By: Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce
LONDON, England – Over the next few days, Governor Robert Bentley and I will engage in more than 20 meetings with aerospace companies at the Farnborough International Air Show, which will play host to the global industry’s key decision-makers. Additionally, during this international event two members of the Commerce Business Development Team will engage in dozens of other meetings with companies from around the globe.
Our mission there is simple: Position Alabama as the best place for aerospace investment and new jobs.
Alabama has a long history in aerospace and aviation, and the state has a robust presence in the industry. Alabama is home to the biggest players in the business – Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, GE Aviation, GKN Aerospace, and the list goes on. With Alabama’s 400 aerospace companies representing 30 countries and 83,000 people employed in the aerospace and defense industry, our state is establishing its place in this vital sector.
Airbus, of course, is building its $600 million A320 Family Assembly Line at the Mobile Aeroplex, creating a broad new set of opportunities for Alabama’s aerospace and aviation sector and the 1,000 people who will be employed there. The facility is a natural attraction for companies and suppliers such as Safran, which has already opened an engineering center at the Aeroplex to support Airbus. We want Alabama to become the state of choice for these companies.
During these meetings at Farnborough, Governor Bentley’s team will talk about Alabama’s strengths in aerospace. One of them is our workforce, which today is involved in practically every aspect of aerospace activity – research, engineering, composites, component assembly, raw materials production and more. Alabama also has top-rated job-training programs, led by AIDT, which is now preparing workers for Airbus at a new training center in Mobile.
In addition, Alabama offers numerous other advantages for aerospace, including a superb infrastructure system that includes a deep-water port and extensive interstate, rail and air networks. Plus, the state’s universities and its network of community colleges are eager to collaborate with aerospace companies.
There is a compelling reason that Alabama sends a small working team each year to the major European air show. It’s this: We have never had a better opportunity to secure new aerospace investment – and the high-paying jobs that come with it – than we do right now. This annual event brings CEOs, board members and C-suite executives of the world’s biggest and best aerospace companies together in one place.
At Farnborough, the Alabama team will continue to build on the solid foundation we have developed in this sector by focusing on relationships with key decision-makers at the world’s most important aerospace companies. Building relationships is essential in any business, and aerospace is no different. These strong relationships often open the door of opportunity that leads to vital new job-creating project announcements that have made the air show famous.
A major reason that Governor Bentley’s team is focused on aerospace is that it’s an industry that is growing and can provide the kind of high wages that lift families across the state. Aerospace is among the 11 key target sectors identified in Accelerate Alabama, the strategic economic growth plan that Governor Bentley established when he took office.
When considering the future of aerospace in Alabama, there is much to be excited about. In a little over a year, Airbus will be ready to begin assembling passenger jets at its Mobile, Alabama facility, a milestone for the entire industry. Boeing is starting up a research and technology center in Huntsville, creating more than 300 jobs and demonstrating that Alabama is an ideal location for knowledge-based work. And NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center has been testing 3-D printed rocket parts, placing the state on the cutting edge of that new technology.
So what is the message we will carry to industry decision-makers at Farnborough? Quite simply that message is: When companies land here in Alabama, that’s when they really begin to take off.