Spotlight on Madison County: Economic Engines

NASA moves the Artemis SLS Rocket Stage from its facility in Louisiana to its facility in Mississippi for green run testing.

U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal
Redstone Arsenal is a Federal Center of Excellence with 78 government agencies and organizations, specializing in aviation, missiles, space and logistics. It is a 38,000-acre secure U.S. Army installation, home to the headquarters of the four-star Army Materiel Command, with a $58 billion budget and activity in 144 nations. In January, the Air Force announced Redstone is also the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

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.

Redstone Arsenal is also home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms-National Center for Explosives Training and Research, the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Hazardous Devices School and the FBI Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, among others.

Its workforce comes from Madison and 14 other nearby counties.

Redstone Arsenal is easily the area’s largest employer with more than 38,000 employees and an annual payroll of about $3.3 billion. The arsenal has an annual economic impact of almost $30 billion, including $9 billion in direct federal funding and more than $21 billion spent by arsenal contractors. It is predicted that the arsenal will have 50,000 employees by 2025.

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Redstone also is home to branches of Columbia College, Florida Institute of Technology, Athens State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Marshall Space Flight Center
Marshall Space Flight Center, one of NASA’s largest field centers, is the second-largest employer in the Huntsville/Madison County area with more than 6,000 employees and an annual budget of approximately $2.8 billion.

Marshall provides an economic impact of nearly $4.3 billion just in Alabama, according to 2019 data. It also supports 24,400 jobs contributing more than $105 million in state and local tax revenues. In addition, more than half of all Marshall contracts are sourced within the state of Alabama — totaling $1.7 billion in procurement dollars.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is America’s new rocket for deep space exploration. It is the only launch vehicle capable of sending humans, and the large systems they will need to live and work, into deep space. SLS is the largest program managed at Marshall. It generates 28,200 jobs nationwide with an impact of $5.5 billion. The SLS program engages more than 1,100 large and small businesses in 44 states to build the SLS rocket. More than half of Marshall’s total impacts are in Alabama, totaling 24,400 jobs and $4.3 billion in economic output. The Boeing-built cryogenic core stage rocket passed its hot-fire test in March.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation continues to grow at Redstone Arsenal. Already home to the FBI’s Hazardous Devices School and the FBI’s Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, the FBI facilities are expanding in a $385 million, nine-building project now under way at Redstone Arsenal. Some 5,000 FBI employees could be located at the Redstone site.

Cummings Research Park
Cummings Research Park (CRP) in Huntsville is the nation’s second largest research park in the U.S. and fourth largest in the world. It is home to 320 companies, more than 26,000 employees and 13,500 students.

Driven by its 2016 comprehensive master plan, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and Erin Koshut, CRP executive director, have been on an accelerated growth plan for companies of all sizes and creating a sense of place in the park.

CRP tenants represent a vibrant mix of Fortune 500 companies, local and international high-tech enterprises, U.S. space and defense agencies, technology incubators, a biotech-focused research park. CRP is also home to the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Calhoun Community College.

Two teams inside the park — Dynetics Huntsville and Blue Origin’s National Team in Huntsville — are competing for NASA’s Human Lander System.

Since that 2016 master plan, a new hotel (Hyatt Place at Research Park) and a 240-apartment complex (Seleno at Bridge Street) have been added to the park. A 290-apartment complex, Mosby Bridge Street, should be complete this year.

Growth has continued in the park, despite the pandemic, and the occupancy rate is currently at 95%, the highest in more than a decade.

This spring, Cummings hosted the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Open with more than 100 para-cyclists competing to make Team USA to compete in Tokyo at the Summer Paralympics this August.

And the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering, a public residential high school open for students from across the state, is being built in Cummings Research Park. While the permanent location is under construction, the first group of students is attending school in a temporary location on the campus of Oakwood University.

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
HudsonAlpha has generated $3 billion in economic impact for the state of Alabama and continues to help grow Huntsville’s reputation as the biotech hub of the South. More than 40 for-profit biotech companies call the Institute home and work collaboratively with nonprofit researchers to solve some of the world’s most pressing health issues, such as COVID-19.

October 1, 2020 marked the 30th anniversary of the inception of the Human Genome Project. The legacy of this collaborative effort to sequence the entire human genome paved the way for groundbreaking genomics research occurring every day at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.

Recent developments include:

  • HudsonAlpha was part of a team awarded a five-year, $13 million grant to study potential biofuels, such as switchgrass, a promising biofuel candidate because it has deep roots that allow it to access nutrients easily from a variety of soils, and a higher tolerance for extreme water conditions.
  • HudsonAlpha scientists were named to the Highly Cited Researchers 2020 list from Clarivate for the seventh year in a row. The list identifies scientists and social scientists who demonstrate significant influence in their field as determined by the number of times their work is cited in the last decade.
  • In February of 2020, HudsonAlpha’s Economic Development team launched the Navigate mentorshipprogram to help strengthen biotech and life sciences entrepreneurs as business leaders in North Alabama, capitalizing on the wealth of business talent in the region.
  • In April of 2020, HudsonAlpha teamed with Huntsville Hospital and associate company iRepertoire Inc. to launch a collaborative study of local patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and learn how the human immune system responds to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with hopes for developing an effective treatment for the disease.
  • In November 2020, CARES Act funds allocated $600,000 to HudsonAlpha to perform genomic sequencing on positive SARS-CoV-2 samples from people across the state of Alabama. HudsonAlpha is also working with associate company Diatherix-Eurofins Laboratories as provider of the COVID-19 samples.
  • HudsonAlpha held a series of virtual roundtable discussions to recognize health disparities in minority communities in North Alabama.

Downtown Huntsville/Tourism
Downtown Huntsville has become a bustling center for people to live, work and play and it continues to grow. Among the most recent announcements is an 8,000-seat amphitheater for live music events.

Tourism also is a booming industry with a huge economic impact. According to a 2019 report from the Alabama Tourism Department, Madison County is the No. 2 most visited county in Alabama, with 3.65 million visitors. The total economic impact of tourism in the county is $1.6 billion.

In fact, 2019 was the highest economic impact year yet for travel to Huntsville/Madison County. This sector is responsible for 18,970 jobs.

For the seventh year in a row, Alabama’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville is ranked the No. 1 paid tourism attraction, with more than a million visitors in 2019.

The Huntsville International Airport provides passenger and cargo flights and is part of the Port of Huntsville.

Port of Huntsville/Huntsville International Airport
The Port of Huntsville is North Alabama’s gateway to countries all over the world and makes this a highly sought-after location for businesses, industries and travelers alike. Home to the Huntsville International Airport (HSV), Jetplex Industrial Park (JIP) and the International Intermodal Center (IIC), the Port of Huntsville offers connections to the world.

Huntsville International Airport is the largest commercial airport in North Alabama, serving more than 1.2 million passengers annually with 10 non-stop destinations. For two consecutive years, HSV has been recognized as one of the Top Ten Best Small Airports by USA Today.

The International Intermodal Center, located in the Port of Huntsville Global Logistics Park, provides a single hub for receiving, transferring, storing and distributing international and domestic cargo via air, rail and highway. The Port of Huntsville is ranked at No. 18 for international air cargo due in part to a partnership with DSV, which operates a charter network to Europe, Asia and South America. In addition, many key companies are located in the Jetplex Industrial Park including Boeing, LG Electronics and Navistar, which makes the Port of Huntsville one of North Alabama’s key employment drivers. In the past year, the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama named a 92-acre site in Jetplex Industrial Park as an Advantage Site.

Recently, the Port of Huntsville completed several infrastructure projects, including a security upgrade, a master plan, taxiway improvements and adding electric car charging stations in the airport parking garage. HSV was just selected by the FAA as one of the four airports that will host an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Detection and Mitigation Research Program Test Site.

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