Spotlight on Madison County: Economic Engines

Research, defense and space are anchors to Madison County's economy

Cummings Research Park. Photo by Gerrit Burke, Sparrow Digital Media.

Redstone Arsenal

Redstone Arsenal is a federal research, development, test and engineering center. Located on more than 38,000 acres, the arsenal is home to more than 60 federal organizations and contractor operations, including the Army’s missile, aviation and missile defense programs, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and NATO’s MEADS program. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is headquartered at the arsenal, as well as the Army’s materiel management, logistics and foreign military sales. In all, agencies and program offices on the arsenal employ more than 43,000 people and oversee more than $50 billion in annual federal budgets.

In March, officials broke ground on the Missile and Space Intelligence Center’s (MSIC) Advanced Analysis Complex at the Richard C. Shelby Center for Missile Intelligence. The new addition to the MSIC campus adds state-of-the-art laboratories and dedicated analysis space that will enhance mission capabilities and collaboration between the Defense Intelligence Agency and foreign partners.

NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center

For more than 60 years, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has played a key role in shaping nearly every facet of the country’s space exploration efforts. Marshall manages the Space Launch System rocket and the Human Landing System Program; both support NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028.

Marshall is one of NASA’s largest field centers and has a significant impact on the state’s economy by supporting thousands of jobs and investing millions of dollars in research and development. It directly employs nearly 7,000 people and supports more than 41,000 jobs in Alabama. Marshall operates on an annual budget of approximately $4 billion and, according to its 2021 economic impact report, has an economic output of more than $8 billion, generating more than $233 million in state tax revenue.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

The FBI has had a presence on Redstone Arsenal for more than 50 years, dating back to the establishment of the Hazardous Devices School in 1971, and in recent years its footprint has expanded dramatically. In 2016 the bureau’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center relocated to the arsenal from the FBI Laboratory in Quantico. In 2019 it completed construction of a new Ballistics Research Facility.

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Today, the FBI continues development of two distinct campuses on the arsenal. Four buildings have opened on the north campus and several others are underway, including an Innovation Center scheduled to open in the spring of 2024. The expansion also includes developing the 900-acre south campus located near the Hazardous Devices School to include a training facility for FBI agents and technicians.

The FBI currently has approximately 1,500 employees at Redstone Arsenal and expects to have full-time capacity for 5,000 employees by 2028 with the capability of accommodating an additional 3,800 for training.

Cummings Research Park

Cummings Research Park (CRP) celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2022. The 3,800-acre park is home to more than 300 companies, 27,000 employees and 11,500 students. It is the second-largest research park in the country and the fourth-largest park in the world.

CRP consists of a mixture of Fortune 500 companies, local and international high-tech enterprises, U.S. space and defense agencies, business incubators and higher education institutions. The park’s anchor tenants include Teledyne Brown Engineering, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Lockheed Martin, Redstone Federal Credit Union, Calhoun Community College, ADTRAN, Dynetics and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

CRP is also home to the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering’s new campus, which opened in September 2022. The innovative high school is the first in the country to teach cyber resiliency in all disciplines. It is Alabama’s third state magnet school, with 254 students representing 61 Alabama cities and towns. Just over 100 students live in the campus residential building.

Other recent developments within the park include:

In 2022, Lockheed Martin, the park’s second-longest resident, broke ground on a $16.5 million, 25,000-square-foot Missile System Integration Lab that will support development, testing and integration for its Next Generation Inceptor program.

In October 2022, Radiance Technologies broke ground on Phase II of its campus, only two years after opening its new headquarters in the park.

In September 2022, ground was broken for the Arcadia, a 6-story mixed-use development that will include 10,935 square feet of office space for lease; 7,025 square feet of commercial retail, restaurant and amenity space; and 250 multifamily rental units.


The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2023. The nonprofit organization has generated more than $3.2 billion in economic impact in Alabama and more than $900 million from mergers and acquisitions. Its 152-acre campus, located in Cummings Research Park, is home to more than 50 biotech companies and 1,109 biotech business professionals.

The HudsonAlpha educational outreach team reached more than 1.7 million students and educators in 2022 by providing materials, programming and in-person and virtual learning experiences.

In July 2022, HudsonAlpha opened the newest addition to its campus. The Greenhouse and Education Learning Labs is a 14,000-square-foot facility that includes cutting-edge molecular laboratories and technological features to help advance research conducted in the institute’s Center for Plant Science and Sustainable Agriculture. With two lab spaces and seven grow rooms, the 14,000-square-foot facility significantly increases lab and greenhouse space for the growth and propagation of research plants. The campus expansion also will support more collaboration with AgBio companies.

In August 2022, HudsonAlpha announced a partnership with the city of Dothan, marking the first expansion of the organization’s physical footprint outside of Huntsville. The HudsonAlpha Wiregrass campus will focus on three main areas: genomics education in Wiregrass schools and for the general public, genomics research on Alabama peanuts and recruiting agriculture tech start-up companies to the area.

In addition to its physical growth, HudsonAlpha continues to make significant progress in its research on neurological diseases; ovarian, breast, pancreatic and other types of cancer; childhood genetic disorders; and plant science and agriculture.

Automotive Manufacturing

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama Inc. (TMMAL), in Huntsville, supplies engines for one-third of the Toyota vehicles assembled in the U.S. at its 1.3 million-square-foot facility and is the only plant globally to build four-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines under one roof. The plant has more than 1,800 employees and builds more than 3,000 engines each day. TMMAL’s latest $222 million investment, expected to be complete this fall, will add a new 4-cylinder engine line and will support HEV production. It also adds an additional 114,000 square feet to the Huntsville facility.

In neighboring Limestone County, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, a joint undertaking between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., currently produces the Mazda CX-50, a crossover SUV, and the Toyota Corolla Cross. Production at the plant is supported by 15 on-site partners that operate either under the roof of MTM’s massive 3.7 million-square-foot facility or on its nearby campus.

Port of Huntsville

The Port of Huntsville is an inland port facility that is home to Huntsville International Airport, the International Intermodal Center, Jetplex Industrial Park, Foreign Trade Zone #83, Signature Flight Support, the Sheraton Four Points Hotel and the Sunset Landing Golf Course. It is ranked No. 19 for international air cargo in the continental U.S. with connections to Europe, Asia and South America.

Huntsville International Airport (HSV) is the largest commercial airport in north Alabama and serves more than 1.2 million travelers annually with non-stop commercial service to 14 destinations.

In May 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a license that made HSV the first commercial service airport in the country authorized to operate as a reentry site for commercial spacecraft.

In October, Breeze Airways announced the addition of a nonstop service to Orlando and a one-stop, no-change flight to Charleston, South Carolina, both starting in March 2023. Breeze also offers flights to Las Vegas and Tampa.

Last summer, HSV received a $10 million grant from the FAA, part of the $1 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Airport Terminal Program grants, that will go toward improving amenities and access in the airport terminal. HSV was eligible for the BIL funds because it is operated by the Port of Huntsville, an airport authority.


If people aren’t heading to the beaches in Baldwin County, it’s a safe bet they’re on their way to Madison County, the second most visited county in the state. After all, it’s home to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, the largest space museum in the world and Space Camp. The Rocket Center regularly tops the list of most popular tourist attractions in the state. The Huntsville Botanical Garden, located next door on 112 acres, also was recently named among the 10 best botanical gardens in the nation for 2023 by USA Today.

The newest major draw to Madison County is the Orion Amphitheater, an 8,000-capacity outdoor entertainment venue that kicked off its inaugural season in May 2022 and sold more than 100,000 tickets in less than two months.

According to the 2021 Alabama Tourism Industry Economic Impact Report, the estimated economic impact of visitors in Madison County, which welcomed 3.7 million visitors in 2021, exceeded $1.7 billion.

Higher Education

Madison County is home to the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama A&M University, Drake State Community & Technical College and Oakwood University. Calhoun Community College and Faulkner University both have satellite campuses in Huntsville.

Business Briefs:

MARCH 2023: Officials break ground on the Missile and Space Intelligence Center’s Advanced Analysis Complex at the Richard C. Shelby Center for Missile Intelligence at Redstone Arsenal.

MARCH 2023: Huntsville-based PCI Productions, a media company owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, wins a $200 million NASA contract to manage communication services for all of NASA’s centers.

MARCH 2023: Officials break ground on a $200 million, 2.2 million-square-foot Huntsville Logistics Center that will bring 700 jobs to the Huntsville area.

JANUARY 2023: Crestwood Medical Center announces plans for a freestanding ER in Harvest, the first of its kind in North Alabama.

JANUARY 2023: Construction begins on Wellory Living, a $108 million net-zero multi-use residential development situated on 4.2 acres in Huntsville’s MidCity District.

NOVEMBER 2022: Aerojet Rocketdyne announces plans to expand its Huntsville footprint with a 379,000-square-foot manufacturing facility near Huntsville International Airport, expected to be operational in 2023.

OCTOBER 2022: Radiance Technologies breaks ground on Phase II of its Huntsville facility, which will add lab, hi-bay, work and collaboration spaces to its Huntsville campus.

SEPTEMBER 2022: RCP Companies broke ground on Anthem House, a $110 million mixed-use development in Huntsville’s MidCity District.

JULY 2022: SmartAsset ranks Huntsville second in the U.S. for best places for career opportunities due to its May 2022 unemployment rate of 1.9% and seventh-highest income growth between professionals aged 25 to 44 and those aged 45 to 64 (25.85%). Overall median earnings for workers in the metro area increased by roughly 15% over a two-year period ending in 2021.

JUNE 2022: Boeing celebrates 60 years in Alabama by awarding two $60,000 grants to the Boys and Girls Club’s STEM programs and the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program.

JUNE 2022: Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announces it will expand its Huntsville data center facility by nearly 3.5 million square feet and bring total employment to more than 300 jobs.

JUNE 2022: Lockheed Martin breaks ground on a 25,000-square-foot, $16.5 million Missile System Integration Lab, which will be used for developing its Next Generation Interceptor program.

JUNE 2022: Everbloom Health Inc., an associate company of HudsonAlpha, opens a new food product manufacturing facility on the HudsonAlpha campus.

MAY 2022: The Orion Amphitheater celebrates its grand opening with a three-day festival, “The First Waltz,” featuring performances by Brittany Howard, Drive-By Truckers and Jason Isbell.

MAY 2022: Huntsville ranks #1 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-2023 Best Places to Live.

MAY 2022: Huntsville International Airport secures FAA approval to allow commercial space vehicles to land on its runway, becoming the first commercial airport in the country to operate as a re-entry site for space vehicles.

APRIL 2022: Toyota Alabama announces plans to invest $222 million to create a new production line for four-cylinder engines, including a hybrid electric version, at its Huntsville facility.

MARCH 2022: Tech company Geeks and Nerds Corp. will build a new $5 million facility in Cummings Research Park, adding 100 new jobs.

MARCH 2022: Blue Origin announces plans to add more than 300 new engineers, machinists and technicians to its Huntsville rocket engine plant.

MARCH 2022: FedEx Ground breaks ground for its new distribution center in Madison. With a capital investment of approximately $50 million, the 337,000-square-foot facility is expected to create 120 jobs.

MARCH 2022: Orbital Assembly relocates to Huntsville. The company negotiated $3 million worth of incentives from state and local governments to develop gravity-enabled structures that will ultimately be constructed in space.

This article appears in the May 2023 issue of Business Alabama.

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