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UTC Aerospace Systems announced plans today to expand its Baldwin County, Ala. aerostructures plant with a new $30 million facility that will supply integrated jet engines to the Airbus A320-family assembly line at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex, creating 260 jobs.

At a groundbreaking ceremony held today at its Foley site, UTC revealed plans to construct a 80,000-square-foot building to house assembly of nacelle components — the aerodynamic coverings around engines — and propulsion system integration.

The primary mission of the new facility, UTC says, will be to support the production of A320-family aircraft in Alabama by Airbus. Initially, the focus will be on the conventional engines for the Airbus passenger jets, though it eventually will include the new engine option, or “neo.”

“This expansion is a great opportunity to expand our ability to apply our innovative nacelle technology to one of the world’s most popular airplanes,” said Marc Duvall, president of UTC Aerospace Systems’ Aerostructures business. “We chose Foley to expand because of its proven track record of performance, our desire to be near a key customer, and the tremendous cooperation we’ve had from the state, county and the city.”

Charlotte-based UTC said the Foley facility is a leader in the company’s drive to operate the most efficient factories in the industry through continuous improvement principles. UTC operates two facilities in Foley: a 220,000-square foot original equipment plant employing 600 people, and an adjacent 210,000-square foot maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) center employing 200 people.

Construction of the new facility will take about a year, officials said, with completion slated for the second quarter of 2017.

Airbus' U.S. manufacturing facility at Mobile's Brookley Aeroplex. (Airbus/Special to The Pulse)

Airbus’ U.S. manufacturing facility at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex. (Airbus/Special to The Pulse)

UTC Aerospace Systems has provided nacelle technology for the Airbus A320 Family of aircraft for more than three decades. Airbus says the A320 Family is the world’s best-selling single-aisle product line with over 12,400 orders and around 6,700 aircraft delivered to some 300 customers worldwide. “We have more experience than anyone in integrating the nacelle system to the engine and the airplane,” Duvall said.

In a statement, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley praised the company for its investment in Baldwin County and for the confidence shown in its Alabama workforce.

“The UTC Aerospace Systems facility in Foley is one of the company’s most innovative and productive operations, and I welcome this significant expansion, which will add new capabilities and expand its Alabama workforce,” said Bentley. “Creating new jobs remains my top priority, especially in the aerospace industry, which we identified as strategic in our Accelerate Alabama growth plan.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Alabama is well positioned for new aerospace and aviation projects as Airbus increases output at its new $600 million production center in Mobile. The company delivered its first Alabama-made jet — an A321 christened “BluesMobile” — to U.S. airline JetBlue last week. Production will increase to a rate of four to five aircraft per month by 2017.

“UTC’s expansion project is more evidence that Alabama is primed for aerospace growth as Airbus ramps up production in Mobile,” said Canfield. “By adding new capabilities at its Baldwin County facility, UTC is solidifying its position as a pillar in an expanding aerospace corridor.”

Baldwin County officials said “Project Turbine,” as the UTC expansion was codenamed, will serve to put their area firmly on the aerospace radar screen. “UTC’s decision to add 260 new jobs in Foley shows that we are a premier location for aerospace investment and innovation, as well as an ideal place to grow a world-class business,” said Lee Lawson, president and CEO of the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance.

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