US 'Rocket City' zooms in to Farnborough

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Visitors to Huntsville, USA in 1950 may well have spent their time enjoying the sleepy atmosphere of a small agricultural town. More than 50 years on, Huntsville is home to America's second biggest concentration of aerospace, military defence and technology companies.

Its transformation from quiet town to 'Rocket City' is being celebrated at Farnborough with the visit of Huntsville Chamber of Commerce (Hall 2, B16).

Huntsville's Cumming Research Park is now second only in size to North Carolina's Research Triangle and employs more than 22,500 people, with big names such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman now conducting business from the town.

In addition to its place as a leader in military aerospace, Huntsville has established major worldwide connections thanks to its international airport. Currently undergoing a further $87 million expansion, the airport has direct flights to Asia and Europe.

Global companies such as Siemens VDO Automotive, Panalpina and LG Electronics have facilities at the airport and continue to conduct their international operations from Huntsville.

Labelled as a 'high-tech mecca' by news channel CNN, Huntsville's transformation began after the arrival of Wernher von Braun and his German rocket team more than 50 years ago. With the assistance of the US Army's Redstone Arsenal - the leader in international military sales - and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre, Dr von Braun began developing the area into the global business centre that it is today.

DARRYL FINN