HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Mayor Tommy Battle presented his seventh State of the City Address on Friday to a large crowd at the Von Braun Center North Hall.
He is running for re-election and had plenty to tout, including job creation, most recently the announcement that GE Aviation will build two adjacent facilities in Huntsville and add 300 jobs. That was the first item he mentioned in terms of economic growth.
"GE Aviation chose Huntsville for all of the right reasons – many of the same ones as did Polaris and Remington. For the reasons Boeing, Toyota, SES and many other Huntsville companies continue to invest and expand. It’s our well-educated, highly skilled workforce, strong infrastructure, good schools, low cost of living, and high quality of life," Battle said. "There are the reasons we have so many successes."
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"For those that read the recent Bloomberg article – the one that named Huntsville as “One of the most unlikely cities to power the U.S. economy” –the writer summed it up best: people move here because life is better," he added.
Other focuses were on the city's long-term BIG Picture plan for growth. "[The plans] are shaping outcomes in the way we think about development and how our city lives and breathes," Battle said.
Battle touched on a few major themes, including stimulating growth in areas that could use a fresh face, including Cummings Research Park, home to 300 companies and 29,000 workers in research and development and biotech.
"Huntsville is already planning for the Park’s next 50 years with a new master plan – one that ensures the park remains viable and meets the changing marketplace. With the success of our urban infill projects downtown, we look to transfer this model for success to Research Park and other parts of the city," he said.
Battle also noted discussion is happening for the following areas:
- North Huntsville, on the site of J.O. Johnson High School
- Southeast Huntsville, and plans for a new community development on the site of the current Grissom High School
- Plans to revitalize Madison Square Mall with new and different possibilities
- The Holmes Avenue Corridor, which is also part of the BIG Picture plan
Dennis Madsen, Huntsville's long-range planner, said his team uses past successes to recruit more growth and revitalization in places like Madison Square Mall. The concept is to make it a live-play-work destination.
"You see a three-to-five build-out in phases of Madison Square Mall that's going to have such tremendous impact on all the businesses and neighborhoods around it," said Madsen. "That's one of the best things we can do."
Mayor Battle said these changes must also include infrastructure improvements to keep up with Huntsville's population growth.
"That is why we asked the State of Alabama to partner with us on a $250 million roads package to Restore Our Roads. At our recommendation, the City Council approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for roadwork and economic development and that is exactly what we are doing. Thanks to this vision and leadership, Huntsville is actively engaged in constructing nearly one half billion dollars on critical new roadwork on an accelerated timeline," Battle said.
"Investing in our roads was a tough move, but one we couldn’t afford not to make. We have more than 110,000 people commuting in and out of Huntsville every day for work. Our daytime population swells to one-half million. Our transportation network is central to our success. That 18-minute average commute is vital to our growth," he added.
The final part of his message was geared towards the city's entrepreneurs -- from the food truck owners to the inventors, these people are Huntsville's lifeblood.
"Dreamers and doers add energy and excitement to our city," Battle said.
Battle thanked Huntsville's partners in Madison and Madison County administration, as well as the leadership at Redstone Arsenal, Marshall Space Flight Center, Space and Missile Defense and many local businesses who play a huge role in making our city successful.