Montgomery Business Journal

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 Reporter's Notebook



David Zaslawsky





Montgomery easily surpassed the state’s other three metros last year in hotel occupancy rate and room demand, according to Smith Travel Research. For the year, Montgomery’s occupancy rate was up 4.9 percent. The No. 2 metro was Mobile at 1.5 percent while the other two had negative occupancy rates – Birmingham (-0.4 percent); and Huntsville (-5.8 percent).

Montgomery had an impressive 8.1 percent increase in room demand last year. Mobile was second at 1.5 percent; followed by Birmingham (1.0 percent); and Huntsville (-0.5 percent).


Hyundai Motor America announced an all-time January sales record with 44,005 units. Sales of the Montgomery-produced Elantra were up 26 percent (15,326) vs. January 2013 (12,174).

“Even with our Alabama plant shutting down production of Elantra and Sonata for a couple of days due to a winter storm that crippled Montgomery, our dealers are well stocked with a full lineup of vehicles ready to support customer demand,” Bob Pradzinski, vice president of national sales for HMA, said in a statement.

The Sonata and Elantra are produced by Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s plant in Montgomery.



When Todd Strange became Montgomery mayor in 2009, he received an invitation from Wiley Steen, the city’s director of leisure services, to tour Cramton Bowl. Although Strange had been in Montgomery since 1977, he had never been to Cramton Bowl, which opened in 1922. He went on the tour and when Steen asked if the mayor wanted to see the press box, Strange asked where is the elevator? There isn’t one. They walked 65 steps or so and then had to climb on a ladder to reach the second and third levels of the press box.

“It didn’t take me long to get the message. We need to renovate this. We need to make it something that we can be proud of.”

After the major renovation, the 25,000-seat Cramton Bowl was the host to a college football all-star game and now is the site the 2014 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl in December.



Yokohama Tire Corp. has signed a three-year agreement to be the title sponsor for the LPGA tournament at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill in Prattville. The 2014 Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic will be Sept. 18-21 on the Senator Course.

“The River Region and RTJ Trail are fantastic hosts and now together with Yokohama, we’re excited to bring the world’s best female golfers back to Prattville,” LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said in a statement.

The previous LPGA tournaments in Prattville had an estimated economic impact of $7 million.



Montgomery County Commission Vice Chairman Dan Harris talked about reviving now-shuttered community centers that provided organized activities for youths. “Young people have not learned how to resolve disputes without resorting to violence,” he said. Harris said that the Cleveland Avenue YMCA “saved” his life growing up. He also praised some Montgomery Public Schools district’s programs, including Second Chance, which enables students who have been kicked out of a school a second chance to graduate. Harris said the program, which is limited to 30 students, needs to be expanded.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said that the YMCA and boys and girls clubs are beneficial for youths. He would like to see a plan in place “that’s realistic and has accountability” to help youths.



The director of Public Safety for the City of Montgomery said that the community needs to get engaged to stop crime. Although the overall crime rate fell about 7 percent last year, the 50 homicides was one of the highest totals ever.

“What we need is this community to be angry about crimes – aggravated assaults; behaviors; but it’s not a police problem, it’s not the Legislature’s problem,” Chris Murphy said. “It is the community’s problem. The results and the solutions are community solutions.”



Montgomery Police Chief Kevin J. Murphy said certain behaviors lead to someone being more likely to be a crime victim: dealing or using drugs; carrying stolen weapon(s); gambling; unemployment; prostitution; abusing alcohol and frequenting bars; having a low education level; and having multiple sexual partners.

Chances are extremely slight of being a crime victim if someone is employed; married or monogamous; high-school educated or higher; drug-free; a homeowner; and a moderate drinker.

“Law enforcement does what I feel is a good job – a great job – of treating the symptoms, but law enforcement can’t treat the illness,” Murphy said.

The Montgomery Violent Crime Commission was created and features a wide-ranging group to tackle crime from numerous angles. The Police Department has formed an intelligence unit, which among many other things monitors social media.



Residents of the 45-year-old Hope Hull subdivision called Lagos del Sol have been asking the Montgomery County Commission to help with drainage problems. It will cost $1 million-plus, according to Montgomery County Administrator Donnie Mims. Goodwyn, Mills & Cawood has agreed to examine the drainage problem at no cost.



For the second straight year, Montgomery area residential sales were No. 1 for the state’s metro areas with an increase of 14.6 percent last year. Montgomery ranked first in 2012 with a 12.1 percent increase in residential sales. The Mobile area had a 13.5 percent increase in 2013; Birmingham area was up 10.3 percent; and the Huntsville area had an 8.3 percent increase.

Residential sales last year in the Montgomery area topped the Alabama Center for Real Estate’s forecast of 6.7 percent with 3,565 actual closings. The housing supply fell nearly a full month in 2013 to 10.1 months. The housing supply inventory last December was 2.7 percent more than 2012, but about 18 percent less than the high in December 2007.



“If we only have $1 to spend – spend it on education and not on health,” said State Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson. “If you educate the population, health will improve. If you spend it on health, you will not educate the population.”

He said that poor health, including higher mortality rates and higher infant mortality rates, is linked to poverty. “Education is the gateway to better income and it’s the gateway to better health,” he said.

Williamson, who oversees the state’s Medicaid program, said that the state has “the most miserly Medicaid program in America.” He said the state covers the minimum number of people with the minimum amount of services. He said the number of people on the state’s Medicaid program increased by 200,000 because of the recession. “The only way you’re going to reduce the cost of Medicaid in Alabama is by having fewer people go on the program and since we don’t cover anybody we don’t have to cover – you’re not going to be able to do it (reduce the number) by changing eligibility. You’ve got to have fewer people that need it.”



The 3,200-square-foot Jackson Clinic Family Medicine Center opened in Pike Road. There are six exam rooms, an onsite lab and X-ray at the clinic on Chantilly Parkway. It is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-noon Saturday. The clinic is led by Dr. Christopher Waguespack, who most recently worked at Maxwell Air Force Base.



Multifamily construction, which has increased 48 percent in 2012 and 38 percent last year, is forecast to rise another 29 percent this year while construction of single-family houses is expected to grow 18 percent this year, according to management consulting firm FMI.

The single-family housing market is expected to grow 17 percent in 2015; 14 percent in 2016; and 12 percent in 2017, while the multi-family projects are expected to slow to a 12 percent increase in 2015; 10 percent increase in 2016; and 6 percent increase in 2017.

The Raleigh, N.C.-based company is also forecasting strong growth in lodging construction – 10 percent this year and next, although the overwhelming majority of the projects will be upscale and upper midscale. Nearly 600 hotels and 65,000-plus rooms are expected to open this year, according to Lodging Econometrics.

Manufacturing construction is forecast to increase 6 percent this year and 7 percent in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

FMI is forecasting the overall construction industry to increase 7 percent this year.



The Auburn University at Montgomery’s Wellness Center was recognized as a facility of merit by AthleticBusiness magazine.

The $16 million-plus, 70,000 square-foot center opened in 2012. It has a climbing wall, indoor track, pool, exercise studios, weight room as well as classrooms, lab and multipurpose rooms.

One judge wrote that the center had an “intriguing plan concept.” Two other judges wrote that the use of wood adds warmth to the facility.




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