Tommy Battle’s office on the eighth floor of Huntsville City Hall showed no mercy Tuesday morning.
When the mayor of Huntsville showed up for work — the first day Rocket City had been declared the best place to live in the nation — the office was still there, still holding the piles of to-do items regardless of the congratulations the city might have received.
Related: Huntsville is the best place to live in the United States, according to US News & World Report
And so, while the mayor was talking about the atta-boys of US News & World Report, he was also talking about his office.
“The accolades are great, the grades are great,” Battle said.
” They are very good. But you still have more to do. You see it every day. You walk in this morning and there are five things on your desk, things you really want to do, things you really need to do. There are things to review that we have done in the past and that we need to improve in the future.
“So that you never end up finishing it. But it kind of confirms that your strategy and plan that you have in place is an achievable strategy and plan that you know and are going in the right direction.
There were no bottles of champagne at the Tuesday morning press conference, which was held hours after the announcement by US News became public. If there were slaps on the back or high-fives, it was done behind closed doors.
Instead, the celebration was more low-key – Battle praised the community as a whole for the accomplishment and acknowledged that, as he said, there was a certain validation that came with being n #1. At the same time Mayor observed being #1. 1 was kind of a snapshot in time and there would be more snapshots in the future.
And what would Huntsville look like in those times?
“We’re the best right now,” Battle said. “It’s history. It’s in the history book. So now we have to work on what we are going to do for next year. We will keep pushing to try to become better and better.
The mayor offered, as an example, that a team from city hall traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, a few months ago to pick brains and maybe borrow an idea or two. . Greenville is renowned for its revitalized development of the area along the Reedy River which meanders through the city’s downtown.
“They came back with ideas on how to improve our city, what we can do that Greenville is doing well and what we can emulate,” Battle said. “Other cities that come to us and say, hey, they do it really well, we have to emulate that, they take that home.
“But being the best is not a one-time thing. It’s something you keep working on day in and day out, because there’s always someone nipping at your heels trying to be better than you.
US News analyzed the nation’s 150 largest metropolitan areas when compiling the rankings. The Huntsville Metro also includes the cities of Madison and Athens.
Huntsville scored 7 out of 10 in the rankings, scoring highest in housing affordability and labor market.
The highest rating comes less than a year after Huntsville overtook Birmingham to become the state’s largest city with a population of over 215,000. It’s a Battle mantra, when asked about population growth, that Huntsville is more interested in being the best city and not necessarily the biggest.
Jeff Gronberg, former chairman of the board of directors of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce, even borrowed that phrase on Tuesday before Battle could.
“As the mayor has said many times before, we are now the largest city in Alabama, but that’s never what we strived to be,” said Gronberg, a native of Huntsville, CEO and President of deciBel Research. “What we strive to be is the best city we can be. And I think this recognition really indicates that.
Now comes the question of how Huntsville makes the most of that momentum.
“This kind of recognition is going to be a tremendous asset as we continue to retain and recruit workers to Huntsville,” Gronberg said.
“We’ve been backed up by a tremendous amount of work at Redstone Arsenal and they’re kind of the crown jewel of what we have here. And so, from an aerospace and defense perspective, we continue to try to attract great talent to the city. And things like this are going to help that tremendously.
“Not only that, but the chamber and all the regional governments have been very focused on making sure we have a full and robust economy. We’ve been able to bring things like advanced manufacturing, life sciences, big data computing, things like that, that allow our region to have a broad base of support across the economic spectrum.
It starts, of course, as just a moment of bragging for the town and more evidence to convince people to check out Huntsville. The groundwork is yet to come, but it also bolsters the nationwide recruiting and promotion that the city and chamber have been engaged in over the past year.
“As of last night, we were updating all of our online graphics, our digital ads on our website,” said Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development at the Huntsville Chamber.
“So this is an opportunity to make more news about it. So anything that enters the Huntsville news cycle in a positive way is good for our recruiting efforts and just to raise awareness.
“We continue to put the Huntsville name first and foremost in people’s minds. And then we connect it to jobs and we connect to quality of life. And these are people we want to see and say, “Oh, I hadn’t thought of Huntsville.” And now they do.
But much like Battle’s office and his job still waiting, that job is why Huntsville was talking about being No. 1 on Tuesday.
“It’s a recognition of all the work we’ve done over the years,” Cape said. “And none of this happened yesterday or overnight. So that’s something we want to celebrate. But we only got there because of work and we will stay there because of work.