Huntsville is a surprising and up-and-coming research, technology and high-tech manufacturing center in extreme north Alabama. It is known as the “Space Capital of America,” a role that started in the 1940’s when a U.S. senator brought famed German scientists, including Dr. Wernher von Braun, to a local U.S. Army arsenal to continue their work.
Today, NASA operates the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, and numerous technology and aerospace names Boeing, Teledyne, Lockheed Martin Northrup, LG Electronics, DIRECT TV, Sanmina, and Intergraph have large operations there. These industries have created a stable economy attracting a well-educated and well-paid work force, and the business and population base have naturally attracted a strong set of cultural and entertainment amenities.
The city itself is quite attractive; with mostly modern buildings in a wooded mountainous setting. Good neighborhoods spread south and into neighboring towns to the west, notably Madison. There are some older unattractive commercial strips belying its old South heritage to the north, but by in large the area is prosperous and it shows. Geographically the area is fairly isolated, but air service is improving. Some have complained that local infrastructure – roads, schools, hospitals – haven’t kept up well with growth, a predictable downside to the state of Alabama’s relatively low taxes and especially property taxes.
Surrounded by Appalachian foothills and 1,200-foot to 1,400-foot mountains, Huntsville is about 7 miles north of the Tennessee River Valley. The climate is humid subtropical with a continental influence mainly in winter. Summers are warm, still, and humid with thunderstorms every 1 in 3 days. Winters are cool with cold snaps alternating with warmer moist periods and occasional snow.