As the Arsenal and Huntsville/Madison community continue to grow, Redstone senior leaders met with representatives from the local hospitality industry to discuss the installation’s future development and needs.
Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command deputy commanding general and Redstone Arsenal senior commander, and Deputy Assistant Director Drew Watts, FBI Redstone, were the guest speakers at the Huntsville/Madison County Hospitality Association’s October meeting, hosted at Rhythm on Monroe in downtown Huntsville. The HMCHA is a group of representatives of the hospitality and tourism industry, including lodging, restaurant, tourism and travel.
“At Redstone, our key to success is partnering with the community,” Mohan said to the group. “This is my fourth assignment here, and I’ve seen the accession from a sleepy community to the recent exponential growth and our continued growth.”
One of the key points Mohan and Watts addressed was availability of hotel rooms at the per diem rate for federal travelers, saying continued growth on the installation, including the FBI’s expansion of training venues, will greatly increase the number of visitors to the area. Watts said annually FBI is looking to host around 3,800 people for training on its Redstone north and south campuses, many staying in the community for a full week.
“This will be the home for the FBI’s advanced training, hosting agents that will impact investigations happening around the world,” Watts said. “We are going to be impacting this city in a big and positive way.”
Watts said understanding this impact, the FBI recently added a fifth pillar to their strategic objectives to focus on partnerships. Both he and Mohan underlined how the Army and FBI have been actively engaging with leaders in different sectors of the community, including medical, childcare, roads, security and schools.
“We understand that what we are hearing on the installation are the same things you are feeling in the community. That is why we are here to talk with you,” Mohan said. “I can’t solve this by myself. We need your help to address this and other similar issues in the community.”
HMCHA’s President Charles Winters, who also serves as president of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau, called the meeting a great conversation starter between the many groups that impact quality of life in the area and the installation. He said that big changes had already taken place with the government increasing Huntsville’s per diem rates, changing lodging from $98 to $127 a day.
“Part of our role is helping understand that this is ongoing, steady business,” Winters said, noting that building relationships between the hospitality industry and the Arsenal will be key to ensuring mutual success. Ideas from the participants include better forecasting of major events on the installation and working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to understand the busy periods of the community.