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Good news for south Alabama's economy

By By Jo Bonner
Good news continues to come to south Alabama. This past Monday Airbus announced its intentions to shift commercial aircraft production to Mobile if Northrop Grumman, along with Airbus' parent company EADS, is awarded the contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force.
As you probably know, Northrop Grumman and EADS North America are competing against Boeing to build the next generation of tankers. Both teams have submitted their final proposals to the Department of Defense.
The Air Force is now scouring over thousands of pages of documents – reading each word carefully – to determine the best bid and the best choice for the American warfighter. Right now it looks as though the Air Force will announce its decision late next month.
If Northrop Grumman is chosen to build the next generation of tankers, this latest announcement by Airbus to build commercial aircraft in Mobile truly puts Mobile and south Alabama on the international aviation map.
Currently, there are only two cities in the world – Toulouse, France and Seattle, Washington – where the production of large aircraft occurs.
If this announcement comes to fruition, there will be three, and Mobile, Alabama, will become one of the aerospace centers of excellence.
The A330 freighter aircraft production line would add hundreds of jobs and mean we would be building the tanker plus up to three more aircraft per month.
It would mean more suppliers would come to our area to make parts for the tail, the wings, the cockpit, and all of the other different components that go into an airplane.
It is an exciting time to live in south Alabama, and 2008 certainly holds much promise for our economy.
A Look Ahead at 2008
As a new session of Congress began last week, members returned to Washington and to unfinished business left over from the first session of the 110th Congress.
These days, you cannot turn on a television or open a newspaper without a barrage of presidential campaign news, and unfortunately, as in most presidential election years, partisan politics will weigh heavily on what Congress is able to accomplish.
Next week, President Bush will come to Congress to give his eighth and final State of the Union address. While the president traditionally uses the opportunity to present his agenda for the year, there are several pressing items that Congress must come together to address.
Most immediately, Congress will be faced with enacting into law permanent changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA, which allows our intelligence community to monitor terrorist communications, is set to expire February 1.
Congress will also face a series of key decisions regarding our nation's economy. Last week's news of the U.S. stock market sustaining its worst loss of the year underscores the hesitance so many Americans have about the current state of our economy.
Add to that hesitation sky-high gas prices, rising healthcare expenses, and a shaky housing market, and you begin to see Congress must come together, across party lines, and address these issues. Congress has begun to create a package to create economic growth, and the president last week outlined a series of principles he believes should be included.
As the second session of the 110th Congress begins, I remain hopeful the Democratic leadership will keep their promises of bipartisanship in order to produce real solutions for the American people.
Tragedy Garners National Attention
Sadly, our region has garnered national attention over the last few weeks as word began to spread that four young children had been thrown to their deaths – reportedly by their father – from the Dauphin Island Bridge.
At the writing of this column, the bodies of three of the four children had been found. As a parent, my heart aches for the mother whose children will never come home.
Over the past few weeks, we have come together as a community to mourn the loss of these young lives, and it is important that we keep the children's family and especially their mother in our thoughts and prayers.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov.
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.