MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield is leading an Alabama delegation to next week’s 2015 Paris Air Show as part of a strategic, team-focused effort to build on the state’s increasingly prominent position in the global aerospace and aviation sector.
The Alabama team arrives at the industry’s most important business-development and trade show just days before major components for the first Alabama-made Airbus passenger jet arrive in Mobile by cargo ship. Aircraft assembly at the new $600 million Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Alabama is expected to begin in a few weeks.
At the air show, Secretary Canfield will direct a small Commerce team that will join representatives of municipalities, economic development organizations, universities and companies from across Alabama to advance statewide efforts to secure new aerospace expansion and investment opportunities.
Beginning Monday, the Commerce team will maintain an aggressive schedule of face-to-face meetings with industry decision-makers at the Le Bourget, the famed airport in northern France that’s hosting the 51st installment of the event. Individual groups and organizations from Alabama have structured their own meeting schedules.
“With Airbus launching aircraft final assembly in Alabama, and companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin expanding their significant operations in the state, our position in the aviation and aerospace sector looks stronger than ever,” Secretary Canfield said. “We are now involved in virtually every segment of the industry, meaning Alabama is positioned for any kind of project.”
‘A GLOBAL COMPETITION’
First held in 1909 and staged every other year, the Paris Air Show is recognized as the world’s largest and oldest aerospace event, as well as a major driver of development in the aerospace sector. In 2013, more than 2,000 companies held exhibitor space, attracting more than 139,000 aerospace industry participants and almost 300 official delegations from over 180 countries.
Other states with an official presence at the 2015 Paris Air Show are Arkansas, Oregon, Connecticut, Florida, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Illinois, South Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, Kansas and Washington, according to the event’s web site.
“Securing aerospace work and jobs is a global competition, and the Paris Air Show provides us with an opportunity to talk about Alabama’s strengths in aerospace with the major players in the sector,” Secretary Canfield said. “Our advantages include a trained workforce, deep capabilities in research and engineering, expertise in advanced materials, and experience with new technologies such as 3-D printing.”
Alabama’s history in aerospace and aviation dates back to the Wright Brothers, who established a flight school in Montgomery. Today, Alabama’s robust aerospace and defense sector includes more than 400 companies and organizations employing around 83,000 people.
The Alabama Paris Air Show team hopes to capitalize on Airbus’ upcoming production launch as well as a string of recent aerospace projects to energize recruiting efforts in the sector. At last year’s Farnborough International Airshow, GE Aviation, GKN Aerospace and Science and Engineering Services LLC all announced expansions at their Alabama facilities, with a combined total of 500-plus new jobs.
100 NEW JOBS IN ENTERPRISE
Altogether, Alabama landed 12 aerospace/defense projects in 2014, resulting in nearly 1,100 announced jobs and new capital investment topping $213 million, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.
One of those projects was in Enterprise, where Arista Aviation announced plans to invest $10.9 million to establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operation for helicopter work – a specialty in the Southeast Alabama aerospace cluster that’s centered around the Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker near Ozark.
Arista, initially known as Alabama Aircraft Support, opened its hangar, overhaul shop and paint facility last fall and has been growing rapidly. The company has a multi-year U.S. Department of State contract to provide comprehensive maintenance service on the agency’s Huey II helicopters. It has a number of other key customers, including domestic and foreign military organizations.
“They just opened six months ago, and they are already up to 100 employees,” said Jonathan Tullos, executive director of the Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. in Enterprise. “It’s a state-of-the-art MRO facility, and we feel they’re a good fit for the community.”
Tullos is part of a contingent of officials from Southeast Alabama who are attending the Paris Air Show to build relationships with industry figures and identify opportunities that could result in expansion or investment opportunities. Other communities and areas that will be represented at the show include Huntsville, Mobile and Baldwin County, Birmingham, Auburn-Opelika and Tuscaloosa.