In case you missed it, a new Gulf Coast group was announced during the week in New Orleans. This one is called "Ready 4 Takeoff Coalition," and it describes itself as an "action-driven alliance that supports critical economic development projects that focus on building a better tomorrow for the vital Gulf Coast region."
According to the Mobile Press-Register, the group says that, given the string of disasters that have afflicted the Gulf Coast in recent years, the federal government ought to focus its power on spurring economic development in the region.(STORY)
One project mentioned on the group's Web site is the Air Force's $40 billion effort to replace its fleet of aerial tankers. EADS is battling Boeing to build tankers for the Air Force, and if EADS wins the planes would be assembled in Mobile, Ala. But the group also calls on the government to use its purchasing power to ensure a "robust" Gulf Coast seafood industry, and backs accelerating revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas development.
If you're starting to get confused about all these groups that have been cropping up of late, here's a brief rundown:
Late last year the governors from Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana announced the formation of the Aerospace Alliance, which also includes Northwest Florida but apparently not the rest of that state. That group, too, backs the tanker project for Mobile. But it also says on its Web site that "other priorities will include the growth of the space initiatives in the Alliance, driven by those companies and states involved in the nation’s space program."
Also last year there was the creation of a group called the Stennis-Michoud Corridor Alliance. Formed by Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, it includes the heads of the state economic development organizations in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as other Mississippi and Louisiana economic development groups and representatives of some of the region's aerospace companies.
Then there's Mobile County's Keep Our Tanker initiative focused on the tanker project, the Gulf Coast Aerospace and Defense Coalition promoting three counties in Northwest Florida, South Mississippi's Mississippi Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor and the four-state, I-10 focused Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor. Plenty of players, that's for sure.
The Ready 4 Takeoff group, which goes beyond aerospace, includes economic development organizations, cities, counties, chambers of commerce and other interests from an area between New Orleans and Pensacola, Fla.
The Web site says this group is "committed to the following principles to help turn the economic tide and build the economy of the future in the Gulf." It speaks about the strong pro-business environment and skilled workforce, and about maximizing the region’s strengths, and building a better tomorrow.
It's probably good that there are so many players interested in leveraging the Gulf Coast region's assets. This group is still developing its Web site and approach, and right now the main function appears to be getting people to sign up to show support.
But I'm getting a bit uneasy about the "we-have-suffered" approach. Yes, we've suffered through hurricanes and now the oil spill, and we have plenty of other problems as well. But if we're not careful that's the message that will stick.
Wouldn't it be more impressive to point out that we have 15 universities with campuses or significant operations in the region, or to say that $1.2 billion in R&D is performed in this region every year? That's a message that carries a lot of weight.
Let's hope these groups begin to understand that.
New Orleans will get 600 new jobs when Blade Dynamics, a wind turbine blade and component manufacturer, moves into NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility. Blade Dynamics, a British company, partnered with American Superconductor Corp. and Dow Venture Capital on the project.
To qualify for $30 million in state incentives, Blade Dynamics had to incorporate in the United States and place headquarters in New Orleans. It has to create 600 direct jobs by 2015, and the company will invest $13 million.
The state estimates there will be 970 indirect jobs, with $35.8 million in new state tax revenue and $23.9 million in new local tax revenue over the next 10 years. Michoud, which for years built the external tanks for the space shuttle, is one of the world's largest manufacturing centers and sits on 832 acres.
The first Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite built by Lockheed Martin for the Air Force was successfully launched last weekend from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard an Atlas V rocket.
The multi-satellite AEHF system will provide the military with global, protected, high capacity and secure communications. It’s the successor to the five-satellite Milstar constellation. The AEHF constellation will also serve Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Lockheed Martin Mississippi Space & Technology Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., provides the core propulsion modules for the system.
Jacobs Technology Inc., Tullahoma, Tenn., was awarded a $103.3 million contract modification which will provide technical, engineering and acquisition support at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and its other tenant units. AAC/PKES, Eglin Air Force Base, is the contracting activity. … Rockwell Collins Inc., Government Systems, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was awarded a $140.7 million contract to provide to develop, test and field the next generation range instrumentation systems intended to replace the Advanced Range Data System currently in use on DoD test ranges. AAC/EYBC, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity.