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States join forces to land KC-45

With Northrop Grumman and Boeing immersed in the latest round of bidding for the multi-billion-dollar KC-45 Tanker contract, three states who would stand to benefit from a Northrop Grumman victory are joining forces in an attempt to make sure that happens.

Gov. Haley Barbour joined Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in announcing yesterday on the Alabama Coast the formation of The Aerospace Alliance, a public-private partnership whose first agenda item is bringing the KC-45 program to Mobile.

The Alliance, made up of business leaders, economic development officials and government officials, hopes the aerospace industry’s already significant presence in the Gulf South region will persuade the Department of Defense to award Northrop Grumman the task of replenishing the Air Force’s fleet of refueling planes.

In a press release, the Alliance says 48,000 direct jobs and several thousand more indirect jobs hang in the balance with the tanker program.

“This alliance will go far in promoting our region for what it is — one of the largest aerospace corridors in the world and a great place for companies in this sector to do business,” Barbour told the crowd gathered in Bay Minette, Ala., via video uplink. “The Gulf Coast states share geographic proximity, a long tradition of aerospace and aviation activities and a skilled and experienced workforce, and by joining together, we will be well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities to grow this sector in our region.”

In Mississippi, Jackson County would most likely benefit the most from the KC-45 program, should it land in Mobile. Northrop Grumman’s shipbuilding sector is already in Pascagoula.

Jackson County Economic Development Foundation executive director George Freeland attended yesterday’s announcement. He said the Alliance was another example of the Gulf South’s commitment to becoming a leader in the aerospace industry.

“It’s huge,” he said.

The latest competition between Northrop Grumman and Boeing has already gotten testy. Northrop Grumman won the bid a year and a half ago, but the Pentagon threw out the result after a Boeing protest.

The latest controversy arose after Northrop Grumman claimed the Department of Defense granted Boeing access to Northrop Grumman’s pricing structure, while denying Northrop Grumman access to Boeing’s.

“The truth shall set you free, and when it does the KC-45 will land here,” Freeland said.

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