Huntsville gears up for Mazda Toyota plant to complement space industry star power
Huntsville is sending a message to the entire world that it is open for business as the “Rocket City” gears up for a new Mazda Toyota joint venture plant. Construction is underway and production is expected to be underway in 2021. This is a new gear for a city historically with its head in the clouds, or above them.
Huntsville was put on the map by those seeking higher elevations and different layers of our atmosphere, but business leaders say they had to diversify, looking to vehicles that keep them grounded.
The joint venture between the Japanese car giants lead to a $1.6 billion investment for a manufacturing plant in Huntsville, putting the city on the map as an automotive manufacturer.
“Huntsville in itself is just growing like crazy,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of manufacturing for Mazda Toyota in North America.
She says Alabama is already recognized as a car manufacturing hotbed, but not Huntsville. Hostettler says having a large supply of engineering and manufacturing minds already established in the city made setting up shop a no-brainer.
“There’s a lot of people that we believe we can draw directly from the Alabama Huntsville area to work directly for our plant,” said Hostettler.
Lucia Cape, senior vice president of economic development for the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce says in the last decade the city started making a strong push for economic diversity.
“In order to make sure our economy was very strong through recessions and through changes in industry we needed to diversify,” said Cape.
The space industry still holds the throne in Huntsville, and Gene Goodman, former director of the Marshall Space Flight Center says that is not changing just yet.
“I don’t think there has ever been a more important time for space exploration and the development of space assets,” said Goodman.
But Goodman acknowledges being tied to government funding can be a challenge. The space industry largely relies on a budget created in Washington, which means jobs and operations in the area can be grounded in an instant.
“NASA has had its ups and downs and different administrations put different emphasis on different parts,” said Goodman.
Goodman thinks the addition of the automotive industry is a win for Huntsville and its workers. Combining that investment with the future of space travel, he says the city will be flying on all cylinders for decades to come.