Speech 42 – ATM Professional Speaker Module;
Project – Keynote Address; Date 1/22/03

Audience:  We have fast-forwarded a little over three years into the future.  It is Monday, March 27th, 2006.  A special event is being held at the beautiful new Art Clarkson Convention Center located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Interstates 565 and 65 between Decatur and Madison.  Today is the kickoff meeting for the newly formed Mid-Tennessee Valley Planning Commission (MTVPC). These organizations was formed by a consortium of visionaries from Madison, Limestone and Morgan Counties in North Alabama, and were tasked with planning and promoting transportation and economic development while maintaining and improving environmental concerns such as air and water quality. Their broad mission is to improve quality of life in the region while preserving much of the area’s history, heritage and natural beauty.  The audience includes the public but also includes a number of dignitaries form the tri-county region – mayors, city commissions, county executives, school boards, CEOs and members of the TV, radio and newspaper media.

The following web-sites are examples of similar organizations to the one being discussed in my speech:

http://www.atlreg.com/ Atlanta Regional Commission (Atlanta, GA area)

http://www.brpc-al.org/  Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (Birmingham, AL)

http://www.tmagroup.org/aboutTMA.htm  TMA Group (Franklin, TN)

http://www.cmcog.state.sc.us/trans.html  Central Midlands Council of Governments (Columbia SC area)

http://www.pagnet.org/ Pima Assoc of Governments (Tuscon, AZ area)

http://www.alarc.org Alabama Council of Regional Governments – similar but does not group Huntsville with Decatur and focuses more on the needy and elderly.

This is an article that talks about the future Art Clarkson Arena

Speaker:  (to be read by the Toastmaster, referred to as the Master of Ceremonies)
The Keynote speaker for the kick-off meeting for the MTVPC is Mr. Joe Gillis, the organization’s charter president.  He has been a resident of Huntsville since 1989 and is a member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers serving on the Intelligent Transportation Systems Committee.  Mr. Gillis has a Masters Degree in Civil Engineering from Auburn University and has been employed in the public safety and transportation sectors for 17 years.

Speech: Thank you for this opportunity to address you this morning.  Mrs. Johnson, (look at him/her) thank you for your nice introduction. I don’t know how I’m going to live up to your fine billing today. 

(Look around at specific people while talking), Governor Riley, Congressman Cramer, mayors and other honorable government officials from the region, members of the media, and citizens of the Mid-Tennessee Valley – I welcome you (hold arms out in front with hands palm up) to the kickoff meeting of the Mid-Tennessee Valley Planning Commission – also known as the MTVPC.

I hope everyone had an easy time getting here and finding our meeting.  There’s so much being built around this beautiful new Art Clarkson Arena and Convention Center (look around with arms up and apart). There’s so many people here, that I want to make sure some of you weren’t looking for the Racking Horse convention at the new Hilton Hotel next door and here by mistake.  Thank you so much for coming.

Today,   March 27th, 2006, we’re here to talk about progress, a spirit of cooperation and commitment to a better way of life the great counties of Madison, Morgan and Limestone.  (point in different directions and look around)  From New Hope to Salem, from Danville to New Market and especially in the (make a finger triangle) Huntsville, Madison, Athens and Decatur triangle, the Mid-Tennessee Valley Planning Commission is ready to go to work for you. (point)

There have already been a lot of things accomplished in this great region of the state of Alabama, but there’s still a long ways to go.  That is what we are going to talk about today.

But first, for your encouragement, let’s look back at the first half of the first decade of the 21st century. 

The route for the Memphis to Atlanta Interstate has been selected through the heart of the region.  The Southern Bypass segment of this road is nearing completion from the intersection of Research Park Boulevard and I-565 to Memorial Parkway, just north of the recently upgraded Whitesburg Bridge. 

Cummings Research Park is growing and a new commercial and retail establishment at the southwest side is doing very well.  Downtown Huntsville and downtown Decatur have continued their renaissance that began in the 1990’s.

Companies like Intergraph, AdTran, Boeing and Toyota continue to prosper and generate jobs and opportunities.  Historic areas and green space are being preserved and bike trails are being built. There are quite a few other accomplishments I could mention if I had the time. This is a credit to you, the great people of the Mid-Tennessee Valley.

The Mid-Tennessee Valley region is poised (hold out a hand like I am balancing something) for greatness.  It is the goal of our organization, the MTVPC,  to continue to draw on this region’s strengths and expand on them for the good for all our great people.  In the past, our efforts to accomplish good has been a tedious task as each city and county government operated somewhat independently and missed opportunities to work together.  Now, for long range planning purposes,  we have come together in unity and have created a synergy of effort where the end result is greater than just the sum of the individual parts.

You may be asking how?  How are we going to accomplish our goals? Our mission is threefold:

1.  Efficient Transportation Service

2.  Coordinated Public Safety Response

3.  Smart Environmental Policy

Efficient Transportation Service is very important to our region’s growth and ability to attract quality, well-paying jobs and keep our region’s young people from having to leave the state.  Our Commission will be responsible for creating and maintaining a long-range Transportation Plan.  We will work with private investors and the governments of the Mid-Tennessee Valley region to see that monies are allocated and a commitment is made to reach our goals.

This plan will include items such as the completion of the Memphis-to-Atlanta Interstate, the four-laning of ALA Highway 53 from Huntsville to Ardmore, and the expansion of Research Blvd past the Toyota Plant on Pulaski Pike.  We also want to do a feasibility study for implementing light-rail service for Huntsville along the Holmes Ave, Meridian Street and Pulaski Pike corridors.  This would connect key employment centers such as downtown, UAH, Cummings Research Park, Huntsville Hospital and the Toyota Motor Plant with neighborhoods whose residents might be likely to use public transportation.

One other item to investigate, that would improve our region’s transportation service is the addition of a low-fare airline into Huntsville International Airport. This would foster competition, therefore keeping costs down and increase the number of direct flight destinations.

A Coordinated Public Safety response is crucial. Intergraph’s Computer-Aided-Dispatch and Records Management Systems will be expanded to manage all of the regions police, sheriff, and fire departments as well as the region’s ambulance and emergency rescue service.  This capability is currently installed in Madison County, but we plan to expand the current capabilities to all of Morgan and Limestone counties and the municipalities within each.  As our region continues to grow, our neighborhoods and communities are not so easily divided by city limits and county lines.  There is no reason for the resident who lives on one side of the street to have to call a different emergency number that his or her neighbor who lives on the other side of the street  - a situation that exists today and continues to cause confusion.  All residents of the Mid-Tennessee Valley should have a first-rate emergency dispatching system.

In similar fashion, our region has grown to the extent to where the implementation of a region-wide Intelligent Transportation System (also known as ITS) has become a necessity.  We are currently looking for ways to fund and implement such an endeavor.  An ITS would include traffic cameras positioned along major thoroughfares and at major intersections to identify areas of traffic congestion.  The use of cameras would also help identify traffic accidents and other incidents that require the dispatch of emergency vehicles.  An ITS could also offer high-tech traffic signal management in Huntsville and Decatur and include Overhead Message Boards along I-65, I-565 and Memorial Parkway.  ITS might also include low-power traveler information AM radio and/or a Traveler Information 5-1-1 number that passengers could call to get information about potential traffic delays, learn of any road closures and possible detours and get up-to-date travel information and in times of inclimate weather.    Speaking of weather, we will maintain a close relationship with the Huntsville office of the National Weather Service and the local television meteorologists to make sure those in vehicles are informed of emergency weather conditions.

Within the next few years, we will be looking to create a complete and integrated Public Safety and Transportation Management Center for the Mid-Tennessee Valley.  We will probably locate this new facility near the booming I-65 – I-565 intersection where we are gathered today.  This intersection is the heart and lifeblood of the region and it seems appropriate to locate such a center here.

Smart Environmental Policy is a must for any region, but for a large growing region, we must make better and more efficient use of our land.  We want to preserve green space and other historical areas within our region while not hindering growth and progress of our communities.  Our organization will be tasked with protecting and promoting our historical areas like Mooresville, Chase and Normal, also key downtown areas of Huntsville, Decatur, Hartselle and Athens.  We want to work with Monte Sano State Park and the Huntsville Land trust to add reserve areas of green space for generations to come.  One very exciting trend that we will continue to promote are the installation of bike/hike trails along the region’s waterways like Aldridge Creek and the Huntsville Spring/Pinhook Creek waterway through the center of Huntsville, Indian Creek in western Madison County, Mill Creek in Madison, Swan Creek in Athens and Dry Branch in Decatur. 

We also want to work with Federal and State agencies to monitor air and water quality and make recommendations for keeping these excellent and to meet or exceed EPA standards. This effort is being done for benefit of you, your children and your children’s children.

In conclusion, I want to again thank you for coming out today and sharing our vision for a better and most excellent Mid-Tennessee Valley.  I encourage each of you to come together and seek to help us achieve our common goals of Efficient Transportation Service, Coordinated Public Safety Response, and Smart Environmental Policy as we make decisions that affect the half a million residents of this great region.