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Former National Steel Car facility planned as Shoals aerospace center of excellence

CHEROKEE — Rocket Shoals, an affiliate of AE Industrial Partners, has acquired a facility that previously housed National Steel Car, Navistar, and FreightCar America from the Retirement Systems of Alabama, AE Industrial said in a news release.

AE Industrial, a private equity firm specializing in aerospace, national security and industrial services, said it plans to renovate the facility to serve as an aerospace center of excellence anchored in the Shoals.

“We are so excited to work alongside the talented team at Rocket Shoals,” said Kevin Jackson, president of the Shoals Economic Development Authority. “This transaction opens the doors to many new possibilities for the Shoals.

“We can’t wait to get started on this new endeavor opening up Northwest Alabama as an aerospace destination.”

The 2.27 million square-foot manufacturing facility is situated on 638 acres in Cherokee. AE Industrial said the LEED-registered building is well suited for aerospace manufacturing and will become the headquarters for select portfolio companies, other aerospace suppliers, manufacturers, and innovators.

“AE Industrial is a highly focused investment firm, with a strategy to drive value creation at the nexus of the aerospace, space and defense markets – all sectors that are currently thriving in Alabama,” said David Rowe, co-CEO and managing partner at Florida-based AE Industrial. “We look forward to building an aerospace center of excellence in the Shoals that benefits the community, the state of Alabama and our portfolio companies.”

In addition, AEI will be partnering with Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a federally recognized tribe of Native Americans with reservation lands in lower Alabama, to provide joint capabilities and bring innovative solutions to federal customers.

The greater Shoals area, as well as the corridor that extends east to Huntsville, is home to a well-educated workforce and a growing cohort of aerospace industry engineers and technology professionals.

“We are proud to call Alabama home as we expand several of our marquee companies in the Shoals area,” said Chris Emerson, senior partner at AE Industrial. “Our collective experiences with past projects, including Mercedes-Benz and the Airbus final assembly line in Mobile, give us confidence in our strong regional relationships and ability to engage with local partners to establish north Alabama as an ‘aerospace corridor’.”

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