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Ground Is Broken On Pensacola Aerospace Facility

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Two years after the initial announcement, and four months after the original start of production, ground was broken Friday on an aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul facility at Pensacola International Airport.

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward served as master of ceremonies, to announce plans for a 173,000 square foot hangar on 19 acres adjacent to the airport – making the city part of the aerospace landscape.

“What we’re celebrating today is not only the start of construction on a hangar that will be a place where 400 people will go to work,” said the Mayor. “We’re also celebrating the establishment of a new industry right here in Pensacola.”

Those 400 jobs are expected to pay between $30,000 and $58,000 per year. The project’s $46 million price tag is being covered by a combination of funds from the City of Pensacola; Escambia County, and the Florida Department of Transportation. Sec. Jim Boxold said his agency is providing roughly half of the cost – about $24 million.

Funding also comes from the company itself. VT MAE has operated out of Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex since 1991.

Skilled personnel – including technicians, inspectors, and mechanics -- will be hired to work on jetliners such as the Boeing 777 and 757, and Airbus A-320. Local educational institutions, such as Pensacola State College, George Stone Technical Center, and the University of West Florida – have been working with VT MAE to develop training programs.

“[We’ll] sit down with you and say, ‘What kind of a pipeline do you want?’” said Bense. “What kind of engineers do you want; what kind of specializations, if any, do you want? How do we modify our programs to give you the best possible graduate to grow your company?”

“We’re on a roll; we’ve added now one million, 222,500 jobs in five years and nine months,” said Gov. Rick Scott, the main speaker for the event. He told the crowd that what they were doing to set up VT MAE in Pensacola is also going on around the state. He then added a bit of politicking.

“We’re recruiting great companies, because we have the right workforce, [and] we’ve elected the right people,” said Scott. “If we don’t elect the right people, put the right people in the right positions, this will end.”

The real work on the project already is underway, with a scheduled completion date sometime in the spring of 2018. According to a 2014 study by the Haas Business Center at UWF, the VT-MAE facility is expected to pump about $61 million annually into the local economy. 

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.