Flying Contender

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The Defense and Space Company, which includes the aircraft manufacturer for Airbus, is looking for a U.S. site for an assembly plant.

The plant would make a new airbus long-range aircraft for in-flight refueling for the Pentagon.

Randy Curtis, the executive director of the Bay County International Airport, says some of the key influences on the decision will be location to a port and obviously an airport.

"The key factors with the existing airport, we would never be able to be considered for a project of this magnitude."

Ted Clem with the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, a partner with the Chamber of Commerce, says this is one of the reasons they first supported relocating the airport to the West Bay area since the plant could employ up to 1,100 workers.

"It's our first real opportunity to compete for a project with our proposed new airport site, so that's exciting. We always envisioned it would be a great economic development strategy and tool for us to have."

Jimmy Patronis is on the Airport Authority that made the decision to move the airport. He says it's hard to argue with relocation when the jobs are there.

"The airport is really key to being able to attract high level jobs, and at the end of the day if we can offer jobs that give people better quality of life, better benefits, better wage providing for their families, I feel like we're doing our job."

The search stretches across the U.S. but Bay County is among six cities in Florida competing. The state list will be narrowed to three locations by March 1.

Airbus officials will start preliminary work on the new U.S. plant in 2006 after choosing the location before the end of this year. They plan to have the facility up and running by 2009, with an estimate to employ up to 1,100 workers.

Local officials want the new airport to open by 2008.