By: Paul Gattis
More growth and more jobs are expected in Huntsville by the FBI in the coming years, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby said Monday, as construction continues on a sprawling campus inside the gates of Redstone Arsenal.
Shelby, speaking to about 900 business and community leaders at a Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce breakfast, said the FBI investment could eventually reach $1 billion.
Such a project would be on par with the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA development in Huntsville, which promises a $1.6 billion development and 4,000 jobs.
“Huntsville is on fire,” Shelby told the breakfast audience at the Von Braun Center. “You know that. The whole area is on fire economically. You’re attracting everything here. You’ve got the brainpower here.”
During Shelby’s speech, a new rendering of an FBI building planned for Redstone Arsenal was displayed on projection screens for the audience. In November, the FBI announced the transfer of 1,350 jobs to Redstone Arsenal.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said that influx of FBI employees were part of what’s expected to be more than 4,000 federal workers.
“Overall, the FBI, the plans we hope to deliver will be probably $1 billion of investment at Redstone because that’s going for the security of the American people,” Shelby said in his speech. “We’ve got to have it.”
Talking with reporters afterward, Shelby said the FBI has found a lot to like in Huntsville and Redstone Arsenal – the U.S. Army base that has about 43,000 federal employees and contractors and includes NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
The FBI already has a significant presence at Redstone with the Terrorist Explosive Devices Analytical Center (TEDAC) as well as the Hazardous Devices School. The bureau has announced plans to expand its presence to different sites throughout the country — including locations in Idaho and West Virginia.
“I see a lot of growth here,” Shelby said. “I think it will be more than that down the road (referring to the November jobs announcement). But it’s step by step. Right now, you have a huge amount of construction going on for the FBI at Redstone. They think this is a great place. You’ve got the manpower here. You’ve got the brain trust and you’ve got the security of the arsenal.
“I’m bullish on the FBI here. I think it will be one of the biggest presences for the FBI outside of Washington.”
Shelby has spearheaded the efforts to increase the FBI presence at Redstone.
“We’ve got to give Sen. Shelby a lot of credit,” Battle told AL.com in 2017. “Richard Shelby has worked very hard to make sure this happens.”
And Shelby said the work on behalf of Huntsville – beyond the FBI — is continuing in Washington.
“In Congress,” he said, “we’re doing everything we can to make the footprint of Huntsville bigger and bigger because of what you do here and what you can do here.”