Since 2009, and as of this writing, Mayor Battle has announced 17,228 new jobs and nearly $2B in capital investment for Huntsville. The 2017 year launched the news that Aerojet Rocketdyne will site production of its AR-1 advanced rocket booster engine in the “Rocket City,” fueling hopes the announcement will vault even more economic development projects into the Huntsville atmosphere.
But how does the City of Huntsville land these coveted projects with such a small staff? The answer: teamwork.
The City of Huntsville partners with the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville and Madison County to do what many would consider traditional economic development. The Chamber is responsible for promoting Huntsville to site selection consultants, responding to requests from proposals from companies interested in Huntsville, managing Cummings Research Park, leading community efforts at key industry conferences, and more.
Behind the Scenes
The Chamber is typically working between 45-50 projects a year. These projects range from red-hot companies about to announce to those in deliberation mode, tire-kickers looking for the best deal and existing businesses contemplating an expansion. No project is too small to earn consideration and support from the Chamber.
While no project is exactly the same, they typically follow this timeline:
The Chamber keeps a list of available properties and buildings that could potentially meet the needs of a company looking at Huntsville. In addition to properties, the Chamber also keeps up with data on employment and workforce trends, cost of living, and more. Often, the information a company requests for a project is specific, and most of the sites or buildings proposed will be cut before a company even sets foot in Huntsville. If a company does a site visit, the Chamber and the City partner to meet with the company and explain the many positive attributes of the community and why Huntsville will be a location that ensures they will be successful.
Behind every announcement is a group of professional economic developers and volunteers who come together. The list is long (much like the hundreds of work hours) and includes the County Commissions of Madison and Limestone Counties and other regional communities, the State of Alabama, partners in higher education (UAH, Alabama A&M University, Oakwood University, Drake State, and Calhoun Community College), Huntsville International Airport, North Alabama Industrial Development Association, TVA and Huntsville Utilities. All of these entities may be called upon to put together competitive proposals for projects. Each brings with it special expertise.
There are many departments within the City of Huntsville that also play a critical role in economic development. The Urban Development Department helps meet the needs of industries by ensuring roads are built, inspections happen in a timely manner, sewer and water are available, and the zoning is consistent for the use of the project. But others play an important role, too. Companies want to know they are locating in a safe location with adequate fire protection. Companies want to locate in communities that are clean and have many different amenities and parks for their employees. The legal department ensures any agreements with the company protect the City and its citizens. At the end of the day, nearly every City Department plays a role in securing new business and jobs.
It’s all about Jobs
While the announcements are exciting and worthy of fanfare, economic development is really about one thing – improving the quality of life for citizens. When citizens have new opportunities for good-paying jobs, and local businesses have new customers to serve, and more resources are available to reinvest in the community, then everyone benefits from economic development teamwork.
Featured photo: Polaris ribbon cutting