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Byrne: Alabama’s aerospace industry shines in international spotlight

Rep. Bradley Byrne (left) and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson (right) taking a look inside the cockpit of an Airbus A380 (Photo: Facebook)
Rep. Bradley Byrne (left) and Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson (right) taking a look inside the cockpit of an Airbus A380 (Photo: Facebook)

Last week, I joined officials from throughout Alabama at the Farnborough International Airshow outside of London, England. I was accompanied by representatives from the city of Mobile, members of the Mobile and Baldwin County Commissions, Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, Governor Bentley, and other officials from across our state.

Our goal was simple: to work to bring new industry to our state and our area by highlighting the skilled workforce and resources the state of Alabama offers. I am proud to report that Alabama likely had the largest presence of any state in the entire country.

The Farnborough Airshow is a unique opportunity to bring all the leading executives from airline and aerospace companies around the globe together in one place. Various parts suppliers are there to try and convince major aerospace companies to use their products. Government entities are also there to showcase various defense projects and recruit new industry to their respective area.

Much of our time was focused on Airbus, which is in the process of building its A320 final assembly line in Mobile. The Airbus assembly line will directly employ about 1,000 people when it reaches full annual production by 2018, although the first planes will begin rolling off the line in 2016. Many other jobs will likely follow as suppliers begin locating around the final assembly line. At Farnborough, the Alabama delegation met with Allan McArtor, the chairman of Airbus in the United States, and Tom Enders, who is the chief executive of Airbus Group.

We also met with representatives from ST Aerospace, which has a significant presence at Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile. ST Aeropsace has been a great community partner for many years, and I feel confident they will continue to have a strong presence in our area for years to come. On top of those groups, we spent time with the folks from United Technologies (UTC), which has a facility in Foley that was recently named one of their premier facilities in the country.

The airshow was not just about Mobile and Baldwin counties though, rather the impact of new industry will likely be felt throughout Southwest Alabama. A great example is Muskogee Technology (MT), an aerospace manufacturer owned and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and located in Atmore. MT’s representatives were working hard to promote their metal fabrication business to airline executives from across the globe, and given their history of superior performance as a supplier to the US aerospace industry, I have no doubt they will be successful. And their success is Alabama’s success.

I am confident that as Airbus’s operation in Mobile continues to move forward and grow, the relationships we built in Farnborough will really pay dividends. I truly believe the dam will break, and more good-paying jobs will come to our area.

When you look at the impressive aerospace industry in Huntsville, to expanded opportunities in the Wiregrass region, to our growing aerospace presence in Mobile, this is an exciting time for Alabama to be one of the premier leaders in a booming industry. So, there is no doubt in my mind that our presence at the Farnborough Airshow really put Alabama in the spotlight.

Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives

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