As I write this column, we are three days away from the official ceremony marking the beginning of construction of the $600 million aircraft assembly complex at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. State and local leaders will roll out the red carpet Monday morning for the launching of Airbus' first U.S.-based production facility.
There is excitement across South Alabama as our region awaits the fulfillment of a dream that has been seven years in the making -- the establishment of a commercial aviation manufacturing industry and the creation of potentially thousands of new high-tech jobs in our back yard.
From now until 2015, construction of Airbus' Final Assembly Line or "FAL" facility will be underway, employing up to 2,500 construction workers and laying the foundation for 1,000 direct jobs once the facility begins assembling A320 aircraft for the North American market by 2016.
The Airbus groundbreaking is a historic moment not only for Mobile, but for all of Southwest Alabama and the Gulf Coast region. Just as much of Alabama has witnessed economic diversification over the last two decades with the arrival of the automotive industry, the Airbus groundbreaking on April 8th makes official the beginning of a new chapter in our state's economy. Alabama will join the ranks of the nation's other major aircraft manufacturing states and is well situated to see an expansion in this new industry not unlike what we have already experienced with auto manufacturing.
Since last July, I have worked closely with Airbus officials to ensure our entire region is given strong consideration as the international aviation company selects suppliers for its A320 aircraft. Some of these parts suppliers are expected to locate factories and hire workers in Alabama. Our local communities are ready to welcome these suppliers as they plant their flags here in Southwest Alabama and along the Gulf Coast.
In addition to the economic boost that Airbus will bring, the continued international spotlight it will afford our region will help to illuminate the many advantages of life in our corner of the world. South Alabama and the Alabama Gulf Coast have long been well-kept secrets as great places to live, work, raise a family and retire. Ill-informed opinions purveyed by the national press, including last week's 24/7 Wall St.com report ranking Mobile as third most miserable place to live, aren't worth the time spent reading them. Our proximity to white sandy beaches, the world's best seafood, our warm climate and the ongoing revitalization of our regional economy all make Southwest Alabama a wonderful place to call home. Mobile has 300 years of history to prove it!
This is a great time for Southwest Alabama and I look forward to commenting more in next week's column about the Airbus groundbreaking.