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Airbus could mean jobs in Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA -- Economic teams from Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties are hoping to lure part suppliers and jobs. The Greater Pensacola Chamber is working to grow existing companies that deal with airplane assembly.
   
They are also working on attracting new companies by developing new marketing materials aimed directly at Airbus.

Students at Santa Rosa County's Locklin Tech learn how to weld metal together like in a variety of ways. Many of them looking into jobs in shipping and pipeline, but with the arrival of Airbus, they may soon be looking into a job in aviation as well.

It's mid semester and Eric Roblee is learning what's called a "Tig" weld. It's a more advanced welding technique. It takes time and patience to master the craft, but Eric is enjoying every minute.

"I wish I got into this earlier in my lifetime it's fun to do," said Eric Roblee, welding student. The skills he learns here will make him more impressive in the job market.

And there's likely to be more demand for people with welding skills. Even though the Airbus plant is headed for Mobile, the county hopes part suppliers will set up shop here.

The Northwest Florida Industrial Park at I-10 just south of the interstate has nearly 200 acres of empty land waiting to be developed, which is good news for many of the students here.

"Something local here. they already have families established, that would be a great place to be able to settle and continue their lives here," said welding instructor Justin Kolb.

"We got the opportunity to create some jobs here so I'm really excited about it," said Santa Rosa County resident Bill Pullum.

Ever since he left the military, he's after a career in welding. He knows the jobs are there, so he's just focused on finishing the course ahead of him.

"It looks good for you and your resume, to get you into Airbus or not, and it's a good quality of work," he said.

Locklin is offering welding classes year round because of increased demand.