SNAPSHOTS: 60 Seconds…with Greg Canfield, Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce
By Business Facilities Staff
From the January/February 2013 issue
Airbus is putting its North American manufacturing hub in Mobile. We asked AL DOC chief Greg Canfield about the impact on the state’s growing aerospace industry.
BF: Do you anticipate other aerospace producers/suppliers setting up shop or expanding in AL as a result of the Airbus project?
GC: The fact that Airbus located its first U.S. plant in the state is already drawing attention to Alabama worldwide; much like the Mercedes-Benz announcement did in 1993. We just recently had the announcement of the first Airbus supplier: Labinal is part of the aerospace giant Safran Group and is a global leader in electrical wiring systems. We have a supplier support team in place and are currently mobilizing education initiatives and planning training centers to accommodate the skilled workforce demands. Without a doubt we expect additional growth as a result of the Airbus facility.
BF: The Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation received an SBA grant in 2010 to create the Huntsville Advanced Defense Technology Cluster, aimed at high-tech entrepreneurs. Has the program been a success?
GC: HADTCI has initiated a paradigm shift in two ways: it has facilitated more collaboration among small and large companies to have a better chance at winning awards and it has encouraged the community to look outside the traditional DOD and NASA opportunities into areas where their technologies can be commercialized. This is in addition to supplementing the existing small business services in the region through mentoring, grants, technical consulting and training.
SHAKY START FOR BOEING’S NEW 787
The problems that have temporarily grounded Boeing’s new 787 jetliner may have a wide-ranging impact on the U.S. aerospace manufacturing sector. The long- awaited 787 Dreamliner offers unprecedented fuel efficiency thanks to a lightweight, ultra- strong carbon-fiber composite skin and an advanced electrical system powered by a huge lithium-ion battery. Boeing has produced 50 787s to date at its new facility in N. Charleston, SC, has back orders for more than 800 and expects thousands more to be built in the next 20 years.
But one look at photos the National Transportation Safety Board took of the battery container from a Jan. 7 fire aboard a Japan Airlines plane is all anyone needs to under- stand the gravity of Boeing’s current problem. Boeing says it plans to keep building 787s in Charleston while engineers determine whether the plane’s sophisticated electrical system has to be replaced or rebuilt. Apparently, it’s more cost-effective to keep the current aircraft build going and make fixes later than to shut it down and n retool up front. Stay tuned.
BF: Is the Port of Mobile ready to compete for increased shipping from the expansion of the Panama Canal?
GC: Today we are handling post-panamax ships of the same size that will be transiting the expanded Panama Canal beginning in 2015 every week. These ships, which are deployed in a trans-Atlantic service, are up to 1,200’ long and carry up to 9,000 TEUS. Our Intermodal Container Transfer Facility should be completed by the canal opening. This will dramatically improve the efficiency of the inland movement of containers to and from the port.
BF: Growth of film and entertainment industry employment in Alabama also is a DOC priority. Are you attracting new business from the entertainment sector?
GC: In the past year we had several major feature films that will be released in the next few months, including 42 (the story of Jackie Robinson) and Space Warriors, filmed entirely at Huntsville’s Space Camp. We also have several reality shows currently being filmed and we expect to incentivize a music festival soon.
BF: The DOC has a new communications plan, including an upgraded website. What are the goals of the new plan?
GC: The primary goal is to ensure we are on the radar for all major site selection consultants and companies seeking to relocate or expand facilities. We are developing an exciting branding campaign using a mixture of both traditional and nontraditional media, and a redesigned website that will be more user friendly.