Strategic Realignment: Huntsville

Four FBI employees describe what it is like living and working in Huntsville, Alabama.

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What’s Huntsville like for a recent college graduate? Kody, 23, brings us on a tour of the city he knew nothing about before moving here for a job with the Human Resources Division.

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Stephanie, a mother of two, shows what she likes about Huntsville and why she thinks the city is a great place for kids and raising a family.

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The FBI has had a presence at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, for more than 40 years, and today, more than 400 employees are working there in various operational capacities. Known as the “Silicon Valley of the South,” Huntsville presents the Bureau with new opportunities to build our capabilities, create new partnerships, and further our mission. The area also offers many amenities and a lower cost of living. Huntsville continues to be named as one of the best places to work and live in the U.S.

Note: The FBI does not endorse or approve any of the sites or publications listed or any products, services or opinions of any corporation, organization, or individual. The FBI assumes no responsibility for the content, accuracy, or completeness of the information provided. Resources are provided as a convenience on this page and are for informational purposes only, and do not replace independent professional judgement. Statements of facts and opinions expressed are those of the content authors only and not the FBI.

Community 

What are some community data points (schools, housing, health care, etc.)?

Schools 

According to the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce, education is a major economic driver and workforce development tool in the city.

  • City of Huntsville and Madison City school systems have integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into the curriculum beginning in kindergarten; children learn computer programming, advanced manufacturing, 3D gaming and research and development in their classes and schoolwork.
  • By the time they reach the 10th grade, many students are taking college-level classes that permit them to enter institutions of higher learning as sophomores and juniors.
  • City of Huntsville schools have an 88 percent graduation rate. Nearby Madison City schools have a 97 percent graduation rate, and Madison County schools have a 93 percent graduation rate.
  • City of Huntsville schools are 100 percent digital—all students in third grade and above are issued laptops for schoolwork. Younger students use iPads in classrooms.
  • Madison City schools boast average ACT scores of 23.5 (vs. the national average of 20.8); 60 percent of graduates received college scholarships averaging over $38,000 each; and 92 percent of graduates pursue post-secondary education.
  • More than 20 private, religiously affiliated, or independent schools are located in the city of Huntsville, Madison City, and Madison County.
  • Approximately 90 percent of school-age children attend public schools in the Huntsville area. There are numerous private school options for families seeking alternatives.

These videos provide more information about education in the Huntsville area:

Housing 

Home prices in Huntsville are 4.5 percent lower than the national average (and almost 9 percent lower than the D.C. metropolitan area).

According to the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors, for the fourth quarter of 2018, of the homes sold:

  • 24 percent were priced below $150,000
  • 21 percent were priced between $150,000 and $200,000
  • 17 percent were priced between $200,000 and $250,000
  • 14 percent were priced between $250,000 and $350,000
  • 9 percent were priced between $300,000 and $350,000
  • 15 percent were priced at over $350,000
  • The average sale price for all homes sold during the fourth quarter of 2018 was $240,601

What is there to do in Huntsville? 

The following sites provide general resources and information as well as ideas for things to do in the Huntsville/Madison County area:

What are the required vaccinations for day care- and school-aged children in Alabama?

Alabama’s School Immunization Law requires all students entering public school, private school, day care, or HeadStart programs to present any one of the following:

  • Alabama Certificate of Immunization (more commonly referred to as the Alabama Blue Card)
  • Alabama Certificate of Religious Exemption
  • Alabama Certificate of Medical Exemption for specific vaccine preventable diseases

For more information on Alabama School Immunization Law rules and a complete list of required and recommended vaccines (to include coverage for college-age students), please see the Immunization Resources page on the Alabama Public Health website.

Does the Huntsville area have public transportation? 

While the Huntsville area does not have transportation comparable to the D.C. area, the city does offer CommuteSmart Huntsville (free online ride-matching, vanpool services, and employer and commuter services as well as Handi-Ride paratransit services) and shuttle bus service.

There is an active municipal campaign to expand public transit services in the Huntsville area.

Is Huntsville a bike-friendly area?

Yes. The city of Huntsville’s Bikeway plan has identified 39 different bike routes that span 160 miles throughout the area. It is coordinated with the city’s public transit routes, and bike racks are on all city buses to promote multi-modal transportation.

  • Bike sharing programs are available in Huntsville.
  • Huntsville also has a very active Bicycling Advisory Committee.
  • More information and resources can be found on the City of Huntsville's Bicycling webpage.

Will there be any type of JETS program or bike subsidy at Redstone Arsenal?

No. While the city has made some recent improvements to public transportation (increased bus routes and expanded schedules), Huntsville does not currently have the infrastructure to support or enable a public transportation subsidy program. The community is committed to continuing to evaluate the needs of residents and exploring options that will support future growth.

Does Huntsville offer any ADA-accessible transportation services? 

Yes. The city offers the Handi-Ride program, a specialized door-to-door demand-response paratransit service. Handi-Ride is a public transportation service available to:

  • Persons with disabilities who, because of their disability, are unable to ride regular city buses and live within 3/4 mile of a shuttle bus route
  • Senior citizens who are over 65 and do not live near a bus route (when space is available)
  • If you are elderly (over 65) or you are disabled as above and live in the Huntsville City Limits but not close to the shuttle bus routes, you are eligible to ride on a limited basis. This service is dependent upon space availability. Call (256) 427-6857 for more specific details.

To schedule a service, the program requires the submission of an ADA paratransit service application and reservations made by 5 p.m. the day prior to the requested service. A personal care attendant (PCA) may accompany ADA eligible passengers.

For more information on fares, reservations, rules, and more, please visit the City of Huntsville’s Handi-Ride webpage or call (256) 427-6811. The TDD phone number for the hearing impaired is 1-800-548-2547 (voice) and 1-800-548-2546 (TTY). 

Does the Handi-Ride program offer services to Redstone Arsenal? 

Yes. The Handi-Ride program, an ADA-accessible public transportation system, offers two daily trips at Redstone Arsenal (drop-offs at 7 a.m. and pick-ups at 4 p.m.). For additional information, please call (256) 427-6811.   

How is Huntsville ranked nationally? 

  • In April 2019, U.S. News and World Report named Huntsville the No. 1 Best Affordable Place to Live in the country.
  • In April 2019, U.S. News and World Report named Huntsville the No. 11 Best Place to Live in the country.
  • In January 2019, The New York Times named Huntsville one of the 52 places to go to globally.
  • In December 2018, The Wall Street Journal named Huntsville the No. 3 on the list of where you should move to make the most money.
  • In June 2018, The Wall Street Journal named Huntsville one of three cities it considers to be the future of tech.

Right now, I live in a walkable environment (i.e., close to work, stores and restaurants) in the D.C. metropolitan area. How walkable of a city is Huntsville?

The city of Huntsville is on a different scale than Washington, D.C. Downtown Huntsville is a more walkable area; it’s split into different neighborhoods, including an arts and entertainment district, a historic district, a recreation district and Big Spring International Park. Huntsville has suburban areas as well and living in those places requires other forms of transportation.

How diverse is Huntsville? 

The city of Huntsville established a Multicultural Affairs Office to serve as the mayor’s point of contact for the diverse cultures that reside within the city boundaries. According to the mayor’s office, the mission is to foster an environment that reflects the equal treatment and participation of all segments of Huntsville’s diverse, culturally rich communities in civic, economic, educational and social development. You can sign up for the Office of Multicultural Affairs’ weekly online newsletter on their webpage.

Diversity in Huntsville Metro vs. D.C. Metro Area: Overview*

CategorySimilaritiesDifferences
RaceSimilar proportion of black residents (22%, 25%, respectively)Huntsville has a smaller overall non-white population (29%) compared to D.C. (45%), with fewer Latinos and Asians (2% Asian vs. 10% in D.C.)
EducationBoth cities have highly educated populations with >40% holding bachelor's degree, and >15% holding PhDs.

Both cities’ black populations have a college education rate 50% higher than national avg.
D.C.’s average rate of higher education for the white population (58%) is much higher than Huntsville’s (38%)
IncomeIncome distribution is nearly the same for black populations in Huntsville and D.C.Incomes are substantially more equal in Huntsville than D.C.
ReligionAlabama comparison only: Both are predominantly Christian (i.e., >65%)
LGBTThe state of Alabama has very few protections for LGBT populations.  The legal protections are similar to the state of Virginia.The state of Alabama has fewer legal protections for LGBT populations than D.C. and Maryland.
Public SchoolsHuntsville and D.C. schools have similar graduation rates (92% and 89%, respectively)

Both have ~90% public school attendance

Schools in both D.C. and Huntsville are under desegregation orders, which exist across the country
Most children of all races in Huntsville attend public schools, whereas white students in D.C. disproportionately attend private schools.

Huntsville is pursuing an active strategy for school desegregation and school enhancements as part of its consent order
​​*Source: 2016 American Community Survey five-year estimates; The Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law , Esri 2017 Diversity Index. Data is for Huntsville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and D.C. MSA (which includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland)

Does Huntsville experience tornadoes at a higher rate than the D.C. area? 

  • Based on information from the Earth System Science Center, northern Alabama does experience tornadoes, though not on the scale and frequency of Tornado Alley in the southern Plains states to its west. The occurrence rate in Northern Alabama is about one per 1,000 square miles per year. About 90 percent of these tornadoes are weak (EF0, EF1) with only minor damage. As a comparison, Maryland averages about one per 1,300 square miles each year.
  • The four counties in and around Huntsville (Limestone, Morgan, Marshall and Madison) cover about 2,500 square miles, so based on the occurrence rate, it averages two to three tornadoes somewhere in this large area each year.
  • Tornado damage paths are usually 100 to 400 yards wide and a few miles long, meaning the damaged area in these counties is less than 0.1 percent. (The "damaged area" includes instances of broken tree limbs as small as 3 inches in diameter.)
  • The National Weather Service and local broadcasters, along with the nationally ranked atmospheric research program at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, provide the community with state-of-the-art monitoring, detection and forecasting instruments and expertise. This helps assure the most advanced level of important information is available to everyone.

Pay and Benefits  

What is the cost of living in Huntsville compared to the D.C. metropolitan area?

Locality pay rates are different for the D.C. metropolitan area than in Huntsville. This is because the cost of living in Alabama is lower than in the D.C. metropolitan area. For example, home prices in Huntsville are 4.5 percent lower than the national average (and almost 9 percent lower than the D.C. metropolitan area).
Alabama income tax is assessed at 5 percent of annual income; there is no local income tax. In comparison, as of October 2018, Virginia income tax is assessed at 5.75 percent for most taxpayers; the District of Columbia income tax is assessed at a range of 6 to 8.5 percent based on taxable income; and Maryland is assessed at a range of 4.75 to 5.5 percent based on taxable income and most surrounding counties also assess a local income tax ranging from 2.83 to 3.2 percent.
Federal annuities are exempt from Alabama state taxes.
OPM has information available on the Huntsville locality pay and D.C. locality pay.

Are there options to live on base while building a house/exploring housing opportunities?

Yes; however, it is based on availability. Military personnel on base receive housing priority. All requests are coordinated through Redstone Family Housing.

Is there real estate expertise available to help secure housing?

Yes, there are many Realtors in the Huntsville community. The Huntsville Area Association of Realtors, which represents more than 2,000 realtors, can provide assistance to all employees and their families.

If I have a 529 plan in Virginia or Maryland, will that transfer to Huntsville?

Each state’s 529 plan has different rules, including agreements with other states. Please consult your state’s 529 plan for this information.

Will colleges and universities in Alabama waive residency rules for those employees with college-age children?

We have found that most universities in Alabama will waive residency requirements if parents can show they are employed full-time in the state.

Are the health plans offered in Huntsville the same as in the D.C. metropolitan area?

Employees can find a list of federal health care plans available in Alabama by visiting the OPM website.
In the top drop-down menu, click Insurance, then Healthcare. A new screen will appear.
On the left-side navigation, click Plan Information, then Summary of Benefits. A map of the United States will appear.
Click the state of Alabama (AL) on the map and a list of all federal health care plans will appear. Some plans listed are available nationwide and may be the same as your current plan.

Spousal/Family Employment Opportunities  


What are the leading employers and industries in the area?

Huntsville has a number of employers that recognize the valuable talent available in the area. The Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce Community Data page provides information on organizations and potential employers in the area. The Chamber also offers a directory of its member businesses. Not only does the directory provide potential employers but also businesses, such as apartment complexes, banks, medical providers, and more, that can be part of your Huntsville community experience.

What are the career opportunities in Huntsville?

Huntsville seeks to connect job seekers with its vast number of employers through career fairs, centralized job postings, career education opportunities, and more. Huntsville also provides opportunities to develop talent at all ages, whether through partnerships with its public schools or its Industry Insight Program. Learn more about these opportunities and resources on the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce Workforce and Education page.

Public sector job opportunities with the City of Huntsville can be found on the City of Huntsville Jobs page. Huntsville job opportunities with the FBI can be found internally or externally on FBI Jobs.

Redstone Arsenal also houses more than 78 federal agencies, including the headquarters of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Aviation and Missile Command, Space and Missile Defense Command, Missile Defense Agency, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and the ATF. Numerous defense contractors and other private companies (including 51 Fortune 500 companies) have a presence in Huntsville, such as Boeing, SAIC, Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, etc.