Saturday, March 16, 2013

Week in review (3/10 to 3/16)

Before we get to the week in review, here's a good marketing fact for the Gulf Coast region: We're home to the third fastest growing and 21st fastest growing metropolitan areas in the nation. That's according to figures released during the week.

The third fastest-growing metropolitan area in the nation is Florida's Crestview-Fort Walton-Destin, and the 21st fastest growing is Alabama's Daphne-Fairhope-Foley. But those are just the two best performers. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent is 78th fastest growing, Panama City is 91st and New Orleans-Metairie is 95th fastest growing among the nation's 381 metropolitan areas.

If you track this sort of thing, you'll also want to be aware that the federal government has redefined what counties make up the nation’s metropolitan areas. The latest shuffling made some changes in the Gulf Coast region.

In Northwest Florida, the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin metropolitan area is no longer one county, but two. It now includes, in addition to all of Okaloosa County, all of Walton County. It had a population of 239,021 in July 2011. That grew to 247,665 by July 2012 for an increase of 3.6 percent.

Further east, the Panama City metropolitan area also expanded from one county to two. In addition to all of Bay County, it now includes all of Gulf County. It had a population of 185,500 in July 2011, which grew to 187,621 a year later.

Another big change was in Alabama, where the one-county Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area become a full-fledged metropolitan area. The population went from 186,830 to 190,790 between July 2011 and July 2012.

Further to the west in Mississippi, the three coastal counties of Jackson, Harrison and Hancock are now the single Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula metropolitan area, with a population of 379,582, up from 375,911. Prior to the new definitions, South Mississippi was split into two metropolitan areas, and included two rural counties to the north.

Larry Sassano, interim director of Florida's Great Northwest, told the Northwest Florida Daily News while discussing the third-place ranking for Crestview-Fort Walton-Destin that it's always good for marketing an area to show the population is growing. A factor for companies considering relocating is an expanding workforce.

That's a very good point. And pointing out how the Gulf Coast region has multiple metropolitan areas that rank high nationally in growth puts it all in context.

Now here's your week in review:

Some officials from Mobile, Ala., are on a four-day trip to Hamburg, Germany, to tour an Airbus final assembly plant for the A320 jet airliner. The trip includes two days, Monday and Tuesday, in which officials will tour the German plant considered as a comparable facility to the $600 million A320 plant that will be built at Brookley Aeroplex. The group in Germany includes the mayor, city attorney, four city council members, three county commissioners and representatives of the Mobile Airport Authority.

Groundbreaking for the Mobile assembly line is scheduled for April 8. The Mobile facility is expected to employ 1,000 and generate several thousand construction, supplier and support positions. (Post)

The Mobile folks are visiting the German plant in the wake of very good news for Airbus. During the week two airlines put in orders for 184 Airbus aircraft within two days. Lufthansa will buy 100 A320s and two A380s worth about $11.2 billion at list price, according to Airbus. In addition, Turkish Airlines is buying 82 A320 family aircraft. The order is worth about $9.3 billion, based on the current list price. (Post)

-- Trade & Industry Development named the Airbus assembly plant project in Mobile among its top 15 corporate advancement award winners for 2013. The magazine selected the Airbus project as one of only 30 Corporate Investment and Community Impact winners nationwide for the transformational effect it’s expected to have on the city of Mobile. Several hundred projects announced during 2012 were considered. (Post)

The Navy during the week awarded Northrop Grumman a $71.6 million contract to build six additional MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopters. Those are the Fire Scouts that use the Bell 407 airframe. It's a larger, more capable version of the battle-tested MQ-8B variant.

The contract is a modification to a previously awarded contract and includes seven ground control stations. The Navy plans to purchase 30 aircraft under a rapid development effort. Northrop Grumman is currently under contract to produce 14 Fire Scouts that are scheduled to begin deploying in 2014.

Airframe modifications are being made at Bell's facility in Ozark, Ala., and accounts for 27 percent of the work. Final assembly is done at the Northrop Grumman's Unmanned Systems Center in Moss Point, Miss., accounting for 15 percent of the work. Most of the work, 32 percent, is being done in Dallas, Texas. Other work sites include Rancho Bernardo and Point Mugu, both in Calif. (Post).

-- A new study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI) finds that more than 70,000 new American jobs will be created in the first three years following integration of unmanned systems into the national airspace.

For the four states with a piece of the Gulf Coast Interstate 10 aerospace corridor, it will mean a combined 6,690 jobs and economic impact of $1.3 billion by 2017. That breaks down to 3,251 jobs and an economic impact of $632 million in Florida; 1,510 jobs and an economic impact of $294 million in Alabama; 1,097 jobs and an economic impact of $213 million in Louisiana; and 832 jobs and an economic impact of $162 million in Mississippi. (Post)

Northrop Grumman did deliver to Lockheed Martin the 500th AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) sensor component for the F-35. The DAS is a multifunction infrared system that provides passive, spherical battlespace awareness for F-35 pilots by simultaneously detecting and tracking aircraft and missiles in every direction, as well as providing visual imagery for day/night navigation and targeting purposes.

DAS imagery projected onto the pilot's helmet mounted display provides the capability to look at targets and terrain through the floor and wings of the aircraft. The DAS works in conjunction with the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and other onboard systems to give pilots an unprecedented degree of situational awareness. (News release)

Residents in the local area may experience low-flying aircraft or noise when the 96th Operations Group conducts boat operations Monday through Friday in the Gulf of Mexico south of Destin in the morning and the Choctawhatchee Bay in the afternoon.

The operations are part of the 53rd Wing’s Weapon System Evaluation Program. Fighter aircraft will release various munitions in the Gulf of Mexico during the morning test missions about 20 nautical miles south of Destin.

In the Choctawhatchee Bay during the afternoon test missions, about 30 boats will operate as visual simulated targets for fighter aircraft. Aircraft will conduct low altitude operations and residents in the local area may experience low-flying aircraft or noise. No bombs or munitions will be released during these Choctawhatchee Bay test operations. (Post)

-- Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Leahy, selected for the rank of major general, commander, 23rd Air Force and director, operations, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla., to director, operations, J-3, Headquarters U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Also, Brig. Gen. John M. Hicks, director, command, control, communications and cyber, J-6, Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, Hawaii, to commander, 23rd Air Force and director, operations, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field. (Post)

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin said during the week that it will build two liquefied natural gas tanks at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans. Each 88-foot-long tank, designed to carry 295,000 cubic meters of liquid gas, will serve as fuel tanks for propulsion engines built by the Finnish company Wartsila. Those engines are built to power commercial transport ships.

The two companies are discussing contracts to build another six tanks of various sizes at MAF that could serve as storage tanks to transport gas overseas. MAF is also used by the British company Blade Dynamics to build wind turbine blades, and more recently, Sierra Nevada Corp. said it had partnered with Lockheed Martin to build structures for the Dream Chaser commercial space vehicle. MAF is also where Orion and the core stage of the Space Launch System are being built. (Post)

Lockheed Martin also is taking the plunge into deep sea mining in a deal that will see the company begin exploring for minerals, including rare-earth varieties, in the Pacific. UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of the British arm of Lockheed Martin, said Thursday that it has obtained a license to prospect for high-value minerals in a 58,000-square-kilometer area of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico.

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport Executive Director John Wheat resigned to take a new position as the director of the Sacramento County (Calif.) Airport System, where he will oversee one international airport and three reliever airports. Wheat was recruited by officials in the Sacramento County Airport System, which boasts a passenger traffic count of about 9 million per year with 14 airlines. His resignation is effective April 5 and he is expected to begin his new job April 14. (Post)

-- Criminal charges against Vision Airlines have been dropped. State Attorney Bill Eddins said during the week that his office had dropped the first-degree grand theft charge against the airline after it paid more than $160,000 in fines and fees to Okaloosa County in the past month. The state attorney’s office filed the grand theft charge after the county tried unsuccessfully for months to get Vision to pay $117,660 in unpaid passenger facility charges owed to Northwest Florida Regional Airport. Vision paid more than $43,000 in legal fees and other charges Monday. (Post)

Science-minded middle school students in Okaloosa County now have a jet engine to use as a learning tool. Airmen from Eglin Air Force Base delivered the engine Friday to the Okaloosa County STEMM Center, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, math and medical studies. It will be used to demonstrate a variety of principals. The STEMM Center plans to invite teachers from across the Panhandle to use the engine in their own programs. The F100 engine is on loan from the U.S. Air Force Recruiting Service at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. (Post)

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $105.9 million contract for contractor logistics support, legacy sustainment and combined task force support for the Space Based Infrared Systems. Work on the core propulsion system of the SBIRS is done by Lockheed Martin at Stennis Space Center, Miss. … Boeing of St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $99.9 million contract for production assets, spares, repairs and sustainment for the joint direct attack munitions system. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBDK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. … Enola Contracting Services, Chipley, Fla., was awarded a $20 million contract for maintenance and repair services at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. … Speegle Construction Inc., Niceville, Fla., was awarded a $12.4 million contract to provide for the construction of a squadron operations facility at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Linthicum Heights, Md., is being awarded a $30 million contract for contractor logistics support services in support of the AN/ASQ-236 aircraft pod. The contracting activity is AFLCMC/EBSK, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Austal USA: Austal USA LLC., Mobile, Ala., was awarded a $19.9 million modification to previously awarded contract to exercise options for class service efforts and special studies, analyses and reviews for the Littoral Combat Ship program. Most of the4 work will be done in Mobile. (Post)

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