By PHILLIP RAWLS
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Gov. Robert Bentley said Alabama will be among the states submitting a proposal next week to build Boeing's new 777X aircraft, and the proposal will stress more than just the money the state is offering.
"We are a right-to-work state and that is vitally important," Bentley told a county commissioners' convention Wednesday in Birmingham.
Alabama is one of more than a dozen states that received invitations from Boeing to bid on the production of the 777X commercial airplane after Boeing's machinist union members in Washington state rejected a proposed contract that sought concessions on pensions and health care costs.
Boeing officials visited Birmingham two weeks ago to talk with Bentley, other state officials and officials from the Huntsville area, which is seeking the plant. Bentley said Boeing officials told him that Alabama was their first state to visit. They discussed the Airbus assembly plant being built in Mobile, and Bentley said he told Boeing officials that they will remain competitors with Airbus no matter where the 777X plant is located.
Bentley said he will sit down with the state's chief industrial recruiter, Greg Canfield, on Thursday to work on the offer to Boeing, which is due Dec. 10.
The Republican governor declined to compare the state's Boeing offer with the package used in 2012 to lure the $600 million Airbus plant and its anticipated 1,000 jobs. For that project, state and local governments offered $158 million for bond expenses, site preparation, road improvements, building expenses, worker training and other start-up costs. They also provided tax breaks on sales, use, income and property taxes.
When Alabama's offer is finished, Bentley said it will stress that Boeing already has land at the Huntsville airport that could accommodate the new plant. He also noted that Boeing has been a major employer in the Huntsville area for more than 50 years with more than 2,000 employees, Alabama has an abundance of skilled aerospace workers in that area, many large employers in Alabama are not unionized, and Alabama workers can't be required to join a union.
"I think they will look at things other than money," he told reporters after his speech.
Other states are busy preparing their offers. On Wednesday, Missouri senators passed legislation offering up to $1.7 billion of incentives over two decades. The plan still must pass the House.
Alabama law gives the governor more leeway to develop offers for new industries and sets aside money to be used for offers.
Bentley was elected on a jobs creation platform in 2010, and he's seeking re-election next year on the same platform. Landing the Boeing plant could help his bid for a second term.
"Creating jobs is the most important thing that we can do," he said.