PARIS, France — Alabama elected officials and economic development leaders had their eyes on the prize as they gathered in a gorgeous French setting at Les Invalides for a reception hosted by the Huntsville delegation on the eve of the Paris Air Show. The prize? Aerospace jobs.
“Nobody is going to out work me this week,” said Alabama Governor Robert Bentley as he addressed a packed crowd of public and private leaders. “I challenge all of you to join me in working hard for the state of Alabama over the next few days. Let’s go out and recruit great jobs for the state of Alabama!”
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, who was honored at the reception, told the crowd that billions of dollars of business would be transacted this week at the Paris Air Show and that Alabama’s strength in aerospace manufacturing and engineering positioned the state well to benefit from business done at the show. Read a story on Alabama’s aerospace sector.
Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said during the reception he spoke to a manufacturing company that was actively looking for a site and that they were impressed with what Alabama has to offer.
“Until tonight, they didn’t know about our advantages when it comes to property taxes; they didn’t know about AIDT and everything we can offer in terms of worker training; they didn’t know about some of the incentives we provide,” Hubbard said. “Because we have had the opportunity to tell them about some of those advantages, I believe they are even more seriously considering Alabama as a location. My goal this week is to educate everyone I can that we are the most business-friendly state in the nation.”
The Huntsville delegation, host of tonight’s reception, also asked private companies to assist with recruitment this week. James Bolte, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama Inc., attended tonight’s reception as the outgoing President of the Huntsville Chamber of Commerce. Toyota’s north Alabama engine plant is the only one in the world that builds 4-, 6- and 8-cylinder engines. With the completion of a V-6 expansion in January, the Huntsville plant will employ more than 1,200 people.
Bolte said his role at the Paris Air Show is to support the state in their efforts to expand the aerospace sector in Alabama.
“If there are any companies that are thinking about manufacturing in Alabama, I can bring real life experience in terms of the success we’ve had in manufacturing in the state and especially Huntsville,” Bolte said.
He said it is not hard to make a case for manufacturing in Alabama. The state’s best attributes, he said, are its workforce and worker training, its pro-business climate, the support offered by its elected leaders and its transportation infrastructure with interstates leading in all directions and both air and water ports.
To today’s event, the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County and other sponsors invited companies it’s currently working with or those they’d like to work with in the future. Although this year’s reception was held at Place des Invalides, it’s been held a number of times at an Eiffel Tower meeting room, but that location is undergoing construction work. Les Invalides was previously an old hospital used to accommodate disabled soldiers. On the other side of the building is Napoleon’s tomb.
“Can you imaging trying to visit all of these companies across the world? The air show brings together this industry so we can meet and talk to them. The majority of your economy development comes from existing industry, so it’s important to communicate with existing industry as well as other opportunities,” said Barbie Peek, director of marketing for the Port of Huntsville and Huntsville International Airport.
Besides the chamber and the airport, other sponsors of the event were the City of Huntsville and the Madison County Commission.