKNOWN, US; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 26: SEA-LAND EAGLE; APM TERMINALS MOBILE; MIAMI; CONTAINER

Feb. 26: MALTE B; ASD PIER 5; ORANJESTAD, AW; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 27: STAR EPSILON; ASD NORTH A 2; GENERAL CARGO

Feb. 27: MARITIME SUZANNE; ASD LIQUID BULK TERMINAL ; NEW ORLEANS; BULK CARGO

Feb. 27: LATMAR; ASD NORTH A 2; BROWNSVILLE-CAMERON COUNTY; GENERAL CARGO

March 1: ALBION BAY; ASD PIER 2 – CONTAINER BERTH; HOUSTON; GENERAL CARGO

March 1: CMA CGM NEW JERSEY; APM TERMINALS MOBILE; MIAMI; CONTAINER

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2013/02/alabama_state_port_authority_s.html

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Read the latest Mobile business news at al.com/business/mobile, or read all our business news at al.com/business.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/press-register-business/2013/02/mobile_business_news.html

Books-A-Million sees dollars in ducks, will sell "Duck Dynasty" merchandise


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The Duck Commander display that will be installed in Books-A-Million stores. (Special)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Things are just ducky at Birmingham-based Books-A-Million Inc.

The bookstore chain today announced that its stores will sell more than 40 items from Duck Commander, the line of goods associated with the popular reality TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

Camo store displays will be stocked with DVDs, books, t-shirts, hats, key chains and other novelties. The displays also will include duck calls, the product that made the extended Robertson family wealthy and ultimately got them on television.

The show, which is AE’s highest-rated program, follows the antics of the unconventional Louisiana family and its business. The show’s popularity led to the extended Duck Commander product line. On the Duck Commander website duck calls range in price from $24.95 to $179.95.

Jeff Skipper, Books-A-Million vice president of marketing, said the push to sell Duck Commander merchandise is in response to explosive demand.

“We saw a tremendous amount of interest in all things “Duck” during the holiday selling season,” he said in a prepared statement. “Our team made the decision to create a custom, in-store display so that we could give our customers a one-stop-shop for all their favorite Duck Commander gear.”

The displays will be installed in all Books-A-Million stores before the television show begins its third season on Wednesday, the company said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2013/02/books-a-million_sees_dollars_i.html

Friday recap: The week’s Alabama business news in review

Alabama business news you may have missed this week:

J.D. Power and Associates releases its 2013 Vehicle Dependability Study.

Best Buy to extend its price matching guarantee to major online competitors.

Communications experts dissect Carnival Cruise Lines’ response to the Triumph debacle.

Vulcan Materials begins blasting on Gurley Mountain.

A Montgomery auto dealer is named vice chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

The Department of Defense considers an alternative to sequestration that would reduce civilian employees’ pay and hours by 20 percent.

HealthSouth saw a 6.7 percent increase in full-year revenue in 2012, generating $2.16 billion in business over the 12-month period.

Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex eagerly awaits the addition of new tenant Airbus.

Work begins on the new Birmingham School of Law.

Investors with Audley Capital Advisors accuse Walter Energy’s leaders of having mismanaged the company.

International Shipholding is preparing a $25 million stock offering.

Lesley McClure, regional executive at the Atlanta Fed’s Birmingham Branch, sees strength in the state’s auto industry.

Alabama’s brewing industry has doubled in size each of the last three years, a new report shows.

AirWalk, a new extreme trampoline arena in metro Birmingham, draws thousands.

Office Depot is set to acquire OfficeMax, a move that may accelerate the closing or selling of stores. The retailers have a combined 32 stores in Alabama.

Alabama’s second annual sales tax holiday for severe weather gear kicks off Friday.

Walmart plans to hire 175 people for two of its Neighborhood Markets opening in Decatur and Florence.

How many engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Huntsville is celebrating National Engineers Week.

The Mobile Boat Show kicks off Friday as optimism is again running high in the marine manufacturing industry.

Alabama’s economy supports slightly fewer jobs than it did at the start of 2000. But non-manufacturing jobs have increased.

BAE Systems Ship Repair in Mobile will avoid layoffs.

First Watch, a Bradenton, Fla.-based restaurant chain, is headed for Birmingham.

Winn-Dixie is moving into a space in Inverness Corners vacated by Bruno’s market.

There was a leadership shuffle at Mobile’s White-Spunner Construction Inc.

Express Oil Change Service Center, a Birmingham-based company with operations in 12 states, acquires Tire Engineers.

Ignite Fitness, a Crossfit affiliate, is expanding in Vestavia Hills.

Cahaba Brewing and Hop City unite to make beer backing home brewing law.

Mercedes plant gets a new boss, but it’s a familiar face.

Knology buyer Wow! investing and rebranding in North Alabama.

Divided Birmingham Water Works Board approves $145 million bond deal.

Airbus plant, along with expanding training and infrastructure programs, cited as progress for Accelerate Alabama.

Regions CEO Hall to assume chairmanship in May.


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Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2013/02/friday_recap_the_weeks_alabama_1.html

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 To get the latest Birmingham-area business news, please visit al.com/business/birmingham. For more business news, visit al.com/business.

If you’re an RSS subscriber, you can find the new feed here.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2013/02/birmingham_business_news_has_m.html

Huntsville’s first wheelchair-accessible taxi means better mobility for people with disabilities

wheelchair-accessible cab.JPGView full sizeThe first electric wheelchair-accessible taxi in Huntsville — and possibly all of Alabama — is now in service at A-Plus Cab company. (Courtesy Bryan Dodson) 

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Huntsville’s A-Plus Cab company may be the first in Alabama to roll out a taxicab that can accommodate people in electric wheelchairs.

A-Plus owner Junior Jordan recently purchased the bright yellow Chrysler minivan at a steep discount from Phoenix, a Huntsville nonprofit that helps people with disabilities find employment. The new taxi hit the streets Friday afternoon.

Phoenix President-CEO Bryan Dodson said the cab will improve the quality of life for people in electric wheelchairs who don’t have their own transportation.

Although city shuttle buses have wheelchair lifts, it can take more than an hour to get across town with the required transfers. Handi-Ride shuttles drive people with disabilities right to the doorstep of the grocery store or doctor’s office, but they do not operate at night.

Dodson, who chairs Huntsville’s transportation committee, said he began thinking about a wheelchair-accessible taxicab after hearing from a double amputee who cannot take her grandkids out for dinner.

He said Phoenix bought the minivan from the Montgomery-based Southern Disability Foundation for about $25,000, then resold it to A-Plus at a discount. The van has a folding wheelchair ramp, lowered floorboard and no seats in the middle row.

Because it still has bench seating in the back, the van can be used as a traditional taxi. Or it can carry a person in a wheelchair and several family members at the same time.

“It should do a lot to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities in town, because they’ve never had this option before,” Dodson told AL.com Monday. “I’m excited. There are a lot of folks out there who use chairs who really think this will be a helpful service.”

Jordan, the A-Plus Cab owner, is going to keep a record of how many people in wheelchairs use the new taxicab. Dodson said he hopes that data proves to other local cab companies that wheelchair-accessible taxis are a “good business proposition.

“That way, we can get more of them on the street,” he said.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2013/10/huntsvilles_first_wheelchair-a.html