United Launch Alliance will invest $115.6 million locally on new technology and infrastructure in preparation to build the Vulcan launch system at the company's Morgan County plant.
Meanwhile, Huntsville-based Dynetics Inc. has announced additional projects to build facilities on ULA property, bringing its projected employee count in Morgan County to 25.
ULA is expected to complete its capital investment by the end of 2020, according to the Morgan County Economic Development Association.
News of the project emerged during a Decatur Industrial Development Board meeting Wednesday.
“We are looking forward, and the path forward is Vulcan,” ULA General Manager Stephane Williams told the board. “This system is going to help us face fierce competition in space.”
His comment comes as ULA, which once enjoyed a virtual monopoly over launch contracts, faces competition from rival SpaceX. The Vulcan launch system has been under development since 2014. ULA currently assembles its Atlas and Delta rockets in Decatur.
“Atlas and Delta have been flying for a very long time. When we look at our future and we look at our competition, Vulcan is our way forward,” Williams said.
The latest ULA project is not expected to bring any new jobs to the area, but Barney Lovelace, attorney for the board, said the investment would help secure the existing 620 jobs at the plant, worth an estimated $43 million a year in payroll before benefits.
The board unanimously approved the abatement of $2.79 million in non-educational state and local property taxes over a 10-year period for the ULA project and $790,250 in non-educational city of Decatur and state sales taxes during the construction.
While the ULA project is not expected to bring additional jobs, another project on ULA property is.
Dynetics announced plans earlier this year to build a $14.2 million aerospace testing facility on ULA property. Construction on that facility has not yet begun and is not slated for completion until next July, according to Mike Graves, space vehicles department manager for Dynetics.
But the company already has announced plans for a second building on the site as it progresses toward an aerospace-structures complex adjacent to ULA.
The 25,000-square-foot hardware integration building is expected to cost $7.4 million and will manufacture parts for NASA and other customers upon completion, which is slated for December 2018.
The project is expected to bring 15 jobs with a combined annually payroll of more than $1 million, an average of $67,500 per employee. That adds to 10 jobs with an estimated average annual salary of $80,000 already announced for the testing facility.
Dynetics decided to proceed with the areospace complex after securing a $221 million contract to design, manufacture, test and assemble the universal stage adapter that will join the Orion space capsule in its exploration upper stage slated to fly in the 2020s.
The board approved the abatement of $255,000 in non-educational state and local property taxes and $139,050 in city of Decatur and state sales taxes during the construction.
Graves left open the possibility that Dynetics could build more at the site, saying there are only a few places in the country that could support an aerospace complex, and Morgan County was one of them.
Under state law, educational taxes cannot be abated. The ULA project is expected to generate $3.24 million in property taxes for local schools during the abatement period and $307,500 in sales taxes for local schools during the construction period.
The Dynetics project is expected to generate $296,000 in property taxes for local schools during the abatement period and $69,500 in sales taxes for local schools during construction.
The board also Wednesday approved a procedural resolution for Dynetics to seek additional incentives from the state.