Oklahoma to seek Airbus plant

Saturday, January 22nd 2005, 12:13 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Oklahoma officials plan to enter the competition to lure an assembly plant to refurbish military tanker aircraft from the European parent company of Airbus, The Oklahoman reported Saturday.

The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. opened bidding for a 1.5 million square-foot assembly plant and research center to all 50 states. The $600 million plant is expected to employ 1,150, while the research center will have up to 200 employees.

EADS' North American unit will compete against Chicago's Boeing Co. for a Pentagon deal to refurbish military tankers. If EADS wins the contract, it plans to modify European-built Airbus planes for the Air Force at its new plant.

The company said it will build its engineering center despite whether it wins the Air Force tanker contract.

EADS plans to make visits and conduct negotiations for the site before the end of the year.

Many of the company's requirements for the plant are similar to what Boeing requested for its 7E7 Dreamliner aircraft assembly, which went to Washington state after a yearlong search in 2003. Tulsa was one of several runners-up.

Officials at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce confirmed the state's interest in the EADS bid but didn't provide details.

``We're going to be responsibly secretive for competitive reasons,'' said Meloyde Blancett-Scott, deputy director of marketing and communication.

EADS wants no more than three possible sites from each state. The Tulsa area has much of the infrastructure needed for an aerospace assembly plant and has a long history with overhaul work from the American Airlines maintenance center. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, can draw upon the resources and military-related work force at Tinker Air Force Base.

Jay Clemens, president and chief executive of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, said he was aware of the bid but had no comment. Officials at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce also had no comment.

EADS specified several requirements in its bid information packet. Chief among those was a deep-water port and access to higher education institutions with aeronautical and mechanical- and electrical-engineering programs. The runway must be at least 9,000 feet long.