Bell Helicopter to open assembly plant in Louisiana

12/11/2013 12:02 PM

12/11/2013 12:23 PM

Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter says it will build a new line of helicopters at an assembly plant in Lafayette, after receiving incentives from the state of Louisiana.

The project, announced late Tuesday by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Bell Helicopter’s chief executive officer John Garrison, will bring the first modern-era aircraft assembly facility to Lafayette Regional Airport.

Bell Helicopter will lease space for its operation in a new $26.3 million, 82,300-square-foot hangar facility at the airport that’s being funded by the state but owned by Lafayette Regional Airport. The facility will be built on a 14.5-acre site located next to U.S. Highway 90.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported that construction will begin in the first half of 2014, .

The project is expected to create 115 jobs with average annual salaries of more than $55,000 plus benefits, and invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling.

Bell Helicopter will produce its line of SLS – Short Light Single – helicopters at the facility. The five-seat, single-engine turbine helicopter is a contemporary version of the JetRanger, an aircraft built by the company more than 50 years ago.

Bell began talks with key Louisiana officials about the potential assembly facility in July. To secure the project, the state offered an incentive package that includes performance-based grants of $4 million for lease support, $3.8 million for infrastructure and equipment, as well as money to reimburse relocation expenses, the company said. Louisiana will also offer the use of the state’s workforce development program.

“Bell Helicopter ranks among the most well-known aerospace companies, and we are proud that Louisiana’s world-class workforce, outstanding business climate and incomparable infrastructure combined to attract this exciting project to our state,” Jindal said.

He said the announcement signaled that “Louisiana is ready to further expand its presence and leadership in the aerospace industry, creating quality career opportunities for our people for generations to come.”

The company will start hiring employees for the new location by 2015, and assembly operations will begin by 2016 following any necessary certification of the facility and the aircraft.

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