As we reflect on 2015 and prepare for the transition to 2016, there is much talk about “Top News Stories,” “Top Political Stories,” “Most Read Stories,” “Top Newsmakers” and the like. Unfortunately, in the interest of selling papers and racking up page views, these lists rarely appeal to our best nature or discuss how great it is to live in the best nation on the planet.
There are stories among us that highlight the good in our community and the positive direction we are headed, and this is an incredibly exciting time to live in Decatur and Morgan County. With that in mind, here are your Chamber’s “Top Five Stories from 2015 that make us excited to be in Morgan County.”
Year of the hotels in Decatur
Throughout the year, hotels in Decatur became front and center in three ways: a hotel returning, hotel construction and hotel announcements. The DoubleTree by Hilton Decatur Riverfront property came back online in late summer after a $10 million renovation to the 165 rooms and special events areas. The Holiday Inn Express broke ground this summer on the Beltline on an 83-room property, which will be a $7.5 million investment. In May, Residence Inn by Marriott announced a $13 million project on the Beltline, where site preparation has begun on property adjacent to the Courtyard by Marriott. In September, PHD Hotels, Inc., announced their plans for an 81-room Home2 Suites by Hilton property behind Ingalls Harbor Pavilion, a $9 million project once completed. In all, nearly $40 million in hotel renovations and new developments was invested or announced in Decatur in 2015, helping provide room nights for tourism, attractions and sporting events hosted by the River City, as well as helping expand our tax base.
A three-year project celebrated its completion when the Daikin Amphitheater hosted the grand opening in the spring. Located in Founders Park adjacent to the Old State Bank, the world-class venue is a visual link between the riverfront, downtown and the adjacent historic neighborhood. Designed using similar architectural features found at nearby churches and the historic Old State Bank, the amphitheater fits seamlessly into Decatur’s downtown personality. More than 20 partners – government, corporate, industry, small business, non-profit and civic groups – came together with their shared expertise to create a place for community events, public concerts, movies, historic remembrances honoring Decatur’s past and downtown’s 3rd Friday festivities.
Inaugural River Clay Fine Arts Festival a success
The last weekend of September showcased a new downtown event that drew artists, vendors, art lovers and families from across north Alabama. River Clay Fine Arts Festival welcomed more than 4,000 visitors downtown during the two-day festival, as well as 58 artists from seven states. The juried application process brought in artists in the fields of sculpture, ceramics, oils, watercolors, abstracts and metalworking. Based on both the financial success and positive reception of the event, River Clay will be returning for 2016 and continue the effort to develop an arts-based economy in downtown with other attractions like the Alabama Center for the Arts, the Princess Theater Center for the Performing Arts and the Carnegie Visual Arts Center.
United Launch Alliance celebrates #100
ULA – a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed-Martin Corp., employing more than 800 in Morgan County – celebrated the 100th launch since its creation in 2006 with a successful Atlas V launch of a Mexican communications satellite in October from Cape Canaveral in Florida. ULA’s continued success as a safe and durable launch provider helped the company win a $882 million contract with the U.S. Air Force for continued use of the Delta IV and Atlas V rockets for communication and military missions, while at the same time supporting research and development for the next generation of space exploration.
Road work means economic growth
The road work on Highway 20/Wilson Street/6th Ave, as well as work on the Tennessee River Bridge, launched in the summer with the goal of making one of the most dangerous intersections in the State of Alabama safer for all drivers while helping support the increased transportation needs of our area industry partners. The redirecting of intersections and replacing asphalt with more durable concrete – while temporarily inconvenient – continues to make the highest traveled intersection in Decatur safer for pedestrians, bike traffic, daily commuters, area small business owners and industry-supporting 18-wheel vehicles traveling truck routes through the region. The increased truck traffic reflects growing success of our industry partners on the Tennessee River and in the northern part of the County.