BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Airbus’ decision to locate its A320 Family Assembly Line in Mobile has pushed the throttle up on efforts by Alabama economic development officials to accelerate growth in the state’s aerospace sector.
The aerospace industry is already a key part of Alabama’s economy, with more than 300 companies employing around 83,000 people across the state. The Airbus FAL will add another 1,000 workers to that total, and suppliers that locate in the state could lift the figure even higher.
EDPA, an ally of the Alabama Department of Commerce, established aerospace as a target industry in the early 1990s and since that time has been involved in marketing Alabama to prospective companies as well as supporting the growth of existing aerospace businesses. In this discussion, Sewell outlines why he believes the state is positioned to see expansion in this important sector of the state’s economy.
ALABAMA’S CAPABILITIES AND APPEAL
“The diversity and scope of Alabama’s aerospace capabilities is a big factor in the state’s appeal to prospective companies. Aerospace-related companies in the state are involved in the highest levels of advanced and precision manufacturing, engineering, modeling and simulation, maintenance and repair, and research and development. We have companies in virtually every major sector of the industry, including rocket propulsion, missile defense, aerospace component manufacturing, and maintenance, repair and overhaul.
“And the state is poised for even greater growth and diversity. The addition of the Airbus Assembly Line in Mobile means that Alabama will be one of only a few locations in North America building commercial aircraft.
“That impressive capability in multiple sectors of the industry shows that Alabama is a location equipped to provide what is most important to a prospective company: Experienced and skilled labor, infrastructure, education and training programs and a long-term commitment to support the industry’s success.”
IMPACT OF BOEING’S ALABAMA RESEARCH CENTER
“Boeing’s confidence in Alabama has been demonstrated again and again by investments the company has made over half a century. Boeing has managed many significant aerospace and defense projects in Alabama during that period. And the company’s recent decision to establish a technology research center in Huntsville will certainly enhance the state’s reputation in the industry as a center for research, technology and engineering.”
ADVANTAGES FOR AIRBUS SUPPLY CHAIN
“Those suppliers will benefit from the investments that Alabama has made in education, workforce training and infrastructure to support the success of the entire Airbus project. “That includes the new Alabama Aviation Training Centerin Mobile, the Alabama Aviation Technical College and the services of AIDT, which for years has been heralded as one of the top work force training programs in the country. Alabama’s direct relationship with Airbus and its assembly line should be extremely valuable to those suppliers as they establish operations in the region.
“The long-term success of Airbus is a top priority for the state and the suppliers who are part of that network are going to experience a high level of support and attention when they locate in the state.”
UNIVERSITIES AS AEROSPACE ALLIES
“The state’s universities are already playing a critical role in supporting the industry and the partnership with the companies will become increasingly important due to the rapid technological advancement in the industry. At the most direct level, Alabama’s universities are preparing engineers to work in the state’s industry and through internship programs and close relationships with companies they are refining and shaping curriculum and programs to better meet industry’s needs.
“In addition, the universities and companies are establishing partnerships to collaborate on research, technology transfer and other innovations to enhance productivity and quality in aerospace manufacturing.”