Late Sunday, a group of European business executives and Alabama political leaders gathered in a second-floor suite at the historic Battle House Hotel in Mobile.
There, as a scorching summer sun sank over the city’s downtown, Airbus President Fabrice Bregier raised a glass of champagne in salute to his hosts.
Welcome to Mobile, he said, my American home.
The toast was returned by Gov. Robert Bentley, who will stand with Bregier today and announce a project that could forever alter the city’s economic fortunes. Airbus is planning to construct a $600 million aircraft assembly plant at the Brookley Aeroplex, giving the Toulouse, France-based company its first production center on U.S. soil and vaulting Mobile into an elite group of cities that manufacture large airplanes.
Airbus, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., will announce the massive project at a 10 a.m. news conference at the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center. The plant will produce A319, A320 and A321 aircraft and employ 1,000 full-time workers at full capacity, according to an internal briefing document obtained by the Press-Register.
Construction is slated to begin in 2013 and create an estimated 2,500 jobs over a two-year period to build the plant. Aircraft assembly is scheduled to begin in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile plant in 2016. Airbus anticipates the plant will produce 40 to 50 aircraft per year by 2017.
Sunday, on the eve of the announcement, an entourage of Airbus officials mingled at the Battle House with guests including U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, among others. Representatives from the company’s major suppliers and customers also traveled to Mobile to participate in the event, along with former Gov. Bob Riley, U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida and David Bronner, the head of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.
Mobile police and hotel security teemed throughout the lobby, ushering media members and curious guests away from the party. Local TV crews, stationed on the Royal Street sidewalk, trained their cameras on the hotel’s main entrance.
Invited guests at the reception dined on seared scallops, loin of Kobe beef and fois gras roasted fingerling potatoes, according to several in attendance.