Alabama welcomed the groundbreaking Monday morning of a $600 million assembly plant to be constructed for European jet manufacturer AirBus in the port city of Mobile.
The shovels of dirt were tossed in a ceremony witnessed by a host of state leaders and Airbus executives. More than 1,000 people are believed to have come out to the event.
When it's fully complete, the new factory will employ more than 1,000 people as the company works to fill orders on the Airbus A320. Production on the plane is set for 2015.
The ceremony comes just a week after state lawmakers approved a key part of the incentives package for Airbus, limiting the liability on Airbus and its suppliers as they set up in the state. One supplier, Safran Engineering Services, opened a new office in Mobile Monday with expectations of employing more than 50 people.
Greeted with a standing ovation, Governor Robert Bentley told the crowd that the plant is big business for Alabama that will create more jobs and improve the state's overall economy.
"This facility will mean a brighter future for the people across this area," Bentley said. "It is groundbreaking in every sense."
Industry leaders like Dave Barger, CEO of JetBlue, agree. "To the entire industry, this is a groundbreaking." Barger says his company will take delivery of its first Mobile-made jets in 2016.
The plant didn't come to Alabama overnight. Airbus's parent company, EADS, wanted to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Dept. of Defense in Mobile. It initially won the contract but later lost it after rival Boeing contested the process and ultimately won the contract.
Tom Enders, CEO of EADS, said after the tanker contract loss, "We realized we could do something else here." It was at that point when Airbus decided it would go ahead with plans to make a foothold in the United States, announcing it would do so in Alabama.
"It represents the real transformation of Airbus into a real global company," said Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier." "We've always seen ourselves as an international partner."
Leaders in Mobile couldn't be happier with Airbus's decision to make the port city its home. "This is seven years in the making," explained Mobile Mayor Sam Jones, adding that the future of Mobile and Airbus are tied together. "We've spent a lot of money working with them."
"Thanks to Mobile, the sun will never set on Airbus." Bregier said.
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