From Site Selection magazine, May 2007
Mobile's new tower is a symbolic exclamation point on a recent run of expansions and projects in the state's southwest corner. At press time, state economic developers were awaiting word on two pending projects that could bring thousands more jobs to the area.
EADS opened its Airbus Engineering Center in Brookley Field adjacent to Mobile Bay in February. The facility will perform interior design and definition work for Airbus'
"With its open work area and numerous conference rooms, the facility is proving to be a great tool in the overall creative and collaborative process," says Dave Trent, senior director- Mobile Engineering- Airbus North America, who has directed the center from the ground up. Outside of work, the employees are finding numerous ways to be involved in the Mobile community, and all seem to be fitting in very well.
Employment could grow much larger, however, if EADS and Northrop Grumman win the $40- billion U.S. Air Force contract to build 179 refueling tankers to replace the aging KC- 135 fleet. If EADS and Northrop win the contract later this year, it would create at least 1,000 more jobs in Mobile with the potential of many more in spin- off operations. The industrial team is competing with Boeing for the contract, which the Air Force expects to award during the fourth quarter of 2007.
Topping that job- creation possibility is the prospect that ThyssenKrupp may locate its planned $2.9- billion steel plant in north Mobile County. That decision, which could come in May according to the company, would bring another 2,700 jobs to the region. Competition comes from a site near New Orleans. The steel plant, which would begin production in 2010, will include a hot strip mill used primarily to process slabs from the new ThyssenKrupp steel mill in Brazil. This mill will have an annual capacity of 4.5 million metric tons of end products.
The project also includes a ThyssenKrupp Stainless plant to manufacture stainless steel flat products. A melt shop will turn out up to 1 million metric tons of slabs per year, which will be rolled on the hot strip mill. Around 340,000 tons of the stainless hot strips produced will be used to supply the company's cold rolling facility in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Mobile's largest private employer, ST Mobile Aerospace Engineering, recently signed a contract with Federal Express to reconfigure commercial aircraft into cargo planes. The company will add 200 jobs to its current employment of
Mobile is also positioning itself for distribution center development with projects like the $60- million new container terminal being developed by the Alabama State Port Authority and Mobile Container Terminal LLC at the Port of Mobile. Operations at the terminal will begin in early 2008 with a start- up capacity of more than 350,000 TEUs and creation of 300 jobs. The project will be developed in phases and will eventually have an annual capacity of 800,000 TEUs.
Alabama's largest single jobs announcement in 2006 came in Huntsville, but it didn't emanate from the city's traditional forte of aerospace. Verizon Wireless chose the city for its $44- million state headquarters and call center, promising to create 1,300 jobs. Verizon expects to complete the 152,300- sq.- ft. (14,150- sq.- m.) facility by the end of the year.
Huntsville Takes Top Job Prize
"Huntsville and the State of Alabama have succeeded in creating an inviting business climate that persuaded Verizon Wireless to make a substantial commitment and investment here," said Jim McGean, president- Georgia/Alabama Region, during the project's announcement last September. Verizon has opened five other customer service centers around the U.S. over the last two years, creating 6,300 jobs.
Limestone County laid claim in April to Alabama's first certified megasite. Located on I- 65 near Athens in northern Alabama, the 2,010- acre (814- hectare) industrial site was certified by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, which was commissioned by TVA to review proposed megasites throughout TVA territory.
North Alabama Gets Certified Megasite
Among the characteristics necessary for megasite certification are available land with at least 700- 1,000 contiguous developable acres (283- 405 hectares), access to Interstate and rail transportation, utilities and access to an adequate labor force.
The Limestone County site is positioned for an automotive assembly plant. That sector continues to grow in the state, with Hyundai planning a second engine plant at its Montgomery production facility. The new plant, which will create 522 jobs, will supply both the existing Hyundai operation and the new Kia plant being built just across the state line in Georgia.
Hyundai will invest $270 million to build the 349,440- sq.- ft. (32,460- sq.- m.) building, which will manufacture 2.4- liter 4- cylinder Theta engines. The expansion also includes a 533,000- sq.- ft. (49,500- sq.- m.) consolidation center and a container yard.
Joo Soo Ahn, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama's president and CEO, also estimated that Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to the plant would invest another $125 million and create another 400 jobs in the Montgomery region.
The Center for Automotive Research released a study in January that ranks Alabama 17th among states in motor vehicle parts supplier employment, with 15,965 jobs.
Two of the latest auto suppliers to park in the state are Seohan Auto USA and Seohan Driveshaft USA, both suppliers to Hyundai. They will invest $33 million and create up to 170 jobs in Auburn. Seohan is a manufacturer of front- end axle assembly for the Hyundai plant. The companies, part of the Korea- based Seohan Group, will jointly occupy a 250,000- sq.- ft. (23,225- sq.- m.) building in the Auburn Industrial Park.
Alabama aerospace projects are by no means confined to Mobile and Huntsville. Recent expansions can be found from one end of an alphabetical list of the state's cities to the other, ranging from Aerospace Integration Corp.'s (AIC) 100,000- sq.- ft. (9,300- sq.- m.)
AIC's new $12- million facility, scheduled to be operational by February 2008, will be used to assemble and equip a new helicopter to be used by the U.S. Army and other military services. The Aircraft Completion Center's capabilities will include aircraft assembly, machining and sheet metal fabrication, avionics testing and repair, and flight testing. AIC's other Alabama facilities include two 8,000- sq.- ft. (740- sq.- m.) hangars at the Albertville Airport, and a 20,000- sq.- ft. (1,860- sq.- m.) cable harness and kit fabrication facility near Huntsville.
Sikorsky is hiring 250 riveters and assemblers for the Troy plant, which employed about 240 when the expansion was announced last November. The expansion is part of the company's plan to increase capacity and expand its supply chain to satisfy growing demand for its line of military and commercial aircraft, and aftermarket products and services.
The Troy expansion is part of an overall plan that has seen Sikorsky hire nearly 600 new engineers for its Connecticut and Florida operations, open a new engineering center in Huntsville and announce plans to open another engineering center in Fort Worth, Texas, later this year.
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