Hoping we don’t miss this important flight

Published 6:02pm Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Some would say it’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. It is our argument it is even harder to catch up to the curve.

Such is the case with the planning and posturing for the suppliers that are set to follow in the footsteps of the massive Airbus manufacturing facility planned for Mobile County.

During a recent visit to Mobile, Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor told state media the assembly facility in south Alabama is set to be operational in 2015, with delivery of planes from the facility planned for 2016. He also said, the impact of the assembly plan will be felt far outside the Mobile area.

In the interview, McArtor said the facility’s supply chain would likely extend well into Florida and as far north as Tennessee. It would also impact the 45 states that are currently part of Airbus’ supply chain.

Now the question is how will Selma — better yet, how will Alabama’s Black Belt — position itself to be part of that lucrative supply chain? How does Alabama’s Black Belt position itself to be home to some of those suppliers, offering quality, high-paying jobs to those in the region?

The answer is quite easy. Whether or not we’re willing or able to do it, is quite another thing.

The answer is by working together, partnering our resources and combining our influences. It is important for Dallas County — with Craig Field in hand — to take the lead on developing a regional attack plan, along with representatives from Wilcox, Lowndes, Perry, Autauga, Marengo and any others to attract top suppliers here.

Alone, we do not have the pull of Auburn or Huntsville. As hard as it is to say that — or hear that — it is true.

But, together we have the ability to take on the areas in Alabama that have, in recent years, been so successful in landing supplier after supplier.

It is time we stood up and made others tremble at what we are able to bring to the table.

Soon after Airbus’ announcement last year ,Selma-Dallas County Economic Development Authority executive director Wayne Vardaman felt good about the area’s ability to attract suppliers to the area.

“I think we certainly have as good a chance as anybody with the infrastructure we have in place,” Vardaman said.

The infrastructure Vardaman touts — which includes some state and U.S. highway access, as well as rail — is highlighted by the expansive Craig Field industrial complex, complete with its updated hangers, real estate and long runways.

In recent years, Menzo Driskell, the complex’s executive director, said he has overseen renovations to Craig Field’s hangars, the addition of a 5-mile security fence around the airport, the construction of a new terminal building, the resurfacing, strengthening and restriping of the airport’s taxiways and more.

“We’re up-to-date and open for business,” Driskell said in a July interview with the Times-Journal. “We expect to get some looks, and we’ve got an excellent facility here.”

We know how successful Dallas County was in recruiting top suppliers for the Hyundai in Montgomery and the Honda operation in Lincoln.

Let’s hope they are as successful — maybe even more so — with this amazing opportunity that is literally landing right in our backyard.

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