Airbus can help county

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

When Airbus is fully operational at a planned facility at Brookley Field in Mobile, the plant is expected to produce about four airplanes per month — and local officials believe they have a good chance at hosting suppliers for the new factory.
Jim Searcy, executive director of Coastal Gateway Economic Development Alliance, said the project will be positive for Mobile and the entire region. Airbus executives on Monday joined state and local officials for the announcement of the new facility.
Not only is there a possibility for suppliers to locate in communities within the Coastal Gateway region — which includes Escambia, Conecuh, Monroe, Clarke and Choctaw counties — but for construction contractors to help build the plant, Searcy said.
“Initially, they are going to provide 2,500 construction jobs,” he said. “That could be an opportunity for some of our companies doing subcontracting work, and there may be some opportunity for our skilled trades here.”
Searcy said he predicts there will be “concentric rings” around the Airbus facility with different levels of suppliers for the plant.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We’ve got excellent sites and transportation in Escambia County and throughout our region.”
Atmore’s Rivercane industrial park is just less than an hour up the Interstate from Brookley Field. That proximity puts Atmore in “excellent shape” to attract a supplier for the facility, Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said.
Shell attended Airbus’ announcement in Mobile about the new plant, which is expected to employ 1,000 people and produce 40 to 50 aircraft per year by 2018. The facility will build the family of A319, A320 and A321 aircraft.
“We are in excellent shape because we’re on the Interstate that dumps onto Brookley Field,” Shell said. “I think there is even only one stoplight between here and there. You can’t ask for much better than that.”
Shell said Monday’s announcement was attended by economic development “movers and shakers” from around the state, including former Gov. Bob Riley, who was credited with getting the project under way.
“This is very exciting,” Shell said, noting that suppliers will likely be located farther from the facility and will be convenient to the plant in terms of transportation and in communities with a strong labor force.
While Mobile County was disappointed once before when EADS lost a military tanker contract to rival Boeing — after some political maneuvering — both Searcy and Shell said the Airbus project is a done deal.
“They signed contracts; this is happening,” Shell said.