HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A Boeing Co. research and development center being established in Alabama’s Rocket City will become an innovation hub that helps the aerospace company identify technological advancements critical to the company’s future, a Boeing official said.
“Our new research center in Huntsville is key to Boeing’s competitiveness, business performance and future growth,” said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Research & Technology. “With a focus on simulation analytics and metals and chemical technology, our Huntsville team will be a hub of expertise, fueling continuous innovation while supporting our commercial, defense and government customers.”
Projects like the Boeing Alabama research center reflect a priority for the state’s economic development team at the Farnborough International Air Show, now under way near London. The team led by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield has identified research-related jobs as a key target of aerospace industry expansion efforts. Results so far are encouraging: At the air show Tuesday, British aerospace giant GKN announced a research and design center is being established at its Alabama facility.
Boeing’s December announcement included news of between 300 and 400 high-paying jobs for Huntsville. The company also announced plans to build additional technology R&D centers in four other cities.
“Knowledge-based jobs are the kind of jobs that anchor a sector,” Secretary Canfield said. “We want to continue to grow advanced manufacturing in Alabama but also continue to grow the technical and design work that creates products that could be built here as well.”
According to Boeing, the new research centers will consolidate technology development of strategic importance to the company over the long-term – up to 30 years into the future. They will be chartered to accelerate technical capability in specific fields, and enhance and build networks of collaboration with university, industry and government research centers around the world.
The Huntsville center – which involved an investment of between $5 million and $6 million – will specialize in simulation and decision analytics, along with metals and chemical technology. The company said it chose Huntsville in order to accelerate the company’s technical capability and more fully tap into the customer communities, intellectual talent and opportunities throughout the U.S.
Boeing employs 2,600 people in Huntsville, including nearly 600 engineers and other professionals who performed design and development work on the company’s 787 Dreamliner. From its base in Huntsville, Chicago-based Boeing also manages strategic missile defense programs for the government and works with NASA on various programs, including the next-generation Space Launch System. (Read an article about Boeing’s Alabama operations.)
“The Boeing R&D Center puts an exclamation point on Huntsville that we are a center of excellence in aviation design and systems engineering in the global aerospace market,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who was part of the Alabama delegation at Farnborough this week.
More than 400 aerospace companies are already in Alabama, employing around 83,000 people. In addition to Boeing, other big-name companies with a presence in Huntsville include Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation, and Raytheon. (At Farnborough on Tuesday, GE Aviation announced that it was bringing additive manufacturing to its Auburn facility, marking the first time a jet engine component has been mass produced using that process.)
As Huntsville’s largest private employer, Boeing is a model corporate citizen, said Robert Mayes, CEO of BlueCreek Investment Partners and Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County. He said the Research and Technology Center jobs represent new work beyond the NASA and Department of Defense support Boeing currently provides.
“We are thrilled that Boeing has decided to increase its presence in Huntsville/Madison County,” Mayes said. “We feel it is a testament to the excellent workforce and positive business environment in our community.”