EADS can help area

Published 6:31 am Monday, March 3, 2008

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Escambia and its sister counties all have opportunities to benefit now that Northrup Grumman and EADS North America have been awarded a contract to build Air Force tankers in Mobile, Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority President Wiley Blankenship said Friday.
The announcement Friday afternoon from the Air Force will likely bring an aircraft assembly plant to Mobile's Brookley Field Industrial Complex, creating an estimated 1,500 jobs. EADS subsidiary Airbus will also shift production of a commercial air freighter to Brookley, adding another 300 jobs.
Escambia County, along with four other counties that make up the Coastal Gateway Economic Development Authority, has had prospective industrial sites on the state's official list for more than a year - sites that will be turned over to Boeing suppliers looking to build near the aircraft plant.
Coastal Gateway - now made up of Escambia, Monroe, Conecuh, Clarke and Choctaw counties - worked closely with Baldwin and Mobile county economic development leaders on the project, Blankenship said.
This summer, Blankenship will attend an air show in Farnborough, England - an event that will attract a number of aviation suppliers. The Coastal Gateway region's proximity to Mobile and the Boeing plant will give him and other area leaders a leg up on attracting the attention of those industries.
But a big part of the work will be on the communities themselves that hope to attract new plants, he said.
Northrup and EADS had competed for the project with Boeing, widely thought to have the advantage because of previous military contracts. The deal calls for 179 planes - Northrup calls them the KC-30 - to be delivered in 10 to 15 years.
Boeing still has an opportunity to review the decision - and the company was expected to file a formal protest, which could delay the process several months.
But Alabama officials were celebrating.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., had been a staunch supporter of Mobile during the selection process.
Shelby said the project could bring 5,000 jobs to Alabama.
ThyssenKrupp, a German steelmaker, already has plans to bring a $3.7 billion steel plant to north Mobile County, employing up to 2,700 people.