TUSKEGEE, AL (WSFA) - Anticipation is mounting in Macon County as they wait on a decision from the United States Air Force that could bring hundreds of new jobs to the area.
On March 30, 2017 Leonardo-DRS, a global aerospace and defense firm, announced they had placed a bid with the U.S. Air Force to assemble an advanced trainer aircraft at Tuskegee's historic Moton Field.
The possibility of Tuskegee landing the T-100 project is still up in the air. With the competition still ongoing, city and county leaders are not leaving the final decision to chance.
"We are leaving it all on the runway. We have really left our blood, sweat and tears out here," said Joe Turnham, Director of the Macon Co. Economic Development Authority. "We have touched every base. We continue to get resolutions of support. We have supported the company. We are doing the technical things we need to do."
According to Turnham a number of evaluations have already been completed and they are expecting a final decision to be handed down between now and July.
If the firm wins the bid, the advanced assembly center would create 750 high-wage, full-time jobs over a 10-year ramp-up period. The project would begin in 2019 and its total investment in the T-100 project's buildings, infrastructure and equipment would exceed $200 million to $250 million.
"It is generationally groundbreaking. The number we have is $303 million in of gross domestic product just in Macon County. When you look at the ripple effect in the I-85 corridor it is millions more," said Turnham.
Mayor Tony Haygood says he has traveled from Washington D.C. to Italy over the past year raising support for the T-100 project. He has also seen how the community has come together around the efforts.
"It caused us to wake up to what we can do and what our potential is. We feel positive about this. We know what this means. We are getting excited. It is causing everyone to step up their game so to speak," said Mayor Tony Haygood.
Turnham and Haygood both say the plan right now is to continue working towards the win.
To establish the operation, the firm will lease a new facility to be built at Moton Airfield by a public-private partnership formed in Macon County. The workforce would perform structural assembly, integration, final assembly and conduct research and testing at the site. Officials say aircraft deliveries would also take place there.
Leonardo's twin-engine T-100 is currently being used to train pilots around the world to fly next-generation fighter aircraft. The trainer, based on the company's proven M-346 aircraft, has been selected for this role by Italy, Israel, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Poland.