Hugh McQuaid Photo
Aerospace industry representatives (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Connecticut aerospace manufacturers and suppliers packed a conference room Monday to network with Airbus, a France-based aircraft giant that spent $5 billion in the state last year and is looking to expand.

More than 80 aerospace companies met with Airbus representatives at a conference at the Sheraton Hartford Hotel at the Bradley International Airport. Most in attendance had operations in Connecticut.

David Williams, the procurement vice president for Airbus Americas, said Airbus was spending $10 billion in the U.S. in 2010 and was seeking to double that amount by 2020. That could mean a lot of new business for the aerospace industry in Connecticut.

“Clearly, Connecticut is right at the top of the list,” he said. “It’s a huge opportunity for Airbus and the Connecticut aerospace industry to be a big part of the doubling of our spending. That’s why we’re here today, to find even more supplies and technology to take part in that growth.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal the company’s growth plan has the potential to greatly benefit Connecticut’s manufacturers. He said he hoped to see Airbus double its business in the state to the tune of $10 billion.

“It’s an enormously successful and important company for the whole world but particularly for Connecticut because we have a growing and vibrant aerospace industry here,” Blumenthal said.

Kevin Flanagan, of Glastonbury-based Flanagan Industries, said the conference with Airbus representatives gave his company an opportunity to grow his business beyond jet engine work.

“We’ve been doing work with the Pratt & Whitneys and GEs of the world. This will allow us to hopefully get on board with the Airbus and the Boeings,” he said.

Despite icy road conditions Monday morning, the Airbus conference was well attended. Anne Evans, Connecticut district director for the U.S. Commerce Department, said the conference was at its room capacity.

“It sold out in days. It was amazing. This is what Connecticut companies need and wanted right now,” she said.

Hugh McQuaid Photo
David Williams and Sen. Blumenthal (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Airbus’ planned expansion also comes as the state’s defense manufacturing industry is bracing for possible cuts to federal defense spending. Blumenthal said he believes that key military programs for Connecticut, like submarine construction and the F-35 fighter jet program, will be preserved.

“But some of the other defense contracting may be reduced,” Blumenthal said. “There’s no question that the commercial market will be more important than ever for many of our aerospace partners.”

Williams said Airbus has eight years of guaranteed orders and Connecticut is well positioned to continue supporting the company. However, he said Connecticut’s potential share of the planned expansion remains to be seen. Currently, only Ohio outpaces the state with regard to the amount of work its businesses do for Airbus.

“But it is a competitive environment. It’s a growth industry, so people all around the world look at the opportunity and I think everybody wants a piece of the pie,” Williams said.

Blumenthal agreed, saying the company had a global presence and can do business where ever it chooses.

“That’s a great advantage for Connecticut because we produce the best,” he said. “If the competition is global, we’ll be neck and neck . . . Not every contract, not everywhere, but I think a level playing field is good for Connecticut.”

Asked if he wanted to second Blumenthal’s assertion that Connecticut produces the best products, Williams pointed to the business Airbus already does with companies in the state.

“We spend $5 billion here,” he said. “That’s a stronger statement than any words.”