340 jobs, $200 million in capital investment, and a possible rocket engine plant. That's what Jeff Bezos-owned space company Blue Origin is planning for Huntsville if they're selected by United Launch Alliance to power ULA's next-generation Vulcan rocket. But there's another number floating around; $6 million in economic incentives from the City of Huntsville for the company to come to this area.
"Counting the capital expenditures that come back, it turns out to be a good deal for us," Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said in a Monday interview.
He went on to explain that of that $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.
Its important to note that all of this is contingent on United Launch Alliance awarding Blue Origin a contract for the BE-4 engine, which would power the Vulcan. The other competitor in that project is Aerojet Rocketdyne, who are competing with the AR-1.
But the Mayor isn't worried about if Blue Origin wins or not, because Aerojet Rocketdyne has also announced they will build in Huntsville if selected.
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.