The U.S. Congress dashed Airbus SAS’s high hopes to build a manufacturing site in Mobile, Ala., for its refueling tankers in 2008 following a rigorous lobbying campaign against the European firm by its chief U.S. competitor the Boeing Co.
But, according to Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus North America Holdings Inc., the relationships forged during the tanker negotiations remained intact and his company never lost hope in having a facility in the Southeast, which is increasingly a magnet for aerospace companies.
By establishing a manufacturing presence in the U.S. today, Airbus also improves its chances of being selected in the future for U.S. defense contracts, according to business analysts.
Meanwhile, the presence here of Airbus raises the Southeast’s profile as a center for aerospace development and suppliers already have moved to the region since the Airbus announcement about opening a facility in Mobile last year.
“It was easy for us to say that if we’re coming to the U.S. we’re coming to Mobile,” he said during a video interview following the announcement that it would build a $600 million final assembly line at the Mobile Brookley Aeroplex.
Mr. McArtor is to speak in Atlanta at the Georgia Institute of Technology the morning of Wednesday, March 13, during the general assembly of the French American Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta chapter.
Airbus is based in Atlanta’s sister city, Toulouse, France, and the Mobile project is the company’s first industrial site in the U.S. where it has actively purchased parts, components, tooling and other material through its procurement processes.
Mr. McArtor said that Airbus’ investment in Mobile will have implications for the Southeast as a whole, particularly the Gulf Coast which has continued to suffer economically since Katrina caused so much devastation in 2005 and then BP Plc’s oil spill in 2010.
He expects that veterans and engineers will be among the hundreds of employees eventually to be hired at the facility.
Airbus further forged ties in the region when it donated to the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech a simulator, which is a full recreation of an A330 cockpit, and enables the university to conduct research related to air safety.
Airbus also has selected a Georgia Tech student team to compete with students from five continents in the 2013 “Fly Your Ideas” challenge. The competition includes 100 teams vying to present their ideas to a panel of Airbus and industry experts at Airbus quarters in Hamburg, Germany, this June.
Mr. McArtor oversees the activities of Airbus in the United States, Canada and Latin America including governmental affairs, marketing and sales support for airlines and other customers, as well as product and technical support, and training for pilots, flight attendants and maintenance specialists.
His career includes founding a regional airline in Texas, serving on the management team of Federal Express Corp. and heading the Federal Aviation Administration from 1987-89.
He was a highly decorated combat fighter pilot in Vietnam, and completed his Air Force career as a pilot with the U.S. Air Force “Thunderbirds” Aerial Demonstration Team.
The cost of the breakfast is $50 for non-members of the French American chamber and $20 for members. Students may attend for free with a valid ID. To attend the breakfast, register here. For a Global Atlanta article on Airbus’ attempt to build refueling tankers in Mobile, click here.