Officials: Cooperative effort brought DRS here

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2012

State and local officials had high praise Tuesday for DRS Technologies, which is officially open for business in the twin hangars at the South Alabama Regional Airport (SARA).

Gov. Robert Bentley welcomed DRS to “the greatest part of Alabama.”

“I say that wherever I go,” he quipped, adding, “That’s about the only politics I’ve got in me.”

“This is a great announcement today,” he said. “We expect DR to add 45 jobs in year one and another 45 in year two. These are good-paying jobs.”

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Congresswoman Martha Roby also was on hand, and said she is pleased to welcome a company that works “to ensure our military men and women have every tool we need.

“You as a company, and every single one of our employees, support the United States of America every day.”

Dr. John C. Eagerton, chief of the ALDOT Aeronautics Bureau, said that the South Alabama Regional Airport is the “gold standard” for what smaller airports can accomplish in Alabama.”

“I’m very excited about this new business for our community,” Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson said. “They are here for the long haul.

“They are a great company, and will really be an asset to South Alabama,” Johnson said. “They are fully capitalized, and all of their equipment is in place. They’ll be up and running in time.”

The Covington County Economic Development Council’s Rick Clifton said yesterday’s official announcement is the culmination of more than two years of work.

“This was truly a cooperative effort of the state, county and the cities of Andalusia and Opp,” Clifton said.

He said the committee the local governments made to back the construction of the twin hangars several years ago, as well as grants from the state and federal government made it possible for DRS to locate here.

But one local candidate for municipal election appeared not to be happy with the announcement.

Blaine Wilson, who owns WAAO and is a candidate for mayor, distributed copies of a news article about DRS laying off employees at a Florida facility to several people in attendance for the celebration. In the question and answer time, Wilson also asked DRS vice president and general manager Ed Boyington to comment on the layoffs.

In April, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported that DRS had dismissed 150 employees. The newspaper quoted a company official said it was realigning its staffing levels with “current business realities.”

After the layoffs, the company still employed 450 people in its Ft. Walton Beach facility.