REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Nearly 10,000 new defense sector jobs were announced in the Huntsville/Madison County area between 2005 and 2009, according to Mike Ward, vice president for government affairs at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce -- a boom in employment for the North Alabama economy. Here, Ward gives his perspective on other ways BRAC has impacted the local business community.

Has the impact from BRAC on the local business community been as large as was expected?

Ward: "The impact of BRAC has been about what we expected. Of course we did not anticipate the economic downturn which has offset some of the net growth that we were expecting."

What areas of business have reaped the most benefits from BRAC?

Ward: "All facets of the local economy have been favorably impacted by the BRAC moves as people have moved into the region. The defense sector has grown substantially, as we expected that it would."

Have there been areas of growth that have surprised you, or any areas
that haven't grown that have surprised you?

Ward: "As we've added jobs and people, I've been impressed at how well the community has accommodated the growth. There were initial concerns about the capacity of our health care systems and housing to accommodate the growth, but those issues have all been resolved. We do face some infrastructure challenges, mostly roads that we need to be expedited, but we knew this would be an issue."

Has the impact of BRAC helped Huntsville/Madison County businesses continue to grow despite poor economic conditions?

Ward: "Yes. It's kept our economy fairly stable, comparatively speaking."

How has BRAC been a unique opportunity and challenge for local businesses to grow and better themselves?

Ward: "There are several new customers on and off of the Arsenal as a result of BRAC. I think businesses who are flexible with the products and services that they offer are able to capitalize on these new opportunities."

Where do we go from here?

Ward: "We're always looking out for threats and opportunities that could impact Redstone's roles and missions. I expect that Redstone will continue to grow and gain additional missions in the future."