By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Airbus will build its first U.S. factory in Mobile, Ala., the company announced on Monday, in a move that aims to help Airbus compete with Boeing on its home turf. Aircraft in the A320 family will be assembled and delivered from the facility. "The time is right for Airbus to expand in America," said CEO Fabrice Bregier. The U.S. is expected to need 4,600 airplanes similar to the A320 in the next 20 years, he said. The $600 million plant is scheduled to open in 2016 and will create about 1,000 jobs. Boeing spokesman Thomas Brabant said those jobs "pale in comparison to the thousands of U.S. jobs destroyed by illegal subsidies." Airbus and Boeing both have complained to the World Trade Organization that their rival receives illegal government support.
The new plant is expected to produce about one airplane per week once it is up and running. The project is a consolation prize of sorts for Mobile, which would have been the epicenter of Airbus's ultimately failed bid for a $35 billion contract to replace the U.S. Air Force's fleet of in-flight refueling aircraft. Airbus already operates an engineering center in Mobile, as well as other facilities in Kansas, Virginia, Florida, and Washington, D.C., providing a total of about 1,000 U.S. jobs.