Alabama Governor Robert Bentley Lands Airbus Factory Deal for State
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Quite possibly, this is THE biggest industrial jobs deal in Alabama, ever!
Kudos to the Governor, and all who made it happen.
One thing’s for certain – direct & indirect jobs from this deal will be exceedingly superior to those in sawmills & cooperages!
Here’s to you, Governor!
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley rides Airbus momentum in Europe
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 1:16 PM Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 2:08 PM
LONDON – Gov. Robert Bentley was tired.
He piled into the back of a cab early Wednesday for the ride out to Heathrow Airport, accompanied by a reporter; his wife, First Lady Dianne Bentley; his chief of staff, David Perry; and a pair of security guards.
His voice was hoarse and his suit was rumpled. In the past two days alone, he met with 24 individual companies at the air show, conducted a dozen or more interviews and delivered half as many speeches. In between, he fought the London gridlock, kept up with state issues back home and managed a couple of hours of sleep at night.
“I feel like a first-year resident, back in med school,” said Bentley, 69, who was a practicing dermatologist in Tuscaloosa before his election as governor in 2010. “If I sound tired, I am.”
It was a good kind of fatigue, he added. Bentley soared into Europe on the heels of arguably the biggest accomplishment in his 18-month tenure as governor: Airbus announced July 2 that it would construct a $600 million, 1,000-worker aircraft assembly plant in Mobile, giving the European company its first production site on U.S. soil and Bentley a signature win for his administration.
“It’s been a good week,” he said, as the car lurched into traffic. “There is nothing more important – nothing – than creating jobs for the people of Alabama. That’s why we’re here. We came to work hard, we came to meet companies and we came to meet people.”
Bentley is prone to car sickness, and prefers to drive or ride up front when possible. As the cab bucked and stopped, he fished a motion sickness tablet from his shirt pocket and swallowed it. Perry asked the driver to turn up the air conditioner.
“I’m fine,” Bentley said. “Let’s keep going.”
The Airbus project, he said, was unique because it introduced a new industry to Alabama. The opportunity to build airplanes – Airbus plans to assemble A320 jets in Mobile – could broaden the state’s economy in the same way that Mercedes-Benz did when it established the first automotive assembly plant in Alabama in 1994.
Landing Airbus, he said, “took a lot of effort by a lot of people.” And it took a lot of money. Alabama enticed the company with a package of cash, tax breaks and other incentives worth about $158 million.
“It’s expensive,” he said. “Is it a good deal right now? Not necessarily. But you have to look at potential.”
Bentley drew a comparison to the deal that brought Mercedes to Vance, Ala.
“Was Mercedes a good deal when we did it? No. But you look back and see the results, everything that followed it – it absolutely was worth every penny,” he said.
“A project like Airbus, you could get an entire supply chain. There are at least three indirect jobs for every one job at the plant. And if Airbus does as well as I know they can in Alabama, there’s no limit to where it can go.”
Bentley said incentives are a fact of life in economic development, necessary to compete against other states. But he said he wanted to make sure that Alabama taxpayers got a good deal.
“There were some tough negotiatons” with Airbus, he said. “We got what we wanted and we protected the taxpayer. I think they got what they wanted, too. But we did make sure we had strong clawbacks in case they don’t live up to it.
The project, he said, is far superior to the one that preceded it in Mobile. Airbus’ parent company, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., had proposed to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force on the same site at the Brookley Aeroplex.
EADS scrapped its plans in Mobile, however, when the Air Force picked Boeing Co. for the tanker contract in 2011.
“If we had the tanker, we probably wouldn’t have the A320,” Bentley said. “This is better because it’s tied to the commercial market. It has the potential to be so much larger. It’s not limited by the Department of Defense. It’s limited only by the economy and their ability to sell airplanes – and our ability to build them. But I don’t have any doubt about the abilities of Alabama workers. I’ll bet on them every time.”