Montgomery Business Journal

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NEW DOWNTOWN EATERY

Mellow Mushroom will have its third location in the River Region and second in Montgomery with next year’s expected opening at Montgomery Commerce at Bibb Destination (CBD).

That’s at least the tentative plan for the Birmingham-based Retail Specialists Inc. project at the corner of Commerce and Bibb streets. The site of the former Frank Leu building has most recently been a parking lot. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October.

Company president Robert Jolly said he expects the four-story, multi-use development to have two more restaurants on the ground floor and a convenience-type of retailer with the possibility of a pharmacy inside the store “to serve the daily needs of the residents and work force.”

He said one of the other restaurants will likely be Asian. He said the restaurants will be “recognized brands” and either be regional or national.

The project has about 18,000 square feet of retail and the three remaining spaces range from about 3,000 square feet to nearly 5,000 square feet.

There will be 45 one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments above the retail. The one-bedroom units will range from 740 square feet to 855 square feet while the two-bedroom units will be from 1,100 square feet to 1,185 square feet.

Jolly, who calls Montgomery his hometown, said the project should be completed by October 2015.

Retail Specialists estimates that when the retail space is fully leased, the tenants could generate $5 million in annual sales.

NEW HOME FOR LAMP

The Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School (LAMP) will move to a temporary home at the former Houston Hill School because the current building is “unstable,” according to Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen.

There has been talk about relocating LAMP to the former Montgomery Mall, where the school district owns property.

BUDGETS APPROVED

The City of Montgomery and Montgomery County both passed budgets. The city budget of $228 million was about the same as the previous year. The County Commission approved a $102 million budget – the first budget topping $100 million since 2009.

‘HEART AND SOUL’

During a groundbreaking ceremony for the Montgomery Commerce at Bibb Destination, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange talked about the importance of a city’s downtown.

“We keep on talking about downtown because downtown in any community is the heart and soul of that community,” he said. “If you’ve got a vibrant downtown, then you have a vibrant community. It then causes everything else to happen. Do you think a Whole Foods would be going to Chase Corner (in East Montgomery) if we did not have a vibrant and growing community starting here in downtown Montgomery?”

ALABAMA RANKS NO. 4 FOR DOING BUSINESS

Alabama was No. 4 in Area Development magazine’s fifth annual rankings of the top states for doing business. It was the second straight year that Alabama was fourth in the national rankings.

Area Development used three major categories to determine its list: business environment, labor climate, and infrastructure and global access, and had 18 subcategories.

“These high rankings mean that site selection consultants recognize that Alabama possesses the advantages that make the state attractive for companies looking to open new facilities or expand their existing operations,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said in a statement.

ALABAMA REVS UP WHILE OTHER STATES SLOW

Athens State University business professor Josh Zender said that Alabama’s automotive industry is projected to grow 2 percent this year while the remainder of the U.S. auto industry is expected to decline 4 percent.

The reasons for the state’s growth in the automotive sector are incentive packages; low corporate income tax rate; a focus on “building an automotive cluster;” and the Alabama Industrial Development Training program.

Alabama was fifth in automotive production in 2013 behind (in order) Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

ROLLING ALONG

The Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama facility in Montgomery produced 35,709 vehicles in September, surpassing 300,000 units for the fifth straight year.

Hyundai, which manufactured 301,511 vehicles through the first nine months of the year, was about 8,400 vehicles behind last year’s record-setting pace of 309,942 units through September. The company set a production record in 2013 with 399,495 units.

ELANTRA MAINTAINS LEAD

The Elantra has remained Hyundai’s top-selling vehicle in the U.S. despite the all-new 2015 Sonata.

Elantra sales in September nearly reached 19,000 and through the first nine months were 176,403 units compared with 164,934 sales for the Sonata. The gap this year is much smaller than 2013 when Elantra sales topped Sonata sales by about 42,000 units through September.

Both vehicles are produced at the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant in Montgomery.

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner told the Charlotte Business Journal that the decade’s three best years will be 2014-2016.

Vitner, who is the managing director for Wells Fargo Securities, is forecasting the economy to grow 2.7 percent by the middle of next year and reach 3 percent near the end of 2016. He told the Charlotte Business Journal that the recovery is “more broadly based” than previous ones.

DEXTER ANVENUE LOFTS

The Foshee Management Co. announced the lofts it is building on Lower Dexter Avenue in the Market District are called District 36 Lofts. The lofts will occupy three buildings, including the former Belk store.

The buildings are from the late 1800s and 1960s. Lofts will start at $715 a month. The first floor will contain retail and restaurants.

MONTGOMERY TOURISTS ARE BIG SPENDERS

Tourism generates $1.3 million a day in Montgomery, according to data from Smith Travel Research and Young Strategies Inc.

The $1.3 million figure is derived from an average daily hotel rate of $75; daily estimated dining expense of $67 and $100 a day for shopping, gas and activities for two people. With a 62 percent occupancy rate and each travel party representing two people – that’s 8,450 travelers each night.

“Tourism is economic development and produces a significantly high rate of return for this community,” said Dawn Hathcock, vice president of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau.

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