The factors that have made Huntsville so rich in technology – such as the wealth of talent, support from the federal government, forward-thinking city leaders and planners – have been a key reason for the staying power of large and established companies such Teledyne-Brown, Adtran, Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But they have also played a key role in helping to lure start-up entrepreneurs.
With its economic development efforts the chamber aims to create high quality, high paying jobs in Huntsville/Madison County, position Huntsville as the leading technology center in the Southeast, and maintain and expand all necessary infrastructure to accommodate current and future growth opportunities.
The Chamber has also redefined its role in local economic development with the establishment of the Huntsville Regional Economic Growth Initiative. The initiative is an eight-point, multi-year business plan that includes the Chamber’s traditional roles and several enhanced responsibilities, including recruitment of targeted businesses, support and expansion of existing companies, growth of the defense and space sectors, image development and promotion, development of capacity for economic growth, workforce development, utilization of university-based capabilities, and accountability.
And in keeping both members and those planning to relocate in mind, the chamber continues to offer comprehensive news about Huntsville on its Web site. The Web site at www.HuntsvilleAlabamaUSA.com is designed to provide leading economic development information on the community and is frequently updated. It has also received awards from two national chamber of commerce organizations.
The University of Alabama-Huntsville has also been a valuable business resource to beginning entrepreneurs. “It’s our mission to help Alabama companies become more globally competitive,” says Greg Harris, director of the Alabama Technology Network Center at UAH.
Companies in and around Huntsville know they can count on UAH and other area colleges and universities to help increase revenues and boost productivity. Alabama A&M University is another institution that considers business more than just an academic exercise. The Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development offers management and technical assistance to support small business startups and help them grow. Even A&M students boost business by working through the university’s cooperative education programs, alternating between employment and a semester of classes.
Another way the higher education community benefits local business is by training the workforce. Oakwood University assists local businesses through its Executive Business Center, which provides affordable office space for small- and medium-sized companies. The center, formerly home to a manufacturing operation run by the university in conjunction with a NASA contract, is now a haven for entrepreneurs. With low unemployment, strong job growth and income levels leading the region, Huntsville/Madison County has one of the strongest economies in the South, making it one of the country’s top “hot spots” for businesses.