Alabama business roundup: Headlines from across the state – 11/23/15 edition

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What Alabama city is home to one of the country’s top hospitals for cardiovascular care? See which schools rank as Alabama’s best. Which Alabama tech firm ranks among the nation’s fastest growing?

All this and more inside today’s business roundup of headlines from across the state:

Birmingham Business Journal: Ranked: Alabama’s best public high schools, elementary schools and school districts

Some Birmingham-area schools recently received high marks for their quality of education and ranked among the best schools in both the state and nation.

Niche – a website dedicated to studying and providing rankings of school districts – unveiled its lists of the best schools in each state, and ranked Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School in Montgomery as the best public high school in Alabama.

Homewood High School finished as the second best public high school in Alabama, and the best in the Birmingham metro.

Schools were ranked based on a traditional letter grade scale, and Homewood scored As across the board, and a 4.5 out of 5 on parent/student surveys of overall experience.

Birmingham dominated the list of the best elementary schools in Alabama, with seven of the top 10 located in the metro. Cherokee Bend Elementary in Mountain Brook took the top spot for the best public elementary school in the state, scoring As in all categories except student culture and diversity, where it received a C- grade.

Mountain Brook and Homewood also finished atop the list of the best school districts in Alabama, ranking first and second, respectively. Five of the top 10 school districts in Alabama can also be found in the Birmingham metro.

Top Five Best Public High Schools in Alabama

*Denotes school in Birmingham metro

  1. Loveless Academic Magnet Program High School (Montgomery)
  2. Homewood High School*
  3. Mountain Brook High School*
  4. Spain Park High School*
  5. Bob Jones High School (Madison)

Click to view full high school rankings

Top Five Best Public Elementary Schools In Alabama

  1. Cherokee Bend Elementary School (Mountain Brook)
  2. Shades Cahaba Elementary School (Homewood)
  3. Crestline Elementary School (Mountain Brook)
  4. Brookwood Forest Elementary School (Mountain Brook)
  5. Edgewood Elementary School (Homewood)

Click to view full elementary school rankings

Top Five Public School Districts In Alabama

  1. Mountain Brook City Schools
  2. Homewood City Schools
  3. Madison City Schools
  4. Hoover City Schools
  5. Auburn City Schools

Click to view full school district rankings

Alabama Newscenter: High-tech corridor taking shape along Mobile’s former Automobile Alley 

With one building’s transformation nearly complete, another on tap and negotiations ongoing for several more rehabilitation projects, the reimagining of downtown Mobile’s former Automobile Alley into a high-tech corridor is gaining traction.

“Obviously, we were excited about the potential for the redevelopment of St. Louis Street, but I don’t think I expected it to translate into such enthusiasm from other business owners so soon,” said Fred Rendfrey, economic development director for the Downtown Mobile Alliance.

Rendfrey cited plans for construction of a five-story, 155,000-square-foot federal courthouse across from the existing – and soon-to-be-renovated – John Archibald Campbell U.S. Courthouse on St. Louis Street as the catalyst for the corridor’s rebirth.The $89 million project is expected to bridge the central business district and De Tonti Square Historic District.

‘Creative re-use’

Rendfrey said because of the abundance of warehouse space and ample setbacks from the heavily traveled thoroughfare, he considers the half-dozen available properties prime candidates for larger mixed-use projects that could include multifamily developments and “other creative re-use projects.”

In turn, properties dotting the former Automobile Alley, so called for its once-prominent concentration of car dealerships, are beginning to receive high-profile facelifts amid an influx of technology-centered tenants.

Commercial construction firm Rogers & Willard took the lead by purchasing the historic 40,000-square-foot Buick Building in late 2014, launching a $5 million, multiphase rehabilitation and moving its 30 employees into about 6,000 square feet of renovated first-floor space this summer. Constructed in 1926, the brick behemoth sat unoccupied for nearly 13 years but was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based software development firm Rural Sourcing will shift its operations – and 100 employees – from temporary space four blocks away to another 9,000 square feet on the Buick Building’s ground floor Nov. 1.

Jeremy Milling of Milling Commercial Realty said he is working with three potential tenants in hopes that two will divide the 18,000 square feet available on the second floor. Two of the contenders are “technology-related companies,” while the third “just very much likes the aesthetic of the building and the transformation of St. Louis Street,” he said.

Milling said once the second floor is occupied it should support between 50 and 70 “well-paying,” professional jobs.

“It’s been amazing to me to see the market’s response to a product type like (the Buick Building), the way they’ve renovated it with open space, and a mixture of old and modern design. It’s just been very popular, and there’s an obvious demand for this sort of space,” Milling said, noting he’s still seeking a bakery, coffee shop or small delicatessen for the first floor’s remaining 2,000-square-foot corner space.

The corridor’s newest resident could go a long way toward attracting that tenant, he said.

Enter Precision Engineering

Precision Engineering purchased the former Dodge Brothers Automobile Co. and Graham Truck Co. building at 400 St. Louis St. The property includes three structures and – like the Buick Building across the street one block removed – takes up an entire city block.

Immediate plans call for renovating the primary 24,000-square-foot warehouse on the 60,000-square-foot site to house corporate offices that Precision President Joe Kenny plans to relocate from Theodore.

“I really like that downtown Mobile is in the process of a very fast-paced revitalization and we want to be a part of it before it is too late,” Kenny said.

The full-service, multi-discipline engineering firm specializing in control system, instrumentation and electrical design services employs 70, but Kenny hopes to employ more than 100 within five years while creating a dynamic workspace central to his employees scattered across Mobile and Baldwin counties.

Precision’s move into the renovated St. Louis Street building, constructed in 1921, is expected in the first quarter of 2017.

“Combining Precision Engineering’s project with the others on St. Louis Street solidifies the activity as a real trend,” Rendfrey said.

Techie transformation?

NAI Mobile’s Allan Cameron, who represented Precision in the transaction while Milling represented the seller, called the project “an integral component to implementing the St. Louis Street technology initiative” and said he is confident it will “extend the boundaries of the traditional central business district.”

Mobile’s St. Louis Street was identified in 2014 as prime locale for redevelopment as a high-tech corridor akin to T-REX in St. Louis, and became the focal point of a $500,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration grant proposal.

Lynne Chronister, the University of South Alabama’s vice president for research and economic development, said although the local effort failed to garner the competitive national funding on its first try, the experience helped the group clarify the scope of the request and is being used as a building block for future efforts. USA sought the grant in partnership with the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, the city of Mobile, the Downtown Mobile Alliance, Bishop State Community College, the Mobile Airport Authority and the Alabama State Port Authority.

The consortium’s ultimate goal, Chronister said, is to secure funding for a feasibility study of a high-tech incubator/research park similar to T-REX, which bills itself as a “world-class venue providing the startup entrepreneur with low-cost and flexible enterprise space, while serving the region with quality programming and inspiring community.”

“It’s not over by a long shot. We’re just getting started, and every step along the way is a lesson learned,” Chronister said.

NAI Mobile’s Cameron points to the organic growth and development along the corridor as proof the consortium nailed both the need for and interest in pursuing the initiative.

“We’re very excited about the prospect of St. Louis Street being converted into meaningful jobs and rehabilitated spaces that will attract the type of activity and energy needed to transform it into the vibrant (business district) we know it can be,” Cameron said.

AL.com: Huntsville Hospital among nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals in study

Huntsville is home to one of the country’s top hospitals for cardiovascular care, according to a new report by Truven Health Analytics.

Huntsville Hospital was among the nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals in a recent edition of Modern Healthcare magazine. Winning institutions were selected for achieving “superior clinical outcomes in the critical area of hospital care.”

The study evaluates performance in risk-adjusted mortality and complications, core measures, percentage of coronary bypass patients with internal mammary artery use, 30-day mortality and readmission rates, severity-adjusted average length of stay, and wage- and severity-adjusted average cost.

“Our inclusion in Truven Health’s Top 50 hospitals for cardiovascular care is one of the most significant recognitions that Huntsville Hospital has ever received,” said Huntsville Hospital Health Systems CEO David Spillers. “The hospitals on this list are the best of the best when it comes to quality of care.”

Read the Truven study here.

To select the top hospitals, Truven analyzed 2013 and 2014 Medicare data, 2014 Medicare cost reports, and 2015 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare data.

Huntsville Hospital was the only Alabama hospital included on the 2016 list.

“Credit for this recognition goes to our outstanding cardiovascular team of physicians, nurses and other cardiac professionals who deliver such great care to our patients. We are very proud of them,” said Spillers.

Birmingham Business Journal: Which Bham tech firm ranks among the nation’s fastest growing?

It’s a good thing Atlas RFID was able to recently find a bigger office space downtown, because the company has been ranked among the fastest-growing technology companies in the nation.

Atlas RFID landed at No. 202 on Deloitte’s 2015 Fast 500 Technology Ranking and was the only Birmingham company to make the list.

The rankings are based off of fiscal year revenue growth from 2011 to 2014, and include companies across the technology, media, telecommunications, life sciences and energy tech industries in North America.

Atlas RFID experienced 368 percent revenue growth during that span.

You can view the entire list by clicking here.

AL.com: Thrive Alabama to open sexually transmitted infection clinic

Thrive Alabama is launching a Huntsville wellness clinic dedicated to the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

The nonprofit organization, which works to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS in 12 north Alabama counties, will debut the clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. Dec. 1 on 600 St. Clair Ave., Building 7, Suite 18. Thrive spokesman Jay Hixon said the 1,575-square-foot space is under renovation and will open during World AIDS Day.

The event will begin with a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, continue with a dedication to the Church of the Nativity for its support of Thrive’s substance abuse program, and end with Thrive’s service and humanitarian awards.

Thrive will partner on other World AIDS Day activities that week, including:

10th-annual Red Ribbon Awards Breakfast with Community Faith Partners: 7 to 8:30 a.m. Dec. 4 at Union Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. The event will honor AIDS activism and feature speaker Cedric Wherry.
Youth World AIDS Day Workshop with Community Faith Partners: 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 5 at First Missionary Baptist Church. Young people ages 12 and older, along with parents or guardians, can attend. High-risk youth advocate Shakira DeSavoir will share her experiences and advice.

With clinics in Huntsville and Florence, Thrive offers medical care, free HIV testing, prevention and education programs, housing assistance, substance abuse treatment, and supportive care to its clients.

Thrive, formerly known as the AIDS Action Coalition, provided medical and support services to more than 2,800 HIV-positive and at-risk individuals across north Alabama last year.

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