A repeat of Mercedes?
A continuing series of auto industry announcements have had an enormous effect on Alabama’s economy since Mercedes announced plans to build a manufacturing plant in the state in 1993. The state is now home to three automotive manufacturing plants and quite a few suppliers, and they’re still coming.

This week the announcement was made that the European airliner company Airbus has committed to build its first North American manufacturing facility near Mobile, and we can’t help wondering if history is about to repeat itself. Alabama will reportedly contribute more than $100 million in tax breaks and other incentives for Airbus’ commitment to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to built the manufacturing facility, which reported will initially employ a workforce of about 1,000.

The Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile is an enticing site for an aircraft manufacturer. It is a former Air Force base that was closed by the Pentagon in 1969, with access to rail lines, highways and the Port of Mobile.

Airbus planned to locate there in 2005 to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, but lost out to Boeing in a controversial bidding contest.

Boeing officials claim Airbus is illegally subsidized by European governments, a claim which Airbus officials say is history. Some may question the subsidies provided by Alabama to bring the plant to Mobile, arguing that the $100 million in incentives is another case of welfare for the rich.

But with the success seen in the southeast with auto manufacturing, it seems history is repeating itself, and this is an opportunity too good to pass up.

Boeing is already building the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina, and Gulfstream Aerospace and Embraer both build business aircraft in Georgia and Florida respectively. The market for passenger airliners is strong, and the Airbus A320 competes head to head with Boeing’s 737.

It looks like it’s Alabama’s turn to get in on the action.

© 2012