|Mobile still on the prowl
By Connie Baggett
...MOBILE, Ala. -- You might think landing an Airbus jetliner plant, one of just four in
the world, would be enough to satisfy any economic development appetite.
...But you would be wrong.
...The folks who run the nearly 1,700-acre Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, site of the
future Airbus A320 final assembly line, are quick to point out there are still 200 acres
and 850,000 square feet of building space available. Landing Airbus wasn’t the
finale, but the beginning.
...The Airbus assembly line over time will attract suppliers, investments and more
jobs. And Mobile is aware its neighbors to the north, east and west hope to grab
some of the bounty. Airbus officials have fueled that interest by telling Mobile’s
neighbors that the Airbus “halo” will extend hundreds of miles from the plant.
...Prospects are showing interest in Mobile.
...“We get inquiries every day from suppliers interested in the Mobile Aeroplex and
how they can play a role,” said Buddy Rice, marketing director for the Mobile Airport
Authority, which runs the Aeroplex at Brookley, Mobile Downtown Airport and Mobile
...For years Mobile Aeroplex has been a key player in the I-10 region that includes
NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss., and the military’s aviation training and aerial
weapons development in Northwest Florida. But the announcement in July 2012 that
Mobile would host a $600 million Airbus plant made the city the place to watch.
...“It was the icing on the cake for us,” Rice said about Airbus. But Mobile is far from
done recruiting. Airbus has provided a big opportunity for the former Air Force base
to become a showcase. And it’s been a long time coming.
...Once the largest employer in Mobile, the base closed in 1969 and sent the local
economy in a tailspin for years. Over the decades the site began attracting a variety
...Piston engine-maker Continental Motors, established in 1929, was eventually
joined by ST Aerospace, Star Aviation, Signature Flight Services, FedEx, Airbus
Engineering Center and more than 70 other tenants.
...“There’s been a ramp-up of activity in preparation for the Airbus project, and we
anticipate much more once the 1,000 employees are on site and the plant is in full
operation,” Rice said.
...The push now is to spruce up the site and make it look like the world player it is.
...The logistics of the site are superior.
...“We sit on Mobile Bay with access to the Port of Mobile. We have five class 1A
railroads that come to a point right off our site. We have two airports, both with FAA-
staffed towers. There is also our highway connection with both Interstate 65 and
Interstate 10 intersecting right here. When you put together the advantages of land,
sea, air and rail, there aren’t a lot of places, if any, that can compete.”
...The center has two runways: 14/32 is 9,618 feet by 150 feet with 25-foot paved
shoulders; runway 18/36 is 7,800 feet by 150 feet. Both have at least one instrument
approach. Runway 32 has an Instrument Landing System, ILS, that allows low-
...“In terms of the actual infrastructure,” Rice said, “the airport can accommodate just
about any aircraft.”
...It routinely accommodates small general aviation aircraft, civilian and military
helicopters, fixed-wing military aircraft, corporate jets, commercial jets like the 757
and A320, and jumbos like the A330, MD-11, 767, and 747.
...Rice anticipates a series of announcements for Mobile Aeroplex in the wake of
Airbus. Indeed, France’s Safran opened its engineering center at the Mobile
Aeroplex the day of the Airbus groundbreaking.
...But competition is intense. Mobile’s neighbors attend air shows and trade shows
and are in the fight to land suppliers. Pensacola, Fla., is even courting ST Aerospace
for a 300-worker facility at Pensacola International Airport.
...But Mobile’s economic development leaders have shown their persistence. They
maintained ties with Airbus’ corporate parent after they lost a bid to build Air Force
tankers in Mobile.
...In addition, Mobile Regional Airport has a 1,700-acre site with 200 acres and
50,000 square feet of hangar and office space available. It’s home of the U.S. Coast
Guard Aviation Training Center and Airbus Military. It has two runways: 14/32, which
is 8,502 feet, and runway 18/36, which is 4,376 feet. It also has a helipad.
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Rebranding for an international audience
...MOBILE, Ala. -- For generations, the site of the former military base was known
simply as “Brookley.” That was fine for locals, but not so much for an international
...“We started the campaign to craft a new identity in November 2012,” said Buddy
Rice, marketing director for the Mobile Airport Authority.
...Changing the name to Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley retained the historic name but
provides it with a better sense of place. It also makes it easier to search on the
...“We have to make it easy for people to find us, and using Mobile to frame all our
business units does that,” Rice said. “It also provides us with a buzz world that is
associated with movement, speed and urgency, all important to the aerospace
...The new branding adds a striking graphic depiction inspired by seagulls, familiar
for anyone living near the coast anywhere in the world. It’s all brought together with
the slogan: "Let’s Fly."
...“There is nothing more indicative of our region,” Rice said. Colors in the logo are
blue for the heavens, red symbolic of the fiery exhaust of a jet engine and green for
the coastal plain.
...“We want this branding to open a door so people around the world can see what
Mobile has to offer,” Rice said. “We have an amazing ecosystems here, including
beaches. We have great golf courses, great food, hospitality, and even Mardi Gras.
There is so much more that Mobile offers the world, and we want them to know about
it.” -- Connie Baggett