City, business collaboration celebrated at Able Engineering facility unveiling at Mesa Gateway - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

City, business collaboration celebrated at Able Engineering facility unveiling at Mesa Gateway

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 7:24 pm | Updated: 2:05 pm, Wed Apr 24, 2013.

The work by East Valley city and business leaders to prepare the area to be attractive to manufacturing growth was credited Wednesday for the move of a significant employer to the Mesa Gateway Airport complex.

At an event at the new 191,000-square-foot facility that, beginning Monday, will house Able Engineering, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said this region is an excellent example for other cities and communities that want to attract manufacturing investment and jobs.

She said the investment in building infrastructure and partnering with higher education for training opportunities are examples of the difference between getting and losing such opportunities.

Able Engineering is moving from its current facility near Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport to the Mesa Gateway Airport facility that was built in partnership with the City of Mesa and the airport.

The new facility will employ 350 people initially and has the capability to double the firm’s workforce by 2015. It was at capacity at its soon-to-be former Phoenix location.

“We are happy that we could help Able stay in Arizona and grow in Arizona,” said Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.

Able repairs, overhauls and manufactures aircraft parts. It serves both fixed wing and helicopter aircraft.

The firm’s new home will be the largest facility at Mesa Gateway Airport; Able also becomes the airport’s largest private employer.

Lee Benson, president, CEO and majority shareholder of Able, told a crowd of employees, local officials and media present Wednesday that the City of Mesa and airport provided the facility, which allowed Able to make significant investment in capital to position it to grow the company.

Benson said the company will have $50 million in sales in 2012 and is expected to grow to 400 employees and $60 million in sales this year.

“We need to have companies like Able,” the mayor said. “Companies like this hire great people who make great neighbors and great communities.”

Blank cited the actions by Mesa and other East Valley cities as an example of the new way that America must conduct business to grow the manufacturing sector.

She said at one time American cities could wait for private investors and companies to build facilities, make capital investment in equipment and train its own people. But she said the global economy has changed that. Competitive pressures from around the world have made it difficult for that model to work.

Now American cities must do much more to be competitive to attract and keep manufacturing jobs, including participating in the investment to attract manufacturing firms. Training for manufacturing jobs is an important element.

Blanks took the opportunity to point out that President Barack Obama’s proposed 2014 budget has funding earmarked for attracting manufacturing investment. She said communities must make the up-front investment – as Mesa and surrounding cities have done at Mesa Gateway Airport – to attract such firms.

She said the administration in 2013 plans to offer 25 $200,000 grants to help regions and cities develop strategies and, ultimately, the plans to bring manufacturers and manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

She said communities have to answer three questions:

• Has it taken honest stock of its current resources?

• Does it know what will likely make an area attractive to manufacturers?

• What are the key investments that need to be made to make it more attractive to manufacturing investment?

Blanks said the grants will help cities answer these questions “in the same way that the Mesa region already has.”

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