The greater Tennesse valley regional economy — which includes Madison and Morgan counties — depends heavily on Redstone Arsenal, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and high-tech companies that support defense, aerospace and scientific research. Redstone Arsenal provides the economic engine for the entire region.
Industry clusters identified by the Alabama Department of Labor include aerospace, agriculture, automotive, bioscience, chemical, distribution centers, information technology, robots nanotechnology and manufacturing. Many of those industries are in Madison and Morgan counties.
One of the region’s most valuable resources is its concentration of a highly trained and educated workforce. Additionally, educational and research facilities and government laboratories fuel innovation and creativity as well as provide experience for professionals in computer science, mathematics, engineering, science and physics.
Madison County constitutes the industrial center of northern Alabama, anchored by its defense and aerospace sector. Madison County is home to Huntsville, its county seat, and Redstone Arsenal. The county’s top employer is Redstone Arsenal. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Huntsville Hospital System are also major employers in the county.
Huntsville borders Redstone Arsenal on the north and east. Huntsville, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in Alabama, is expected to grow 9 percent in the next five years, according to Moody’s, fueled by manufacturing and technical services.
Morgan County, and its county seat of Decatur, have a diversified industrial base built on the area’s proximity to raw materials and easy access to markets. Transportation and Decatur’s location on the Tennessee River have played important roles in the county’s history, especially in business and industry development and in providing a gateway to markets across the country.
The Alabama Small Business Development Center Network is dedicated to contributing to economic growth by helping small and newly formed businesses achieve success. Check out its services at www.asbdc.org. Its resources available to meet the needs of entrepreneurs include:
- Small business development
- Starting your business
- Funding your business
- Selling to the government
- Exporting your products to other countries
The median age in Madison County is 38 years, and 39 years in Morgan County. Median household income in Madison County is $61,318, and $47,529 in Morgan County, according to the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau. Alabama has three brackets for its state income tax with a maximum rate of 5 percent.
Rail and Transit Access
Strategically located along the Tennessee River, Morgan County serves as a major transportation hub for the southeastern United States. The Tennessee River connects North Alabama to the nation’s inland waterway system that flows from the Great Lakes and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. From North Alabama, the Tennessee River connects with the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway just across the state line in Mississippi. This waterway provides a 234-mile route to Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
In Decatur’s early history, it was chosen as the eastern terminus for the first railroad line west of the Appalachian Mountains. This provided a boost to the city’s economy, and a rapid population growth ensued. With two major outlets for industry — the Tennessee River and the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad — Decatur became an important industrial hub in Alabama.
Today the region’s economy continues to rely heavily on cargo transit by rail and river, as well as on manufacturing and high-tech industries. Interstate 65 runs north and south through Morgan County, providing a major highway route for cargo.
Madison County is home to Cummings Research Park, one of the world’s leading science and technology business parks. It has 300 companies employing more than 25,000 people. Tenants include Fortune 500 companies, local and international high-tech enterprises, U.S. space and defense agencies and competitive higher-education institutions.
The growth of technology-based companies in Cummings Research Park has benefited hundreds of companies and created thousands of new jobs. Cummings Research Park lies about 5 minutes from Redstone Arsenal and provides quick access to Huntsville International Airport.
Redstone Arsenal, the largest employer in the metropolitan area, has a workforce of about 36,500 people, including active-duty military, government-employed civilians and contractors. The arsenal has an annual economic impact of more than $10.5 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Redstone generates 55,000 indirect jobs in the metropolitan area and bordering counties. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center employs 6,000 people and creates 14,000 indirect jobs in Madison County. The space center has a $2.5 billion economic impact annually on Madison County.
Federal support for the arsenal — provided primarily through Department of Defense activities — funds highly paid civilian positions. It routes billions of dollars each year to Tennessee Valley-area contractors, who generate significant economic activity as they provide goods and services to support the arsenal, according to Huntsville’s 2016 Community Information Report.
By funding substantial research in engineering and aerospace, Redstone Arsenal has helped Huntsville develop a labor force with a high concentration of engineers and knowledge-industry professionals.