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April 23, 2014 | Tom Ballard

Montoya focused on helping make Huntsville a better place for start-ups

Rocket Hatch(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series describing Rocket Hatch and the man behind the vision – Antonio Montoya. He is involved in a number of activities in the community including the “Rocket City Launch” weekend announced earlier this week.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Antonio Montoya wants to make Huntsville, his adopted hometown, “a better place for start-up companies,” and he believes his Rocket Hatch initiative will be a major contributor to that goal.

In fact, the native of the Republic of Colombia is so committed to this cause that he has quit his day job to focus full-time on the new initiative. Montoya recognizes that he is just one person, so he’s teaming with others in the region to make a difference.

I first met Montoya during a recent visit to Chattanooga’s CO.LAB. I was struck by the fact that he was focused that day on learning as much as he could about Chattanooga’s success factors. When we caught-up later via a phone conversation, I learned a great deal more about Montoya’s history and his aspirations.

He was educated in both Colombia and France and has completed advanced courses at the University of Virginia and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I was originally an engineer,” Montoya said. It is also worth noting that he was an entrepreneur while still in college, actually starting a company with one of his professors.

After working in the Caribbean region for a few years, Montoya moved to Miami in 2000.

“I tried to get into the movement, but I was too late,” he laughingly said.

Montoya joined Intergraph Corporation in 2003 and moved to Huntsville where he served as Senior Product Manager. Some four years later, he joined AeroMetric, a Wisconsin-based firm, but remained in Huntsville as Vice President of Marketing. He subsequently served as Vice President of Marketing for DAT/EM Systems International and Quantum Spatial.

Having lived in Huntsville for 14 years, Montoya understands its history as a government town with the Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal helping drive technology start-ups. He even draws comparisons in this regard with the Oak Ridge/Knoxville region and Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Recognizing the importance as well as dependence on these large federal installations, Montoya believes it is important to focus on diversifying the local economy.

“Can we (Huntsville) become an attractive place for start-ups to focus on Cloud technologies,” he asks and quickly explains the reasons he believes the answer is yes.

“On the Cloud, you can sell everywhere and live anywhere,” Montoya says, explaining that he believes Huntsville and other cities in the region can take advantage of this important global trend.

“Cloud-based businesses are a great opportunity for communities like ours (Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville) that have a high quality of life but for which it was hard to access global markets for physical goods,” he adds. “Via the web, we can access pretty much every market worldwide without having to relocate.”

Other key assets for the city are the short commute from home to work, the weather, the culture and, not so insignificant, the community’s ties to a region that includes Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville.

“As a region, we are very attractive,” Montoya says emphatically. “We can play on our strengths as individual cities, but work together.”

He draws a comparison between his vision and one about 80 years ago that also linked communities in Alabama and Tennessee in a way to drive economic development.

“It (my vision) makes me think of TVA and what it did,” Montoya explained.

We’ll cover his plans for Rocket Hatch in the second article in this series.

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