Gov. Robert Bentley is leading an Alabama delegation of economic development leaders to the Farnborough International Airshow near London next week for meetings aimed at fueling growth in the state’s aerospace sector.

Bentley and a small team from the Alabama Department of Commerce will join recruiters and government leaders at the industry’s premier trade event, which attracts high-level executives from aerospace companies around the world.

“The aerospace industry continues to grow in Alabama because of the relationships we have built over many years, so it’s vital that we renew and strengthen those ties,” Bentley said. “The Farnborough Airshow is a perfect opportunity for us to meet with company leaders and encourage them to choose Alabama.

“My goal for this mission is to build on the foundation we have in place for additional job creation in the aerospace sector across the state,” he added.

Farnborough meetings

Beginning Monday, July 11, Bentley, working closely with Commerce’s business development team, will meet with aviation and aerospace company representatives over three days. The companies include Boeing, Airbus and U.K.-based GKN Aerospace, which operates a large manufacturing facility and technical research center in Tallassee.

Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said his team will use the talks to showcase Alabama’s advantages and capabilities in aerospace, while positioning the state as a prime location for investment and jobs.

“The Farnborough International Airshow gives us access to a long list of senior-level aerospace executives at one location,” Canfield said. “These are the industry’s decision-makers, and we will engage with them to make a business case from their companies to build or expand in Alabama.”

The Commerce team at Farnborough will include Ted Clem, director of business recruitment and expansion, and Bob Smith, assistant director.

Alabama’s aerospace industry is expected to experience a sustained growth phase as Airbus ramps up production at its $600 million aircraft assembly facility in Mobile. Airbus delivered its first Alabama-built A321 passenger jet to JetBlue in April and its fourth aircraft to American Airlines in June.

Accelerating growth

Thanks to a rich history in aerospace activities, Alabama is home to a long list of major aviation and aerospace companies, with Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, GE Aviation and UTC Aerospace Systems joining Airbus. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker are all in Alabama.

Since 2011 when Bentley took office, Alabama has recorded more than $1.4 billion in capital investment stemming from aerospace and defense projects, according to Department of Commerce data. The projects involved 6,000 new jobs.

The growth in Alabama’s aerospace sector has continued in the buildup to the Farnborough Airshow. Days ago, Aerojet Rocketdyne announced plans to base the headquarters of its newly formed Defense Business Unit in Huntsville, initially creating 40 jobs.

Earlier this year, UTC Aerospace Systems announced a $30 million expansion of its manufacturing facility in Baldwin County that will position it to assemble engine nacelles and deliver integrated jet engine systems to the Airbus aircraft factory in Mobile. The project will add 260 jobs.