Those who are closely following Birmingham’s manufacturing fortunes may have their eyes on the skies – and Montgomery – among other things.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Magic City’s manufacturing industry is whether the state’s recent success in aerospace, particularly the new Airbus plant in Mobile, will benefit Birmingham.
Experts say Birmingham’s day may come, but it might take a while.
Deborah McGill Smith of Cushman & Wakefield EGS said aerospace is a little different than the automotive industry, which has thrived in the state since Mercedes-Benz arrived in the mid-90s.
“We can’t look at the auto industry,” Smith said. “Assembling airplanes is different.”
Smith said the volume of cars being manufactured in Alabama versus the number of airplanes being assembled is dramatic.
“The demand for those parts is not as frequent,” she said of the aerospace industry. “It’s still easier to ship those parts.”
But the 1.7 million Kaiser Aircraft facility near Birmingham’s airport could help the area’s chances to get more involved in the state’s growing aerospace scene.
Graham & Co. was hired in early July to market the site. Smith said she believes whoever lands at Kaiser’s campus will be tied to the aerospace industry, but it may take some time.
Another big question facing Birmingham’s manufacturing industry involves incentives.
Specifically, will the Alabama Legislature make more money available to boost what the state can offer in the way of economic development incentives.
There was talk of calling a special session to discuss Alabama’s incentive funds in 2014, but that didn’t happen.
State leaders have said replenishing the incentive funds is critical due to the fierce competition Alabama is facing from regional rivals at a time many manufacturers, particularly in the automotive and aerospace worlds, are targeting the South for growth.