Airbus, a pan-European aircraft maker, has chosen Alabama for its first US site. The news was announced by state governor Robert Bentley and Airbus executives in early July. The new investment, valued at $600m, is expected to create 1000 jobs when completed, with an additional 3200 during the construction phase. The construction of the plant, located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile, is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2013, with the aircraft assembly starting two years later. Airbus currently operates three plants worldwide – two in Europe (in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg in Germany) and one in Asia (Tianjin in China).
In an official statement issued after the new project was announced, Airbus president and CEO Fabrice Bregier was keen to emphasise that the company's Alabama plant will be instrumental in building relationships within the industry and clients across the US. Airbus’s move is seen widely as a gauntlet thrown down to its biggest competitor, Boeing. While competing for big orders coming from the the US, Boeing will no longer have the advantage of being the only US-based major civic airspace manufacturer.
For Alabama, apart from the welcome boost of the local economy, the project is instrumental in helping the state consolidate its position as an aerospace production hub. “We are trying to get away from low-end manufacturing and concentrate on [manufacturing] airplanes, rockets and ships,” Mr Bentley told fDi during a July visit to Europe.
On his tour of Europe, Mr Bentley visited Airbus’s plant in Hamburg, attended the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK and met with the chairman of Daimler, the German car producer responsible for manufacturing brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Smart and Maybach. Daimler’s factory, built in 1995 in Vance near the city of Tuscaloosa, was the first site outside of Germany to manufacture cars with the Mercedes-Benz logo. The operation currently employs 2800 people, and in July 2011 Daimler announced its intentions to invest up to $2bn in the plant’s expansion.
Among the factors behind Alabama’s success in securing new projects in manufacturing, according to Mr Bentley, are training initiatives such as the Alabama Industrial Development Training programme, and the fact that the state is has a 'right-to-work' law in place, which is a law abolishing union security agreements. Additionally, in April 2012, Mr Bentley signed the 'Aviation Amendment', which grants sales tax exemptions to aerospace companies. As well as Alabama, 10 other states have such an incentive for the aerospace sector.