Governor Bentley: Aerospace success laying foundation for growth

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield speaks to GE Aviation executive Colleen Athans as Governor Robert Bentley and Chief of Staff Seth Hammett look on prior to company's project announcement to bring additive manufacturing to its Auburn facility. July 15, 2014
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LONDON, England — After announcing projects that will create more than 700 aerospace jobs in the state, Governor Robert Bentley said today that Team Alabama’s work at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow has laid the groundwork for additional growth in a sector he has identified as key to future economic growth in the state.

Governor Bentley, who departs England on Wednesday, said the small state working group engaged in nearly two dozen meetings with aerospace and aviation companies while at the industry’s most prominent trade event. He leaves in the wake of three rapid-fire project announcements.

“The success we have had today — more than 700 new jobs announced by three companies in a single day — shows that Alabama is being taken seriously in the aerospace industry,” he said this afternoon.

The announcements included an announcement by GE Aviation at its air show chalet. The company said it would invest $50 million in its Auburn facility to begin high-volume production of a jet engine nozzle using additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing. The project is a milestone for the industry and will push employment at the Auburn facility to 300 from 70 today in four years.

Elmore County economic developer Leisa Finley speaks to Gov. Bentley and GKN's Kasey Myers.
Elmore County economic developer Leisa Finley speaks to Gov. Bentley and GKN’s Kasey Myers.

Also today, U.K.-based GKN said it had opened a research and design center focusing on composites at its Elmore County facility, a project that will create around 30 jobs. In addition, SES said it planned to invest nearly $70 million to expand its Huntsville manufacturing operations, where it repairs and upgrades helicopters for the Department of Defense and other clients.

“We’re very excited about the additive manufacturing technology being launched in Alabama by GE Aviation and the research and design center being opened by GKN and the jobs being created by SES refurbishing helicopters,” Bentley said. “We’ve had two very productive days.”

“These are three great companies, and these projects position Alabama for further growth in aerospace.”

MEETINGS WITH TOP COMPANIES

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield, the state’s top economic development official, said the Alabama team has held constructive meetings with many of the world’s leading aerospace companies while at Farnborough this week. In addition, many Alabama communities, particularly Mobile and Huntsville, have staged their own meetings at the air show.

“This is an important event for us,” Canfield said. “The announcements we saw today were the culmination of work that started last year at the Paris Air Show, or even before. We certainly hope that next year in Paris, we will be making announcements stemming from work we have done at this year’s show at Farnborough.”

Both Governor Bentley and Secretary Canfield said Team Alabama has benefited at this year’s air show from the presence of representatives from the University of Alabama, UAH and Auburn University, as well as Alabama Community College System Chancellor Mark Heinrich. All have been involved in meetings this week.

“Once these aerospace companies find out we have them here, those companies are working to connect with them here at the air show,” Canfield said. “That’s because all these companies have issues related to technical design and also issues related to the need for engineers – and they want to discuss that.”