Airbus will expand its footprint at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile by increasing its manufacturing rate to seven planes per month by the end of the year and adding 275 jobs, the company announced Thursday morning.
The company will also invest another $40 million through construction of an additional support hangar, increasing its overall investment in Mobile to more than $1 billion, according to a statement from Airbus.
The announcement comes as the company plans to produce 63 A320 family aircraft per month worldwide in 2021, according to the statement. The announcement also follows huge growth in 2019 that saw Airbus add 600 new jobs at the manufacturing site with plans in place for the production of four A220 aircraft per month in Mobile by 2025. Airbus is on track to produce about 130 aircraft in the Port City each year for its airline customers, according to the statement.
“Airbus has been manufacturing in the U.S. for many years now through our helicopter, aircraft and satellite products,” Airbus Americas Chairman and CEO Jeff Knittel said in the statement. “This increase in commercial aircraft production in Mobile is an exciting expansion of our significant industrial investment in the U.S., and it continues Airbus’ positive contribution to American aerospace.”
Knittel said the increased investment is due to a “terrific team of employees in Mobile, as well as support from the community and elected state and congressional leaders.
“We look forward to building on that strong relationship with our neighbors,” he said. “This goes beyond jobs to include our support of education initiatives and future workforce development that will positively impact the community for decades to come along the Gulf Coast.”
The timing of the expansion was likely strategic, as the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer weighs whether to continue a policy adopted in October that excludes aerospace components from a $7.5 billion list of tariffs on other products coming from the European Union.
Those components are crucial to planes Airbus constructs at its final assembly lines in Mobile, and a public comment period on the proposed tariffs set by Lighthizer’s office is set to end Jan. 13.
In the interim, pretty much all of Alabama’s federal, state and coastal officials have been in lockstep in their opposition to any new tarrifs, and have publicly asked the Trump administration to keep the current exemption in place.
The Mobile City Council passed a resolution saying as much on Tuesday and the Mobile County Commission followed suit today. Commission President Jerry Carl — a candidate for Alabama’s District 1 House seat — is typically a supporter of most Trump’s policies.
However, he said this issue is about one thing: local jobs.
“We’re trying to protect our jobs. There are good jobs — high paying, high-skilled jobs,” Carl said. “There’s been a lot of work from a lot of people to get Airbus here, and we want to keep them. They could just as easily build [these planes] in Canada or somewhere else.”
If Airbus were to look at moving some of its operations out of the U.S. due to new EU tariffs, it wouldn’t only be a problem for Mobile. The company has heavily invested in other areas in recent years.
In addition to its operations in Mobile, the France-based company has an extensive presence throughout the U.S. It currently employs approximately 4,000 Americans at 38 locations in 16 states. In the last three years alone, Airbus has spent nearly $50 billion in the U.S., and with more than 450 U.S. suppliers supporting its operations, the company’s presence currently supports more than 275,000 American jobs.
A big piece of that is in Mobile, and with speculation in the aerospace industry that Airbus is looking to add a third final assembly line in North America, many are hoping they might look to the Port City again.
Commission Connie Hudson said Airbus’ Mobile facility was designed to manufacture eight A320 aircraft every month, and the newly anncoued expansion would get it close to max capacity. That could lead to additional expansions down the road, though Hudson said she wouldn’t speculate about the future.
“I’m hoping that the president and his administration will take another look at this and realize how detrimental it could be to communities like ours, and especially to Mobile when we’re currently set to become the fourth largest aerospace manufacturing hub in the world,” she said. “On this issue, we are all in lockstep as a community, and we’re hoping that the U.S. trade representative will [hear] us.”
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