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Paris Air Show

Alabama firms aim to turn Paris Air Show connections into new business

WETUMPKA, Alabama – The leadership of Information Transport Solutions Inc. (ITS) trekked 4,500 miles to this month’s Paris Air Show to pursue a key strategic goal – build aerospace industry connections as the firm branches into the sector.

“We want to be in the forefront with all the suppliers coming to Alabama in the aerospace technology area,” ITS President Quincy Minor said.

The Elmore County firm was among several Alabama-based businesses that traveled in mid-June to the premier aerospace business development event to engage in scheduled meetings with clients and prospects. These business leaders also participated in networking events with industry officials, providing them with follow-up opportunities with high-level contacts.

Leisa Finley, director of the Elmore County Economic Development Association, helped the ITS team coordinate its schedule at the Paris Air Show and helped with introductions. Back home, she’s now working to win new aerospace business for her county.

“This was the first air show for ITS, and it was a success for them,” Finley said. “Having the opportunity to network on an international stage lets companies know you are serious about doing business. ITS was able to make several contacts and meeting with existing internationally based customers.”

Other Alabama companies with a presence at the air show included B.L. Harbert International, a Birmingham construction firm that carries out projects around the world, and Hoar Program Management, the Birmingham firm that oversaw construction of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility in Mobile.

They were joined by two Huntsville area firms: RadioBro Corp., which produces radio transceivers for miniature satellites, and RMCI Inc., which makes devices that detect failures in helicopter engines before they occur. At the air show, RMCI announced that it was opening an U.K. office.

In addition, officials from Atmore-based Muskogee Technology were at the show. The company, a Poarch Creek Tribal business, recently teamed with GKN Aerospace to design and install a climate-controlled facility for storing and cutting composite materials at Muskogee Technology’s Escambia County manufacturing plant.

Muskogee Technology, which specializes in high-tech precision machining, produces parts for Boeing and other organizations in the defense sector. A focus in Paris was to continue to develop relationships into the commercial aviation sector.

“We’re only 45 minutes from the new Airbus facilities in Mobile, Alabama, and we’ve already started building relationships, especially with their military divisions. We want to get involved in the supply chain on the commercial aerospace side. We all know commercial aviation is exploding,” said Mal McGhee, the company’s marketing director.

EXPANDING AEROSPACE

While most of ITS’ business is with schools and government organizations, the company founded by Tomi Selby has won contracts for its computer-networking services from Airbus and GKN. The company, with nearly 100 employees, has offices in Wetumpka, Mobile, and, soon, Montgomery.

Selby joined Minor and Henry Zeigler, a company senior account manager, in Paris for customer meetings and events such as a networking cruise hosted by The Aerospace Alliance, a regional partnership that includes Alabama.

“Partnering with international corporations with operations in Alabama is a rewarding experience for our Alabama-based information technology company,” Minor said. “Getting to spend time with these great customers on their turf at such a unique event as the Paris Air Show tops the charts.”

“It’s not every day that a small business gets the work with global giants,” Zeigler added.

The ITS team also assisted the Elmore County EDA with recruitment at the show. Because of GKN’s massive presence in Tallassee – it’s the county’s largest manufacturer, with 1,000 employees – aerospace is a key priority for Finley.

The sector is growing in Elmore County, which stands just north of Montgomery. At last year’s Farnborough International Airshow, GKN announced plans to open an engineering design center in Tallassee, adding 30 jobs. Also in 2014, Florida-based Arcadia Aerospace opened a facility nearby to provide high-tech inspection services for GKN’s composite materials. The $8 million project will create 20 jobs, according to data from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“GKN is the driving force for us at the international air show each year, and they open many doors of opportunity to grow across the region and state,” Finley said. “Our first goal is to ‘sell Alabama,’ and when the conservations continue, companies can better understand our location. GKN’s presence certainly strengthens that for Elmore County.”

Finley was joined in the Alabama air show delegation by economic development officials from communities including Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile-Baldwin County, Auburn-Opelika, Tuscaloosa and Enterprise. At least 15 other states had an official presence at the event.

“The air show’s international stage gives us an opportunity to start conversations and build relationships which eventually can turn into more investment for our communities,” Finley said.

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