NW Florida delegation to tout region to aircraft manufacturer in Germany [Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach]
(Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 08--Northwest Florida is about to enter the race to bring hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs related to the Airbus factory under construction in Mobile, Ala., to the area.
The International Aerospace Industry Forum for Northwest Florida Leadership kicks off Monday in Hamburg, Germany, with 35 business, education and community leaders from Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia counties. It is the first time the economic development leadership from the five counties have worked together to organize an overseas trip to try to bring new business to the region.
Read a listof those who are attending. >>
"I'm very excited about the statement that Northwest Florida is going to make during this two-day event," said Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council. "I think we're going to send a strong message to the folks in Germany that we're serious about their business."
More than 1,000 people are expected to work at Airbus' final assembly plant in Mobile when it becomes fully operational in 2018.
But that's just the start. Dozens of subcontractors who supply pieces and parts to the factory are expected to employ thousands more.
There still is not a good estimate on how many jobs the Airbus suppliers are likely to bring to the Southeast.
Airbus itself has not said where it wants or expects its suppliers to locate, only that they must make deliveries to the plant within a prescribed time frame.
"Mississippi has already been over. Mobile took 90 people to Hamburg earlier this year," said Neal Wade, executive director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance. "We're behind. We can't wait. I believe 2014 is actually the key year for us to get in the competition for some of these suppliers that are going to be coming here when (Airbus' plant) opens in 2015."
The two-day forum is split into a series of meetings Monday and a tour of Airbus' factory and operations Tuesday. Monday's meetings will feature Stefan Berndes, director of aviation for the Federal Association of the German Aerospace Industry; Alexander Bothmann, deputy director of Enterprise Florida's Germany office; and Walter Birkhan, director of Hamburg Aviation.
"This is a really exciting event," said Jennifer Conoley, the economic development representative for Gulf Power. "We've been focused on the aviation, aerospace industry for many years in Northwest Florida, so I'm really excited to see us be aggressive this year.
"We are competing for jobs with high quality companies and global economies," she added. "Being in Germany and hearing from these European speakers will really help us understand what it will take to be competitive on an international economic development front. It's going to be great for them to put a face on Northwest Florida and our five-county region."
A few members of the delegation, including Sparks, Wade, and Steven Jaeger, director of the Walton County Economic Development Alliance, arrived in Hamburg last week to attend the Airbus Supplier Forum to meet with suppliers, visit some of their operations and start to build relationships.
"We're not going over there to win a project from the beginning," Wade said. "We're going in there to introduce ourselves and to get in the competition. I want them to look in Mississippi. I want them to look in Alabama. I just want to make sure they're looking in Northwest Florida as well so that we're in the competition.
"Our goal is to meet with as many of these companies as possible and to begin the dialogue and networking so we can continue to get to know them," he added.
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.
(c)2013 the Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)
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