This year is already shaping up to be a big one for both Montgomery’s business community and the city and region as a whole with a slew of newsworthy things slated to happen. Check out our list of the 18 events, upgrades, announcements, openings and more that you should be watching in 2018.
- Downtown Delight - The development of “Low Dex” has brought life back to one of the country’s most historic streets and energized one of downtown’s prettiest spots. This mixture of retail and residential spaces will also host events and markets starting this spring (and continuing through the summer) where the area around Court Square Fountain will be closed to cars.
- New Year, New Mo - We all appreciate Big Mo and the job he does as the Biscuits baseball team mascot, but soon, there will be a bit less of this “biscuit eating beast” to love. Mo is slimming down as part of the 2018 Scale Back Alabama annual challenge. The team’s new owners saw this as a fun and engaging way to get involved in our community while promoting and supporting an important health initiative. Check out his progress and get info on the upcoming Biscuits’ season, starting April 5, at www.biscuitsbaseball.com.
- Justice for All - The Memorial to Peace and Justice will soon be ready for visitors. The nation’s first site designed to remember and honor the victims of racially based lynchings is a project of the Equal Justice Initiative and is opening on April 26. With the names of more than 4,000 lynching victims from around the United States engraved on columns, the massive monument is a compelling way to tell the story of the Civil Rights struggle and Montgomery’s important role in the fight. Learn more at www.museumandmemorial.eji.org.
- Flying High - The Montgomery Regional Airport continues to increase its offerings and up the ante on providing a positive customer experience. An updated website boasts more travel tools and easier navigation, while Wi-Fi upgrades mean greater speed and connectivity throughout the facility. A new restaurant and lounge called Tailwinds is opening, bringing passengers delish new food and beverage options. And charging stations throughout the terminal ensure folks can keep their electronic devices going strong. But the real news is in the air: Starting this summer, you can hop a plane in Montgomery and fly direct to Reagan National in Washington D.C.
- Running Strong - Alabama politics is always interesting, and with the gubernatorial election coming up this fall, the race being run for the governor’s office promises to be no different. Incumbent Kay Ivey is enjoying high approval ratings, making her the early frontrunner, but the list of those running in the primaries for both parties is pretty long. Stay tuned!
- The Right Stuff - Thanks to the hard work of Montgomery’s congressional delegation along with the city, county, state and the Chamber, the city has landed the Air Force’s F-35 Lightning II Jet fleet. The announcement came right before Christmas and is some of the most important and impactful news for our area in years. The planes should be in place at our 187th Fighter Wing and Air National Guard base by 2023 and will bring with them some major benefits, including many millions of dollars in economic impact. They’ll also continue our area’s ties to the historic Tuskegee Airman legacy since the 187th Fighter Wing is home to the 100th Fighter Squadron, one of the original units dedicated to African-American combat pilots. Learn more about what this great news means for MGM in our March issue.
- Making the Grade - The search for a new State Superintendent of Education should be finished this year, and interim superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson is pushing to resolve several issues ahead of a selection, including the state’s intervention in Montgomery’s public schools, to help whoever fills the role have a better chance at success. “We are working to get approval of the ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Plan, which will generate $508 million for local school systems; we’re also working on the budget for FY 2019, statewide assessment and school report cards,” he said.
- Improved Infrastructure - Constant roadwork can be frustrating, but routine maintenance, lane additions or expansions as well as safety and even aesthetic improvements are necessary to keep traffic running smoothly for any busy, growing city. This year, watch for streetscape improvements from South Court Street to I-65; lane resurfacing and lane additions on Zelda Road; parking lot resurfacing and landscape improvements at Cramton Bowl; and more.
- Bigger & Better - Tourism continues to play a key role in our city’s economy, and the visitors — both business and leisure travelers — keep on coming. Proof? The continued demand for additional places for all these people to stay. Springhill Suites in the old Bishop-Parker building across from Riverwalk Stadium will begin construction this year, and Staybridge Suites by Marriott, an extended stay hotel with 118 rooms, should open its doors to guests in 2018. Montgomery is also getting a true “big-city” amenity thanks to another new property, Hilltop Suites & Spa, which breaks ground this year and should be completed by fall 2019. Sys-Con, LLC is transforming the long-vacant and historic Hilltop Arms Apartments building in Five Points downtown into a modern, upscale boutique hotel. It will feature 80 rooms, more than 6,000 square feet of meeting and event areas, plus numerous bars and restaurants, and to top it all off, a rooftop bar with amazing views of the city skyline.
- Need to Know - Several tax laws that apply to businesses have changed for 2018. But one to note is the significant change in the taxation of partnerships under the new federal partnership audit rules. According to William T. Thistle III, partner at Bradley, a local accounting firm, these new rules apply to traditional partnerships and multi-member LLCs. “As a result of these new rules, all partnership agreements need to be reviewed — soon,” he said. Other trends impacting businesses include the implementation of strict cell phone policies that keep employees off mobile devices, particularly while serving customers, and the increasing part technology will play in marketing, especially social media.
- Power Player - The Montgomery Internet Exchange (MGMix) is the only internet exchange in Alabama and one of only four in the entire Southeast. By providing lighting fast speeds, lowering internet service costs, drawing new companies here and boosting the city’s image, it’s proving a powerful economic weapon for the capital city, and the positive changes it’s bringing will keep expanding in the coming year. Get the latest TechMGM news at techmgm.com.
- Innovation Invitation - Thanks to TechMGM, a partnership of the Chamber, the city, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and the county, the capital city is fostering a creative, dynamic atmosphere of information sharing and innovation that’s drawing cyber and tech talent here. Their ideas are the fuel needed to keep the city — and our region — moving forward.
- Smart Start - A crucial piece of Montgomery’s move to become a true “Smart City” is the implementation of smart city initiatives that use enhanced tech to provide better and more efficient city services like garbage collection, parking and more.
- Wide Open - Another exciting component of Montgomery’s commitment to build on advances like the internet exchange and become a “Smart City” is the recent switch to open data. With the city’s adoption of open data, it is promising greater accountability, accessibility and transparency within local government. For residents and businesses, it means quick and easy access to all kinds of valuable information, including construction permits, sanitation schedules, public safety data from the police department, information about our public library system and more, all with a click of your mouse or a tap on your smartphone.
- Connected Community - As yet another spoke on the TechMGM wheel, the expansion of free Wi-Fi all over the city keeps rolling along. This year, even more public spaces and areas downtown will offer it.
- Big Time Buzz - The Alabama State University Marching Hornets Band and the Honeybeez dance team have been bestowed with a big honor: They’ll be showcasing their signature sounds and moves at the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade in California, on New Year’s Day 2019. According to band director Dr. James Oliver the students are ecstatic and already preparing to make their national debut. “This is the first time this university has had this opportunity, and it really is a big deal,” he said. While the university is helping pay for the trip, the band members are raising additional funds. If you’d like to make a donation, visit alasu.edu.
- Art Alfresco - The John and Joyce Caddell Sculpture Garden at The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is set to open in 2018 and feature more than two acres of outdoor “rooms” for sculpture exhibition, education and events at the MMFA. The garden will host a rotating selection of long-term sculpture loans among its thoughtful design that echoes signature features of the MMFA’s building: round spaces, water features and rhythmic pergolas. There’s even a quiet, intimate space called The Secret Garden. Learn more at mmfa.org.
- Touch-Tastic - With the soon-to-open Stingray Bay, there will be a new “touching” reason to visit The Montgomery Zoo. The exhibit features more than 20 live stingrays in a 26 by 12 foot oval-shaped, temperature-controlled, 6,700 gallon saltwater pool. Observation panels on the sides let you watch the animals swim. And during scheduled times, you can even reach into the pool and feel the stingrays as they pass by.
Read more about MGM’s Tech climate online in our November issue if you missed it in print.
+ A WHOLE LOT MORE
There are actually a lot more than 18 cool/exciting/interesting things pushing the city to great heights this year, and here’s one more we love: The city’s customer service initiative. This project in partnership with Troy University Montgomery will train area hospitality staff on ways to go beyond service and create a true experience for both visitors and residents, enhancing our city’s already warm welcome.