Why Airbus chose Alabama for A320 assembly line

An Airbus A320 in manufacturer livery.
Source: Airbus
An Airbus A320 in manufacturer livery.

On July 2, 2012, Airbus, one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, announced that it would build an aircraft assembly line on Brookley AeroPlex in Mobile, Ala., which will employ 1,000 people at full production. The decision to construct a plant in this country represents the most significant, game-changing event in U.S. aerospace in decades and is a positive step-change in the longstanding relationship between Airbus and U.S. industry.

I use the word "relationship" intentionally.

Our industry is built on relationships. Airplanes are not impulse buys, with their multimillion-dollar price tags. Sure, Airbus makes great, high-quality, technologically advanced products. But what is just as important to carriers is that we build longstanding, trustworthy relationships. Our airline partners know us well and therefore know that we'll be here to support them throughout the many years that they will operate the aircraft they purchase.

(Read More: Top states for business: Did yours make the cut?)

It's the same with our relationships with the people of Alabama. When our team first started looking for an industrial base to manufacture a refueling tanker for the U.S. Air Force, hundreds of cities stepped forward. After an exhaustive evaluation process, Mobile emerged as the obvious choice.

Sure, it met our technical requirements. But so did others. A differentiator for Alabama was the unity and supportive purpose shown by every entity in the state supporting Mobile. City, state and federal representatives (Republicans and Democrats alike) came together with one goal: Show the Airbus team that Alabama would be its partner for the long term.

They spoke with one voice, which impressed our selection committees. And when the U.S. tanker project was lost, instead of hanging their heads and walking away, they said, "What else could we do?" It was indicative of the good relationship Airbus has with Mobile and Alabama—instead of giving up, we found another way to make it work. As a result, Alabama got an even better, larger-impact project.

Source: Airbus

Infrastructure was another key factor: The site was perfect, with an airport and ocean port, and adequate land at Brookley Aeroplex. Workforce was also vital. We were encouraged by the auto industry's success in Alabama because its manufacturing aspect is a trained skill similar to that of aircraft assembly.

(Read more: America's Cheapest States to Live In)

The endeavor to bring Airbus to Alabama is a shining example of what can happen when people work together. Relationships can be formed that help a company realize it could do business there for a very long time. In short, we knew what we needed, and Mobile and Alabama are the ones who convinced us they would stand with us.

Construction has begun in Mobile, and the facility will begin production in 2015. The state already has so much to offer our current and future employees, and as Airbus grows, and more companies and people move in to support the assembly line, those offerings will grow. I look forward to working together with the people of Alabama to build a great future for all.

—By Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas