Something Interesting This Way Comes To Downtown Huntsville

Have you always wanted to organize a giant water ballon battle downtown, or commission a piece of public art, hold a giant dance party on the square, set the guinness world record for largest game of capture the flag, make improvements to a public space, create a neighborhood art project, or maybe give back to your community in a unique way?

Well Huntsville your time has come to rise up, dust off those ideas, dream big and put that awesome plan into action because Downtown Huntsville Inc and PNC Bank have teamed up to give away 12 $504 grants for creative placemaking projects in Downtown Huntsville!  Here’s what you need to know:

What Exactly Is Creative Placemaking?

Simply put creative placemaking is about shaping the physical and social character of a neighborhood.  It animates public spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.  Need some inspiration? Check out this link Here, Here or Here for some great examples!

Why $504 Dollars?

Computer error code 504 means that your system is running slowly and needs a change.  So by giving away these 12 $504 grants, DHI and PNC Bank are hoping to speed up innovation in the Downtown Huntsville area.

What Areas Of Huntsville Count As Downtown?

According to Downtown Huntsville Inc, any of the Downtown districts they list on their website are up for grabs.  You can view what exactly this includes on their website HERE.

Are There Any Guidelines For What You Can Do With The Grant?

There’s really only one guideline for submission ideas and that is:
Your idea must be free/open for anyone to attend/experience/enjoy!

How Do I Apply?

Applying for one of the 12 grants is easy.  All you’ll need to do is email a one-page proposal to or drop it by the DHI office by 6pm on June 30th.  Be sure your proposal is only one-page though, because if it’s just one word over it won’t be eligible for consideration.

When Will The Grant Winners Be Announced?

Grants will be given away throughout the year, but the first round of recipients will be announced on DHI’s social media July 7th!

For more information on the grants check out DHI’s Event Page or listen to the video below as Katie Wright lays out all the details for you!

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If Someone Says “Live, Work, Play” Just One More Time…

I know that the terms “mixed-use development” and “live, work, play” have become social buzzwords in the commercial real estate industry. And I’m sure many are left wondering what’s behind this latest craze and if it will be just that, a passing fad. Will “mixed-used developments” and “live, work, play” be the bell-bottom jeans of commercial real estate history 50 years from now?

However, the fact of the matter is that “mixed-use developments” and “live, work, play,” like a lot of things in life, are actually extremely old concepts that we’re only now rediscovering the value of. In fact, at one time in history the idea of not functioning within a mixed-use community would have been down right terrifying to people.

Where Did This Idea Come From Anyway?

Braun_Milano_HAABThe most perfect historical examples of early mixed-use, live, work, play communities are probably the medieval villages of the 5th-15th centuries. Densely built within towering city walls, the medieval village is the perfect example of a functional, productive community, incorporating all the rules of mixed-use development. This way of living not only benefited them socially in a variety of ways, but it also served to provide them protection as well, since the walls were able to protect the village more securely than if the villages were spread out over many hundreds of acres.

In fact, this way of living and structuring society was the norm, even in the US, up until the early 1900s when development trends and patterns changed radically with the advent of the trolley and the automobile.

In addition to people having access to more efficient modes of transportation, the population in the US was also exploding at this time and as American cities swelled to dangerous levels, local governments began to mandate segregation of land uses – for the health and welfare of it’s citizens.


At the time, this seemed like a brilliant idea. If city planners could divide their cities up and create different “zones” for different uses or functions, they could then nicely organize the cities of the future for maximum functionality and safety for it’s citizens. Retail, work, living, schools, etc were all segregated from each other and from about the 1910s through the 1950s the idea of integrated land uses were rare in new developments.

However, as time went by city planners began to see a plethora of unanticipated side effects from the new urban sprawl they had created such as: increases in vehicle miles traveled, energy consumption, pollution, loss of resources lands, inefficient provision of infrastructure and public service costs, central city decline and many other psychic and social costs.

And around the late 1970s and 1980s mixed-use developments began to reemerge. However, the projects were on a much smaller scale than their predecessors and were most often integrated into urban contexts such as historic structures or districts.

Then towards the end of the 1990s and 2000s, mixed-use developments began to emerge as manifestations of sustainable design, walkable urbanism and “smart growth” initiatives. They became integral components of “Transit Oriented Development”, “Traditional Neighborhood Developments”, and were considered an essential ingredient to the creation of “Livable Communities.”

But What Are The Benefits To Us Now?

But the question that still remains is why? What benefits are there from moving towards a more mixed-use, live, work, play society?

Well in addition to helping diminish the negative side of effects of America’s urban sprawl mentioned above, it seems that mixed-use developments and live, work, play communities can serve other vital roles in our success as a city as well.

vintage-paris-ladies-coffee-shopThe first of these benefits is the opportunity for knowledge spillover. In essence, when you have a high density of people living and working in a small community together, there are more opportunities for those individuals to meet and spend time together socially. During those social interactions is when we as human being exhibit our highest transfer of tacit knowledge to other individuals. And it is this spillover of tacit knowledge that can help spur innovation through the sharing of ideas. This in turn improves the performance of the local economy.

Secondly mixed-use developments can also spur other economic growth through the creation of a localized marketplace. When people live, work and play in a small area, they are more inclined to spend their hard earned cash in that same area. This give and take between the community members strengthens the local and regional economy and helps bond community members together.

Third is that recent studies have shown that walkability and mixed-used neighborhoods encourage the development of social capital. In essence, people in walkable neighborhoods are more likely to feel connected to the community and trust the people in their neighborhoods. This is important, because as human being, in order for us to live a full life and feel fulfilled, we need to have a home life, a fulfilling occupation and interaction within a community. And although interaction within a community has been proven to be crucial to our well-being, the number of places individuals receive this sort of interaction around that US has increasingly diminished with the rise of the automobile-oriented suburb, which in turn has lead to a decline in community bonds. The resurgence of mixed-use developments is one way city planners are beginning to combat this.


And these are just a few of the social/economic benefits associated with mixed-use, live, work, play communities! Many of which our community is already starting to see the first inklings of with the redevelopment of Downtown Huntsville and their focus on creating a vibrant live, work, play environment. Mixed-use developments such as The Avenue, Twickenham Square and City Centre will only add to these efforts and help to form deeper connections between the people of Huntsville and their local community and help continue to foster an environment of innovation and inspiration.

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Mission Multiplier: Using Behavioral Science to Revolutionize Cybersecurity and Employee Engagement

Jamie Miller is shaking things up by setting aside traditional corporate structure for innovation. His venture, Mission Multiplier, is engaging employees in a new way and growing a stronger local community all while working to change the way we approach cybersecurity.

Still a growing industry, cybersecurity has gone from almost non-existent to becoming a pretty big deal over the last several years.   Gaining exposure from the recent Federal Office of Personnel Management hack, and other security breaches like those experienced by Target and Anthem, “every week in the news there is some new hack,” said Miller.  “People are starting to ask key questions like, “Is my personal information at risk of being stolen? What do I need to do to secure that information online, and what does all this mean to me?’”

Growing A Strong Community

gg_community_iconMiller, who has been involved with the cybersecurity industry from its infancy, relocated to Huntsville two years ago from the DC area looking to settle down.  “We had always wanted to come back to Alabama, my wife’s from Alabama, and so we were very thoughtful and intentional about wanting to come back here,” said Miller.

But settling down close to family wasn’t his only goal for relocating, “I always had aspiration to have my own company,” stated Miller.  “I wanted to do something different, so I thought, ‘if I’m going to start my own company, I want to do it my way and I want to be very thoughtful about it.  I want to do more than just driving profit, building pipeline, building revenue, I want to make a difference.’”

And a big part of that difference for Miller is helping to build a stronger community here in Huntsville. “If we were going to move here and put down roots, raise our kids here, I wanted to make sure we were part of the community and that it was going to be a rich environment for them and for us.  So I started thinking, what can I do to help enable that?”

Innovating Employee Engagement

photo8636Inspired by his mission to create a company that not only built revenue, but also grew community, Miller developed an innovative new business model that is changing the way his employees interact with the company.  “The business model is built around the idea that a small percentage of every employee’s billable hours gets directed to the charitable organization of their choice,” explained Miller.  “So you’re not just working for the mission of the client, you’re working for your own personal mission. You’re inspired because you’re not just working to get your salary, but you’re helping somebody else.”

Miller went on to explain that because of this new business structure that “the people that I get are super motivated and energized. They realize that our approach is different, and moves away from the old archetype of work hard and get paid more.  Science says it doesn’t work like that.  You actually get more engaged if you feel like you are valued, like you’re helping others, you’re giving back, you’re gaining some mastery over something that you like; so that’s why my business model aligns with highly motivated individuals.”

Through his employee’s designated donations, Mission Multiplier now supports several different local community non-profits in the Huntsville area. For example, “People have family members that have down syndrome, so they’re able to support an organization that they are passionate about; so when they’re working they’re not just working for “the man,” (and hopefully I’m not “the man”) but they feel like, ‘every hour I work I’m helping somebody else, I’m helping a family member, I’m helping the community’. I feel like employees and clients are more likely to be engaged and inspired,” said Miller.

Revolutionizing Our Approach to Cybersecurity

think_orangeAnd as if that wasn’t enough for one company, in addition to his innovative new business model and strong desire to help build and grow the Huntsville community, Miller is also revolutionizing the way we approach Cybersecurity, not only just here in Huntsville, but around the world.

“We’re doing some really cool stuff around the nexus of behavioral science and cybersecurity; and how do you get people to change their behavior to focus on information security?” said Miller. “Security is often seen, especially in the government, as a compliance checklist. You’re doing security for security sake, but you’re not incentivizing the right behavior,” he explained.  “So what we’ve done is we’ve created an customized process and supporting algorithm that ties together aspects of behavioral sciences and cybersecurity feeds to help organize people’s (and organization’s) workload or priorities.  We use what we call a risk economy where basically we score different people on how well they are doin within that economy, and then they compete against each other in a friendly competition, with the end result of improving overall cybersecurity..”

In essence, what Miller has done is to take cybersecurity from a dry task to be checked off on a daily basis, to a fully interactive experience in which the users can feel motivated and encouraged to be proactive in their cybersecurity efforts through an advanced understanding of not only cyber security but more importantly, of people and how they can be motivated to change their behavior toward cybersecurity itself.

What Should Businesses Do To Start Upping Their Cybersecurity?

When asked what individuals and businesses can do to up their cybersecurity game, Miller had this to say, “Generally, I think people don’t really see security as a priority.”  He went on to say, “If you’re building a product, or delivering a service, it’s all about getting it done fast and meeting a market need, but there is not enough attention and awareness of what’s going to happen with the sensitive information that I collect (or share).  Whatever life-cycle you’re in, if you’re developing a product or service, cybersecurity needs to be embedded in that life-cycle.”

And if you’re just getting started taking steps to up your company’s cybersecurity, Miller recommends that small to medium-sized businesses conduct a self-assessment.  There are several government products you can use, or you can hire a company like Mission Multiplier to conduct an assessment of your existing cybersecurity capabilities – to identify potential weaknesses and gaps, so you can make sure that you address those.  “There are also some self assessment questionnaires online. NIST, The National Institute of Standards and Technology, has some free guidelines and assessments that you can take and it will give you some really good baseline recommendations for things to do.”

To learn more about Mission Multiplier and to see how they could help your company, visit their website:


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