HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle gave his annual State of the City address at the Von Braun Center North Hall Monday afternoon, November 8.
Mayor Battle was first elected as Huntsville’s mayor 13 years ago. Monday, he talked about how the past decade led up to 2021, and all the growth the area has experienced since.
“The 2020 census places Huntsville as the largest city in the state,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “We’ve grown nearly 20% in the last 10 years but as I’ve said many, many times… I don’t want to be the biggest. I want to be the best.”
Battle said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Huntsville has seen unprecedented growth and opportunity.
His full State of the City can be watched below:
Battle began his address by saying the city has been preparing for growth and envisioning Huntsville as it is now for more than a decade, highlighting nearly 41,500 new jobs across the Huntsville metro area in the last decade – with 36,000 coming from the city alone, Huntsville accounted for 25% of all new jobs in Alabama during that timeframe.
“We wanted more jobs and diversified economy and now it’s happening,” he said. “We’ve created a whole new middle class by creating tens of thousands of jobs in advanced manufacturing and other sectors.”
On a similar note, Battle said the city’s gross domestic product grew by $4.2 billion during the last decade – contributing 23% of Alabama’s state GDP.
Battle also discussed census statistics for the city – 51% of those in the city now are age 18-44, with large growths in those who identify as Hispanic and those who identify as part of two or more races.
Battle highlighted developments at Mazda Toyota, where the Toyota Corolla Cross is in production and the Mazada CX-50 is about to begin production; Toyota Motor Manufacturing, where two new engine lines revved up earlier in 2021; and Marshall Space Flight Center continuing to play a major role in space exploration, ahead of the launch of Artemis 1.
Existing and new industries have invested $12.4 billion into the local economy over the last decade, with $2.4 billion coming in 2020, despite struggles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Battle said 10,000 new apartments were approved, along with slightly more than 14,000 new homes – during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Half of those were under construction, marking $400 million of investment in the last year alone.
Battle also highlighted redevelopment plans for the former Coca-Cola plant downtown, continued growth at MidCity and in the Village of Providence, and HudsonAlpha’s new 90,000 square foot Discovery Life Sciences global headquarters in Cummings Research Park, among other projects in the city.
Battle said all that growth has been planned for, with an average of 2,600 new jobs each year, both being filled by north Alabama natives, and people moving to the region.
On roads, Battle highlighted $500 million and of investment into 200 miles of local roads over the last few years, including Zierdt and Martin Roads, Cecil Ashburn Drive, and Research Park Blvd.
After the mayor’s speech, News 19 asked him what he believes the Rocket City is best at.
“Everything from the greenways to the parks to the residential components to the urban developments to the education system, the road system,” said the mayor. “I think Huntsville is best at putting together the full package. The full package of what makes a community grow and what makes a community prosper.”
He told News 19 he believes the biggest accomplishment over the past year is the idea everyone in the community can work together for common goals.
Even with all the accomplishments, Battle said the city continues to face challenges, including ongoing effects from COVID-19, workforce recruitment, working with the homeless, interactions with the mentally ill, and improvements to public transit.
Looking ahead to the future, Battle hinted at public transit expansion, specifically what light rail may look like 20 years in the future; along with Huntsville’s GigCity initiative, which Battle believes helped Huntsville manage the COVID-19 pandemic as well as it did.
Battle concluded by reminding Huntsville to preserve what makes the city unique:
“…the pride and enthusiasm we show, the caring for one another, civility, legendary ability to work alongside each other collaboratively and respectfully, to own our problems and work together for solutions…”Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle