Here are some of this week’s top business stories from across the state:
The wait is almost over.
“Since July 2012, Airbus and the city of Mobile have been anticipating the day when aircraft production would begin Mobile. The vision was there. With the arrival of these assemblies, and this special first convoy, we hope everyone can see that without doubt that the vision has become reality,” said Ulrich Weber-vice president for the Mobile facility, said.
Excitement became palpable Wednesday when the cargo ship BBC Fuji arrived in the Port of Mobile carrying the assemblies needed to start production at the $600 million complex, known now as the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility.
The assemblies left Hamburg, Germany, on May 29 bound for the Port City and the aircraft manufacturer’s first assembly line on U.S. soil.
The components – which include wings; horizontal and vertical stabilizers; the rear fuselage, including the tail cone; and the forward fuselage, including the cockpit – will be escorted today the final four-mile trek of their journey to the aeroplex via a Mardi Gras-style parade.
A closed welcome ceremony is slated for the terminal on Ezra Trice Boulevard on Sunday, but Mobile’s Excelsior Band will then lead a parade – complete with float but no throws – as the components make their way to the aeroplex to await assembly.
Beginning around 2:20 p.m., the parade will travel down Baker and Baker Street Extension, turn left on Broad Street, right onto 15th Street and right onto Broad Street before proceeding down Aerospace Drive/Airbus Way to the Airbus manufacturing facility. The procession is expected to take about 30 to 45 minutes with the parade route along Broad and 15th streets closing to traffic at 2:15 p.m. and reopening once the fanfare has passed.
The public, which can access Mobile Aeroplex via Michigan Avenue, will be directed to available and specified parking and can view the convoy on either Broad or 15th streets. For safety reasons, however, there will be no public viewing – or parking – along Baker Street, Baker Street Extension, Aerospace Drive or Airbus Way.
DHL is Airbus’ chosen logistics company for transporting the components and is responsible for coordinating with local police for traffic control and security for all of the convoys.
“Understanding customer needs along with paying close attention to health and safety requirements are key components to any move that DHL’s Industrial Projects team manages,” Peer-Wulf Herrmann, head of DHL global forwarding industrial projects in Germany, said in a prepared statement.
“We worked with Airbus on a multimodal transport concept which gave us the flexibility to deliver the aircraft components with the speed and precision that Airbus requires,” Herrmann said.
Airbus Americas spokeswoman Kristi Tucker confirmed that to date the company has hired a total of 225 employees for the U.S. Manufacturing Facility, 160 of which are on site while the remainder are in training with Airbus in Europe.
Of the new hires, 56 percent hail from Mobile and Baldwin counties while another 30 percent are from other parts of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Thirty-percent of the hires are U.S. military veterans, and hiring is ongoing, she said.
Airbus will officially open the U.S. Manufacturing Facility in September with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting event. Meanwhile, construction on some of the buildings on the campus will continue through close of 2015.
Birmingham Business Journal: UAB Research Foundation ranked for number of U.S. patents
The University of Alabama at Birmingham was the only Alabama school to make the list of the top 100 universities for the number of U.S. utility patents granted in 2014.
The UAB Research Foundation ranked 91st on the list released Wednesday by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association.
UAB made its way on the list with 24 patents.
Other regional colleges that made the list included Georgia Tech (25th), Emory University (58), University of Arkansas (65) and the University of Georgia (73).
Birmingham Business Journal: Airbus denies choosing Birmingham as host city for supplier conference
Less than a week after Mayor William Bell said Birmingham would host a conference for Airbus suppliers in the fall, Airbus has denied having any official role in the event.
Representatives of the aircraft manufacturer said they met with members of the Birmingham delegation, but that no supplier conference had been agreed to, or planned by the company in the Magic City, according to a report from AL.com.
April Odom, Bell’s public information officer, told AL.com that the city’s leadership is “deeply appreciative to the Airbus officials for taking time to share with us their thoughts and look(s) forward to further dialogue.”
Bell made the announcement on Tuesday that the city was selected to host a conference for Airbus, which was viewed as the city’s first accomplishment by Birmingham officials attending the Paris Air Show.
Airbus is currently building an aircraft plant in Mobile – a project expected to attract a number of additional aerospace companies to the state.
City leaders are hopeful a supplier conference would help it market the 1.2 million-square-foot former Kaiser Aircraft facility at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
Montgomery Advertiser: Small business optimism up in Alabama, nation
The National Federation of Independent Business reported this week that its monthly gauge of small business optimism rose by 1.4 points on the strength of bigger profits. Still, the group described the increased rate as “normal” and economic growth as “subpar.”
“It appears that the small business sector has finally attained a normal level of activity, which will hopefully keep the economy moving forward, even at a subpar pace,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said. “That being said, improved profit trends accounted for over half the Index gain, a rather unusual but welcomed development. This was supported by positive sales trends and continued, although rising, fuel prices.”
State-specific data isn’t available, but NFIB/Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash said small-business owners here share the sense of cautious optimism.
“The economy hasn’t recovered as quickly as everyone had hoped, but there’s a sense that things are finally starting to look up,” Elebash said.
May’s small business optimism is the best reading since the December 100.4 high. At 98.3, it is in line with the historical average of 98, but still a few points below the pre-recession average.
Boeing is celebrating the completion of its research and technology center using some of the high tech tools in the recently completed Redstone Gateway facility.
“The place we’re at is called CASA, The Center for Applied Simulation and Analytics,” says Boeing Research & Technology-Alabama (BR&T-Alabama) leader Steve Swaine, who led a “virtual ribbon cutting” on a massive video wall.
CASA is the final addition to the combined 80,000 square feet of laboratories and offices throughout both of Boeing’s Huntsville facilities. Company leaders say this operation will serve as the company’s Southeast United States hub for collaborative technology development in analytics and simulation. 50 of the more than 200 employees at BR&T-Alabama will work at CASA, providing the digital building blocks for Boeing’s future product line through technology development.
“We can see how they’re going to operate and define those products better before we start to build them,” says Swaine, who expects the new facility to be a mainstay for the company and Huntsville, “The next 100 years of innovation starts here. We’ve brought together a team made up of the best and brightest in data analytics, advanced engineering and many other disciplines to help Boeing create, develop, produce and support the best aerospace products in the world.”
Swaine says even though many have already begun working at CASA, Boeing is looking to hire several more Huntsville workers to complete the team. ‘