As construction rolls on at the VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering aviation plant in Pensacola, company officials and local leaders provided an update on the project on Friday at Pensacola State College.
Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward was the M.C. at groundbreaking ceremonies near Pensacola International Airport one year ago.
“Today marks an important milestone for a project that we first started talking about close to five years ago,” Hayward said at the groundbreaking. On Friday at PSC, he spoke of the plant’s role in helping create and bolster a business environment.
“Where businesses want to move to Pensacola and northwest Florida,” said the Mayor. And give our citizens opportunities to get trained up to be in the aviation industry. It’s just a huge win for Pensacola and our region.”
VTMAE’s 173,000 sq. ft., $46 million plant is scheduled to go online next March, according to Bill Hafner, VTMAE President.
“Things are going pretty well; we’re pretty much on target,” Hafner said. “Looks like we’re going to meet our objective of March 20, which is our substantial completion date; followed shortly thereafter by issue of a Certificate of Occupancy. We’re anticipating operations to commence in early May, our first actual maintenance operations.”
Between those dates, there will be equipment purchase and installation; moving in tools from Mobile, and getting materials in place. Hafner adds that except for site manager, who will transfer from Mobile, they’re looking to fill almost every other job.
“Aircraft mechanics; avionics technicians, structural mechanics, interior mechanics,” said Hafner. “We’re looking for stores people, dock control and planning people; everything it takes to run the facility. There are opportunities in all areas.”
Company recruiters were on hand to speak with the audience of prospective employees. Four hundred new jobs are expected to be created, 150 at startup, with an average salary of $41,000 per year.
“Pensacola is growing in a big way, and now we’re growing in that big reach into the aerospace industry,” said Mayor Ashton Hayward. “That was one of my goals when I got into office and now we’re seeing the fruits of that happening right here at Pensacola International Airport.”
When up and running, the plant will be able to accommodate – at one time -- either two Boeing 777 aircraft; four Boeing 757s, or six Airbus A-320s. VTMAE’s Bill Hafner applauds the work of the George Stone Technical center and others in developing the workforce.
“That was one of the deciding factors,” said Hafner. “We shopped all around the Tri-State area for expansion. We’re somewhat landlocked in Mobile; there’s a lot of other activity at that airport. We wanted to find something within a reasonable distance; Pensacola was very attractive. But it was the amount of interest by the community, and especially the educational systems.”
Pensacola State, George Stone, Booker T. Washington High School and other local agencies are working with VTMAE to implement training programs to create a sustainable workforce.
“We’ve been working with George Stone for two or three years now, helping them develop that program,” said Hafner. “Recently we announced what I’ll call a ‘formal relationship’ with them. We’ll work with them in the future to help career-path those students. We’re going to provide materials, mentorship and teaching opportunities when they exist.”
Three job fairs have been scheduled by VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering. The first two are at PSC next Friday, November 3 and November 9 from nine a.m. to one p.m. The third job fair is at CareerSource Okaloosa Walton in Freeport.
More information is available at http://vtmae.com/pensacola.