Local Leaders Stay Optimistic After Losing EADS Bid

Hancock County will not be the home for an international company's first plant in the United States. Instead, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company announced Wednesday it will build its $600 million manufacturing facility at Brookly Field in Mobile.

It's a project that could create up to 1,000 new jobs, if the company wins a contract from the Air Force to build KC-330 refueling tanker aircrafts.

Hancock County's Stennis International Airport was among the four site finalists for the facility. County leaders say, while they're disappointed, they're optimistic about the future.

Economic development leaders say Stennis International Airport is ready to attract big business.

"I think that sends a clear message to the aerospace and aviation industry that we are now a player in the national and international arena for aircraft manufacturing," Hancock County Port & Harbor Director Hal Walters said.

Walters was among those working to land the EADS plant. He says there were two major factors that gave the edge to Mobile's Brookly Field.

First, it's closer to a deep water port.

"It would mean that it would be more efficient and cost effective to transport component parts to the site via water, and that's definitely an advantage."

Second, Alabama just offered a better financial incentive package.

"They put a very attractive package on the table, which is very difficult to compete with. It's my understanding that the package that the state and the local community has put on the table in Moblie and Alabama is valued somewhere at $528 million, which includes tax breaks."

Mississippi's incentive package was only about $350 million, including tax breaks. Economic leaders say this is a good example of why they want state lawmakers to pass the momentum Mississippi Program in next week's special session.

"It gives the economic developers and the people who bring the business in more tools to use. When you're bringing business in, you sometimes need a couple extra dollars or a couple of extra ingredients to close the deal," Chuck Benvenutti, chairman of Partners For Stennis, said.

And although Hancock County was unsuccessful in its bid, Walters says he's proud of the effort the community, the state and congressional leaders put forth.

EADS leaders say while the facility itself will be located in Mobile, the economic impact will be felt here in Mississippi as well. They expect to draw a significant number of employees from Mississippi and Florida.

In fact, the company is giving both states a $100,000 grant to pay for a new college internship program. The five year program will provide select students the chance to work at the Mobile facility.

Officials say the internships will provide students with valuable, on-site experience for those pursuing careers in aero-space engineering.