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'Project Titan' Entering Next Phase

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Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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With one plant in operation, ST Engineering is moving ahead with “Project Titan” -- developing the rest of their site adjacent to Pensacola International Airport.

“Today, I’m proud to announce the project launch of the next phase of Titan, which is the design, development and construction of the rest of the MRO aviation campus that will result in nearly 1,300 new, high-paying jobs” said Mayor Grover Robinson at a recent weekly news conference.  

He says a significant amount of effort has been ongoing to reach this point – including getting all of the funding ducks in a row.

The $210 million total includes:

  • Triumph, $66 million
  • ST Engineering $35 million,
  • Pensacola and Escambia County, $35 million,
  • U.S. Economic Development Administration, $25.25 million,
  • Florida Dept. of Transportation $45 million,
  • Governor’s Job Growth Fund $14 million,
  • A legislative grant $3 million

Plans are to build three more hangars and expand ST’s maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, after what the mayor calls some “key milestones” that were met.
“Project development and agreement going before the council in January, and the master lease agreement was signed between ST and the city,” Robinson said. “Escrow agreement signed between the city and ST and the funds have been deposited. The detail basis of the design has been completed; the east side development which is Hangar-2 and the west side, of course, will be Hangars 3-4, a warehouse, support center and administrative building.”

The City Council is expected to vote next month on contracts with Brasfield and Gorrie and Greenhut Construction Company to manage the project; the Atkins and Bullock-Tice Associates architectural firm, and Mott McDonald as administrator.

Joining the mayor for the update was Bill Hafner with ST Engineering.

“I’ve now been reassigned as chief integration officer; so my entire focus now is entirely on Project Titan to see this project through to its completion,” he said.

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Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
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Bill Hafner, Chief Integration Officer, ST Engineering, speaks to the media as Mayor Grover Robinson looks on.

Hafner used Boeing and Airbus as examples of the growth in the airline industry, both today and in the near future.

“The additional routes and globalization, both Airbus and Boeing predict a 5% annual expansion in revenue passenger kilometers,” Hafner said. “So miles flown are increasing, and that’s expected to remain over the next 20 years, as the projection.”

That’s expected to trickle down to the MRO market, including ST Engineering. Strong air travel demands and delays in deliveries of new aircraft are combining to force carriers to defer the retirement of current planes and equipment.

“In fact, many of our customers are bringing equipment out of retirement; they’re taking things out of mothballs and putting them back into service because the manufacturers simply cannot get new equipment out there fast enough,” Hafner said. “Good news for the MRO industry because those airplanes require maintenance.”

The bottom line, says Hafner, is that because ST Engineering is global, the brick and mortar going up in Pensacola is needed to take advantage of the opportunities in the MRO field, followed closely by what’s projected to be a 1,700-member workforce – many of whom will be trained locally at George Stone Technical School and local high schools. And there’s more to ST than maintenance jobs.

“Maintenance is obviously our core business and that’s where most of the jobs will be – that’s what we do,” said Hafner. “But there’s also many other opportunities here; materials work, procurement, planning, finance, human resources, training, facilities and many other jobs. So if you’re not core maintenance, there’s still many other opportunities at this facility for folks of different disciplines.”

Once all four hangars are up and running, Mayor Grover Robinson says that could usher in similar operations and corporate partners.

“I think with one hangar, we don’t have enough to move anybody; but I think if we get four hangars and a whole training school, who knows?” said Robinson. “We may see more opportunities for other aviation to come here because of the critical mass that we’re beginning to build.”

With the growth in the industry and the competitive market place, ST’s Bill Hafner says they want to train roughly twice as many workers as they need because of attrition. Many Pensacolians likely will get trained here, but then move on to jobs elsewhere. But he adds those who train and work here can find a successful career close to home.