Saturday, December 8, 2012

Week in review (12/2 to 12/8)

The comment from Win Hallett was particularly appropriate. Yes, good things come to those who wait, said the president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. But you better work like hell while you're waiting.

Hallett made the comment after the announcement last week that the French conglomerate Safran will establish a $2 million engineering center in Mobile. It's the first supplier to announce a move to the region after the July announcement that Airbus would build a $600 million A320 assembly line on 117 acres at Brookley Aeroplex. (Post)

Safran Engineering Services' expertise is in wiring systems. It operates as an arm of Safran Group's Labinal, which produces wiring products for the biggest names in aerospace. Labinal already has operations in Everett, Wash., Salisbury, Md., Charleston, S.C., Wichita, Kan.; Denton, Texas, North Charleston, S.C., and Little Rock, Ark. The Mobile center will open in 2013 and eventually employ 50 engineers.

The addition of Safran adds another international company to this region's strong mix of companies with foreign roots (for a background story, see Chapter 1 of Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor 2012-13). There's every reason to believe this region will continue attracting them.

Safran is no stranger to the United States. According to the company, its U.S. industrial footprint is the most extensive outside France. It includes 31 companies and joint ventures, with 58 locations across 22 states. The Safran Group has been involved in the U.S. aerospace, defense and security industries for more than four decades.

It provides a wide range of aerospace propulsion, security, aircraft braking and avionics products. The company's largest end-user is the Defense Department, with its technologies/products on KC-135R tankers, F-22 Raptors, UH-72A Lakotas and Delta IV launch systems. The company says Boeing is its largest single U.S. customer. Other customers are Bell, Sikorsky, Hawker Beechcraft, Bombardier Aerospace, Airbus, Embraer, Dassault Aviation and Eurocopter.

Headquartered in Paris, Safran was formed by a merger between the aircraft and rocket engine maker and aerospace component manufacturer group Snecma and the security company Sagem in 2005. It has three main branches: aerospace propulsion, aircraft equipment -- of which Labinal is a part -- and defense security.

Its activities in the United States are handled by Safran USA of Arlington, Va. Its lineup includes commercial and military aircraft engines, aircraft braking and landing systems, and navigation systems for submarines. The company's nearest operation to Mobile is Globe Motors Inc. in Dothan, Ala., east of Fort Rucker.

A sister company of Safran Engineering also has ties to another company that recently moved into this region. Snecma is a 50/50 partner with GE Aviation in the joint company CFM International, which makes the CFM56 airliner engines in Ohio and France. GE Aviation is building a parts plant in Ellisville, near Hattiesburg. The CFM56 is used in Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

Although Mobile got the first supplier, there's no doubt other areas are looking to cash in on the Airbus project. And in fact, Mobile's closest neighbors were just as interested in landing Safran, according to reports.

"We weren't surprised to have competition from our east and our west, but we just didn't think they'd be as aggressive as they were," Mobile Mayor Sam Jones told the Mobile Press Register after the announcement.

Jones said cities such as Pensacola, Fla., and Pascagoula, Miss., are certainly equipped to attract and house the caliber of support enterprises Airbus will require to support its Mobile facility, but Mobile is focused on cultivating the long-term relationships to continue attracting foreign investment to Mobile Bay.

In discussing regional teamwork in economic development, officials have always made it clear that they work together to help a neighbor land a big project if it's a finalist, but they do compete for individual projects. Some call it "coopetition." And that's what's happening right now.

Birmingham has begun its courtship of suppliers, according to a Q&A that appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal. Rick Davis, Birmingham Business Alliance senior vice president of economic development, joined the Alabama delegation in a trip to an aviation conference in Hamburg, Germany, last month, making the case for Birmingham. (Post)

And nearby Pensacola is also interested in getting in on the action. Pensacola has been courting for some time now a branch of ST Mobile Aerospace, which has a facility at Brookley Aeroplex. Pensacola leaders are pulling out all the stops to make it happen, according to Pensacola News Journal columnist Carlton Proctor. He also reports that Dothan, Ala., is interested in the company. (Column)

Hang on to your hats folks. It's going to get busy.

Ownership of Airbus parent EADS is changing, with France and Germany ending their grip on the board room two months after the collapse of merger talks with BAE Systems. The first beneficiary is German auto group Daimler, which raised over $2 billion selling holdings.

The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. owns, in addition to Airbus, businesses that build rocket and missile launhers, satellites, fighter aircraft and helicopters. Under the new plan, German and French state interests will hold 12 percent each, and Spain will hold 4 percent. (Post)

This should make day to day business a lot easier for EADS. Who knows, we may see a new effort to joint EADS and BAE Systems.

-- The objection of the U.S. Justice Department prompted United Technologies and TransDigm Group Inc. to terminate the previously announced sale of the Goodrich Corp. pump and engine control systems business to TransDigm of Cleveland.

Sale of the unit is one of the divestitures required by regulatory authorities as a condition of UTC's acquisition of Goodrich. UTC, of Hartford, Conn., intends to comply with its obligation to sell this business to a buyer acceptable to the U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission. (Post)

This merger of of interest to the Gulf Coats region. The Goodrich Alabama Service Center is in Foley, Ala., and Rocketdyne, a United Technologies company that is being sold to GenCorp, assembles and tests rockets at Stennis Space Center, Miss.

Unmanned systems
A Navy Fire Scout detachment returned to Mayport, Fla., earlier this month after achieving several milestones during its five-month deployment aboard USS Klakring. The Fire Scout unmanned helicopter detachment logged more than 500 flight hours in the U.S. Africa Command Area of Responsibility.

With a record number of unmanned helicopters aboard Klakring, Fire Scout regularly maintained 12-hour days on station and regularly switching aircraft to provide continuous support. The system accomplished a new single-day endurance record, providing ISR support for 24 hours. Dual air vehicle operations were also performed. Fire Scouts are built in part in Moss Point, Miss., by Northrop Grumman. (Post)

-- In Mississippi, unmanned aerial systems were the focus of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation dinner at the Ocean Springs Civic Center. George Freeland, executive director of JCEDF, said that in economic development, it's important to pursue fields with high potential.

And that's the case with UAVs. The county does finishing work on Fire Scouts and builds the fuselage for Global Hawk, including the Navy's version, Triton. The featured speakers at the dinner were Walt Kreitler, director of the Triton program for Northrop Grumman, and Michael Toscano, president and CEO of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. (Post)

-- Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia are partnering to establish a Federal Aviation Administration-designated test site for unmanned aerial systems. The Mid-Atlantic Unmanned Aerial Systems Coalition hopes an FAA designation could make the region a focal point for contractors and start-ups alike. The FAA is set to select six unmanned system test sites, though the effort has been delayed. (Post)

-- A battery-powered Navy vehicles was lost in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City and Biltmore Beach late in the week. According to the Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center at Stennis Space Center, Miss., the command lost contact with the Remus 100 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle during a training exercise. The vehicle is black, 6 feet long and 7 inches in diameter. (Post)

U.S. Air Force Gen. Christopher Bogdan has been named head of the F-35 Program Office. Bogdan was the F-35 deputy program manager. In August, he was nominated to head the program by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He takes over for retiring Vice Adm. David Venlet. Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 training center. (Post)

-- Lockheed Martin was awarded a $386.7 million modification to the previously awarded F-35 Low Rate Initial Production Lot 6 Advance Acquisition Contract to provide sustainment support for delivered air systems. It includes ground maintenance activities, depot activation activities, support pilot and maintainer initial training and more.

Thirty-five percent of the work will be done at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and the rest done at Ft. Worth, Texas, El Segundo, Calif., Warton, United Kingdom, and other locations in the United States. It’s expected to be completed in October 2013. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Florida has awarded $1.58 million in Defense Infrastructure Grants for fiscal year 2012-13 to local community organizations that support Florida military installations. The grants work to protect a $60 billion economic impact and more than 686,000 direct and indirect jobs, which the defense industry annually infuses into Florida.

In Northwest Florida, awards were given to Bay County Board of County Commissioners, Santa Rosa County, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners. Okaloosa received awards for both Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base. (Post)

-- A Hurlburt Field airman who rescued a Marine then was himself severely wounded by an improvised explosive device received the Silver Star last month at a ceremony at the Pentagon. Tech Sgt. Joe Deslauriers, an explosive ordnance technician with the 1st Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron, lost both legs in the September 2011 explosion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Post)

-- Air Force Col. Walter J. Sams was nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general and for assignment as mobilization assistant to the commander, 1st Air Force, Tyndall Air Force
Base, Fla. Sams' appointment was among 21 announced Friday. (Post)

-- Next year's air show at Tyndall Air Force Base has been canceled because of budget constraints. That's the word from Lt. Melanie Holiday, a base spokeswoman. Tyndall officials said they made the decision to stop planning for the event after careful review and consideration of fiscal responsibility of taxpayer dollars and mission requirements. (Post)

Vision Airlines and the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi will bring nonstop flights from Orlando to Gulfport, Miss., starting Feb. 6. Service will be three days a week on 136-seat Boeing 737 aircraft from Orlando Sanford International Airport. (Post)

-- Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City, Fla., named John Van Etten as the new deputy chief of police. Van Etten has 28 years experience in law enforcement, and for the past eight years was police chief for the Panama City Police Department. (Post)

Economic development
The Army's 7th Special Forces Group, which opened its cantonment at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into the Okaloosa County economy between 2010 and 2016. That’s according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida. The 7th SFG moved to Eglin from its former home at Fort Bragg, N.C. (Post)

LPD 17: The Navy accepted delivery of the eighth LPD 17 class amphibious transport dock ship, the future USS Arlington (LPD 24), from Huntington Ingalls Industries on Friday. (Post)

Austal: Austal USA delivered the joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead to the U.S. Navy in a signing ceremony Wednesday. The 338-foot-long aluminum catamaran completed acceptance trials in August and will leave Mobile toward the end of this month. (Post)

Boat show: The International WorkBoat Show was held in New Orleans and thousands gathered for the three-day event. It’s touted as the largest maritime trade show in North America. (Post)

Wave Glider: U.S. based Liquid Robotics, an ocean data service provider and
developer of the Wave Glider, said a Wave Glider completed a 9,000 nautical mile scientific journey across the Pacific Ocean to Australia. (Post)

VT Halter Marine: Ground was broken on a major expansion of VT Halter Marine in Pascagoula. The new ship repair facility will create 400 jobs at VT Halter Marine, which designs and builds ships for the military, among others. (Post)

L-3 Services: L-3 Services Inc., Mount Laurel, N.J., was awarded a $12.9 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for field service representatives to perform maintenance and repair of the U.S. Marine Corps mine roller systems. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Panama City, Fla., is the contracting activity. (Post)

Huntington Ingalls: Huntington Ingalls Industries, Pascagoula, Miss., was awarded a $54.5 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise the third option for Life Cycle Engineering and support services on the LPD 17-class Amphibious Transport Dock Ship program. Work will be performed in Pascagoula. (Post)

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