Alabama looks to strengthen international business ties

Alabama Governor Bob Riley has embarked on a thirteen-day, three-continent tour to attract new jobs and expand his state’s trade opportunities.

The Governor is traveling with Australian ambassador Dennis Richardson and others in a delegation of Alabama business and government leaders to France, Singapore and Australia from June 12 – 24.

Chief among Alabama’s exports are aviation and aerospace hardware, where some 300 companies have created 140,000 direct and indirect jobs. Other products shipped abroad include Alabama-made vehicles, industrial machinery, electric machinery and plastics.

“During the past few years, Alabama has become a real player in the international economy. Our growth in exports is among the nation’s best. Alabama has reached this level of success because we’ve worked hard to open new markets, attract new investments and build the partnerships that are necessary to expand Alabama’s trade and strengthen our economy,” Governor Riley said in a statement.

Gov. Riley’s first stop will be at the Paris Air Show where he’s scheduled a meeting with executives of eleven aerospace companies, including a Northrop Grumman/EADS briefing on the KC-45 refueling tanker.

Secretary Gates announced Tuesday that the Pentagon could reopen a competition between Boeing and an EADS/Northrop Grumman team to replace the U.S. military’s aging fleet of air refueling aircraft as early as July. If Northrop Grumman is successful in the rebid, the next generation tanker will be built in Mobile. About 100 officials from Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are expected to attend the briefing, the Governor’s office said.

“The jobs in aviation and aerospace are high-paying jobs and this is one of the fastest-growing industry sectors in Alabama,” said Governor Riley. “Alabama must remain aggressive in our recruitment of these jobs.”

Aviation and aerospace will also be the focus when the governor visits Singapore before moving on to Australia – Alabama’s 15th largest export market. In 2008, Alabama has exported $205 million in goods. “The economic relationship between Alabama and Australia has grown tremendously in the past few years. We will work to strengthen these ties because Australia represents a significant growth market for our exports,” the governor said.

As the national and global economic climate remains steeped in recession, more state governors may be looking to expand international ties. As Governor Riley explains, “We’re going to bring more jobs and more business opportunities to our state at a time when our economy really needs it.”

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