Aerospace Corridor Proposed to Market Michoud, Stennis

Louisiana Sen. David Vitter has proposed creating the Stennis-Michoud Aerospace Economic Corridor in order to market and promote the two NASA facilities. Vitter and other officials hope to attract hundreds of jobs by luring aerospace companies to the region.

Michoud, where the space shuttle’s external tank was built, has been hit especially hard by the end of the program. It boasts excellent facilities for manufacturing, while the Stennis center can test any type of rocket or commercial aircraft engine. The complementary capabilities makes it attractive to jointly market the two centers, officials say.

“Today GE Aviation is one of three of the largest manufactures of engines for jets and all sorts of aircraft. They are in a growth mode. They’ve got a $5 billion backlog, and so they are growing and looking for new opportunities to have facilities to expand their operations,” said Congressman Steven Palazzo. “It’s a natural fit to pull together and build off of each other’s synergies.”

The Louisiana and Mississippi state development authorities are drawing up a plan to create the corridor. Once it is complete, the plan will be sent to Governors Haley Barbour and Bobby Jindal for approval.

Meanwhile, another group is working to improve the aerospace sector across a broader swath of the Southeast. The Aerospace Alliance, a non-profit organization that represents Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and northwestern Florida, will be holding its annual two-day conference in Sandestin, Fla. next month. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey will be among the speakers.

The group, composed of business leaders, economic development experts and government officials, will discuss plans and plot strategy for expanding the world’s fourth largest aerospace manufacturing corridor. In addition to the two NASA centers, the region includes many manufacturing operations and military installations.

According to the group’s website, the Alliance’s goal is “to establish the Southeast region as a world-class aerospace and aviation corridor. The Alliance’s members share the common goal of promoting the region’s common assets and long-standing tradition of excellence in the aerospace industry to take advantage of opportunities to grow the sector in the region. Members will advocate for policies, programs and specific aerospace projects on the local, state and national level…Other priorities will include the growth of the space initiatives in the Alliance, driven by those companies and states involved in the nation’s space program.”