Governor Robert Bentley on Thursday signed legislation aimed at attracting thousands of additional jobs to Alabama.
The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act will help the state recruit more aerospace industry suppliers. Those suppliers are expected to locate in the region as Airbus builds its first U.S.-based production facility in Mobile. Groundbreaking for the Airbus facility is scheduled for next week.
The legislation signed by Governor Bentley levels the playing field between Alabama and nearby states in the recruitment of supplier companies and the additional jobs they will bring.
"Putting Alabamians back to work is my number-one priority," Governor Bentley said. "This bill will make sure Alabama remains competitive with neighboring states in attracting supplier jobs. Already, Airbus will directly provide 1,000 jobs in Mobile, and more than 3,000 people will be employed in the construction phase of the Airbus facility. As suppliers move in, we can attract thousands of additional jobs as well. We want those jobs for the people of Alabama. This legislation will help us accomplish our goal."
The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act (Senate Bill 238) applies to a small category of lawsuits which involve manufacturers of commercial aircraft with 100 seats or more. Neighboring states already have similar laws in place. The bill will protect the rights of Alabama citizens to bring suit against manufacturers, but will also protect manufacturers from out-of-state and foreign plaintiffs who may seek to file suit in Alabama simply because the manufacturer located its plant here.
"Without this bill, suppliers could very easily choose to build in Florida or Mississippi, which already have similar laws," Governor Bentley said. "With this legislation, Alabama is now on a level playing field, and we can recruit more supplier jobs for people in our state."
The legislation was sponsored by Senator Cam Ward, Senator Vivian Figures and Representative Bill Poole.
"Governor Bentley and Commerce Secretary Canfield have made job creation their top priority, and I am glad to do my part to help in their vision," Senator Ward said. "This will do so much to even the playing field with neighboring states to help attract Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to Alabama. It is common sense business legislation like this that I have focused on during my time in the Senate."
"We are now set and ready to go towards realizing the thousands of jobs that Airbus suppliers will bring to Alabama," Senator Figures said. "I enjoyed working on this legislation with the bi-partisan team to make this a reality. Coming together to work out all of the details with the leadership of Governor Bentley and others has been a joy, knowing that Alabama will benefit greatly economically."
"I am excited at the prospect of bringing Airbus and the aerospace industry to Alabama and am proud to have played a role in passing this important legislation," Representative Poole said. "The recruitment of the aerospace industry to our state has the potential to be transformative in the same way that the automotive industry has changed our state. The aerospace industry will bring thousands of quality jobs with good wages and benefits that will benefit our citizens for many years to come."
The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act provides that the manufacturer would be liable for causes of action occurring no more than 12 years after delivery of the aircraft to the first purchaser or 12 years from the replacement or addition of a component part that was the cause of an accident. If the cause of action occurs within the 12-year deadline, the plaintiff still has two years to bring the action.
The aerospace industry is among 11 business sectors targeted for growth in Accelerate Alabama, the state's long-term plan for economic development.
"We want Alabama to be the center of the new aerospace corridor that will be created by the announcement that Airbus will build its U.S. plant in the state," said Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. "This legislation keeps us competitive and on track to locate the suppliers and new jobs that Airbus will bring to the area."
The Alabama Department of Commerce estimates that the Airbus plant will have a $409 million annual impact on the state's economy. In addition to the 1,000 jobs provided by Airbus and the 3,000 construction-related jobs, the Department of Commerce also estimates another 3,700 Alabamians could be employed by Airbus suppliers locating in the state.