EADS announcement prelude to better times for south

Published 11:12 am Monday, June 27, 2005

By By Jo Bonner
This Week in Washington
On Wednesday, June 22, an announcement was made confirming a growing number of rumors which had been floating around the Internet and in numerous news publications several days in advance.
The North American division of European Aeronautics Defense and Space Company (EADS) announced they had selected Brookley Air Field in Mobile as the site of their new aerospace engineering center. Moreover, should EADS win the final bid to construct the Air Force's new KC-330 tanker, we will see a new aircraft production facility employing over 1000 Gulf Coast workers.
The process of site selection, which began in January of this year, required site visits and detailed proposals for 70 locations throughout the United States. As exciting as it was to receive news several weeks ago that the Brookley complex had placed as one of the final four contenders for this facility, winning the competition was better still.
This announcement, without question, ranks as one of the most significant accomplishments in our region in the past several decades. The total future investment by EADS in south Alabama – which could ultimately total $600 million – puts Mobile in an elite category with other American leaders in aerospace technology: St. Louis, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Seattle.
I would be remiss if I did not extend my congratulations to our three competitors in the final round of this process: Melbourne, Florida, Kiln, Mississippi, and Charleston, South Carolina. By making it to the final group considered for this new facility, the government, community, and economic development leaders from these areas demonstrated that they, too, would have made an outstanding home for the EADS engineering and manufacturing center.
The selection of south Alabama is also the end result of an extremely concerted and unified recruitment effort on the part of the entire state of Alabama. Without fail, our elected officials, community leaders, and development representatives put forth from the start of this process an extremely unified and concerted effort to win the EADS facility.
At the risk of failing to offer my thanks and congratulations to everyone involved, I would like to say that I am particularly grateful for the hard work put into this process by Governor Bob Riley, Neal Wade of the Alabama Development Office, my colleagues in the Alabama congressional delegation, the Mobile Airport Authority, and the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
In the hours and days since the selection of Mobile by EADS, I have given a great deal of thought to what this announcement really means for south Alabama. First, there are some important facts to point out about EADS, particularly with regard to its involvement here in the United States:
– During the past several years, EADS has become the second largest aerospace and defense company anywhere in the world.
– In the United States alone, EADS North America contributes, each year, over $6 billion to the economy of the United States.
– As part of this annual investment, the company directly supports over 100,000 American jobs at its own facilities, as well as through the numerous suppliers and support service organizations it employs.
The jobs the EADS engineering facility in Mobile – which is due to be up and running by this same time next year – will provide are beneficial in two ways. First, they will require highly-skilled workers, but will reward those employees with high wages. Second, it will provide an immediate, local opportunity for these workers to come from the Mobile area. As I'm sure many of you may have read in the Mobile Register in the past few days, the engineering students at the University of South Alabama are particularly excited that they will have the opportunity to compete for jobs right at home in Mobile, rather than having to leave the area to put their education and skills to work.
Of course, winning the bid for the construction of the KC-330 tankers will provide an even greater market for highly-skilled, high paying jobs right here in south Alabama. I know everyone involved in working to ensure Mobile's selection as the site of a future production facility is eagerly awaiting news on when the tanker contract bidding process will begin – and I will certainly keep you advised of any news on that front.
Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to address the concerns raised in recent days about this announcement opening the door to outsourcing of American jobs. As I said in my remarks during the EADS press conference on June 22, the aircraft manufactured in Mobile will be made in America by American workers for the American military.
From the contractors and laborers who will be hired to construct the engineering center and aircraft facility to the management and workers in those facilities, this announcement by EADS points to greater opportunities for our workforce on the Gulf Coast. And regardless of what some may feel about this being a foreign-owned company, let me state one thing: when EADS announced it was moving into Mobile, Alabama, it became a corporate citizen of Alabama – just like Mercedes, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Degussa, Ciba, Mobile Aerospace, and a host of other companies.
Friends, this is great news indeed for all of us. I am very hopeful this announcement – which recognizes the great things we have here in south Alabama – is only the first of more good news for our region and our state in the years ahead.
My staff and I work for the people of south Alabama. Let us know when we can be of service.
Jo Bonner is a congressman for the State of Alabama. His column appears weekly.

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