|Thriving in the shadow of a giant
By Rod Duren
...FOLEY, Ala. -- When it comes to aerospace in the Gulf Coast region, the spotlight
has been and will continue to be on the $600 million A320 final assembly line being
built in Mobile, Ala.
...But across the bay in the primarily rural bedroom community of Baldwin County,
aerospace companies are carving a niche and an international reputation. It’s home
to a plant owned by the world’s 9th largest defense contractor, and it has smaller
operations that are looking to expand.
...According to the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance, 1,095 people
are employed in aerospace. That includes 133 in aircraft engine parts, 697 in
auxiliary aviation-related parts and 147 in engineering services.
...It has more than 1.1 million square feet of available existing building space, aviation
and non-aviation related alike. There also are four non-commercial airports with a
combined 343 acres for development. The runways at those airports range from
3,700 to 6,962 feet.
...In addition, the county has four sites that have received certification as being
“shovel-ready,” including one 3,009-acre megasite along Interstate 65.
...Baldwin County is part of the South Alabama aerospace region, which has scores
of aerospace companies. It’s also part of the multi-state I-10 aerospace corridor
spanning from New Orleans to Northwest Florida. Airbus and its plant in Mobile is the
talk of both of those regions, and everyone wonders what it will mean for them.
...Lee Lawson, CEO of Baldwin County’s Economic Development Alliance, thinks the
plant’s impact on Baldwin County suppliers will be “slow and steady.” By 2033,
Baldwin County suppliers will likely be a major player, but not before the sub-
assembly work of the A320 moves from Europe to the United States.
...Baldwin County continues to partner with Mobile to maximize economic
development opportunities with the arrival of Airbus, including offering a location for
...Here’s a look at three players.
...The big dog of Baldwin County’s aerospace mix is United Technologies Corp., 9th
largest aerospace and defense company in the world, according to Defense News.
...While much of the hoopla has been over Airbus, having UTC is a major deal for
Baldwin County. UTC’s aerospace operations are Pratt & Whitney, maker of
commercial and military engines, and helicopter-maker Sikorsky.
...UTC came to the county through the company’s $18.4 billion purchase in 2012 of
Charlotte, N.C.-based Goodrich Corp., and its three aerospace divisions. One
property that came into the UTC fold was the 800-worker Goodrich Alabama Service
Center, the county’s largest private employer. It’s now part of UTC Aerospace
Systems’ Aerostructures business, and includes two separate businesses – original
equipment (OE) and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO).
...In August, Sunwing Airlines, Canada’s largest discount carrier, chose UTC
Aerospace Systems' Aerostructures business at Foley to service nacelle components
for drive systems on its Boeing aircraft.
...Under the 5-year agreement, UTC Foley will maintain, repair and overhaul inlets,
fan cowls and small components on the CFM56-7 engines on 24 Boeing 737-800
aircraft. The pact also provides Sunwing access to UTC Aerospace Systems' pool of
nacelle components to help ensure operational integrity of those aircraft.
...UTC Aerospace Systems was the original equipment manufacturer of the Boeing
737NG components, and will be well versed in providing that service for Sunwing.
...The unit has been involved with obstruction evaluations of thrust reversers for the
Airbus A320 engine; fan cowls on the next generation Boeing 737; and work for the
Air Force’s C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft nacelles Reliability Enhancement and Re-
Engining (formerly Propulsion Modernization) Program and avionics modernization
alongside Lockheed Martin.
...Among other big-name companies for which the UTC Foley has done work are
Embraer, Bombardier and Mitsubishi.
...UTC handles Airbus’ engine podding in Europe, but Baldwin County officials are
hoping to see the Foley plant eventually support that element of Airbus’ assembly
line in Mobile.
...Growth is in the future for Segers Aero, which has a 135,000 square-foot facility on
56 acres adjacent to the Fairhope airport. It expects $35 million in 2014 sales,
according to Chief Operating Officer Les Holford, and plans to add 50 workers,
bringing its workforce to 150.
...Segers Aero moved about 70 percent of its workforce to Baldwin County 12 years
ago from south Florida. Its 2014 outlook calls for an expansion on 39 acres south of
Baldwin County 32.
...In September, the Segers Group, the European unit of Segers Aero, bought the U.
K.’s Proptech Portsmouth Ltd., a propeller overhaul company that supports
commercial and military customers. Proptech’s MRO products range from ATR twin
turboprops to King Airs, the top-selling turboprop in the world, and will help in the
procurement of contracts globally.
...In an indicator of what’s on Segers’ future plate, one Friday afternoon in
September the company welcomed aviation officials from Air Cargo Uganda, Alaska’s
Linden Airport, and military officials from Southeast Asia and Central America.
...Segers provides on-site and international training for line maintenance, bore
scoping of engines, visual inspections and trouble-shooting of its products for
customers in Tunis, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Thailand, Ethiopia and Ecuador.
...AMRO of Fairhope has 20 employees involved in precision machining, engineering
support, 3D research and development and MRO, including commercial aircraft row-
...AMRO is part of a three-company group that includes Certified Aviation Services of
California and Azmark Aero Systems of Arizona, and has contracted hydraulics and
electro-mechanical back shop support work at multiple small airports and Atlanta,
said AMRO Director Brent Trotter.
...AMRO is on a list of contractors competing to provide three variants of a turbo
alternator for the Air Force’s Shadow 200 unmanned aerial vehicle.
...Winning that contract would be a boon for AMRO and Baldwin County. Trotter said
the company will get that product into the market “as fast as we can.” Research for
the lightweight, back-pack sized alternator would be run out of the Fairhope facility,
...The keynote of AMRO’s business line is sticking to its MRO business model in the
machining and manufacturing of aircraft parts. AMRO engineers have used 3-D
research and development computer models to test-and-fit equipment parts within
4,000th of an inch without having to go into costly pre-production costs.
...But, in 2014, AMRO will bring its Arizona-based 3-D parts-printing digital
technology process to Fairhope as a new partner with its traditional machining
...According to Trotter, AMRO will be getting "out of its comfort zone" and turning the
financial corner in 2014.
□ □ □