Montgomery Business Journal

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September 2015

GREAT DOWNTOWN

Southern Business & Development included Montgomery as one of 10 “great Southern downtowns … that is worth a visit.”

Strange frequently talks about the importance of downtown. Here’s what Southern Business & Development wrote: “A downtown is the heart of a city. A great downtown is the heartbeat of a city, where residents and visitors come together to experience the art, architecture, food and culture that makes that community unique.”

The magazine noted that $1.5 billion-plus in downtown/riverfront development since the late 1990s, Montgomery has “become of the South’s must-see travel destinations.” The article points out downtown’s loft apartments, entertainment district, The Alley; urban farm, Riverwalk Stadium and the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa at the Convention Center along with the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre.

Other cities on the list were Canton, Miss; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Little Rock; Memphis; Mt. Sterling, Ky.; Oklahoma City; Owensboro, Ky.; and Roanoke, Va.

FAIRVIEW MARKET GETS NEW LANDLORD

The City of Montgomery has purchased the Fairview Farmers Market from the state for $1 and will use some of the space for a Montgomery Police Department substation.

The purchase enables market owner Flora Brown to keep the business open, according to Strange. He told the Montgomery Advertiser that the city’s purchase “will give her the confidence to expand and do the things she hasn’t done in a long time.”

STEADY JOB GROWTH

Montgomery has been one of the top metros for job creation the past three years. The Montgomery area added 7,800 jobs from 2012-2014 for a 5 percent increase, which tied with Birmingham for second place behind Huntsville’s 6 percent gain.

Montgomery was also No. 2 for job growth for the Jan. 2014-Jan. 2015 period. There were 2,800 new jobs for a 1.7 percent increase. Birmingham was the top metro with a 2.1 percent increase.

For the first seven months of the year, 1,003 new jobs have been announced for Montgomery with an $89.6 million capital investment.

HOTEL OCCUPANCY RATES STAY HOT

The hotel occupancy rate for Montgomery through June was 64.5 percent, which topped the state’s other metros.

Not only was Montgomery ranked first, but its percentage increase from January-June 2014 was also the most at 4.5 percent. Birmingham’s occupancy rate was 64.4 percent followed by Mobile at 63.2 percent and Huntsville at 62.3 percent.

The downtown Montgomery hotels had an occupancy rate of 75.2 percent – an increase of 7.9 percent from the previous January-June period. The hotels by EastChase had a 76.5 occupancy rate, which was 2.9 percent more than January-June 2014.

INTRODUCING AIR FORCE CYBER COLLEGE

Air University announced plans for a College of Cyber Air Power with classes scheduled to begin later this year at Maxwell Air Force Base.

“The college will be a learning institution where our students from the active duty and reserve forces, sister services and international partners can study together and innovate solutions to cyber challenges that face our nation,” Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, commander and president of Air University, said in a statement.

Cyber college will focus on meeting “national security strategies in the next decade,” according to a press release from Maxwell.

CHAMBER HONORED

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce was one of the three best economic development organizations in the state, according to Southern Economic Development Roundtable.

The Montgomery Chamber was listed along with Cullman Economic Development Agency and City of Auburn Economic Development.

ANOTHER HYUNDAI MILESTONE

The Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant in Montgomery produced its 3 millionth vehicle in June and it was a 2015 Sonata Limited.

It took 53 months to reach the 1 million mark and another 36 months to reach 2 million vehicles. Now, that HMMA added a third shift, third crew in September 2012 it took just 33 months to produce another 1 million.

The facility currently manufactures both the Sonata and Elantra, which are the Korean automaker’s top-two selling vehicles in the U.S. Hyundai also built the Santa Fe in Montgomery, before moving production to its sister Kia plant in West Point, Ga.

More than 60 percent of the 3 million vehicles manufactured in Montgomery have been Sonatas (1.9 million) and another 700,000-plus have been Elantras.

MORE ACCOLADES FOR SONATA

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata has been receiving some pretty impressive compliments. It was ranked No. 1 as Cars.com’s Most Affordable Midsize Sedan. It was named one of the Best Family Cars by Edmunds.com and Parents magazine.

Cars.com Managing Editor Dave Thomas wrote: “Not only is the Sonata the most affordable in its class, but it is also one of the best.”

The midsize sedan rankings were based on price, long-term cost and options.

Meanwhile, Edmunds.com and Parents magazine determined their top 10 family vehicles based on safety, reliability and best performing family friendly models.

“Families look to their cars to keep them safe while delivering versatility for daily activities and we are proud that the Sonata continues to exceed the expectations of parents on what matters most to them,” Mike O’Brien, vice president of corporate and product planning for Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement.

PARK PROJECT COMPLETED

The Fairview Environmental Park has opened and will treat storm water that flows into Catoma Creek. The nearly three-year project cost $3.5 million, which was mostly funded by grants.

NEW EDUCATIONAL PARTNERS

The leaders at Auburn University at Montgomery and Trenholm State Community College signed an agreement for Trenholm students to transfer credits to AUM as well as using the university’s wellness center, library and career development center.

Trenholm students will be eligible for scholarships when they transfer to AUM. AUM Chancellor John G. Veres III told the Montgomery Advertiser, “This is going to be, frankly, the most important agreement we have with one of the two-year schools.”

Students can work on their bachelor’s degree while obtaining an associate degree from Trenholm.

TRADE PACT WOULD BENEFIT ALABAMA

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told the Montgomery Advertiser editorial board that the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade deal with 11 countries – would boost Alabama exports.

He said that Alabama companies face a 70 percent tariff on automobiles; 40 percent tariff on poultry and 10 percent tariff on cotton. “If we can eliminate those barriers, the items Alabama exports are going to increase greatly,” he told the editorial board.

Alabama exported $6.6 billion worth of automobiles last year while poultry exports were $319.5 million and cotton exports were about $130.6 million. The top international destination for vehicles was Canada at nearly $2 billion in 2014. Canada is one of the 11 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Other countries on the list include Mexico, the state’s No. 4 importer of vehicles at $344 million. Australia is No. 6 ($145 million); Chile is 13th ($31 million); Peru is 15th (nearly $15 million); and New Zealand is 16th (nearly $14.3 million).

Mexico ranked No. 3 for Alabama poultry exports at $31.5 million and Canada was fifth at $24.9 million.

Vietnam was No. 5 on the cotton export list at $2.4 million; Peru was seventh ($943,000); Japan was 14th ($121,000) and Malaysia was 15th (about $85,000).

ASTON MARTIN CONSIDERS ALABAMA

The upscale British automaker Aston Martin is seriously looking at Alabama to build a manufacturing plant. The company’s CEO told Automotive News Europe that Alabama is the “obvious choice” for a site in the U.S.

That’s because Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, is an industrial partner of Aston Martin and Mercedes has a manufacturing facility in Vance. Aston Martin is seeking a location to build its DBX crossover.

“We do believe we have the locations and the capacity through incentives to accomplish this and we believe we’ve got the efforts under way in the education community to build the workforce,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield told al.com.

AIR TRAVEL CONTINUES TORRID PACE

The Montgomery Regional Airport saw passenger gains for 12 straight months, including three increases of more than 20 percent and one of 19 percent. During one of those months, passengers filled 86 percent of the total available seats.

“Our partnership with the Chamber, the airport’s awareness campaign, and the awareness of MGM’s role in economic development have all played a part in the increases in passenger traffic,” said Chester Mallory, chairman of the Montgomery Airport Authority.

A new website has also been launched: www.flymgm.com. The website has travel tools and passenger information and even boasts a cost calculator to show the total cost of travel, including driving time, mileage and parking fees.

UNIQUE CONCEPT FOR AUTOMAKER

Montgomery now has one of a few – perhaps as little as two others – where a Toyota dealership is connected to a Lexus dealership, which is the Japanese automaker’s luxury brand.

Reinhardt Motors celebrated its 45th anniversary of its Toyota dealership Montgomery by holding a grand opening ceremony for its Toyota and Lexus dealerships, which are connected by an inside walkway. There are separate main entrances.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange saluted the Reinhardt family as “epitomizing everything that is good” about Montgomery and family.

The new $17 million facility is 83,000 square feet and has 40-plus service bays. The company has about 160 employees.

REGIONS BANK RANKED MOST REPUTABLE

The largest bank that has its headquarters in Alabama has been ranked as the most reputable bank in the U.S. by American Banker magazine and advisory firm Reputation Institute.

Regions Bank, which has $122 billion in assets and 1,650 offices in 16 states, received a score of 83.26 out of a possible 100 among customers and also had the highest combined score from customers and noncustomers in the annual survey. Regions was ranked first in three categories: performance, leadership and workplace. It placed in the top five in the products and services and governance categories.

“We have built our company culture on a foundation of creating shared value - providing quality financial products, services and advice in a manner that benefits customers, associates, communities and shareholders,” Regions Bank chairman, president and CEO Grayson Hall said in a statement.

AREA HAOUSING SALES UP

Montgomery area residential sales jumped 9.2 percent in June vs. the same period last year and were up 11.7 percent year to date.

The 404 units sold in June were the best June since 2007, according to the Alabama Center for Real Estate. In another positive sign, the area’s housing inventory fell 13 percent from a high in June 2008, which is the equivalent of about 450 units. There was a 7.5-month housing supply this past June, which is still more than the designed sixth-month supply, but was down 5.8 from June 2014.

PARADE OF HOMES RETURNS

After a five-year hiatus, Parade of Homes returned as 57 homes from 22 builders were showcased in Montgomery, Millbrook, Wetumpka and Pike Road.

The event featured homes at Sturbridge Plantation, Hampstead, Deer Creek, StoneyBrooke Plantation and Breckenridge in all Montgomery; Grand Park in Millbrook; The Cove at Quail Run in Wetumpka; and The Waters, Woodland Creek and Stone Park in Pike Road.

MONTGOMERY RANKED NO. 6

The Capital City was ranked the sixth-best medium-sized city for first-time homebuyers by WalletHub.

Cities were ranked in 18 metrics in three broad categories: housing affordability, real estate market and living environment. Huntsville was No. 22 with Birmingham ranked 27th and Mobile ranked 52nd.

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