Momentum continues to build in Alabama’s aerospace industry, which is adding new investments and hundreds of jobs to produce innovative, in-demand products in communities across the state.
In 2017 alone, there were announcements totaling nearly $690 million and 1,750 jobs. Those numbers increased the sector’s cumulative investment over the past seven years to almost $2.4 billion, along with 8,348 aerospace and defense jobs during the same time period.
This year, there’s a hiring surge, as the plans become reality. And more jobs are on the way.
At this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, defense contractor BAE Systems and Carpenter Technology Corp., a maker of premium metals and alloys used in the aerospace industry, announced expansions of their Alabama operations.
Together, these projects will create more than 250 jobs in North Alabama.
Meanwhile, growth plans are already in place for aerospace companies operating across the state.
Airbus’ Alabama factory, for instance, is in line for 600 new jobs, thanks to a planned second assembly line for the Bombardier C Series jetliner (renamed the A220), as well as a potential increase in the production of A320 Family aircraft.
The company is also adding workers at its Auburn facility, which mass produces a jet engine fuel nozzle using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing technologies.
Aerospace companies from around the world are seeing that Alabama offers plenty of advantages to help them expand their business, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“From complex military weapons systems to innovative passenger aircraft, and many of the break-through technologies that power them all, Alabama is home to an impressive array of the industry’s leading products,” Secretary Canfield said.
“How do we do it? In Alabama, we take partnerships very seriously. A company’s strategic vision and expertise, coupled with the skill and dedication of our highly-trained workforce, is always a winning combination.”
Secretary Canfield joined Governor Kay Ivey and an Alabama team at Farnborough this week for appointments with executives of 16 aerospace companies, including Airbus, Boeing, Leonardo and GE Aviation.
The talks were aimed at bringing home new investment and jobs in the aerospace sector.
The company is consolidating its Defense division headquarters and Rocket Shop advanced programs to the Rocket City, where it has had a presence for more than 50 years.
It has also moved into a new office space at Cummings Research Park and is building a new Advanced Manufacturing Facility that will produce subassemblies and components for the AR1 rocket engine, composite cases for rocket motors, 3-D printed rocket engine components and other parts.
James Ramseier, site leader for operations at the Huntsville Advanced Manufacturing Facility, said construction is about 60 percent complete and right on schedule.
“We plan on opening that facility in December of 2018, and initially in 2019, we are going to go through product verification. In 2020, we will ramp up to full production,” he said.
Ramseier said everyone in Huntsville, from major business groups to individual building inspectors, has been supportive and welcoming.
“The culture here is, ‘Let’s all work together to help make you successful,’” he said. “It’s a pleasure working in an environment where people want you to succeed.
“You don’t feel like a stranger. As soon as you move here, you’re part of the family.”
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s hiring plans are moving forward as well, with support from Alabama’s top worker training agency.
“AIDT is fantastic. We’re working with them every week on developing our training plans and material, and they have been outstanding to work with,” Ramseier said.
The company is also impressed with the ties between business and education in the community, said Bill Bigelow, chief of defense communications.
“The partnerships here are very attractive to us,” he said. “We’re growing the future workforce, as we grow our presence here in Huntsville, partnering with Alabama A&M University, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and other area educational institutions, as well as the chamber of commerce and the mayor’s office.”
Bigelow said the Tennessee Valley is clearly committed to bringing in the types of jobs and training programs that will grow a generational workforce.
“The knowledge and the history in all things aerospace, missile-defense and industrial base operations is here, and Aerojet Rocketdyne wants to leverage that community expertise both now and well into the future,” he said.