Alabama’s growing technology base, skilled labor force, low cost of doing business, lucrative state and local incentives and friendly environment has drawn numerous automotive companies into the state. These same traits are now beginning to cause a tremendous expansion in Alabama’s aerospace and defense industries.Northrop Grumman, known as a world leading defense company, currently employs around 1,200 people in the Huntsville, Alabama area near Redstone Arsenal. In a continued commitment to the community, Northrop Grumman will be building a new five building, $80 million complex in Huntsville to consolidate its various offices, laboratories and R&D centers.Crestview Aerospace, based in Florida, plans to open a new facility in Fairhope, Alabama to build and modify rotary wing aircraft for existing contracts. Much of Crestview Aerospace’s growth can be attributed to an increased demand for the high-tech modification of military aircraft and a partnering with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Bell Helicopters and others.
When looking for a U.S. home for its expansion, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), based in France, was recently drawn to Alabama’s aerospace industry. EADS’s new facility in Mobile, Alabama will produce aerial refueling tankers. The state’s incentives and Mobile’s easy access to a deepwater port made the decision to move to Mobile an easy one, according to EADS representatives.GKN Aerospace announced in July that it will expand its Tallassee, AL facility by 120,000 square feet by 2007. GKN is known for designing, testing, manufacturing and assembling a wide-range of composite structures for civil, military and commercial and space programs. As part of the incentive package for the expansion, the state contributed $1.5 million and the city of Tallassee contributed $250,000 towards the expansion, with GKN investing $250 million. In an Expansion Management article, Paul Crocker, VP and General Manager of GKN Aerospace in Alabama, said “The work force in Alabama is about the best I’ve worked for in 35 years.” And “The work ethic of the whole work force is tremendous. They work hard and they work well.”.With offices located near Huntsville and Birmingham, The Technology Suits is well associated with Alabama’s growing position in the technology, defense and aerospace industries. Many in the country view Alabama as the deep South and behind the times, but this could not be further from the truth. Alabama does have a strong cultural heritage but has seen huge advances in higher education and technology related business in the past few decades.
The aerospace and defense industries have been in north Alabama for decades. However, the relatively recent entrance/expansion of the automotive industry by Honda in Talladega, Mercedes Benz in Tuscaloosa and Hyundai in Montgomery has helped to really push the next-generation industries in the state. This new wave of aerospace and defense expansions will help to ensure that Alabama keeps its new position as a leader in technology.