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Huntsville Chamber releases report on state of the regional economy

Huntsville Chamber releases report on state of the regional economy

By Lucy Berry

May 19, 2016

A new study by UAH shows the future is looking bright for one of the 40 fastest-growing major U.S. metros in north Alabama.

The Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County recently commissioned a regional study analyzing the impact of the 68 economic development projects announced by the Chamber from 2013-15. The report focuses on projects within Madison County, as well as the contiguous counties of Jackson, Limestone, Marshall, Morgan and Lincoln County, Tenn.

The study, which does not measures job losses or company closures, said the estimated economic impact of the projects includes a $4.2 billion expansion of the regional economy, 15,200 operations-related jobs and $989 million in additional yearly payroll.

“Overall, people are very pleased, the consultants we work with understand the market and have faith that if they bring a project here, it has a good chance of being successful,” said Chamber President/CEO Chip Cherry. “And then the workforce is what kind of makes us or breaks us and that’s what has allowed us to grow and excel because they find the people they need to make their companies successful.”

UAH said the economic development announcements created a $1.46 billion impact from capital investment, resulting in 11,300 jobs and $567 million in capital investment-related payroll.

That three-year period also includes a $128 million increase in net annual taxes (employment, state, and local), as well as $52 million in net local sales, property and other taxes. Jeff Thompson, research scientist in the Center for Management and Economic Research at UAH, conducted the study with UAH business lecturer and economist Brinda Mahalingam using IMPLAN software by MIG, Inc.

Thompson said the supply chain that follows an economic development project is as important as the announcement itself.

“If that company can’t get that supply — raw materials or people or whatever it is they need — they can’t be successful,” he said. “In this case, this is a measure of major success in this region.”

Madison County has continuously led the state as one of the top counties for capital investment and job-related announcements over the past few years. In 2015 alone, the area generated 1,226 new jobs and $71 million in new and expanding investment.

Remington Outdoor, Polaris Industries, Toyota Alabama, Science and Engineering Services and GE Aviation are just a few of the companies who have made high-profile jobs announcements in recent years. Cherry confirmed they are working about 48 active projects for the future.

“We have a number of projects that are really close to being closed, so it’s going to be a good year from a project count number,” he said.

While Huntsville/Madison County has enjoyed several economic successes, some neighboring communities haven’t been so lucky. Thousands of people lost their jobs from 2013-15 during nearby plant closures or layoffs at International Paper, Hillshire Brands, HON Company, Navistar, izzy+, Pilgrim’s Pride, Shaw Industries Group and more.

Cherry said it can be difficult for rural areas to have economic development success because they sometimes struggle with workforce perception, the recruitment of senior-level talent and infrastructure issues.

Every new or lost job is vital to the economy, Thompson added.

“You don’t exist as an island to yourself no matter how great a city or county you are or state for that matter,” he said. “You’re interdependent upon your neighbors and that’s really what I think drives this.”

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