Expansions propel aerospace industry’s growth trajectory in Morgan County
Morgan County led the way in Alabama for aerospace industry investment in 2017, landing new facilities and expansion projects worth more than $336 million and spurring job growth.
A longtime hub of industry for the state, the county’s assets include its location along the Tennessee River and a solid lineup of businesses already tied to the sector.
“We are fortunate that our existing aerospace-related industries continue to reinvest in their facilities as their businesses grow and evolve,” said Jeremy Nails, president and CEO of the Morgan County Economic Development Association (MCEDA).
“We also benefit by working with them to co-locate other aerospace related companies and customers close to their existing operations.”
The growth prospects of Alabama’s aerospace industry have been on full display at this week’s Farnborough International Airshow, where business recruiters from around the state engaged in talks with companies about expansion opportunities.
For Morgan County, Nails said, the key to continued aerospace growth is focusing on improving the infrastructure capacities for manufacturing facilities. The area already benefits from its ports on the Tennessee River, which allows companies to transport large aerospace components via barge.
“We must continue to meet the demands of their utility usage and we work closely with our local utility providers on forecasting future demand. Also, supporting growth through various workforce development initiatives and incentive programs, keeps our area competitive,” he said.
Four aerospace projects were announced in Morgan County last year, for a combined total of 113 new jobs.
Also in Decatur, United Launch Alliance is investing $115.6 million in work on its next-generation launch vehicle, which will be assembled at the venture’s sprawling rocket assembly plant.
Morgan County’s biggest aerospace investment announcement of 2017 – and biggest investment announcement overall – was Hexcel Corp.’s plan to expand its Decatur facility, spending nearly $200 million and adding about 90 new jobs. The project will establish the company’s first integrated U.S. carbon fiber and PAN production facility.
Hexcel Decatur was established in 1989 and was the first company to construct a facility in Mallard-Fox Creek Industrial Park.
HEXCEL GROWTH CURVE
Before last year’s announcement, the company had spent $691 million in previous expansions of the Decatur site. The growth has come amid the increase of carbon fiber used in aerospace-related components and for other purposes.
Hexcel is still in the early stages of the project with engineering and permitting activities well under way, said Brett Schneider, president – Global Fibers, Hexcel.
Construction is expected to begin later this year.
“It’s great to see aerospace industry growth in Alabama, and we’re proud to call the state home along with some of our customers including Airbus and GE Aviation,” Schneider said. “The growing aerospace presence in the state, support from local officials, and confidence in our existing plant and workforce in Decatur all were deciding factors for us.”
Schneider said the company is grateful to the Alabama Department of Commerce, the MCEDA, the mayor and City Council of Decatur, the Morgan County Commission and the Tennessee Valley Authority – all of whom and more have worked to make Decatur a competitive and business-friendly location for Hexcel’s growth.
“Also, we have to say how proud we are of our team at Hexcel Decatur – they’ve done a terrific job helping us meet customer expectations and to become more successful as a company overall.
“It’s proven to be a great location for us, and we look forward to growing it,” he said.
(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)