Here is today's summary of economic development news, a free service of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, representing Alabama's private sector investment in economic development. If you enjoy NewsFlash, thank an EDPA Partner.
Airbus to establish assembly line in United States
Industry-leading A320 Family aircraft to be made in largest single-aisle aircraft market
In a major strategic announcement today, Airbus said it will establish a manufacturing facility in the United States to assemble and deliver A320 Family aircraft. Located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, Alabama, it will be the company's first U.S.-based production facility. Airbus stressed that the assembly line, which will create jobs and strengthen the aerospace industry, is part of its strategy to enhance Airbus' global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of its customers in the United States and elsewhere.
The facility in Alabama will assemble the industry-leading family of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft. The company said construction of the assembly line will begin in summer 2013. Aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile facility beginning in 2016. Airbus anticipates the facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018.
"The time is right for Airbus to expand in America," said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President & CEO at the announcement today in Mobile. "The U.S. is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world - with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years - and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers. Mobile is now becoming part of Airbus' global production network, joining our successful and growing assembly lines in Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin.
"When Airbus aircraft take to the skies, our pride and workmanship will soar along with them," Alabama Governor Robert Bentley said. "We owe thanks to so many people who helped make this effort a success. This project will create 1,000 stable, well-paying jobs that the people of this area need and deserve. Alabama has the best workforce you'll find anywhere in the U.S. Airbus has recognized all that this state can offer expanding industries, and the company is making a significant new investment in Alabama. Airbus and its parent company, EADS, have been great citizens of Alabama for years now, and we are excited to build on our wonderful relationship."
Airbus already has a strong and growing presence in Alabama and throughout the United States. In Alabama, the company operates an Engineering Center in Mobile - also located at Brookley Aeroplex and employing more than 200 engineers and support staff - as well as an Airbus Military customer services operation supporting U.S. Coast Guard aircraft. In addition, Airbus operates an Engineering Center in Wichita, Kansas; an aircraft Spares Center in Ashburn, Virginia; a Training Center in Miami, Florida, and a regulatory and government liaison office in Washington, D.C. Subsidiary Metron Aviation, a leading provider of advanced Air Traffic Management (ATM) products and services, is based in Dulles, Virginia. Airbus' headquarters for the Americas are located in Herndon, Virginia. All together, Airbus' U.S. facilities currently employ more than 1,000 people.
Airbus Press Release
Governor Bentley, Airbus Executives Announce Alabama Manufacturing Facility
Facility is Key Part of Governor's Strategic Plan to Strengthen Alabama's Economy
MOBILE - Governor Robert Bentley on Monday joined with Airbus executives, economic development leaders, and other officials in formally announcing that Airbus has chosen Alabama as the site of its first U.S.-based production facility.
The facility at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile will be used to assemble the industry-leading family of A319, A320, and A321 aircraft. The entire project represents a $600 million total investment and is expected to create up to 1,000 jobs within the production facility when it reaches full capacity. In addition, the construction phase of the project is expected to create nearly 3,200 construction-related jobs over a three-year period.
"When Airbus aircraft take to the skies, Alabama's pride and workmanship will soar along with them," Governor Bentley said. "We have worked a long time and have put in many hours to make this announcement a reality. This project will createthousands ofwell-paying jobs that the people of this area need and deserve. Alabama has the best workforce you'll find anywhere in the country. Airbus has recognized all that this state can offer expanding industries, and the company is making a significant new investment in Alabama."
The Airbus project is a strong example of the economic development projects targeted by Accelerate Alabama - a long-term strategic plan for attracting a broad range of industries and new jobs. Accelerate Alabama was created by the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, which was established by Governor Bentley last year.
Aerospace is one of 11 specific business sectors that Alabama is pursuing for additional development as part of the Accelerate Alabama plan.
"Winning the Airbus project will, indeed, accelerate Alabama," Governor Bentley said. "This type of project is exactly why I created the Alabama Economic Development Alliance. This is why we have the Accelerate Alabama strategic plan. With the Airbus project, we are seeing positive results that will lead to new jobs while strengthening the state's economy and advancing our position in the global marketplace."
The Alabama Department of Commerce is the lead agency administering the Accelerate Alabama plan. The agency is led by Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, who was appointed by Governor Bentley.
Stay together, learn something and be patient, and we'll help Airbus succeed
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 5:14 AM
By K.A. Turner, Press-RegisterPress-Register
Let's say, right up front, that when I talked to Bill Taylor late last week, he would not comment on the reports that Airbus had chosen Mobile as its new home in the United States.
Taylor, head of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, didn't even mention that company by name.
The conversation did, however, offer some important insights as Mobile and the Gulf Coast anticipate the arrival of a new corporate citizen.
A score of years ago, Taylor was a key player when a different international nameplate moved into Alabama. Today, the operation that he led for Mercedes continues to prosper near Tuscaloosa. More important, Mercedes is generally seen as the project that opened the door to an auto industry that continues to grow statewide.
"In cars, every single manufacturer that located here has seen growth," Taylor said last week. "That success validates the initial decision each made to come here."
Which, Taylor went on to add, is one of the strongest selling points for Alabama when today's leaders talk to international firms.
"What Alabama offers, and continues to offer, is a proven track record," he said.
What advice, I asked, would Taylor offer Mobile as it anticipates the role of partner to another major international firm?
Airbus: State and local leaders tour A320 jet at Brookley Aeroplex (video, gallery)
Published: Monday, July 02, 2012, 3:40 PM Updated: Monday, July 02, 2012, 4:12 PM
MOBILE, Alabama -- Shortly after Airbus' announcement today, state and local leaders toured an A320 aircraft from JetBlue's fleet that was flown into Brookley Aeroplex.
Officials in a celebratory mood gathered on the tarmac under a blazing hot sun and snapped photographs in front of the Orlando-based jet.
They relished in the prospect of local workers building such a plane, in a new assembly line at Brookley, one day soon.
"It's all beginning to sink in," said Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, after disembarking from the plane, an engine humming in the background. "Sometimes it takes a little while to realize that the game is over, and we won the trophy."
Bonner said the A320 is his aircraft of choice when buying plane tickets while shuttling frequently between Washington D.C. and Mobile.
"Now, we'll have them made in Alabama," he said.
Mobile Airport Authority workers unveiled banners on fences around the complex welcoming Airbus to the airfield - signs that emphasized the red, white and blue of the American flag and Airbus being a presence now in the U.S.
Airbus toasts Mobile on the eve of a historic announcement
Published: Monday, July 02, 2012, 5:09 AM Updated: Monday, July 02, 2012, 7:24 AM
Late Sunday, a group of European business executives and Alabama political leaders gathered in a second-floor suite at the historic Battle House Hotel in Mobile.
There, as a scorching summer sun sank over the city's downtown, Airbus President Fabrice Bregier raised a glass of champagne in salute to his hosts.
Welcome to Mobile, he said, my American home.
The toast was returned by Gov. Robert Bentley, who will stand with Bregier today and announce a project that could forever alter the city's economic fortunes. Airbus is planning to construct a $600 million aircraft assembly plant at the Brookley Aeroplex, giving the Toulouse, France-based company its first production center on U.S. soil and vaulting Mobile into an elite group of cities that manufacture large airplanes.
Airbus, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., will announce the massive project at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center. The plant will produce A319, A320 and A321 aircraft and employ 1,000 full-time workers at full capacity, according to an internal briefing document obtained by the Press-Register.
Construction is slated to begin in 2013 and create an estimated 2,500 jobs over a two-year period to build the plant. Aircraft assembly is scheduled to begin in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile plant in 2016. Airbus anticipates the plant will produce 40 to 50 aircraft per year by 2017.
Sunday, on the eve of the announcement, an entourage of Airbus officials mingled at the Battle House with guests including U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, among others. Representatives from the company's major suppliers and customers also traveled to Mobile to participate in the event, along with former Gov. Bob Riley, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and David Bronner, the head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
Something neo (Airbus Facts)
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 8:32 AM
The "neo" stand for "new engine option," with the main change being the use of the larger and more efficient engines which result in a 15 percent less fuel consumption and an 8 percent lower operating cost, Airbus said. The improvements also allow for up to 500 nautical miles of more range, along with reductions in engine noise and emissions.
Airbus said that it saved $9 billion in creating the A320neo by changing out the engines and tweaking the wings on the A320 rather than building an entirely new plane. Development cost on the neo was about $1 billion. Airbus has said it probably would not debut another entirely new plane until at least 2024.
Mobile's unique asset, Brookley, comes full circle and lands a major project
Published: Saturday, June 30, 2012, 5:20 PM Updated: Saturday, June 30, 2012, 6:37 PM
By K.A. Turner, Press-RegisterPress-Register
The Airbus plan to assemble A319, A320 and A321 aircraft at a facility at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex marks a turnaround more than four decades in the making.
Brookley emerged as a major economic engine as America geared up to fight WWII, in 1943 reaching an employment high in excess of 17,000 workers.
In contrast, when the Department of Defense decided in 1964 to close the base -- at the time, the largest base closure in U.S. history -- Mobile suffered a real punch to the gut.
It "absolutely devastated Mobile," Michael Thomason, a history professor at the University of South Alabama, told the Press-Register for a 2005 story on the decision by the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. to build Air Force tankers at Brookley.
"We lost a lot of very technically skilled, high paying jobs," Thomason went on the explain. "There was a glut of housing on the market that nobody could afford. It was a deeply painful experience for the community, and the pain lasted well into the 1980s."
Brookley is unique: a 9,000-foot-long runway, 1,700 acres with room for a huge assemply facility and access to a deep water port. EADS was also attracted by a ready ability to transport oversized aircraft components from the port to the assembly site.
While EADS chose Brookley, the United States government ultimately rejected the company's tanker bid. But EADS subsidiary Airbus saw something valuable in the Brookley complex, even if it took another seven years or so to act on that attraction.
Honda Manufacturing of Alabama to hire more than 100 professionals
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 8:00 AM Updated: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 8:29 AM
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Honda Manufacturing of Alabama LLC will hire more than 100 engineers, managers and other professionals over the next three months to support the addition of the Acura MDX to its lineup, the company announced today.
It's the most recent of several rounds of hiring related to the luxury sport utility vehicle, which is expected to begin rolling off the assembly line in Lincoln sometime next year. Acura is Honda's luxury vehicle division, and the MDX will be the first Acura product built by Alabama workers.
The company is hiring professionals for jobs in production management, purchasing, engineering, quality assurance, data analysis and other fields, according to postings on its website.
Honda previously announced it would hire about 50 professionals and about 140 people for assembly line and related jobs and has been filling those jobs at a rate of about 25 a month, said Ted Pratt, Honda spokesman.
Fifty-six jobs were posted on the careers page at www.HondaAlabama.com late Friday. More are expected to be added, the company said. The $2 billion plant now employs about 4,000.
Honda's Alabama operation "has a wide variety of job opportunities," said Mike Oatridge, vice president.
Experts wonder what will replace the lost jobs in Alabama
Published: Sunday, July 01, 2012, 10:00 AM
After an economic slump that has persisted for more than four years, a big question is forming in the minds of those who are watching Alabama's job market for signs of a turnaround: What will it take to replace those lost jobs?
While Gov. Robert Bentley and state industrial relations department officials have been touting a dramatic drop in the state's unemployment rate in recent months, others aren't so optimistic. Economists including John Norris of Oakworth Capital Bank in Birmingham insist the state job market isn't as robust as Alabama officials proclaim. He says the declining Alabama jobless rate is largely due to a big drop in the labor force as discouraged applicants stop looking for work, not because of job creation.
Job hunters are still behind the eight ball, it seems. Results of the Alabama Business Confidence Index, released Friday by the University of Alabama's Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration, found that uncertainty about the national and global economies has many business owners remaining cautious about hiring new workers.
"Though many business executives remain somewhat optimistic, the continued slow pace of job creation locally and throughout Alabama has done little to quiet fears about the U.S. and global economic climates," the UA report said.
Auburn University at Montgomery economist Keivan Deravi shared a pessimistic view before attendees of the Economic Development Association of Alabama conference last week, saying Alabama's unemployment rate has fallen due to the 30,000 to 40,000 people who dropped out of the labor force, with about 60 percent of them unemployed for more than a year.
Please feel free to forward along to someone who can use it by clicking on the "I'd like to forward this to a contact" link below the green bar.
Note also, that you can now make changes to your e-mail address and contact information through the link at the bottom.
As always, if you have news or suggestions, please forward them along to me.
Enjoy the day,
Wendy Wallace Johnson