Huntsville Makes its Case for New Boeing Plant

Dec 8, 2013

The City of Huntsville and the state of Alabama have a Tuesday deadline to present a proposal to Boeing. Huntsville, which is home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal, and corporations including Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, is in the running for a new assembly plant for Boeing’s 777X aircraft. Other states, including Texas, Missouri, and South Carolina, are also vying for the project. As the deadline draws close, APR student reporter Kyle Lawley spoke with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle as his community and the state of Alabama makes its case to Boeing. Kyle began the conservation by asking Mayor Battle about the effort going into the proposal itself. Mayor Tommy Battle: “We have a full team working on that on a twenty four hour, seven day a week basis right now. Boeing knows our community, they’ve been great corporate neighbors for the past fifty years. We presently have about twenty four hundred people working for Boeing here. The Boeing workforce (in Huntsville) worked on the 787 Dreamliner for Boeing. We had six hundred people working six months on that project. They know we’re an aviation center for the Army. We have Army Aviation Command, which is located here. We also have the unmanned aerial vehicle for the Army working here. So, we have a background in aviation and our job is to tell our story.” Kyle Lawley: What do you think is the most attractive thing about Huntsville for Boeing? Battle: “Number one has to be the engineering system analysts, systems integration people who are located here. They’ve been working with Boeing for fifty years. Number two has to be cost of living. Number three is quality of life. We’ve had a great storied history with Boeing. And, they’re good neighbors…they’re great corporate neighbors.” Lawley: Do think you have a shot at gaining the Boeing project here? Battle: “There’s twelve to fifteen communities out there working for that. I think we have a shot. Boeing officials came approached us and asked for a meeting and they told us ‘please know this means we’re interested in you because we asked for a meeting,’ so, yes, I think we have a shot at it. We’re going to work hard.” Lawley: And if Boeing decides on Huntsville, what do you think this would mean for the town, the area and even the state in terms of revenue and employment is concerned? Battle: If Boeing came to Huntsville, it would be the biggest economic announcement ever for the state. It would outweigh probably the last four (NASA, Airbus, Mercedes Benz, Thyssenkrupp Steel) all put together. It would be huge win for the state economically. It would provide jobs for people all over north Alabama, and it would provide another good corporate neighbor. Many people don’t realize Boeing put one point eight million dollars back in this community over the last year and they do that every year. Boeing workers volunteer throughout our community, so it’s nice have great neighbors, great corporate neighbors Lawley: So even in comparison to Mercedes Benz (North American assembly plant near Tuscaloosa) this would even be bigger. Battle: “Oh yes, we’re talking seven billion dollars, you’re talking eighty five hundred jobs. So, yes it would be even bigger than Mercedes.” Lawley: If Boeing comes here, that would give Alabama two major aircraft manufacturers here. What would that do that for Alabama? Battle: “This would be a very good thing for us. It would set us up as an aviation center that’s known around the world. We’ve always been an aviation center, and this would just put an exclamation point on that claim.” Lawley: I’m expecting a ‘no comment’ on this, but I’ll ask it anyway. We gave a one hundred and fifty eight million dollar incentive to Airbus to get them to come here. Are there any details on what’s being offered to Boeing? Battle: “No, I can’t go into that right now. Under the non-disclosure, we can’t go into what kind of incentives we’re looking at.” Lawley: Do you think an offer will be made before Tuesday? Battle: “I think we’ve already been talking with them. But to get all the details you need to get down for your request for proposal, I think it will take all the way up to the deadline to get it all in.” Lawley: Union workers in Seattle rejected Boeing’s offer to go there. Does Alabama face any sort of issues there? Battle: “I don’t think we do. And I hate to concentrate on the right-to-work side of the story. I think we have a better story than that to tell. I think our story is our workforce, we have a great high tech community, I think we have all those.” Lawley: Were you in any of the meetings between Governor Bentley and Boeing? Battle: “I was in some of the first discussions, and some of the others, yes.” Lawley: Is there anything else you’d like the State of Alabama to know about what’s going on with this? Battle: “We’d just like to make our good corporate partner Boeing an even bigger corporate partner and we’d look forward to having them here.”