The rapid rise of the city of Huntsville, Alabama into an international logistics hub is both a blessing and a cause for worry in the city. Huntsville city has in the past few years established itself as a critical economical destination. The affordable cost of life in the city, the terrain, the prevailing weather conditions as well as the emergence of the city as a technological center greatly boosts the growth of the city. This study aims at establishing the challenges that the rapid growth of Huntsville city poses. The main challenges that the paper identifies include: congestion in the city, need for improvement of the transport network system, security, and the challenge of the need for a skilled workforce due to the technological orientation of the city. The study explores a number of transport and logistics changes that the government should enforce in order to prevent the highlighted challenges associated with the growth of the city of Huntsville.
Rapid development of any city is always accompanied with a myriad of challenges. The city of Huntsville, Alabama, is currently one of the fastest and busiest international logistics hubs. The success of the city emanates from hosting the Redstone Arsenal, as well as NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Playing host to these critical bodies warranted security and stability, which in conjunction with enviable terrain and resources resulted in economic development. The city is home to Cummings Research Park that is home to more than 285 companies offering employment to over 25,000 people. It is worth noting that the park is the second largest research park in the US and the fourth largest in the world. The park hosts Fortune 500 companies, major international high-tech enterprises, a technology business incubator, the US Space and Defense agencies, as well as technology-oriented institutions of learning. In addition to being an international logistics hub and home to crucial military facilities, Huntsville City is rated as one of the best cities in the world in terms of lifestyle. All the above are the factors contributing to the hyper growth of Huntsville City. The growth is alarming, and, therefore, requires the government to step up measures to ensure that the associated problems do not take the center stage in the near future. This paper provides a plan, which, if adopted by the government, will prevent Huntsville City from facing congestion and transportation problems, ensure safety of the supply chain, as well as eliminate problems associated with the need for retraining workforce.
Transport and Logistics Policy Concepts
Huntsville City currently boasts an effective transport network system. It is inspiring to point out that despite the rapid growth and development the city has seen for a number of years, there are no cases of delays due to traffic in the city. In fact, statistics indicate a reduction in commuter time amid increase in the number of single vehicles accessing the transport network in the city. Despite this, the government should not rest satisfied and see the situation as lasting forever. There is a need for its involvement in taking measures to ensure that the current transport network remains stable and necessary modifications are made to facilitate free flow of people and goods.
Transportation Planning Initiatives
Significant improvements in travel time are directly linked to local transportation planning initiatives and implementation of agreed plans. The government should work closely with the Huntsville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to ensure that transportation plans and programs are coherent and continuous. This will enable the interlinking between the city’s transportation network expansion plan and the federal transport network system. The composition of the local MPO coordination fraternity should reflect the interests of all stakeholders. In the past, inclusion of representatives of NASA and Redstone Arsenal proved sufficient. However, the changing city dynamics necessitates introduction of representatives of international logisticians. Transport network plans arrived at by such a team will go a long way in forecasting future transport network requirements (Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville County, 2007).
Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)
LRTP is a crucial document used to identify roads requiring improvements in order to meet prospected transport demands. The document covers a period of around 25 years, which is a sufficiently long span of time for the government to assemble the necessary resources. By keeping to this plan, the government will be able to have a clear forecast of the future road transport demands. The high-tech corridor of the Huntsville City, that is the Research Park, is one area that stands to benefit from this plan. The government should bring all the stakeholders behind the formulation and implementation of this plan to facilitate a speedy response to the rapid infrastructural demand of the city (Murphy, 2010).
The government should put in place measures to promote the use of public transport. Research clearly indicates that private automobiles are responsible for high traffic rates in major world cities. The projected $6.1 million that the Federal Transit Administration intends to direct towards the promotion of public transit services in Huntsville for the period 2012-2015 is not enough. The government should consider offering incentives to private investors, who wish to invest in public transport. The shuttle bus service operating in the city should provide 24/7 services, which further requires an increase in the number of fixed parking sections for public transit service providers.
Huntsville City is privileged to host the majority of airports and airfields within the county. The city is home to Huntsville International Airport, which is currently the only airport that offers commercial flights throughout the Tennessee Valley Region. Therefore, the government should carefully reconsider this issue. Centralizing commercial flight services within the area exerts a lot of pressure on Huntsville International Airport. Being an international logistics hub, Huntsville City has a lot of freight services taking place. The airport is very busy, and it would help a lot if commercial flights were diversified. Putting pressure on Huntsville International Airport is likely to increase traffic in the city. In addition to this, the whole process increases flight risks, an issue that requires immediate addressing (Wood et al., 2010).
Huntsville International Airport provides services that go far beyond those provided by an ordinary airport. The International Intermodal Center is a state-of-the-art facility, which can operate as a cargo hub, rail and highway transport systems. The center meets the economic expectations of the region, and it is important that the government should invest heavily in matters pertaining to its security. As a one-stop center, the facility is a prospective target for terrorist activities and drug trafficking. The government should, therefore, offer maximum security to the facility at all times.
The economy of the city of Huntsville is based on technology. International hi-tech companies operating in the city attract exceptional technocrats and scientists, thus having a source of highly skilled labor. This is not only true of the companies located in the Cummings Research Park, but also of NASA’s Marshal Space Flight Center and the Redstone Arsenal. It is, therefore, vital for the government to put in place measures to facilitate the supply of the required skilled labor force in the near future, as the demand surges. It is equally critical for the government to ensure that currently employed individuals do not end up jobless, when their skills no longer match technological requirements. To facilitate this, the government should undertake the following measures (Whitening et al., 2003).
Development of Huntsville City Technological Schools
The government should move swiftly to ensure that the education curriculum in Huntsville City is technology oriented. Owing to the fact that the schools are located in one of the world’s most technologically advanced regions, the students are exposed to all kinds of high technology. By introducing a curriculum that is tailored to meet the job market requirements, students stand to benefit a lot. Magnet schools in the city have proved that students find it easy to learn and reflect on what they are taught. The response to laboratory sessions from elementary and high school students is quite encouraging. Huntsville’s students are ranked among the best in the country; it is even interesting to see how enthusiastic they are when taking technological lessons. The experience acquired from magnet schools, which require students to learn foreign languages, is invaluable. Since students are multidisciplinary, pursuing technical skills at a tender age does not reduce their ability to grasp other disciplines.
Career/Technical Training Programs
The government should endeavor to increase the number of technological centers in the city. The move should go hand-in-hand with the compulsory teaching of technical subjects at high schools. Technical training centers are bound to increase acquisition of technical skills, which should be a true reflection of the technological world. This implies that the skills offered should be flexible and always up-to-date.
Partnership with NASA and Redstone Arsenal
The government should facilitate partnership between high schools and the Redstone Arsenal and NASA. This will ensure that students take an active role in a number of research activities that these organizations carry out. This is, indeed, an essential way of enhancing students’ acquisition of invaluable technical skills, as well as a wealth of research foundation. NASA usually provides students with an opportunity to take part in robot competitions, thus enabling them to learn about military occupations. Through coordination between the education system and job industry, the government will be able to meet the growing demand for industrial workforce in Huntsville City. Through co-op programs, companies also play a critical role in helping the government facilitate the availability of a skilled workforce.
A supply chain is a series of channels that goods pass through from suppliers to consumers. They range from humans, infrastructure, and transport modes to warehouses. Huntsville has long been known as a tourist resort center, and so it provides excellent business opportunities. Due to the economic potential of Huntsville, there is a need to address its security problems in order to facilitate supply chains of goods. To achieve this, relevant parties should track the transportation and delivery of goods through computerization of channels involved in their movement.Transparency should be encouraged through documenting all transactions to avoid any possible losses or interchanges during the transportation or delivery process.
There is also a need for a certification programme to indicate the legality of parties involved. Thus, any possibility of fraudulent dealings during intermediate stages will be ruled out. Since diversification of offices may lead to loss or alteration of some vital information, safety of goods can also be guaranteed through centralization of the processes involved. There should also be collaboration with security personnel to ensure escorting of precious goods that may be stolen. While computerizing the systems, broadband and connectivity issues should be addressed to avoid any likely errors, such as corruption of files. It is also important that highly skilled personnel perform all troubleshooting operations. Timely availability and efficiency in handling goods usually help in avoiding unnecessary delays and eliminating confusion. Factoring in all these precautions will boost confidence of local and foreign investors, thus increasing the economic status of the city and state.
The element of security is paramount in any given state. Since 9/11, the United States have tightened security, including restructuring of its security investigative bodies. These security precautions are, however, meaningless, if people themselves are not involved. Huntsville also has its own security loopholes, and that should be taken into account.
Educating the Locals
Despite all the security advisories and warnings, things are bound to remain the same, if the locals do not know how to take action on what they are advised. Huntsville locals are perceived to be educated. However, the rates of unemployment and school dropouts indicate otherwise. Therefore, to curb the security menace, there is a need to ensure that people are educated to be able to know what is expected from them.
Curbing Drug Trafficking
Drugs have become a major commodity, especially in Huntsville. For instance, only recently 15 people have been arrested in connection with cocaine in Huntsville. Drugs are continuously destroying the younger generation, since they are the majority who use them. It is stopping the sale of drugs that should be given priority before focusing on terrorism, since drug traffickers can do anything, both legal and illegal, to protect their interests. This implies that businesses will stop operating for fear of being accused of engaging in drug-related activities. Terrorists also tend to use drug peddlers to collect information on security vulnerabilities of a country. Therefore, to avoid compromising the economic stability of Huntsville, the problem should be sorted out from within, before focusing on the outside risks. Charity begins at home, and so to control the terrorists from the outside, problems from within need to be tackled first.
Reducing Global Warming
Security of Huntsville will remain in jeopardy if the current trends in global warming continue to multiply. Scientists have repeatedly warned of dire consequences resulting from human activities, The problem of global warming will not only affect the agricultural sector, but will also affect businesses at large. Therefore, to improve Huntsville’s security, and consequently our future, emission of greenhouse gases, which is a prime contributor to global warming, should be brought under control. This can be done by enacting carbon emission control regulations. The number of vehicles entering Huntsville should be reduced to avoid greenhouse gases accumulation. Unless kept in check, global warming may ultimately lead to exposing humans to dangerous solar radiation.
Increased Border Security
One of the most efficient ways of increasing internal security consists in increasing the number of trained personnel at the border. Other than focusing on employing countless security personnel at the boundaries of Huntsville, the government should enhance the intelligence system, which is usually more effective than deploying numerous border guards. Illegal transfers should be prevented, as they also pose a security threat.
Training Locals to Assist in Keeping Homeland Security
Rather than simply reporting suspicious activities, ordinary citizens should take a more active part in security matters. They should be given some basic training to enable them to respond to urgent situations, such as disasters and self-defense (Kilgore, 2009). Improving individual awareness will go a long way in ensuring security of Huntsville. It is also advisable that locals be notified on the risks involved in participating in certain activities.
Congestion is used to designate excessive traffic or land crowding. Huntsville should become a role model in community development by embracing smart growth mechanisms to beat congestion in its center. This calls for proper land policies to regulate construction and settlement activities within the city limits. These guidelines are issued and guided by the provincial public statement under the Ontario Planning and Development Act. Currently, Huntsville’s policies do support the complete communities’ type of settlement. In this type of settlement, all social amenities, such as schools and hospitals, are within easy reach. One of the priorities identified in the strategic development plan of the town is the development of the downtown and adjacent areas. These strategies are aimed at utilizing the smart growth criteria in these constructions. Compact designs should be adopted in constructing the buildings in order to use space efficiently. To do this, developers should opt for vertical, rather than horizontal constructions. These will enable to accommodate more people while taking up only a small area.
Being a major contributing factor to air pollution, automobile congestion should be reduced by encouraging construction of mixed-use neighborhoods that will limit automobile sage. The government should develop sustainable neighborhoods, which will promote the unity plan policy at Huntsville. The government should also encourage planting trees, which apart from the aesthetic beauty, will also help control global warming, a hazardous phenomenon caused by vehicular gaseous emissions. Effective land use planning does not only prevent congestion in settlement areas, but also helps reduce traffic congestion by providing easy access to different areas of the city.
Due to the improved economic status of the majority of Huntsville’s residents, the number of vehicles within the city has increased. However, there has not been any significant improvement of infrastructure to offset the increase. The lack of infrastructure hinders freedom of movement and creates many traffic jams around the city. It also contributes to the increase in the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, hence causing global warming. The main cause of traffic congestion is the increase in demand for transportation. To counter this menace, alternative transportation means should be used to prevent privately owned vehicles from reaching the city’s center. Parking lots should also be set up on the outskirts of the city, while town service buses should be used to reach central areas. This will not only limit traffic congestion, but also reduce air pollution. The government should also build wider roads, which can accommodate more vehicles to facilitate the smooth moving of the traffic jam to and from the city. According to Beevers and Carslaw (2005), the government should adopt modern technology to monitor vehicle emissions, in which case the owner pays for any undue pollution.
Atmospheric congestion refers to the saturation of dust and smoke particles in the air. Its main cause is traffic congestion, and apart from global warming, some of the components of these pollutants have a carcinogenic effect. The situation calls for urgent measures to be put in place to eliminate those pollutants from the atmosphere. The best way of tackling the problem is to use of electrostatic air cleaners that attract dust particles, thus leaving the air clean. Motor vehicle exhausts should also be fitted out with wet scrubbers to attract smoke particles. Before newly produced cars reach the market, they should meet the emission standards put in place by the government. All these factors have a remarkable effect on the environment and economy, because businesses require clean environment to run effectively.