Blue Origin Latest Economic Win for Surging Huntsville

Thursday’s announcement that Blue Origin, officially, will be producing rocket engines at a new Cummings Research Park facility in Huntsville sparked a celebration.

But not only for the city’s victory in landing another coveted high-tech, high-paying project.

Blue Origin is merely the latest in what’s been a string of industrial development wins for Huntsville.

“We have communities all the time call us and try to find out how we do things and they want to emulate what Huntsville does,” said Shane Davis, director of urban and economic development for the city of Huntsville.

As the Rocket City rocks on, Davis updated the city council on previous headline-grabbing economic development announcements as well as recapping the financial agreements the council approved more than a year ago when Blue Origin agreed to come to Huntsville – pending the landing of the contract with United Launch Alliance that was announced Thursday.

Davis focused on three developments that are either under construction or in site preparation to build.

The most advanced project is Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is building its own rocket engine facility in North Huntsville Industrial Park. Davis said that construction on the $27 million plant is at about 70 completion and that the company will be moving in to the building in early 2019.

It’s ultimately expected to create about 700 jobs.

Aerojet is also relocating its headquarters to Cummings Research Park.

While Blue Origin will be building the giant main engines for ULA’ s Vulcan rocket – engines comparable in size to the legendary Apollo Saturn V rocket – Aerojet will be providing the engines for the second stage of the Vulcan.

“When that rocket goes up, there will be a lot of Huntsville going up with that rocket,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “That’s a special thing for us and a special thing for our community.”

Documenting that launch, in some form or fashion, will be Facebook – the social media giant that announced earlier this year that it would build a $750 million data center near Aerojet in North Huntsville Industrial Park.

That project will bring about 100 jobs in the first phase and Davis told the council that Facebook is interested in purchasing more land adjacent to the campus it already bought.

“They are very interested in that,” Davis said. “We fully expect this project to expand after this initial construction.”

Mass grading at the site is about 95 percent complete, Davis said, and the project is “moving very rapidly.”

Facebook is expected to be operating at the data center in 2020.

The crown jewel for Huntsville, of course, is the $1.6 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA facility. A first-of-its-kind project in the U.S. as two Japanese automakers come together on one campus, it’s expected to produce 4,000 direct jobs and as many as 10,000 jobs altogether.

Grading on about 1,400 of the 2,600-acre campus is ongoing and will take the rest of the year to complete, Davis said. The plant is expected to begin producing Toyota Corollas and a yet-to-be-identified Mazda vehicle by 2021.

“We’re looking at $2.5 billion in investment alone in these three projects,” Davis told the council. “You start to add Blue origin to that, you’re at $2.8 billion investment. We’re looking at 6,000 jobs coming with these four projects.”

For now, though, they are nothing more than giant construction sites and Blue Origin will soon join that group. Soon, though, the money will begin flowing, Davis told the council.

“We have good times ahead,” Davis said. “We just have to be patient and let these projects get in place, let the jobs get going and help our economy, which helps our bottom line.”