PARIS, France — Governor Robert Bentley and members of the Alabama delegation had a busy and productive day at the Paris Air Show, meeting today with a dozen companies in the aviation and aerospace sector about the possibility of establishing or expanding an Alabama presence.
In a question-and-answer session with Made in Alabama, Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield gives his assessment of the first day of the international air show, talks with Airbus about suppliers for its Alabama A320 family final assembly line and why it’s critical to make the trip to Paris. He also discusses the Made in Alabama brand, which his department rolled out in March.
Q: What did you accomplish today at the Paris Air Show?
A: We had a busy day today. We had Governor Bentley in front of 12 companies in the aerospace sector. About half of those were companies with an existing presence in Alabama, and of those about half have expressed a possible desire to expand in Alabama.
The other half of the twelve are companies that currently have no presence in Alabama. We had discussions with CEOs and presidents of these companies about specific projects. For two of those companies we’ll be discussing possible locations in Alabama in the next 18 months.
Q: Governor Bentley has made it clear that his focus is on creating new jobs. Do you think you were successful in doing that today?
A: I think the Governor was successful today. He and I are confident that we are going to see job growth within the aerospace sector with the companies we met with today. A significant portion of that growth will likely come from companies with an existing presence in the state.
Q: Why is it important to go to Paris for these meetings? Why not simply meet with companies here in Alabama.
A: The Paris Air Show is an international event that gives us access to a long list of executives in one place at one time. These are decision makers. We are able to develop an aggressive schedule of meetings and help build a business case for those companies to expand or build in Alabama.
We are certainly not the only state that has a presence at the event. In fact, our booth is included in the U.S. Pavillion along with a long list of states with interests in the aerospace sector. Our presence there helps us stay competitive.
Q: You launched a new brand in March. Did you see success with the Made In Alabama brand and the Paris Air Show?
A: The branding has been well received, and it’s highly visible throughout the Paris Air Show. The new branding on our booth certainly makes us more visible and gives us a look of sophistication at a very sophisticated event for a very high-tech industry. It’s been very rewarding to see the number of people walking through the Paris Air Show who are wearing Made In Alabama lapel pins, and not all of those are from Alabama.
Q: Who was with you and the Governor at the air show today?
A: We were assisted today in a number of our meetings by having the Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, which helped us show that we have strong legislative support for the Governor’s pro-business agenda. We also were joined by Chuck Karr, dean of the College of Engineering for the University of Alabama, who provided expertise surrounding the topic of growing the pool of engineering talent in the state.
One of our goals is to grow the research and engineering sector that supports the aerospace industry in Alabama. That leads to high-paying careers, and it also leads to new product development from aerospace companies in Alabama and therefore growth for those companies.
Q: You met this afternoon with Airbus, which announced its Mobile final assembly line just ahead of last year’s Farnborough Air Show. What did you all discuss today?
A: The discussions with Airbus today were held with Allan McArtor, Chairman of Airbus Americas, and the purpose of that meeting was to discuss the timeline for the construction and development of the supply chain to support the final assembly line. Airbus indicated in the meeting that decisions are imminent regarding what they term “integral service providers” which are primarily their tier one suppliers.
That will mean new companies in Alabama.