Madison County in north Alabama is one of the fastest growing counties in the Southeast and home to leading defense, aerospace and technology industries.
A recent analysis by 24/7 Wall Street found the Rocket City is one of the best places in the country for the number of high-tech jobs. Huntsville ranks No. 3 on the list, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The most common tech job in the city is aerospace engineer, with an average salary of $80,483 for all tech jobs, according to 24/7 Wall Street.
And the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of rapidly growing companies includes more than two dozen businesses in Huntsville and Madison County.
Jobs are plentiful in general, too. According to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, since 2010 the metro area has added more than 23,000 new jobs. While the area still has workforce capacity in target industries, the chamber is looking ahead, working to increase career awareness among students, the unemployed and underemployed, while attracting skilled and educated people from other parts of the country.
Madison County’s three public school systems are constantly updating career technical and science, tech and math opportunities for students, and the state will be opening a new Alabama School of Cyber and Engineering here. Local institutions of higher education work with K-12 schools and are major partners in economic development.
Along with jobs, the cities of Huntsville and Madison are undergoing change with lifestyle retail and commercial centers, hundreds of lofts and apartments, new home construction and other amenities that will improve quality of life. Madison County also has a strong tourism sector.
“We have fiber internet to homes now, and we are working on 5G technology that will result in even more jobs,” says Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We have many young people moving in to take high-tech jobs, and while we are looking to urban development, we also know that there are many people of all ages who want to live in urban areas. We are seeing a lot of development to keep up with the pace of the new jobs we are seeing. We also want people who work here to choose Huntsville to live.”
The area continues to be a magnet for big economic announcements, from aerospace companies to manufacturing to research and development and data centers.
Here are a few of the most notable recent announcements:
- Mazda and Toyota corporations are building a $1.6 billion automotive plant in Huntsville that will employ 4,000 new workers. The plant is currently under construction and is expected to be operational by 2021.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation is growing and building on 1,600 acres at Redstone Arsenal and expects to add 1,300 employees by 2021. Facilities in progress include the hazardous devices school, a ballistic research facility and training for weapons for mass destruction. Two years ago, the FBI opened the Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center with 200 jobs.
- Facebook has invested $750 million to build a data center in North Huntsville Industrial Park. It will be 1 million square feet and will employ approximately 100 people.
- Blue Origin will build a rocket engine production facility on 46 acres in Cummings Research Park and employ more than 300. United Launch Alliance recently picked Blue Origin to supply its next generation BE-4 engine for the first stage of the Vulcan Centaur rocket that ULA is building in Decatur.
Lori Chandler Pruitt is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.