GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Air Force's KC-45 tanker project has been up in the air for years now. In 2008, EADS North America's Mobile facility and Northrop Grumman won the contract which was protested and eventually sent back to be rebid.
Mississippi leaders are optimistic the contract will land in Alabama again.
"So I'm hoping we'll win it again," said Sen. Roger Wicker. "The tanker project that we have is a good one. It's the best product for national security and for our troops, so I hope that it is part of a new renewed aerospace corridor down here."
EADS North America also owns American Eurocopter Corporation which has been building helicopters in Columbus, MS, since 2003. The Columbus plant manager told Gulf leaders that letting the federal government know they support building the tankers at Mobile plant benefits them all.
Senior Director Earl Walker said, "The impact I think would be very terrific for this area and all the coastal regions. Not only for Alabama but for Mississippi and Florida included. The go-to team did a good job in making sure that information is out and communicated."
With billions of dollars at stake, a coalition called 'Ready 4 Takeoff' says now is time for congressional delegations from Gulf states to pull together to get the tanker contract.
Congressman-elect Steven Palazzo said he's ready to join the movement.
"It would be tremendous for South Mississippi, Mobile County, the Gulf State Region," Palazzo said. "Four states all benefit because there'll be tens of thousands of jobs, and we'll all share in those jobs. Quite honestly, we need those jobs here close to Mississippi so we can keep our workforce employed."
Wicker and Palazzo pointed out that many Mississippi residents work in Alabama and other neighboring states and vice-versa. They say the more people employed, the better off Gulf states will be.
The Mississippi Development Authority says another multi-state coalition called the Aerospace Alliance is also lobbying for the Air Force to choose the Mobile site to build its tankers.