Aviation Analyst: Bay County Good Shot for Airbus

By: Courtney Hayes
By: Courtney Hayes

The European aircraft manufacturer Airbus wants a U.S. military bid so bad they're already looking for sites to build a $600 million aerial refueling tanker factory. It would open in 2010 and could employ 1,100 workers.

Dozens of cities in more than 30 states are vying to house the factory, including Panama City.

Aviation analyst Derryl Jenkins says any port city on the Gulf Coast has a great chance of landing the bid.

"The East Coast is too developed. The West Coast is too far away. That leaves the Gulf Coast being the best bet," says Jenkins.

The winning site must meet a number of criteria, including a 9,000 foot runway, access to a deepwater seaport and an affordable way to transport oversize airplane components.

Jenkins says Bay County provides the most flexibility in transportation because Port Panama City is only a short barge trip away.

Politics will also play a role. Jenkins says Florida's governor and St. Joe Company's financial impact in the project will help Bay County's chances.

"St. Joe Company has money and stature in Bay County, and Florida is nice because the governor's brother is the president," says Jenkins.

Jenkins says Panama City's biggest obstacle is securing approval from the FAA to build a West Bay airport, but he says our area provides the most flexibility for Airbus to start from scratch.

Jenkins also highlights two other Gulf Coast port cities, Mobile and New Orleans. He says Mobile, Alabama meets all the criteria and would be his best pick right now.


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