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Aerospace and Defense

Alabama leaders haggle for more growth at Paris Air Show

The Department of Commerce, including Secretary Greg Canfield, formally held 15 meetings with aerospace companies.

One tarmac at the air show Anthony Guerra, Paris Air Show
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Representatives from Alabama aerospace companies, cities, and economic development organizations attended the June 19-25 Paris Air show. 

The aerospace industry’s largest trade show hosted 2,500 exhibitors and 300,000 visitors at the first show since 2019. Approximately $150 billion worth of contracts were signed during the event as a whole.

The Alabama team — including representatives from the Alabama Department of Commerce, city and county officials, chambers of commerce, companies, educators, and national officials — pitched Alabama as a growing aerospace hub with a valuable workforce. 

The core team from the Department of Commerce, including Secretary Greg Canfield, formally held 15 meetings with aerospace companies in Paris, including Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Kratos and GKN Aerospace. They discussed six potential growth projects, including advanced additive manufacturing, similar to GE Aviation’s 3D printed jet engine fuel nozzles manufactured in Auburn, and new electrical wiring harness production. According to Canfield, they discussed projects with two companies currently operating in Alabama and three companies who would be new entrants.

“Armed with what we learned in Paris, we’re going to be able to better position Alabama for aerospace industry growth not just now but also five or 10 years down the road,” Canfield said. “Our mission to the 2023 Paris Air Show will help us strengthen industry growth well into the future.” 

Three Alabama-based companies — Archangel Systems in Auburn, Adah International in Birmingham, and Sealing Equipment Products Co. in Alabaster — attended the trade show. 

On the first day of the show, Kimberly Robinson, director of Huntsville’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center, moderated a panel of Alabama educators discussing workforce development. Chuck Karr, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville; Todd Shackett, president of Southern Union State Community College; and Steven Taylor, senior vice president for research and economic development at Auburn University reviewed training and education opportunities in Alabama. The panel was sponsored by Andalusia, AL-based Southeast Gas.

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“The group of panelists we’ve assembled for this discussion are among the most esteemed aerospace and advance manufacturing educators in the world,” Southeast Gas President and CEO Greg Henderson said. “And, while their roles and the institutions they represent are impressive, their willingness to share their expertise and enthusiastically partner with and support the growth of the industry is why the State of Alabama continues to lead in this field.”

Huntsville, Mobile, Birmingham, Decatur, Montgomery and Opelika sent teams to the Paris show, mostly made of city officials and chamber of commerce staff. The Huntsville team mostly focused on building existing industry relationships, but they did meet with new potential partners. The Huntsville team also hosted a reception on June 18 with Sen. Katie Britt and Congressman Dale Strong. 

The Birmingham team attended the show for the first year. The Birmingham area has a substantially smaller defense industry than Huntsville or Montgomery, but the team pointed to expansions at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport and the $80 million acquisition of Southern Research by San Diego-based Kratos Defense & Security Solutions in 2022 as indicators of industry growth in the area.

“Our goal in Paris is to build long-term relationships. Right now, our footprint in the aerospace and aviation industry is small, but there’s an abundance of opportunity ahead of us,” Steve Ammons, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance said. “The stronger our relationships are, the higher the likelihood it is for us to recruit bigger and better aerospace projects into the Greater Birmingham Region.”

Samuel Stettheimer is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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