Airbus' Alabama plant to create 2,500 construction jobs

WASHINGTON Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:13pm EDT

An Airbus A380 aircraft is displayed at the 2008 Farnborough International Air Show, Hampshire, southern England July 13, 2008. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

An Airbus A380 aircraft is displayed at the 2008 Farnborough International Air Show, Hampshire, southern England July 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Airbus should create about 2,500 construction jobs to build a new $600 million airliner assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama, and 400 to 500 full-time jobs once production starts in 2017, a source familiar with the plans said on Saturday.

The European planemaker, owned by EADS, is poised to announce plans to build the plant for its single-aisle A320 passenger jet that will begin producing four planes a month in 2017, according to multiple people familiar with the plans. The announcement may come as early as Monday.

Over the longer term, the facility is also expected to attract a number of key suppliers to the region, including jet engine makers and companies that produce key aircraft components that require on-site quality control, the sources said.

Historically, aerospace manufacturing facilities result in at least twice the direct employment at the plant.

But the initial job opportunities in Mobile will be focused on the building trades, with some estimates projecting creation of about 2,500 jobs over the next three to four years, said one of the sources.

The new plant may result in more jobs for the Mobile region than an earlier Airbus plan to assemble some commercial freighters there.

Airbus had offered to build the assembly plant there to sweeten EADS' bid for a $35 billion military refueling plane contract it first won in 2008, but then lost to Boeing Co during a bitterly contested rematch last year.

One local official told Reuters on Friday that the plant would create a significant number of direct jobs, and could attract many other companies that would provide components for the new passenger planes.

That's good news for a state that is projected to lose over 24,000 jobs if Congress fails to avert an additional $500 billion in defense spending cuts due to take effect in January - on top of $487 billion in cuts already slated over the next decade.

The cuts already slated will affect Australia's Austal, since the Navy is sharply curtailing its order for the company's Joint High Speed Vessel, which is also built in Mobile.

The new plant will also help beef up the state's annual aerospace and defense revenues of around $7.8 billion a year, according to an estimate included in recent study by Deloitte.

The Mobile plant will be the second assembly facility outside Europe for Airbus's most popular jet. Airbus produces 37 planes a month between France and Germany, and 3 a month in China. By the end of this year, it plans to reach 38 in Europe and 4 in China.

EADS also builds helicopters in Columbus, Mississippi.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Philip Barbara)