Thursday, March 10, 2005

Airbus in Youngstown... we can only dream!

Regional Airport to Be Pitched for Airbus Plant
Mar 10, 2005 8:00 a.m.

By Dan O’Brien

VIENNA, Ohio -- The Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport is one of three sites the state of Ohio will submit as a location for a proposed $600 million conversion plant for aerospace giant Airbus, sources confirmed this week.

The other sites under consideration are Columbus and Toledo, sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, Ohio Department of Development spokesman Bill Teets would neither confirm nor deny that Youngstown-Warren is among the three sites. The packages, getting their finishing touches, will be submitted to Airbus officials by the end of March.

“Our philosophy is that Ohio meets a good number of requirements and that we’re worth looking at,” Teets said.

While the Mahoning Valley will be pitched for the project, sources said the odds of success are very, very long.

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., Airbus’ parent, is looking for a site within the United States to construct a plant that would convert Airbus A330 commercial airliners into aerial tankers that refuel U.S. military aircraft.

Leading the search is EADS North America, the holding company for EADS’s North American operations.

According to a company statement, EADS North America, based in Arlington, Va., is seeking a site where its new KC-330 advanced tanker aircraft could be assembled and produced or modified for U.S. military use. The site would also be home to a new Airbus long range aircraft engineering center.

The conversion plant is expected to employ some 500 at first, but that figure could reach 1,200 by 2012 depending on the delivery rates of the KC-330, said Guy Hicks, spokesman. “If we go toward a final assembly center, it would cost upwards of $600 million to build and directly employ 1,200 people,” he said. The engineering center would employ 150 aerospace engineers and is scheduled to go forward without the conversion and assembly plant.

Also, the plant would attract additional manufacturers and jobs needed to support conversion operations, he said.

The site should be selected by Dec. 31 and the engineering facility open by early 2006.

Ohio is one of 37 states vying for the project, Hicks said. In February, about 130 development officials from 35 states attended an information session EADS North America hosted in Washington, D.C. Qualifying states will be issued a request for proposal sometime in the second quarter.

With such intense competition, sources concede the Mahoning Valley faces an uphill battle. Among the criteria EADS on which is basing its site selection:

- An airport with a runway at least 9,000 feet long.

- An area that can accommodate 1.5 million square feet of production, hangar and office space.

- Transportation infrastructure that includes good access to rail, road and a deep-water seaport that can handle large volumes.

- An employment base that can meet the demands of world-class aircraft manufacturing.

- The location’s ability to establish a cooperative relationship with a nearby university or other institution with a strong aerospace department and research facility.

The Youngstown-Warren airport meets several of the criteria, including a 9,000-foot runway and the capacity to handle the proposed manufacturing space. Access to a deep-water seaport, however, may pose a problem, since the nearest port is Ashtabula on Lake Erie, 45 miles north. Also, the airport as yet lacks rail access.

“We have a lot of states responding that have inland locations,” EADS’ Hicks noted, which on paper places them at a disadvantage. However, inland communities have won similar projects in the past by adapting and addressing these logisitics issues, he added. Youngstown, he continued, is fairly close to Lake Erie, which could be a consideration.

Still, the Department of Development’s Teets said he’s unsure whether Ohio will even be considered for the project or issued a request for proposal.

“We’d like to think we have a realistic opportunity,” Teets said, citing important aerospace research institutions such as the NASA Glenn Center near Cleveland and the Wright Center near Dayton. “There’s merit in the fact that Ohio has a history of aerospace activity.”

He also noted the number of companies throughout the state that work with the advanced materials needed in aerospace construction. “Locating here gives you a large base of potential suppliers,” he said.

EADS North America was formed two years ago to secure new business in the United States and North America, Hicks said. The company employs 1,800 in the U.S. at 39 different locations in 11 states. Last year, EADS North America earned about $650 million and expects to do about $1 billion in revenues for 2006. Its parent, EADS, earned $40 billion in Euro dollars last year, he reported.

Last year, the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport submitted a proposal to compete for the new Boeing 7E7 production facility. That project, however, was awarded to Everett, Wash., after that state compiled an incentives package that included approximately $3.2 billion in tax breaks.

Contact Dan O'Brien at

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