HUNTSVILLE, Ala. â€” The city that built Americaâ€™s moon rockets is racking up
Huntsville, Ala., takes off as Forbes magazine just named Huntsville one of
the top 10 places for business and careers. It was named Americaâ€™s
fourth-strongest building market by BusinessWeek in September, the nationâ€™s top
midsize city to launch and grow a business by Fortune Small Business magazine in
November, and one of the worldâ€™s top 10 smartest cities by Forbes in
The area has one of the USAâ€™s best job-growth rates, according to Moodyâ€™s
â€œIâ€™m getting very good at ribbon cutting,â€ says Mayor Tommy Battle.
The unemployment rate has fallen to 8.4% after peaking at 8.9% late last
year. City sales tax receipts, which were down 3% to 4%, are now off 0.1%,
The city plans a new 470-acre office park. Extensive renovations are underway
on the art museum and the sports arena. Downtown sidewalks are getting a face
Defense spending is a major reason that Huntsville, home to the Armyâ€™s
Redstone Arsenal and NASAâ€™s Marshall Space Flight Center, is rebounding.
The military is moving nearly 5,000 jobs here by September 2011, a shift
thatâ€™ll eventually generate 10,000 jobs. Redstone and Marshall are the top
employers, with more than 32,500 mostly civilian jobs. Redstone awards $32
billion a year in contracts. About $5 billion stays in the area.
Huntsville has diversified its economy. In the late 1970s, military spending
accounted for 80% of the local economy. Today, itâ€™s about 50%. Fifty Fortune 500
companies are here, says economic development director Joe Vallely.
The main industries are defense, aerospace, advanced manufacturing,
information technology and life sciences.
Before 1950, Huntsville was indistinguishable from a hundred other Alabama
Then rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun and a team of scientists moved to
Redstone to build missiles for the Army. He later became Marshallâ€™s first
director and chief architect of the Saturn V rockets that carried Americans to
the moon in 1969.
People here say the von Braun legacy of innovation and research fuels todayâ€™s
success. Huntsville has the USAâ€™s highest per-capita concentration of engineers.
â€œYouâ€™ve got this community of smart people, and â€¦ they get involved,â€ says Rick
Davis, director of Cummings Research Park.
From 1990 to 2009, metro Huntsville accounted for 24% of Alabamaâ€™s population
â€œOnce you come here, you see the energy of the place, and itâ€™s a very easy
place to sell,â€ says David Williams, president of the University of