The French-based company said the Alabama plant is expected to cost $600 million to build and will employ 1,000 people when it reaches full production, likely to be four planes a month by 2017.
“We are going to create great jobs and generate growth right here,” Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said at the convention center in Mobile, where many of the 2,000 people in attendance waved American flags as music played in the background.
“We know in aerospace, when we create one job, there are about four related jobs so we could bring as many as 5,000,” Bregier said at a later news conference. “The management to the blue collars will be 100 percent American.”
Boeing already has a big presence in Alabama, employing 2,700 people in defense and rocket operations.
Airbus planned to build refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force in Alabama, but its parent company, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., lost the contract to Boeing in 2011.
While Airbus has had parts plants in the U.S. before, a full-fledged plane-making factory is a more significant presence and could help it boost its share of U.S. commercial and defense contracts.
The Airbus plant advances the company’s strategy of expanding production outside its home base. The company, jointly run by French and German management and with plants in several European countries, wants to expand in China and India as well as the United States.
The Alabama plant is also a way for Airbus to save face after losing the Pentagon tanker contract.