Gulf Coast Aerospace Coalition, Monday Report

Northwest Florida business, community and political leaders kicked off a two-day forum with German aerospace companies in Hamburg on Monday, hoping to develop long-term relationships that could translate into thousands of new jobs for the region over the next decade.

Five Florida counties (Bay, Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Escambia) closest to the new Airbus plant under construction in Mobile have formed the Gulf Coast Aerospace Coalition to promote Northwest Florida’s strategic location for aerospace providers. (The Airbus facility is expected to begin production in 2015.) Representatives from the counties are in Hamburg this week to meet with Airbus officials and leaders of other aerospace giants, including Lufthansa Technik, an aircraft manufacturing and repair company.

On Monday, the group — which includes representatives from the University of West Florida and Florida State University-Panama City — acknowledged the importance of revamping education programs to have workers ready for aerospace-related jobs that could materialize within five years. They also will be returning home with a recognition that Northwest Florida needs to find a way to market itself to companies expected to move somewhere in the Southeastern U.S. to service not only Airbus, but also Boeing in Charleston, S.C.; Gulfstream in Savannah, Ga.; and Embraer in Melbourne and Jacksonville.

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