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Groundbreaking for $200 million Blue Origin facility

State and local officials attend groundbreaking ceremony for BlueOrigin’s new $200 million Blue Engine Production Facility in Cummings Research Park in Huntsville.

Posted: Jan 25, 2019 8:59 AM
Updated: Jan 25, 2019 12:39 PM

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones are joining executives from Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, as well as local and state officials, for a groundbreaking ceremony for BlueOrigin’s new $200 million Blue Engine Production Facility in Cummings Research Park.

The new facility will create more than 300 new jobs and will be the new manufacturing home for BE-4 and BE-3U engines. These engines will power two next-generation rocket launch systems — United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur Rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn Rocket.

MORE FACTS

  • Blue Origin is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
  • Bezos was named as the richest man in the world by Forbes in 2018.
  • United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur chose Blue Origin to build the first stage of its new Vulcan rocket
  • The facility will cost $200 million to build
  • 342 Jobs are expected to staff the facility
  • The company is already hiring for leadership positions in Huntsville

Background on Blue Origin's Announcement

The BE-4 is America’s next rocket engine and will power Decatur-based United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket. The production of this engine would end the nation’s dependence on Russia for access to space for critical national security space systems. 

Two BE-4s would be used on the Vulcan booster rocket. The BE-4 will also power Blue Origin’s New Glenn reusable launch system with seven BE-4s on the reusable first stage and a vacuum-optimized BE-4U on New Glenn’s second stage. Blue Origin awaits the final public approval processes of the local package by the City and County governments during their respective July meetings.

Using the latest design and manufacturing techniques, the BE-4 is made for both commercial and government missions. The BE-4 uses oxygen-rich staged combustion of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas to produce 550,000 lb. of thrust. Development of the BE-4 began in 2011. Testing of the BE-4 is currently underway.

“Alabama is a great state for aerospace manufacturing and we are proud to produce America’s next rocket engine right here in Rocket City,” said Robert Meyerson, President of Blue Origin, in making the original announcement that Huntsville had been chosen for a new facility. “The area’s skilled workforce and leading role in rocket propulsion development make Huntsville the ideal location for our state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.”

Blue Origin Will Employ 342 People in Huntsville

Blue Origin will employ up to 342 people in this new facility. The company will make approximately $200 million in capital investment in the state.

Blue Origin’s decision to locate its BE-4 engine manufacturing center in Huntsville reflects the deep and longstanding capabilities in the city that became the cradle of the nation’s rocket program,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Huntsville is a hub of innovation in every facet of aerospace, making it the perfect home for this Blue Origin facility.”

Blue Origin chose Huntsville, Alabama for this project because of the high-tech aerospace manufacturing workforce and ecosystem, including NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, nearly 300 private aerospace and defense contractors, and the University of Alabama in Huntsville, number 14th in NASA research funding in the nation.

“Huntsville is proud to be the nation’s propulsion center of excellence, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Blue Origin to join our team. When you look at NASA’s visionary work at the Marshall Space Flight Center, the talent and capacity of Huntsville’s space industry partners, and our expertise in research and development, engineering, and manufacturing, Blue Origin is joining a truly remarkable environment,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“Blue Origin reinforces our regions’ place as the Rocket City, and a center of excellence for rocket propulsion. Blue Origin’s presence will have a positive impact on our State, our region and our community,” said Chip Cherry, President and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber. “This is an important development for Cummings Research Park’s next era of expansion and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with Blue Origin.”

Decatur-Based ULA Chooses Blue Origin

United Launch Alliance (ULA) chose Blue Origin as the companay to build the first of ULA's Vulcan Rocket.  This decision in September 2018 paved the way for the decision to build a Huntsville facility.

"We are very honored that United Launch Alliance has selected Blue Origin’s LOX/LNG BE-4 as the engine that will power the first stage of their Vulcan rocket.," said Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin. "United Launch Alliance is the premier launch service provider for national security missions, and we’re thrilled to be part of their team and that mission.

$6 million in economic incentives from the City of Huntsville

"Counting the capital expenditures that come back, it turns out to be a good deal for us," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle  told WAAY-TV.  Of the $6 million being offered, only about $1 million was in actual money for Blue Origin. The vast majority is the land being given to Blue Origin for the plant, worth about $4-5 million dollars, according to the city. The $1 million will come from both the city and Madison County, and will offset construction costs for Blue Origin's plant.

"We've had the land in inventory for about 12 years. That's what we had it for, to provide jobs," Mayor Battle said.

Return on Investment

As for how the city makes sure they get a return on investment, Battle says they sign development agreements with companies they offer incentives to.

"If they don't meet their number of employees, if they don't meet their payroll, they don't meet the capital investment that they promised, we get our money back," he said. However, Blue Origin even coming to Huntsville is contingent on winning the ULA contract, so if the company doesn't win, they likely won't be penalized.

And as for why the city even uses incentives, Battle says that other communities do it, so Huntsville does as well.

"If we don't, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, will be taking all the jobs, because they will," he said.

$4.1 Billion of Economic Growth in North Alabama

Blue Origin is just one project among others coming to north Alabama. More than $4.1 billion of economic growth is on the way. Click here for a list of other projects coming to Huntsville and north Alabama.

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