Economic Engines

U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal 

Redstone Arsenal is a 38, 000-acre secure U.S. Army installation and home of the Army Materiel Command’s four-star general headquarters, a command with a $58 billion budget and activity in 144 nations. 

Redstone Arsenal is the principal location for Army materiel management, logistics, foreign military sales, contracting, missile defense, aviation and missile development, testing, acquisition and life cycle management. A federal center of excellence, Redstone Arsenal is also home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency for Missile and Space, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms National Center for Explosives Training and Research, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hazardous Devices School and future home of the Terrorists Explosive Device Analytical Center among others. 

Redstone Arsenal is easily the area’s largest employer with more than 38, 000 employees and an annual payroll of about $3.2 billion. The workforce is drawn from 15 counties across northern Alabama and middle Tennessee.

The Arsenal is home to more than 60 different federal organizations and contractor operations, which manage more than $100 billion in annual federal budgets.

The estimated total annual impact of Redstone Arsenal to the Tennessee Valley is 104, 000 direct and indirect jobs and $12.7 billion in economic output. That totals up to about 7 percent of the total GDP for Alabama, and nearly half the $21.56 billion GDP of the Huntsville metro area. 

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“The entire Tennessee Valley is an integral part of Team Redstone as we all live, work, play, shop and study together, ” says Col. Bill Marks, garrison commander. “Our partnerships with local communities are key to our success, and Team Redstone appreciates every single member’s contribution to our overall mission success.”

Redstone also is home to Columbia College that serves mostly military personnel, as well as a branch of Florida Institute of Technology.

Marshall Space Flight Center 

The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is one of NASA’s largest field centers, occupying more than 1, 800 acres on Redstone Arsenal, the heart of the Army’s rocket and missile programs. 

Marshall employs more than 6, 000 people — with an annual budget of approximately $2 billion. 

MSFC has the program and project lead responsibility for development of the Space Launch System, the nation’s next heavy-lift vehicle planned to help the U.S. continue exploration of deep space. 

Marshall’s economic impact is in excess of $3 billion in the state of Alabama alone, according to 2013 data.  It is the third largest employer in the Huntsville/Madison County area, and is close to many technical and scientific resources, including Cummings Research Park, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Calhoun Community College Huntsville campus and Alabama A&M University.

Cummings Research Park 

Cummings Research Park (CRP) in Huntsville is the nation’s second oldest and second largest research park — behind only Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The park covers 3, 843 acres — some developed and some available — adjacent to the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal. 

Many Fortune 500 companies have a presence in Huntsville, and 300 of these reside within CRP.  The country’s prime aerospace and defense contractors have operations in the park.  Those companies employ more than 25, 000 people and boast a payroll of nearly $2 billion. In fact, the Huntsville metro area is always mentioned among cities with the highest concentration of engineers per capita.

By any measure, CRP has a significant impact. Most of the companies listed among Washington Technology’s top federal contractors have a location in the park. All of the top 12 are represented at CRP; 22 of the top 26 and 56 of the top 100 have a location in Huntsville.

Cummings was founded in 1962 as “Huntsville Research Park” and celebrated 50 years of operation in 2012. Its key industries include aerospace and defense, computers and electronics, engineering and government services, hardware and software development, information technology, life sciences and biotechnology, modeling and simulation and research and development. The University of Alabama in Huntsville is a major tenant. 

Employment payroll generates about $280 million annually in state and local taxes from direct and indirect employment. The state of Alabama has invested more than $200 million in the park. 

Recent developments in Cummings Research Park include Synapse Wireless adding 60 employees and moving into a new office on Odyssey Drive, Davidson Technologies opening a 22, 000-square-foot facility that will house 125 employees, and expansions at T&W Operations, ATEC and Engility.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, the cornerstone of the 152-acre Cummings Research Park biotech campus, creates a synergistic cluster of biotechnology talent made up of science and business professionals. Its mission is three-fold — sparking scientific discoveries that can impact human health and well-being; fostering biotech entrepreneurship, and encouraging the creation of a genomics-literate workforce and society. Designed to be a hothouse of biotech economic development, HudsonAlpha’s facilities co-locate scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. The relationships formed on the HudsonAlpha campus allow serendipity to yield results in medicine and agriculture. Since opening in 2008, HudsonAlpha, under the leadership of Dr. Richard M. Myers, a key collaborator on the Human Genome Project, has built a name for itself in genetics and genomics research and biotech education, and boasts 27 tenant biotech companies on campus.

CRP is also the home of the Bridge Street Town Centre, a mixed-use office, retail and hotel development that brings in significant revenue to the area. It is the only such development in a research park in the nation. In the past year, Bridge Street has added 1, 023 new parking spaces to accommodate Belk’s $20 million flagship store. Bridge Street has also announced the addition of four new restaurants, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, Texas de Brazil, BRAVO! Cucina Italiana and Steel City Pops.

Information Technology

More than 300 international and domestic corporations in Huntsville/Madison County are involved in the design and production of electronics and computer-related technology. The county’s IT industry encompasses a wide range of activities including manufacturing of telecommunications hardware, circuit board and communications subcomponent assembly and design, sensors and radars for advanced missile systems and detection, as well as software engineering. The TechAmerica foundation listed Huntsville/Madison County’s concentration of high-tech workers second in the nation, trailing only California’s Silicon Valley.

Advanced Manufacturing   

The Huntsville/Madison County manufacturing base is a diverse mix of traditional and technology manufacturers comprising approximately one fifth of the overall local area employment. Area manufacturing employers include engine plants for Toyota and Navistar, suppliers for the automotive and aviation industries and other diverse fields. The manufacturing sector has more than 220 companies with 32, 000 workers, many of whom are highly trained and skilled to perform technology-based precision manufacturing. 

The area’s strong interstate, rail and air cargo infrastructure help support manufacturing. The Port of Huntsville’s Huntsville International Airport is home to Foreign Trade Zone No. 83 and the International Intermodal Center, as well as U.S. Customs. The majority of local manufacturing operations are located in one of the area’s publicly owned industrial parks, with sites and infrastructure currently in place for immediate and future growth.

Life Sciences   

Huntsville is home to a growing cluster of life science research, development and manufacturing companies. The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is the anchor of the 150-acre Cummings Research Park Biotech Campus and is a unique public-private partnership that has more than 20 for-profit companies working alongside nonprofit researchers. HudsonAlpha uses the Human Genome Project to develop new, targeted, more efficient treatments for diseases, such as cancers and Parkinson’s, and applications to such fields as molecular diagnosis and renewable energy. One of Huntsville’s largest employers is Qualitest Pharmaceuticals, which is the sixth largest generic pharmaceutical manufacturer in the United States.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama associates assemble more than 600, 000 engines a year, a capacity that will increase when the new V6 engine line is in full operation later this year. 

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama

Toyota Alabama has expanded four times in 10 years. The most recent expansion in February 2014 created 125 new jobs, bringing total employment to approximately 1, 250 and increasing capacity to nearly 750, 000 engines per year. 

It is one of the largest Toyota engine plants globally and the only Toyota plant globally to produce 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines under one roof, building engines for seven of the 12 Toyota models built in North America.  

Assembly of the new V6 engine began in February 2014. New machining lines to support assembly will be complete in July 2015. The investment for this latest expansion is $230 million, bringing total plant investment to more than $864 million.   

Engine production at the plant increased 13 percent from 2013 to 2014, with a total of more than 600, 000 – the highest volume in the history of Toyota Alabama. The plant has built more than 3.5 million engines since it began production in Huntsville in 2003 and will surpass 4 million this year. 

Toyota partnered with Calhoun Community College last year to develop the Alabama Federation for Advanced Manu facturing – Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program, which blends classroom instruction with on-site work experience. 

Toyota Alabama is one of two Model Sustainable Plants in North America, and has not only received environmental recognitions from the EPA and other agencies, but also received the city of Huntsville’s Air Pollution Control Achievement Award for its reduction of electric usage. It also works in conserving and reusing water and a battery charging system. 

Toyota also gives back to the communities where its team members work, donating $5 million to local nonprofit organizations since 2003.  

Health Care 

Health care is a major sector in Madison County. Huntsville Hospital alone has more than 7, 500 employees, and economic impact on the community exceeds $1 billion. The Huntsville Hospital System also includes a women’s and children’s hospital and Madison Hospital. The hospital provided more than $55 million in uncompensated care. 

Crestwood Medical Center has 560 employees, and in 2014 it projected $89.8 million in total direct economic impact for Madison County. It projected $10 million in indigent/charity care for 2014. 

Madison County is also home to assisted living facilities, clinics and the Veterans Administration, which is building a new outpatient clinic to replace two others and make it easier for veterans in North Alabama to receive care. 

Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport 

The Port of Huntsville is an inland port facility that is comprised of three operating entities — Huntsville International Airport (HSV), International Intermodal Center and Jetplex Industrial Park. This provides a multi-modal transportation system to a diverse customer base and stimulates the economic development and growth of the Tennessee Valley Region. 

The airport handles more than 70 passenger flights daily and has Alabama’s only non-stop international air cargo service. There are two parallel runways — a 12, 600-foot runway that is the second-longest in the Southeast U.S., and a 10, 000-foot runway —with 5, 000 foot separation for simultaneous takeoff and landing. 

Also, it has an Instrument Landing System (ILS) on all four runway approaches and is Group VI aircraft capable. 

The International Intermodal Center, which handles air and rail cargo, is the 14th largest international air cargo airport in the U.S. It offers non-stop freighter service using the 747-8 to Europe, Mexico, Asia and South America. It has 300, 000 square feet of airside cargo tenant warehouse facilities, with 5, 250 square feet of cold storage and 11, 000 square feet of temperature-controlled storage. Inspectors with U.S. Customs & Border Protection and USDA are on site at all times. The port facilities offer freight forwarders and customs brokers on site, direct access to the interstate highway system, a rail terminal with overhead cranes, container depot service and domestic rail service to the West Coast and Northeast. 

The Jetplex Industrial Park consists of 4, 000 acres available in tracts of four to 300 acres with utilities, telecommunications and direct interstate access. It also includes public-use Foreign Trade Zone No. 83; some sites have direct runway access. It has warehouse and distribution space and AIDT is on site. 

Higher Education 

The University of Alabama in Huntsville, located in the heart of Cummings Research Park, has a huge economic impact on several fronts. 

UAH had an economic impact of $684.4 million for 2009-2010 and that impact led to the creation of an estimated 7, 773 jobs statewide, according to Pittsburgh-based consulting firm Tripp Umbach.

The university’s direct impact for the study period was $297.6 million, and indirect impact was judged to be $386.8 million for the total of $684.4 million.

Other areas of impact include:

 Students who possess a bachelor’s degree earn $900, 000 more during their career, or $20, 000 annually, representing an extra $375 million paid a year to UAH’s  19, 000 alumni in Alabama.

 The university’s Small Business Development Center assists local companies by signing federal contracts worth about $1 billion using the center’s services.

 Researchers, through the development of lean manufacturing techniques, help Alabama manufacturers be more competitive in the global economy.

Research at UAH has grown from $65 million in 2008 to $99 million in 2013. During the past five years, UAH research scientists have performed more than $420 million in contract and grants, supported 700 graduate students, received 45 patents during the past five years and brought in approximately $5 million in licenses and royalty fees during that same period.

Calhoun Community College’s economic impact locally and regionally is significant. The Alabama Community College System estimates Calhoun’s economic impact to the community and state at $279, 284, 280 for a return on $1 investment (ROI) of 12.1, the highest among the state’s two-year colleges.

J.F. Drake State Technical College plays an important role in workforce training as well. Over the last five years, nearly 1, 500 technicians trained at Drake State have become employed, and those graduates have an economic impact of about $35.6 million, according to the Department of Labor Relations Labor Market Information System.

text by lori chandler pruitt

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