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Alabama officials talk to Boeing on work related to 777X assembly in Huntsville

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and other officials today met with Boeing Co. representatives to discuss the possibility of the aerospace company placing work related to the assembly of the 777X passenger jet in Huntsville, where Boeing already has a major presence.

Leaders from the City of Huntsville and officials from the Alabama Department of Commerce joined Governor Bentley at this morning’s meeting in Birmingham with Boeing executives, which was described as productive.

“I am not saying we are going to get it, but let me tell you they do like Alabama,” Governor Bentley said during a speech today at an event sponsored by the Birmingham Business Alliance.

After the speech, the governor told reporters that Boeing has had substantial operations in Huntsville for more than 50 years and is very familiar with the city’s airport and other facilities.

“Boeing is looking at different parts of the country,” Governor Bentley said. “Alabama is certainly one of those states they are looking at. We do believe that in Alabama, we offer something special, especially around the Huntsville area, where Boeing already has a significant engineering and design presence.”

Boeing has confirmed it is considering a number of locations to build the new 777X jet after the International Association of Machinists union in Washington voted this month to reject a contract that called for it to be assembled there.

“I don’t know what other states they are looking at,” Governor Bentley said today. “They don’t need to look at any other states. Alabama is the state they need to look at the most.”

At the Dubai Airshow this week, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said the company wants to make a decision on the wide-body 777X within three months.

HUNTSVILLE CONNECTION

Boeing has already said some engineering work on the 777X project will be performed in Huntsville and other company locations outside the Seattle area. Boeing engineers in Huntsville previously performed engineering work on the company’s 787 Dreamliner.

“It would be a logical next step for Boeing to bring a portion of its 777X assembly to Huntsville,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We have a successful 50-year history with Boeing both in defense and commercial aviation work as well as a depth of talent in engineering here in our community. We have had a great partnership with Boeing and are committed to supporting its growth.”

Boeing’s history in Alabama dates back to the Space Race. The company employs around 2,600 people in Huntsville, where it’s developing NASA’s new heavy-lift launch vehicle — the Space Launch System. The SLS is designed to boost man to Mars.

Huntsville is also host to a number of other Boeing missile defense and space operations, including the Strategic Missile Defense Systems and the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program. (Read a story about Boeing’s Alabama operations.)

The new 777X long-haul jet, which Boeing hopes to deliver in 2020, already is piling up orders. At this week’s Dubai Airshow, Boeing received orders for 150 of the 777X planes from Emirates, 50 from Qatar Airways and 25 from Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, the U.S.-based manufacturer said. The price tag on those deals is believed to exceed $100 billion.

Alabama will soon be home to an assembly line for Airbus’ A320 family of passenger jets, with a $600 million factory complex now under construction in Mobile. Airbus expects to make the first delivery of an Alabama-made A320 in 2016.

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