Mobile lands aircraft builder Airbus, 1,000 new jobs

French aircraft builder Airbus has selected Mobile as home for a $600 million plant for producing the A320 150-seat passenger plane.

The plant is expected to employ 1,000 workers to reach a target of producing four of the commercial aircraft by 2017, The Associated Press reported Monday. It also will create about 2,500 construction jobs, officials have said.

The A320 is a widely used plane flown by Delta Air Lines, US Airways and others. Airlines use the planes on short and medium-distance flights. They retail for $88 million, although discounts are common for big customers.

The Alabama plant will give the European aerospace giant its first foothold in the United States to compete with archrival Boeing.

It also will create about 2,500 construction jobs, officials have said.

Boeing has employed hundreds of people in Alabama for years. Airbus, based in France, planned to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force in Alabama, but its parent company, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., lost the contract to Boeing in 2011.

The companies have had a long-running international trade dispute. Each also has been critical of subsidies received by the other.

 

The Mobile operation will join Airbus assembly plants in in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China.

Locating in the Southern region of the United States, traditionally unfriendly to unions, likely will mean lower production costs compared with the company’s other factories in France and Germany.

Other big manufacturers have found homes in the South. Boeing has a plant in North Charleston, S.C., and Alabama is home to plants owned by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.

The dean of the business school at the University of South Alabama, Carl Moore, told the AP that attracting a company like Airbus could have a transforming effect on Alabama like Mercedes-Benz had when it picked Alabama for its first American assembly plant in 1993.

“It’s a prestige name that’s internationally known,” Dean Carl C. Moore of the University of South Alabama said.

Mercedes’ plant was so successful that it was soon followed by Honda and Hyundai assembly plants and a Toyota engine plant that reshaped the manufacturing economy in a state still reeling from the loss of textile and apparel jobs.

 

Mobile is already home to several aerospace companies, including ST Aerospace Mobile, Goodrich Aerospace and Star Aviation, and much of the business is based at the 1,650-acre Brookley Aeroplex, where the new plant will be based. The aeroplex was an Air Force base until its closure in 1969.

 

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