Alabama officials woo Boeing aircraft plant

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — State and local leaders are working to lure a Boeing Co. aircraft assembly plant to the Huntsville area, which already has a heavy technological and engineering base.

Gov. Robert Bentley, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and economic developers met Tuesday in Birmingham with representatives of the aircraft manufacturer.

Battle said Huntsville is one of several cities being considered for a 777x assembly site, and Bentley said the company likes Alabama.

“They don’t need to look at any other state,” said Bentley. “Alabama is the state they need to look at most.”

Boeing said it would consider a new location to build the airplane after union members rejected a proposed contract in Seattle last week.

A gubernatorial aide in Washington state has said that state will likely get competition from places including Alabama, where unions have less of a foothold.

Boeing executives say a decision on a manufacturing location could come by early next year, and Battle said Huntsville could be a good choice since the city is an aeronautical hub and home to engineers who worked on other Boeing aircraft.

“We have some experience of what they are talking about doing. We have been in aeronautics forever and ever. We built the Space Station. Now we are looking at building an airplane,” said Battle.

John Schnell, an economics professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said a decision by Boeing to locate the plant in Huntsville could be a big deal for the city.

“Higher labor incomes in the area mean more spending for larger items,” he said. “That tends to ripple and multiply through … the economy.”

Battle said it was unclear exactly how many jobs would be associated with the 777X project, but the economic impact would be similar to the last military base realignment that brought 4,800 high-paying Department of Defense jobs to the area.

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