State of the City: Mayor Battle highlights successes in a year of challenges
Published on November 8, 2021
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle revisited the previous year’s successes and challenges while expressing his hopes for the future Monday during his annual State of the City address.
The sold-out event, presented by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, was held at the Von Braun Center. It marked a return to an in-person gathering, as Mayor Battle’s 2020 speech was held virtually due to the pandemic.
The pandemic played a key role in the presentation, including its toll on health care facilities and frontline workers. However, Battle’s remarks celebrated Huntsville’s ability to not only survive, but also thrive while many cities felt the harsh effects of labor shortages and economic shortfalls.
The Mayor explained Huntsville had met and tackled challenges head-on, including workforce recruitment, affordable housing, helping the homeless, expanding public transit access and improving interactions with the mentally ill.
Huntsville’s problem-solving abilities are now viewed on a larger scale because, since last year’s State of the City address, the Rocket City became the largest city in Alabama. Huntsville grew nearly 20% of the past decade to 215,006 residents.
“But as I’ve said, we don’t want to be the biggest,” Battle said. “We want to be the best.”
He then shifted his focus to successes over the past decade, including 41,500 jobs added in the Huntsville-metro area, 36,000 of which were in Huntsville proper. That number accounted for 25% of the state’s local job growth since 2010.
“New and expanding industries also invested more than $12.4 billion into our local economy,” Battle said. “Even during the pandemic, we saw $2.4 billion in investment.”
The overarching theme of the address was “This is Your Huntsville,” which paid tribute to new residents as well as longtime stakeholders who continue to contribute to the City’s success. Battle said people want what Huntsville has to offer, including plentiful jobs, low cost of living, outdoor recreational space, a vibrant downtown and strong schools.
A video presentation featured interviews with newcomers who explained why Huntsville was the best choice for their respective families.
“We don’t want to be Nashville, Greenville or Austin,” Battle said. “We want to be Huntsville. This is the Rocket City. The ‘smart place.’ Our goal from the beginning was to provide a healthy economy without losing our identity.”
He explained part of what sets Huntsville apart from those other cities is smart, manageable growth. The 16-county region grows by about 32 people per day, and Mayor Battle said the housing market has grown to meet the demand.
“When you break it all down, we’re looking at having added about 18,000 new doors in the metro area,” he said. “Huntsville is well prepared for the growth we’re dealing with today. In infrastructure, housing, jobs and quality of life. From day one, we’ve had a plan; a strategy on how to achieve and handle growth and how to handle success.”
Mayor Battle received a rousing applause upon noting two of the most requested businesses in Huntsville over the past decade – Trader Joe’s and Cheesecake Factory – both opened this year. He jokingly told the crowd that the City could have announced 100,000 jobs and not have gotten as much media attention as they did with Trader Joe’s and Cheesecake Factory. In referencing the fast-growing MidCity District, he told those in attendance to be on the lookout for new announcements in the near future.
In closing, Battle said much of Huntsville’s success has hinged on strong leadership and partnerships within and outside the City. He thanked business and community leaders in attendance as well as those who have retired over the past year.
“Thanks to [our] visionary leaders for giving us a strong foundation,” he said. “Thanks to those who have served us well, and to those who have stepped up to take their place in helping us move us forward. Huntsville’s future now depends upon us. It depends upon you.”