LONDON — As aerospace companies continue to grow their operations in Alabama, their shipments of local products sent around the world are also on the rise.
In 2015, Alabama’s aerospace industry exports topped $869 million, a 16 percent growth from the previous year, U.S. trade data shows. So far this year, the numbers are increasing at an even more rapid pace, as exports are up more than 140 percent from the same period last year.
Civilian aircraft, engines and parts make up the lion’s share of Alabama’s aerospace industry exports, said Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Office at the Alabama Department of Commerce.
Helicopters and parts seem to be growing in this industry sector, she added.
“This entire industry sector is growing as our companies have the experience and technology to meet a broad range of requirements that is now in demand throughout the world,” Lockhart said. “Once again, the world wants quality products for safety and they rely on the U.S. for trusted parts.”
The growth in aerospace exports is a trend seen throughout the region, said Neal Wade, chairman of The Aerospace Alliance, a consortium of business leaders, economic developers and government officials who aim to establish the Gulf Coast as a preeminent aerospace, space and aviation corridor.
Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana are all represented in the organization.
“We are seeing growth in exports in all four states, as the industry grows,” Wade said.
The potential for continued growth, both in exports and in local jobs and investment for the states, is significant, he continued, as companies are drawn to the influx of activity by their industry peers.
“This is a perfect place to locate and then create product that can then be exported around the world,” Wade said. “It’s much easier to build and sell off that foundation than if you’re trying to create something new.”
Alabama’s aerospace exporters include RMCI Inc. of Huntsville, which has participated in state-led trade missions.
The company, which specializes in helicopter health monitoring technology and analysis, announced plans at last year’s Paris Air Show to open an office in the United Kingdom to meet growing demand.
“The demand for the technology that we are on the leading edge of developing is dramatically expanding globally,” RMCI Chief Executive Ken Speaks said at the time. “We are able to detect emerging failures in helicopter drive-train systems well in advance of an incident that could cause collateral damage or catastrophic damage. Demand for that type of technology in safety critical systems — saving lives, reducing costs — is rapidly growing.”
France, home base of Airbus, was the top export market during 2015 for Alabama aerospace products and parts, with a total of $237 million in shipments. Over the last decade, exports to France in this sector have increased 98 percent.
Germany was No. 2, with the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Brazil rounding out the top five.
Notable growth has been seen in the UAE. Last year, Alabama aerospace exports to the country were valued at $92 million, a 126 percent increase from 2014. So far this year, exports have grown more than 19,000 percent.