Bell: Application for state aid 'premature,' no expansion, jobs are planned

Watch out, Amazon. Bell Helicopter is getting into the drone delivery business

Bell Helicopter is ready to jump head-first into unmanned aerial vehicles. It might deliver a package to your house or ammunition to the military.
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Bell Helicopter is ready to jump head-first into unmanned aerial vehicles. It might deliver a package to your house or ammunition to the military.

Aerospace and defense contractor Bell, a Textron company, late Monday said an application for state funds filed by a consultant with the city of Fort Worth was done prematurely and contains inaccurate information.

The application spelled out details of a possible expansion to its Fort Worth headquarters that could have added hundreds of jobs.

Bob Hastings, an executive vice president with Bell, said Monday night there are no expansion plans and that the work listed was for if and when the company won some contracts five to 10 years from now. Bell recently laid off 120 workers, he said.

Hasting said the company was looking into how the application was filed. No one at the Fort Worth headquarters had seen the application that asks the city for its help in nominating Bell for Texas Enterprise Zone Program funds.

"It caught us completely by surprise," he said.

Bell's plans were initially made known in a report Friday to the Fort Worth City Council that spelled out the company was going to spend $115 million on an expansion. Bell was asking the council to approve it application seeking $1.25 million at its May 8 meeting.

Monday night Bell spokeswoman Lindsey Hughes said, "There are no plans to significantly expand operations or jobs in Fort Worth in the near future."

Monday afternoon, Bell suddenly pulled the request and said it would submit another nomination application to the city shortly.

Bell spokeswoman Dana Schenck said the application before the council, and on a work session agenda to discuss Tuesday, was prepared by a consultant and that "some of the information is not accurate."

Robert Sturns, Fort Worth's economic development director, said his office was working with the consultant Monday afternoon and that Bell was "good to go," when it suddenly decided it wanted more time to revise the numbers.

Sturns said he was told to expect another application.

Uber and Fort Worth-based Bell are working on a plan to bring air taxis to DFW Airport and Frisco by 2023.

Two months ago Bell dropped Helicopter from its name and released a new logo that it says better reflects its evolving mission and focus on emerging technologies.

The company, for example, has been working with Uber to design a battery-powered, tilt-rotor aircraft that will launch air taxi services by 2023, as well as unmanned aircraft to haul heavy loads, those that would fly into enemy territory for the military and aircraft to fly over urban traffic congestion for civilian customers.

A year ago, Bell acquired land near its Fort Worth headquarters and started construction on the airfield landing pads, putting an end to its training flights to the Texas Motor Speedway and Alliance Airport in far north Fort Worth. The flight paths took aircraft over Keller, creating a noise nuisance for its residents.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST
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