From Google to a theme park: North Alabama’s top business stories of 2015

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The Shops at Merchants Walk is #4 on the list!

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Lucy Berry

2015 proved to be another important year for economic development in the Tennessee Valley.

Using web analytics, we compiled the most widely-read business stories in the Huntsville and north Alabama markets during the past year.

Here is a list of some of our most popular 2015 business stories in no particular order. Let us know which projects you think should have made the cut in the comment section below.

1. Google: The tech giant announced in June it will build a $600 million data center in Jackson County, employing 75-100 people in northeast Alabama. The facility will operate in Bridgeport on 350 acres at the TVA Widows Creek Fossil Plant site. Situated near high-tech cities Chattanooga and Huntsville, the future data center is expected to be an economic boon for the area. It will be Google’s 14th data center worldwide.

2. Polaris Industries: Minnesota-based Polaris Industries is building a state-of-the art off-road vehicle manufacturing facility near Greenbrier Road and Interstate 565 in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County. The facility will employ at least 1,700 workers and cover vehicle assembly, chassis and body painting, welding, fabrication and injection molding.

3. Madison Square Mall: In April, CBL & Associates sold its portion of Madison Square Mall, a nearly 1 million-square-foot enclosed shopping center on University Drive, to The Grove Huntsville. Developer RCP Companies is working with The Grove to revitalize the property, which will be a mixed-use development called MidCity Huntsville. The real estate firm hopes to make an announcement about the future of the site in January.

4. Whole Foods Market: The long-awaited natural and organic food grocery store opened in November at the Shops at Merchants Walk, a new mixed-use complex at the corner of Bob Wallace Avenue and Memorial Parkway in Huntsville. The 42,000-square-foot facility anchors the property, which will also be home to Local Taco, Maki Fresh Sushi Rolls & Japanese Grill, Farm Burger, Spa Sydell, Orangetheory Fitness, Mountain High Outfitters, The Masters Aveda Salon and lululemon athletica.

5. GE Aviation: The jet engine, component and integrated systems provider will invest $200 million on adjacent facilities at the southeast corner of the intersection of Greenbrier Road and Interstate 565 near FedEx in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County. The operation will employ up to 300 workers and mass produce silicon carbide materials for ceramic matrix composite components. The Huntsville City Council approved a development agreement for the project early this month.

6. GIG City: The City of Huntsville announced plans in March to become a “GIG City” with super-fast, fiber-based Internet service. Officials hope faster download speeds will satisfy the area’s existing “data heavy” companies, as well as new businesses looking to open or move here.

7. Cabela’s: The outdoor sports retailer attracted thousands of shoppers during grand opening festivities in September at its first Alabama store in Huntsville. The 82,000-square-foot facility anchors the planned Parkside Town Centre near Interstate 565 and Bridge Street.

8. Campus No. 805: Heavy construction began at the former Stone Middle School off Governors Drive as Yellowhammer and Straight to Ale broke ground on brewing facilities at the property. Yellowhammer and Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza hosted grand opening events this month. Several other businesses are expected to launch at the site next year.

9. Town Madison: Breland Companies purchased more than 200 acres of land at the Intergraph campus in Madison. The $400 million Town Madison project Breland is developing will become one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast with more than two miles of Interstate frontage.

10. The Avenue: The $34 million five-story building is under development at the corner of Jefferson Street and Holmes Avenue across from the federal courthouse. It will feature 197 upscale lofts and 21,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space in downtown Huntsville.

11. HudsonAlpha: Dr. Howard Jacob joined HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology this summer as its executive vice president for medical genomics and chief medical genomics officer. In November, the 25-room Smith Family Clinic of Genomic Medicine opened, specializing in rare, undiagnosed and misdiagnosed diseases.

12. Shoals theme park: Honorable mention goes to The DreamVision Company’s planned $3.5 billion theme park in northwest Alabama. The February announcement spurred much conversation about the proposed attraction, which officials said would employ about 20,000 people on 1,400 acres. The project inspired a “Loopy Doopy Land” parody by the fictional Future Tomorrow Company. After seven months of silence, the project’s financial broker said the theme park is still in the works.


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