Huntsville is a city in Madison county and extends west into neighboring Limestone county. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison county and the fourth-largest city in Alabama. The U.S. 2000 census estimated Huntsville's population at 158,216, while in 2008, the estimated population grew to 176,645. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was estimated at 395,645.Huntsville is the largest city in the four-county Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, which in 2008 had a total population of 545,770.
Huntsville's main economic influence is derived from aerospace and military technology. Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park (CRP), and NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center]comprise the main hubs for the area's technology-driven economy. CRP is the second largest research park in the United States and the fourth largest in the world, and is over 38 years old. In 2005, Forbes Magazine named the area as 6th best place in the nation for doing business, and number one in terms of the number of engineers per total employment. In 2006, Huntsville dropped to 14th; the prevalence of engineers was not considered in the 2006 ranking.