MONTGOMERY, Alabama – The Alabama aerospace industry put man on the moon and is now working to take him to Mars. It assembles rockets that blast critical satellites into space and missiles that can strike enemy missiles in flight. It plays a vital role in training the Army’s helicopter pilots and the Air Force’s officers.
Next up for Alabama: Becoming a production center for one of the world’s best-selling passenger jets – the Airbus A320 and its siblings in a family of planes that have transported 7 billion passengers since entering service.
With construction beginning on the Airbus final assembly line at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex, Alabama leaders, economic development specialists and local officials from around the state will head to the Paris Air Show in coming days to push the throttle forward on efforts to expand Alabama’s aerospace/aviation industry. Activities at Le Bourget Airport begin Monday, June 17, and run through Sunday, June 23.
“Our goals are to continue to build relationships with companies that may be creating stateside operations to support the Airbus A320 final assembly line and to further penetrate the aerospace sector independent of Airbus,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, who will join Gov. Robert Bentley in the Alabama delegation at the Paris Air Show.
The Paris Air Show and its relative, the Farnborough International Air Show near London, are the premier trade events for the aerospace industry. Billions of dollars in business transactions happen on the ground at these events, so as Alabama continues working to build the sector in the state, its presence at these events is essential.
“Aerospace is one of our 11 target sectors in the Accelerate Alabama strategic growth plan, and we are attempting to build on the momentum from the Airbus project and other positive developments in this important sector,” Bentley said.
Bentley will lead the small working group from the state, which includes himself, Canfield and the Commerce Department’s Assistant Director of Business Development Bob Smith, will meet with more than 20 companies over the course of three activity-packed days. Some of those companies already have a presence in Alabama, while others represent prospective projects.
During this trip, Bentley and other Alabama officials can point to a vibrant aerospace/aviation sector in the state, with activities that include NASA propulsion research, the production of heavy rockets and of missiles for the U.S. military, and the manufacturing of components for aircraft and helicopters. The Department of Commerce says there are 83,000 jobs at more than 300 aerospace and aviation companies and organizations across Alabama.
In Paris, Canfield said the small official state delegation will collaborate with representatives from firms and organizations involved in economic development activities across the state. Along with the local officials, the Alabama group will utilize a team approach at the business meetings scheduled with aerospace and aviation companies at the show.
“A lot of what we will be doing is critical relationship-building,” Bentley said. “We know who the companies are, and we will be talking to them. Being successful at this is a matter of relationships and the opportunities created by those relationships.”
Alabama’s aerospace assets include NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, where the Saturn V rocket that blasted astronauts to the moon was developed, and Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, home of Air University, the service’s leadership training center. Southeast Alabama is home to Fort Rucker, where pilots from the U.S. Army and other organizations receive flight training.