For corridor, the beat goes on


The announcement in May 2017 was important enough that the governor of
Mississippi, Phil Bryant, was given the honor.

He told lunch attendees that Northrop Grumman in Moss Point would expand and
work not only on the Fire Scout and Global Hawk unmanned systems, but add other
work, including for the F-35.

The announcement followed just days after Aerojet Rocketdyne said it would
assemble and test at Stennis Space Center, Miss., two AR-22 engines for the
reusable DARPA/Boeing XS-1 hypersonic spacecraft.

Those announcements came two months after Continental Motors said it was
expanding its operation in Mobile, Ala., and three months after aviation supply
company GKN Aerospace said it would open a manufacturing center in Panama City,
Fla.

And the beat goes on.

In the two years since the last Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor book was published,
new announcements and expansions have increased the aerospace and aviation
footprint along the Gulf Coast Interstate 10 corridor.

Mobile began producing A320 series jetliners and continued to attract suppliers to
the Mobile Aeroplex. Other areas, too, saw growth. VTMAE, long-time tenant of the
Mobile Aeroplex, started work on an additional MRO hangar in Pensacola, Fla. And
Aerojet Rocketyne, in addition to the AR-22 work, earlier said it would assemble and
test the AR1 engine at Stennis Space Center.

Expansions were common. MAAS and Star Aviation in Mobile, Boeing and Fort
Walton Machining in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Torch Technologies in Shalimar, Fla.,
and UTC in Foley, Ala., all had expansions. And at Northwest Florida’s Eglin Air
Force Base, site of the F-35 reprogramming lab, a second reprogramming lab was
added for partner nations.

While all that was going on, education leaders across the region put in place the
tools necessary to help the growing need for aerospace and aviation workers. It has,
indeed, been a busy two years.

Economic development leaders have good reason to target aerospace, a multibillion-
dollar, research intense, innovative enterprise that produces technologically
advanced aircraft, space and defense systems. It involves civilian and military
activities and uses talent ranging from those who design aircraft and those who
assemble them to those who fly and maintain them. Workers are highly skilled and
pay is above average.

“The Gulf Coast aerospace corridor has all the right conditions for future growth,”
said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. “A pro-business environment, strong
political support for the industry, and great working conditions all mean good things
for the future.”

Neal Wade, chairman of the four-state Aerospace Alliance, sees the same thing
throughout Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

But the I-10 region between Southeast Louisiana and Northwest Florida is where the
aerospace interests of all four states intersect, and it’s a showcase for all four, where
growth in one area of the corridor can benefit all of them.

It's clear from this year’s research that the region must continue to focus on
attracting aerospace while the interest is high, and that it needs to continue to
develop a highly skilled workforce.

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