Airbus breaks ground in Alabama for A320 line

The Boeing Co.’s biggest rival took a big step Monday toward building airplanes in the United States, breaking ground on a manufacturing facility in Alabama.

You “ain’t seen nothing yet,” said Tom Enders, CEO of EADS.

Enders spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Airbus A320 final assembly line in Mobile, Ala. EADS is the parent company of Toulouse, France-based Airbus. The event was webcast live.

Mobile has long been the focus of an EADS push to begin manufacturing in the United States. The Gulf Coast town was to be the manufacturing site for A330-based aerial-refueling tankers — had the company won a hard-fought battle to supply the U.S. Air Force. But Boeing was awarded the contract in 2011 and will assemble 767-based tankers in Everett.

“The support we’ve been getting over here … is second to none,” Enders said.

Political and company leaders alike recognized the lengthy effort to bring jet manufacturing to Alabama. Mobile Mayor Sam Jones said Airbus and EADS were “consistently supportive” of doing something in Mobile.

Airbus already has an engineering center which employs 200 people in Mobile. The $600 million A320 final assembly line will employ 1,000 when it reaches full production of about four aircraft per month.

“In about two years we will start assembling the first airplane here in Mobile,” said Fabrice Brégier, president of Airbus.

Airbus intends to deliver the first A320 assembled in Mobile to JetBlue in 2016. The Alabama site will make Airbus the only jet manufacturer to have final assembly sites on three continents: Asia, Europe and North America.

“Thanks to Mobile, the sun will never set on Airbus,” Brégier said.

The Mobile site gives Airbus a foot in the door in the U.S., a point emphasized in a video on Airbus’ website. Brégier believes being closer to American customers will present a “huge potential” for capturing 50 percent of the jet market in the United States.

Airbus sales chief John Leahy said he expects “substantial orders” from U.S. carriers for the A320 new engine option, or A320neo. Leahy plans to visit several U.S. customers this week.

“With a final assembly line here that lets us become a U.S. manufacturer of aircraft with U.S. jobs,” he said.

The A320 site in Mobile presents not only a challenge for Boeing but also for the Puget Sound region, which has seen Boeing select another southern state, South Carolina, as home to a second 787 final assembly line. Mobile was a competitor in 2003 for the original 787 assembly line, which Everett won.

“To say that (the South) isn’t a threat would be naive,” said John Monroe, chief operating officer for Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

In the short-term, Monroe isn’t worried that local suppliers will uproot and move to Mobile. Most local aerospace companies here still do more business with Boeing, which builds the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 in the region, and wouldn’t gain from relocating to the South.

Officials in Alabama, however, believe the A320 facility in Mobile is just the beginning for the region.

“It isn’t just about building a plane or boosting our economy,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said. “This facility will mean a brighter future.”

Bloomberg News contributed to this report. Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Business Briefs: State minimum wage rises in January

Also, Boeing workers’ donations support local nonprofits and fundraiser for businesses impacted by Bolt Creek wildfire.

Jollee Nichols, right, and daughter Ruby, 2, work on an art project together at the Imagine Children’s Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With new addition, Imagine Children’s Museum doubles in size

More than just space, the Everett museum’s new $25 million wing is an investment in mental health.

Artistic rendering of 526 Speedway exterior. (Mosaic Avenue Realty Ltd.)
Mosaic Homes looks to add industrial condo space in Mukilteo

Mosaic Homes steps into commercial real estate development with 526 Speedway, an industrial condo project.

Andy Illyn with a selection of his greeting cards, Cardstalked, that are sold at What’s Bloomin’ Floral on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Adventure-seeking cop finds new thrill in greeting cards

Mukilteo assistant police chief Andy Illyn unwinds by turning puns and dad jokes into greeting cards.

Dan Murphy, left, Mary Fosse and Rex Habner. (BadgleyPhotography.com / Snohomish & Island County Labor Council)
Everett City Council member honored by local labor council

Mary Fosse, candidate for District 38, receives the first annual Mike Sells Labor Champion award.

Screen printed dish towels available at Madrona Supply Company on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Do some good along with your Christmas shopping

Head across the Sound to Whidbey Island for gift-buying with a do-gooder spirit

Shoppers walk in and out of Macy’s at Alderwood Mall were Black Friday deals are being advertised on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Go ahead, hit snooze: Most Black Friday deals are online

Braving the stores on Black Friday is still a thing, but more retailers are closed on Thanksgiving.

FILE - In this photo provided by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, a crane and boats are anchored next to a collapsed "net pen" used by Cooke Aquaculture Pacific to farm Atlantic Salmon near Cypress Island in Washington state on Aug. 28, 2017, after a failure of the nets allowed tens of thousands of the nonnative fish to escape. A Washington state jury on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, awarded the Lummi Indian tribe $595,000 over the 2017 collapse of the net pen where Atlantic salmon were being raised, an event that elicited fears of damage to wild salmon runs and prompted the Legislature to ban the farming of the nonnative fish. (David Bergvall/Washington State Department of Natural Resources via AP, File)
State won’t renew leases for Puget Sound fish farms

Cooke Aquaculture has until Dec. 14 to wrap up steelhead farming and begin deconstructing their equipment.

Kevin Flynn, right, a meat-cutter with the Marysville Albertsons, hands a leaflet to a shopper during an informational campaign on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. Flynn was one of about a dozen grocery store workers handing out leaflets to shoppers about the proposed merger between Albertsons and Kroger. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Proposed merger of Albertsons and Kroger worries employees

Workers at an Albertsons in Marysville urge shoppers to sign a petition blocking the $25 billion deal.

Kim Taylor, left, and Jeff Stoner co-own Greenbank Cidery, a newly opened taproom on Whidbey Island with eight varieties of cider on tap. (Rachel Rosen / Whidbey News-Times)
Cider tasting room opens on Whidbey Island

The owners of Greenbank Cidery have opened a tasting room in Coupeville. Eight varieties of cider are on tap.

Erika Heer, EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer at Coastal Community Bank
Quiet Quitting – the good, bad and what to do about it

Mid-summer, the term ‘quiet quitting’ became a part of the vocabulary of… Continue reading

Customers walk in and out of Fred Meyer along Evergreen Way on Monday, Oct. 31, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Store managers in Everett plead for help with crime, public safety

Two Fred Meyer stores report theft, drug use and threats, despite increased security and presence from Everett police.