For Jocelyn Wright, Airbus’ U.S. Manufacturing Facility at Brookley Aeroplex means steady employment and a way to help support her two daughters.
The Mobile native said she snagged a job as the final assembly line’s mail clerk about two months ago, following a previous layoff and spell of temporary employment.
“It felt really good,” Wright said of getting the job.
“It’s good to find a good, stable and long-term job.”
Wright said in the months before the France-based manufacturer added her to its team, providing for her family became increasingly difficult.
“It has been really exciting,”, Wright said after the facility’s inauguration this morning, marking the beginning of production after years of planning and construction. “Everything is brand new.”
The facility is a final assembly line for Airbus’ A320 family of aircraft, a popular, narrow-bodied model often used for short and medium-range flights and capable of carrying as many as 220 passengers. Major components for the operation are being shipped to Mobile from domestic and international suppliers, where they will be assembled into the finished product. Maiden flights of the aircraft will originate from Brookley.
Wright is one of more than 260 employees currently working at the facility who participated in the inauguration ceremony. Jennifer Ogle, head of human resources, said more employees could be expected soon, as some are completing training in Hamburg, Germany. Ultimately, the facility is expected to support as many as 1,000 jobs directly, and potentially several times more from suppliers.
“There are lots of [employees] in Germany,” she said. “We’re in a continuous ramp-up phase.”
Eighty-nine percent of employees hired thus far are from the local region, Ogle said, suggesting “there’s a lot of experience on the Gulf Coast.”
Ogle also said Mobile’s existing talent and infrastructure was instrumental in attracting, Airbus, even though many recruits don’t have much, if any aviation experience.
Gov. Robert Bentley, Sen. Jeff Sessions and Rep. Bradley Byrne took turns at the lectern, also speaking highly of the area’s workforce.
Meanwhile, as the facility’s construction has already drawn several suppliers to announce their own plans to locate in or around Mobile, officials expect many more to follow suit.
In June, Hutchinson Aerospace announced it would bring a facility to Mobile to help support the Airbus facility. Mobile’s Industrial Development Board voted to give the company an incentives package just days before the announcement was made from this year’s Paris Air Show.
The IDB approved more than $250,000 in sales and use tax abatements to the company that produces noise reduction insulation systems for jet engines, as well as a 10-year ad valorum tax abatement. Hutchinson, in turn, promised to create about 100 jobs and build a 20,000 square-foot facility with a five-year expansion plan.
Additionally, MAAS Aviation announced recently it was bringing a paint shop to the Aeroplex, and Tescal Group, Inc. — a maker of calibration and asset optimization services — announced it was leasing a facility to partner with the Airbus.
Although assembly of the planes has already begun, rollout of the first jets isn’t expected until early next year. By that time, the company hopes to produce four planes per month, and increase output from there.
“We fully expect more to follow,” spokeswoman Kristi Tucker said. “It’s just a trend.”
Alabama Department of Commerce Aerospace Program Manager Bob Smith agreed, adding that once the facility introduces the “new engine option” in 2018, even more specialized suppliers may be expected.
Monday’s ceremony brought international media attention to Mobile, as the long-awaited facility was showcased for guests from around the city, state, country and world. Some of the speakers at the event focused on EADS’ loss of a U.S Air Force tanker contract to competitor Boeing — a contract that would have brought a similar facility to Mobile years sooner.
Sen. Sessions spoke about the “ups and downs” of the state’s initial courtship with Airbus, saying it resulted in the great relationship which ultimately resulted in the “thrill of victory.”
“We went through the disappointment with the tankers,” he said. “The result of that resolve was this facility.”
Airbus has also had an engineering outpost on Brookley Aeroplex since 2006, which employs roughly 100 people.
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