HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (June 1, 2020) – As we watch protests over police brutality turn to acts of violence in many U.S. cities, the Huntsville business community is prayerful that planned events in our city will continue to take place without conflict. The Rocket City’s history shows we respect individuals’ rights to speak up and bring about change in a peaceful manner.
This goes back many decades, including a poignant moment in 1963, when Dr. Sonnie Hereford III walked his son, 6-year-old Sonnie Hereford IV to school, integrating Huntsville schools without conflict while other Alabama communities saw unrest. Our city found creative, courageous ways to cooperate and bring about change.
“We’ve always had the ability to talk about things in Huntsville, and our community has been dedicated to making change peacefully,” said Hundley Batts, a Huntsville native, business owner, and current Chair of the Industrial Development Board. “We have always been respectful and listen to our citizens. I pray Huntsville will continue to lead the way as we work through these times.”
We have welcomed diversity over the years, with a large percentage of our community moving here from other parts of the country and world. More than 50 percent of our community is non-native, supporting work for the U.S. military and our space program. Today, more than 40,000 people support work being done on Redstone Arsenal, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and in Cummings Research Park. Elsewhere in Huntsville, our companies manufacture engines that power automotive vehicles across the world.
“’United we stand’ certainly means a lot to us as a nation,” said Kevin Byrnes, Chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Board of Directors and VP of Strategic Consulting Services for Navigator International LLC. “In Huntsville, I see the same heartfelt sentiment as our foundational point of view, a core value, in all we do. A value that has helped us succeed in most undertakings. We must continue to tackle the many challenges ahead, open-eyed and willing to change, but always as one.”
“The recent tragic events have shown that there are still disparities in our country, and we are fortunate to live in a community that will listen and is striving to work through our differences,” said Kim Lewis, Immediate Past Chair of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and CEO of PROJECTXYZ, Inc. “True change can only happen when people are willing to communicate openly knowing that they will be heard and understood.”
“It is great to see our community respond in such a peaceful and unified way. Our community has made many significant strides in a positive direction,” echoed Dr. Karockas Watkins, 2020 Vice Chair of Workforce for the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and CEO/President/Executive Director of Ability Plus. “We have many miles ahead to go in justice, equity and equality that will require the efforts of our entire community. The business community and individuals alike must look within to see what we can do to help our community move forward for ALL lives.”