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Huntsville, AL
MSA: Huntsville, AL
Best places ranking: #1 among midsize metro areas
Population: 395,645
In the 1960s, Huntsville was often racked with earthquake-like rumblings as NASA's engineers tested boosters for rockets that would carry astronauts to the moon.

In the past 50 years, this small city in northern Alabama has morphed from cotton capital to rocket town to high-technology hub. The U.S. Army's Aviation and Missile Command is housed in the nearby Redstone Arsenal, and the federal government employs more than 8% of the local workforce. But the city's thriving engineering community and tradition of innovation have also made it a breeding ground for tech entrepreneurs.

Business owners benefit from Huntsville's low cost of living and beautiful surroundings. Still, they have a few grumbles: Venture capitalists are scarce in this small city dominated by government contractors. Travel can be difficult too, with no direct flights from the small airport to New York City or L.A. -Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Huntsville, AL


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Redstone Federal Credit Union
  • Compass Bancshares
  • Superior Financial Group
  • Innovative Bank
  • American Heritage Holdings
See all local lenders

Huntsville Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
8,995 11,214
Small business growth rate
9.4% 5.0%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
21 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
32.9% 26.9%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
493.2 478.8
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
4,182.6 3,562.2
Population growth
10.5% 5.73%
Per-capita income
$36,550 $35,547
Per-capita income growth
26% 24.0%
GDP (in millions)
$17,115 $18,559
GDP growth
46% 32%
Average hourly wage
$21.41 $18.69
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
204 286
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$689 $848
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.8% 1.9%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.7% 1.8%
HPI deviation from long-term average
1.1% 0.0%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."

From the November 2009 issue
"You need a critical mass to build something like another Silicon Valley, and I think we're starting to see that develop in Huntsville." -Jerry Gabig
Best Places Winners
What do you think of Huntsville?
Find your launch spot
Do you prefer a place that is: Small Medium Large
The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
 Educated workers  Low housing costs
 Low crime  High local incomes
 A growing economy  Population growth
 Growing small business population

ireportTell us why: Low taxes? Talented workers? An active small business community? Send us your photos and videos, and you could be featured in our upcoming coverage of reader-picked Best Places to Launch. More
This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's